Friday, December 28, 2012


Q.  Each New Year's Eve I make a number of New Year’s resolutions. No matter how hard I try, I only keep them for a few weeks. There are many things I would like to change about myself and my life but I don’t seem to be able to make any lasting changes. Why is it so hard to keep resolutions? How can I reach my goals?

A.  The beginning of a New Year is a good time to focus on setting priorities for our lives. The end of one year and the beginning of another makes us pause and think about the direction of our life and our relationships. In order to make New Year resolutions that you will keep do the following:
1.  Discover your essential priorities. We all have priorities. What are yours? Too often we don’t think about our priorities. We allow circumstances or other people in our lives to push us in one direction or another.  What do you really want in life? A high priority has first claim on our time, energy and resources. We will do anything even sacrifice other needs or interests, in order to achieve a high priority.

For Christians our highest priority is glorifying God and his church. Our next priorities are our closest relationships – spouse, children, parents, in that order. Our work is a priority of necessity, but comes after God and family. Our health is also a priority. Our New Year resolutions will flow from these high priorities. Pray about God’s will for the coming year. He will guide you in choosing resolutions and keeping them.
Authentic priorities are those things we value, love, believe in, and want for ourselves and others. We are more likely to keep a resolution that is consistent with our values, interests, and beliefs. We have enthusiasm, energy and motivation to work for the things we love, the things we enjoy and the things we truly want. Don’t make resolutions you think you “should” make. Make resolutions you want to make. Make resolutions you know are God’s will for you.
2. Raise your expectations of yourself. If you set a New Year resolution that you don’t really believe you can achieve, then you won’t reach it. Watch out for “I can’t” messages you give yourself. Look at the obstacles to your goal as a challenge. In order to change we must stretch and grow. Trust God to help you with this.
3. Focus on the positive and put your resolutions in writing. Make certain that you word your resolutions specifically and positively. For example, “I want to stop procrastinating” would be better worded, “I will do things on time.” Writing down a goal convinces the rebellious or self-sabotaging parts of our personality that we really mean business.

4.  Be willing to take risks. Be willing to go through pain, struggle, and uncertainty.  We resist change because it feels uncomfortable - even a change for the better.  Our old ruts are more familiar. Change can bring some anxiety. And change involves effort. Often we fail at our resolutions because we are lazy or fearful. Be intentional and determined.
5. Take small steps toward each goal and note your progress weekly or at least monthly. Celebrate every step you take toward keeping your resolutions and praise God for these. This will reinforce your determination and increase your confidence.

I hope these ideas help you set and keep your New Year resolutions this year.

I will instruct you and show you the way you should walk; I will counsel you, keeping my eye on you.”  Psalm 32:8 NIV

Blessings, Dottie

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Deleting Worship

No Worship? 
Should worship be deleted the last Sunday or the last two Sundays of the year? Should worship be cancelled because Christmas crowds everyone’s schedules? Many churches last year deleted worship on Christmas day and some are deleting worship the last weekend or two of the year. There are arguments in support of this. 

Christmas is such a busy season. Shopping, planning, cooking, parties and special music events lead up to Christmas. The staff works hard and long through out the holidays. Church members are tired and need time off. Everyone needs a rest, so why not cancel church?

Christians in countries where the church is persecuted would wonder about this. Christians in China, India, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia risk their lives to worship. They would not understand our churches canceling worship. Why would a church that is able to worship in freedom delete worship? Why would they do this on one of the most significant Holy days? Does this keep Christ in Christmas? 

Yet in recent years churches in the USA have cancelled church in order to rest from busy holiday events and preparations and to enjoy lavish family gatherings. Should the secular, economy boosting aspects of Christmas take precedence over the true and holy meaning of the day?  

Sunday is a day of rest set aside to gather as a church. The Sabbath is to be kept Holy. We must spend time in worship as a church every Sunday. To cancel this is unthinkable.

What about "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy?" (Ex. 20:8) What about "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing?" (Heb. 10:25a)

What about New Year's Day? From 2006 on some churches virtually did away with worship on the last Sunday of the year. Similar plans are in place for this year. The end of the year and the beginning of a new year is a special time to reflect on the past and make resolutions for the future. It's a time to worship our Holy God with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  

Let's find a church that is open and worship Christ the Lord.

Blessings, Dottie

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Several years ago our church worship morphed from blended traditional to out right contemporary music and worship. We adapted as best we could most of the time. We sang the choruses, listened to the praise team, focused on the repetitive words, praising God. And an occasional hymn or hymn phrase fed our souls. "Amazing Grace..."

This was different at Christmas. Contemporary worship at Christmas left even more to be desired. We experienced two Christmas seasons hearing no traditional Christmas carols, no classical Christmas music, and little Christmas Scripture. Instead we were "entertained" by contemporary music.  

