Stop, Start, Continue!

Considering what goals I should set for 2013 I have been pondering the phrase, “Stop, Start, Continue.” It’s shorthand for a service improvement model, but it has life application, too.

  1. What do I need to stop?
  2. What do I need to start?
  3. What do I need to continue?

I’m not naturally contemplative. The pace of my life does not lend itself to deep thought and quiet pondering. When I’m still and silent for an extended period, I tend to doze. But I have considered these questions and am sure God is trying to show me something beyond any trite resolutions I might make.

Here’s some of what I’ve decided I need to do in 2013; what about you?

  • Stop: Assuming responsibility for objectives I cannot control. “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts… Col 3:15

A person can get pretty wound up continually trying to fix things and people to bring order to the world. Christian counselor Larry Crabb says the source of most anger and frustration is the inability to distinguish the things we can control from the things we cannot. He calls it mistaking goals for desires.

Not exactly new information. The Bible says:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. James 4:1-2

Crabb says a desire is something I want but am unable to make happen. I want my children to be honest, God-honoring young people who do the right thing. As a parent I clearly have some input, but children grow up to make their own choices. I have desires for them, but I don’t control outcomes.

Goals I can control. They typically relate to my own “inner life,” how I relate to God. Crabb gave the example of being on an airplane flight that encountered bad weather, delaying his arrival at the next airport for a connecting flight. The longer he was delayed, the angrier he became.

His “goal” was to arrive on time, but this is actually a desire. He could not control the weather. What he could control was how he responded to the delay. He could let God’s peace rule in his heart, trusting God despite his disappoint and inconvenience. I like this approach better than blowing up over every situation that goes awry.

  • Start – Being more merciful. “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13

Patient diplomacy is not my greatest virtue. I tend to be direct, plain spoken and results-driven. I’m not known as one who “suffers fools gladly.”

Still, “everybody plays the fool, sometimes,” to quote The Main Ingredient’s 1972 hit single. I’ve been foolish, ridiculous and just plain stupid plenty of times. (One summer, while backing out of the driveway, I hit my husband’s car with my own!)  I’m grateful for family and friends who love me enough to forgive my shortcomings and give me another chance.

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven (Prov 17:9). I am not so quick to forgive and to cover someone’s sin with love, but even I can understand that if I want loving relationships I have to be willing to give as good as I get. The merciful obtain mercy.

  • Continue – To trust God. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. Jeremiah 17:7

In a couple of weeks, I’ll enter yet another decade of life. As I get older, I am more conscious of the passage of time, increasingly aware of the ticking of the German clock in my foyer. I’m a little less willing to wait. Time is running out; the best could be behind me.

Not exactly a faith-filled line of thinking.

The wine did run out at the wedding of Cana, Mary didn’t throw up her hands and say, “Party’s over.” She turned to Jesus and said: “They have no more wine.” Jesus told the servants to pour ordinary water into an ordinary water pot, dip some out and take it to the master of ceremonies. When he drank it, the MC proclaimed that the host had saved the best wine for last.

Even as I grow older, I need to continue to trust that God remains able to take what’s left of an “ordinary as water” life and make it a vintage Port.

Stop, Start, Continue… Happy New Year!

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