"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6
This email is for all you readers out there. I am sharing the link for Tim Challies Christian Reading Challenge for 2022 should you want to try it this next year. I am going to give it a try, which will mean less online solitaire and Netflix. Might be a triple win for me. Good luck should you decide to try it!
Even though Christmas is only a week away, many of us are already looking to do things differently next year. Get our cards out earlier. Save sooner. Not spend as much money on gifts. Not eat as much food. Be more regular and deliberate in our time with God. Be more attuned to His voice.
Therefore, this season is also the season we begin looking ahead. To put the past behind us and start fresh. Some of us make New Year’s Resolutions while others of us just call them Good Intentions.
There are many things I want to do. Things I know I should do. Selfless, self-sacrificing things, and it makes me feel good thinking about doing them. But therein lies the problem. There is a difference between thinking about doing something and actually doing it. It reminds me of the semi-colon.
As a former English teacher, I have have always had a deep appreciation for punctuation marks, whose sole purpose is always clarity.
Though the exclamation point is a bit obnoxious, and the comma has a desire to be everywhere even though he doesn’t need to be, the semi-colon has only one primary function––to bring together two complete thoughts that are related and that the writer wants you to read as one thought.
A period means the thought is over and done. We are moving on to another thought. But the semi-colon says, “Hey, see this first thought here? Well, you need to read this next thought to get the whole picture.”
A good intention, like the semi-colon, is the half-way point. We need to keep going. Often this forward movement takes us out of our comfort zone. Often the first step requires us to give up something. Always, it will cost us something––time, money, status, attention––but invariably we will be blessed.
The December 5th devotional in Henry and Richard Blackaby’s Experiencing God said that “Satan is the relentless enemy of good . . . time pressures will attack the good in your life . . . you will be tempted to spend your money selfishly . . . .”
If you have a “good intention” for the new year, something the Holy Spirit has laid on your heart, then do it. He gave you the first part of the sentence. The semi-colon is in place. He will now also give you the power to take that first step to completing the second half.
It happens every year. The time changes and the days grow shorter and colder and I get this sudden urge. Not to burrow in. Not to hibernate. Not to go into nesting mode. No, I go into what I call my “three Rs” mode.
Now since I was a career educator, I could see where you might think my three Rs are a desire to Read, ‘Rite, and do ‘Rithmetic. Or you might think, because of the attached image, that I am a die-hard environmentalist so they stand for Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. But while I adhere to all of the above six Rs, those are not my three Rs. Mine are . . .
. . . Relinquish, Reassess, and Refocus.
Relinquish . . .
For some reason, right when there is so much going on and so many other things that need to be done, I get the desire to purge myself of many of my possessions: clothes, books, knickknacks, anything that has taken up space but has not attracted my attention over the past year. I go through a major clean-out, and the thrift stores receive a plethora of items they probably don’t need either.
Reassess . . .
While the above might take a bit of mental engagement, cleaning out really does free up my mind to reflect on my year and how I spent my time and money; how I approached my eating and health; and how I dealt with my relationships––then decide if I am happy with the answers I come up with.
With my three Rs, there is no nice, tidy cycle like the one pictured above. Mine has lines that go back and forth, and right here at step two, I often have to go back and relinquish some of my control or selfishness in these areas I just mentioned.
Refocus . . .
But my final step, once all the assessing and reassessing and relinquishing are over, is to refocus. I could beat myself up over my 2021 shortcomings and failures, or I could just bask in my successes, but neither would be beneficial. I am not making resolutions, but once all of the physical, emotional, and mental clutter has been jettisoned, I am refocusing on what is important. And that always starts once again with “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” (Mathew 22:37)
Once that relationship is front and center, then I will once again know where my priorities should be.
Yes, each year at this time I am always throwing out “something” I have collected over the year that I don’t need or is harmful, but I also know that each year I am always a little bit further along in my Christian walk than I was last year at this time.
For most of us, this time of year is filled with anticipation and joy. But for some families, this is a very difficult time because of the loss of a family member. And nothing is more difficult than the loss of a child.
A lot of us don’t know what to say to these parents, so either slip out of their lives or say nothing. But I recently read Tim Challies’s blog, “Helpful Things You Can Say to Grieving Parents” and found it both enlightening and helpful. I hope you do as well. Your words might be the most welcomed Christmas gift some parents will receive this year.
Jody Eileen Solinski spent her career teaching in the California public school system where she enjoyed helping young adults take their place in society. A native Californian, she enjoys the outdoors and so loves living in Northern California where she can enjoy the beauty of God’s creation up close.