Grace & Goals Day 4 of 30
Hanging inside my kitchen cupboards is a photo that tells a story of what God will do when I let Him blaze the trail and hold onto His hand. It's actually three photos, side by side, each one representing about 3 months. I've talked about that journey in my book, The Whole Foods Plant Based Handbook, now I want to share with you what happens next.
Do you remember the story in the bible where Peter got out of the boat and literally walked on water to get to Jesus? Then, he looked away. Eyes down, he began to watch his feet and the water underneath them. He sank.
So, there I was, about ten months into walking on water with Jesus (figuratively), and I started to look down. I felt compelled to share my story and the recipes that the Holy Spirit had inspired me to create to improve my health. Yet, as I compiled the book, doubt crept in. Who was I to try and tell my story - wasn't this premature? There were so many other voices in the plant-based space - who did I think I was?
My gaze went from the goals God had given me - writing, cooking, eating natural whole plant foods - to timelines, doubts, fears, pressure. All self-imposed. None of them were rooted in truth.
I took my eye off of what God had said (and shown!) He would do, and I focused on what I was afraid I couldn't or shouldn't do.
Gritting my teeth (my power, not His) I finished the book and pushed it out the door.
Two years later, I believe God has more for this part of my story. I'm still uncovering the layers of lies and doubts that keep me from writing with focus. I continue to experience God's gentle hand as He brings my eyes back to Jesus and the water on which He wants me to walk.
Friend, God has water for you to walk on. He has plans that require you to keep your eyes on Him, centering your trust on what He says He will do. If you keep slipping under the waves, continue to cry out and start over. He's infinitely patient. We can pray for each other - that we will be given the Jesus-perspective needed to complete the work God has for us to do.
TODAY'S BIBLE VERSES:
Stalwart walks in step with God; their path blazed by God, they are happy. If they stumble, they are not down for long; God has a grip on their hand.
Keep your eye on the healthy soul, scrutinize the straight life; there's a future in strenuous wholeness...
Psalm 37: 23-24; 37-38a MSG
So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. don't shuffle along, eyes on the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ - that's where the action is. See things from His perspective.
Colossions 3:1-2 MSG
...God made something out of Abraham when he was nobody... because he dared trust God to do what only God could do: ...with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn't do but on what God said He would do.
Selected sections from Romans 4: 17-18 MSG.
Grace & Goals Day 3 of 30
Before the pandemic I had been going strong on a life-changing way of eating. It had brought me relief from some health conditions as well as a healthy drop in my weight, better sleeping, and less inflammation. Over time though, I experienced a struggle in the time and effort and focus it required.
Instead of praying and asking for grace, I faltered, made excuses, and slid back into occasional old ways of eating. Then the pandemic hit. Within a few weeks, I slid even further. I went from the occasional old way of eating, to the occasional new way of eating. My weight ballooned, my pain increased, old health concerns began to pop up. I experienced feelings of shame and depression, my health issues gradually returned, my weight increased, and inflammation raged pain through my body.
After seven months, I had a 'come to Jesus' moment. In the span of a week, God sent multiple conversations and devotional messages centered around the concept of discipline. It was time to tackle some old wounds and strongholds and allow God to work in my heart to reclaim my health.
Fast forward four months.
Discipline fueled by grace is what has kept me coming back to healthy choices when I don't want to, don't feel like it, and aren't motivated. I am constantly learning, surrendering, choosing obedience over self-gratification, making bad choices and asking for forgiveness, and starting over. Success comes slowly, hindered by my stubbornness, and continues only because I am not trying to meet my goals on my own. God has made me a promise, that if I follow Him, He will do that hard work in me, for me. He will change my heart, my mind, my desires, my focus - my job is simply to trust Him, to ask for His grace, to accept that I cannot accomplish my goals without His intervention: one long lesson in humility.
