Reflecting, Unraveling, and Refocusing

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”  Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 (NIV)

As December 31 approaches, do you focus more on reflecting on the events of the past year or considering the possibilities that await in the year to come? I’ve been thinking on how I would answer this question, and as much I would like to “look back” at this year and write all about the things that happened, I think I would rather focus on the fresh, new possibilities for 2019.

While I didn’t have a terrible 2018, I wouldn’t classify it as a great year, either. There were some nice highlights including joining our new church, taking some special vacations, enjoying quality time together, and my book being published. But there were also some health struggles with us and our families that overshadow those good things to the point that, if I reflect too much on this past year, I think I might unravel.

So, this year, I’m looking to the future – a bright and exciting future full of endless possibilities! One of my goals is to be more positive, which fits right in with the notion of good things awaiting us in 2019. Another goal is to play my clarinet again (after some 30 years). And I still hold on to my dream of twirling a fire baton! Of course, some of our goals are more frivolous than others, but each of them carry the opportunity for us to grow and meet new people.

What are some of the things you would like to do in 2019? Make a list of a couple of things and then work toward them. I know resolutions are not for everyone, but setting a few “dream goals” is not a bad thing. Is there a hobby you would like to try? A place you would like to see? A habit you would like to overcome? A habit you would like to start? Maybe 2019 is the year for those things.

One goal that will always bear positive fruit in our lives is seeking to grow closer to God. Make him the first priority in your life. Commit your plans to him (Proverbs 16:3) and trust him in everything you do.

Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 that there is a time for everything. Look closely at his list: there are happy times and sad times listed in each verse. This encourages me not to lose hope as I look back on the difficult times of the past, but rather to adjust my focus and look at all of the things that I encounter as a blessing as I press on toward the future.

May God bless you with a bright and exciting new year full of endless possibilities in 2019!

Keep the Faith!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding;”

Proverbs 3:5 (CSB)

My husband and I have been introducing classic Christmas movies to our daughter over the past couple of years, and last week we added Miracle on 34th Street to the mix. Although we didn’t see the classic 1947 Natalie Wood rendition, we saw an excellent 1955 one-hour television version, and my favorite sentiment from the story is still the statement made by Fred Gailey: “Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.”

Although Fred was referring to whether or not he should believe Kris Kringle is really Santa Claus, his statement could be applied to the Christian faith as well. Proverbs 3:5 reminds us that our trust should be in God, and not in our own understanding. How often have we looked at our problems from a limited worldly view, tried to solve them, and then found ourselves still in the midst of that same struggle? On the other hand, have you ever had to  make a decision when there was no way of knowing the outcome? The decision you made was a step of faith into the unknown.

That’s the thing about faith. It isn’t tangible. Faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV).  In Miracle on 34th Street, Fred could not rely on common sense to believe Santa was real, yet he chose to believe anyway. As Christians, when our faith is low, if we remember God’s promise that he will take care of us, this will make it easier for us to choose faith over our own feelings or those things that we think are common sense.

Think of it this way: what do you have to lose by keeping your faith?

Angels Among Us

“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.”

Proverbs 13:14 (NIV)

Have you ever felt as low as George Bailey did in It’s a Wonderful Life? George experienced problems from many directions, the main one being a financial mountain he could not climb. Keeping his focus on that problem instead of remembering to place his trust in God, he fell into complete despair until an angel helped him refocus his vision and rediscover his hope.

Just as Clarence the angel turned George away from death, Proverbs 13:14 reminds us that there are wise people in our own lives who can help us find life instead of death. If you are feeling hopeless, desperate or depressed this holiday season, seek wisdom from a friend or counselor, and remember to trust in the Lord and his word. God places wise people around us, and I believe that their words can encourage us when we are at our lowest point.

Has someone ever told you something that helped you, even when you hadn’t asked for advice? Recently, I was worried about something, and in a conversation with a new friend at a Christmas party, I heard the best encouragement I could have ever received. This person was simply sharing her heart with me, but, unbeknownst to her, she lifted my spirit with her words.

I’m thankful that God places us in the midst of others who are wise as we walk our life’s journey. In this sense, I believe there are truly are messengers from God among us. While many a Christmas movie portrays angels and spirits prodding downcast people on to hope, the reality is that there are wise people around each of us. And when we listen to and heed their counsel, we can experience the hope and joy that God provides — not just at Christmas, but all year long.

 

 

 

Advice from an Elf

“The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.”

Proverbs 10:28 (ESV)

“First we’ll make snow angels for two hours, then we’ll go ice skating, then we’ll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse Cookie dough as fast as we can, and then we’ll snuggle.”

Despite his unhealthy diet of candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup, Buddy the Elf had a proper perspective on what’s really important – spending time with others and letting them know you love them. All of us find ourselves busily working toward a goal, whether it’s for school, work, or even a hobby, but we should never forget the most important thing in life – God’s love for us and how we are to share His love with others. According to Proverbs 10:28, this is the only hope truly worth pursuing.

I know the holidays are especially busy, but let us remember that Christmas is all about the greatest love of all – our Savior Jesus coming to earth to bring us hope. How do we share this hope? By telling others about Christ and by sharing his love with others through kind words, a gift or an act of service.

It’s so easy to lose sight of the fact that people are more important than any goals we might set. Remember Buddy the Elf’s real father? At first, he valued his job more than his family. But, like all good movies, by the end of the story things turned around and his new perspective on what is really important in life motivated him to walk out of an “important” meeting in order to help his sons.

Is there a person in your life with whom you need to spend more time to show him or her how valuable they are to you? Even more importantly, is there someone with whom you need to share Christ’s love?

Don’t let this Christmas season pass by without spending time with Jesus, and sharing special moments with your family and friends. If you have trouble thinking of ideas, just ponder, “What would Buddy the Elf want to do?”