Tag Archive: new years resolutions


responsibilityOne of the evolutions I would like to see happen in my life in 2014 is a move towards taking greater responsibility for my actions (or at times, lack thereof).

Charles Finney once said, ‘It seems to be a law of human nature that when a person is accused of wrong, either by the conscience of any other agent, he must either confess or justify.’

We have become masters of justification, right? One of the biggest conflict causers in the first year of my marriage to the beautiful Val (tbV) was games. We love playing games, but we are both fairly competitive, and so often the end of a game would translate to one of us, or both perhaps, being in a bit of a mood (like a tsunami is ‘a bit of a wave’, you know). I would generally be in a great mood if I won, because I like winning games. But often Val would be in a bad mood if she won. And it was always my fault. Because I used to be a very bad loser.

And it was not usually overtly bad violent angry throwing-my-toys losing. No, it was much more subtle than that, and really not intended maliciously from me. From my perspective, i like to understand why I lost – if it was a strategy thing, I want to be able to figure out why it went wrong, so I play differently the next time. So it generally came from the place of me trying to analyze my game and figure things out. But to Valerie, the message was very clearly ‘Well, you couldn’t have won because you played better, it must have been luck or a bad move on my part of something I don’t understand yet.’ And so my response to losing – to justify instead of confess – took everything away from her winning. In essence I was robbing my wife of everything I liked to experience when I win a game. Not cool, Mister Fish! (and 10000 apologies, lovely wife!)

That is such a great illustration for how so many people do life, don’t you think?

Politicians… Sports stars… Movie producers after a box office bomb… Young children… me?

But not you, right? Of is some of this starting to ring some alarm bells?

When something goes wrong, the tendency is to explain it away, to cover over the seriousness of it, to justify and make excuses as to why it was not our fault.

i imagine that often it might be a combination of factors, and so perhaps a great question to start with might be, ‘What responsibility do I have in this situation?’ of perhaps, ‘How much of this do I need to own or own up to?’ Starting at that place instead perhaps ending up there after working through all the possible excuses, may be a great place to start in terms of growing character and even seeing more success happen. Because those questions, if asked honestly, can really result in much growth.

Well, for me, as I think about 2014 just being a few days away, this is something I want to be working on. And sticking it on here is the biggest form of accountability I could think of… take a month of two and all me how it’s going (and let’s hope I don’t justify!)

Starting in my game playing seems to be a more easy-to-track area… but then in my marriage, and in my friendships, and in the workplace and youth ministry, I need to learn towards confessing being my go-to place. Asking the hard questions honestly, keeping an eye on procrastination and distraction tendencies and having people check in on me.

That feels like a great and healthy evolution to see taking place in my life in 2014.

What is one thing you are going to be working on?

excuses[To head back to the start of this series, click here]

 

‘It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It’s called living.’ [Terry Pratchett]

change1Last year i ran a series called New Year’s Evolutions in which i challenged people, instead of making the traditional resolutions [that i’ve seldom heard to have worked] to rather take a bit of a stock take of their life and be intentional about making a series of evolutions [small discernible changes] so as to live a more effective life in the coming year. The end of the year is a great time to do this as often people are off work and have a little more time and the start of a new year feels like a good time to add some new things to your life, or to remove some things that are having a negative or even sometimes just neutral effect.

This year tbV and i ran a book study using a book that our friend, Mark Scandrette had written called ‘Free: Spending your Time and Money on what matters most.’  I would highly encourage you to get hold of a copy and work through it with a bunch of friends over an eight week period – was such a great time for us and we ended up with some new friends and better life habits as a result. But even if you don’t go that far, to make some time to address the premise of looking at how you SPEND YOUR TIME and SPEND YOUR MONEY and then really being honest about whether those things line up with what you would say MATTERS MOST in your life.

I spent a lot of years at ‘the singles table’ at weddings growing up and inevitably you’re grouped with a bunch of people you don’t know and i used to find small talk excrutiatingly difficult and awkward until i came up with a simple solution. I changed the question ‘So what do you do?’ [which, let’s be honest, unless they’re an actual lion tamer, astrophysicist or spleen dissection technician we really don’t care about and likely won’t remember] to ‘What is your passion in life?’. Often it initially throws people a little bit, because they are not expecting it, but when they take a moment and think about it and start putting some words to the reality of their life, when people answer the question ‘What are you passionate about?’ you start to really find out who they are. And quite often it has little to do with what they do.

