“Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, you his servants, the descendants of Israel, his chosen ones.” I Chronicles 16:8-13
Seldom do I slow enough to consider tomorrow. Yet, when December comes I am drawn to reflect on the year in the rearview and to project on the possible accomplishments of another 365 days. I am always amazed at what has transpired and it gives me hope and clarity on the road ahead. God’s hand is ever visible in the divine unveiling of my full and busy life. A toast to 2013, to the lessons learned in retrospect, the treasure found in the little pieces, the joy that springs out of a heart touched by God’s grace and goodness and the peace that settles into a soul when it relinquishes its grip on the steering wheel of life.
The discussion questions this week in Sunday School was “How have you seen Jesus this year?” I seriously have to say “Is there a moment when I did not see Jesus this year?” Its been a year that was overflowing with geographical journeys; academic accomplishments; transforming life experiences; sitting in the discipline chair; mental wrestling; undeniably God’s hand of mercy and grace. Such fanciful blessings wrapped in the daily possibilities of the presence of God’s light. It is humanly impossible to examine the happenings of just this one year and deny God’s handiwork.
This year we took road trips! Brandy’s Medical Mission Trip with OBU Nursing to Oaxaca, Mexico providing basic medical procedures, dental hygiene and sharing the gospel; Amanda discovered the rich landscapes of Costa Rica and deepened her knowledge about God’s creation through its inhabitants; Susanne’s Mission Trip to San Salvador, El Salvador to teach and share about the Single Mom’s Ministry and other women’s ministries….Single Mom’s ministry is underway now and 30% of their church congregation is made up of single mothers; My niece Ashley’s summer Go Mission to Oregon where she walked the streets for 2 months sharing the gospel, inviting people to church, starting apartment churches, praying with people and planting seeds; Amanda’s Let Start Talking Mission Trip to Ukraine teaching English using the scriptures, sharing with about 40-50 readers God’s word; Susanne’s Empty Nester Vacay to Juneau and Sitka, Alaska with an old friend who is seeking to break down the walls built by man made, legalistic religion and find Christ; My sister in law Michelle’s AIM mission trip to India to share Christ with children and provide much needed medical and school supplies; My brother Stephen’s mission trip to Africa where he joined our brother Greg and the Providers for Christ team on Greg’s ranch, harvesting 4900 lbs. of meat to feed the children of the orphanages for 6 months, provide much needed protein for their undernourished bodies and to share the love of Jesus. Rough Cost of all of these trips was $17,200. God provided every dime in totally miraculous ways including through many of you. Thank you. Irrefutable evidence of God’s will, direction and plan for my family.
Some of you might not know this but this is flat CRAZY AMAZING for this group of transformed sinners!
Brandy graduated 2nd in her nursing class, Suma Cum Laude at Oklahoma Baptist University in May. She is now officially a Registered Nurse, BSN at Huguley Hospital in Burleson and is making the salary it took her mother 27 years in insurance to make! Amanda finished her freshman year and made the President’s honor roll and Dean’s honor roll at OBU. She also passed her first semester of the infamous Western Civilization 6 hour required sophomore course and sits in anticipation of the 2nd half. If that was not enough academic pressure she declared a 2nd major, officially now Biblical Languages and Anthropology. As for myself, I walked the stage in August with my Masters in Management and graciously received an extension of my scholarship to the PhD in Leadership Studies at DBU. I have spent the last few months of the year going through the application process for the PhD and for a career change to teaching. I finally landed my first interview and I am waiting hopeful and blessed. Excited to ring in the first Saturday of 2014 celebrating my sister in law Michelle’s graduation with her Bachelor of Science in Psychology Degree!
Just all of that alone is enough to declare God’s goodness and obvious presence.
