Saturday, December 29, 2012

Making Life Change Stick

The New Year is quickly approaching and with that comes New Year’s resolutions, ugh! What is it about New Year’s resolutions that make them so hard to keep?  Why is it so hard to commit to a resolution that you know will make you a better person?  

Whether you want to lose 30 pounds, finally pay off your credit card debt, stop smoking, spend more time with the family, read the Bible in a year, or truly give your life to Christ; these aren’t just resolutions, each of these tasks will require a certain degree of life change.  But life change can be difficult and many people will fail at it.  Why? Why is it so hard?   What makes changing your habits, patterns and life style so difficult?  And if failing is inevitable why even try?  But try we do, so if we’re gonna try, how do we make it work?  How can you make life change stick?

Are you ready for the answer?  Are you ready for the 10 steps it will take for you to change your life forever? Say good bye to your old sinful selfish life and start new, lose the weight, pay off debt, say good bye to cigarettes forever, and open your heart and mind fully to God.  These steps are going to change your life forever!  Are you ready?  Let’s get started…

I think you know… I don’t have the answers for you.  There are no steps.  Life change isn’t easy, it CAN’T be easy, it isn’t supposed to be easy.  God never intended for it to be easy.  He told us in Mark 8:34 “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” That’s a difficult challenge.  You have to DENY yourself.  This goes against what we innately want to do.  We need to cease to make ourselves the object of our own life and actions.  Deny ourselves the rewards and privileges we feel we deserve and follow Him.  That is not easy and not everyone can do it.  God tells us “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:14).  Why?  Why is it so hard to live the life we want to live?

There are several reasons.  For one, our current culture tells us it’s OK, the life we have, we don’t need to change.  It’s OK to overeat, overindulge, over spend your budget.  It’s OK to spend all your down time in front of the TV, we all need to relax don’t we?  It’s OK to engage in sex outside of marriage, it’s OK to have a “me first” attitude because if you don’t look out for yourself who will?  Our current culture tears down contentment and it pushes us to want, grab and get more.  

But in your heart of hearts don’t you know better?  Don’t you know that all those things aren’t really satisfying?  Haven’t you felt it for awhile now?  And that’s why you make the resolution, the goal to change your life.  You want to live differently.  You want “more” out of life and you know you will get “more” by wanting “less”.  So you try to change your life.  And you make a goal.  But nothing changes, you don’t change, life doesn’t change, why?

I have this friend named Paul, you may have heard of him, he was an apostle, one of the greatest Christians (I think) to live since Christ walked this earth.  He’s the author of at least 7 of the New Testament books, and he puts it this way, in Romans 7  he says “ 14For we know that the Law (he’s talking about God’s law) is spiritual, but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

How many of us can identify with Paul here?  We know what we NEED to do, what we are SUPPOSED to do, but DOING it is so much harder and we find ourselves doing the very thing we are trying to avoid.  (overeating, being lazy,  not exercising, living life on credit cards, watching TV instead of reading the Bible, avoiding family time, focusing our mind on fantasy instead of the reality of life and the reality of Christ).  If a Christians as strong as Paul struggled with this, what are we to do?  How can we get away from this and is it even worth trying?

The answer is yes, it’s worth trying, you have to try.  God call us to try to live our lives differently.  He calls us to live our lives not for ourselves and our earthly desires but for Him and for eternal glory.  Whatever life change you are thinking about entering into, continually battling with, or forever failing, you need to know that God isn’t finished with you yet.  Whether you are 2, 12, 20 or 60 God isn’t finished with you yet and you still have a lot of growing to do.  It is God’s plan for us to continue growing to look more and more like his son.  Don’t give up.  God knows what the finished project is going to look like.  He already knows what we are going to conquer and what we will always struggle with.  All we can do is keep on trying.  Learning, growing, changing is hard, but God wants us to try.  Because every once in a while, we get it right, and we become, stronger, smarter, kinder, more like Christ.