Today's reading in Daniel is the response of a king who believed he was a god, that he was in charge, in control, and could rule by himself for himself. If you have a chance, go read Daniel chapter 4. It's a pointed reminder of God's response to those who insist on relying on themselves.
Setting goals to improve our lives is an admirable task - there's nothing wrong with wanting to be healthy, disciplined, improved. However, warning lights appear when we attempt changes on our own, without accepting that God is the source of all good things. Refusing to acknowledge God and ask for His grace and help is a road straight to failure.
If you haven't taken the time to ask God what His thoughts are on your goals, to ask for direction, wisdom, strength, and grace - I would encourage you to do that today. Our improved life lies over the horizon of God's promise and "the fulfillment of God's promise depends entirely on trusting God and His way, then simply embracing God and what He does."
Whatever goals you have set are secondary to our main purpose of being in relationship with our Father, accepting that we need help and grace, asking for direction, trusting His promise, and looking to His power for the changes in our hearts and life.
Today's Bible Readings:
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel and advise you with my loving eye on you.
Psalm 32:8 NIV
...praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything He does is right and His ways are just. And those who walk in pride He is able to humble.
That famous promise God gave Abraham—that he and his children would possess the earth—was not given because of something Abraham did or would do. It was based on God’s decision to put everything together for him, which Abraham then entered when he believed.
If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! That’s not a holy promise; that’s a business deal. A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never be able to collect.
But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise—and God’s promise at that—you can’t break it.
This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and His way [...the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace... NIV] , and then simply embracing Him and what He does. God’s promise arrives as pure gift.
Romans 4: 13-16 MSG
Grace & Goals, Day 2 of 30
Today's Readings: Romans 4: 4-11; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Hebrews 4:14-16
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.
Romans 4:4-5 The Message
Brilliant sun streaming through the windows, sunglasses in place, I slip the truck into gear, eagerly awaiting the engine's deep rumble, and jostle of the truck-suspension.
I press my foot onto the accelerator a bit harder and while the rumble increases, the truck doesn't move. Dang it! I've only shifted into neutral. Red-faced, I slip it one more gear and off I go.
Weeks one and two of any habit change can feel a bit like that. Foot on the accelerator, we're ready to rumble, pumped for the results and the feeling of satisfaction, yet we can't seem to get out of neutral. Our choices, while maybe a bit better, aren't on par with our dreams yet. It seems that accepting grace and allowing it to work in our lives can be a process, not a magic moment.
In the beginning of your challenge, use your notebook to track EVERY win. Every good choice. In our house, we love a good list - with boxes to check off. Checking off goals broken down into smaller pieces will feed that need to experience progress and movement. Each time you make a positive choice - thank God for His grace and the Holy Spirit's blessing. Each time you find yourself back in old habits, say yesterday's prayer over yourself, and read through today's verses again. Change in our hearts and habits is the result of grace given by God. Healing and release from unhealthy behaviors and choices comes from God. Freedom comes from the Spirit of the Lord.
"...the job is too big for you, something only God can do..."
Before you try to tackle your day today, take your foot off the accelerator and spend time with your Father, receive the mercy He offers, take Him up on His offer of grace and help. Naturally then, you'll shift into the forward movement you desire.
Welcome to our study, Grace & Goals. This month we will explore our pursuit for positive change and how it is directly impacted by our relationship with Jesus, our beliefs around trust and faith, and our choice to ask for and accept grace and allow it to make us over from the inside out.
Today's verse: "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 The Message
You're here because you know that something needs to change. You may not be sure how to make it happen. Hopefully you read the practical Getting Started post prior to this - it will provide you with the how-to and process of goal setting.
I want to encourage you today, on day one of our goal-setting challenge, that you are not in this alone. In addition to our support group, as a child of God, you have access to grace that can fuel whatever changes you are called to make. Grace is the difference between 'will power' and God-power. Grace is defined as:
...the merciful kindness by which God, exerting His holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues
Grace provides us with the strength and power to 'enter into what God is doing in us' - the complete opposite of will-power and self-improvement. Grace is a 'holy influence' that directs our choices, defines our goals, and builds the muscle of discipline.
