“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he had imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
– Henry David Thoreau
The Christmas holiday season has long been considered the season of giving.
- Parents give toys and other gifts to their children,
- friends and coworkers buy small gifts for each other in a spirit of goodwill, and
- charitable organizations see an increase in fund raising as people are subtly guilted into being more generous and as tax accountants are encouraging clients to increase deductions before the tax year ends.
We quote sayings and scriptures like, “it is better to give than to receive,” and cry while watching heartfelt movies like Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol when Scrooge gives away his money, and comment to our kids how giving increases the heart while watching Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. All of these things are good.
In fact, in the Christian tradition, this is the time we celebrate the birth of the Christ child, often referred to as the greatest gift the world has ever known.
But yet, something has been forgotten, and something is amiss in this candy cane, Ho-Ho-Ho Santa down the chimney fairyland. Can you guess what it is?
Knowing how to receive.
Yes, that’s right. In a sense, knowing how to receive well is how we make a gift complete. When a gift is received well it brings great joy to the giver.
Think of the last gift you truly gave – one where you had the perfect idea and just could not wait to see the joy on their face when you gave it to them.
Then you hear, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly accept this,” or “you didn’t have to do that,” (I confess I did this just last week), or your gift is barely acknowledged, and your heart sinks a little bit.
It hurts, doesn’t it? Now think back to a time where maybe you reacted that way to a gift someone had given you. Ouch, right?
Now consider that God gave us the gift of His only Son, who laid down his life for our sins. Yet we tend to receive this gift poorly by promising all the things we will do for God as a way to earn this gift. But gifts are not earned. By trying to earn this gift we have in essence promised to pay for the gift, and thus spoil its true intent.
If we learn to receive well, I think we in turn understand how to truly give well. And ultimately we come to understand for ourselves just why giving is so much better than receiving: because of the joy it returns to us.
In Receiving well we allow the giver to experience the full Joy of Giving.
This Christmas season, reflect on the gifts you receive and receive them well, returning a blessing to the giver. In the same way reflect on the gift of Christ given to us, and receive Him well, giving glory to the Father.
“A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying Him…The more a tree is like itself, the more it is like Him.”
– Thomas Merton
New Seeds of Contemplation
Ever wonder why we seem to accumulate so much stuff? Or more, why we find it so hard to throw things away when we actually get around to that spring cleaning project? This brief but informative article offers this perspective: because it’s literally painful.
We all make plans for our lives. God has a plan for all of us. When our plans align with God’s awesome things happen.
We all make plans – some good and some not so good; some we keep and some we abandon; some which we are conscious of and some we are not. King Solomon recognized that we make plans both with our hearts and with our minds:
The heart of man plans his way (Prov. 16:9)
Many are the plans in the mind of a man (Prov. 19:21)
However, those plans are not always righteous:
Whoever plans to do evil will be called a schemer. (Prov 24:8)
The prophet Isaiah put it this way:
As for the scoundrel—his devices are evil; he plans wicked schemes to ruin the poor with lying words, even when the plea of the needy is right. But he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands. (Is. 32:7-8)
Think about the plans you have made or are in the process of making and identify the primary beneficiary. Are any of your plans made for the benefit of others? If not, what changes could you make to include the benefit of others?
Solomon didn’t just recognize that we make plans with our hearts and minds, he also recognized that whatever plans we make, God’s purpose stands firm and He is there to guide our steps:
The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps (Prov. 16:9)
Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. (Prov. 19:21)
We can make our plans, and even carry them out, but nothing we plan will alter God’s ultimate purpose. In fact, God has incredible plans for us, for our ultimate good:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer. 29:11)
Sometimes we might feel like God’s plan for us is completely off track. Is it His plan or ours that is truly off track?
Have you ever contemplated what God’s plan for you might be? Do you see God’s plan for you as something good or bad? Why?
The Great Alignment
Okay, so I get that we have plans (for good or for evil) and God has plans (for good), but what does this have to do with Letting Go?
When we are willing to
- seek out counsel,
Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. (Prov 15:22)
- seek out what God has planned for us,
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jer 29:12-13)
- and commit our actions to God,
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. (Prov. 16:3)
then we are Letting Go of the plans that come from a selfish desire, and allowing God to establish our steps according to his good purpose, for the perfect satisfaction of our deepest desires.
May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans! (Psalm 20:4)
A desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (Prov. 13:12)
Author and preacher John Piper puts it beautifully this way:
“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”
Are you satisfied with your plans, or are you willing to let go of your plans to seek satisfaction in God and experience the promised fulfillment of your heart’s desire?
“One of the great discoveries we make, one of our great surprises, is to find we can do what we were afraid we couldn’t do.”
– John Maxwell, The Winning Attitude
Think of what you have as if it is not yours.
I can have it, but I don’t want it.
- Being busy is a form of laziness–lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.
- Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions.
– Tim Ferriss (See full blog post here)
In a previous post I posed the question Where Did My Money Go? and realized a few days later that I could pose the same question about my time.
Time seems to sift through my fingers like the sands of, well, time. If time is constant, but seems to fly by, and if time flies when you’re having fun, then logic would determine that I am having a lot of fun. However, at the end of each week, I don’t necessarily find myself reflecting on what a fun week I had. Most of the time I am trying to figure out:
- where the time went,
- what did I actually accomplish, and
- what did I not do that I ought to have done (like exercise or call my parents)
So what if we budgeted our time like we budget our finances? We all get 60 secs per minute, 60 minutes per hour, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, or 168 hours a week.
Sleep = 50 hours/wk on avg
Work = 50 hours/wk on avg
Eat = 15 hours/wk on avg
Commute = 15 hours/wk on avg (including errands, etc.)
Exercise = 10 hours on avg (including travel time)
That’s 140 hours out of 168. What do you do the other 28 hours? A quick Google search turned up this news article discussing the 2012 Neilsen survey figures showing that the average adult watches about 34 hours of television per week. Whoops! That’s more time that we had left…
So, if your typical week looks like this one your time is pretty much spent for the week. Did you get done what you wanted to accomplish? If you did, what, if anything did you give up to get it accomplished (lunch, tv, exercise, sleep)? If you worked more than 50 hours this week, was it worth what you had to sacrifice doing elsewhere (lunch, tv, exercise, sleep)?
There are a lot of theories out there on how to be more productive, but the one I think is most valuable is the practice of setting specific time limits on different activities. Time limits force you to focus and get things done, where without a specific time, we tend to procrastinate or stretch a task out to fill up the time we have – see this earlier post for a great quote.
I have started scheduling my day with this concept in mind – setting limited times to produce a blog post for instance. It is my “Ship it” deadline ( a concept I learned from author/blogger Seth Godin). Speaking of which, my deadline is up, so I hit publish.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”