The impossible

I started 2017 off with the best of intentions and by that I mean I attempted to implement a new Bible reading plan, a new Scripture memory plan, and a new plan to journal.

Please, please, don’t ask me how any of those plans are going currently. Let’s just say there’s grace, much grace, for those of us with the best of intentions and the worst of follow through.

Just keepin’ it real.

Anyway, so in order to effect my newfound determination to journal more regularly (yeah, I know), I began to write out my thoughts regarding these ten questions for the new year. Self evaluation is always good, and biblical too. We are to examine ourselves and to ask the Lord to search us and expose any grievous way in us. What better use of my journaling endeavor? And, hey, automatic fodder for writing so win-win.

Question 2 asks, “What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?”

I have to confess: my first thoughts skewed toward the more personal, wildest dreams kind of answers. The sorts of things that are, if I am honest, more improbable than impossible, and certainly more about me, my comfort, my ambition, my happiness.

But as I pondered a little more and scribbled a little longer, I had to ask myself: what sorts of things are humanly impossible? What is it that only God can do and what among those things will I dare to persist in prayer for?

Among the list of humanly impossible things I came up with: The saving of souls. The spread of gospel zeal across churches and communities and around the world. Partnership and community that spans socioeconomic, ethnic, and racial divides. Babies no longer aborted but wanted and welcomed and loved.

We cannot effect any of these apart from the power and providence of God.

I grew ashamed of how little I ask for these impossible things.

When I ask for what only He can do, I am asking to see His power, to see His kingdom accomplished on earth as it is in heaven, ultimately to see His glory. The smallness of my prayers–confined only to my world, my life, my concerns, my wants–reflect the smallness of my faith. When I am only asking for my own comfort and the granting of my deepest desires, it is no wonder I find prayer difficult to the point of nonexistence.

What humanly impossible thing will I ask God for? What will you? Let us pray big and bold prayers, prayers that stretch beyond the reach of the probable into the realm of the impossible, prayers that dare to believe that God can and will answer according to His providence and His wisdom. Let us believe that the humanly impossible can be made possible by the working of the will of our good and gracious God. May we see His kingdom advance in power to save, to inflame, and to transform, and may we rejoice with the humble wonder of knowing we asked Him for it.

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New mercies on January 3 and every day

So it’s 2017. I’ve spent the majority of this new year either sleeping or blowing my nose. Nope, no somber contemplation of the year past, no careful goal setting or one word choosing. No organizational plans undertaken nor health and fitness changes implemented. Instead, the dawn of this new year is marked by a wad of tissues, regular doses of meds, and the occasional death-wish. The worst of it? I’m three days behind in my read the Bible in a year plan. Already.

Though our family had much to celebrate, not the least of which being the joys of a wedding and two graduations, 2016 was an interesting year, am I right? I am glad to put it behind us, if for no other reasons than acute disgust in the political process and profound disappointment in certain so-called evangelical leaders, you know, just keepin’ it real. Politics aside, 2016 was a sad year and not just nationally and globally. I grieved with more than one friend enduring profound and heart-wrenching loss. One of my friends who recently suffered the loss of a loved one told me she was ready for 2017 if just to know that this year of heartache was over.

Of course there is nothing inherently magical about January 1 as opposed to December 31 and my friend admitted as much. However, we tend to see the newly numbered year as representing something deeper–our collective desire for a fresh start, a new beginning, the old gone, the new come, and the chance to become someone different, better, happier, and yes, often more organized and skinnier. We make plans and dream dreams and formulate resolutions all because we are hopeful that something better awaits.

I have often said that New Years is my favorite holiday, not counting of course my current sickbed status. I claim it as a favorite because it is a day free of obligations and materialism, no gifts to buy, no decor to wrestle, no pomp and circumstance to observe, but rather a day of football and rest and general relaxation, a welcome sigh after the craziness of Christmas.

But I also love New Years because of that very desire for a fresh start and new beginning. It is a holiday marked by hope and I am hopeful, not in any resolution I may make nor goal I undertake because, hello, I know come February or even sooner, I will have failed. No, my hope lies in the One who makes all things new, Jesus Christ who offers fresh starts and new mercies and lavish grace not just on January 1 but also on January 3 with its wad of tissues and on days of grief and days of frustration and days of happiness and days of exhilaration and all the ordinary, boring days in between. All that New Years promises us–redemption and renewal and hope and the promise of something better–Jesus gives us in Himself.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.” -Lam. 3:21-24

New Year’s 2016

Y’all. Tomorrow, it will be 2016. Can you believe it? Not too long ago, I was rummaging through some past posts here at the blog and I ran across a post from New Year’s 2010 in which I expressed my very great surprise at that particular turn of events. And here it is suddenly six years later. How do these things happen?

