A few words about two words …

Throughout our lives two words have been shared with, or directed toward, each of us. Our parents used them. Our teachers used them. Now, as a father, I use them, sometimes daily.

God uses these two words, too. He uses them frequently, offers them intently, and often phrases them differently. They are implied in Psalm 19:1-4. See if you can spot them.

 

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.

 

You have said them; I have said them; and here, God says those famous two words: Pay attention.

Psalm 19 is an amazing psalm. It summarizes how God reveals Himself to us and speaks to us. Psalm 19 is only 14 verses long, take a moment and read it. Go ahead, I’ll wait here for you.

Now that you have read it — you did read it, didn’t you? — we can take a peek at it. Verses 1-6 speak to God revealing Himself through creation. This is know as God’s “general” revelation of Himself. It is general in the sense that He shows us some of His power, character, and ways. Verses 7-11 point to the beauty and benefits of God’s Word, the Bible. The Bible is known as God’s “specific” or “particular” revelation. In His Word God shows in detail Who He is, what He is like, and His will and ways. In short, creation provides a sketch of God’s presence and power, the Bible is a gallery of detailed portraits of the nature, attributes, work, and will of God.

 

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Last Saturday, we enjoyed a kayaking trip on the upper White River. It was a part of the river that I had never seen. As you can tell from the picture, it was spectacular! As I soaked in the scenery, Psalm 19 simmered in my mind. Later that evening, after unpacking the Jeep, putting up kayaks, and applying globs of aloe vera gel to my sunburn, I visited Psalm 19. As I read it prodded me to take more time to observe — to look for Him. As your weekend begins, let Psalm 19 serve as a signpost for you to watch for Him around you, and to pursue Him in His Word.

Psalm 19 instructs us to observe His handiwork in creation, then to burrow into His Word and get to know Him. There is a difference between admiring craftsmanship and knowing the craftsman. Psalm 19 admonishes us to do both, and to pay attention as we do. We owe it to Him to be intentional in each of these.

 

Have a good weekend.

Pay attention, you won’t want to miss what He will to show you.

 

 

Riding or Driving?

Your thoughts do not stand still. They move. They act. They are causative. Your thoughts matter.

Do your thoughts follow the lead of your mind and will? Or, does your mind, will, and life lag behind your thoughts? A strange question, you might think. But, it is an important question. When answered and acted upon it can alter the course of your hour, day, or life (and, ahem, your mood).

While free-ranging beef might be healthy, free-ranging thoughts are not. Let’s see how we can rustle and round up our thoughts.

God gives us the opportunity, ability, and power to harness our thoughts. He does it by His Word and Holy Spirit. We cannot do it on our own. We need Him. He delights in our  reliance upon Him. In Philippians 4:8-9 the Bible reveals how we can gain control over our minds, and the benefit of doing so.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9

Let’s begin with the end of these verses. Knowing the peace of God is the result of controlling and focusing our thoughts as He prescribes. Working backwards from verse 9, Paul shows us how this can be realized in the life of a believer.

Philippians 4:9 shows us that having the peace of God in our minds is realized by “doing.”  The Christian faith is a full contact faith, not one that stands on the sideline and observes. Paul says that we are to practice, or do, what we have learned from God’s Word. Bible study is not a passive activity. We are to read and study God’s Word, then apply it. It is not knowledge to placed upon a shelf and admired, it is not to be agreed with, it is to be applied. James says that we are to be “doers of the Word.” (James 1:22).

Once we consistently apply God’s truth to our lives we can begin to focus our lives, and thoughts, on a particular kind of thinking: namely, good thoughts, and though patterns, that honor Him. Philippians 4:8 instructs us to think on — this word means to think on, dwell on, and meditate on — things that are true, good, praiseworthy, etc.

