Happy New Year? (A Rewrite from 2018)

Priority. This word will define the person you are and who you desire to become. It will also determine what kind of year you will have.

Many of us set goals for the new year. Or what some would call, resolutions. I suppose I’m more of a goal-setter. One of the gifts God gave me is being an organizer, or planner. But unless God oversees this gift it can become more of a burden rather than a blessing, to myself and often to others.

Distinguishing between the two, a blessing or a burden, depends upon priority. The word priority may seem like such a simple word, but it can become extremely complex as a person wrestles with its meaning. In fact, the personal definition truly defines the person we are or who we desire to become.

Brother-Lawrence-in-KitchenNicholas Herman (1611-1691), better known as Brother Lawrence, found this to be true following his conversion to Christ at the age of eighteen while serving in the military. (To read more about Brother Lawrence, his conversion and life, go to: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/lawrence Serving in menial roles, mostly in a hospital kitchen, Brother Lawrence became known for his quite remarkable and serene faith, and his simple but dynamic experience of “the presence of God*.” Thousands of lay persons and clergy desired to know the secret to his life filled with unquenchable joy, peace, love, and humility.

Happy New Year?

Brother Lawrence gave the same answers to all who sought after these inner virtues. “Stop putting your trust in human rules, devotional exercises, and acts of penance. Instead, exercise a living, obedient faith in God. Live as though he were beside you and with you all the time—as indeed he is. Seek to do what he wants, as and when he commands it, and make his command your joy and chief pleasure. The person who lives like that will be fully human, completely Christian, and genuinely happy.”

More about Brother Lawrence a little later.

As I approach the year 2018 (now 2021), I am particularly aware of a personal need to prioritize my life (once again). For me, this is an ongoing journey, of which I suppose is true for most of us. Being fully human is the easy part. Ha! It’s the other two I seem to struggle with–being completely Christian and genuinely happy. Just being honest here.

Oh, did I mention that I’m a list keeper? Sometimes a gift and other times a burden.

This new year’s list includes (the left side from 2018, the right side this year, 2021): After reflecting on the 2018 list, I decided to be more specific in my goals for 2021 and to be more intentional in my spiritual life.

  • Eating healthy and exercising regularly          Same
  • Plan/have annual Family Legacy Day             Same
  • Pre-planning funeral arrangements, etc.        Order grave marker
  • Ministry and Missions                                        Lead a discipleship group
  • Medical and dental appointments                    Take care of physical body
  • Retirement (future and ongoing…)                   Trust in the LORD for future
  • Vacation and family outings                              Same, according to God’s will
  • And so much more!                                             Faith to fulfill God’s purpose*

Of course, most if not all these things are important, but they’re not really going to ensure that I have a happy new year, even if I am able to put a checkmark next to each one. (Only the genuine abiding daily presence of God in my life will ensure my true happiness.)

So many “things” and people vie for our time, and as Solomon so eloquently penned, “there’s a time for everything” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

The modern world seems to throw everything at us, so to prevent us from living a spiritual life, one that pleases the LORD. Think about all the high-tech machinery replacing hands, computers replacing minds, psychotherapy replacing prayer. And while these things are not bad in themselves, taken together along with the accelerated advances in science, the turbulent rhythm of life, and the external tensions of world events (recently in 2019/2020 with the Coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest which is sadly continuing in 2021), they tend to produce a society that has little time for personal relationships and even less time for God.

How then, can one “practice the presence of God?” A silhouette of a young boy praying against a brilliant sunset sky.

