What is the Goal?

Have you ever thought about how easy it is to live in this world?  I’m talking from a Biblical viewpoint.  Because Satan’s domain is the earth and we have free will, our human nature automatically wants to jump to the easy things, the selfish things, the busy things, and the “fun” things.  Satan and his demons make the world look so enticing.  They also make things other than God seem like a priority.

I’ve thought about this a lot lately, especially in light of the message Pastor Trey preached on Sunday.  He was reading from 2 Peter 1:3-8, and he touched on the fact that godliness is our goal.  He certainly wasn’t saying we are in some way little gods.  But, per scripture, we are meant to live a godly life always pursuing righteousness.  By consistently pursuing righteousness, we gain greater Christian/Biblical perspective that enhance our relationship with Him and keep us from being ineffective in our work for the Lord.

He tells us in Romans 12:2 not to be conformed to the world.  We instead are to be transformed by the renewal of our mind (on Christ) so that we can know what the will of God is.  When we live IN the world, we lose sight of what our goals are in Christ.  We forget that faith is key.  Goodness is key.  Perseverance is key.  Self-control is key.  The list goes in. 

And lest I fool myself into thinking this doesn’t apply to me because I read my bible every day and write a blog, I remind myself of the times I was too busy to honor Him in reading the Word.  I remind myself of the times I could’ve volunteered at the local food pantry and instead chose to sleep in on Saturday morning.  I remind myself of the times I read the Bible and then got on the phone with a friend and said mean things about a co-worker.

It applies to all of us.  Our focus should always be on God.  With that comes remembering that we are not to be in the world.  When we remember that our pursuit should be on godliness, we can drown out our own sinful will and pursue one goal…our Heavenly Father.

~Erin

Intention

I’m terrible at resolutions.  I can make one, but it won’t take more than 16 days before I’ve already messed something up and my resolution has gone out the window. 

Once upon a time, I did the obligatory “I’m joining a gym.  I’m going to lose weight.  I’m going to read my Bible every day.”  All those sentences have potential to have great impact on me throughout the year.  But the list of this and that for someone who writes and then rewrites lists (only to lose them the second go-around and write it the third time), does not produce anything very worthy of accomplishment.

Fast forward to this year.  Now it’s about “THE word.”  We all know what I’m talking about.  It’s been the rage these last 5-10 years or so of coming up with a word that you want to resonate with you for the year.  I’ve been doing it the last several years.  And while I loathe being a band-wagoner (is that even really a word?), I like this concept.  It allows me to choose a word that should focus my actions to that rather than feeling like a failed at a resolution.

This year, the word is “Intention.”  (Closely followed by the additional words, FOLLOW THROUGH.) 

For me, this year is about being intentional with what I do.  I would like to learn how to can; not just because I think it might be fun.  I’d really like to take my meal prep further than week to week.  I’d like to use my grocery budget wisely and not have so much waste.  God gave us the veggies…I shouldn’t be wasting them.  Canning can help with that.  Intention.

I want to spend more time as a family.  It doesn’t have to be this long and drawn-out day and I don’t want it to be obligatory.  I want to sit down as a family and play a game, maybe go bowling, sit on the back deck and chat.  I want to purposefully have conversations or laugh or be serious.  I want my time with my family to be God-centered and God-honoring.  Intention.

I want to build a garden.  I’ve joked on previous blogs about being a master gardener.  I just wrote about it in a Facebook post and Emily commented that I was not a master gardener but rather a fiction writer!  (I MAY have exaggerated my gardening skills.) But I don’t want to build just any garden (like I did last year and never ate anything that came from it).  I want to plant what I know we will eat.  I want to plant appropriately and at the right time.  I may have to succession plant.  But you know what that takes, friends?  Intention.  I must be intentional about what I’m doing.

I want to talk to God more.  I love being in the Word, but I don’t feel I’m in it enough.  I pray, but I don’t pray without ceasing.  I want to see what God is showing me in the Bible.  It’s going to take being intentional with my study time.

These are just a few examples of what I want to do throughout the year.  How am I going to put actions to that word you ask?  Not only do I remind myself daily, I very specifically ask God every morning to show me ways to be intentional…and to give me the fortitude to complete them.  And then I go for it! 

I’ll fail sometimes.  Other times, I’ll hit a home run.  That’s the beauty of having the word.  I recognize where my weaknesses are.  The word helps me stay more focused on how to do better and be better.  And none of it works if I’m not constantly seeking God to keep my actions on a path that ultimately honors and glorifies Him!

Friends, do you have a word or a goal or a resolution that you’d like to share?  Let us know what yours is in the comments!

Happy New Year!

~Erin

New Year: New Goals

I can’t remember any time that I’ve created a New Year’s Resolution.  I’ve never seen value in financial or weight loss promises on January 1st…I know myself well enough that a resolution would not work well for me.  However, I’ve always set new goals for the beginning of each year.  When I was child, the goals were more simplistic, such as not being mean to my brother or being more helpful to my parents.  Those weren’t tangible or measurable goals, so it would have been nearly impossible to determine if they were attained.  As I got older, making the soccer team or getting particular grades became more measurable goals.

