Monday, January 25, 2010


“If you want a thing done well,
do it yourself.” -- Napoleon Bonaparte

We are all familiar with do-it-yourself projects. Such projects are touted as being easier, faster, and – most importantly nowadays – cheaper. As a certain hardware store chain likes to remind us, we can do it and they can help.

We also like to undertake such projects with ourselves as well under the 'self-help' banner. With goals of losing weight, gaining confidence and turning back the clock we buy books, watch videos and subscribe to the philosophies of various gurus. Even Christians have their 'go to' people in this arena. And this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Many are familiar with the passage from the Apostle Paul's letter to the church in Philippi:

". . . work out your own salvation
with fear and trembling . . .”

--Philippians 2:12c (NKJ)

Woo – that is pretty serious stuff. And it is something we can do, right? We can work out our problems and issues so that we are in right standing with God, right? We'll pray and read our Bibles and change all our bad habits and just be awesome Christians! Yes we can!

Only . . . can we really? I don't know about you, but I sort of suck at the whole 'self-improvement' thing. Some days I can very closely identify with the following words Paul wrote to the church in Rome:

“For what I am doing, I do not understand.
For what I will to do, that I do not
practice; but what I hate, that I do.”

--Romans 8:15 (NKJ)

But what about Philippians 2:12c? Isn't Paul contradicting himself? Isn't God contradicting Himself?

In a word, no. Because what we often forget to do (and I'm including myself) is to read Philippians 2:13:

“. . . for it is God who works in you
both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (NKJ)

“God is working in you to make you willing
and able to obey Him.” (CEV)

What how now?

God gives me these standards to meet and live by and then He'll help me do it?

Talk about going against the “do it yourself” grain. And it sounds somewhat impossible and, well, wrong, doesn't it? Perhaps it will help you, then, as it continues to help me to follow the example of Abraham. Talk about a man with an impossible-sounding promise laid out before him – he was told by God he would become the father of a great nation, a nation whose numbers would be up there with the galaxy of stars and the grains of sand on the seashore. This promise was first given to Abraham when God called him to leave his homeland and extended family at the age of 75 (Genesis 12). He was reminded of it most significantly almost thirty years later (Genesis 17) and after he had a son with Sarah's maidservant Hagar.

Yup, Abraham and Sarah took on a 'do it yourself' project when it came to God's promise of a son. Yet God is always faithful and He fulfilled His promise of a son, a direct heir, when Abraham was 100 years old. And better yet, even with his mistakes and attempts to get ahead of God's timing, we read the following about Abraham, also in Paul's letter to the Roman church:

What we read in Scripture is, "Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own."

-- Romans 4:3 (Message)

Paul then goes on to explain what this means for us:

If you're a hard worker and do a good job, you
deserve your pay; we don't call your wages a gift.
But if you see that the job is too big for you, that
it's something only God can do, and you trust Him
to do it – you could never do it for yourself no
matter how hard and long you worked – well, that
trusting-Him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with
God, by God. Sheer gift.

-- Romans 4:4-5 (Message)

So we can't do it ourselves, nor do we need to. God is there, ready and willing to help us, to give the necessary means if we will only agree to do it His way.

Beats doing it yourself, doesn't it?

Oh, and as for Napoleon Bonaparte, the 'do it yourself' quote giver? Well, his 'do it yourself' project didn't end so well. He was defeated in his final battle at Waterloo, which in turn led to his exile to the island of Saint Helena where he died six years later.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Progress or the Lack Thereof

So I've spent most of this morning avoiding tasks that need to be done.

Pile of dishes in sink? Still there, with today's breakfast dishes added to the mix.

Laundry? Still not all done.

Manuscripts? Incomplete and/or unedited.

Exercise? Oi . . .

And I am totally, compleately frustrated with myself. It is the 18th of January 2010 and while I have made some progress, it has been minimal. My procrastination skills are still rather top-notch, mind you. %-P

It is also incredibly easy to whine about it, too. So what am I going to do today and this week and for the rest of this month to get myself out of the rut(s) I am so tired of being in and get on the right track?

1. Don't make things harder or more daunting than they actually are. Just as Paul admonished fellow believers to not forget the simplicity which is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3), I need to remember to take things a step at a time.

2. Make a plan and stick to it, but don't be so rigidly adhered to it I miss God's leading. His ways are perfect and He knows the way I need to be going, the way which is truly the right way to go. In other words, correct course as need to but set a course so I don't keep going in circles!

3. Be accountable. Case in point: Hubby and I are planning a holiday to a tropical locale in October and I have told people about it. People will quiz us about it. Darn it, my husband quizzes me about it! This is a good thing as it helps me keep going in terms of looking into things and making plans and such so we actually make the trip.

4. Acknowledge my mistakes, but don't dwell on them. It's not how many times I fall, but how many times I get back up and keep going. And I need to remember to forgive myself and then be able to receive God's forgiveness. As my pastor says, if I don't, God wont't.

So here's to keeping on swimming, but with a destination and a plan to get there. Even Dory had a destination. ;-)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Butt in Seat

If there is one thing many writers want to hear less, but so do need to hear more, is that writing is work. Bona fide, sit-down-and-do-it work.

I’ve been writing in one form or another since school, and have been pursuing writing as something more than assignments and journal entries since the early 1990s and find this is still a piece of advice I struggle to consistently put into practice. I want to be inspired, have an idea that just won’t go away, and then be able to sit down and have it flow out of me with ease and grace. I don’t want it to be work! I have enough work to do already, thank you very much! Why should I set a schedule or word count goal or whatever unless I really feel like it? (Outside of November for the National Novel Writing Month challenge, that is?)

But wait . . . when I feel like? Oi, how many things do I have to do whether I feel like it or not? And really, do I want to go strictly by what I feel? Do any of us? We know how fickle our emotions can be, turning on a dime some days and blowing things out of proportion on others because we haven’t had enough sleep or jumping on the bandwagon as we get caught up in the moment.

Now I’m not saying feelings or emotions are bad things. God included them in our design. But we cannot allow ourselves to be ruled by them. If we did, little of import would actually ever get done. Even Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane, did not feel like going all the way to the cross as evidenced by His asking God to “ . . . if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. . .” (Matt. 26:39b, NKJ). But He knew He needed to, was supposed to follow this through and so was able to pray “. . . nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matt. 26:39c)

We may not be facing tasks as big or as daunting or as just plain scary, really, as the one Jesus had before Him. But we can still learn from His example: Even when our feelings are wanting us to take the easy route, to forego what in the grand scheme of things is short-term pain for long-term gain (2 Cor. 4:17), we can still choose to put those feelings aside and do what is right. And what awaits us on the other side of the task -- the reward, the benefits -- may very well take our breath away. God is faithful, after all.

So put your butt in the seat before you, and get to work. It will be worth it all in the end to hear God say on that final day “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matt. 25:21, NKJ)

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year and Another New Day

I hope everyone had a great time ringing the old year out and the new one in with family and friends!