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.