I have heard beautiful stories from folks who experienced miraculous healing from addiction and unhealthy living. I've also heard raw and real stories from folks who are still working towards their freedom. We don't know the route on which God will take us. It's important to know that quitting bad habits (especially addictive ones like sugar or smoking or alcohol or drugs) can be a process. One study suggests that smokers, for example, can expect to 'quit' 30 times before it finally takes! I don't share that to discourage you, but to remind you that if you struggle these first weeks, and can't seem to make your goals, DON'T GIVE UP! Our 3 for 30 group is designed not only to celebrate success, but most importantly to encourage each other when we struggle.
Below a prayer card for you. Print it out (download below) and pray this over yourself throughout your days.
Download & Print the prayer card here
Discipline has been my nemesis. My brain lives in overdrive. (They have a 'name' for it now - attention deficit disorder - which, I think is completely wrong. ADD is not the deficit of focus, it's hyper-focus on a million things at once!) Which means that discipline, especially repeating tasks, is a struggle for my zippy brain.
Recently, I started learning to give myself goals and build that discipline and repetition muscle. I began to use a habit tracker (I love this one) as a visual aid, and I started forming accountability groups to keep me honest and motivated. I also learned to invest in my goals: in the accountability groups I offer up a chance at a $25 gift card if you complete the challenge, but for myself personally, I have a $25 gift waiting at the end of each challenge just for me! (I'll show you my pretty red leather gloves when they get here.)
The Grace & Goals serial devotional is about bringing the 30-day challenges back around to the source of our strength and motivation, our relationship with Jesus. If you choose to follow along, you'll need a few things:
Between now and Sunday, be thinking about goals you'd like to accomplish. We set three goals in our challenge group, but you can set up to six on the tracker. Wondering how to get started? Keep reading!
EASY GOAL SETTING
First - think BIG picture.
For example, I have two main goals:
1. Be Healthy & Trim - I love horseback riding. It's a great love and passion of mine. I have a certain size saddle I want to fit into. I can't at my current size. That's why 'trim' is on my list. Healthy encompasses the rest of my life. Homesteading, parenting, daughter-ing, wife-ing, friend-ing - I want to be available and able to move and participate.
2. Write - Writing has been a passion of mine since I can remember. I've been writing stories my whole life. I'm ready to really focus on it now. I need to make it a priority.
Second, identify tasks you could do to meet those goals.
For my goals, I could write regularly, exercise more, eat less/better, get more sleep, drink more water.
Third, break each task down in general actions.
My actions would look like this:
Walk (this helps me sleep better as well)
Eat whole foods plant based, no snacks
Get up early to write (this helps me get to bed early)
Drink a gallon of water each day
Finally, create a list of action items that are MEASURABLE & SPECIFIC.
My specific action items, along with how I can measure 'success', look like this:
While that list seems long, I've been working on the walking, eating and snack-limiting already, so really it's just the writing topic, core exercises, and water that are new.
It's important not to overwhelm yourself. Start small. When I first began 5 months ago, my only goal was to limit my food. I did that goal for 48 days. My next goal-setting challenge was to walk and eat for health. My third goal-setting added another. And so on. Start small. Make your goals MEASURABLE. Make them 25% less than what you think you can do. Our ultimate purpose is to build the muscles of discipline and repetition.
Most importantly, PRAY FIRST. Ask God what you need to work on . If you think you know, ask anyway. Read through Romans chapters 4 and 5 over the next few days (I really like The Message translation) and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you.
I'm looking forward to starting our Grace & Goals study on Monday morning! See you then!
If you would like to join our online challenge group, you just need a free MeWe account, and then click on this link: Rosalyn's 3 for 30 Challenge
Join me here beginning Feb 5 for a new serial devotional study: Grace & Goals