Take a minute to answer that question… What are YOU passionate about? 

Once you have that thing in your mind, and it might be a number of things – write them down – then ask yourself these questions:

# How much of my time do i spend doing something related to that? [If my passion is the outdoors and i am stuck in an 8 to 6 office job, well then…]

# How much of my money do i spend on things and experiences related to that?

Do they align? If not, then as you end off this year and are about to start a new one, maybe this is the best time to do something about it.

And maybe that thing will be something quite dramatic. [Handing in notice at your work, start planning that overseas trip, make a phone call about that volunteering you have been wanting to do…]

Maybe it will be something smaller and more manageable, but decide now to be intentional about doing it. And then jump…

change2# One of my evolutions for 2014: Taking responsability

 

well if you know me a little bit, you know i am not a big fan of resolutions [nice-sounding generally-empty promises you make to yourself and keep for a week at the beginning of each year] but i did write a piece on new year’s evolutions once with the idea of putting things into play that will actually change you or your circumstances or community…

and being mid-way through the year is a great time to look back and do a bit of a stock take of the year and see how you are doing, rather than waiting for January 1 to try and get things changed up and different for the future. so how about it? grab a paper and pen and head down to a coffee shop for an hour or find a quiet spot in your house or drive somewhere naturey and give some time to looking back and seeing how you have done this year so far – in relationships, in achievements, in looking after the least of these and whatever else comes to mind.

here are a couple of ideas to get you started:

FORGIVE PEOPLE WHO HAVE HURT YOU – is there someone this year that did something to hurt you? a friendship that was broken? something that felt like a vicious backstab? someone you heard who was saying things about you behind your back? or maybe it was even longer ago than that… something you have been holding on to for a long time and just really need to let go of. my friend Lindsay has written a great blog post on the importance of forgiveness which is worth checking out. Even something that can seem as small as holding on to an offence that has been committed against you can be completely destructive to you and your relationships.

REACH OUT TO AT LEAST ONE PERSON CONSIDERED THE LEAST OF THESE – you definitely do not need to be a Christ follower to be doing this, but it is expected of people who call themselves Christ followers that you will be known by the love you have for each other and also that you will reach out to the least of these [not all of them, but at least start with one] – so is there someone in your life who is poor or broken or marginalised or lonely who you could reach out to in a way that will allow them to experience love and hope and improve their life? not just a handout or a conscience-easer, but a person or family or group of people that you are investing in to journey along with them. someone you could give a name to right now? and if not, now would be a good time to start looking around and asking who that person might be for you – might be a monetary thing but a more likely to be valuable thing would be one that involves time and energy

DO THE SIGNIFICANT PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE KNOW YOU LOVE THEM? i just heard of a friend of mine who recently left his job and this amazing celebration they threw for him in which people shared testimonies of what he meant to them and so on and while it sounded absolutely incredible, it made me think of a funeral – too often we wait til someone is gone or the situation changes or there is an official celebration like a birthday or wedding to let them know how important they are to us. But why wait for that? Maybe write down your ten favourite people in life right now and over the next month or so, find a creative way to let them know that you think they are special and you appreciate them. How about making sure that there is someone on that list you have never told? A parent or teacher, some leader from your present on your past, a mentor or a friend. And how about trying to identify someone in or around your life who you suspect might be lonely and come up with a creative way of celebrating them as a person? [i would love to hear stories of any of these things shared back here so please come and tell us how they went]

those are just three things but i imagine that is a good start and you also already know some of the other stuff in your life that you were hoping or intending to do at the start of this year that somehow got pushed to the side – or else can identify addictions [from substances as ‘innocent’ as coffee or sodas to more damaging ones like alcohol, cigarettes or drugs] or time wasters [television, hobbies, phone, games, music, sport – maybe not bad in themselves but when they start to take over any of them can be] or even so-called ministry stuff that is overwhelming you and causing you to not have enough time for God and people…

take this opportunity – Carp Diem – Fish this day! and make a change so that the second half of 2012 can be even more successful, life-giving and just generally full of good things, moments and people than the first half of it was.