So how do we do it? How do we get it right?  How do we change?  How do we make a resolution or a life change stick?  Well there are some practical tips that many experts: psychologists, counselors, life coaches all generally agree are helpful.  Things like 

  1. Chose something you really believe in:  If you aren’t emotionally invested in it you will rarely accomplish it.  Ask yourself whether you really want to change a habit or behavior pattern, or whether you feel obligated to do so. If your heart isn't in it, you won’t be successful. 
  2. Set realistic goals and write them down.  That last part is really important.  It makes it so much more concrete when it is written down on a piece of paper or in a journal that you can come back to.  And aim for gradual change. You are more likely to follow through on something that blends naturally into your current life. Don’t go out and say you are going to quit drinking caffeine and start cold turkey. I’ve tried it, it doesn’t work.  Instead, break it down into smaller steps.  
  3. Make your goals measurable. It is not enough to say “I’m going to spend more time with my family.”  Make it measurable “We will have 1 family night a month consisting of dinner, games, prayer.” Or “we will eat 1 meal together per week, no phone calls and no TV”.  Having a measurable goal will allow you to know when you have accomplished your goal and can make it easier to break that goal down into steps. 
  4. Don't expect perfection in your behavioral changes - but don't allow yourself too much leeway, either. If you expect perfection, you'll tend to give up after the first time you deviate from your plan. If you allow yourself too much leeway, you'll find yourself gradually reverting back to old habits.  If you set out to read the entire Bible in a year and you fallen off track by February don’t give up.  I’m guessing the real motivation behind your goal was to more fully understand God’s word so maybe you settle for studying 1 Book a month in detail.  Instead of the entire thing in a year.  Recognize and remember the motivation behind the goal.

While these are all concrete and practical advice I would be greatly impressed and a little surprised if they were enough to bring about significant life change.  I don’t think we as humans are strong enough to do it on our own and I believe that if we want to make a difference in our life.  If we want to change what we do and how we do it we can only do it with God’s help.  

If I wrote my own steps to “Meeting your New Year Resolutions” step one would be “Take it to God.”  Talk to God about the change you want to make in your life and turn it over to Him.  Let Him be the influence in your life to make the changes you know you need to make. Life involves a series of choices that you are in charge of making.  But when those choice get too hard for you, God can help.   He is right here and he is willing to help you make good choices.  He asks us to lay all our burdens and cares upon Him and to seek His wisdom in our lives.  When you are entering into a time of life change, you may often find yourself overwhelmed with “choices” you have to make every minute of the day.  Moment by moment you must to decide if you are going to follow your new goal and desire in life or are you going to go back to your old ways.  And when that decision gets to difficult for you to make I suggest you ask God to help you make it.  There are 4 things you can specifically ask Him for…

  1. Ask Him to show you what resources you have.  What or who has He put in your life to help you overcome this battle right here and right now?  He doesn’t intend for you to change all by yourself.  He has given you all the resources you need.
  2. Ask Him what your alternatives are right now in your given situation.  You could eat the cake, be full, feel guilty.  Or you could not eat the cake, be hungry, a little grouchy, but tomorrow feel stronger.  You could watch TV or read the Bible.  You could smoke the cigarette, spend the money, say the angry words, sit on the couch… or you could not.
  3. Ask God to guide you to the best option and to show you WHY you should chose that option.
  4. Ask God to show you what to do next.  What is the next step in your life change.

These can seem like a lot of steps to take each and every time you need to make a choice.  And I’m not saying you have to do this for every choice you make.  My point is God wants to be a part of that choice, he wants the chance to win out over the sin.  He want to be victorious and He wants you to be victiorious.  God tells us that “all things are possible through Christ who strengthens me.”

There are no magic steps to life change.  There are times you will fail and there are times you will succeed.  And through it all God is with you.  Waiting to give you the help you need to make significant life changes.  Turning to Him in times of weakness may just be the step you’ve been missing.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Who's on First?

There are a lot of names in our house, perhaps too many.  There is Tami, also known as "T", mom, momma, or mommy.  There is Erik, dad, daddy, honey or hon and on rare occasions Erik Jason.  There is Isabella, Bella, Bell, sweet pea, or sweetie.  There is Nate, Nathaniel Erik Jason when he is in trouble, Bud or Buddy when he's not.  And of course JT, James Terrell Lundgren, or more often then not, Na-JT, when I've forgotten who I am yelling at!  But we can't forget the animals.  There is Hank, who is also affectionately called "the old man" or puppy dog (I know could his nick names be more different?), and Hercules the cat, he is also called mouser, you can probably guess why!

