Here we are almost one week into the new year. Christmas is over (and we’ve got most of the decorations put away, foregoing the temptation once again to leave them up all year long). So where do we go from here? What’s next? We ask this question in one way or another every year and this year is no different in that regard but for some reason it seems to ring louder in my head this year.
You see, as a United Methodist pastor it’s time for the church and I to voice our preferences on whether I stay another year or not. That not really a problem – the church, for the most part, wants me to stay (at least I haven’t heard otherwise) and I’m not really wanting to pack all of our stuff and move again (we just moved last January, half-way into my first year, into the parsonage). There’s some “practical” reasons for staying and probably just as many for not staying – some of which have nothing really to do with the “spiritual” nature of my work here.
And then there’s the issue of where God is leading us for the future and how to be faithful to that leading without feeling forced into something or without trying to manipulate God’s will into something that looks more like what I want. I’ve said I’ll go where He leads me but I’m afraid of what that means also. Oh, I still trust Him – I guess it’s me I don’t trust.
We (Kathy and I) have had a couple of options laid before us. Some are safe and some are not. Some are really exciting and some are not. All will probably bring some pain and some joy. So again, you may ask with me, “Now what?”.
We pray. And in that praying, we speak our minds and hearts to God. And we try our best to listen to His voice. It’s not the last thing we do but the best thing we can do.
About two years ago, I heard God speak to me through Isaiah 43: 1-2:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior”
I took this as further confirmation of my call and His promises to me. I was in Brazil at the time – a place that has burned a brand on my heart; a place I know that I will go back to one day.
Now, with some vision of when the “one day” will be and what it means, I again hear God speak from Isaiah 43, verses 18 and 19:
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
But this time I’m in Pendergrass, GA and the words are not for me alone. The words speak volumes for many and they are a promise for this new year, this new decade. Just as we have tossed out the old calendars, we need to toss out the old ways of thinking and trust in God’s faithfulness – He is creating new things, just as we are new creatures in Him.
Easy to say – hard to live. And so I pray, and speak my mind and heart, and I listen. And I pray:
“Father God, in this new year, at this time of looking forward and making plans, I and many others need to hear Your voice! Help us to put the former things behind us and to stop dwelling on the past. We desire to see the new things that You are creating – give us the perception needed to see it! Help us trust You in our deserts and wastelands of doubt, confusion, and despair and let us drink deeply of the streams of Your love, grace, mercy, and peace. In Jesus’ name. Amen”.
He has called you by name and you are His,