Here is a key that unlocks our thought life: God grants us the power and ability to decide what to think about. You are not captive to your thoughts. They should not control you. You have the choice of driving your thoughts, or bumping along behind them. As God tells us to think a certain way, and on certain things, He is pointing out that we can determine how we think and what we think about. In 2 Corinthian 10:5 we are told to “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

You can gain control of your thought life by following Philippians 4:8-9. Then, and only then, the peace of God will reside between your ears. You will soon notice that once planted in your mind, the peace of God will bloom in the rest of your life.

Do your thoughts often stampede away dragging you behind them? You can take charge of them. You can begin this process by committing Philippians 4:8-9 to memory. With a bit of effort, prayer, and awareness you will be amazed as peace and contentment take root in your noggin.

Time to take the wheel and drive …

 

A pocketful of pithy poems …

The raft of

the poem rocks

as I spear-fish

for the right words.


Her dreams — a young horse,

raising dust, growing smaller

on the horizon.


Silence,

stillness,

then,

the ice maker gives birth.


Monarch butterfly —

stained glass portrait in flight —

Spring’s invocation.


Birthdays …

more frequent,

less punctuated.


Turtles on the pond bank

asking the Spring water to warm,

the willows heard every word.


the Church prayer list

held his name, now six hands

lift his casket.


Young cricket

in the watering can

answering himself.


Blessed is the one

whose pants fit right!

A mouthful of bite-sized poems

Fashioned with

a mustache

of spindly ferns,

and a beard

of mossy stones,

the hillside spring

whispers year round.


Sages, ripe with sense,

our forefathers

would not have bothered

with books

about growing

a better beard!


Our dogs —

fierce hunters

of belly rubs.


Over the years

the stone

bloomed lichens

in silhouetted circles.

You want me to do what???

Does it ever seem like your best efforts aren’t cutting it? Sometimes our best efforts are our worst enemy. Sound unreasonable? Of course it does.

Let’s take a look at Luke 5:3-5. These verses will help us make sense of how God’s ways are different from ours.

“Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he (Jesus) asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”

Jesus had hitched a ride in Peter’s boat onto Lake Gennesaret. From there he had taught the masses. Afterward, he made an odd request of Peter to go further onto the lake and let out his nets. Keep in mind that prior to shuttling Jesus onto the lake, Peter had spent the night fishing (for a living, not for sport) and was caring for his nets. He was tired, downtrodden, and ready to eat and sleep. But, as usual, Jesus was asking someone to do something that seemed unusual and unlikely.

At that point, what do you think raced through Peter’s mind? Perhaps he thought, “this doesn’t make sense at all.” What would you have thought? Often, our responses to God can unfold into the following excuses:

  • What you are asking me to do rejects my experience and efforts. Or put glibly, “Jesus, you are ignoring my expertise and ability to do this work on my own.”
  • What you are asking me to do bypasses my usual approach. Or, “Jesus I know what I am doing here, and this won’t work.”
  • What you are asking me to do undercuts my reputation. Or, “Jesus, all good fisherman — like those on the shore — know that fishing like you suggested would be foolish.”

Take a minute. Go back and re-read those three excuses. Do they sound familiar? They are not unique to this situation. They are the same ones, perhaps with less syllables, that sprout and bloom in our own minds. When God gives us direction and nudges us into action these complaints, common to us all, incubate, then hatch.

Thankfully, Peter responded correctly. Though he barely knew Jesus he called Him, “Master.” He recognized Jesus’ authority, power, and Lordship. How? Perhaps, he had heard of Jesus and his reputation. Or, it might have been his response to his front row seat to Jesus’ teaching. Either way, he submitted to Jesus and obeyed Him. He got it right. It is easy to get it wrong here. We often yield to our own experience and efforts, or heed the counsel or coercion of others. Peter turned away from his own thoughts and preferences, looked away from the fisherman on the shore (his partners in business), and gave way to God’s word to him.

