Unfinished Stories

Unfinished Stories

Life doesn’t always go the way we think it will. …Scratch that. …Life RARELY goes the way we think it will. We make plans, but they change, unravel, and sometimes just plain fall apart. Some people bounce back quickly or just go with the flow when this happens, but even the most fluid people eventually reach that point when they don’t know how they got where they are or where they’re supposed to go next.

Those moments can be terribly disheartening.

About a year ago, after years of painstaking work, I dared to send out a book to a group of friends who agreed to provide feedback on the novel. Their insight was amazing. They helped me spot numerous typos, found a few structural and conceptual issues, pointed out that a couple of characters needed more memorable names, and so on. I was very excited. I was sure that in a month’s time I would have the edits finished and be on my way to publishing the book.

And then, life happened.

With almost no warning, my writing time was suddenly gone (as the scarcity of posts to this blog bears witness). The few moments I had to work on the book here and there were usually interrupted, overwhelmed by other needs, or so far apart that I felt I had to start all over just to figure out where I had left off.

Talk about a plan gone wrong!

Week after week, I was editing someone else’s writing to make a little extra income, while my own writing sat in a pile of edits and drafts and notes—untouched. It was discouraging.

Finally, over this past Memorial Day weekend, I had time to make huge progress. I finished most of the changes and then started reading back through the book. But I only made it halfway before the weekend ended. Once again, the manuscript sat—always open and ready on my computer, but stuck on Chapter 22. The process seems to drag.

We all have “unfinished manuscripts” in our lives, whether they be actual books or some other goal or hobby or passion. Some of them we have pursued with every ounce of energy only to have our plans thwarted in some way or by someone. Sometimes it’s not just one manuscript; in fact, if you know many writers, you know that we usually have piles of manuscripts in progress. Even if those “piles” are organized neatly in our computer, they are still there.

Sometimes the unfinished or the failing or even just the faltering dream can weigh down on our spirits. We begin to let them define us. “See,” we say, “I’ve never finished this project or that one.” Or, “Look. Everything I’ve tried to do has failed.” Or, “Nothing every works out, so why should I try?”

That’s when it’s important to remember that what we accomplish is not who we are.

I’m sure you’ve heard people say that before, but we live in a culture that denies it. We expect perfection from ourselves because our culture has set a very high standard of achievement before us, and to “be anyone” we must attain. This isn’t just a trait of our world. It has also crept into our service and worship. We mean well, but sometimes our expectations of service or participation or behavior just aren’t attainable. And the next thing you know, we’ve got everything upside down. We schedule every moment with so much “service” that we forget to take time to simply walk humbly before our God. We work so hard to keep ourselves unspotted from the world that we forget we must sometimes go into the hard places of the world to touch those in need. We overachieve when God simply wants us to be.

Sometimes, we just need a reality check. We need to remember that who we are is not what books we have written, what jobs we have worked, what programs we have developed, what ministry we have carried out, what businesses we have started, what businesses we have lost, how many children we have had, how many marriages we’ve had, how large a house we own, or if we can pay our rent. None of that makes us who we are. Those are a part of us. They have helped to shape us. They are the circumstances that help to form our character. Our world may identify us or classify us by some of them, but they are not what is important. One thing matters:

Who I am before Christ.

When He looks at me, what does He see? A lost sinner? A child that has wandered astray? A repentant heart? A labor-weary servant? A redeemed and precious child?

When He looks at my heart, is it pure? Is it a place where He has full reign? Is it growing to reflect and resemble more of Him and less of me?

One thing is sure—we are loved with a love that will pursue us to the end of the earth. When we fall, He will be there to lift us back up, brush us off, and set us on the right path—or to chasten us if need be. When we feel we have failed in an assignment, He is there to pull us back on track and to remind us that, just like my manuscripts,—our story isn’t done. There is still time to edit. We may not be able to change things in the past, but with God’s help we can do right in the future. One little decision, one little commitment to let God lead and to follow Him no matter what can change the plot lines we thought were already set. And then, the next thing we know, an adventure has begun.

So, to all of you who read my book last spring, thank you again, and please know that your labors weren’t in vain. The book is so much closer, and so much better, because of you.

And to those of you who are feeling like your “pile of manuscripts” will never be complete, rest in the Lord. Let Him guide you to the next step. After all, “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it…” (Psalm 127:1)

And to those of you whose lives seem to be falling apart, remember that the Author and Finisher of our faith can restore all things. He does not leave us, nor does He change. In fact:

He writes the best stories.

 


Coming Soon:

Barren Fields, Fruitful Gardens – Book 1: Winter’s Prey

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When the cruel elements of the Montana Territory inflict tragedy on the Bennett family, life is forever changed. Jessica is certain the answer to her pain lies in starting over. Her brother Marc is determined to stay true to what he has always known.

Amidst the constant battle for survival and the conflict in their hearts, both siblings stand at the threshold of surrender to God. What will they choose?

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A Burden Not For You

As I drove home one evening a few years ago, I was praying. My prayer went something like this, “Lord, I know You have given me the ability to write. I want that writing to count for you. I want it to honor you. Please, do whatever it takes to use it for your glory.”

