It is January 1, 2019. Happy New Year!! Also, the eighth day of Christmas.
43 days until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training.
“The penalty for laughing in a courtroom is six months in jail; if it were not for this penalty, the jury would never hear the evidence.”
H.L. Mencken, U.S. editor, 1880-1956
The Quotations Page
The word of the day is auspicate. It means, “to initiate with ceremonies calculated to ensure good luck; inaugurate.” (Dictionary.com)
So today, we auspicate a new year. Or, last night, I suppose. I was up for it. S was up for it. C was not up for it. 🙂 S and I watched the last few minutes of 2018 fade into the foggy distance. We also watched the local NBC affiliate, channel 5, running their countdown approximately twenty seconds behind. Perhaps there was simply a slight delay in their broadcast feed. Both S and I observed that our clocks were turning over minutes right at twenty seconds before the TV was changing.
Then, at midnight (or twenty seconds after), Reunion Tower exploded (not literally) with, allegedly, fifteen THOUSAND pounds of fireworks! It was pretty incredible.
So it’s 2019, now.
In many ways, today, January 1, is just another day. It doesn’t feel any different from yesterday, other than the fact that we are at home, not at work. Feels like Saturday, actually. I’m not a huge fans of mid-week holidays. It makes for an awkward work week. But, as “they” say, “It is what it is.” But what if it isn’t??
I don’t make New Years’ Resolutions. So don’t expect any of that from me. However, I have aspirations, goals, if you will. Not really measurable, mind you. I would like to be healthier, this year. Part of that is measurable in the form of pounds, but that’s the only part, really. I would like to drastically improve my spiritual walk with God in Christ. I plan to get more serious about working the spiritual disciplines in my life, which is going to require me to get off butt and find a place/time to practice solitude on a regular basis. I also plan to work on the discipline of silence, which can be practiced anywhere. It does go hand in hand with solitude, but can also be practiced at work and elsewhere. Those are the two biggest ones I need to work on, but I’ll be working on improving the prayer, life, as well, along with my worship, which, even though I play/sing in the worship band at church, could use some improvement.
We don’t have much in the way of plans for today. We’re going to cook steaks for lunch, and I’ll probably drive over to Sonic at some point for some drinks. Otherwise, it will simply be a day of relaxing.
My devotional books, at least to start the year will be as follows:
Daily Guideposts 2018, 364 readings by the usual assortment of Guideposts writers. This year’s theme is In the Shadow of Your Wings.
Faith That Matters, 365 devotions from classic Christian leaders, including Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen, Frederick Buechner, A.W. Tozer, N.T. Wright, James Bryan Smith, Eugene Peterson, and Brennan Manning (I’ll have to work in that reading for February 29, I guess)
Every Step An Arrival, a 90-day devotional for exploring God’s Word, by Eugene Peterson. So, after the end of March, I will take on another short devotional book to replace that.
I’m also going to begin reading Conversations: The Message Bible with its Translator. I’m anticipating that it will take me longer than a year, but we will see.
I also need a verse for the year. For the last couple of years, I have used the verse on the bookmark that accompanies my Daily Guideposts book. I believe this year, I will also do that. It is Psalm 91:4. “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.” Pinions are, essentially, feathers.
Finally, of course, my “life verse,” which will never change. God drew me to this verse decades ago. Psalm 86:11, “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.”
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted
All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you!
Today I am grateful:
1. For new beginnings. Even though this day is just another day, we tend to look at New Year’s Day as a time to begin again, to reflect on what has been, and to look forward to what will be.
2. Again, for my wife. I am more blessed than words can express. Yesterday, while off work, she hung two light fixtures in the house. She just can’t stand sitting around, doing nothing for too long.
3. For the anticipated blessings of a new year. There will be challenges, no doubt. And we will pray that we can meet those challenges head-on with faith and confidence in God’s hand.
4. For a day off, savoring this one, because, outside of PTO, it is the last one until Memorial Day. I’d really like to have a serious talk with whoever planned out the year that way.
5. For the overwhelming steadfast love of God.
O God, the King eternal,
whose light divides the day from the night
and turns the shadow of death into the morning:
Drive far from us all wrong desires,
incline our hearts to keep your law,
and guide our feet into the way of peace;
that, having done your will with cheerfulness during the day,
we may, when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer, A Collect for the Renewal of Life)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
(From Faith That Matters)
The Spiritual Work of Gratitude, by Henri Nouwen
And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
It is easy to be grateful for the good things in life. I come up with five things every morning. And, as noted, they are, at least so far, always “good” things. But, says Nouwen, “to be grateful for all of our lives–the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections–that requires hard spiritual work.”
There it is. “Hard spiritual work.”
All too often, that frightens us, that thought of “hard spiritual work.” Somewhere along the way, we have been fed a false bill of goods that this “Christian” life is supposed to be easy. Sure, Jesus calls us into his “easy yoke.” But that’s HIS yoke that is easy! And the reason His yoke is easy is that He is God! When we walk alongside Him in that “easy yoke,” He is doing the bulk of the work. But He is not doing all of the work, and that’s where a lot of us get off track.
One preacher I know used to say (maybe he still does), “The Christian life isn’t hard; it’s impossible.” If that is taken out of context, one’s reaction might be, “Well, then, why even try.” But the point is that I can’t do it. Not by myself. The “hard spiritual work” must be done in the context of walking in the yoke of Christ, alongside Him, allowing Him to take on the hardest part of the work. But I still have to work; I still have to do it.
I alluded, earlier, to the Spiritual Disciplines. Well, I alluded to a few of them. There are more. These disciplines are the “hard spiritual work” that I must do in order to be, as Nouwen suggests, “grateful for all of” my life.
We are most fully grateful when we can say, without flinching, “thank you” to “all that has brought us to the present moment.” There are things and people that I would just as soon forget. But those things and people, along with the ones I want to remember, have made me who I am today, for better or worse. And if I try to forget those things and people, I “cannot claim the fullness of [my being] as a gift of God to be grateful for.”
“Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.” And what better day to begin that than New Year’s Day?
Can we truly join Job in saying “blessed be the name of the Lord?”
“Lord, cultivate within me a spirit of gratitude for all you’ve given and all you’ve taken away. Blessed be your name, Lord. Amen.”
I know this is already too long, but I feel compelled to share this prayer from The Valley of Vision.
O my God,
Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects,
my heart admires, adores, loves thee,
for my little vessel is as full as it can be,
and I would pour out all that fullness before thee
in ceaseless flow.
When I think upon and converse with thee
ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up,
ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed,
ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart,
crowding into every moment of happiness.
I bless thee for the soul thou hast created,
for adorning it, sanctifying it,
though it is fixed in barren soil;
for the body thou hast given me,
for preserving its strength and vigor,
for providing senses to enjoy delights,
for the ease and freedom of my limbs,
for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;
for thy royal bounty providing my daily support,
for a full table and overflowing cup,
for appetite, taste, sweetness,
for social joys of relatives and friends,
for ability to serve others,
for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities,
for a mind to care for my fellow-men,
for opportunities of spreading happiness around,
for loved ones in the joys of heaven,
for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.
I love the above the powers of language
for what thou art to thy creatures.
Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.
Yes, and amen, Father! May I look back with gratitude to all of the people and events of my life, even those that I would rather forget, and be eternally grateful to You for bringing me to where I am today. Draw me closer, in 2019, closer to Jesus, closer to You.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. Psalm 91:4
Soli Deo Gloria!