There is a pattern here that must not slip by us:

  1. We must move out of our routines to hear God’s Word. Peter had been washing and mending his nets. His shift was over. He was ready to go home. Jesus picked an odd time to step into Peter’s day. In the same manner, God rarely steps in at a time that suits our schedule.
  2. We must act on — not argue with — what God is teaching us or directing us to do. Peter had just heard Jesus teaching others, yet he applied it to himself. Think about that one. Ouch!
  3. We must leave the results with God, and embrace whatever follows. You know that this encounter resulted in Peter catching so many fish that he had to call out to James and John, his partners in the fishing business, to come and help him gather all of the fish. Obedience to one command led to two boats full of fish for future apostles.

Before I close, let’s rewind to Peter’s reply to Jesus, “we toiled all night and caught nothing,” and fast forward to Jesus’s words to the apostles in John 15:5:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in Him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

Just as Peter couldn’t do it on his own, neither can we. Our experience, our efforts, our best ideas, and our best intentions are nothing apart from Him. But, with Him, and through Him, anything is possible. Adjust your time and attention, keep your antennae tuned, and get ready for God to show you your next step. Then, launch out by faith in Him, His grace, and His power. The outcome will be unlike anything that you could have imagined. It may not be two boat loads of fish, but it might be just as amazing to you as those fish were to Peter, and to everyone who witnessed it.

It’s simple, but true …

Many of us have several children. God has one Son. Just one. He sent Him to die. The previous three sentences — just 11 words — hold many truths from God’s Word. They are simple, but staggering, plain, but potent.

It seems that God prefers the simple and plain. He is grand and glorious, yet shares His love and truth in ways that are well within our reach. I am grateful for that. Consider the announcement of the birth of Jesus. It was delivered by an angel, regal and resplendent, to … shepherds. Simple shepherds. In those times shepherds were humble folk, the least and lowly. If Bath and Body Works released a Christmas candle in tribute to those shepherds it would be called, “Reeking Ragamuffins.” And, those fellows were chosen as the first to hear of the birth of our Savior. Grin, smirk even, because that is how God works. He bypasses the lofty bee-lines right to the regulars, regular folks knee deep in need and steeped in stress. I would guess that you are catching the lyrics and picking up the tune here. God comes to the common and coarse. That’s us.

Soak in one of Jesus’ first sermons. It was fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1-2 as well as the proclamation of the mission of Jesus. It is the Gospel unpacked and applied:

“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16-21

Please re-read it slowly. Read it aloud. Breath it in. It’s direct, and directed to us. It is God through Christ focusing His favor on rag-tag folks. Hear the heart and mission of Jesus spoken plainly:

  • He came to proclaim and purchase redemption, forgiveness, and salvation.
  • He came to repair broken hearts and lives.
  • He came to untether the tangled.
  • He came to open eyes to Truth and hope.
  • He came to bend open the bars and usher us to freedom.
  • Then, He said, “this is why I am here.”

To summarize each and all of those — He came to save us. He came to save us from our sins, our struggles, and … ourselves. God’s great gift is salvation through His Son. Though it came at a great price, it is freely offered.

Please pardon the solemn tone of this post. Christmas is joyful, a time of celebration, but remember, it was costly. Embrace the problem of our sin and separation from God. Embrace Jesus’ stepping from heaven to here, a demotion on all counts. Embrace His teaching, His death, His love in both.

As you enjoy your children this Christmas recall that God only has one Son. His Name is Jesus. He sent Him to die. Now, we can be God’s sons and daughters. Embrace your adoption into His family.

Embrace the Gift. Embrace Him …

Merry Christmas to you all!

Happy Birthday to our Redeemer-King!

Picking out splinters and pushing ahead …

Closing out the year and preparing for a new one is exciting. We recall fond memories and fine times hoping for more to come. Oftentimes, as we look back on the best of times other thoughts slink in, thoughts that dim the outlook of the future. It happens to all of us.