[if this is something you take seriously in any way i would LOVE to hear about it and the changes you might make so feel free to comment here or even send me an email to brettfish@hotmail.com] ongoing life evaluations and changes can be completely life transformational.

my next evolution suggestion to help you transform yourself into a better, more effective you in 2012 is this:

SEEK COMMUNITY

whether it is belonging to a local church or youth group or small group, or if it’s the people in your street or your apartment complex, to be an active part of an intentional community is a healthy and thrive-full way to live

the beautiful val and myself have been living and working with the simple way community in kensington, philadelphia for six months now and how we describe the local focus is simply ‘trying to be good neighbors’ and that’s really it – so whether it is the food distribution on a monday or the after school homework sessions with kids three afternoons a week, whether it is throwing a birthday party with the neighbors for our block captain or sharing a Christmas meal with a couple of neighbors, it really is all about being intentional and invested in the lives of those around you, and giving them space to invest in yours.

i think when it comes to the people who live next door it can seem quite a daunting thing, but my folks are brilliant at it – any time someone moves into their street they arrive with a plate of scones or muffins and a welcome and so they know everyone in their street – my dad has jumped over neighbors garden fences and mown their lawns [this was a muslim family that moved into the community and they later invited my dad to pray for one of their kids when he went into hospital] and so it really is pretty easy to do, but often just takes that initial decision and step.

we can be part of a group as an attender without really committing to the group or investing in it and so if that has been you, why not take the opportunity to step up in 2012 and really start building deeper relationships and investing in the lives of people [so move beyond a superficial ‘hey, how you doing?’ on a sunday at church or as you arrive home and walk into your house – invite someone round for a meal or out for a drink or get creative in a hundred other ways that can be effective.

and take it a step further to seek community based on what you can bring to it more than what it gives you – we are called to serve each other in love and so try and emulate the love demonstrated by the life of Jesus by doing what works for them more than it works for you – offer to babysit so your neighbors can have a date nite, gather a group of mates and paint their garden wall [maybe get permission for this one first], have a potluck [bring and share] meal and invite everyone in your street [if only two people come, start building relationship there] and start learning peoples names and getting to know them and being in their lives and watch as community happens.

no person should be an island, we were created for relationship. but especially if you call yourself a follower of Jesus, it is impossible to do that in isolation. God works with individuals within communities, where each person brings what they have to offer [time, energy, money] and offers it to serve and strengthen the group and those beyond it.

seek strong, intentional community in 2012.

to read the next one on laughter, go here…

continuing with this series of new year’s evolutions – with the idea of moving beyond a dream list of ‘i wish this for next year’ to some specific steps and actions to put into place to help you transform yourself into a better person in 2012. and my next evolution suggestion is this:

DEAL WITH THE PAST, BUT LIVE IN THE PRESENT, WITH THE FUTURE IN MIND

wo, that seems a little complicated, but really it’s just some more intentional living and this one requires a bit more work and effort and maybe even sweat and tears, but it is vital to having a life to the full 2012:

DEAL WITH THE PAST – one of the biggest aspects linked to this is forgiveness and this is such an important thing as holding onto unforgiveness and the bitterness/anger/resentment that goes with it, can be one of the most damaging things in life [physical, emotionally and even spiritually]

it has been said that holding on to unforgiveness is like drinking a cup of poison and hoping that the other person dies… because most of the stuff associated with unforgiveness hurts you and often the person it is directed at, is blissfully unaware that you are holding something against them. sometimes they may know and so it will affect both of you, but it is impossible to not forgive someone and live unaffected by that. what often happens is you build walls around yourself to protect you from being hurt again [by that person, or maybe by anyone] and while that can be incredibly affective, what it does is it also keeps out the potential love and support from both friends and God, which leads to loneliness and bitterness and increasing resentment and so on. the bible is clear that if someone has something against you [not even just you against them] you should interrupt your worship [leave your gift at the altar] and go and put things right with that person [as much as is possible for you, sometimes they won’t be interested but you have to make the effort from your side] and then return when you can honestly and truly [and purely] be able to worship God properly [matthew 5.24]

