Friday, January 2, 2015

My 7 Books for 2015

I wrote about my new year's resolutions here
One of my goals was to read 7 non-fiction books.

It's never been all that difficult for me to pick up a novel. 
In fact, fiction books are as much a mental escape for me as movies or sleeping.

But non-fiction is a different story. 
It has often served as a cure for my insomnia.
No joke. 
I do not exaggerate.

Just hoping I will pick up a non-fiction book doesn't work. I might pick one up, read 60 pages, and put it down with every intention of reading more. But I hardly ever do. Hence my self-inflicted title of "Queen of the Unfinished Book."

So, I have resolved to read (to completion) 7 non-fiction books in 2015.  The next step is to decide what I am going to read. 

There are a lot of good books. 7 is a very small number. 

But I whittled it down to the ones that most interested me or I felt were most pertinent to my life and ministry at this point in time. 

Here's my list in no particular order:

Leading Change without Losing It: 
Five Strategies That Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change When Facing Opposition 
by Carey Nieuwhof

The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home
by Susan Wise Bauer

Sparkly Green Earrings: Catching the Light at Every Turn 
by Melanie Shankle

A Spirituality of Fundraising 
by Henri Nouwen

Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Disciplines 
by Lauren Winner

Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Final Year 
by Tavis Smiley

Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: 
Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible 
by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O'Brien

And my runners-up...
You know, in case I get ambitious and actually read more than 7 books in 2015.
And no, the irony doesn't escape me that there are more than 7 books in this list.

by Timothy Keller

by Reggie McNeal

by Shauna Niequist

by Peter Rollins

by John & Joanna Stumbo

I am interested to know what non-fiction you have found helpful or beneficial. Feel free to leave a comment below and share with me. Who knows? Maybe I will alter my list after hearing from you!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My 2015 New Year's Resolution Solution

I am stranger to neither New Year's resolutions nor the shame produced when failing to keep resolve. That's why it would be easy to dismiss this tradition with flair, citing some rationale like, "I don't need a new year to give me permission to do something."

But here's the thing. I love intentional living and doing things on purpose. Life planned out and executed. And I love clean slates. Fresh starts. New beginnings.

And the New Year affords me both of these joys in one lovely midnight package.

Goals are good. Goals are friends because we tend to accomplish that for which we have planned. Those things for which we have set a goal. Otherwise, life happens to us and we live in reaction. I loathe reactionary existence.

I also am aware of the "Word of the Year" phenom. I have participated in said sensation. And I love the idea of an "angle" for the year that revolves around an easily remembered word. Yet I have found a word is too general for me. Too abstract. Too unfocused. It's reminds me of an Impressionistic painting that from a distance looks beautiful but as you draw closer you see the details are not distinct and articulate. A word hasn't forced me to set specific, measurable goals.

So, this year, I am picking a word that coerces me deeper into intentioned, quantifiable action. This is a idea that crossed my mind this morning. It's new. And it might bomb. Big time. After all, the girl that wrote unfulfilled resolutions of bygone years is still the one penning these today.

But I am willing to try.

I want to be healthier, in many ways...spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally. And it would seem logical to choose "Health" as my word for 2015. Problem is, it's uncentered. It's vague. It's easily avoidable because it refuses to persuade me to action of any kind on any level.

So, what could I do that would give my year a focus (like a word of the year would do), help me set specific goals (like traditional resolutions would do), and be easy to remember and recall in the heat of moments when life threatens to overtake me?

Here's my shot at a New Year's Eve Resolution solution...

It's starts with a word.

And my word for 2015 is 7.

Yep, that's right. My word is a number.

7. Seven. Siete.

Keep in mind that my main goal is greater health. So my word of the year becomes a way to inform my resolutions. This number will define all my specific goals for every part of my life where I desire greater health.

In 2015, with my word being 7, I resolve to:

1. Get up at 7 am every. single. morning. (save for our sabbath.)

Even on Saturday. Even on Sunday. I realize for some 7 am is sleeping in, but not for our household. As professional responsibilities have increased so have my late nights. And our schedule has felt inverted and flipped-flopped. Paul and I want to change that and this step might actually get it done. This one change could revolutionize my perspective and help me to better accomplish some of my other goals below.

2. Work toward greater spiritual health by applying these steps...

* Voice a prayer 7 times a day.
Now before you think me daft or legalistic, don't. This goal comes from a desire to better live out this scripture and walk in prayerfulness at all times. I don't plan to carry around a checklist to insure my compliance, I actually hope to partner this goal with one further down my list under family health. I explain more there.