The basic spiritual disciplines remain our core: prayer and Bible study. But how must we compete with a world full of noise? The concept of silence is foreign to much of this generation, with cell phones, Facebook/Instagram/TikTok, tablets, movies on watches, and so on. Then adding to the social media, we find ourselves, as Solomon did, “chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1). Many families find themselves running from one activity to the next, and purchasing things that will only ensure longer work hours or require a second job. And to be quite honest, it’s not only our young families who have fallen prey to “this world’s system,” many older adults are chasing after the wind as well. Thousands of dollars are spent on finer lifestyles, while yearning for retirement days spent listening to the ocean waves rather than the voice of our Creator. Again, there’s nothing wrong in planning for retirement or caring for our personal well-being, but if these things take on a higher priority than God’s design and purpose, then we may need to re-evaluate our goals and or resolutions for the new year. Think about (no, pray about) how you might prioritize your life this year in ways that will help to ensure a happy new year according to the sweet pleasure of our LORD and Savior.

In closing…

From a letter written by Brother Lawrence:

“We can, in fact, learn a great deal about the love of God from the way we treat our friends (and family). For example, it would be very discourteous to invite a friend to our home and then leave him to sit alone in a corner while we go ahead with our own activities, ignoring him completely. Yet that is what we do with God. We have invited him, in his Son, to enter our hearts and live there—but often we neglect him, almost forgetting that he is there at all, so distracted are we by other things and other people.

The Christian’s biggest, most important job on earth is to live and die with the LORD. He can hardly do that if the slightest diversion drives all thoughts of God out of his mind. It is all a question of priorities, really.

Yours in the LORD,

Laurie (Brother Lawrence)

Two final thoughts recorded from Brother Lawrence’s conversion experience:

Trees“Suddenly I saw what ‘providence’ is all about—it’s simply believing that God has the power and the will to do all things well for us, if we will only submit to his loving, patient rule. And that nothing we can do—beyond trusting him—will speed up his will or make things happen that he isn’t ready to do in us.”

“At that moment, sitting there on the grass, my acts of worship, my attempts at discipline—all the effort I had put into trying to please God—were swallowed up in an enormous sense of love for him. The One who patiently led the trees and the plants through their seasons would also lead me, if I would only submit to his loving and powerful hand.”

The Practice of the Presence of God—the title given to the collection of “conversations” and letters” by Brother Lawrence.

New Year Faith Challenge:

Prayerfully evaluate your life. Look over the past year and take an honest inventory on how you spent the time God blessed you with. After a time of personal reflection, determine to spend more time this year in the presence of God, at home, school, work, on vacation, and definitely “in the kitchen.” If you’re not intentional in prioritizing your life according to living in the presence of God, you will find yourself simply “chasing after the wind.” And think about it, no one ever catches the wind.

Have a very blessed New Year, trusting in God. My personal goal for life.

*”Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.” (Psalm 145:13)

“Come on! You can do this!” 2017 World Series Game #2

I love watching baseball, especially when it comes to the World Series.

Ozzy 2
Ozzy Smith, St. Louis Cardinals, 1982-1996

As a young girl, my grandparents took me to watch the Decatur Commodores, a professional minor league baseball team that played in my home town, Decatur, Illinois. These were great memories, eating all the popcorn and snow cones I wanted, cheering for the hometown team, keeping an occasional foul ball; and an endearing memory of watching my grandpa pencil in all the plays on his scorecard. And on occasion, we drove about 2 hours to watch the St. Louis Cardinals. Another fond memory is recalling my grandfather listening to all the Cardinal games on his little transistor radio.

Fast forward just a “few” years. I found myself feeling the same adrenaline-fueled emotions watching game 2 of the world series last night.

Verlander pic
Justin Verlander

Being down 3 to 1 in the 6th inning, the Astros tied the Dodgers in the ninth. The Astro’s comeback had just begun. Scoring 2 runs in the top of the 10th, I’m sure the Astros thought perhaps the game was theirs to keep. But no, the Dodgers scored 2 runs in the bottom of the 10th to tie it up. At this point in the game I really thought the Dodgers would take it to the bank, as I think many of the Astros had the same gut feeling. That is, until their starting pitcher, Justin Verlander rallied his team onto victory. “Let’s go, let’s go, we can keep scoring runs. We can do this!” Sure enough, the Astros scored 2 runs in the top of the 11th and won 7-6.

