Wringing out the Old Year

I went to bed before midnight on New Year’s Eve. I’m not into ringing in the New Year.

Lately, though, I “wring out” the old year. (No, I’m not alluding to the unusually wet year we’ve had here in Northern Virginia.)  I don’t evaluate the year as it ends and set perfectionistic goals for improvement. Been there, done that. No more.

Having a word or a scripture verse for the year–or both–is popular now. A writer could get behind that, right? Not when her internal editor transforms one word into three and insists on alliteration to boot. Imposing a verse on myself at the beginning of the year feels too much like a resolution and smacks of legalism.

Over the last three years, though, a wonderful verse has burst onto the scene of my life midway through the year. The concept would pop up in Bible study and in my quiet time, and then again in a book I was reading. What was the Holy Spirit up to?

With His help, the verse and theme of the year took hold of me in the spring or summer and ushered me straight into the New Year.  Whether  “official” or not, they were inescapable. God was working in this area of my life, and He was encouraging me to cooperate with Him so that I could grow in grace and in the knowledge of Him.

So, I am wringing the good stuff out of 2018.

Last year in Bible Study Fellowship we studied Romans. It’s a complex book, but I’d studied it before. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across this glittering treasure in chapter 6:

We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. (Romans 6:6-7, New Living Translation, emphasis mine)

Wow! As a believer in Christ, sin has lost its power in my life! I don’t have to do what sin tells me to do. Revolutionary.

When Satan says, “You might as well give in. I won’t leave you alone until you do, but then I won’t bother you anymore,” he is lying. I don’t have to give in. Hallelujah! What freedom!

I can’t escape freedom. Sometimes God reminds me I’m free so I can simply enjoy my status, and sometimes He allows me to practice declaring my freedom by choosing to obey Him. There’s a clear purpose to my freedom, as it says in Galatians:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 NIV)

We are set free with the intention that we stay free. What grace! How can we not grow in it?

What word and/or verse have you wrung out of 2018? How do you ring in your New Year?

Happy New Year from Pam, Angie the dog, and Mindy the cat!

 

 

The Praying Dog Walker

Is it wrong to enjoy praying?

No.

No, it’s not wrong, but that doesn’t mean I always do.

Growing up, we prayed in King James English and said a memorized grace at meals. (I confess I resorted to that memorized grace a lot as an adult, too.)

In college, there were group prayers where I spent most of the time thinking up what I was planning to say and trying to sound spiritual.

During much of my adulthood, I enjoyed journaling and those journals often morphed into real prayers. Praying in the car on the way to school worked for me then, too.

But I’ll confess to years at a time that were close to prayerless.

In His grace, God didn’t let me stay that way. Eventually, I had to pray.

Fast forward a few years to the present.

I still struggle. I love the idea of praying continually, but do I have to wade through an checklist-2077022_640interminable list and feel guilty if I leave someone out? What do I do with the “are we done yet?” in the back of mind, or the thoughts about my grocery list?

 

 

Visuals help. I “pray around the country” for family members and unsaved friends, going in different directions for variety’s sake and zooming off to a foreign country on a tangent, then back again.

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I pray when I walk Angie the dog or when I’m driving. I’ve given myself permission not to finish in one sitting.

I’ve tried a schedule with a different focus on each day, but I always feel like I’m leaving someone out. Scratch that.

A couple of weeks ago, as part of our Wednesday night study on spiritual warfare, our pastor, Josh Daffern, discussed “Praying on Purpose.”  One of the strategies he described was to pray a word for someone, letter by letter–a sort of mnemonic device. (Hang in there. ACTS never worked for me, either.) His first word was PURPOSE. You can check out the recording of the study to hear how he used it, along with a great story.  I guess this process is somewhat addictive–in a good way–because Josh went on to generate several more words!

I got hooked, too. I couldn’t stop thinking of words. At last, a different focus for people and situations–something to make my routine, often burdensome list fresh and exciting. When a word popped into my head, a prayer was born, letter by letter. It was easy to tuck a quick but meaningful prayer into a stray moment.

Here’s how I used LEADERS to pray for our nation’s leaders.  You might come up with something different:

L-Pray that they will LEAN on God’s wisdom and strength.

E-Pray that they will lead with EXCELLENCE.

A-Pray that they will be ABLE leaders.

D-Pray that they will be DEDICATED to serving God and their constituents.

E-Pray that they will have ENCOURAGERS in their lives.

R-Pray that they will LIVE RIGHT. (Thanks, Pastor Josh, for R.)

S-Pray that they will be SAVED.

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What can you do with THANKS? (See my answers below.)

Before you grab a notebook and pen and go crazy, let me tell you why this has been such a liberating strategy for me:

  • Since I live in a world of words, this process automatically puts me in “pray continually” mode.
  • As I use little bits of time throughout the day to pray, I connect more often with God.
  • I avoid meaningless repetition because I can change the mnemonic when things get stale. I don’t dread a particular category on my list.
  • When I forget what a letter stands for, I’m prompted to think of a different meaning–hence, more variety.
  • If you pray in a group, with a spouse, or with your children, generating words to pray would be an engaging activity. You could even use a person’s name as a springboard for prayer.

No, my prayers haven’t become one giant acrostic, but this strategy has answered a need in my life. I hope you’ll try it, too.

It’s okay to enjoy prayer.

Let me know how it works for you!

Here’s what I did with THANKS:

T-TANGIBLE blessings; H-HEAVENLY blessings; A-ADVANTAGES; N-NATURE and creation;

K-KINSHIP with Jesus; S-SALVATION.

 

 

Pity Party

New teacher Holly Bush of The Jesus Car might have appreciated this poem, which I wrote in 1991 and revised recently.

PITY PARTY

What a day I’ve had!

“Who wants to come to a pity party?” you say.

Then give me something to be happy about.

Make me forget

The gloppy spitballs found on the board.

Give me courage to face the class from you-know-where.

Make me believe

I’m cut out to be a teacher

So I won’t walk straight out the front door

Instead of doing hall duty.

 

“This is the day that the Lord hath made,

We will rejoice and be glad in it,”

Proclaims the plaque on my desk.

It’s only Monday, Lord–

Four more days away from rejoicing.

Today I just want some sympathy,

Period.

 

Just yesterday the preacher asked,

“Where does it say

God wills our days

To be problem-free?”

Then he laid it on the line:

“God’s will is for us to become

More like Jesus Christ.”

 

Hmm.

Could I become like Him

Without icky spitballs,

Toothaches,

And delinquents-in-training–

Those minor annoyances

That fine tune me

And pale in the midst

Of life’s cosmic crises?

 

Jesus, You learned obedience

Through what You suffered.

Did You heal with a headache,

Then rock-pillow Your head at night,

Trying to forget mercenary whines,

Clueless questions,

Sibling rivalry

And Pharisee traps?

Little annoyances–

Pale prelude

To the cosmic work that lay before You.

 

No, Lord, I can’t say I’m eager to sign up

For the fellowship of Your suffering.

Would my bumps and bruises even qualify?

The least I can do right now

As I press on

Is leave this petty pity party.