Adapting to seekers is a common strategy in today's churches. This seems misguided at Christmas. Many seekers grew up in church. Most everyone holds these Christmas songs, music and Scripture secreted in the inner recesses of their heart, mind and soul. These songs, music and Scripture tell the amazing story of the birth of Christ. They tell the Reason for the season. God came to earth as a babe in a manger. He came down to us to show us who He is and to redeem us. God intersected history in person. Why are churches deleting Christmas carols that tell about this marvelous event?     
"O Come, All Ye Faithful . . ." O Little Town of Bethlehem. . ." "Silent Night, Holy Night. . ." Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. . ." "Joy to the World. . ." All missing!

We were unbelievers for years, but we enjoyed Christmas carols playing in stores as we shopped or on the radio as we traveled. We also watched Christmas TV programs, especially Charlie Brown's Christmas. In this well known story Charlie Brown is depressed. He visits Lucy's psychiatric booth and she recommends he get involved in a nativity play. Twists and turns in the plot include Snoopy's elaborate decoration of his dog house (commercialization of Christmas by a dog) and the other children attempting to modernize the play (messing with tradition). 

Charlie Brown searches for a Christmas tree determined to focus on the traditional side of the story. The children laugh at the scrawny tree he finds, throwing Charlie Brown back into despair about discovering the real meaning of Christmas. Linus then takes center stage and quotes the second chapter of the Gospel according to Luke, verses 8 through 14 from the King James Version.

"'And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.'"

Pastors and Churches: Take a lesson from Charlie Brown. Keep the Christmas worship traditional. Sing the carols. Read the Christmas scripture. As Linus said,

"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."
Christmas Blessings, Dottie

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Matt. 6:19-24 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also....You cannot serve both God & Money."

I want my heart to be totally focused on you and your Kingdom. Help me let go of “things” I don’t need and guide me in the “things” I buy. Help me simplify my life but also keep my appearance and our home attractive for your glory. Help me give freely from the abundance you have provided, but also save enough so we aren’t a burden to others in the future. My heart belongs to you.
Father, this scripture is convicting especially at Christmas when shopping preoccupies our time. Our culture has made your Son’s birthday a celebration of materialism. Forgive us all for this. Help us focus on the Reason for the season and guide our giving. The wise men brought gifts to Jesus on the first Christmas. Gifts show love and appreciation and gifts involve generosity – a virtue you prize. Help us celebrate this Holy day in a way that honors and celebrates You and also expresses deep love for our family and friends. 

Blessings, Dottie

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Q. Throughout the Christmas holidays we visit relatives on both sides of our family. How can we make this a meaningful time rather than one of duty, tension or superficial talk? How can we connect meaningfully with our family at Christmas?

A. The holidays are an excellent time to enjoy and deepen family relationships – to connect with family members. Many of us will see extended family members we don’t see during the rest of the year. We reconnect with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins from our family and our spouse’s family. 

In order to change or deepen family connections, be intentional about it. Make a conscious decision to connect with relatives in a new way. This may feel risky but can be very rewarding. Include your spouse and children in your plans.  Refresh everyone’s memory about the relatives you will visit, including their names and how you’re related. When relatives are seen infrequently children often don’t remember or understand who they are.
To help your children connect with family members prepare them ahead of time. Describe to your children the background of family relationships and some of the unique experiences of your relatives. Tell your children, for instance, about why Aunt Mary is a special aunt to you or how Uncle Harry injured his leg in the service. This will help your children know your family members and will make seeing these relatives more interesting to them. 

Encourage each child to think of something they want to tell about themselves to Aunt Mary or Grandpa Smith or to all the relatives. Think also about what you want to communicate to specific family members. There may be someone who holds hard feelings against you. Think of what you might say to bridge the rift between you. 
One way to connect with family members more deeply is to show caring by greeting each relative with warmth and hugs. Be affectionate even if your family is not. One relative being affectionate gives permission to others to connect in this way. Smiles and positive comments also help.
Make use of individual time with family members. Play a new game with a nephew or niece. Help Grandmother in the kitchen or go for a walk with Uncle Charlie. Individual time can be difficult in a large family group at Christmas, but even a few minutes of individual time will help you connect.
If you’re hosting Christmas you can suggest at dinner that each person tell about the highlight of their year or about their happiest or most meaningful experience in 2012. This takes the conversation off of superficial chatter and will make it interesting for young and old alike and it certainly will enhance family connections.

Don’t expect the holiday to be perfect. Just stay focused on what is good about the family relationships and give of yourself lovingly to enjoying each person. I hope these ideas help your family connect in new ways.

During this season of Love and Peace let’s all break down the barriers that distance us or even alienate us from each other. Let’s reach out with love to all.

Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other.”
Romans 12:10 NLT 

Blessings, Dottie