Fortunately, there is an antidote for the poisonous thoughts of the past as well as strength for surging ahead. It’s found in Philippians 3:12-13:

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,”

Re-read those words long ago penned by Paul. He wrote them while in prison. He wrote them as one who had known ups and downs, successes and failures. Now, re-read those verses again knowing that a man, just like us, in a hard place, just like we experience, wrote them. It amplifies their message, it concentrates their potency.

Through Paul, God gives us these verses as some of the most powerful and penetrating truths in regard to how to handle the past and the future. Let’s take in these spiritual truths — which also apply to the rest of life — one by one.

First, Paul shows us that growth is a process, not an event. He stated that he had not “obtained this” or become complete, yet. All growth is a process. Often, it is more gradual and tedious than we prefer. Progress in your spiritual life, at work, regarding health, or in relationships moves in inches, not feet. Paul knew that he had not reached his goals, and that it would require ongoing effort and dedication to become who Christ wanted him to be. The same is true for us. We must resolve in our minds that growth takes time, and then set our minds to moving on.

Speaking of moving on, Paul outlines a second truth that tempers us for growth. His response to not being where he wanted to be resulted in this determined statement in verse 12, “but I press on …” Paul was a Christian who was full of grace and grit! He would press on! We must press on, too. That is the solution to many of the down times, or mediocre times in life. When you do not feel like reading your Bible, or exercising, or overcoming a bad habit, press on anyway. You might be asking, “how do I press on, or how can I press on?” Glad that you asked.

Verse 12 reveals how Paul could press on in the toughest of times (remember, he was in prison). God provides a two-sided key to unlock our chains so that we can press on.

First, remember that you belong to Christ and are empowered by Him. Pressing on is not possible without realizing and relying upon this. Paul said that he could press on because, “Christ Jesus has made me his own.” Don’t miss that one. Because Christ has made us His own He will also provide what we need. Hope, strength, grace, and discipline are all gifts that He offers to His own. When you lack, ask. He provides abundantly.

Second, Pressing on requires moving on. Paul described moving on as “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” Stumbles from the past — whether recent or long ago — can cripple growth in the present. Whether it was a recent bad moment, or a tragic event long ago, the past can paralyze the present, and assassinate the future. How many times have past struggles or shortcomings caused you to lean back from a challenge? We all have. It’s part of being human. But, it’s a dragon that can be tamed, and banished. It is defeated by trusting God through Christ to forgive us and to empower us to forget the past. Quick question: Why do we continue to recall and relive a past that God has already forgiven? Hmmm, it’s worth pondering. Back to the point. Paul moved ahead by moving on. Paul had plenty to forget, and he did so through Christ. Forgetting isn’t the whole solution, pressing on also requires “straining forward.” What a great picture! Paul tells us to forsake and forget the past and to strain, or press, ahead. I began running in 2016. It has given me new appreciation for this verse. In many 20K or half marathon races over the past year I have had to “strain ahead” toward the finish line. As you near the end the miles seem longer, not shorter, and more difficult. That is when we have to strain ahead, press on, grit it out. Whether you are running life on tired legs, carrying a heavy heart, or nursing a bruised soul you must push on.

In the verses that we have considered we have seen that God gives us the key to growth: forget the past and press on toward the future. Just in case we didn’t get the idea Paul begins verse 13 with “I press on … “ You get it. God wants us to move on from the past, it’s hurts, and the inner voice that continually brings them up. Forget the past, push toward the future. The future, including the next year, next day, and next hour are full of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and grace. You are powered by Christ to forget and press on. What are you waiting for? Go on!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Ole Bearded Acorn!

Look, and see ….

 

It happened yesterday — a minuscule moment hidden in a dandy day. I almost missed it.

 

Yesterday was one of those days that started out wonderfully and grew better by the hour. Emma, our oldest daughter, and I woke up before dawn to get ready for the Little Rock Marathon 10K race. It was our first 10K together, as well as our first road race (the others have been trail races, we are more naturally suited to off-road, root-and-rock-hopping, hill-scrambling sorts of races). We were excited, to say the least.

