I would preach nothing else but the practice of the presence of God. If I were a director, I would recommend it to everybody, so necessary and even so easy I believe it to be. – Brother Lawrence.
I hope you all had a beautiful holiday season, or at least captured some special God-filled moments during these past weeks. Because I had made an intention before the holiday season to seek the heart of Christ, avoiding another year of striving for a neatly packaged Martha Stewart Christmas, or being a mouse in the rat-race of the materialist American Christmas madness, I so very much enjoyed the holidays this year.
Cherished moments wrapped in the warming fire of Christ’s love, although uneventful, fueled steady burning embers in my heart throughout the holidays. The moments were simple: sitting with my family around the fire in our pajamas, sharing joyful memories of Christmas past, eating delicious home-cooking, baking our favorite snowball pecan cookies, waffles at noon (teenagers sleep late), sharing prayers, taking some lovely hikes, and an overnight stay at a quiet inn in the mountains with my husband — a few of the lovely highlights.
In Christ’s presence, a free-gliding, ice-skating kind of peace permeated my days. I almost felt as if the Holy Spirit delivered a fruits of the spirit Christmas basket to my door, my heart brimmed with an unusual bundle of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Yet, as New Year’s Day rolled around, I started thinking about my goals for 2016. Always seeking new ways of working to create more time to write, I’ve been interested in how famous entrepreneurs set and attain goals. Tim Ferris’ book, The 4-hour Work Week, which I had never read, beckoned from my bookshelf. I plunged in, plotting out my 3-month goal with his action-oriented, goal-setting template. By the time I finished, my grace-filled holiday mood turned into a dark, swirling mini-tornado sucking up every bit of my peace and joy.
Thankfully, I soon realized that I needed a God-centered intention for the New Year like I had for the days leading to Christmas — the trustworthy intention of seeking the heart of Christ.
(In fact that’s the best life intention isn’t it.)
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” James 4:13-15
Not that we aren’t allowed to have dreams and goals, but consider them held in God’s palm loosely – just as we might hold a fallen baby bird.
Abandoning our own wills, we hand our plans and goals over to God, allowing God’s every breath, the Holy Spirit, to break free our dreams, or put them to rest for something much better according to God’s will.
It’s the wonder of such counter-intuitive goal setting, of letting go, letting God, that breathes life into our moments, fueling our future with truth, hope and the fruits of the spirit.
In an instant, my brief, joyless mood lifted, peace pouring into my soul.
I’m fascinated by the faith of the Celtic monks, the peregrinis. Evelyn Waal writes about these ‘wandering saints’ in her lovely book, Lost in Wonder, She says “they set out in currachs, without cares, to go wherever the spirit might take them–the end of their journey would take them to places of resurrection where ‘the spirit of truth will guide them to all truth.” V.R.Edman in Light in Dark Ages says, “Burning with love for Christ, fearing no peril, shunning no hardship, they went everywhere with the Gospel”.
So let’s start our adventure in the New Year like wandering saints, trusting in the spirit to guide us, letting God hold our goals and dreams loosely, making them into God-shaped dreams we share for the good of others. Let’s inscribe into the nests of our hearts God’s plans for us — to give us a future of hope (Jeremiah 29:11), and hold near the stunning words of Jesus illustrated in this contemporary passage from The Message:
“Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.” Matthew 6:26
Happiest and most blessed 2016! May we help one another lead a Holy Spirit led year!
Warmest, Happiest New Year!
Leave me alone with God as much as may be.
As the tide draws the waters close in upon the shore,
Make me an island, set apart, alone with you, God, holy to you.
Then with the turning of the tide,
Prepare me to carry your presence to the busy world beyond,
The world that rushes in on me till the waters come again and fold me back to you. (Aiden)
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