This weekend has been a little bit frustrating. Whilst my car has been fixed and no longer makes scary squealing noises as you break and neither does it creak around corners the rear-view mirror has become dysfunctional. If you try to adjust it or if you hit a little bump in the road the mirror falls off. It has made me wonder how much I actually need the mirror – d I really need to pick it up every time and try to persuade it to stay. Do I need to get it replaced or can I live without it. How important is it for me to see what is behind me?
The same is true of my walk with God – how much should I be looking back? Looking back has its dangers – sometimes we can be preoccupied with what is behind that we crash into something that is ahead of us. Yet there has to be a balance.
Sometimes the past is more comfortable for us that the unknown of the future – even if the like the Israelites in the wilderness the past was one of slavery and abuse. When they looked at the Promised Land they got scared and wanted to go back to what was familiar:
Numbers 14:1-4 That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
Yet there is also the danger of always looking forward and not remembering where we have been and what God has done. God says we need to make an effort to remember:
Isaiah 46:9-11 Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. 10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. 11 From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.
So my wobbly rear-view mirror reminds me to balance – it is good to look back at the end of this year to see where we have come from and what God has done, yet I cannot live my live in reverse – forward is the God-ward direction even if the road is unknown. As 2011 disappears in my rear-view mirror I look back with gratitude and testify to God’s faithfulness through some very tough times and look forward with confidence, not knowing what is ahead, but because I know the One who leads the way into 2012.
Just yesterday a friend mentioned that she may possibly pass through Istanbul on the way to somewhere else and may have a day to kill in the airport between flights. Apart this possibility causing Istanbul not Constantinople to dance through my head I started planning all that she could do in a day – including a market tour culminating in cookery lessons. I realised that I am guilty of trying to travel vicariously – I love to travel and do get to do it as much as you like. (For those who are thinking but Tracey you have lived in Malawi & South Africa, I don’t count travelling to somewhere and then living there as proper travel!) I’m probably guilty of living much of my life vicariously through others – I’ll come up with a great menu for a dinner party for you but I’ll be unlikely to host one myself. Eastenders and 7 de laan are my guilty pleasure – after all soapies are designed to draw you in to live vicariously through the characters lives. Biographies, blogs, social networking all allow us to peek into the lives of others and to live their highs and lows. But what about my own life?
Jesus said that we would be able to do even greater things than the disciples had witnessed:
John 14:12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
Paul said that God can do even more than we can imagine:
Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
I wonder am I too busy listening to the amazing testimonies of God’s power and goodness but not actually expecting that God would do that through me. I want to see God exceed the boundaries of my imagination for my own life and to see what powerful things he has done. This year I want to be available for God and not to settle for living vicariously.
We had a very odd Christmas Day this year. As usual it was just Ramos and I after church. We are still trying to work out an Irish Malawian tradition for Christmas lunch – it is too hot in Cape Town for a traditional Roast Turkey for the Irish & Beef Stew for the Malawian. So I roasted some meat the night before and we had a lovely lunch with roasted meat, salads and of course mashed potatoes. Just as we sat down to lunch we got a call from a friend to say that his brother was in the hospital having been in fight that morning. What to do? Ramos called and found out that he couldn’t be seen until later so we proceeded with lunch. Later Ramos went to visit him only to find he was being discharged, but not wanting to go home until after dark, so Ramos brought him home to be cleaned up as he was still all bloody. So we ended up with company for Christmas and having to cook nsima (pap) as that was what the patient requested – mash potatoes were rejected! Our plan for a quiet day didn’t work out & my planned leftovers diminished.
Part of me was annoyed at this interruption of our day and the rejection of mash – after all, this guy had been drinking and getting himself into fights. But I also rebuked myself for judging – Jesus calls us to care not to pass judgement.
Matthew 25:35-40 And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, 36 I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? 38 And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ 40 Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me–you did it to me.’ (The Message)
As I have said before we are not called to pass judgement on who is worthy to be helped – we are just called to do. Jesus says when we do this for someone else we do it for Him. So this Christmas we brought Jesus home from hospital, gave him a hot shower and a meal, then made sure he got home safely.
