Grandiose Goals

Goal Posts

Photo thanks to Katie D, Flickr

Are you with me as one of the estimated majority who avoids making New Years Resolutions? I have found the tradition rather trite, but after a particularly relaxing time off work, I’ve found myself rethinking it.

There are reasons not to:

  • January is already a depressing month for other reasons (like having the long holidays behind you). The last thing you want is to pile on the guilt-trips.
  • There’s a notorious self-fulfilling-prophecy that New Years Resolutions are made to be broken.

This isn’t to say I don’t care about putting effort into positive change. For example, this past year, I worked pretty hard to figure out the “gluten question”. Which brings me to another reason I’ve avoided resolutions:

Having just one resolution is a bit lame, isn’t it?

Consider switching to a gluten-free diet. I’d like to suggest this is a pretty big deal. Just this one goal has presented challenges daily. And (for health reasons) there was no possibility of just taking a day off.

Here are just some of the challenges:

  • never eating a meal without paying close attention to the source of all ingredients.
  • logistical difficulty in attending a social function.
  • Showing true gratefulness and kindness whenever offered items of food that need to be refused

I have now been 100% gluten-free for four months and three weeks.

And I did everything wrong, as far as goal-setting goes.


  • When struggling two months into the research phase, I just went all out cold turkey – everyone knows that’s a recipe for letting yourself down.
  • I didn’t set a time-limit on the process
  • I didn’t even know if I had a problem with gluten when I started
  • According to my nutritionist, I was doing some of the medical tests back-to-front… but having got myself syched-up to do this, I still pressed on. (And to her credit, she is supporting me.)
  • I didn’t plan for it in advance: I took advantage of opportunities presenting themselves to me in my life, just then and there, that allowed for my progress to happen. God provided this all for me.

What am I trying to say with all this?

Fitting into the box of expectations isn’t the only way to succeed. If you feel you are not fitting that box – January 1 has already come and gone – and you haven’t decided on a resolution yet, that doesn’t mean it is too late for this year. You are not destined to waste time. You can be given an opportunity tomorrow to be grasped with both hands.

Isn’t there more to it?

Yes, you are right. I also want to encourage you that striving to make improvements in your life is a worthy cause. And diligently planning for it is not to be despised. Encouragement, that despite the drawbacks… despite the many ways we fallible humans can mess things up, setting goals can be a productive and worthwhile process to use to help ourselves improve.

As Proverbs so eloquently counseled “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.”

That courage thing

It is easy to get discouraged. I know… This is often touted as one of the worst times of year. It is daunting to set goals, hoping for future strength, when you know you don’t have any right now. And that’s ok. No-one is saying you have to set goals. But neither is anyone saying you can’t. However small.

Maybe you have a setback like illness, where you must cut back on your efforts in order to allow yourself to recover. It is important to correctly budget this to avoid weighing yourself down by guilt or failure. Recognising a smaller goal in such an instance can help keep you going psychologically, all the more neccessary when your poor brain is getting that beating from your bodily weakness. Try something simple like drinking your set amount of water for the day.

Where next?

There are good, wise methods to help you support yourself in how to achieve goals. If you’d like to research it, I’d suggest exploring the concepts of S.M.A.R.T. objectives, a common industry-standard nowadays.

I would also commend to you a thoughful addition by Michael Hyatt: this gets the blood pumping in your veins, to help you see the vision behind what you are doing.

..and a Happy New Year 2012!

I hope you are enjoying every minute lived-out to the glory of God. Diligently planned by us, as best we can, but ultimately, alone planned by God. If the two should collide, there needs be no cause for regret. Pray for grace, because it is grace alone that can make us truly content.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

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Posted by on Friday, January 13, 2012 in discipline, encouragement


Fully plugged-in; or tuned out?

Beaded ipod headphones We had some animated complaints regarding changing social patterns during a recent study and discussion on God’s Technology. Someone commented on travelling a large distance to see some relatives “and all they did was sit on their laptops the whole time!”

Now, the geek in me just can’t help smiling a little. I mean, what is cooler than texting a private joke to your friend across the room? Having a little wink to relieve the boredom while sitting in impeccably polite silence. (Americans: its a Scottish thing!)

This gets old.

Do I have a problem with texting? No. Laptops? No. Ipods? No.

