Three keys to writing your 2015 “life story”

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By Joe LaGuardia

Every year I set out to keep some much-needed resolutions. These resolutions have to do with change: I’d like to eat less, exercise more, pray without ceasing. Its the usual New Year’s stuff.

Since I rarely keep these resolutions beyond the second or third week, however, I wonder if perhaps I’ve been going about this all wrong. And, if you’ve had trouble keeping your resolutions in years past, maybe you’ve gotten it wrong too.

It’s not that we have to change our life so much as we may have to change the way we see our life. Whenever I’ve changed how I see my life in the past, a change in my behavior, values, and habits followed.

One of the ways is to view life as a story that is slowly unfolding, one in which you can sense a series of beginnings, middles, and endings.

Call them chapters if you will. Each chapter tells a different side of the main character–you!–and when one chapter ends, a new one begins.

So what if you had a bad habit in the past? That chapter has ended, and a new chapter can begin.

Maybe you came out of an abusive relationship. A new year is a good opportunity to write a new chapter beyond the abuse that has shaped your life all too often.

So, with that in mind, here are three keys to consider when writing your new 2015 story.

1. Your story is what God says it is, not what others say it is. God has created you in God’s own image and you are a child of God. Don’t let others tell you how your story should either unfold or end.

If you were to write your story this year with your Heavenly Father in mind, how would it be different? What authenticity and vulnerability might empower you to change for the better?

2. God has a purpose for your life, so your story should have a purpose too.

Have you ever read a story or watched a movie that didn’t have a purpose? A story with no purpose has no direction; it just stumbles along.

I know that we stumble along in life sometimes. We lose a job or our hearts get broken, and we can only go from day to day like a person meandering in the dark.

But some seasons in life are like that; and yet, overall, our story has a purpose because God has a purpose for us.

The Bible labels this purpose a “call” that God gives us. We are all called to be a part of God’s story, and by joining God, God writes our stories too.

The second letter of Peter says, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble” (2 Peter 1:10).

3. Your story won’t be complete without recognizing how others play a part in it.

On the internet, you will find what are called “internet trolls.” These are people who go from status update to status update. blog to blog, article to article, and post to post to criticize, leave negative feedback, and simply publish bad advice or mean comments in general.

Trolls have encouraged more than one suicide, and they are ruthless in their backbiting and baiting.

These are not people that make up your story or should be a part of your story.

Characters that are a part of your story should be positive and help you fulfill God’s purpose in your life.

I recommend building a circle of friends made up of mentors, cheerleaders, teachers, and friends that make for an effective support system. Do not neglect this part of your story, and distance yourself from the trolls in your life.

As you look forward to the new year ahead, I hope that you will put an imaginary pen to paper and write something new. I hope that it will be God-inspired and that you will be the very person God has made you to be, for without God, your words will be fleeting and ever failing.

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Conversion and the New Year

The New Year is an opportunity to make resolutions. Perhaps for many of us, however, resolutions may not be enough; we may need an actual conversion experience.

There is a fourth-century story told of two monks in the Egyptian desert. One monk came to the other for advice:

“Father Joseph,” the monk said, “According as I am able, I keep my rule, my fast, my prayer, meditation and silence; and according as I am able I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what more should I do?”

The other monk rose up and stretched out his hands in response. His fingers, held toward heaven, became like ten lampstands, and he said, “Why not be totally changed into fire?”

This story reminds me of John the Baptist coming out of the desert to declare that God had come in the form of a messiah. “I baptize with water,” John said, “But he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11).

Fire in the ancient world was as destructive as it is now, but it was also a cleansing agent. Fire was used to purify precious metals, shape iron, and cleanse chaff from wheat. The Greek word for fire is the root word for the English word, “purity.” It was, according to ancient philosophy, the precursor to God’s Word and the harbinger of Spirit.

For John the Baptist and, later, for Jesus who claimed that he came to separate wheat from chaff, fire was the symbol whereby one was cleansed from all impurities and made right with God.

Whereas resolutions are commitments to do something, conversion transform our very nature just as fire can transform the properties of many metals at certain temperatures.

Conversion is more concerned about who we are than about what we do, assuming that who we are will eventually inform what we do.

For those who see conversion as an important step in their faith journey, repentance is considered a regular spiritual discipline. It does not occur only once, let alone once a year, but, as Father Joseph implied, is occurs continually: “Why not be totally changed into fire?”

The equation for repentance is straightforward, but we always need reminding of how it occurs. With the New Year upon us, it is a good time for a refresher.

Repentance happens when we “fall short” and feel disconnected from God.  We are in need of salvation. Unfortunately, we cannot save ourselves.

This is where the Holy Spirit and “fire” come into play. We recognize that Jesus is the mediator between us and God. The Holy Spirit enlightens us to this truth as He draws us closer to God through the person of Jesus Christ.

Then, as we are set right in our relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we are commissioned to live a life of obedience, sanctification, and discipleship.

This is where “fire” comes in, as the Spirit continually fashions us and molds us in the smelter of life experiences and lessons learned. It’s fire that conforms us into the likeness of Christ.

I grew up in a faith tradition that saw conversion as a one-time event; but, as I grow older, I realize that it is a continual cycle with which God is never finished. Just as each New Year brings with it inspiration for a fresh start, so does God’s Son, Spirit, and cleansing fire give us a fresh beginning every day.