Looking back, looking forward

As the year draws to a close, my Internet voyages this week have focused on retrospectives — the moments in 2005 caught so masterfully by photographers and writers who focus their professional attentions on the people who continue to take center stage — as well as the cast of characters in our global human drama who have left us. I’m thinking of Pope John Paul. Terri Shiavo. Rosa Parks. Johnny Carson. Peter Jennings. Arthur Miller. Richard Pryor. William Rehinquist. Varied scientists. Artists. Musicians. Business people. Inventors. Researchers. Physicians. Politicians. Jurists. Authors.

I’m also remembering family members and friends.

When I consider each of these individuals—their place in the world, their style, their passions, their frailties, their contributions, their challenges—God reminds me that these qualifiers are ours as well. I am convinced as never before that in 2006 we can each live inspired, meaningful, purposeful, and deep lives. But there is, of course, a catch, if you will. We cannot do it alone. We must redraw how we look at the greater scheme of things. As hard as this may be for those of us who tend to be practical, logical — even scientific, if you will — opening our hearts in new ways and wrapping our minds around the idea that God is ever-present will revolutionize our experiences and our lives.

Remember this as you enter 2006 with a prayer to grow and change: God will speak both loudly and softly to you and those around you. He will use people and events to encourage and challenge you. He may even intangibly urge you to do things like open up that dusty Bible stashed upon a shelf so He can instruct and remind you about His methods, His character, and His history. You may experience a sudden interest in joining a small group or study. All these methods will be used in your life for the same purpose: that you will come to love and enjoy Him. Include Him in the dailyness of your life. Depend upon Him. And grow to become a deeper and stronger player in the coming year.

God does not move parked cars, however. A little engine revving is in order and it all starts, I believe, by daring to be yourself. If you resist the notion of becoming “churchy,” resist. But dare to be yourself and God will talk to you in ways you will understand and work within your uniqueness. I find this challenging at moments, especially when my children kid me about the things I predictably say and do. I am quirky and hopelessly me. But so are you. We are each unique, fashioned as God deemed us to be. Whatever our “mix,” we each have the potential to be fulfilled and useful. It begins by avoiding the comparisons we tend to make with others and focusing instead on who we are: what excites us and what we dare to privately dream. It means asking God for courage, tenacity, and skill. It means stepping out of our comfort zones and daring ourselves to make public what we think about on a regular basis in private. It is in this arena that God will present Himself in surprising ways.

To experience God in 2006 we will want to choose to look for and embrace the wonders of life — no matter the circumstances. And there will be a host of deal breakers out there if we let them. We can expect to witness fractures in our relationships. Death. Ill health. Financial worries. Natural disasters. Injustices. Political intrigue. Whether it involves us or those we love and care for, life’s greatest worries will be experienced. But God will also be present. We have the ability to draw on Him and choose to be content if we learn how and practice it. It may begin by simply surrounding ourselves with people we value and remembering that the learning never ends.

2006 will be a wondrous year if we listen to that private voice that we commonly ignore. It’s the voice that is sensitive, caring, thoughtful, loving, and selfless, but much of the time impractical. It’s the voice that represents the best in you but is the one you invariably ignore because you are not as organized as you need (and can!) be. You are too busy. You are too self-absorbed. You are too tired and too unfocused. This is the voice, of God, for it is the same voice that urges you to make a phone call. Stop on your way home to visit a friend in the hospital. Walk toward the person in the grocery store you know is struggling and could use a hug. Mail the birthday card to the family member you’ve not talked to in months. Get up early on your only day off to participate in a community service project. Dare to talk with the person in your life who intimidates you but with whom you need to create a peaceful coexistence. Make a financial contribution when money is tight.

Bundled together, these choices will gift you with moments of faithful living and begin creating the person you long to be in 2006.

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