I have been thinking about what word to use to sum up my resolutions for 2011 – a challenge issued by Alece Ronzino at her Grit and Glory Blog. I think my word will have to be ‘available’. I pray that in this year that I would be available for God to use, even when it interrupts my plans.
I love this time of year, not because of the weather but because of the row after row of back to school stuff in the shops. Lovely unused and un-chewed pencils, colourful notepads and crisp clean exercise books. Best of all are the empty clean calendars and diaries – they are what makes back to school aisles so much more fun in January than in September. A year of empty pages lie ahead waiting for important reminders and plans to be made. I put up my new calendar in my office this morning with extra prestick (blue tack) as the first month is usually a fight between my calendar and gravity. I have filled in birthdays and important dates. This month’s picture in my Faith Mission bookshop calendar is a frozen Shaw’s Bridge scene – perfect to look at in the heat of a Cape Town January. I also love throwing out the old calendar – it is so symbolic of 2010 being in the past now – good or bad there is nothing that can be done or undone. 2011 lies before me like a fresh start, full of potential.
But I am reminded that this fresh-start clean-slate feeling is not exclusive to New Year. David reminds me that a clean slate is a wonderful thing and is only a confession away:
Psalms 32:1-5 A David psalm. Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be– you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean. 2 Count yourself lucky– GOD holds nothing against you and you’re holding nothing back from him. 3 When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. 4 The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up. 5 Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to GOD.” Suddenly the pressure was gone– my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared. (The Message)
It is by the grace of God that we don’t need to wait for a New Year. We don’t need to store up our sins and failures, carrying them through to the end of the year. I’m pretty sure that 2011 will be a year when I sin and fail, but I am grateful to God that when that happens the year is not ruined or lost as at anytime He offers me forgiveness in response to my confession and admission to Him. So today I enjoy my new calendar and my New Year, but I am reminded to enjoy my God whose mercies are new every morning.
Lamentations 3:22-23 GOD’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. 23 They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! (The Message)
So Happy New Year and Happy New Day.
As the days of 2010 run out I have reflected a bit on the year and all that happened. I must be getting old as I really can’t remember what happened in what year – they have all started to blur at the edges – was it this year or last that Michael Jackson died? I do remember though that this has been a really tough year – not just for Ramos & I but for many people. Like many we have struggled financially and in business. Like many we have friends and family that didn’t survive the year and that we had to say goodbye to. All round 2010 was not a vintage year for us. Actually my first thought about the year is it was the year that made me tired! So as we edge closer to 2011 – who would have thought we would have made it this far and not been living in space ships eating tablets for food – I wonder with more fear than excitement what lies ahead.
We have somethings to be hopeful for – we are house hunting and I’m planning to register for my PhD – but we still have a lot of uncertainty. It would be lovely if the clock will strike midnight and all the troubles of 2010 would disappear – but we don’t live in a fairy tale. We have no guarantees for 2011, no voucher to redeem a better year, nor a magic charm to protect us from heartache. All we have that we can rely and depend on for next year is the same God whom we relied and depended on this year. Through all the hard times He was there – He was in control even though we don’t understand why He allowed some things to happen. In the midst of the chaos – the pick-n-mix of good and bad – His hand was on my life, sustaining me and bringing me through. So what do I hold onto for 2011?
Isaiah 46:9-10 Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. 10I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.
Sometimes these words are a comfort and at other times they feel like a threat. But the one consistency we have in our lives is God and His purposes – we can fight against Him all we like or try to persuade Him that our purposes is also lovely – but we can be assured that His Will will be done. The goodness of this promise is that God is trustworthy and loves us so his purposes, although they may not be what our hearts would choose, are for our best.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart
So I will trust God for 2011 and what lies ahead – it is beyond my control, but I know that the One who controls all things loves me and has good plans for me.