The wind, in its usual hurry, pushed the water into clumsy waves. I stood on the banks of the San Francisco Bay and listened to them lapping against the rocks, my scarf fluttering on the breeze. “The year is almost over, God,” I whispered into the wind. “Thank you for all the many blessings and opportunities you gave to me. I look forward to the New Year.”
“You’re most welcome, Sparrow,” God answered. He rested His hand upon my shoulder. “Let’s be quiet for a few moments and appreciate what is here before us.” I felt the cold wind upon my face. I heard the gulls crying as they circled overhead. I felt God’s love burrow deeper into my heart and soul. “The past year was made up of moments, just like this one,” God explained. “The coming New Year will be made of the same. It’s what you will choose to do with those moments that will determine your health and happiness.”
“I want your love to guide my moments,” I said.
“Then it will be another good year,” God answered and patted my back. We stood together, watching the choppy water until I had to leave to join my children for our New Year’s Eve celebration. But before I left, I reached out my arms and hugged God, holding Him close to my heart.
Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Unhurried. That was Jesus. It should be us, too. Time spent in quiet reflection—away from people—our hearts and minds open to God’s love and guidance. Remember the vine and the branches parable (John 15:1-17)? Tucked into that story was the lesson that it is only by abiding in God that we learn how to love. We can’t abide in God if we are in a hurry, ticking off items on our to-do lists, or scrolling on social media.
Slow down. Get away from the hustle and bustle of your day. Put away your phone. Spend time with God in prayer or meditation. Abide in Him. It is in the quiet where you will find Him.
Love one another.
What would your life be like if you allowed connection to others to be more important than protecting your ego?
That’s the question driving my thinking as we wind down 2018 and head into the New Year. Connection with others creates health in our minds and bodies, yet it is often challenging to create. Our egos get in the way. We don’t know how to live with open hearts and minds, for that feels too risky, too vulnerable. Yet, that is what we’ve been commanded to do.
One of my goals for 2019 is to help others learn how to love as Jesus commanded. With that in mind, my Soul Reminders may move away from my usual conversations with God.
I’ve enjoyed writing my Soul Reminders for you all these years and I will continue. But for now, I’m allowing myself some space to nourish my creativity around this goal and to discern where God wants me to go.
I pray that the coming New Year brings to you all things bright and beautiful and that you recognize your many, many blessings and give thanks for them.
In love and peace,
(Isaiah 7:10-16; Micah 5:1-6; Matthew 1:18-25)
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This was the first census to take place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone went to his own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the City of David called Bethlehem, since he was from the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to him in marriage and was expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came for her Child to be born. And she gave birth to her firstborn, a Son. She wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were shepherds residing in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night. Just then, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord! And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a great multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests!”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the Baby, who was lying in the manger. After they had seen the Child, they spread the message they had received about Him. And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, which was just as the angel had told them.
The day was done. The night settled down in a blanket of quiet as I made ready for bed. “God, thank you for the people who have helped me get to this place in my life,” I prayed.
“You’ve had some amazing help,” God answered.
“So many kind people who have believed in me,” I replied.
“And some not so kind who didn’t believe,” God said gently. “But they were just as responsible for helping you.”
“How do you figure?”
“They were the sand in your shell that caused you to make pearls. Oftentimes, you learn and grow more from the negative people in your life,” God explained.
I thought of the people who had hurt me over the years. God was right. Each person had given me the gift of growth, even if I hadn’t been able to see it at the time.
“Thank you for everyone,” I prayed. I crawled into bed and settled my head onto my pillow. “Help me to love them all.”
“Of course,” God said and turned out the light for me.