Dear First Pres,

   Whew, anyone else taking a deep breath after the mad dash of Christmas festivities? While recovering from a sugar coma, I find myself reflecting on the past year and strategizing for the coming year. We are moving into a season of reflecting on New Beginnings. As 2017 comes to a close, there is almost a natural tendency to look forward to what new things 2018 holds. For some of us that means excitement for new challenges to face, while for others apathy has already set in. Are New Year resolutions appealing to you?

   A little secret for those who do not know me well: I am an achiever. Which means I most definitely make new year resolutions. This inner drive leads my reflections to center on the accomplishments from the past year, and even more importantly the areas where I need to work harder. New Year resolutions become a way of measuring my success and worthiness. I'm always amazed how something can start off as a good thing, but in excess quickly turn into an unhealthy thing. Not that a drive for success is a bad thing, but when I find my value solely in my achievements rather than in the unfailing undeserved love of Jesus there is a heart problem. 

   Receiving the beautiful gift of love and mercy from God becomes a tricky situation when achieving is my lifestyle. God is faithful to meet me in my need to feel worthy and continues to reveal to me how much I need him, especially in times when I have to sit in my failures or unmet expectations.

   This Sunday Lana is preaching on Matthew 8:26-29, "When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torture me!" For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man.

   I love how Jesus heals this man! The man is outcast and laid to the margins of society to suffer. He is tormented and lonely, and Jesus meets this man in the mess. Jesus speaks truth and life over the demon-possessed man and provides freedom. He creates a New Beginning for this man. God is transforming lives and repurposing people's stories. God creates us as whole beings with emotional, physical, spiritual, and relational needs. And Jesus' story of healing addresses more than one area of life. We are complex people and have diverse needs, and still Jesus is faithful to meet those needs.

As you reflect on the past year and the year to come, here are some questions that I am asking myself. These questions have nothing to do with what I can achieve, but everything to do with what I can receive from my gracious savior and healer Jesus. 

  • What areas of life are you feeling hopeless about, where can Jesus provide hope? 
  • Where do you feel alone or abandoned, how can God meet you there?
  • What types of things are you hoping for in this coming year, how are you anticipating God showing up? 
  • Where does healing need to take place, how can Jesus meet you where you are in the mess?

Happy New Year,