 

The cold air that greeted us as we left our hotel did not deter us. We knew that we would warm up soon enough. As we lined up with the 3,000 other participants in the 5/10K we encountered friends from our hometown and my workplace. As a dad-and-daughter running team we were glad to start the race alongside a coworker and friend of mine who was running with her daughter as well (a shout out to Robin and Hannah for a race well run!).

 

During the race Emma and I talked, ran with other home town folks for a bit, laughed, thanked volunteers along the way, talked even more (she is a teenage girl, after all) encouraged each other, and looked forward to a big post-race breakfast. As we neared the finish we kicked it into high gear — high gear is required for me to keep up with Emma as she approaches the finish line. We finished at the same time, enjoyed post race pictures, and collected our medals for completing the race. Soon after, we found out that of 1600 10K participants we had outrun 1197 of them. To add to our excitement we also learned that Emma had won 3rd place in her division! Make no mistake, this paragraph does function to build the narrative to the point of this post, but it also serves a huge, and well-placed, “dad brag.”

 

Sporting our medals and salty with sweat we made our way back to the hotel for showers and breakfast. We later checked out of the hotel and ran a few errands before heading home. Then, it happened. We stopped at a garden center/nursery in North Little Rock. As I browsed for a new plant for my office Emma said, “Dad, let me have your phone.” One never knows what is on a teenager’s mind when that request is made. She took my phone and began taking pictures of plants. She hunkered down over a few that I had already moved past. Then, smiling from ear to ear — a smile that will soon feature braces — she revealed her pictures. I was stunned.  One of her pictures stopped me in my tracks, which wasn’t difficult considering how stiff I had become after the race. I lingered on her photo, savored it, and admired her eye for beauty and ability to capture it. Her is Emma’s picture:

 

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If I offered a title to this picture it would be “God’s Hidden Jewel.” Here’s why. I had walked past that tiny plant saucering a single drop of water. I hadn’t noticed it at all. Emma had. She had spotted it right away, and then acted on her excitement in seeing it. What a life lesson. How often do I walk by these God-saturated moments and gifts? Each of the many times that I have looked at her picture I have been reminded to slow down, focus my attention, and spot the “hidden jewels” along each day’s path. A child’s giggle, an encouraging word, or a lavender sunset are grace-gifts from our Heavenly Father that can slip by us if we are not on the ready.

 

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!” exclaimed the Psalmist in Psalm 34:8. The lesson gleaned from yesterday was “Look, and see that LORD is good!” Sometimes the biggest part of the day lies outside of the most exciting moments, and is hidden among the smaller ones.

 

As I pondered this lesson another passage of Scripture sprang to mind:
“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Luke 18:17)

 

A simple, and stern, reminder. We come to Christ and into His Kingdom with “child-like” faith. We also recieve God’s gifts as children do — in humble, simple, grateful trust in our Father in Heaven. This reminds us that in order to recognize God’s gifts, and to walk through each day at His pace, we would do well to observe how our children move through moments. As they stop and gasp in wonder, so should we. They miss nothing, neither should we.

 

Today, and tomorrow, let’s set our minds to walk at a child’s pace, to look, and to see …

A perfect day is a gift from a perfect God

 

It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. The picture below is evidence of the truth of that statement. As you would expect, there are many words, and entire stories, pulsing through this picture.

image

 

Let me share a few of them. I do so to highlight the principle that we should make the most of each day, and in doing so thank God for His daily gifts. This principle sings loudest this time of year. Friends and families spend more time and more focused time together around Christmas. This picture will remind me to do that with greater frequency well after the Christmas season and long into the New Year.

 

I also share this picture and posting to brag on Emma, our oldest daughter. To not brag on her would mean that I am remiss in my role as a doting dad.