* Set apart 7 days for fasting.
This is not a discipline I frequently employ, but I wish to incorporate more often.

* Offer 7 sacrificial acts. 
I do not yet know what this will entail, but I feel compelled to add it. These sacrificial offerings might come in the form of material goods, money, time, pride, or productivity. 

3. Work toward greater physical health by incorporating these habits:

* Count to 7 with every bite of food. 
I am notorious for eating quickly and I want to slow it down. I hope counting to 7 when I take a bite will serve as a mental trigger for me to eat more slowly.

* Drink 7 glasses of water a day. 
While it hasn't been proven, I am fairly certain Diet Coke runs through my veins. Drinking water is good for me and I need more of it.

* Eat 7 fruits or vegetables every day.
I couldn't even tell you how this resolution stacks up against the most updated food pyramid, and honestly I don't care. This is a step in the right direction for me to have a more balanced diet with the nutrients and vitamins I need.

* Listen to 7 songs while I walk. 
Seven mainstream songs last around 25 minutes, give or take. I want to be better about regular exercise, but I am limited by finances, time, and desire. I do, however, like to walk and I like music.  Why not pair them up and commit to walk consistently during my week while listening to some tunes? So when I wake up at 7am, I will set my playlist to 7 energetic, make-me-want-to-get-up-and-dance kind of songs and walk.

4. Work toward family health by strengthening these patterns...

* Count to 7 before speaking in frustration to my husband and children.
I want to speak life to my family but when frustration guides my words I have denied that opportunity. Though my habit is to spit words out thoughtlessly when feeling frustrated, I want to be deliberate in the practice of my speech. So, I will try my best count to seven every time I am tempted to spew irritation out on my family. 

* Affirm my husband 7 times a day.
Truth: It's can be easier to grumble about what my husband hasn't done then to appreciate what he has done. Truth: Parenthood is a great competitor to the marriage relationship. Both of these truths mean I have to dig deeper and work harder to speak to Paul the things he needs and deserves. I want to be intentional to praise my husband every day, multiple times a day. This might come as seven "I love yous" or seven specific compliments toward his character or efforts. Either way, it can't hurt a stinkin' thing.

And here is where the pray 7 times a day comes back around. I am linking these two items in my mind and heart this year. When I voice a prayer, I will also look for a way to affirm Paul. When I affirm Paul, I will pause and lift up a prayer. In this way, two goals are connected and will hopefully create some heart muscle memory.

5. Work toward greater mental and emotional health by striving to accomplish these goals...

* Read 7 non-fiction books. 
Don't judge. Sometimes you just have to be honest and start small. I am a home educating mother of three while pastoring with my husband and this does not encourage a non-reader to read much, especially if it requires much brain power. It's all been spent elsewhere at other points in the day.

* Recite 7 words..."My story is important to the world."
This phrase is inspired by Donald Miller's Storyline Conference which Paul and I attended in October. These seven words will help me when I am struggling with confidence or feel my contribution is lacking. I have a feeling I will be saying this a lot.

* Do 7 brave, risky things.
I tend to be a scaredy cat. Much of my life has been lived in deference to fear. I really don't like that. Courage requires intention. Risk doesn't have to translate to recklessness. But I have to be willing and able to take the step that frightens me. I have let too many opportunities slip through trembling fingers. This is another goal I can't predict how it will play out. I don't have anything specific in mind yet. But I will look for times when my knees are shaking and let that be a starting point.

* Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive.
Jesus said we must always be ready to offer forgiveness up to 77 times. In other words, forgiveness should be infinitely extended. The well of forgiveness has no bottom and it doesn't run dry. It's a reminder to continually offer forgiveness to others, especially when they may not deserve it because forgiveness is the way of freedom for my soul. And no, the number 7 isn't listed in the actual goal, but forgiveness is listed seven times for those I need to forgive on a regular basis: my husband, my children, my extended family, my friends, my parishioners, the stranger, and myself.

Throughout scripture, the number 7 represented perfection, completeness, wholeness. For me, 7 = shalom. And for all of my days, in all of my ways, I desire to pursue shalom, peace that encompasses the whole. It seems appropriate to have my goals toward greater health revolve around the number 7.

So this is my current solution to my resolution problem. As for it's success, I will have to embrace 2015 with all it's possibilities and promise to figure that out. I admit I am setting out a large, ambitious list of resolutions for myself in 2015. I actually don't expect to accomplish them all. That's ok. I just want to try. Maybe that's my first brave thing - tackling this set of goals. And if I fail, that's ok too. I will practice forgiving myself.

Here's to a healthier 2015!