Reflections and Planning [v95]

JANUARY 2007

PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE— There’s something about the Christmas holiday and New Year’s resolutions that makes me think about living a ‘full’ life—prompting me to reflect upon what I’ve done and who I’ve helped in the past year—and what I should do in the next year.

In his painting “An Allegory of Prudence,” 16th-century Venetian artist Titian portrayed Prudence as a man with three heads. One head was of a youth facing the future, another was of a mature man eyeing the present, and the third was of a wise old man gazing at the past. Over their heads Titian wrote a Latin phrase that means, “From the example of the past, the man of the present acts prudently so as not to imperil the future.”

I, for one, need that kind of wisdom to overcome the anxiety created by my past failures and the fear of repeating them in the future—an anxiety that can keep me, and maybe you, from living life to the fullest now—especially during this ‘season’ focused on joyfulness and delight.

Even though it gives me a wonderful ‘feeling’ to give presents at Christmas, or when I give of my time and ‘gifts’ to others—I am more ‘ecstatic’ when I ‘patch up’ some differences I have with another person. Since I’ve yet to see a ‘U-Haul’ behind a hearse, stuff is ‘temporal’ and is not as important as people, since I believe that relationships can be ‘eternal’.

So, let me encourage you to also do some ‘soul searching’. Is there someone that you need to ‘reconcile’ with? Some ‘offense’ you need to forgive? Some ‘bridge’ you need to rebuild? In my eyes, it could be the best ‘gift’ you will ever give somebody!

You may ask, what makes for reconciliation? Well, I can think of a few things:

– Listening to your ‘conscience’ telling you that you have wronged others;
– Publicly acknowledging these actions in a clear and understandable manner;
– Living so as not to do it anymore;
– Acting, as far as is practical, to undo the damage;
– Working together daily with those we wronged;
– Celebrating what’s in common, and at least some of the differences;
– Seeing our life together as a whole, not just in parts or categories, especially not as ‘pro-/con-‘ or ‘us vs. them.’
– And, to learn to be just ‘plain’ people with each other, beyond whatever roles we might have in this society.

As far as I can determine, there is an acceptable ‘process’ one should go through to achieve this: confession; repentance; forgiveness; and restoration—which then concludes with true reconciliation. Specifically, in “confession”, you admit not only to having done something, but also that it was wrong to do it. In “repentance,” you commit yourself to not doing it again. Then, when the other “forgives” you, it then takes that burden of guilt off of you. When this can be done without causing further harm, you can then be “restored” by repaying whatever it ‘cost’; rejecting angry words or the devious acts; and doing that which uplifts and empowers those whom you have wronged. With the effect of the wrongs softened or reversed, a new relationship can be started on a firmer and more truthful ‘footing’—after which then true “reconciliation” can take place.

Reconciliation does not come easy. It’s not just a psychological struggle—it’s also a spiritual one. Just about everyone has had something ‘done’ to them, and has done something to someone else. A lot of suffering has been caused over the centuries—and a lot of ‘walls’ have been built (though even after over a century of fighting, the “Hatfields” and “McCoys” reconciled in 2003—and West Virginia Governor Bob Wise signed a proclamation declaring June 14, “Hatfield and McCoy Reconciliation Day”).

Though reconciliation between people is important, I believe there is a ‘relationship’ we all need to personally restore that is more important—that is, our relationship with God.

The good news is, Jesus Christ made the ‘moves’ to restore our relationship with God the Father—and He didn’t wait for us to do it!

Indeed, the ‘ultimate’ reconciliation is already under way—that being between God and ‘man’—to bridge the yawning chasm between us and Him, to relieve the ‘death-grip’ of sin, and to bind up the fractured relationship that would not and could not otherwise be healed.

But, unlike in the relationship “process” mentioned above, God (the One who did NOT commit the sin or ruin the relationship) has taken on the full ‘responsibility’—and has brought it to the point of forming a new, ‘unadulterated’ relationship. As usual, God did it, we didn’t. If He waited around for us to do it, it would never happen—since I, for one, am to irresponsible to do it on my own.

So, while you’re thinking about what ‘resolutions’ you’re going to make for the coming year, let me encourage you to consider making ‘peace’ with God first—then He can help you with all the other ones!

In the Bible, there is an encouraging story of a previously ‘horrendous’ man, the Apostle Paul, who was able to “forget” his past and anticipate his future [Philippians 3:13-14]. This didn’t mean his memory was erased—it means that he was free of any guilt or pride he may have felt from his past actions, because God had ‘truly’ forgiven him. This attitude enabled him to live in the present and “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

As we close the ‘book’ on 2006, and begin a new one, let me encourage you to experience the inner transformation that can happen by dedicating your life to Christ. Jesus will enable you to live fully in the present, as you gain wisdom from the past and face the future with courage!

