Archives For encouragement

2012reflections-shadowIt’s time to wrap up another calendar year and turn the page to a new one.

Our nation and our world have faced a plethora of challenges this year — many of them serious and challenging. While all the TV news programs have found a way to highlight the stories that mattered most, chances are that their stories were not the ones that most impacted your life.

Maybe you said goodbye to a loved one — through death or divorce.

Maybe you sent your first, last, or only child off to college or into the work force.

Maybe you lost a job — and/or took a new one.

Maybe you welcomed a new baby into the family.

Maybe you participated in a mission project — in your community or half-way around the world.

You probably did a lot of things that will never be mentioned in a ‘year in review’ report. But these things were meaningful to you because they were personal.

Tennyson wrote, “I am part of all that I have met.” We’d be hard-pressed to find a statement that rings more true. It’s true of the good things, the bad things, the ugly things. Whether we like it or not, everything we personally experience shapes us, our attitudes, and our perspective on life.

As we head full speed into a brand new year, I hope you’ll take time to reflect on the year that was. So often we fail to adequately process the events of this life. Instead we bounce like a pinball from one experience to another, taking no care to really think about how those experiences change us.

It has been said that pictures are worth a thousand words. Whether those are actual photos or mental images, I encourage you to take time to think through your pictures from the year that was.

Laugh.

Cry.

Meditate.

Grieve.

Give thanks.

Pray.

However you do it, acknowledge the impact of 2012, complete with its triumphs and its tragedies. Realize that there is absolutely nothing you can do to change what is past.

As a kid growing up, my parents had a plaque on the living room wall. Its message sticks with me even today:

Look to this day. Yesterday is a dream; tomorrow is a vision.

Jesus Himself took care to remind us that we can’t control everything. The older I get, the more I understand exactly how little I do control. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always found comfort in these words from Matthew 6:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. – Matthew 6:25-30, ESV

As we close the door on 2012, let’s look to the new year with anticipation of what God will teach us in the next 12 months. Give Him your fears, your doubts, your hurts, habits, and hang-ups. Know that He is absolutely trustworthy. You can depend on Him. He is never surprised and never uncaring. He is faithful, forgiving, and fully involved in the events of this life.

I’ll leave you today with an Irish blessing that is my prayer for you in the year that awaits:

May the friendships you make,
Be those which endure,
And all of your grey clouds
Be small ones for sure.
And trusting in Him
To Whom we all pray,
May a song fill your heart,
Every step of the way.

IT’S YOUR TURN!
What did God teach you in 2012?

Courtesy of Peter Liu Photography

Tomorrow is Memorial Day.

In spite of its seemingly self-explanatory name, this holiday is frequently confused with Veterans Day. While it is completely appropriate to honor all who have served or who are currently serving in our armed forces, Memorial Day is special in that it is set aside to remember the thousands of men and women who have died fighting for our freedom. The history of the holiday dates back to the Civil War, when women and children from both the North and the South decorated the graves of fallen soldiers and commemorated the loss of life.

Though not sanctioned as an official federal holiday until 1967, Memorial Day has evolved into a day that marks the beginning of summer. As such, the purpose of the holiday has unfortunately been overshadowed by backyard barbecues and family get-aways.

President Ronald Reagan once said,

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

This Memorial Day I encourage you to set aside some time to truly reflect on the ultimate sacrifice that has been made by more than a million men and women. Here are four ideas to point you in the right direction:

1. Pray for the families of fallen soldiers. These families have also suffered great loss, and such loss merits an acknowledgement. You might even make a phone call or write a note of gratitude to one such family.

2. Watch a YouTube video about Memorial Day. There are a number of well-done videos, slideshows, and short documentaries that are easily searchable on the web.

3. Attend a parade or special commemoration service. There is usually at least one such event planned in almost every community.

4. Fly the American flag. It seems like such a simple thing, but I’m always moved by the many American flags that show up in various places on Memorial Day weekend.

Whatever we do, we must never forget the sacrifice of our brave men and women.

IT’S YOUR TURN!
How will you observe Memorial Day?