Three days later…

My hard drive crashed.

I don’t mean a little crash. I mean the kind of crash we all dread. I cannot begin to tell you the heart- and gut-wrenching feeling when I realized that computer was not going to restart. When I learned that because I had tried to restart it there was less chance the data would be retrievable, my heart sank even deeper. In addition to hundreds of pictures, that hard drive contained Bible studies, books (my own and others’), outlines, and ministry DVD files. In short, it contained LIFE.

Lightning over Lake

I had been preparing to start out on the road to share my ministry with as many churches as possible, hoping to gain some support both in co-laborers and finances. With no computer, I had no presentation and no display materials. So, the money I had saved for the trip was instead set aside to try to fix the computer. My plans were set aside with it.

All this time, I was trying to figure out how this fit into anything in life. How did it fit into growing the ministry? How did it fit into finding the support the ministry needed? How did it fit into my writing bringing glory to God? None of it made sense.

The time to leave on the trip came and went while my hard drive sat in a lab somewhere in Georgia. Finally, one afternoon, I received a call from a very friendly man.

“Miss Miller,” he said in a southern drawl, “I am so sorry to tell you this. We tried everything, but we just couldn’t get anything off of your hard drive. I saw from your paperwork that this is a ministry computer. We were going to give a discount, but we just couldn’t get anything off of it. Of course, the deposit is non-refundable, but you owe us nothing else. I’m very sorry.”

I told him I understood. I thanked him, but my heart was broken and my stomach was churning. So much lost. So many hours of work—months and years worth of work! Lost.

As I once again began to pull together pictures and text to recreate my presentation and display materials, I still wondered about the purpose in all of this. Was God displeased with me, with my writing, with my presentation? Had I gone about something in the wrong way? Why such a huge delay in everything?

One day during my quiet time, I came across Ephesians 3:13,

 

“Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulation for you, which is your glory.”

 

Paul’s tribulation wasn’t something he was undergoing for his own sake. He didn’t even identify it as suffering for the sake of Christ or of the Gospel, which he did in other places. No, this time his suffering was for the sake of the Ephesians.

As I read that, it occurred to me for the first time that maybe, just maybe, my trial had nothing to do with me at all. Maybe God had allowed this in my life for the sake of someone else. Maybe I was being too nearsighted.

The next verse says, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I realized that I could do nothing else. I had asked God to use my writing, to use the ministry, to use me. Somehow, this fit the plan, even if the loss was the only part of the good and the glory that I experienced. The right choice for me was to bow the knee and trust that God would bring glory to Himself through it.

This fit the plan

Two months later, I got on a plane bound for Kenya. The trip I had originally planned to visit churches had not happened. The writing on that hard drive, much of it, was lost. Most of it has never been rewritten. But God used the funds that had been set aside when the computer crashed to buy the tickets for a trip I had hardly dared to dream could happen. In the month that followed, we saw God do amazing things. God had a blessing He wanted to impart on the missionaries there as well as on the orphans, women, students, and churches with whom they were working. The loss of all that writing was required on my part, so that they (and I) might receive the blessing. Furthermore, just over a year after I returned, my first book The King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption was published, due in great part to that trip to Kenya.

The burdens we bear and the losses we incur are not always for our sake, nor for our chastisement. I was reminded of this again this week. Circumstances, which I did not understand, overwhelmed me. A bit like when my computer crashed, except now there are so many more of those confusing situations.

At a critical moment, my mom handed me a print out of an email, which a friend had sent to her. I had received the same email, but hadn’t had a chance to read it yet. The email told the story of a woman who had gone rock climbing for the first time. In the process, she lost a contact lens. She searched for it, but could not find it. She was disappointed that when she reached the top she could not see the view clearly. As she and her friends hiked back down the mountain, they heard another climber yell to his buddies, “Hey, did anyone lose a contact?” The contact had been found—carried on the back of an ant!

The young woman’s father was a cartoonist. He heard the story and later drew a cartoon of an ant carrying a contact lens. The caption on the picture read,

 

“Lord, I do not know why you want me to carry this thing. I can’t eat it, and it’s awfully heavy. But, if this is what you want me to do, I’ll carry it for You.”

 

That little ant had a heavy load to bear, but he wasn’t bearing it for his own sake. He was bearing it for the sake of the woman who needed the lens. Likewise, sometimes God gives us burdens to bear that aren’t for our own sake. Yes, we can always learn from any situation, any trial, any burden; but the overall need may not always be our own. Whatever burden weighs us down, may be for someone else, someone who needs what we are bearing.

Consider Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21. None of it was for himself. Instead he endured tribulations so that the Ephesians might:

  • Be strengthened with might in their inner man by God’s Spirit,
  • Have Christ dwelling in their hearts by faith,
  • Be rooted and grounded in love,
  • Be able to comprehend and experientially know the breadth, length, depth and height of the love of Christ,
  • Be filled with all the fullness of God.

What an amazing purpose! What a gift he desired to give!

Sorrow, loss, sacrifice, difficulty, poverty, illness, persecution, rejection, and misunderstandings—none of these are pleasant. But what if your endurance of these things will bring about the above gifts in the life of your child, your church, your coworker, your spouse, or your friend? What if your burden has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them?