In adulthood, my goals have been fanciful.  For instance, one year I made it a goal to say “bless you” to anyone who I heard sneeze…even if they weren’t close enough to hear me.  Another year I had the goal to buy myself fresh flowers weekly, while years before that I went on a “no spending full price on clothes” for a full year.  There was even one year that I made the goal to travel to a new location every month (that was a tad easier because I was already stationed in Europe). 

The secret to effective goal setting is to make mini-goals, also known as objectives.  It gives you milestones to check and re-evaluate how close you are to attaining the goals you have set.  

Scripture is clear that goal-setting is not only desirable, but that God encourages us to practice growing through goal setting.  Proverbs 21:5 (ESV) states, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”

Hence, a Biblical example of us needing to create plans to lead to better things.  It’s important to remember that we have to put in some hard work to attain these goals. God’s will allows us to attain or fail to attain goals, but nothing happens at all if we don’t strive towards the objective.  

It’s equally important to remember that our best planning is not a guarantee that we will achieve those goals.  In James 4:13-15, James reminds us that we do not know what tomorrow will bring and that we should continue to lean into the Lord’s will for our lives.  

We must set the goals.  We must work hard towards the goals.  We must recognize that God’s possible change of our plans are because His thoughts for our lives are so much bigger (and better) than our own…see Matthew 6:33-34.  

Ultimately, God’s purpose for each of us will prevail.  In Proverbs 19:21, we are reminded that “Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord will stand.”  

So what the heck is the bottom line for our lives in 2022?  Set the goals, make them attainable and measurable, and then submit those goals to God for His blessing and intervention on the purpose He has for your life.  Be intentional, but also know you have to be flexible to the changes God has in store.

It’s a new year…time to set some new goals.  

~Emily

P.S. I have two goals for 2022: 

1. Read the entire Bible (I’m using a one-year reading plan that has me reading four chapters a day between the Old Testament and New Testament with a one day break each month).

2. Complete a 52-hike challenge throughout the year (the hikes can be back-to-back or once a week, at least two miles-but no upper limit to length, not on asphalt/gravel, can repeat trails, any friend/hiking partner/group can join me on any given trail, and the hikes can be anywhere in the world).  

Focus, Squirrel…Focus!

During the creative process of writing academically, fiction, or the blog, I often find myself following a rabbit hole that has nothing to do with my original intent in writing.  I start researching or reading tangents (likely the reason I know so many bits of useless information).  I become engrossed in the television if it’s on.  I start singing to music even if it’s background noise.  

I am notorious for distracting myself.  Squirrel.  

The point is that I often have to tell myself, “Focus, Emily, Focus.”

I need that phrase for my life’s walk with Jesus too.  Focus, Emily, Focus.  

Paul does a fantastic job of teaching us the need for focusing in Philippians.  

“Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect, but I press on fi I may also have hold of that for which I as even taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.  I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 3:12-14 (NASB)

This text reminds us that in order to grow in our faith with Jesus, we have to remain focused.  We must reach forward.   We must press on towards the goal.   No rabbit hole research projects allowed. No distracting media platforms.  No squirrels.

Our salvation is clearly outlined in the Bible as grace alone through faith….but the growth in our relationship with God requires work to remain focused.  

A few verses before, Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10 (NASB), “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”  In this verse, we can glean a few goals that Paul had for remaining focused on the Lord, and they are goals that I want for my own focus.  

He wanted to know Jesus in a more personal way, as do I. 

He wanted to really know the power of Christ’s resurrection, as do I.

He wanted a similar attitude to Jesus in the face of suffering, as do I. 

He wanted connection to Jesus through His death, as do I. 

Like any other goals in our lives, we can’t be successful at accomplishing the goals without being specific with the goal writing.  In the military (and in other leadership courses), I was taught the SMART method in regards to goal writing:  

– Specific (details of the goals)

– Measurable (how do I know if I’m accomplishing the goal)

– Achievable (can I actually accomplish what I’m setting out to do)

– Realistic (is it within reach and relevant to my life)

– Time-framed (is there an end/stopping point to determine goal accomplishment)

If my generalized goal is to remain focused on the Lord so that I can build a closer relationship with him, then I know I should use the SMART method to refine that goal.  Otherwise I risk not fulfilling my goal.  When going through a goal setting process, I often find that I begin to set “mini-goals” in order to accomplish the larger task.  

For instance, my larger goal is that I want to have a stronger relationship with God.

My mini goals, that will assist with attaining the larger goal, could include:

– Specific Bible reading plans

– Planning prayer times

– Making corporate worship a priority

– Stretching myself in personal study of the Bible

Each of those mini-goals can be tracked with the SMART method and lend themselves to the larger goal.  Utilizing goal setting, specifically a method that showcases growth, allows for me to stay focused.  No distractions…just focus.  

I’m sure I’ll have to keep saying, “Focus, Emily, Focus,” but I’m happy to know I can redirect that focus back to something very specific.  

Will you join me in “focusing” this week?

