Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Just for You
From Carolyn
2019: A Sure Thing

Dear Friends, Beloved of God,

It’s a fact. I really like calendars. I have a flat one for my desk on which I make notes to help me know where I am supposed to be, today or on future days. I select my wall calendars to bring me cheer through their lovely pictures and readable numbers. 

One morning last month I looked across the room from my comfortable study chair to my calendar, enjoying the drawing and noticing the bold numbers for that day in January. I noticed it was Thursday, January 11. Oh my! Our oldest granddaughter’s birthday was January 10. I quickly started an email to Melanie to tell her I was sorry we were a day late but how much we loved and valued her. In the middle of my writing I thought, “Now wait a minute. Just yesterday I know that I made a business transaction that was on the 9th of January. What is going on? This calendar must be defective.”

I hopped up, got the calendar down and sure enough I had ordered a calendar with beautiful pictures representing the seasons of each month. Yes, the January picture was appealing. Yes, it was the second Thursday of that month. Yes, the date was January 11. But no, the calendar was not defective. 
I had ordered a 2018 calendar!  My experience challenged me to pay more attention to details when I order calendars. For sure! And provided us with a good laugh. 

However this experience was also a good reminder that 2019 won’t be the same as 2018. There will be many changes for all of us this year, some exciting and delightful, some not so much.  While we don’t want to be stuck in a re-run of the movie Groundhog Day, if we have lived long enough we know that we will probably be called on to lay aside some familiarities we would rather keep. These changes could include things like health changes, unexpected family challenges, financial reversals, relationships that go south or the loss of a dear one, the loss of an opportunity, or the loss of trust in oneself or in others. The change could be the loss of a dream.

Change, even a good change can leave me wobbly at times. A bit off-kilter with a small change, but struck down for a while as I assimilate a huge change. Especially an unwanted change which I did not see coming. Or a change I could not hold back even if I saw it approaching. 

Paul had such times and he was truthful enough to tell us. Here is how he puts it—We have this treasure in earthen vessels...we are afflicted in everyway but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:7-10).  

Here’s the truth. We live in a precarious world, one that is fallen, and at times life leaves us shaky, or even down…but not out. There are things that perplex us but we don’t have to stay forever stuck in despair.  At times we are persecuted by others, misunderstood or misrepresented, ignored or being shot at with words or “sticks and stones.”  And it’s a certainly that we will be attacked by the Enemy of our souls. We may be struck down but we don’t have to be destroyed.

“No one is made out of super dust!” Earthen vessels sometimes wobble. There will be tears. There will be fears. Often it takes time to regain our equilibrium, our sure footing. Paul testifies to this truth, as do I.

As I was thinking of this new year and the fact that changes will come, I realized I want stability, a sure thing that will not change in fair or foul weather, or in the knowns or the unknowns. I want an entity rock-solid and immovable. Something bigger than myself or bigger than the “look on the bright side” platitudes that can fade in the blink of an eye. And then I remembered that I have this sure thing. 
Jeremiah was speaking to a world in ruins. A people in a world of hurt. Much had gone wrong, and much of their own making. Lamentations 3:21-23 recounts part of what Jeremiah says to the people in their shaken, wobbly, hurting lives. His words are for me. His words are for you. 
This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.
The LORD’s steadfast love never fails,
For His mercies never cease;
They are new every morning.
Great is Thy faithfulness.

Ahhh! Hope. What a bracing word. This year I plan to intentionally focus on the steadfast love of God exhibited by His great faithfulness. He is the One who holds me fast, and can anchor me in hope that does not disappoint. Even in the wobbly times, even in times of tears or fears. Even in 2019.
The first thing I can do is what Jeremiah does: “Recall to mind,” that is, I can remember the fact of God’s core characteristic—His steadfast love. He is so very full of compassion and morning mercies. I can offer thanks to Him for these qualities. I can remember His love that motivates His faithfulness. I can ask Him to bring this to mind when I forget. “Help” is one of my ongoing prayers.

Next, I want to remember the ways in which He has been faithful to me and mine in the past. Sometimes it helps me to record these as “memorial stones.” Times when He has seen me through a dark valley, or delivered me from myself or from a difficult situation. Part of His love is demonstrated by His faithfulness in providing green pastures of rest; part of His love is demonstrated by His faithfulness to walk with me through every dark valley I will encounter. Sometimes my forgetter is better than my rememberer! He can help with that malady and wants to. He knows our frame and He remembers we are but dust. Our Father delights when we come to Him for help, for rescue, for provision.

Third, I have the opportunity to ask His other children to listen to my heart and to pray with me and for me. That’s called loving one another.
As I consider His faithfulness, which is the backbone of His steadfast love, these are a few evidences of His faithfulness that can give me hope:

Nothing can separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus!—Romans 8:35–38.
(This includes situations like those listed in this passage: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword.)

He is faithful to forgive my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness.—1 Corinthians 10:13 
(Morning mercies, just what the folks in Lamentations needed. Just what I need! I am refreshed as I come to Him with a repentant heart and stand in the powerful overflow of His mercy.)

If I am unfaithful, He remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself.—2 Timothy 2:13.

I am with you all the days, even to the end of the age!—Matthew: 28-20. (He will never, no not ever, leave me or forsake me.)

In all of this two question might come to mind. How do I know He has this steadfast love for me? “Greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his friend”(John 15:13). And then again in Romans 8 Paul argues, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, will He not also give us all things?” Not all things that we want, but all things we need.

A second question one might have is “How could this thing I am facing be a product of God’s love?”  This is where I have to put my “mystery box” to use, honestly bring my questions to God and leave them there. “His ways are higher than my ways!” And if in such circumstances I find in myself faltering faith, I can bring my confused heart to the One who calls me Beloved and speak, cry or sigh the truth“Lord, I sure don’t get this and how it meshes with Your steadfast love but, ‘Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief’ ” (Mark 9:24).

Two couples we know have had many months of upheaval in their lives. Both love God and have faithfully served Him for many years. Now their lives have been interrupted and the future is cloudy. Family members have also been affected and plans and ministry dreams have been dashed. The shock of hurtful reactions on the part of some has been disheartening at times, for at least one couple. Government forces have superseded their desires in each case. I can only imagine there have been fears and tears.  Many have stood with them, praying and encouraging. However, even with all the help and good will from others, each couple had to make a choice about where to look and on what to depend. Each couple had to find a sure thing greater than the changes that have been thrust upon them. 

Each couple has chosen a watchword, one that expresses their path forward in unsettled times. Here are the watchwords for each couple, their sure thing chosen by Couple 1 and then Couple 2. 

1. “Eyes on Jesus”
2. “Settled in His goodness.”

I think these words are exceptional. They help stabilize my faith. I have had a front-row seat to see some of the difficulties my friends have walked through. I see His faithfulness to each couple as they navigate uncertain times, remembering Him, each in a unique way.

Great is Your faithfulness” is one of my watchwords I will focus on this next year. My sure thing.
When I remember this I have hope! Even in all the changes that will come to us and to our friends. Hope anchored to reality brings stability. It’s a sure thing.
I would welcome your “watchword” for the year, if you care to share it with me.

In closing, permit me to restate a couple of things:

1. No one is made out of super-dust. Period.
2. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD’s steadfast love never fails, for His mercies never cease; they are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness.

With love and hope because of His faithfulness—to me and to you,

Carolyn Roper

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