As one year closes and another is about to dawn upon us, many of us are looking ahead with resolutions, dreams, and plans.
Some people are naturally more future-oriented, others prefer stay focused in the present, and others look back often on the past. May I recommend that in heading into a New Year, each of us take a cue from all three perspectives?
To enhance your present and future joy, before diving into dreaming and planning ahead, glance back over your shoulder – not just at the year that is closing – but at that long and winding road that brought you to this time and place.
Something beautiful happens when you do…
Take a few moments to let your mind wander down the road of your life, thinking back on your mountain-top experiences, as well as all the valleys you’ve traversed through.
As you think on these things, you realize that God has been there for you all along. And has guided you each step of the way with such faithfulness, provision, love and care. Even in those times when you were in the wilderness of your life (and we’ve all had those).
Allow an attitude of gratitude to release praise and thanksgiving from your heart. Take some time to truly thank God. There may be a few tears that flow also. If so, let ’em roll. Thank Him for all the good times and for all the character-shaping hard times also.
Thank Him for the people you’ve met on your journey, and for those you’ve yet to meet; for the experiences you’ve had, for where you are right now, and for experiences still to come.
The beauty in looking back before you look forward is that it gives you a fresh perspective: you think differently about the past, the present, and the future.
You realize that there is a reason for your life and a master plan that God has just for you.
This is reason enough to be filled with hope, peace, and joy for the future.
But there’s more:
With this perspective of meaning, you will find yourself inclined to dream and create more fulfilling plans and resolutions for this coming year that affect you, of course, but also that affect others in a positive way.
This kind of journey in life has been shown to the most satisfying to the soul and will leave you with a smile on your face during, and at the end, of your life.
So enhance your joy today, take some time this end-of-year to look back on the road of your life before you look forward.
Then prepare to experience the exciting things that God has in store for you in 2017.
Here’s to a wonderful year ahead for you!
Hasn’t the world seemed a little crazy lately? Turmoil and trouble everywhere on the international and domestic scene.
While we view the news headlines with furrowed brows, we crave peace, don’t we? Not just around us, but inside us also.
Did you know that God has promised that you can have “peace like a river”?
Who doesn’t enjoy relaxing under the shade of a tree on a late summer’s day, breathing in the fresh breeze, and gazing at a river’s gentle ripples? Beautiful. Peaceful.
Rivers are continuously flowing. Regardless of activity around, or in, them, they continue on. Nothing seems to adversely affect them, water flows on, either in a gentle meander or a spirited over-the-rocks forward movement.
Perhaps that’s why God used the metaphor “peace like a river” to describe the peace He has for us. Isaiah 48:18 indicates that we can have this flowing peace, if we listen to, and obey, the voice of God: “Oh that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river…”
So many people spend their lives searching for peace – in all the wrong places. Craving peace, they search everywhere BUT God to find it, not understanding that a troubled world doesn’t have the capability to give them peace.
However the source of peace is found in the Prince of Peace Himself, as Jesus promised: “My peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – John 14:27.
What I love about God’s peace is that regardless of circumstances, we can have a quietness inside, a peace that continuously flows “like a river.” The world may be in turmoil, but we are not.
Want peace? It’s yours if you’ll ask for it. Seek it from the Prince of Peace, and sit on the river bank of His love and grace today.
God Knows – Poem by Minnie Louise Haskins, 1908
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
This beautiful and famous poem has been read and quoted by many, including HRH The Queen, the Queen Mother, and George VI, for its timeless message. It was also inspiring to the British public during World War II.
My mother often quoted it to me and I loved it. Until now, I had not, however, heard the second part and find it just as tremendous as the first few lines. Here is the rest of this powerful poem:
So heart be still;
What need our little life
Our human life to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low,
God hideth His intention.
God knows. His will Is best.
The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim
To our imperfect vision,
Are clear to God. Our fears
Are premature; In Him,
All time hath full provision.
Until God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes,
When, as the sweeter features
Of Life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise
God’s thought around His creatures
Our mind shall fill.
As you stand at the gate of the year 2014, I pray God will lead you and direct your steps. If we walk in His will for our lives, there’s no greater joy we can find.
First, a sudden movement in the wrong direction and whoosh! the water glass beside the bed spills over the floor. Quickly grabbing tissues one mops it up. Fun. Then, while making coffee one’s sleeve catches a delicate stem glass on the kitchen countertop and sends it tumbling over – sending shards of glass all over. Just lovely, broken glass before breakfast! (And in case you’re wondering, no alcohol here; stem glasses in our household serve up a myriad of delicious non-alcoholic drinks, juices, etc.) So, hmmm…any more surprises to start the day? Should I go back to bed before there are? Is it going to be one of ‘those days’?
No matter how tempted I might be to do so, I don’t go back to bed, of course, because life is filled with these kind of days. You just move on and hope for a better rest of the day, don’t you? Or do you? Does it ruin your day? Or someone else’s, because you share your frustration?
And what if a crisis hits that requires more than just an attitude adjustment?
Sometimes our days start out rocky, sometimes even our lives do, or else they become rocky somewhere along life’s way. Just like broken glass before breakfast, we can either let those experiences ruin the rest of our day (or week, month, year, lives) or begin to turn it around.
