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Posts Tagged ‘New Year’

Happy New Year!

I am not great at New Year’s resolutions – holidays are such a terrible time for making me unrealistic about my capacity to be Wonder Woman. But over the last few days I have done some reflecting on 2015, and thinking and praying about the year ahead. And actually, I’ve been mulling this over for a while and am hoping that this blogpost will help make my plan more concrete and that this year I will learn to focus better on working one task at a time (and not procrastinating). I found myself very distracted in 2015 [edited to not be a time traveller] and, as a result, not accomplishing what I wanted to. And even more than usual. (Sorry about the complete lack of Christmas cards everyone…).

So this year I am planning to Do The Next Thing, with prayer, trusting God for the results.

Do the next thing visual

I came across this poem more than a year ago on a poster sold by 52home, and I think it sums up the attitude I want to cultivate. The poster on 52Home says that the author of the poem is anonymous but further research (a bit of googling, let’s be honest) turned up the original author. It’s not Elisabeth Elliot, who quoted it and is cited as the author by some online. The poem is actually a verse of a somewhat sentimental longer original which has rather ‘ye olde worlde’ spelling. It is quoted in a book called Ye Nexte Thynge by Eleanor Amerman Sutphen. The book was published in the US in 1897, and the poem was written by Mrs George A Paull – actually Minnie E Paull (nee Kenney), an author of ‘serial stories’. Minnie was a musician and minister’s wife as well as a writer, and some of her biography is available online.

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It’s a busy start to the academic year here in the Vicarage. I think it may be my favourite time of year, when I’m feeling all relaxed post holiday, with the last vestiges of summer sunshine lingering and the excuse for the purchase of new stationery. And there are new beginnings – new Ministry Trainees this year, new school years for the kids (and a whole new school for the Joker as he starts secondary education), new plans for church life, a feeling of potential for growth and change.

The new Ministry Trainees moved in a couple of weeks ago. We are excited about all that God will do with and through King and the Shropshire lad. They’ve already been to church services and socials, King has been on a training conference, they have moved chairs and been to the zoo with the Vicarage family (the actual zoo, not just a meal time round the dining table). This morning they experienced their first school assembly. Within a couple of months they should be leading one. There may have to be some training in action songs first. I think we have their heads spinning a little. In a good way.

The Joker began secondary school by being so fast to get to the bus home that he missed me waiting at the main entrance to school. It was a very dull journey back for me on the later bus. But we know he knows what he’s doing. Better than his mum, anyway.

And now my stationery pile beckons. I’ve been told that it’s no good just having shiny new notebooks. I think I need to write things in them.

We didn’t just bring bottles of wine back from France this summer.

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If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m  often full of great new ideas and initiatives. But what that actually means is that many old ideas and initiatives have fallen by the wayside. So when I extol the beauty of a new bible reading scheme or system of prayer, it possibly (=usually) indicates that the last system I extolled has somewhat petered out…

Last night Sharonxx asked the following:

I have tried to set myself the simple ‘resolution’ this year to pray at least once a day [either an Office or personal prayer], to read one small devotional a day and to do one bible study each day [using T.Wright…for Everyone]. I work 9-3, I have an 8 year old son and I’m married….pretty normal on the face of it….so why can’t I achieve even these simple goals??

Any tips? How do you do it with your busy life and family commitments? Indeed, DO you always manage to keep up with the bible reading etc.??

Simple goals, and ones I can relate to so well: read my bible, read something else devotional, pray. I’d love to do this every day too. But I often don’t. And I don’t work outside the house either, with all the extra juggling entailed in that.

So why don’t I do it? There are a bunch of reasons: tiredness, craziness of life in the Vicarage, but mainly it’s because other things seem more important than spending time with God. They’re not, of course, but my sinful heart takes control and I sleep a little more, tweet a little more, watch a little more Midsomer Murders. As I was reminded by my reading in Romans 7 this morning ‘What a wretched (wo)man I am!’

