CLEF Newsletter - January 2019

“Your lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies… How precious is Your loving-kindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings… For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.” (Psalm 36:5,7,9).

Here we are, poised atop another year and contemplating the future. That’s always a good thing. The precarious vicissitudes of life can hand us either delight or disaster on any day, and the pitfalls and proclivities that can adversely affect us in these times are no minor consideration. Yet we have been brought through another 365 of them. What we have gained, for richer or poorer, also certainly grant a more astute awareness of either what to avoid or pursue as well. There is something indeed both hopeful and refreshing about a new start that breeds a little optimism. Like Scrooge (my favorite Christmas character) who was after all given another chance to live his life for the better of mankind (poor Jacob Marely… “Mankind was my business!”), we have a very similar opportunity before us, to take advantage of this extraordinary gift of life, no matter what capacity we may engage it by. A human being, made in God’s image, has this astounding, creative capability to affect the world and people, and when we take that trust seriously, the meaning of life soars.

Yet how do we capture that awareness and use it in profound and consistent ways? We can start by just being willing to think about it, recognizing the place and position we operate from. What are the resources available to us that are a stewardship for good? More so, what kind of a heart is in us to joyfully do so?

I found a few quotes that helped me appreciate this idea. Brad Paisley says “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” He should write a song about it. British author G.K.Chesterton wrote “Unless a man makes New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man (becomes resolved) about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.” Life doesn’t just happen without being intentional about it. Author and counselor Craig Lounsbrough states “My greatest hope regarding the future rests on the mistakes I’ve made in the past, for those are the most effective things I have to build with.” We learn and profit far more from our failures (if we’re teachable) than we do our successes. Finally Turkish writer Mehmet Murat Ildan wrote “The oldest tree on earth has seen 5,067 New Years; the oldest man living, 122. Can you see how limited the number of New Years you have? And when something is very limited, it is damn precious!” Precious and precarious. The older you become, each year seems only sixty to ninety days, max.

We have before us a fresh start, an opportunity to advance honest gain and growth, deeper wisdom in the choices we make, and with a heightened awareness that time is precious and should be prudently managed. It’s also important to understand in all this that there is no other you. We are a unique creation of God, and have lived a life that has molded and manifested a certain way of thinking and perceiving. Believing our life and times are in God’s hands, we know He has purposefully formed and fashioned our life that it might accomplish great good, regardless of how it may be assessed to this point. No one else does what we do in the style and character we do it. That should inspire us.

Every Christmas season I take time (and hold prisoner whoever is with me) to watch Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” starring George C. Scott. Can’t we all, if we’re honest with ourselves, in some way identify with the miserly Scrooge? There is within us to one degree or another that fallen Scrooge nature which wants to take all, control all, and not be bothered at all; a miserly perspective of life and love. There was no margin in Scrooge’s life for excess, or what in some way did not turn a profit. Constantly at war with odds, indulgence and community, he was “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire, secret and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.” You know the story. Visited by three spirits, he was given a past, present and future perspective of Christmas and its message for life and living as God intended it, and how, as men like he, so spoiled it. His ways of squeezing the world and shutting it out had made him into a stone-cold sepulcher which bred misery for himself and all those around him. He had spurned ignorance and want and was now about to personify its eternal regret. But the spirits also showed him how much good had and could yet be done in his life, and that in spite of dour circumstances, in the spirit of Christmas there could still be found hope and joy, love and blessing, healing, heart, true meaning and solemn purpose. Scrooge’s graphic exposure to life’s agonies and ecstasies and the important role he could yet devote to it changed him. He became “as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man as the good old city knew, and it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well.”- There’s something about the grace of a new day, a New Year, a new beginning that restores the soul and refreshes the spirit. Scrooge changed, and honored Christmas in his heart and happily kept it all the year. So may we all. Happy New Year!

“Depart from evil, and do good, and as such you will abide forever.” (Ps.37:27)