However, even in all these truly miraculous events, life hits us square in the jaw and we falter. With fluctuating commissions, overspending and increased expenses, car problems, health issues, extended family difficulties and the lives of the many I minister too and their worries, it would be easy to cry defeat and reach out for the things that are tangible to temporarily fix, run, disguise, exchange or settle for less than God’s plan. In fact I found myself in this state a few weeks ago, wondering what might have been, what if, if only, if only, if only. You know that crossroad when the years of change starts to unravel, the outer strands begin to fray and you find yourself spinning downward, almost like you are falling and fighting for a grip on something powerful enough to pull you back up! Its disheartening doubt, the devil in sheep’s clothing, the nagging phrases we hear in our head that we are not good enough, or strong enough, or pretty enough or skinny enough, or have enough money etc. etc. etc. I tire of getting back up and trying again, or repeating the same thing over…hoping. The outer strands tether, but, the 3rd strand cannot be broken and I find myself swinging on the unbendable vine of Christ, holding me to Him with His gentle strength.
Perhaps you feel the same at times, or maybe you find yourself falling dangerously near the edge. For some it might be alcohol or drugs, food, sexual immorality, and for many its utter loneliness, desire for people, places and things, emotional security, an insatiable need to be loved and to love. Life can be so hard, how do we make sense of it all?
We examine life in retrospect, we reflect on the good moments of 2013 and the transformation of the bad moments for good in 2014. So much good, so many blessings, tremendous grace. This year I have suffered in my body, heart and soul. I have been hurt, broken and knocked flat by the unexpected. I have lost people I loved and customers I cherished. I have relinquished control of situations to allow God to work. I have messed up, opened up, shut up, prayed up, kneeled down and raised up relationships. I have found incredible joy and elation of heart in sharing and daring to dream of God’s possible in my impossible. Yes, Jesus.
How have I seen Jesus? My mother has talked more about God this year than my entire life. My boss prays in our weekly meetings. My brothers talk about God’s goodness. We received incredible gifts from God in education and in providing a free Cadillac to an old princess who never thought she would have one. He sent my family out in His name! We celebrated Christmas for the first time with friends who have never celebrated Christmas. I have seen someone fellowshipping with people for the first time after years of being isolated and alone. Jesus is easy to see if you look.
Christ brings hope to one coming dangerously close to the end. He changes you from the inside out. He becomes the reflection in your mirror of years past, leaving His fairy dust of hope to sparkle and magically bring to life the man in the worn out mirror. Mirror, mirror on the wall whose the fairest of them all, “Jesus”. Do you see Him? Can you feel His presence? Life is not complete until you do.
I am sitting in my old beat up, but, comfortable chair, treasuring a few moments alone with God, my Bible and words. Although I am supposed to be ringing in the New Year with friends whom I absolutely love and hold dear, the opportunity before me to ponder and reflect seemed right as rain. As 2013 closes I can hear fireworks blasting outside, the buzzing of my water dispenser which relaxes me, the flicker of the candlelight in my dim living room glowing on the Christmas tree and I feel cherished by a loving, tender, trustworthy, faithful Savior.
Give praise to the Lord for 2013. Proclaim His name in each page of the 365 page autobiography of you. Make known among the nations what He has done for you this year. Sing praises to Him and tell of the wonderful acts you have encountered. Give God the glory for what has transpired this year. Rejoice in His name and in His strength, relinquish control and seek His face, His ways. I promise you have seen miracles that are undeniably God, look closely in the reflections of 2013. Remember, God’s mercies are new every morning and soon a new day will start to dawn. Resolve to be better, to give more, to love outward and upward and to live on your knees with God’s grace and mercy. Determine to change the things you do not like about you. Expect the unexpected gifts of God, and give the unexpected gift of love to others. Pay God forward.
Nothing says I love you more than God himself, for He is love!
So as 2014 dawns I have new resolutions and dreams. God knows the desires of my heart. He knows I want to teach, to love another, to seek health and goodness, to pay off debt, to share His name, to find peace in hard places and live my life in the palm of His hand. He knows the hopes and dreams I have for my children, my family and my friends. He knows how deeply I love others and how vulnerable is my heart. He also knows what is for my good and His glory and when waiting or declining my desire will bless me far more than granting them now.
Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014. It is going to be another surprising adventure and fulfilling journey, Give praise to the Lord!