I used to spend January full of plans and resolutions. Sometimes they worked. Sometimes they didn't. But it was still worth trying because "if you aim at nothing, you're sure to hit it."
Along the way, I've thought about how God doesn't always tell us what challenges or opportunities each year will bring. Some things are obvious on the horizon--a retirement, a graduation, a new job or a new kid. Other things come from the blue, such as health concerns for ourselves and for our families.
I've also thought about how little we on earth can see the successes that count. As a husband or father, as a teacher or servant of the church, as a neighbor or friend--there are few measurable goals, few clear signs that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing.
Jesus tells a parable about talents where faithful people, working hard, turn their gifts into productive programs. Jesus tells another parable about sheep and goats, where people are judged by moments they didn't even notice, when they responded (or didn't respond) to Jesus' needs. He tells stories about hard-working responsible farmers, and also stories about scattered seed that takes root and multiplies when nobody's around.
This year, I'm not asking you to take a week-long retreat, complete with fasting, to plan how you will serve God over the next 12 months. (Maybe we'll do that next year?) I'm just asking you to listen to God.
What's God telling us?
If you were like a special forces agent in an action movie, with God's voice in your ear, how would his directives cut through the fog of battle and the everyday distractions? Is he telling you to duck a temptation, to defuse a conflict, to pursue a person in need? Is he simply telling you to hold on and take heart, because backup is on the way?
Is he simply telling you to hold on and take heart, because backup is on the way?
God's voice sometimes gives us the big dreams and the detailed plans, but more often he simply guides us one step at a time, through a Bible verse or an encouraging word that hits at just the right time--when we're listening.
What's God telling us?
The good news is that God is not far away from us, but comes to guide us in our path. When we take time apart to pay attention, when we gather in His name, He speaks the words we need to hear.
Remember to listen to God each day.
Remember that our 10 a.m. Sunday worship is not just a time to come and be blessed, but a time to bring someone who needs a blessing.
Remember that this particular Sunday, January 8, there is a lovely breakfast for all at 9 a.m.