 

Last August I began running on a regular basis. Prior to this I had only run every-now-and-then. By that I mean I ran if chased by our kids, our dogs, or an occasional nagging notion that I should exercise more. One of my commitments for this year was to exercise more. After a short time Emma took an interest in running with me. We officially began trail running — running off-road in the woods — the first week in November. We quickly set a goal to train for the Mt. Nebo Bench Trail Run on December 17. It is a 7K (4 mile) trail run around Mt. Nebo. It only gave us six weeks to prepare. We trained hard, and, we had a lot of fun together in the process. We enjoyed daughter and dad talks as we ran (she did most of the talking, I was too out of breath to talk most of the time). While running one cold, rainy night we also found and “rescued” a kitten. You get the picture. It was terrific fun running and training together.

 

Yesterday was the big day. It was our first “race” ever (although Emma had done some 5K walk/runs with her mom in the past). We got up at 5 a.m, fixed our “runner’s breakfast,” and loaded up for a 2.5 hour drive. On the way we laughed, talked, and planned our race strategy. For the sake of brevity, and to not test your patience, I will highlight the stories captured by the picture in bullet points:

  • As the race began we kept our pace and watched those around us. We came up with code words for passing certain people — for example, “Code Red” meant we would track down and pass the fellow in red who was just ahead of us for most of the race.
  • As we approached and passed a fellow runner (a woman in her 50s.) Emma said, “I have to tell you that you smell great!” The lady appreciated the comment and replied, “So, I don’t smell to perfumy or strong?” “No,” Emma replied, “you smell very clean, just right.”
  • While other runners grabbed and chugged the water from a volunteer at the halfway point Emma preferred that we stop, enjoy our water, and thank the volunteer for being there. Emma also took the time to put our paper cups in the trash bag (she was appalled that other runners threw their cups on the ground; I later told her that the volunteers would pick them up).
  • As we neared the finish we turned on our “deer legs” for the last big hill and later Emma used “cheetah legs” (more of our code talk) to try to track down a another runner who had stayed ahead of us the entire time. It is worth noting that it was no small effort to catch up to people that we had passed prior to the “water break” and overtake them a second time.
  • Emma finished 12 seconds before I did, thanks to her “cheetah mode.” When I heard them announce her name over the PA system as she crossed the finish line my heart and eyes welled up. She had done it. A 7K trail run full of hills and slippery paths couldn’t stand up against her young legs and strong will.
  • As I crossed the finish line she high-fived and hugged me. We had finished, shaved 30 seconds per mile off of our training times, and logged one of our best experiences ever.

 

image

 

On the way back home we replayed the day, planned our next race, and talked about seeing the new Star Wars movie. She soon fell asleep. As I drove I could only think, “Thank you God, thank You for Emma and for a day like today.” As I bathed in the delight of the day I remembered that this very sense of delight is the delight that God has in us as His children. What a wonder. What a God. What gifts He gives.

 

As you think on these words, and smile at the photos, think beyond them. Think beyond them to the gifts that God gives to you. Then, think beyond the gifts that He gives and enjoy Him. His gifts are great; He is greater.

 

His greatest gift to us isn’t our children, or our best days, it is His Son for us and in us each day!

 

By the way, Emma won third place in her division. I couldn’t resist … Merry Christmas from the ole Bearded Acorn!

New and Improved, hopefully…

 

With only seven weeks left in 2016 it seems fitting to place the events of the year on the scale and weigh them out — a time to evaluate and enjoy them. This Bearded Acorn post will have a more personal tone than usual. That is deliberate. You will find out why later on.

 

This year has been a splendid year: our daughters growing and becoming more wonderful and fun, and wonderfully fun, day by day, as well as a new role at work. And, lots of life unfolding in the cracks in between. As a plan-focused sort of fellow, please allow me to list some washouts and winners from the previous ten months.

