Happy New Year, 2019 Edition

There is a phrase in Psalm 46: 10 that is virtually identical in every English translation of the Bible: “Be still, and know that I am God!” Ancient or modern, the Psalmist reminds us of how necessary it is for us to be still if we’ll experience God in the deep places of our being. It’s also a good reminder as we begin a new year to be still as we reflect on all that has happened in 2018, and look with anticipation to all the opportunities God has for us in 2019.

2018 was, for me, a year of learning.  It was, in some ways, a great year.  It was, in some other ways, a bad year, but it was, good or bad, another year in which the faithful mercies and grace of God sustained me.  I know you could say the same thing, too.  Whether your year was filled with celebration, or mourning, or both, God sustained you, and that is reason to celebrate, and if you’re like me, you’ve learned a few lessons along the way.  I’m going to do all I can to allow the lessons of 2018 be a bridge that joins my past with my future, for no matter what happened in 2008, January 1st, 2019, reminds me that I have a new opportunity—I begin with a New Year.  We cannot deny anything that happened in the past.  That would be foolishness.  We can, however, learn its lessons as we look ahead to order our life in the New Year.

What are some of the lessons I’ve learned?  The first is not actually a new lesson. I should say I’ve re-learned that I’m a “glass half empty” kind of guy.  I’ve learned that I’m impatient, and that I need to be willing to admit it.  I’ve learned I don’t like rules and regulations (does that make me a rebel?).  I’ve learned that I tend to be impulsive.  I’ve learned I often assume too much, and I’ve learned that all these characteristics cost me dearly, and in costing me, they cost others around me.  I regret that my shortcomings impacted others.

The reality is I can’t change anything that has happened in 2018.  But I do have a new opportunity to change the attitudes that caused so many of the regrets. Unfortunately, I can’t change my attitude. Oh, I can resolve to change my attitude, but like so many resolutions of the past, that one, too, will soon go by the wayside. What I can do, though, is bring my attitude to the cross of Jesus Christ, and say, “Here is my attitude, Lord.  It is poor, and it has cost me and those I love.  Take it, crucify it here, and by your grace, transform me.”  He does the work in me that I am unable to do in myself.  That is the only way I will ever change.

That brings me to the greatest lesson I’ve learned this year.  Oh, I knew it, but I had to be reminded—to be like Him, I have to spend time with Him. My attitude is often so poor because I don’t spend enough time nurturing my relationship with Him.  It’s easy to lose my spiritual connection. I become so busy with work (yes, folks, ministry is work) that I had fail to maintain an intimate relationship with the God who died for me and called me to His wonderful salvation. I have learned I have to be still, and know that He is God.

I am reminded of this in a compelling way in the most unlikely of places.  My mother gave me many years ago, a book entitled Amazed by Grace, written by Carole Plemmons. That name means nothing to you, but Carole is a lady from my childhood.  She played the piano for our children’s choir, and her son, Andy, and I ran the streets of Chatham together for many years. She penned a daily devotional out of her rich spiritual journals compiled in a 32-year journey with her wheel-chair bound husband.  Listen to how she states it:

“I do have one specific request for this new year, Lord.  I pray that my spiritual ears will be, more than ever before, listening for you voice.  Please help me learn how to maintain that core of stillness within so that I can hear Your softest word to me.  I know, Lord, that this is not a matter of straining to hear.  It is rather a relaxing—a leaning into Your embrace—a yielding to Your touch.  This I long to do, not just for a moment now and then, but for all the days of the rest of this earthly life.”

So, I resolve to do that more–lean into His embrace–to be still. Then, I might know that He is God.

Perhaps I might even define 2019 as “The Year of More.”

  • I resolve to be still more.
  • I resolve to serve more.
  • I resolve to exercise more.
  • I resolve to write more.
  • I resolve to love more.
  • I resolve to sleep more.

Perhaps those are enough resolutions for one year. After all, I don’t want to get to the end of 2019 and look back only to have learned the same lessons over again. That would be a wasted year, wouldn’t it?

How about you? What will 2019 bring for you? I invite you to leave your comments below.

Until next time, keep looking up…

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