I know that it's New Year's Eve, and it would be a great opportunity to talk about goals and resolutions. And, I did try to write a blog post about bringing God into your New Year's Resolutions. But, in the middle of my writing, I googled "Christian New Year's Resolutions" and found an interview with Billy Graham. Who can talk about God and resolutions better than Billy Graham?!! Certainly not me! Into the recycle bin my partially written blog post went. (Click here to read the Billy Graham interview. It's very good).
So, I asked my family to help me brainstorm about possible blog topics last night at dinner, and we came up with some very creative ones. But, I'm afraid the topics we discussed had too many inside jokes. You had to be there!
This morning while brushing my teeth, it came to me . . . I'll write about earwax! (I know it's crazy, but please don't stop reading yet!) I have to confess that I'm a little neurotic about earwax. Every morning, after my shower, I do something that I know I'm not supposed to do -- stick a q-tip in my ear to soak up any shower water and any earwax. For the past month or two, I've wondered how your ear makes earwax, but I've never stopped to look it up. I did this morning and learned some pretty cool things!
Earwax is produced by glands in the skin of your ear canal. One of the major functions of earwax is to protect the skin of the ear canal and to protect the inner ear from bacteria, fungi, insects and water. But, as we all know, excess earwax can make it difficult to hear.
Sometimes, especially around the beginning of the year, we are like earwax. We plan, set goals, read self-help books and look for other ways to change ourselves for the better. We are exemplifying the protective nature of earwax. By doing all of these things, we believe we can protect ourselves against failure and make our lives better. But when we focus too much on how we can change ourselves by ourselves, we often stop listening to God. The buildup of all the good things we are trying to do keeps us from hearing God speak into our lives.
Listening to God and relying on Him requires us to challenge ourselves in a different way. In order to listen to God, we have to make time for Him, which we often have trouble finding while we are busy improving our lives. And even after we make the time for Him, we have to want to listen to Him. Oswald Chambers said it bluntly in My Utmost for His Highest: "Why are we so terrified for God to speak to us? It is because we know that when God speaks we must either do what He asks or tell Him we will not obey." Listening to God requires us to submit.
In the midst of making your New Year's resolutions, I challenge you to use some "spiritual q-tips" so that you can better hear and follow God. Pam Strader created a list of creative quiet times that she passed out at the October women's retreat. I rediscovered it while organizing my house in preparation for the new year. And although she didn't call these ideas spiritual q-tips, I think that's exactly what they are: 10 ways you can clean out your spiritual ears so that you can listen to God.
Spiritual Q-Tips for the New Year
- Take God out for coffee. Take a quiet corner of a cafe or McDonalds and meet with God. Take your Bible and a notebook. Study, journal, pray.
- Add a spiritual classic to your reading time. If you only read secular novels, check something out of the WMS library to add some spiritual reading to your diet.
- Put feet to your faith. Take a walk with God. Lose the distractions. Have no earphones or listen to the Bible or Christian music on your iPod. Pray.
- Journal your journey. Keep a spiritual diary where you make notes on your devotional or Bible reading or write down your prayer concerns.
- Come before him with singing. Add Christian music to your playlist or radio pre-set stations.
- Let faith come by hearing. Go to soundcloud.com/westmarketstreetumc and select a sermon, click on the orange "play" button. Or download something from a favorite Christian speaker.
- Dig a little deeper. A good Bible study will take you to a new level of faith and understanding. Join a Sunday night group, or a seasonal Wednesday night study, or ask Barbie Kremer or Jennifer Augustine about Bible Study Fellowship for a school year-long in-depth study.
- All the King's versions. Find a translation that you understand and like. Read the text out loud. Modem translations include the New Living Translation (a paraphrase), the New lnternational Version (accuracy to the Biblical languages) or The Message (a modern paraphrase).
- Hide the Word. Memorizing Scripture puts it into our hearts and minds. Write down verses on sticky notes or index cards.
- Spend time in prayer each day, whenever and wherever it works.
I hope you'll try one or more of these this year. Happy New Year!
P.S. -- Since you stuck with this until the end, I'll share some of the more interesting facts I learned about earwax. Did you know that there are two genetically distinct types of earwax -- wet and dry. Asians and Native Americans are more likely to likely to have dry earwax, and wet-type earwax is associated with armpit odor. Who knew?! In the 1800s, earwax was used as lip balm. And many years ago, seamstresses used earwax to keep the ends of threads from fraying.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6.