“Standing at the portal
Of the opening year,
Words of comfort meet us,
Hushing every fear.”
[Frances R. Havergal]

[Excerpts from: Dennis De Haan]

(If you would like to investigate the concept of forgiveness, read the short story at the following link:
http://www.4vis.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q9_d4_2of10.html )

P.S. We are ‘starting up’ our small group again, and would very much like to have you come and check it out. We are scheduled to meet on every 2nd and 4th Monday nights from 7-9 PM. Come to develop some new friendships, eat some new foods, and enjoy learning something new.

Blessings…Mark

LIFE’S DEEP THOUGHTS (v95) for JANUARY 2007
If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@comcast.net

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DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING THAT NEEDS EXCHANGING?
After Christmas, some of us take some of our presents back to the store for an “exchange”—a different color, style, or size.

But have you ever thought about the concept of needing to ‘exchange’ something with God?—Not necessarily an ‘item’, but maybe something that is particularly burdensome?

The Bible tells us that God wants to take your burden and replace it with His presence. The following is a ‘prayer,’ by Jim Burns, that often gives me great perspective in this:

Away from the world and hidden from public view,
I exchange my weariness for His strength,
I exchange my weakness for His power,
I exchange my darkness for His light,
I exchange my problems for His solutions,
I exchange my burdens for His freedom,
I exchange my frustrations for His peace,
I exchange my turmoil for His calm,
I exchange my hopes for His promises,
I exchange my afflictions for His balm of comfort,
I exchange my questions for His answers,
I exchange my confusion for His knowledge,
I exchange my doubt for His assurance,
I exchange my nothingness for His awesomeness,
I exchange the temporal for the eternal,
I exchange the impossible for the possible,
I exchange my fear for His Love.

Today take a moment to relinquish your will to the will of God. After all, He can take whatever you give Him and lighten your load with His peace and presence.

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ATTITUDE AND CIRCUMSTANCES
I love the story of the little boy who was overheard talking to himself as he strutted through the backyard, baseball cap in place, toting ball and bat. He was heard to say, “I’m the greatest hitter in the world.” Then he tossed the ball into the air, swung at it and missed. “Strike one.” Undaunted he picked up the ball, threw it into the air and said to himself, “I’m the greatest baseball hitter ever,” and then he swung at the ball again. And again, he missed. “Strike two!” He paused a moment to examine his bat and ball carefully. Then a third time he threw the ball into the air. “I’m the greatest hitter who ever lived,” he exclaimed. He swung the bat hard again, and missed a third time. He cried out, “Wow! Strike three. What a pitcher! I’m the greatest pitcher in the world!”

His circumstances hadn’t changed but his attitude had changed, and that makes all the difference in the world. What difficult time are you going through right now? Is there really something that can change it? If you can do something about it, great; don’t wait another day. But if you can’t change the circumstance, then change your attitude and that will make all the difference in the world.

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” [Philippians 4:11-13]
[Jim Burns]

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Seeing the person differently allows our feelings to change.
[Lewis Smede]

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LOOKING AT WHERE YOU’VE BEEN
“

Then I said to you, ‘Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them.  The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.’ In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go” [Deuteronomy 1:29-33].

After living in England for a year, I had a new appreciation for rowing. One day, we convinced a friend to take us out on the boat to give it a try. We were assigned positions within the boat, and our coxswain was seated ready to guide and steer us through the River Thames. We learned how to stroke and move our bodies in rhythm with the other rowers. The hardest part for me, however, was not being able to see where we were going. My job was to row, it was the coxswain’s job to watch where we were headed. “Life’s a lot like rowing,” a friend once told me. “You only know where you’ve been.”

The Israelites had traveled through the desert for more years than they probably wished to count.  Spies had been sent up to the land—the Promised Land. The journey would soon be over. Upon returning, the men reported that the people were larger and stronger, and the people of Israel were scared.  They cried out to Moses and asked why God had brought them there to die. Then Moses said something that I often have to remind myself of: The gist of what he said was: Quit looking forward and being paralyzed in fear. God will fight for you!  Look at all He has done in the past. He carried you in your time of need, He guided you in the darkness when you couldn’t find your way and was with you in the light when things seemed easier and clearer. Trust in the God of blessings who sees all and knows all.

We may not know what lies ahead, but we know where we have been. Wherever you are in your journey, whether a time of light or a time of darkness, God is with you. As the Israelites demonstrated to us over and over, it is often too easy to forget how God has carried us in the past when challenges face us ahead.

If you find yourself wondering where God is, or becoming paralyzed with fear over what is next, hold tight to this:  “The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in _______.” (Fill in the blank.)  God will carry you as He has done before, as He always will.
[Kelly McFadden]

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DEEP THOUGHT:
Never let a bleak past overshadow a bright future.
[Our Daily Bread]

[NOTE: FYI: This monthly booklet, with a daily ‘reading’, can be sent to your home, without obligation:
http://www.rbc.org/odb/odb.shtml ]

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I hope you enjoyed some of these insights. Share them with your friends and colleagues, so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from—and more to share with! Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” especially if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin” [Psalm 17:3].

Mark

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Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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