What Really Matters?

Here we are friends, at the beginning of another year! Glad you could join me! This blog post is excerpted from a message by the same name that I gave at Mountain View Fellowship in Redmond, Oregon on Sunday, December 26, 2021…

New Year’s Resolutions: Good or bad? I wonder how many New Year’s Resolutions are about weight loss or getting in shape? After Thanksgiving and Christmas feasting and snacking, it often seems the most obvious and urgent thing we can do is get (back?) in shape! I don’t know why everyone is so anxious to get in shape! Round is a shape!

I joined a Health Club in January of last year. I found one that is especially for seniors, but it wasn’t working for me so I cancelled my membership after about four months. Apparently you have to go there!

How’s your experience with New Year’s Resolutions been in the past? Well, whatever your relationship with New Year’s Resolutions, this isn’t really about that. This goes deeper and I hope it reaches farther than New Year’s Resolutions do for me. It’s not that getting in a shape other than round doesn’t matter! Reality is that in comparison with the time and energy we spend on discovering and focusing on the things that REALLY MATTER, a lot of our time and energy gets spent on things that matter less. And a lot of the time it’s not Bad vs Good (that’s easy), it’s about Good vs Better, and Important vs Most Important.

“What Really Matters” isn’t the same all the time. And What Really Matters isn’t the same for everybody (all the time). We’d like to make it simple, make a list, plug our lives into the What Really Matters list, and live happily ever after. You see, we’re not intended to live the Christian life on cruise-control. The Christian life is about following Jesus, about learning, growing and changing. And that includes taking time to decide What Really Matters!

Let me give you an example: 1978. We lived in Tri-Cities, WA and were part of the leadership team of a Jesus People Church. I had been traveling teaching seminars for nearly 50% of the time that year. Our daughters were 7 and 12. We were presented with an opportunity to go to the south pacific and start a training center. It was a six weeks commitment. Another six weeks away from the girls. We had a perfect setup for my parents to stay in our home and look after them. But we cancelled. It mattered, but right then our relationship with our girls mattered more. It was a hard decision. It looked like a door was closing, probably for good. But it was the right decision. Then in the 80’s and 90’s when the time was right, we started training centers in Jamaica, the UK, and three nations in Africa.

What Really Matters changes with the seasons and circumstances of our lives. It’s different for different people. And it requires diligent thought, prayer, and often some really difficult decisions. Because you can’t do everything. You can’t have it all. And the thing you choose to do creates some things you don’t get to do!

In January of 2009, I decided to begin writing a daily devotional based on my current through the Bible in a Year reading plan. I made a list of people I knew who might like the devotional and offered it to them free by daily email. We’ve just finished 2021! That’s been 13 years and GraceNotes has been sent every day of those 13 years. Why? I guess because it’s one of those things That Really Matters to me.

Different seasons, Different situations, Different Importances!

The important thing is that you address What Really Matters in each season of life. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach for each of us. What Really Matters changes with the seasons and situations of life. What really matters is different for different people relative to specific interests, talents and abilities, and passions.

The key is more a matter of being awake and aware and seeking God’s “What Really Matters?” as we move forward in life.

    • This requires thought and prayer and focus.
    • This requires developing Kingdom of God values.
    • This requires a willingness to learn and grow and change.
    • This requires being a disciple, a follower of Jesus.

What Really Matters to me now? Not the same as when Jean and I were in Richland, WA in our early 30’s, running our business, with two daughters in school. Not the same as when we lived in Medford in our early 40’s with two daughters in school, starting a church. Not the same when we lived in Jamaica, with one daughter in school, one daughter in the US, starting a Bible Training Centre. Not the same as when we moved from Jamaica to England and started Bible Training Centres in London, then in Ghana, in Uganda, in Malawi… Not even the same as when we moved back to the US and got involved in local church ministry here in Central Oregon. What Really Matters to me, age 78, with cancer? I’ll let you know, friends. It’s a moving target!

What Really Matters to you, in your life, right now? Age and stage, situation and circumstance… What Really Matters to families with kids in school? What Really Matters to people who have recently retired and need to know what to do next?

I did an informal survey of some people in different ages and stages of life and it was interesting what I found. I found some expected and very significant differences in their “What Really Matters” lists, but I also found some things that seem not to change much with age and stage.

    • Braces for the kids, figuring out the school dilemma, needing a bigger house.
    • Medicare supplement, health issues, downsizing, are we going to get to travel like we’d hoped and planned?
    • Some degree of financial security.
    • Opportunities to serve, to help others, to make a difference.
    • In common: Relationships, family and friends, purpose.

Picture this with me:  Life is a journey. We are here, at the end of 2021, at the beginning of 2022…

    • We’re standing at the top of a hill
    • We’re standing at the turn of the year
    • We’re looking back, looking forward, looking around…

Looking back at the past year: Does it seem mostly good or bad?

    • What stands out? Disappointments or accomplishments, good times, successes?
    • Look for lessons to be learned. Let go the disappointments and mistakes.
    • Be thankful that God has brought you this far.

Looking forward to the coming new year: Good or bad?

    • Anxiety or hopefulness?
    • Look forward with gratitude and thanksgiving.
    • Remember God’s faithfulness in the past.
    • Look forward in hope.

Making important decisions and acting in the present.

    • Think about Your present “What Really Matters.”
    • Make a decision to focus your eyes on and to apply your time and energy to what really matters right now.

Take some time this week, before you jump back into the pace of things, to think and pray through What Really Matters as an individual or as a family in one’s present season and situation of life.

Ask: What Really Matters? Ask yourself, ask God, ask your family members, ask your friends. Here’s what I’d like you to do: Ask What Really Matters at least five times every day this week.

Here are some “What Really Matters” questions to stimulate your thinking:

    • What does my budget and calendar say about What Really Matters to me right now?. Are there things that use significant amounts of my resources and time that I know are not “What Really Matters” kinds of things? What can I do about that?
    • How can I start a conversation with my partner or family about “What Really Matters?”
    • What have I been wanting to bring to the top of my “What Really Matters?” list, but I just keep putting it off? What can I do to make that happen now?
    • Who among my friends and associates seems to really have a handle on their “What Really Matters?” Could I make arrangements to talk with them about how they do it?

Prayer:

Father, How did we ever get to this place? How did we make it through all we’ve been through? It’s by your grace and mercy! How are we going to make it through everything we’re facing, make it through all the unknowns of the days and weeks and months of an unknown 2022? It’s by your grace and mercy.

We pray for wisdom as we face decisions and choices large and small. We pray for a continuing awareness of your presence with us and your guiding and protecting hand on us for the new, unknown year that’s just before us. May we stand in your presence a year from now, filled with gratitude for all you’ve done for us and filled with hope for the next trip around the sun!

And may we live this year with the sense of purpose that comes with seeking and doing What Really Matters with the time, energy, and resources you’ve trusted into our hands. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.

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