Saturday, December 28, 2019

Create An Environment for Success

“Create an environment for success," our weight loss coach says. "Look around and ask, 'What should I change in my home? My car? My school or workplace? What could I add? Or remove?’”

During each weekly meeting, we talk about how even small changes help us lose weight. One member of the group said, “I keep all my snacks in one cabinet. That way, I don’t see the chips and cookies stored in the cabinet my family uses."

Another person said, “I used to store apples in the fruit drawer of the fridge. But then, I'd forget about them. Now, I put them in a pretty bowl on one of the shelves—right in the front. My family and I see them first whenever we open the door.”

Someone else said, “I keep healthy snacks in my purse. Then I don't resort to snacking on cookies and chips when I‘m out and about.”

   Another said, “I keep a pair of comfortable shoes in my car. Anytime I have an opportunity to walk, my shoes are right there.”

Suggestions such as these inspired me to make changes in my environment and to notice others I can make. For example, I bought a red bowl and placed assorted measuring cups and spoons in it. It sits on the counter, right beside the food scales. Now, I measure my food rather than estimate how much I ate.

I'm changing not only my stuff but also my habits. Before I sit down to write a column or to edit a batch of photos, I set the timer on the microwave. Since I don’t like hearing the beep-beep-beep of the timer, I’ll walk to the kitchen to silence it. While I’m up every hour, I’ll do a household task or two before returning to my computer. Taking mini-breaks is essential since I have a history of blood clots. But until I started using the timer, I’d work for hours without moving around.

Whether trying to lose weight or reach some other goal, you and I can get to where we want to go sooner and with less effort if we’ll create an environment for success.                   

We'll also make progress in reaching our spiritual goals if we follow the advice provided in Hebrews 12:1, New Living Translation. “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.”

Removing hindrances, even little ones, helps us reach our goals sooner than we ever dreamed.                                                                          
 © 2013 by Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Wonderful Names

“If I’d known what my children would be like once they were grown, I could’ve chosen more appropriate names for them,” she said.

Although that’s true, none of us have that kind of foreknowledge, do we? Thus, we simply choose a name we like or one that’s been in the family for generations or one that’s the same as someone we admire. Sometimes we create a new one.

However, some parents mentioned in the Bible were told. For example, an angel appeared to aged Zacharias to tell him he and his wife Elizabeth would have a baby and that they were to name him John. (That name means “Jehovah [God] has been gracious, has shown favor.”)

An angel also appeared to Mary, a young virgin, and said to her, “…you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.” (A name derived from the Hebrew name Yeshua, which means “to deliver, to rescue.”)

Jesus’ life matched the meaning of His name. He did deliver us from our sins and rescue us from being cast into Hell, forever separated from the One who loves us more than we can conceive.

He also lived up to another name given to Him centuries before His birth: Immanuel. That name, which means “God with us,” refers to not only His deity (God) but also His identification with and His nearness to mankind.

As Henry Barraclough’s beautiful hymn (1915) says:
Out of the ivory palaces
Into a world of woe
Only His great eternal love
Made my Savior go.

He came down to us in order to provide the way for us to go up to live with Him throughout all eternity. In the meantime, we who know Him can come to Him with our praises, with our gratitude, with our confessions of sins, with our pleas for help, with our brokenness, with our….

Because God the Father knew exactly what His Son would be and do, every name He chose for Him is appropriate, each one describing who He was and is and forever will be. 

Oh, blessed be every name given to our wonderful Savior and Lord!  

Note: A longer version of this was published in the Chapel Hill News and Views magazine in December 2019. 

Saturday, December 7, 2019

What to Give?

Since 2012, the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday has been called Giving Tuesday and kicks off the official giving season. 

On this global day of giving (and several days prior), I receive several emails urging me to donate to various organizations and charitable causes. Those appeals make it seem as if the only way to participate in Giving Tuesday is to contribute financially. However, donating money is only one way to give.

My niece wrote this message in the sand. Thank you, Janna!
For example, the Bible repeatedly tells us to give thanks. First and foremost, we are to thank God for all the ways He blesses us day by day and year by year. We can (and should) thank others, too. The person who taught us to read. The friend who calls to see how we're feeling. The person who gives us an unexpected opportunity. The one who helps us catch up on our tasks. The child who picks a flower for us. The shopper with an overflowing cart who notices that ours contains only a few items and says, "You go first." 

They have given to us. One way we can give back to them is by thanking them.  

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
--1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NKJV