~Emily

Automatic Doors of Life

A little boy stepped on the automated rubber mat…jumping on it over and over again as the glass doors slid open and shut. He was not deterred by the gentle tug of his mother’s hand.  The jumping continued even with his arm stretched out further and further by his mom.  All he saw in that moment was that he controlled the opening/closing of the sliding glass doors.  He was enthralled with his new-found superpower.  

If only I could control my life like that!

Have you ever wished that you had the ability to jump on a rubber mat in order to open and close doors?  I’ve desired the control over simple and more complex things of my life. 

You know which opening and closing glass door I can control?  My own mouth.

While there are dozens of examples in the Bible of how we should control our mouths.  Here are just three of those examples:

Proverbs 13:3 (ESV) “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”

1 Peter 3:10 (NASB) “The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.” 

James 1:19 (NASB) “You know this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Now everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger…”

Scripture gives us clear direction that our mouths are controllable, but we often let them go wild without constraint.  We lose control over our mouths in such detrimental ways.  It may be through gossip, or a false statement. We lose control when we use a swear word, or a harsh criticism.  It’s even when we repeat an inappropriate joke or sing along to the popular song that is not so wholesome.  

Instead of randomly jumping up and down on a rubber mat; allowing our mouth to open and close at any ol’ time, perhaps now is the time to slow down and become more deliberate in controlling our tongue.  

By no means do I have control over my own tongue (and as evident by prior blog entries, I have struggled with profanity).  However, I’ve written down some goals that I’m going to implement so that I have better control over what I am saying.

1. Slow down on the cursing (stopping all together is the ultimate goal)

2. Replacing sketchy lyrics from the radio with Gospel Music/Contemporary Christian Music

3. Offering a compliment…even when I want to offer the criticism

4. Issuing silent prayers/pleas for help to the Lord when I’m in contentious conversations

I may not be able to control everything in my life, but I can wrangle in some control over my tongue. I’m going to stop jumping on the rubber mat, watching the door open and close on its own.  Instead, I’m going to start being deliberate about closing my mouth when it should stay shut, and opening it only when necessary and when its kind words flowing from it.

How are you working on the automatic doors of your own life?  Come to the porch and share your goals with us!

~Emily

“God Knew” By Guest Bloggers: Jessie Lynn® and Kelsey Stahler

“God knew our mothers couldn’t handle us as sisters so he made us best friends instead…”

That’s Kelsey’s favorite quote to use when it comes to describing our friendship and how close we truly are! When I say close, I mean we are almost identical when it comes to beliefs, work ethic, goals, dreams, and visions for what we see in our future. We both carry the same love and passion for horses, barrel racing, rodeoing, traveling, and love a good productive day for either one of our businesses! Basically, we are sisters…not by blood but by choice!

Where did it all start? Originally the friendship started out as a coach-to-client relationship when Kelsey contacted me about barrel racing lessons and shared her dreams of making it to the NFR. At first, I was a little hesitant and explained to her that if we started lessons, especially with that type of goal, it was going to be for the long haul! Needless to say, that didn’t faze her. The most interesting thing about that moment in time is that we met at probably one of the most difficult times in both of our lives. God knew…

I often think back on that moment in time and how God most certainly knew that our paths had to cross in order for us to grow and challenge one another in a way that we both would appreciate and understand. Kelsey and I both agree that we challenge one another in the most positive and in some cases, most aggressive ways that pushes us past our comfort zones. Ironically, that’s what we both needed. It’s quite amazing to think that was only three short years ago…Kelsey and I have grown so much since then, not only in our friendship, but as individuals as well!

Kelsey is now the proud owner of a small western boutique in downtown Prattville, Alabama called “Wandering Coyote Company,” and has achieved great success on the road traveling to various equine and cattleman’s events across the Southeast. On occasion, we travel together when my singing career coincides with an event and we just decide to make a girl’s trip out of it! It’s work for sure, but we’re able to help one another and ensure that we each have what we need to be successful!

I happily spend majority of my time on the road touring with my country music career, but still find time to enjoy a barrel race or two on the weekends and an occasional vacation trip when Kelsey and I can find time! The best part about our friendship is that we don’t have to be together to be close and we both know we are just one phone call or text away if one of us needs something or just need a girl talk moment. Believe me, there are plenty of those!

Quite frankly, I believe if you had asked either one of us “did we expect this friendship to turn out the way it has,” I think we both would have said no. Funny thing is, when God is in control of the company you keep and the people you have to surround yourself with in order to make it, He sends the right person at the right time! There’re no questions, no doubts, and everything works out as it should!

Yes, we’ve only been best friends for three years now, but believe me when I say, it’s a friendship that has been built off of the Lord’s word, strength, direction, and most importantly His love for both of us! Kelsey and I often discuss our dreams and quite frequently reassess our goals and plans for the time at hand, and to see what the Lord has placed in both of us to help one another is indescribable! Both of us reach for the star that just so happens to be out of reach, but when one of us does, it encourages the other to boost them up and to keep working towards their goal and dream. To give you one word to describe it: Balance!

Kelsey and I hope that this story encourages you and your best friend to place the Lord first in all that you do and completely trust Him with every aspect of your life! You do that, and He will bless you richly for it! 

-Written by Jessie Lynn® with contributions by Kelsey Stahler

 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)