And just in case that wasn't confusing enough it got even more difficult last night!.  Earlier this fall my oldest two kids learned a song in church that listed all the books of the Bible.  So they have taken it upon themselves to teach this song or really just the books of the Bible to their dad!  With no prompting from me (I swear!) each night at dinner they quiz Erik on how many he knows.  I am proud to report that he has learned them all up to Daniel.  JT, age 5, knows pretty much the Old Testament and the New Testament until Philippians.  Isabella and Nate pretty much know them all except for maybe one or two.  I am very proud!

Well, as we were going over these at dinner last night, it was pointed out that the New Testament names were a lot easier to say than the Old Testament names.  We know people named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  But who has ever heard of someone called Deuteronomy, or Leviticus, or Haggai?  Why don't people name use any of those names when naming their kids? (Remember this is coming from a 5, 8, and 10 year old mind set!)

So the Lundgren's decided to rename themselves after a book of the bible.  JT immediately chose Deuteronomy (it's his favorite).  Isabella thought she should be Genesis because she is the first!  I decided I would be Esther, after all, she was a queen (are you really surprised?).  The kids pointed out that Erik should then be 1 Kings, naturally.  And Nate jumped in that he would then have to be 2 Kings.  So for the rest of the night each person was referred to as the respective "Bible" names.  Perhaps you had to be there, but it did create a lot of laughs, and some significant confusion, and we were entertained for the rest of the night.

So I gotta ask, what book of the Bible would you be?

Thursday, December 27, 2012


The hustle and bustle is over.  

Christmas has come and gone.  

As we struggle to put the house back in order, find new spots for all our treasures, and somehow fit into the pants that weren't tight a month ago, our feelings can be mixed.  

Some are sad to see the time go so fast.  Some are relieved that the endless lists are done.  Others find themselves disappointed in the whole thing.  The gift they wanted so bad wasn't under the tree.  The time with family was more stressful than fun.  The loneliness of the season was worse this year than in years past.  Whatever the case may, wherever you find your emotions it's important to remember what christmas is supposed to be about.  

It's not about the gifts under the tree.  I know, try telling that to an 8 year old (or me for that matter!).  And It's not a surprise that there can be tension with a houseful of people all with different expectations, desires and opinions.  But that's not what it's about either.  There was just as much sadness, relief and disappointment in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago and there will be next year as well.  

The point of Christmas, and every other day of the year is this... we are lost and without that baby born in a stable in the middle of sadness, dismay and disappointment, we will remain lost.  He is our hope, yesterday, today and forever.  He is our hope on Christmas day and every other day of the year.  The magic of Christmas doesn't mean that there won't be sadness, pain and disappointment, but that in spite of these things there is hope.  Hope for more than this, hope for a time and place where tears fall no more, harsh words are never spoken, and to-do lists don't exist.  That place isn't here, it isn't now, but it is coming and it is coming to those who look for it every day of the year, not just Christmas.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Light

"God rest ye merry Gentlemen, let nothing you dismay.  Remember Christ our Savior was born on upon this day, to save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray."

As I sat at the table cutting out felt scarves for the snowman craft at the kids "holiday party" and making reindeer donuts for the snack.  I listened to my Christmas playlist.  Song after song reminding me that this isn't a season of snowmen or reindeer or holiday parties.  This is the season when Christ was born.

He was born in time of darkness, a time of oppression for God's chosen people.  A time when they wanted to know where God was and why he had been so silent for so long.  Nearly 400 hundred years passed between the last prophet from the Old Testament and the birth of Jesus.  400 years.  That's a long time.  They wanted, they needed someone to deliver them.   Just as we do today.  

