Saturday, December 31, 2011

Review... and a resolution

The end of another calendar year, and time to kick in my annual tradition of review. Today I'll look at the past year for significant changes. For God's work and help.

I wrote lots of entries in my 2011 morning pages. After I finished one journal, I'm partway through another. The snapshots of grace-in-process keep accumulating in blogs. (Yes, a writer writes. Always words, spilling onto page upon pages.)

This morning, I listened to a half hour of scripture, read aloud from Genesis--Jacob through Joseph's brothers selling him into slavery and then devising an elaborate cover story for their dad, and Daniel--Nebuchadnezzar dreaming, falling into insanity, and returning to glorify God. What stories! (What a mess and what beautiful redemption, time and again.)

We may view people in scripture with pity because of their lack of Western technology and manners. But they were like current people: self-aggrandizing, under pressure from family and work, committing sins of deception and unfaithfulness. What messes we create for ourselves, doing wrong and trying to wiggle out of the consequences. How we hurt ourselves and others in the process! Yet, the biblical characters turn again and again to ask deep questions, "Does any of this mean anything? Does life have value and purpose?"

Jesus was funny, a good teacher who drew crowds of people interested in being near him. He healed, blessed, and encouraged, even though he knew the suffering that he would endure, the weight of our killings, the lying, the stealing, the treachery, the tears caused by our adultery and harlotry, the poverty caused by refusing food and help in the name of gods and culture, and our intentions for revenge and harming others. The only people he ridiculed and exposed were those who presented masks of holiness and veneers of rule-keeping. Oh, Jesus ripped into them big-time!

Jesus knew human nature and the awful task ahead. But he kept his perspective on what life is like, sheltering in the presence and unguarded towards God. His life shows abandonment to abundance. Joyous beauty. Peacefulness. Companionship. Exuberant good works. Humour. Cheerful focus on God's goodness.

As I review the year, I want to know, "How have I made a difference to God and those around me? Can God accomplish the purposes He created me for? Can God speak clearly about what pleases him and other things that I need to lay aside to enjoy what he has planned?" Or do I really want to hear what God says?

Am I courageous enough to release my willfulness and expectations completely, come what may? My heart pounds to think of how awful 2012 may be, what challenges, illness, distress, and deaths. What loss of comforts and pleasures may lie ahead?

Wait! Wait! That's not at all how Jesus showed us how to live. He recklessly embarked on a life OPEN to God. "I've come to do the will of my Father," he said. His whole life could have been clouded by humanity's tendency toward darkness and scarcity. Instead, he also opened himself to all the pleasures of being human. He laughed, played with children, traveled in a company of intimate friends and family, and lived life to the full. "I've come to give you life, and that more abundantly," he told his followers.

That's just what we all want! Our heads admit that God's nature is marvelous beyond comprehension. That he loves us and provides all our needs. He shares his infinite resources and blessings with those willing to obey him.

Our hearts feel the shame of how short we fall, how poorly our efforts measure up, and how often we wander away. So we shun God's forgiveness to live in hovels of our own making rather than palaces of grace lit by the Creator's nearness.

What would we ask God on this last day of 2011, if he spoke to us face to face? Are we brave enough to say, "Here we come, all yours! Where you lead, we'll follow, whatever it costs," or "Here we are, send us!" Maybe our lives, amid sorrows and horrors aplenty, would be set on fire with beauty and joy and pleasures beyond human comprehension.

Today, I'm in, pounding heart and all! How about you?

Read more:
Psalm 150 Malachi 1-4; Revelation 21:22-22:21

*Lord, they came to you in their distress. Isaiah 26:16 (NIV)

*Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Moravian Prayer: On this eve of a new time and new day, we pray, giving Father, that you guide us as in ages past. Feed us with your word, calm our fears, and simply hold us close. Following your example, may we never cease to kneel at the feet of our friends. Amen.

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