Happy New Year to everyone! 2017 is here and 2016 is finished. Some will be happy and hopeful and some will be sad and fearful, but one thing for certain, 2017 is here to stay.
I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from posting on here for any number of reasons, but I wanted to do my annual reflection and looking forward post. During the break from writing, which corresponded to a big life change that I will get into in a moment, has been allowed me to rejuvenate my writing desires and I now have the urge to write again. So 2017 may be the year of increased writing as well as prayer (perhaps as an answer to my prayer!)
These reflection posts tend to be long, so if you can’t hang with me until the end…Happy New Year and I wish you all continued blessings in our Lord Jesus Christ in 2017.
So let’s look back on 2016. I won’t get into the world news, the people whom have died (at least not the nationally known ones) or politics as there will be plenty of posts about all those and to be honest, I think what people fail to do so often is look back on their own personal lives and reflect on how THEY have changed personally throughout the year for better or worse.
2016 started off for me no different than 2015 was progressing. I was still working my stressful job and not really loving life. I honestly felt trapped and going nowhere. In fact I felt I was progressing backwards in my career to the point of wanting to give up on it entirely. But it is what I do and I had no where to go where I could support my family to the level that we desired. I prayed and prayed and the word I kept getting back from God was this…
Trust me Jason, just trust me.
Well that was easy to hear, but hard to process. I am not a patient person and like to take action right away, so to have God tell me to just trust him (meaning wait on Him) was very hard to take.
Fast forward to middle of summer. I’m on vacation trying to relax, but in fact vacation was more stressful than work, because I knew it was going to end and I would have to return soon enough. At that point, I had a bit of a breaking point. And God put in front of me a few different circumstances and coincidences that led me to put my application into a new company. These events all happened on one Saturday and by the end of the day I said to my wife as we headed to church,
God just put it about as clearly as he could what I was supposed to do without appearing in bodily form and smacking me upside the head.
It was clear that I was to send my application in and on that following Monday, I cleaned up my resume and sent it in. From that point everything moved quickly and only two weeks passed from that moment to the stressful Monday morning I gave my notice at my old job. Things moved smoothly and I started in my new position at the end of August. Fast forward from then until today, I couldn’t be happier at my new job. Is everything perfect, no, nothing is. But I felt God had called me to make the move and while I don’t know his complete reasoning, I’m there for a purpose and I intend to fulfill his purpose in me while I’m there.
Just as note, my unhappiness at my last job was not a reflection on the people (whom I still call friends), the work or the customers. It was me, being in a spot where God did not need me anymore. I spent 5+ years at that position and I made some relationships that will last me throughout my life. God had a purpose for me there, but when that was complete, he put me elsewhere.
That alone, knowing that I truly heard from God and had the courage to act upon it, made my 2016. I now feel that God responds to prayer, not always in my timing, but He does respond. We have to be willing to act, even though it may be uncomfortable, we have to be ready to answer his call.
So what is 2017 bringing and what are some of the initiatives that I am planning to move forward with?
2017 will be my year of prayer. I really want to learn prayer. I’m not talking about special prayer formulas, techniques or patterns, but really learning how to listen, talk and respond to God. I felt a taste of it last year and I want to grow further in that.
I believe that because of what Jesus did for us, we can now have a personal relationship with God. We can talk with him as if I’m talking to a close friend. I can tell Him when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m angry or glad. I can thank Him for all things that He’s done for me, but can also share my disappointments when things don’t turn out how I had planned.
While prayer is not the only way for God to communicate with us, it is probably the easiest to do and the most common, but yet we don’t make a priority to pray. It is said that Martin Luther used to say, he had so much work to do each day that he was going to spend the first 2-3 hours in prayer. I for one find myself so busy that I’m lucky to get in a quick “thank you” at the end of the day. But those days when I do start my day off with substantial prayer (no I’m not doing 2-3 hours, but even 5 to 10 minutes is a much bigger improvement than what I’m used to doing), my day goes so much smoother, or at least when the rough spots hit during the day, I can feel the presence of God with me because I included him and made my relationship with Him a priority.
My second initiative will be to more diligently follow the “motto” our church has had for years,
We are blessed to be a blessing
However God blesses us, whether financially, spiritually, time or just through compassion, we are called to use a portion of what he blesses us with to further bless others.
More often than not, those blessings, if even small, multiply when we do it out of love. That small smile you may share with a stranger, could pay huge dividends down the road when that stranger shares smiles with everyone he meets, because of your kindness.
To see your blessings grow, you must sow them. So this year, I plan to do more blessing. God has blessed me immensely in 2016, I want to see that multiply. What I won’t do on this blog or anywhere else really, is brag about how I’ve blessed people. That would make it about me, where I want the glory to be on God. I want to do most of it perhaps even in secret.
We recently went to a restaurant for dinner, where my wife and I felt God was calling us to leave a larger than normal tip for the waitress. I don’t know what her need was, but we both felt the calling. So we responded, added the large tip to the bill and left. This isn’t a restaurant we frequent too often so the chances of anyone remembering us is very slim and while my curiosity is such that I would love to know why God led us to do so, I just trust in Him that he used it to fulfill and immediate need and that the dividends will be paid from that. God is faithful in that.
So to help us with that, at least in the area of financial blessings, we’ve started what I call a blessing jar. We have a jar in our home where all of us will throw in some money each week or month or paycheck. This will grow throughout the year so that whenever any of us feel the calling to bless someone in someway financially we can. God has provided us with much, so we are going to set a bit above and beyond our normal giving to help those random people.
The amount of money we set aside is not really important and I’ve told my kids if they feel like throwing in $20 dollars or just $1 at a given time, that is OK. The jar will act as a reminder to us of what God has provided and that we need to be sure we are giving back. Yes the Bible talks about giving a tithe to our church and we strive to do so, but those random acts of kindness are so important that I want to emphasize that in 2017 for us.
Wrap up – finally you may be saying
So I wrap up this reflection post. Usually I like to give a listing of my favorite posts of the year, but this year I won’t. This year, I want to end my post with one of my favorite Bible verses and a wish for everyone to dive into God’s word more. If anything I post does nothing more than lead you to his Word, then I feel I’ve done my job and the rest of the writing is just fluff. So God bless you all and wishing you all a blessed and Happy New Year!
You turned my wailing into dancing;
You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
That my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.
-Psalm 30: 11-12