We have to let the not-so-good, or even terrible, experiences go and release them to our past in order to enjoy the present and the future. We cannot let them steal our joy.
Why stay miserable, revisiting a bad experience in our minds? It only causes pain. And really, who wants to spend their life in emotional pain, when joy is available to replace it?
I understand that there are many, many experiences in our lives that are far worse than a broken glass before breakfast. Experiences where we feel we could never smile again. Been there, done that. I know what a broken heart feels like, the pain of tears and hurt deep down inside. Of broken dreams, frustrations, fears, embarrassment, and worry. And so do you, no doubt.
But joy can be restored. Even after the darkest of times. And it really is how we bounce back that matters.
Although re-adjusting our attitude and determining to see the silver lining in all things, can be an amazing tool to help that process, sometimes we need something stronger to help us do so. Someone stronger to help us bounce back. The good news: there is One who can and will, as noted in Psalm 55:22 – “Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you.”
I challenge you to give your burden to the One who cares for you, whose shoulders are stronger, and let Him help you bear it and turn your situation around. As the powerful song from Scott Wesley Brown says “If He carried the weight of the world on His shoulders, surely my brother or sister, He can carry you.”
Today, if you have experienced a ‘broken glass before breakfast’ day, or worse, let go and let God restore your joy. He’s standing by, just waiting to do so.
And make it a better day. I’m going to!
It was hard, cruel and excruciating. There was blood, sweat and thorns. The air was filled with bitterness, hatred, and anger. And amidst the rancor, the condemnation of an innocent man to die a humiliating death on a Roman cross. Darkness descended on the whole land in the middle of the day. An earthquake shook the people. The veil of the temple in Jerusalem was ripped in half from top to bottom at the hour of Jesus death. They pierced his side and watched as blood and water flow out from his broken heart.
And we call it Good Friday. Where is the goodness in that, you might say? Well, there is. An amazing amount of goodness.
Explore with me the goodness that is Good Friday…
At first glance, it seems that all is lost. That good has been overtaken by evil. That the mean, debauched and loud majority has won. That the voice of kindness and love has been silenced. That the Man of Galilee is no more and the hope that He brought, gone.
But that Friday was planned by God to bring about a better day. It was truly His goodness that was about to be shown to the whole world. Through the sacrifice that we see in the voluntary laying down of His life, Jesus was sending us a message: “For greater love has no man than this, that a man would lay down his life for his friend.” He was, in essence, saying: “The goodness of God is wooing you back to your Creator. I am making a way for an unholy people to be redeemed back to a holy God. This is love personified.”
Good Friday was a prerequisite to Sunday morning’s Resurrection. Without the first, there wouldn’t have been the second. Jesus said as much to the disciples: “It’s dark now, but wait, Sunday’s on the way.” He promised to rise again and He did. And the Resurrection brought hope to all mankind. Good Friday wasn’t a defeat, it was a victory. A victory over sin, over self, a victory over death, hell and the grave! Wow…goodness, hope and joy!
That’s why we call it Good Friday.
Life is like this too. There is pain, agony and hurt. We may sometimes wonder if we’ll make it through. Whatever happens, hold on, it is often darkest just before dawn. And today I encourage you to think about the goodness that is Good Friday, embrace it – embrace God’s goodness – and you’ll feel the joy when Sunday dawns.
Happy Easter everyone!
Changing the clocks forward once a year for Spring – for those of us that do – can be a little stressful. It causes us to get up an hour earlier than normal, often losing an hour of sleep we might normally have. We encounter a few grumpy people on the roads on Monday morning and some bleary eyes at work. Even for us early birds it can be a little difficult to adjust the first few days of the changeover. No doubt many of us would prefer that there was not a time-change at all, as some places have chosen to do, so that we wouldn’t have the disruption of our lives and schedules.
However, changing the clocks does herald the change of a season, doesn’t it? When it happens, we know that Spring is just around the corner. Winter is on its way out. Cold, cloudy days will soon behind us and sparse landscapes will be transformed as warm sunshine, blue skies, spring flowers and blossoming trees take their place.
Whether one changes the clocks or not, there is a time of transition before every new season. Temperatures change, weather changes, and other factors always announce a new season.
We also have new seasons in our everyday lives. And with each new season comes some type of transition. Before the exciting birth of a new child, a pregnancy occurs bringing a host of transitional changes. Before a teen becomes an adult, they go through a time of transition and growth. Before we embark on a new life journey, there’s a time of preparation.
These times of transition also bring their challenges, as do the changing of the clocks. And these challenges, if we allow them, can steal our daily joy. It is key during these transitions that we look beyond our challenges, and temporary set-backs, to what lies ahead. That we hold on to hope.
During this time before Easter as we consider the passion of Christ, we know that Jesus also went through a transition. A very, very difficult one. The Scripture says “For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, despised the shame, and is set down on the right hand of God.” What an amazing witness to the power of looking ahead. We may not know what the future holds, as Jesus did, but we can know that even during the toughest transitions ‘these things too shall pass’.
As you look forward to Spring, or the next season of your life, I encourage you to not allow the present challenges you face to steal your joy and peace. Look forward with hope and spring forward into joy. It’ll make all the difference to the quality and joy of your present and your future.