“Looking back to move forward”

 

This morning with my church family we talked about the closing of this year and the beginning of next year! We wrote down some things that we were grateful for, what we mourned over, how we saw God moving, and what we’d like to leave behind in 2017. After writing these things down, we celebrated communion, being humbled before Christ, remembering His sacrifice for our sins and the redemption of life that He gives through His death. We then placed our notes on 2017 in a suitcase (which was then closed) as a symbol of closing the door on the past year. Not taking for granted the ways those things changed us, but as a closing of a passage and entering a new chapter.

Looking back at this time last year until now, SO much has changed. This time last year, I thought I knew where I was “headed” or what would be happening in the new year. But little did I know how much things would change….how much I would learn about my identity in Christ…how I would be awakened to the persecuted church…how I would mourn for things and people being stripped away…how I would be blessed with new opportunities….how God would confirm answers to prayer…It’s been quite an amazing year.

“But now, this is what the Lord, your Creator says, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you [from captivity];
I have called you by name; you are Mine!

‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.
When you walk through fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.'”

Isaiah 43:1-2

Honestly, even though the year began with some very deep valleys, as I look over the whole year, the blessings and surprises that God brought far outweigh whatever depths I thought were going to define 2017. It wasn’t even possible for me to dream of the ways in which God surprised me this past year and I am so thankful for what & how He brought me out from those valleys.

“Listen carefully, I am about to do a new thing,
Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it?
I will even put a road in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert….”

Isaiah 43:19

So as I look towards 2018, I hope to have more confidence and courage to follow where God leads, to live out my faith and share about Christ in a way that draws others to Him, to learn more about the people around me and about Christ and to trust Him in this crazy journey because who knows what kind of adventures He may be taking me on this year. I may not know what is up ahead, but with all my heart I intend to seek after Christ and ask Him to open my eyes to see how He sees and to love like He does.

Coming & Going

Here were the questions we looked at this morning & some of my reflections on the past year and the upcoming year!

2017

  • When did you feel close to God this year?
  • When in this year did you feel like God was absent?
  • What were some moments of joy and some moments of sorrow?
  • What disappointed you or frustrated you this year?
  • What surprised you this year?
  • Is there anything in this year you want to leave behind and not take with you into next year?

Feeling close to God in doubt and pain. Forgiveness between myself and ministry partners. Reconnecting with kids I love. Making new ministry friends in Egypt. Sorrow for leaving family. Sorrow for “ideas” changing. Surprised by a settled peace in where Christ has taken me. Many new relationships & community. Positive visible answers to prayer. Vikings kicking butt. These are a few of my favorite things.

 

2018

  • What do you think God is inviting you into in this next year?
  • What areas of growth might you pursue in your life next year?
  • What experiments might you try in 2018?
  • Are there questions or topics you’d like to explore in the new year?
  • What are you apprehensive about as you look towards next year?
  • What are you excited about?

New ministry beginnings. Greater depth of relationships with others & with God. “How does God love the orphan?” Growth in and experiments in rhythms of reading, evangelism, study & journaling. Courage to follow God where He directs. Pursuit.

 

A Christmas Hope

This past week, my Papa & I were asked to sing Christmas carols at a local assisted living home.  We accepted the invitation, and began to choose songs that we wanted to share.  He would play the mandolin, and we would both sing.  We thought how nice it would be to have my younger brother play his guitar with us, and thought he probably wouldn’t want to but we asked anyway.  You see, because my mom was such a support to Tyler & his music, he hasn’t really wanted to pick up his guitar since she passed away.  It was an absolutely delightful shock to me to hear that he wanted to play with us!  I was so happy!

We stood up in front of the older crowd of residents, barely having practiced singing together except for the five minutes prior, and began to sing.  My dad would tie in meanings of Christmas and thoughts from the carols we’d sing.  During one of the first songs, we sang something about the angels singing with us, or seeing us from afar.  At that moment, I imagined my mom crying in heaven, not with sadness but with delight, to see the three of us together, singing & playing music together.  I thought about how happy she would have been to hear us all together, and how pleased she would be that we didn’t pass on singing.

This all led to another thought….one of hope.  I wanted to have my mom with me so quick right then, pinching back tears that screamed to be set free from the confines of my eyes.  Yet in that same instant, the hope arose that I will see her again soon, and it is because of the birth that we were singing about that I could have that hope.  It was a future hope of a fulfilled promise.  A promise God revealed many thousands of years ago, that was brought to fulfillment through the birth of Christ.

Through the Spirit, Mary a humble girl said “yes” to doing God’s will, for waiting on Him to provide a miracle through her.  An unsettling situation to be sure, she waited with hope that God would be true to His word once again.  When Jesus was born a joy filled her & spilled out to each of us through the Son. We can have joy in the hope that His birth proclaims.  There is now a way for us to be joined to the Father.  What a thing to celebrate, what an act of love, bringing joyful hope to a people stirred with unrest.

His birth brought love to the world, joy to the heart, hope to the mind and peace to our soul.  Though some days we all feel unloved, discouraged, defeated & distressed, we can know that God LOVES us, and because of that love we can find JOY because God gave PEACE to our tormented souls, which reminds us of the HOPE that Christ’s birth brings.  So this Christmas, let’s celebrate, I mean REALLY celebrate, not only the birth of Christ, but everything that His birth represents!

