January Goals: A Review

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My view half way up Table Rock Mountain 

If you’re new here, I confirmed I am, in fact, crazy posted my goals for the year. As someone whose strengths are Achiever and Discipline, I really like goals. Goals keep me focused, motivated, and constantly improving. Of course, there’s also the downside which I wrote about recently.

My goal for January was to pray daily for women living in Muslim contexts in the Middle East, North Africa, and South East Asia. I would say I was about 70% successful in praying daily. More than the task itself, this goal refocused my attention and broadened my daily awareness of God’s blessings. I found myself appreciating my freedoms and privilege more regularly, like having enough food in the refrigerator or working heat in the winter.

When I began to pray, I wasn’t really sure where to start. I don’t know any women from these contexts, I’ve never been to the Middle East, Africa, or Asia, nor do I know much beyond my reading of fiction and non-fiction, including news sources. I felt very disconnected initially, my prayers seemed more like a recitation – what I was supposed to pray instead of my heart’s desire.

However, this all changed in week 2. I was challenged to pray the attributes of God in my “regular prayers” and I began to pray these for the women too. All of a sudden, God’s all-powerful, all-good nature became much more meaningful. My prayers gained weight and substance previously lacking. If I could trust God to act powerfully in their life – why should I doubt his power in mine? If God is merciful enough to redeem me, a broken and selfish person, then He is also merciful to ransom their lives too. Instead of feeling distant, contrived, and separated from my own life, my prayers merged into one prayer.

My compassion, concern, and prayers for the women were neither singularly spiritual, nor singularly physical – just like my own life. I do not pray only for my heart or the hearts of my friends and family, but for our physical needs as well. So, too it came to be with these women.

I don’t know what will come from this month. I know I have no power to change the living circumstances, the hearts, or the minds of the women in these areas. I do know, incredibly, God is not only powerful enough, but is already working! My own weakness, in yet another area of life, is an opportunity to showcase God’s power.

My one regret is I did not pray daily. Too often, my prayers centered around myself and immediate needs. I would get distracted in tasks and to-do’s or hyper-focused on my small desires. I crave the strength gleaned from uniting my heart with God’s heart beyond my own microcosm of the Universe.

As far as my other goals for the year are going, I already broke my “only books by dead people rule.” I mistakenly believed Harper Lee had already died and I read To Kill a Mockingbird. I do not regret it at all. This is perhaps one of the most poignant books written and was even more touching because I live in the South and was challenged on my own prejudices and bias in praying for the women in MENA, SEA. If you haven’t read TKAM since high school or within the last 5 year, I would highly recommend it. I’m also reading Plato so I feel like that makes up for it too 😉

In January, I also had my first day of solitude and it was worthwhile. I learned I must tire my body out first, before my mind, heart, soul will be still. Fortunately I went hiking and was able to do both! It was a great way to start the month and I felt a lingering “refreshment hangover” for several days. That’s right. I just compared a spiritual solitude to a hangover.

On the negative, I have not prayed through any of my notecards nor have I really started learning the arabic alphabet. I have downloaded the sheets though, so that counts for something, right?!?!

My goal for the month of February is no personal social media-pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum of importance from praying daily for Muslim women in MENA, SEA, but hey! it may actually be harder. Wish me luck!

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7 thoughts on “January Goals: A Review

  1. Good luck with your February goals! I’m curious about why you chose to pray for women in Muslim countries when, as you say, you don’t know any women from these contexts? (I was born and raised in Texas in a Muslim family and presently work in the Middle East… I’m confronted with gender/racial/cultural/religious issues on a daily basis.) I like how you describe the transition of prayers as a recitation into something from the heart. This speaks to a lot of people and is quite powerful! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Thanks for your encouragement and your question. I chose to pray specifically for women in Muslim contexts for several reasons, actually. First, it is because I don’t know any women from these contexts – I wanted to try to humble myself and try understand their lives more than what I read or see on TV. My limited knowledge from books, articles, and media tells me that many women, though not necessarily all, living in the Middle East, North Africa, and South East Asia are living in some form of oppression either from government, culture, or families. Again, I know there are exceptions and there are non-Muslim women in countries all over the world, including the US, facing hardship. As a follower of Jesus Christ, my desire is for all people everywhere – men, women, children – who do not know Him as Lord to be able to surrender their lives to Him. It is overwhelming for me to think and pray about the entire world right now. This is a way I was able to narrow my focus and also seek to learn more about women with whom I do not know much. Thanks for your question! You may have inspired me to write a follow up post 🙂

  2. I find a lot of inspiration in your posts. I enjoy reading the way you can connect God to your daily life through prayer and remembrance. Its true that in fact many of the people living in North Africa, the Middle East, and South East Asia are in need of prayers. I’m normally not a commentor but I’d just like to acknowledge your second paragraph. Muslim women are not denied freedom or privilege; culture & religion are two very separate practices.

    • Thank you. You’re right, culture and religion are two separate practices, though in many lives, including my own as a Christian in the Southeastern United States, culture and religion overlap. My heart breaks for women everywhere, including the United States, who are denied freedom and privilege. I cannot engage personally with the world, even in prayer, so this was a way for me to narrow my focus. Additionally, as a follower of Jesus Christ, my hope is one day all peoples, everywhere – men, women, and chidlren, will come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Thank you for your comment, I really appreciate you taking time to respond.

  3. I enjoyed this and I love following your blog, but I also want to reiterate the sentiment that Muslim women aren’t necessarily oppressed/living really harsh lives due to the religion they follow. A Christian, Jewish, Atheist, Muslim, Hindu, etc…. ANY woman in the Middle East is in need of our prayers because that region is going through turbulent times and any person of any faith needs strength from God to face those challenges. I’m a Muslim living in the United States and I feel like I need God’s guidance through me all-the-time. Just as much as my Christian friends. We’re all so helpless without God. And we’re all so similar.
    Lots of love ❤
    P.S: I love this verse from the bible and it seems so fitting to this discussion: but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

    May God always give us strength 🙂

  4. Pingback: 2014 Personal Goals | justaylored

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