so to create a base for great relationship with God and a platform for healthy, growing relationships with friends and family it is vital that you do not hold unforgiveness against anyone. there might be something that happened ten years ago [or when you were a young child] and yet every time you see the person or hear their name it sends shock waves through your body – you need to address it and bring forgiveness, or it will stick with you for the rest of your life. [and i am not suggesting this is an easy thing – when it heads towards areas of abuse, be it physical or even just verbal, and rape, then it can be incredibly difficult, almost impossible and will not be a one moment thing but rather a journey of choosing to forgive daily, but fortunately i am in relationship with a God who is great with the ‘impossible’ and so i know there is a hope and a future where He is involved]. taking this point seriously will revolutionise your life.

another aspect of dealing with the past is getting out of debt. living in debt is a crippling thing because it feeds itself and just continues to be an ever gaping’er hole. as much as it is up to you in life, live without debt because this affects relationships and opportunities and health and so much more. for some of you this will mean the tough decision to take a serious look at your lifestyle and making some changes so you can live according to your means and not beyond them – things like what you spend on entertainment, or even take-away coffee [i made a decision when i was in stellenbosch that as much as i love it, i can’t really justify drinking at vida e cos the coffee is so expensive, but had specific times when drinking at Seattle was allowable] and even maybe where you live and what you drive. the distinction between need and greed can be a really helpful one in this area if we can be honest about it. and often choosing to spend less on yourself gives you resources to pour into others.

one other aspect i won’t go into in depth her, but which i think is key is to stop living off yesterday’s stories and miracles and accomplishments – be strengthened when you look back on them for sure, but always be looking forwards to the new thing God is going to do – if the stories you tell of God working in your life are ten years old, you need some new stories…

LIVE IN THE PRESENT WITH THE FUTURE IN MIND

again, there is a lot that can be said here – hopefully this blog works as a catalyst to spark off much greater thought and life change, but just a few thoughts… one area which i think differently to a lot of people, but similarly to how i read and understand the Bible, is the area of savings. while i think it is good to save specifically for something you have in mind and are working towards [i spent six months in the UK working to save up enough money so I could do a Youth With A Mission school in Holland in 2000] i don’t think savings for the sake of having a backup plan are a God idea. i believe for the most part we should be living and using the majority of our resources [time, money, energy] for what is happening now [although always keeping the future in mind, but not having the now determined by then then] and not just storing things up to enjoy later [see the parable of the rich fool in luke 12 as one example].

take a look at the early church in Acts 2.42 and 3 as well and see how the community aspect of how they lived affected their finances and how they looked after each other [community will be a future part of this series so watch out for it] because if we are a part of a community who really live in and around each others lives, then their will be mutual provision in all areas of life and cross-resourcing and it has the potential to create a really beautiful thing.

the problem with being stuck in the past [unforgiveness, regret, holding on to past failures and missed opportunities] or living in the future [being fully focused on the thing that it yet to come – “when I’m finished school”, “when i’m married”, “when i’m retired”] is that usually the now suffers very much and present relationships, opportunities, life and potential lose a lot of what they could be.

and so please put some time aside to think through these things and more – deal with the past and then live now, keeping the future in mind, but not being dictated by it…

to continue to the next one on how you spend your money, time and energy, click here.

so i have started a series of new year’s evolutions – with the idea of moving beyond a dream list of ‘i wish this for next year’ to some specific steps and actions to put into place to help you transform yourself into a better person in 2012. and my next evolution suggestion is this:

HANG OUT WITH THE WRONG PEOPLE!

wait, you mean ‘DON’T hang out with the wrong people’, right?

i meant “hang out with the wrong people”, altho to be more accurate there should probably be some ” ” around the wrong people.

so ja, i think the key to this new year’s evolution is the question ‘who is doing the influencing?’ – Jesus was constantly accused of hanging out with the “wrong people” – drunkards, prostitutes, children, women [who were “wrong” at the time to hang out with] and yet He was never influenced or shaped by those He spent time with as much as He influenced or shaped them. He was affected by His encounters with people for sure – He was moved with compassion for people on many occasions, but He was never negatively changed by those He spent time with.

so another key would be to be strong in who you are, in your identity. if hanging around with the “wrong people” continuously results in you being brought down and compromising and messing up, then you may need to regroup and hang with the right people for a bit until you are secure in who you are before setting out again.

but, as mentioned, Jesus often hung around with the “wrong people” and so if we call ourselves followers of Him [as i do] then it would make sense that we would do the same as well.