Jesus wasn't welcomed into this world as a king should be with the sound of trumpets and celebration.  But in a dark and dirty place.  In a time of trouble.  From the very beginning people wanted to silence him.  Herod tried and he failed.  The Jewish leaders tried, they failed too.  Still today, people try to silence Jesus.  They try to hide him in a dark and dirty place but it doesn't work.  

That's why he came.  He came to save us from Satan's power.  He came to save us from the darkness he was very purposefully born into.  Darkness that he has defeated, he continues to defeat and he always will defeat.  He came as a baby in the darkness of night and sin to redeem us all.  This baby boy has the power to save us all.

Remember this Christmas exactly why it was that Jesus came, and rejoice.  Rejoice in the light that shines through the darkness.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

When Your Bubble Pop

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil..."

I'm not a highly political person.  You are unlikely to discern any strong political opinion from reading any of my blogs, most likely because I don't really have them.  

The outcome of the last election didn't cause me to stock pile food or gnash my teeth.  In fact, I'm not a hundred percent convinced that the man (or woman) who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue really has any direct impact on my life at all.  I know LOTS of you disagree with me and I am OK with that, I hope you are too.

That being said, you cannot discount the state of our nation right now.  I do not blame it on any one individual, any political party, any law or lack of law.  The state of a nation, specifically THIS nation, the one built on freedom, is a direct result of the people living in it.  It is a result of what we  are willing to say yes to, what we are willing to say no to, and what we are willing to let slide because it's not up to us to say anything at all.  We as individuals each have a choice, every day and in every hour.  And those choices we make, they make our nation what it is.  

It might be pretty appealing right about now to put your family into a bubble and protect them from the world.  But I have to warn you, bubbles pop.  Every single one of them I have ever seen, has popped.  

Now don't get me wrong, I live in the middle of the bible belt.  Toto and Dorothy are right next door.  This is about as close to a bubble as you can get!   I have surrounded myself and my family with people who agree with our morals, values, and religious views.  Yes, my kids have friends that don't go to church every Sunday, as do I.  But those friends know where we stand and respect our views.  I feel safe where we live.  When I leave the house for the day it's pretty likely my front door is unlocked, my car usually is too.  I have had 2 things stolen from me in my life and both times the police called me to let me know about it.  Both items were returned to me completely undamaged.  My husband has had a steady job for the past 8 years, when many people faced lay offs and economic trials.  My children came home from school last Friday.  My bubble is intact.  But many aren't.  Bubbles all over the country popped last week.

What do you do when your bubble pops?  You walk through the valley of the shadow of death and you fear no evil.  

It is so much easier said then done, I know that.  But when we choose a bubble over the world we are telling God that we don't trust him, we don't think He is enough.  He's not enough to keep us safe and not enough to get us through when go wrong.   I don't know about you but I will not live in fear.  As a Christian, I may not be OF this world but I am certainly IN this world, and I will do what it takes to spread his light, even in the darkest corners.  Evil is out there, but so is Jesus.  And he is with us.  And each and every time one of us makes the choice to live for Jesus, like Jesus, in Jesus, this nation becomes a better place. 

It's OK if your bubble popped, they tend to do that.  Maybe that's why we were never called to live in one.

Friday, December 14, 2012


I want to turn off the news.  I don't want to watch.

It seems like it would be so much easier to ignore the fact that people's lives have been torn apart today.

I would rather stay in the Christmas spirit, happily writing out addresses on my Christmas cards.  But somewhere, not far enough away, lives were shattered today.  

I need to acknowledge that.  I need to let the tears fall even when I don't want to.  Because the moment when we choose to ignore it, we condone it.  When we sweep it under the rug because it is too painful to deal with, it's like saying it OK.  And ITS NOT OK!!  Its not OK to go into a school and shoot up innocent children!  


It's not OK to destroy an entire community in a single morning.  That community should be focused on the most beautiful time of the year right now, celebrating the birth of our savior, not planning 26 funerals (at least at last count).  


I don't what happened this morning, I have no words.  I can't make sense of it.  And I won't make a political statement about the state of our nation or anything else.  All I can say is that we can't ignore it.  We have to acknowledge it.  We have to grieve for those parents who lost a child and the families of all who perished.  And we have to lift them up in prayer because God DOES hear, he DOES care, and he WILL listen.  

