"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." Bilbo Baggin in The Fellowship of the Ring
In a few days, we will know whether or not Punxsutawney Phil, “the Seer of Seers, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, Weather Predictor Extraordinaire” has seen his shadow. According to groundhog.org, Phil has been predicting the arrival of spring with 100% accuracy for 120 years.
2009 has begun in a precarious way. The number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits has hit an all time high. The stock market has been in a prolonged downward slide. Home values continue to decline. Locally, many of our friends and neighbors find their hours cut or are joining the unemployment lines. And our government seems incapable of doing anything to stem the tide. They keep throwing money at the problem. Last spring and summer, there were the tax rebates. Then in the fall came the bailout plan. Now another “stimulus plan” is working its way through Congress. More and more of our children’s money is being given away to large multinational companies. Still, no one can predict when we’ll see any relief.
I found myself thinking, “isn’t there any good news?” I quickly realized that the good news I was looking for wasn’t going to found in any news report. The only good news we can truly count on is the good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you
,” John 14:18. This is the same promise that God made to Joshua through Moses, “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,"Deuteronomy 31:8.
There’s a wonderful song from the musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.Joseph finds himself imprisoned by Potiphar, having gone from relative prosperity to the pits without any warning. There behind bars he sings these words:
Close every door to me, keep those I love from me Children of Israel are never alone For I know I shall find my own peace of mind For I have been promised a land of my own
For many it may seem that every door has been closed, but there is no need to give into fear or discouragement. It is possible to find peace of mind for God’s children are never alone.
Regardless the claims about Punxsutawney Phil, none of us can accurately predict what the future holds. All of us can know who holds the future and that is really good news!
…. it is a wretched taste to be gratified with mediocrity when the excellent lies before us. --Isaac D’Israeli, 1834
People tend to approach life in one of two ways.Either thinking that the best years are behind them or that the best years are before them.This is especially true as people age.Many folk as they hit middle age look back on their “glory years” with nostalgia.And since they think the best years have already come and gone, they become “gratified with mediocrity,” just willing to coast through life, maintaining as much comfort as they can.This kind of thinking doesn’t just happen within older people.Benjamin Franklin said something like this, “Most people die when they’re 25, they just don’t get buried for another 30 or 40 years.”We need not think that our best years are behind us regardless our age.A new year brings new possibilities for the excellent.
Excellence is never achieved through comfort.
In a couple of weeks, we will begin a relationship building study based on the movie “Fireproof.”While this is directed primarily for married couples, anyone who has any kind of relationship with other people (and who doesn’t?) will benefit from it.Excellent relationships don’t happen by doing what is comfortable.
On January 11, our congregation is hosting a Ministry Fair to give everyone a sample of the types of ministries we are involved with.Excellent ministries require the service of those who aren’t willing to coast and to do just enough to get by.
Many people have made New Year’s resolutions soon, but few will follow through with them because changing habits is uncomfortable.Julie and I were invited to a New Year’s party last yearWhile there, we were asked to write a resolution and turn it in.I don’t recall what I wrote, but I suspicion that I didn’t do a good job in keeping it.
During the first week in January, Julie and I are attending a “Creative Ministry” conference in Orlando.One day of the conference is spent studying at Disney World.Julie couldn’t understand why I wanted to attend since I hate to fly, I don’t like amusement parks, and waiting in lines with crowds of people drives me crazy.Why would I do so many things I find uncomfortable?Because I want to have an excellent, creative ministry.
I believe with the right motivation, we all can do those things which lead to excellence.Let’s resolve together to make 2009 the year when we aren’t satisfied with the wretched taste of mediocrity.This new year can be the best one yet with God by our side.