So what am I getting at?

Well, let me suggest a few ways that I have managed to upset people in my life:

  • Disappear for significant and solid chunks of a day/evening to “do stuff on the computer”.
  • Wear headphones while talking to someone.
  • Have a distant vacant stare as you mentally plan your next facebook status or twitter post
  • Respond instantly to an alert on phone/text/IM/etc
  • Look at your screen/ phone/ scroll through songs as you talk to someone.

I am not providing these as a list of Dont’s. That is demoralising and missing the point. It is not just black-and-white. There is a time and a season for different activities, and different choices about how time is spent.

But these situations demonstrate an aspect in common. There are other people in your life, who are spending their own precious time in your company and in your life.

They deserve some respect.

As I realised the impact on others, I have gradually begun to do less and less of the activities I mentioned above (well, I try!).  There are some underlying principles that have helped me rationalise why this is important:

  • Are you honouring the other person by your actions?

Example: Even if you switch off your music to reply to your Mum, having the headphones still on your head makes her not sure if you’ve heard what she said. It is frustrating for you when she repeats; and embarrassing for her when she doesn’t. Letting your body language show you have heard her is a way to demonstrate that you respect what she has to say.

  • Are you paying attention to the other person?

If you only half-listen without focusing on what she is saying, you stand a good chance of missing an important aspect of what she is saying.

  • Do you respond with your headspace in the real world?  Sometimes you just need to be there.

Example: If you are setting the table for your Mum, probability is, she needs to drip-feed you the next instruction every 1-2mins. That means an ongoing dialog with pauses. Not a song with Mum-overlays.

(Note to childhood self: remember the drip-feeding is because she is planning and deciding as she thinks, *not* because she’s trying to make life difficult for me.)

  • Are you communicating your social availability by your behaviours? I.e. Do you ever deliberately use the distraction to retreat from a social interaction?

Example: Using some entertainment to tune out for a while to give yourself a break. This isn’t neccessarily wrong, provided you send a clear message. If you need quiet alone time to recharge, you need to say so.

If you just “go online” same as you do other days when you do want to chat and share, it doesn’t help the people around you know when you’re open to interaction, or when you just need a little time to yourself.

None of these challenges are new with the advent of technology. It is the particular blend of pervasiveness, variety, time drains and concentration-engaging aspects of technology that come together to make these issues a daily dilemma. A bad habit.

So, in summary, my encouragement to you:

“Remember to love the people in your life more than your dearest technology.”


Posted by on Friday, December 23, 2011 in discipline


too lonely

“Ring, ring”
You’re quiet, aren’t you?
I’m quiet, amen’t I?
But you wouldn’t know that
I’ve made sure of that
I have stifled my sobs
And caught my tears.

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Posted by on Tuesday, December 20, 2011 in philosophy, poetry



Sin hurts

072 We like honesty, integrity, faithfulness, respectability, sincerity, and so we should! Without idolising them, or twisting them merely for personal pride or advancement, there is an appropriately good place to strive after them.

Rather pray for grace to tell the truth than grace because we wish to tell a lie. Rather grace to take action than hide in the crowd of do-nothing-ers.

But we do not always have the blessed priveledge of achieving these worthy goals.

I cancelled dinner plans recently. I did not enjoy doing so; I did not want to do so. I had to do so.


I was physically sick.

Unsurprisingly, I don’t enjoy it. Not the sickness of course, but also not the lack of dependability that is inevitable. I want to follow through on my word. I want to respect a friend who is willing to spend time with me. I want to be trusted.

That is the pain of living in a fallen world. While a Providential limitation is not sinful in itself, the hurt still hurts.

“who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” John 9:2

Yet even in this, God is good. He provides for us. He overcomes our weakness with His strength.

Even more importantly, He can show us more of Himself. Either directly, or – what I often find in such trials – more of our own sinfulness and duplicity of heart in order to drive us to Himself as our only Saviour.

What did I really want in this scenario? What do I really want in my life? Do I want God’s glory, whatever the personal cost – in humiliation and the open display of my weakness to the world. Or do I want to be respected in the eyes of others?

It is my own sin that really hurts me the most. My lack of faith in our good God. That sin I need to confess and repent of, and go running to my Heavenly Father with, ashamed that I have not taken it to Him already and laid my concerns at His feet, knowing He will care for me.