I love New Year’s. I think maybe it’s my favorite holiday and not for the reasons you might expect. We don’t get all dressed up and go to fancy parties. In fact we don’t really party at all. I don’t do resolutions and the attempt to reinvent and reorganize and remake myself isn’t what I find appealing.

No, I love New Year’s because it’s a holiday free of expectations and obligations. I have nowhere I have to be, nothing I have to cook or buy, no plans I need to make. It is usually a day spent with the family sprawled out on the sofa watching a lot of football. Just the way I like it.

I love New Year’s because it comes at the end of the deep exhale that is the week after Christmas. After the frantic pace of hurrying and scurrying through Thanksgiving and Christmas, New Year’s comes as a pause, a sweet respite, a chance to finally be still and to rest.

And when I said I don’t do resolutions, I didn’t mean I don’t take the opportunity these slower days afford to reevaluate the old and to ponder the new. The transition from December 31 to January 1 is, really, a day like any other. There is nothing inherently magical about one day over the other. But I cannot escape the weighty reminder of the old being past, the new having come, forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead.

2015 was a good year for us. So many big, wonderful life changes. A new home. A new church building. An engagement and the promise of a wedding this coming summer. So many blessings, both large and small, too numerous to count, all gifts purely of grace from the hand of a good God. And had none of these things been ours, He would still be the good God who gives good gifts. As I reflect on the old, I am grateful.

2015 has its regrets too. Much to confess and to grieve and to repent. As I turn the page to 2016 tomorrow I will know that I cannot resolve myself better. My only hope is Christ and His righteousness that is mine because of His life and death. I am nothing without His grace.

So I love New Year’s. I love the reflection it prompts and I love its slow and easy celebration. Though I will be missing my husband and two sons who are on the other side of the world sharing the hope of the gospel, tomorrow, New Year’s 2016, as crazy as that is, will be a good day. Not only that, but I have great hope that 2016 will be a good year. I pray that you and I both will see the Lord’s faithfulness in ways yet unimagined and that we will grow in the grace and knowledge of Him who loves us so. Yes and amen.

Happy 2014

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!
The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us;
let all the ends of the earth fear him!

~Psalm 67

Happy New Year, friends! May the Lord’s grace and saving power be yours in abundance in 2014! Let all the people praise God, our God, yes and amen!

Sunday Prayer: New Year

From Valley of Vision

O LORD,
Length of days does not profit me
except the days are passed in thy presence,
in thy service to thy glory.

Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides,
sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour,

that I may not be one moment apart from thee,
but may rely on thy Spirit to supply every thought,
speak in every word,
direct every step,
prosper every work,
build up every mote of faith,

and give me a desire to show forth thy praise;
testify thy love,
advance thy kingdom.

I launch my bark on the unknown waters on this year,
with thee, O Father, as my harbor,
thee, O Son, at my helm,
thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.

Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,
my lamp burning,
my ear open to thy calls,
my heart full of love,
my soul free.

Give me thy grace to sanctify me,
thy comforts to cheer,
thy wisdom to teach,
thy right hand to guide,
thy counsel to instruct,
thy law to judge,
thy presence to stabilize.

May thy fear be my awe,
thy triumphs my joy.

How deep the Father’s love

It is the first Sunday of January, the first Lord’s Day of the new year, our second anniversary of chartering together as a church. I could, and perhaps will, given the time and inclination, write about both of those things, the new year as well as the Lord’s faithfulness to us as a church. Today, however, I want to share the words to one of the hymns we sang this morning. “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” seems appropriate as I ponder the close of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, as well as our journey together as a church just two years’ old. It’s the gospel that reminds me of the depth of the Father’s love, it’s the gospel that moves me to gratitude for His gracious blessings, it’s the gospel that compels me to desire to serve Him with greater boldness and passion, it’s the gospel binds my heart with those of my sisters and brothers. How deep is the Father’s love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died; glory to His name!

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He would give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross
My guilt upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no powr’s, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

©1995 Kingsway’s Thankyou Music
Words and Music by Stuart Townend