Every single one of those children lost today are in the arms of their  heavenly father right now.  EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM!  You will not convince me otherwise.  That doesn't make the pain of losing them any easier to bear, I know that.  But God is STILL in control! He REALLY is.  And he loves each and every one of those children with a love we cannot comprehend.  Rest in that.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Am I Even Growing

"Am I even growing mom?"  the words came out of my completely exasperated 5 year olds mouth.  He has been trying to catch up to his older sibling for, well, all his life.  And frankly, he doesn't feel like he's made much progress.  Every time he is FINALLY able to do something they have been doing for quite some time, something else comes along.  Something they can do, but he can't yet.  And he's frustrated, he feels like time is standing still and he's never going to catch up with them, he is never going to grow up as big as they are.  

The truth is, I can totally relate.  I had a similar conversation with God today.  "God, am I even growing?"  Yes I am a whole lot more book smart than I was 3 months ago.  I know things now I didn't even know I didn't know.  But have I grown?  Sometimes I'm not so sure. 

Erik and I had a doozy of a fight a couple of weeks ago, one of the biggest of our marriage.  So big, I even got flowers afterward (that's pretty remarkable!)  Needless to say I'm not proud of the way I handled myself.  I said things I shouldn't have.  And was slow to forgive.  I still lose my temper with my kids more than I (or they) would like.  Words come out of my mouth before I have a chance to stop them.  Wouldn't some of these stronghold in my life (anger, pride, uncontrolled mouth) start to go away if I was really growing?  

I told JT what I knew to be true.  Yes, he was growing!  He can now reach the sink all by himself, he no longer needs the step stool.  His clothes from last year no longer fit him, and we just had to buy him new shoes.  He didn't out grow them in a single day, but over time, without us evening noticing, he has grown.  

I have to trust that the same is true for me.  Yes I still make a lot of mistakes, I still have strongholds in my life and I am not the person I so desperately want to be, at least not yet.  But I am also not the person I used to be.  I have grown, not in one single day but over time. In the weeks, months and even years that have passed.  Yes, I am growing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Why now?

1 class down...many, many more to go!  

I finished my very first graduate level seminary class this week.  50% of the class grade was do in the last 2 weeks so I still don't know how I did, but I feel pretty good about it.  I know I learned a ton!  It was challenging in ways I never expected it to be and a little more fun then I anticipated.  

I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.  I'm still not exactly sure why God has called me to seminary.  And although I'm more confident now then I was 3 months ago that this is where I'm supposed to be, I'm still not sure why it had to be now.  I am only able to juggle one class at a time and juggle is absolutely the best word for it.

I have 3 young children, one of them not even in school yet.  He is around all the time, asking for my attention, wanting to play, needing me.  And I am busy, reading theology working on a paper or typing up notes.  There are times I feel like it is unfair to him, and to my other children.  I have been more stressed this semester than I have been in a long time.

I can remember a couple of years ago when my husband took a new job.  He was stressed. Big time.  I remember telling him that our family unit can only take so much stress and if he was going to carry all of it himself, then I couldn't do anything at all stressful, because it would exceed the amount of stress our family could take.  Needless to say I have carried my share of the stress and then some the past 3 months.  

So why now?  Why didn't God want me to wait a couple of years?  Why  not wait till the kids were all in school full time?  I don't know.  I don't pretend to understand God's timing.  There are certainly plenty of things in my life that he is telling me to wait on.  It seems like most things I think I am ready for God is telling me "no, not yet."  So why was this one a "yes, now"?  I don't know.  

I do know that God's timing is perfect.  I know that he has a plan and I know that he works for the good of those who love him.  And I do love him.  So I have to trust that in his infinite wisdom and his glorious plan it makes sense for me to be doing this, even now.  Juggling things beyond my capacity to juggle.  

Are you in the same boat?  Are there things God is telling you to do now, even though you think you are not ready?  Are there other things he is telling you "no, not yet" when it is all you want to do?  It's not for us to figure out, it's not for us to understand, it is only  for us to listen and obey.  That is what we are called to do.