# Jesus didn’t care about his reputation – hanging around with the “wrong people” will make people question yours and that is okay, if you are living for an audience of One. as Dr Seuss put it [believe it or not], “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

# The world is all about me, me, me. Jesus’ kingdom is about loving God and loving people and looking after the least of these [and if you are hanging out with the right people then as they live out God’s kingdom they will take care of the ‘me’ for you, but it shouldn’t be your focus]

# as much as we can assist and give and share with “the wrong people” so we can learn from them too – it starts by asking someone their name and taking some time to listen to their story – who knows what the so-called “wrong people” of the world have to teach us about life and love and our faith

and so this year, be intentional about hanging out with the wrong people – if you are a christian and you only ever hang out with other christians then you are not being a Christ-follower which is what we were called to be and do. who is one person or family that might be considered the “wrong people” to hang out with, that you are going to choose to get invested in their lives in 2012?

to continue to the next really important one, click here…

so yesterday i posted about new year’s evolutions – with the idea of moving beyond a dream list of ‘i wish this for next year’ to some specific steps and actions to put into place to help you transform yourself into a better person in 2012. and my first evolution suggestion is this:

HANG OUT WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE

different people have different capacity for friendship and so everyone i imagine has different levels or degrees of friendship – not everyone can be our best friend and nor would we want them to be – but i believe it is important to have some significant people as close friends and to be intentional about building and growing relationship with them – so as you enter the new year, identify two to five people who can be these things for you [not necessarily one thing per person but between your close friends you should look to have this list covered]:

# people who build into your life – there are a lot of people who you can have fun with, but some people you leave them and feel like you have grown or benefited just from hanging with them – conversation will go beyond sport/food/movies and on to deeper things like life, love, God, changing the world – not always, there will be fun and crazy too, but a sense of realness and depth categorises this person and friendship – these people are so valuable…

#encourage – someone who cheers you on, whether it’s in relationships or work/school or just general life things – someone who, when the world is throwing tomato’s will come along side you, lift you up, put their arm around you and just love you…

#hold you accountable/wound you with love – proverbs 27.6 here ‘wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses’ – one thing to ensure before you invite this friend to speak into your life is that you can take the ‘wounds’ they might dish out – it is SO IMPORTANT to have someone in your life who is not a ‘yes person’ and will just thumb up everything you say or do – someone who when they notice you are in danger of messing up, will gently pull you aside and bring friendly caution and if necessary, gentle rebuke – you won’t always like this person and what they bring, but you will always appreciate it, because even if they get it wrong from time to time, you know the love it comes with. this person needs to be invited to speak into your life as it won’t happen naturally and once you give the invitation then you need to be prepared that they may just act on it… i honestly feel like my life is open to accountability to everyone, but some of the specific people i have invited to speak strongly into my life are my beautiful wife Valerie and then people like Rob Lloyd, Regan Didloff, Mandy Hunt, Bruce Collins, Chris Lindemann, Mike Strauss and others…

#listen to you/shoulder to cry on – you may need this person on call after the previous person is done with you… just kidding, but it is important to have someone or ones who will just listen to you when life has kicked you in the sore places – not feel the need to give you answers or solve your problems [so i may not be the best one for this, eek] but someone who will hear when you are struggling or angry or hurt or confused and just give you some love and a shoulder if you need to shed tears [which are a great thing and i wish i could do it more!]

#challenge/inspire/push you – i had this as two separate things but decided to combine them – someone who will help you to go further than you have been before – to try new things – to take risks [the good kind] – to pursue the life to the full that Jesus spoke about when He described His mission here on earth [John 10.10]

i am sure there are other things that could be added to this list and feel free to comment and do so below, but these are some of the important things that came to mind in terms of the right kind of people you should hang out with – not exclusively [see my next post] but make sure that you are intentional in terms of spending time with these kinds of people…

to continue to part ii click here…

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