But the important thing is not to be discouraged when I fail. I’ve snoozed and missed the timeslot when I would have been reading my Bible. So I can grab a verse for the day on my phone. I’ve missed prayer time in the quite of the early morning. But I can still pray over the ironing board, or in the queue for the sandwich shop. I might not feel that I’ve prayed very well, or read enough of the Word, or wrestled with a theological concept. But if I’m keeping in regular touch with the Lord, I’m able to build my relationship with him. And even if I’m crazy busy or laid low by illness, there are still ways that relationship can grow, as his Spirit works in me. The Spirit reminds me of Scriptures or hymns and spiritual songs that I can cling to when I’m struggling with time or energy. The Spirit shows me the Lord’s providence in seemingly small ways that enable me to praise God when I feel like crying. The Spirit works in me so that I can will and work to the Father’s good pleasure.

Some of the resources I’ve found useful recently include using the audio setting with YouBible on my phone or tablet. This morning I read my allotted chapters from my epic 10 chapters a day reading plan but my head was a bit fuzzy and I didn’t process much. So then I listened to them again as I cleaned the kitchen and a bit more went in. Not everything, but a bit more.

My prayer life is a bit wobbly at the moment, but I’ve been using The Valley of Vision and have also recently downloaded the excellent PrayerMate app which is free at the moment. It has all the bells and whistles if you have an Apple device, but we are Android users in the Vicarage, so I have the newly launched version (which will be updated over the next few months) and am slowly uploading my prayer diary to its pages.

So I guess my answer is that I constantly fail to read my bible, to pray and balance all my family and other commitments. But I also constantly try and reboot them and get them back on track. The temptation is to feel that once we’ve missed a day in our readings, we’ve missed the boat. So we need to remind ourselves that the Father is waiting for our return. He loves us unconditionally, whether we’ve read our Bibles, prayed our prayers or simply slouched on the couch. Find a system which frees you from guilt if you miss a day; 10ofthose have some great undated devotional books. Start again. I read a blogpost in the last week about how we need to have Monday resolutions, not just New Year resolutions. And perhaps I even need to have daily resolutions. I mustn’t put off getting back on track because I’m waiting for a special season. I can reboot my resolutions today.

Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.

Malachi 3:7

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As I’ve grown older and more distracted in my thinking, I find that written prayers are increasingly important in helping my devotional life. In his book A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Don Carson cites a Puritan saying:

Pray until you pray.

And written prayers help you to start praying, even when you can’t find the words to pray. Sometimes I think that being an Anglican, with all the written liturgy available to me, is a bit of a bonus really. Having said that, my favourite book of prayers is not an authorised Anglican one, although it was written by a canon of St Alban’s Cathedral. The Valley of Vision is a collection of prayers that were put together from a selection of Puritan writings. They are rich and deep and help me to start my prayers with a good focus on the Lord. On New Year’s Day I was reading the prayer for Wednesday morning, and was struck by some lines which applied very directly to my resolutions and plans for 2014:

…Grant us always to know that to walk with Jesus

makes other interests a shadow and a dream.

Keep us from intermittent attention to eternal things;

Save us from the delusion of those

who fail to go far in religion,

who are concerned but not converted,

who have another heart but not a new one,

who have light, zeal, confidence, but not Christ.

Let us judge our Christianity,

not only by our dependence upon Jesus,

but by our love to him,

our conformity to him,

our knowledge of him…

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My social media timelines are full of reflections on 2013 and resolutions for the New Year. Here in the Vicarage we’ve had some great down time since Christmas to gather our thoughts. Whilst we’ve not been sleeping or waking up feeling like we’ve been dozing in the middle of the M6, that is. There’s something about a busy run-up to the festive season that makes you feel like you’ve been run over by a few dozen lorries.

On reflection, 2013 was pretty good here in the Vicarage. The kids grew up a bit and are still speaking to us (except when they’re watching telly, when it’s impossible to extract even a monosyllable from any of them). The encouragements in church outweighed the discouragements by a good margin.  The clutter in our hallway has threatened but not actually managed to submerge us. I gave a Christian talk which wasn’t mainly ums and ers. I wrote a book and some people have bought it. We have seen over and over that the Lord has been faithful in the big things which concern us and the small things that bug us.

