A new year dawns. It's a blank slate.
It's like the excitement we felt as little kids, when we opened that big 64-crayon box at the beginning of the school year. There was a whole carton of possibilities. No blemishes. No broken crayons. All the colors were there, just ready for us to create.
It's another chance to begin again. We tell ourselves we will make better choices. After six weeks of holiday eating, we will choose more healthful foods. We will commit to exercise each and every day. We will vow to develop a spiritual discipline - read our Bibles more, pray without ceasing, find God all around us.
Ready, set, go! OK, I'm ready! Like the little kid with brand new tennis shoes, I'll run head-long into the new year. And I'll run really fast ... because I have those new shoes, you know.
And then the Lovely Branches Ministries leadership team gave us the January blog theme:
Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Hey, wait a minute! Don't they know that when I took my personal gifts inventory from "Serving from the Heart" that evangelism wasn't anywhere to be found in my Top 5?
Couldn't they have chosen something more in my comfort zone, I wondered?
How about the great commandment found in Luke 10:27?
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
That would be much better, I decided. Then I could stay in my comfort zone. After all, the handy, dandy guide told me I was much better at Assistance-Helps, Faith, Mercy-Compassion and Leadership-Administration.
But, maybe, just maybe I'm supposed to find my way outside the confines of my comfortable little box this year.
That's a scary thought. I'm not the best when it comes to change. So maybe I'll just forget about that message. It will be good enough to practice the great commandment, right?
And then I went to my church's charge conference, a time when we talk about the past year and make plans for the coming one. And wouldn't you know it! The very first bullet point my global church wants to emphasize was this:
"We believe in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."
Hmmm .... It sounded rather familiar. Was there a theme developing?
Then our minister issued a challenge in the church's January newsletter.
"If you know of someone who hasn’t come to church in awhile that could use a little nudge, offer to give them a ride to church. Just knowing that someone cares could be all that a person needs to start a church-going habit."
OK, God, I get it. I'm supposed to step outside my comfort zone. I'm supposed to find new ways to love and serve you. What better time could there be than at this beginning of a brand new year?
We humans like the comfort of our "ruts." We like the familiarity of a path we've already taken - no GPS required. But sometimes God has different ideas.
So, ready or not! Here's the new year.
Dear Lord, help me to run head-long into the new year and be the hands and feet that will transform this world by drawing people closer to You. Lord, I can only do it through You. Amen.
A New Start in the Kitchen
OK, that was the "Thought" part of "Food for Thought." And now to the "Food" part.
Speaking of ruts, I can get into them in the kitchen. Don't we all? We have 30 minutes to get dinner on the table, so we turn to the most familiar ... the recipes we can do without pulling a cookbook off the shelf.
So, this new year, I hope to add new recipes to my repertoire. If you're looking for something new, here are a few tried-and-true meals from my County Line kitchen to help you break outside your mealtime box. Hey, while we're breaking out of our spiritual comfort zone, we might as well add adventure to other areas of our lives, too, right?