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A Word for 2018

Like many Americans, perhaps you’ve already made your goals for the New Year. New Year’s resolutions are touted as a great tool to help us develop positive lifestyle changes. My personal problem with New Year’s resolutions, however, is that I tend to break them as quickly as I make them. Over the years, I’ve made resolutions that quickly found themselves buried in a sea of old habits.

I could not help but think about my predilection to break resolutions as I picked up my weekly indulgence at Starbucks. The sleeve on my freshly made cappuccino featured their 2017 holiday campaign: “Give Good.” As much we enjoy doing a few extra good deeds during the holidays, most of us quickly go back to life as normal once we flip the calendar from one year to the next. The sentimental inspiration of a few short weeks of festivity rarely translates into long-term behavioral changes.

Motivational coach and author, Jon Gordon, notes that 9 out of 10 people fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions. More often than not, we make resolutions that are too much of a stretch for us to maintain. That’s why Gordon strongly recommends choosing one word of action that can help lead to a more productive and meaningful life. As Gordon suggests in his book, “One Word that Will Change Your Life,” your personal word could be one of countless possibilities such as love, serve, pray, forgive, or focus.¹

The Bible tells us there are important key habits which should influence our decisions and behavior as followers of Christ. Each January, I like to set time aside to consider the hallmarks of a Christian life. As I do, I am always reminded of the gifts of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:21-22). Even though we’ll never reach perfection in any one of these areas, we should strive to make these attributes more visible in our lives.

Just as a doctor orders lab work to gain a baseline view of a patient’s health, we can assess our spiritual health by examining our life in light of these attributes. As we work our way through this list, we can ask ourselves: “How am I doing in the area of love? How am I doing in the area of joy, peace, etc.? And as we take an honest look inside our hearts, we can choose one word or attribute where we believe that Christ is challenging us to grow.

As we enter the New Year, I invite you to join me in a personal inventory of the spiritual life. The Christian life is one of continuous growth. And like every journey of growth, the best way to begin is one step at a time…

This year, I feel led to focus on the word, “kindness.” What’s your word going to be?

 © Adrian N. Doll, Green Valley Presbyterian Church, 2018

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¹“What’s Your Word?” www.JonGordon.com

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in Advent

The Gospel of Grace and a Starbucks Barista

With almost five dollars left on my gift card, I could not resist the opportunity to buy a coffee drink on my way to work. Feeling the need for a morning pick-me-up, I pulled into the drive-through lane at our neighborhood Starbucks on what promised to be a very busy day. I ordered my drink and I was only too eager to pull out my gift card. The barista scanned my card, gave me a receipt, and then he said, “You’re all set; you just owe five cents.” Now that might not sound like a lot of money, but after you’ve searched your pockets, the console in your car, and your wallet only to find nothing, five cents seems like an insurmountable amount of money. One nickel stood between me and a coveted coffee drink that a loyal Starbucks worker was hesitant to hand over.

 Drowning in a sea of embarrassment and desire, I made my plea: “Look, I just work down the street. I promise to come back later and pay the difference.” I could tell the man behind the counter was less than convinced of my plan; I knew he was busy; and I was fully expecting him to say, “Oh yeah…I’ve heard this one before.” But instead, he handed me my beverage and he said, “It’s OK. I’ve got this one for you. Have a good day man. OK?” All I could say was “thank you” as I reached for the cup and noticed the words to this year’s campaign on their signature red and white holiday cup: “Give Good.” I slowly drove away stunned by a random act of kindness.

 One simple gesture reminded me of the enormity of God’s grace. In a world where news of violence, greed, human suffering, and natural disaster seem to flash across our television and computer screens with more alarming regularity, I need to be reminded of the profound gift of God’s grace. God sent the Savior into our world because God refuses to give up on us no matter how much we fall short of God’s righteousness. No matter how good I am, no matter how hard I try, I will never meet God’s standards. And just like that five-cent difference between a gift card and the price of a coffee drink, we will always fall short.

 The child whose birth we celebrate at Christmas came into our world to give what we could never provide for ourselves. God gave the world the gift of a Savior to pay the difference between our feeble attempts to earn God’s grace and the measure of God’s righteousness. Christ became poor so that we might become spiritually rich. The Apostle Paul speaks of God’s extravagant grace in a verse that inspired one of my favorite Christmas Carols, “Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendor.” Paul writes, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

As you open your Christmas gifts this year, take a moment to say, “Thank you, Lord” because God gave the world the supreme gift of goodness and grace. And don’t forget to enjoy that morning cup of coffee wherever you find yourself in the busyness of this wonderful season and look for every opportunity to do good because God did good in our world!

© Adrian N. Doll, Green Valley Presbyterian Church, 2017

Starbucks Logo and Graphics used with permission by Starbucks.

Photo by Allen Merritt 2017.

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