A new year.

A renewed purpose…
of whatever sort you felt you needed.
A sense of beginning anew
while leaving the old behind.

A new year ushers in new energy, new perspective, and renewed sparkle in your eye, envisioning life as it could be. These thoughts–whether they be of physical changes, relational changes, career aspirations, or spiritual dedications–are the beginning. The beginning of your new steps, your different steps, or a new outlook.

The beginning, really, of hope. Envisioning that life can be different, seeing through your mind’s eye and your spirit’s seeking that things can change and you have the power to participate in that process. Where there is hope, there is room–room to grow, room to receive new, room to take a wind-up kick to the old habits you’ve kicked to the curb to be picked up with the trash.

What are those things you want out of your life? More importantly, what are the things you want in? For as you focus on what you want in, that which needs to exit begins to take a back seat until that back seat falls out the back of the car and tumble down the freeway as you leave it in the dust.

Making any change means choosing a priority. In this week alone, I have committed in my work to choose a few priorities for the day and focus on those until they are complete. The fires can wait. The emails can wait–unless they relate to the priorities for that day. Sometimes the door needs to be shut so I can focus. And in day 4 of this new approach amazing things have happened. I used to walk into the office in the morning already burdened with the fires that would need to be put out and stressing over the priorities that I never seemed to be able to get to. I would leave at the end of the day in the exact same state, thinking about tomorrow’s fires and how the priorities were still getting pushed. The amazing part about this week of changing the order in which I attend to my work is this: the priorities tend to get done before noon. The fires then take differing portions of the afternoon. But for the first time in months, I have time to take lunch. I have time to take the recommended 15 minute break in the morning and afternoon. And I leave the office feeling accomplished. And every day my email inbox has been reduced to zero at least once during the day. As new fires emerge, I task them to the appropriate day and then forget about them until then.

I am not focused on what needs to be removed. I focus on what needs to be prioritized. And those annoyances that drove me batty take less space in my reality. Some are still there. Some I have dealt with, but they no longer capitalize my day.

As we embark on this year looking at the fruit of the Spirit, I encourage us all to take a similar perspective. Rather than thinking of the things that need to be removed from our lives, think of the things you want to gain. (Now, if you’re battling serious issues that need professional intervention, your priority very well may be to remove that thing. This entry is not meant to deal with those issues. I trust the Spirit will reveal where you are in that spectrum.)

For example, rather than thinking of how you need to quit drinking diet soda (ahem), think of how great you feel when you are well hydrated with water. Rather than thinking of how the garage is a pit and everything needs to go. Focus on what you do want: organization and the ability to find the hammer when you need it. Fix those things and the pit-i-ness will reduce. Rather than focus on how everyone you know needs to change their behavior so you can not be angry, focus on what you want: patience, or maybe gentleness, or maybe self-control. Fixate on the fruit of the Spirit and the other will fade away.

What is the fruit of the Spirit? Well, I’m glad you asked:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there is no law.” –Galatians 5:22-23, ESV

We’ll work through all of these. For now, reflect on what priorities you want to set. Then approach your daily life focusing on those first. For what we’re told in Matthew really is true:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” –Matthew 6:33, ESV

What priorities will have you seeking the kingdom? Set them first. The rest will come.

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