Waking up this morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Astro’s comeback and how possibly the stirring words of Verlander inspired his team on to victory.

During our lives, there are times when we feel like we’re losing the game and are down to our last out. Possibly an illness has zapped our energy, or someone we love deeply has thrown us a curve by walking out. In one form or fashion, we’ve all been there, right? And what often makes the difference in whether we’re ready to throw in the towel or not, is having someone who is willing to step in and “yell” at us, “Come on! You can do this!” Well, maybe not yell…although at times, this is exactly what we need. An in your face reminder, that God is in control, He loves you, and you can be victorious with His love, grace, and power in your life.

I’ve recently been praying for several children who are battling some form of cancer. It breaks my heart to think of the agony and pain they are going through as they fight this horrible disease, and likewise, their loving parents and family. While these life-threatening battles have seemed insurmountable, I have observed how the power of God infuses hope into the lives of these children and their families, through the outpouring of love and support from friends and family, and their communities.

The scripture that comes to my mind is from Hebrews 10:23-25: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Closing thought:

Charlie pic
Charlie Cox

Think about how you can be an encourager to someone in your life. Maybe it’s a neighbor who is going through a difficult time, or it could be a family member who simply needs a hug around the neck. (One of our greatest encouragers who gave the tightest and most sincere hugs went home to receive his reward from our Heavenly Father three years ago. His name is Charlie Cox.) Possibly someone will remember you after you have breathed your last, as someone who cared enough to “yell” into your life, “Come on! You can do this!”

SO, WHAT’S IMPORTANT IN YOUR LIFE?

At the Home of Martha and Mary – Luke 10:38-42 (NIV)

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

We are all given the same amount of time each day to live it in any way we choose (for the most part).

Twenty-four hours to determine how we will spend our time. Mmmm….

Approaching the age of becoming a senior, the purpose of my life is taking on greater urgency.

Old Age / Senior Adult (Definition)

The last period of human life, now often considered to be the years after 65. Whew! A little ways to go.

In most cases, dogs can be considered senior between five and ten years old. Jeff and I recently watched the movie, A Dog’s Purpose,* a family-friendly movie with some human-life applications. Bailey is reincarnated several times, becoming a different breed each time, and finds himself in various homes. He keeps asking the question, “What is my purpose?” “Is it eating, playing, sleeping, working as a police canine?” At the end of the movie, Bailey returns to one of his original owners, the one who loves Bailey simply for being his companion.

So, what’s important in your life?

For me, at this stage in life, spending quality and quantity time with family and friends, and everyone else God brings into my life is very important.

I never considered myself an extravert because I enjoy my “personal space.” Space to simply relax, read, work in my yard, meditate on God’s word, etc. I don’t typically like large gatherings as much as I do just hanging out with a few people who want to simply hang out with me…just to be in the moment, sharing life together.

Martha often gets a bad rap because Jesus seems to reprimand her for her busyness. I don’t think Jesus thought any more of Mary than he did Martha, but simply made the distinction of what is “better.” Taking care of the necessities of life is important, but taking care of relationships is better.

I don’t let anything keep me from sitting at the feet of Jesus during my morning prayer and Bible study. Spending time with Jesus is my highest priority. It took a few years and a few more reprimands from the LORD before I realized what a joy it is to simply live in the moment with my God and Savior.

The Scripture clearly shows us where Martha was amiss. She was “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”

What are the distractions in your life, that keep you from “the better?”

Earnestly evaluate your daily/weekly activities. How are you spending the gift of time God is entrusting to you? As you reflect upon these, you will no doubt be able to determine what’s important in your life.

Holding God’s hand most often leads to holding the hands and hearts of family and friends.