A little something

I just found the following, hidden away in my documents folder….not sure when I wrote it, but I wanted to share it with you today.

Like little seeds planted in the ground, the seed must die for a new plant to grow! It’s like us….when we were ignorant to the grace of God, we lived for ourselves & though we may have done “good” in the eyes of the world, ultimately there was no purpose, no end goal that we could strive for, except for pleasure in ourselves & our works. Now, through the ultimate sacrifice of God’s death & divine miracle of His resurrection, we have a hope of something else. We have something to live for, someone who died for us, and now we can live a new life, dedicated to honoring Him for the gift he’s given us….freedom, forgiveness, faithfulness, fullness of life, a fearless way to live.
I want my earthly inheritance to be spent before it’s stockpiled…I hope to give it away, and to bless those who may never be encouraged to take a step of faith into a life they never dreamed of.  In Psalms 68, it talks about putting the lonely in families. Well, I’ve been given a family, but others have not. They are the lonely, and they can be part of our family…my family…God’s family. The love, care & provision that I have been blessed with all my life, can be someone else’s if you or I care enough to share it with them. Sharing not only the practical things like food, shelter, & water, but God’s blessings of love, acceptance, forgiveness & encouragement.

Wherever I go, whoever I become, this is the person I want to be: I want to be someone who serves others, who cares about the people who are rejected from society, who is involved with missions, who goes wherever I’m needed so I can meet a need, someone who seeks God first, who is unashamedly Christian, who gives all that I am to love on people, & listening at all times.

A Ray of Hope

This morning, I was on my way to work & the sky looked dreary, almost angry…the clouds were shrouding the sky. The colors were various shades of gray & ….gray. But then as I drove, I noticed a spot, small at first and then I noticed it more and more…this opening amidst the clouds. Clear blue sky shone through. In the middle of this expansive gray mess, was this beautiful section of crystal sky! How gorgeous I thought. Right here is hope that today might actually turn out okay.

I had woken up feeling a little off, as I had a dream that brought up memories I wasn’t prepared to think about. It made me think about the hope that we have in the Lord…that someday, things will be better. I can tell you that recently I’ve felt “good” about where I’m at spiritually, which made me a little cautious because that’s not always a good sign… it was clear to me then, that I had been slipping into a state of “okay-ness,” not really pushing the envelope with my faith or hope. Then I read Psalm 131:3, which says “O Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now & forevermore.” It was like….hello….your faith & hope can’t just be one day & not the next. It needs to be always, even when it’s rough outside, or even when you’re facing your past. I was also encouraged by the passage “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.” (Psalm 31:24) I was encouraged to just keep on.

But where do I look? Apparently the same question was in David’s mind too when he wrote “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” (Psalm 39:7) I thought about the clouds, and how it looked so dead….except for that one spot. I needed to look for that spot, and when I found it, it was bright, clear & promising. I knew there was hope. It wasn’t contingent on me finding it, but was there anyway. It was there waiting. Steady & secure…above all the troubles the clouds were mimicking. On my drive, I prayed something similar to Romans 15:13 where it says “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

So as “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.” (Psalm 130:5)

Resurected

Resurrection…Baptism….repentance. Wow…today, I was really hit by a few things. 1. How fun family can be, especially when you are learning funny new things about each other, and are okay to be embarrassed around them. 2. Pineapple stuffing is too amazing for words…but when you eat so much you can’t speak, it’s probably too much. 3. Jesus isn’t the only one who is resurrected today….we all are, or can be with Him!

I was driving to church this morning, half scared to go in because of the lilies, but as I drove, I listened to a song about resurrection, and about life….and as I drove it reminded me of how we all as people, have to die in order to live. To be resurrected, as it were, to have a new life in Christ. The old goes away…we throw it off, are buried & drowned…and the new comes in, we’re renewed & harvested. How wonderful it is, to know that we are no longer the person we used to be, but have a new beginning, a clean slate, a fresh start. Like little seeds planted in the ground, the seed must die for a new plant to grow! It’s like us….when we were ignorant to the grace of God, we lived for ourselves & though we may have done “good” in the eyes of the world, ultimately there was no purpose, no end goal that we could strive for, except for pleasure in ourselves & our works. Now, through the ultimate sacrifice of God’s death & divine miracle of His resurrection, we have a hope of something else. We have something to live for, some one who died for us, and now we can live a new life, dedicated to honoring Him for the gift he’s given us….freedom, forgiveness, faithfulness, fullness of life, a fearless way to live.

Part of this also, got me when I saw this old couple driving past me on the road. I looked at them & smiled. How sweet are they, I thought, driving probably to a daughter or son’s home for Easter. Probably going to see grand-kids & maybe great grandchildren too. I thought immediately about my own grandma, that wouldn’t be with us today. I started to cry, and then in my missing her, I rejoiced. She was celebrating Christ’s resurrection, with the Living God Himself!! She saw it complete circle, seeing it as we here on earth can only try to comprehend. She KNOWS the Living God, face to face, as we can, but even more so….she sees him fully, complete, …what that must be like, to know the power of resurrection in a complete way like she is right now, living a new life, not something we know, but better & fuller & made more alive than she ever was before she died.

I miss my grandma so much….and I know that the disciples missed their friend so much too, but how great is it that we can have hope of seeing them again, in our resurrected bodies, with the resurrected Lord?