God is merciful. He is a gracious High Priest, interceding for us, sinners that we are. He can be trusted with our problems. He will do right by us. He is worthy of our attention and focus. We should spend our problems with Him – there is no greater relief. There is no greater joy.

I would commend the following sermons to you for further meditation and Scriptural direction regarding the hurt our sin does to us*. Specifically, this collection concerns the ways we as Christians sin in the church – against ourselves, against one another, against God.

Colossians 3:5
Colossians 3:5-10 (Part 1)
Colossians 3:5-10 (Part 2)

These sermons both comforted and challenged me from the Word of God when I first heard them. Mostly comforted though. I pray by Gods grace they will aid the same function again, both in me and you.

*While I have no hesitation in recommending these as to their content, I will just say I’ve not heard them in over a year, and I can’t remember many of the details. And so if they don’t fully align with the theme I discuss, I apologise. They’re worth listening to in their own right, completely apart from anything I say.


Posted by on Friday, December 16, 2011 in encouragement



“But who was the man with the kind eyes?”

I have yet to hear a more fitting tribute to Rev Hugh Cartwright than the words quoted in the title of this post. My beloved pastor for three years while living in Edinburgh. [Photo: used with permission from a friend, thankyou!]

It speaks much to his godly humility, that even in controversy, his stance on the issues of the day were held in high esteem. He manifested a balanced faithfulness that left contenders speechless – and personally humbled – at the honesty and clarity which he held.

I experienced this first-hand while in the mire of some of my own painful Providences. (Most of you who are close friends of me in real life know I’ve had some share…) I can say with enthusiasm that that faithfulness was a balm to wounded hearts. A much-needed balm, a witness for good, an encouragement, and greatly to be cherished.

There is many words that could be spoken in favour of his commendable witness, but it does not follow that merit increases in proportion, and hence I have no regrets in pausing personal reflection here, and instead pointing you to The Banner of Truth obituary.  

Here I highlight only a summary to whet your appetite, or even encourage you anew if this is all familiar precious ground.

He would stand fast on his convictions but make his point in a humble, balanced and biblical manner.

my last memory of Hugh at a mid-week prayer meeting was of his moving plea that God would grant a greater unity among the churches in Scotland.

And not to be forgotten, this childhood description of him was true to his latter years, a most delightfully balanced combination:

both ‘mischievous and very diligent’

We can benefit from the faithful example he set forth to us. Whether you knew him or not, I commend to your thoughts and meditation a question that was quoted from his lips:

‘So it comes back to the same question — What think ye of Christ?’

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Posted by on Friday, December 9, 2011 in encouragement




The recommended daily allowance of salt is roughly this.

[Edit: Or 3 teaspoons like this, presuming correct/consistent terminology of my reasoning. Thanks, Anthony, for pointing this out.]


Now, of course, please don’t take this picture as license to go crazy with the salt shaker.

I merely meant it to be a useful imagining of the abstract numbers we get quoted on our nutrition labels.

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 in stewardship


A renewed Vision

May I draw your attention to the new tagline around here: “Living to God’s glory, and loving to have it so”. I wanted to encompass the new purpose I have for this blog and so I got back to basics, and asked myself the question:

So, what is our purpose again?

To glorify God in all that we do, and enjoy Him for ever. Or, as John Piper so challengingly, and so provokingly put it “to glorify God by enjoying Him for ever”.

Doesn’t that just make you smile? Does it make you feel a longing for the most blessed, deep communion with God?

If not, please don’t give up just yet. This blog is for you if you care to learn more about God and His purposes for us. If you are hoping against hope that it may be true for you someday.

Please stay a while.

So, to begin, how can we glorify Him?

Well, one area that has got my attention over recent years is our relationships: to encourage one another through Gods grace in our own lives, to closer walking with God. Through love, sympathy, patience, to minister to one another in the vast multitude of sufferings we all experience in our lives.

This is what I want to do here. I want to be an encouragement to you. I want you to join the conversation, and I’d love to receive encouragement from you too. We all need it!

I invite you to join me on this journey, and hope we may begin and further relationships here that will last for all eternity.


Posted by on Friday, December 2, 2011 in encouragement