 

Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Reading through the Bible in a year: Check! The One Year Bible is a great tool for this; add it to your wish list for Christmas.
  • Longer, “better” times of prayer: Check. But, the more we grow in prayer the more that we will feel compelled to grow further. It was a solid step in the right direction, many more steps required.
  • Carving out more quality time for and making more memories with family: two steps forward, half step back. That’s how parenting goes, especially with a teenager. But, it was the best year ever. Lots of laughter, trips, and “projects.”
  • Healthy eating: Check, sort of. I have eaten more fruits and vegetables, gotten plenty of fiber each day, and cut back on fried foods. Mostly. Still work to do here. I know, you are all very proud of my increased fiber intake. (Note: there were six different jokes that I typed in after that last sentence. I deleted them all. Let’s move on.)
  • Become a better listener: Uhhhh…, what did you just say? Can you repeat that? There’s work to do on this. James 1:19 leaps to mind here.
  • Speak less: Score! I know, some of you are scratching your heads, but you don’t know how much I actually wanted to say.) James 1:19 again.
  • Regular exercise: Four gold stars on this one. I started with yoga (Christian yoga, no chanting thanks), and added running, then moved up to trail-running. I feel better than I have in two decades.
  • Spending more time outdoors: Yahtzee! Even though the weather wasn’t kind, the effort was made and it was worth it.

 

There you have it … an unsolicited peek into the personal life of an unusual fellow. Now, on to the greater matter, a sketch of what I learned from all of this. Here it is encapsulated in two verses:

 

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

“The works of the LORD are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them.” Psalm 110:2

 

The overarching lesson in Hebrews 11:1 drove the ability to see and live out truths learned from Psalm 110.

 

About faith first, each day was a reminder that we walk by faith, not by what is visible or get-a-hold-able. But, as Christians our faith is an informed faith. God gives us promises, corrections, and direction in His Word to map our steps. Some steps are small, some are a stretch, each of them taken by faith. We have to believe God to be Who He says He is and to do what He says that He will do. It’s a daily decision to live by faith. It’s the best life.

 

The truths that budded on the branch of Hebrews 11:1 are found in Psalm 110:2. This verse delivers potent, but practical truths about knowing His work in our lives:

 

The primary lesson is that we must take delight in God’s works before we can really know them. If you think through the verse from the back to the front it becomes apparent. To take pleasure in God’s work requires attention to it. Deliberate attention. Mary Oliver once wrote, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.” As we devote our attention to what God is doing around us we can then take delight in it, and in Him.

 

As we become more aware and appreciative of God’s work — through disciplined attention — we will think on Him and His work more deeply. Or, as the psalmist states, we become “studiers” of God and His work. When you study and think on God’s work in your life two thoughts spring forward: “God, and His work and gifts, is spectacular,” and “I am unworthy.” Those two thoughts are the foundation of worship. Pause here…

 

It is after devoting attention to and taking delight in God’s works that we become better students of Him in His Word. It is through seeing, savoring, and studying that we agree with the psalmist with joy and conviction about God and His works.

 

Over the past ten months some goals were met while others were not. There is always next year for another good run at them. Over the past ten months I have grown in Christ and also had my share of stumbles. There is always tomorrow; His grace and mercies are new each morning (Lamentation 3:22-23).

 

You might wonder why I am writing about the previous year in November instead of late December. The answer: I wanted to get this rolled out so that it can prepare the way for several posts that will close out the Bearded Acorn’s year. Those posts will build upon the truths shared in this one.

 

So, in summary, what should you take away from this fairly structured stack of sentences? Set some goals, walk by faith, devote more attention and “study” to God and His works, and eat more fiber!

 

Enjoy the next seven weeks my friends. What can surpass autumn scenery, cool weather, the scents and sights of the holidays, laughter of loved ones, and wool socks?

 

Did I mention that the Bearded Acorn blog and logo is under development, and that there will be some holiday give-a-ways (think coffee mugs with the new logo)? Stay tuned…New and improved, hopefully.