*For movie review of A Dog’s Purpose, go to Focus on the Family’s Plugged-In: http://www.pluggedin.com/movie-reviews/a-dogs-purpose

 

 

Common Scarlet Thread

After completing three years of journaling about my greatest passion in life: to intentionally pass down my faith in Christ to my family, under the blog title Covenant Heirs, the Lord has now directed me to begin a new blog. The title: Holding His Hand.

(I will periodicallyScarlet Thread write in my Covenant Heirs blog https://covenantheirs.org/, for parents and grandparents.)

The common thread that binds Christians together is the precious blood of Jesus.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Through Holding His Hand blog, I will share personal reflections of how God deeply and compassionately cares for His children in the midst of life’s inevitable storms. In addition to my personal faith journeys, I will include true stories I’ve compiled of men and women who have also experienced God’s unfailing love and grace during their personal pain and suffering.

My first blog entry following this introduction is titled: Don’t Fret! My personal testimony of how God held my hand after the loss of my mother when I was seven. To receive this testimony (July 7, 2016), and to follow my blog, please click-on the Follow tab on the sidebar or complete your contact information underneath the Contact tab above.

In Psalm 37, David reminds us of God’s faithfulness to His people. In the midst of evil and personal suffering, he encourages believers to remain faithful and to trust God’s promises even when it all appears futile.

Psalm 37 (NIV)

Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. 11 But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.

12 The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; 13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. 15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.

16 Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; 17 for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous.

18 The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever. 19 In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

20 But the wicked will perish: Though the Lord’s enemies are like the flowers of the field, they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke.

21 The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously; 22 those the Lord blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be destroyed.

23 The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; 24 though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

25 I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. 26 They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing.[b]

27 Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. 28 For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones.

Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed[c]; the offspring of the wicked will perish. 29 The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.

30 The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just. 31 The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip.

32 The wicked lie in wait for the righteous, intent on putting them to death; 33 but the Lord will not leave them in the power of the wicked  or let them be condemned when brought to trial.

34 Hope in the Lord  and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it.

35 I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a luxuriant native tree, 36 but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found.

37 Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace.[d] 38 But all sinners will be destroyed; there will be no future[e] for the wicked.

39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. 40 The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.

For further study of Psalm 37: (Excerpt from: Be Worshipful (Psalms 1-89), Repackaged — By: Warren W. Wiersbe)

David had written about the wicked in Psalm 36 (see vv. 1, 11), and he will pick up the theme again in Psalm 39. He wrote Psalm 37 in his mature years (v. 25), and in it he discussed the age-old problem of why the righteous suffer while the wicked seem to prosper. Perhaps this psalm was part of David’s preparation of Solomon for the throne (1 Kings 2:3; see Prov. 23:17-18; 24:19-20). Honest atheists and agnostics don’t have to wrestle with this problem because their philosophy of relativism forbids them to use words like good, bad, righteous, and wicked. However, those who believe in God sometimes wonder why He allows the wicked to succeed while the righteous suffer. The word wicked is found fourteen times in the psalm. The theological foundation for the psalm is the covenant God made with Israel, recorded in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27–30. God owned the land, and if the nation obeyed Him, they could live in the land and enjoy its blessings. But if Israel disobeyed the Lord, He would first chasten them in the land (invasion, drought, famine), but if they continued to rebel, He would then take them out of the land (captivity). But it seemed that the wicked were prospering and that God wasn’t doing anything about it (see Jer. 12). The righteous could fret over the problem (vv. 1, 7-8), leave the land (v. 3), or go on being faithful, trusting the Lord to keep His Word (vv. 3, 5, 7, 34, 39). Like any mature believer who had been through his own share of suffering, David took the long view of the situation and evaluated the immediate and the transient in terms of the ultimate and the eternal. He encouraged Solomon and the people to believe God’s promises and wait on Him. In the psalm, he gave four encouraging assurances to believers who question how God is running His world. (See also Ps. 49 and 73.)