As I’ve done every year for the past few, I have been going through Don Whitney’s 10 questions as I’ve reflected. I think many of the questions will be addressed in my plan to read my bible more in 2014. And I’m going to start off by following Professor Horner’s bible reading plan – a system involving reading 10 chapters a day. You can get this reading plan if you use YouBible, although one of the recommendations is to use a single bible that enables you to become familiar with the location of passages, so I’m going to start with a comfortable softbacked ESV. Obviously this is pretty ambitious and I’m sure I’ll stumble along the way. But I want to see if I can read at the pace I normally read a work of fiction – gathering general ideas and making links, not getting bogged down in the detail. One of the hazards of too much social media consumption is the tendency to skim lots in short chunks and not sit down to read and reflect. This is what I’d like to work on this year. I want to know God through his word and be filled with thoughts of him. Dave Bish offers a similar approach in a blogpost from 2012.

Resolutions in hand...

Resolutions in hand…

My other main resolution for 2014 is to knit more. And do crafty things in general. One of the things about living in a busy Vicarage, where home is the workplace and work is in the home, is that it never quite feels like everything is finished for the day. So I usually feel guilty  (to a greater or lesser extent) about sitting down to anything that’s not *really* needing to be done. Telly and the internet don’t seem quite as deliberate as taking up the knitting needles or sitting down at the table with craft equipment. But relaxing creatively is good for me. It makes me feel refreshed and there is something there at the end which makes me smile. So I have a scarf pattern, and I have taken up my knitting needles again. And the Queen has got herself a PInterest board and I am planning to join her in having a craftier 2014.

Do you have grand (or small) plans for 2014? You might like to take advantage of the free download offered by Christian Audio this month – the entire ESV bible on mp3. And if you have an Apple device, you can now download PrayerMate for free until the end of March courtesy of London City Mission. I’ve got to hang out for the Android version… If it makes a difference just for a bit, it’s worth a go. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.

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Over the holidays we’ve caught up with some friends and family – a great joy. Our old mate Grinagain, who we visited last week, has a useful phrase:

Fail to prepare…

Prepare to fail.

This is a helpful reminder in many areas, but today I’m applying it to the whole of next year. I have a few big projects on the horizon, and I want to approach them well. Today I’ve been reading through old blogposts, and came across one from January 2011 with some very helpful questions from Don Whitney. This year I’ve put pen to paper with my answers. It’s scary to hold myself accountable but also necessary – I struggle with self discipline every minute of every day. Here are those questions again for anyone else who wants to tackle 2013 before it’s upon us:

Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year or On Your Birthday

Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with Him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai. “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:5) he declared, urging them to reflect on some of the things happening to them, and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them.

Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It’s so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we’re going and where we should be going.

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

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I’m always surprised by the start of the New Year. Strange how it sneaks up just as you’re recovering from Christmas festivities, eh? It’s something I always think it would be good to plan and organise myself for, but once the frantic preparations for Christmas are finished, it’s all too easy to collapse in a heap of self-indulgence and sloth (my default mode, I fear).

But this December I want give myself a little time to think about plans for 2013. I have a BIG thing looming on the horizon for the Spring, which will means that I will need to be organised and on top of things at the beginning of January rather than sometime in mid-February. I want to make sure (as far as possible, notwishtanding my sinful slothful inclinations) that my devotional life has a good rhythm. I’m enjoying John Piper’s devotional e-book this Advent – and managing to actually read it almost every day.

Open bibleThe start of a new year always seems like a good time to think about reading through the whole bible. I am an eternal optimist in this regard. I started using the Daily Bible app on my tablet this year, and the M’Cheyne bible reading scheme that it enables you to use. I’ve found it helpful but it’s a big chunk to read – four chapters a day. Nate Treguboff has posted a good selection of whole bible plans, which includes the M’Cheyne and another for Slacker and Shirkers that I used on and off (mainly off) in 2011.

Tim Chester has just posted his bible reading scheme for 2013 which is less prescriptive than other schemes. It gives a reading for the week, rather than daily readings. I like this idea as it could be used in conjunction with a shorter devotional book. His scheme takes you through the Old Testament once every 3 years and the New Testament twice in the same time. If you’d like to start with the complete 3 year plan he’s also posted that.

So the Plan for Jan is a light devotional read in the mornings (suggestions welcome) to prompt prayer and a bible reading slot using Tim Chester’s plan at some stage in the week. I’ve thought that I could probably usefully listen to the allocated chapters using Bible Gateway’s audio facility, whilst I’m cooking or baking. I do spend a *lot* of time in my kitchen…

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