“Great!” you might say. “That gives my trial meaning, but it is still so heavy!”

To this the Lord says, “Come …

 

“Come unto me, all ye who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Perhaps, God has given you a burden not for you—A burden, which must be borne for the sake of those around you. Let Him bear you up and carry the load. All that remains for you then is to be faithful.

Come unto me -bench~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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ABOUT RACHEL MILLER

I am the author of three books, including the Walking in His Promises Devotional Journal. You can check them all out here. I also run a Christian editing and writing service. Check it out and let me know how I can help you.

 

 

 

Out of Sight—Lessons from a Storm, Part 2

Part 2 of 2

As I clutched the steering wheel, straining to see into that storm, I wasn’t really thinking much about the spiritual benefits of the situation. I was thinking about getting down that mountain alive! Whiteouts, however, provide some good lessons for those moments when our path is obscured. Here are just a few:

 

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1. Follow the leader.

Have you ever navigated a storm by following taillights? It’s frightening. What if the taillights disappear in the snow? What if the other driver stops abruptly, and you run into the back of him? What if he turns and you miss it? At that point, the tension level in the car is directly related to how much you trust the other driver.

When our path is obscured by the constant storm of activity and responsibilities around us, it’s easy to start gripping the wheel, pumping the brakes, and squinting into the fog in an effort to get ourselves through it. But, we’re putting out needless effort. We have a steady light to follow—one we can trust implicitly.

If we’re following God, we have no need to worry. He will guide us past the dangers along the edge of the road and lead us through any sudden turns. We can trust Him because, as Job said, “…He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10) God is the One who set the path in front of us in the first place. He knows where it is leading. It may lead through storms and fires, but as a result we will come out as purified gold—a treasure in God’s hand.

This fact, however, does us no good if we don’t acknowledge Him. We can say, “Yep, God knows where I’m headed,” and at the same time be plowing our way blindly through the storm because we’re not willing to follow His lead. We act on our own instincts because we’re not willing to trust the taillights in front of us.

Proverbs 3:5-7 says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways, acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.” We have to let it all go: Give up our understanding of things, commit our works to God, and allow Him to establish our thoughts (Proverbs 16:3). When we let go of the things we’re holding onto then we can take hold of His hand, and let Him lead us through the storm.

 

2. Don’t get off the path.

I knew that icy road was lined with steep drop-offs—whether I could see them or not. I wouldn’t have had to worry about my car spinning out of control and going over the edge if I had pulled over, gotten out of my car, and attempted to walk down the highway. But, more likely than not I would have blindly stumbled over the edge. I might have been struck by another vehicle. Chances are I would have wandered off the road and gotten lost. Who knows how long it would have taken me to get back to the road or to be found once the storm cleared. People die that way.

Sometimes God puts curves in our path. Sometimes they are sharp and sudden. But, unless He is telling us to make a turn, switching directions in a storm can be dangerous. We panic when we can’t see the road, and we start looking for a new, safer path. All the while God is saying, “Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand, nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” Instinct tells us to find shelter, but we often forget that God is our shelter in the time of storm. (Ps 61:3)

Once we’re off the path, we’re headed in the wrong direction. That icy highway was still leading to Great Falls, neither the destination nor the road itself had changed. They had simply been obscured. The same is true in life. Don’t leave the path just because you can’t see it; you’ll be headed the wrong way. Keep going in the direction God has given you.

If we’re listening, we’ll know when God is leading us into something different. He promised in Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” What a precious promise in a storm that blocks the path from our view! He doesn’t leave us to blunder about, He asks us to trust His direction—to keep following the taillights. In Isaiah 30:21 God said, “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” When it’s time to turn, God will let you know; until then stay on the path.

 

3. Slow down.

As the rear end of my car tried to overtake the front end, I knew immediately what I needed to do. It makes so much sense when we’re driving. You can’t see anything, you don’t know what’s coming or what’s around you, your car is about to do a 360, so—slow down.

Somehow in life we get it all mixed up. The storms come, the responsibilities, the constant pressure and activities, so what’s our solution? We try to do it faster. We add more things in, thinking they will eventually lighten the rest of the load. We rush things. We rush people. We become distant, distracted, irritable, and impossible to be around. All because we’re trying to barrel our way down a path we cannot see in hopes of getting through the storm sooner.

I don’t remember Jesus rushing around very often. His day was filled with busyness, still the only time the word “haste” is ever linked to Him is when He was telling Zacchaeus to get out of the tree. I don’t remember Jesus running everywhere like a crazy man trying to pack all He could into those 3 ½ years. But, I do remember Him walking from one place to the next, teaching and healing as he went. I remember Him slowing down at the end of a long day to spend time with his Father in prayer.

God did not intended for us to heap massive weights upon ourselves and carry them alone into the storm. Nor did He intend for us to rush through the storm. God wants us to slow down, but we must learn how.

Had I slammed on my brakes as I was coming down that mountainside, I would have spun out. In my mind, I can still see the exact trajectory the car would have taken. I had to first lift and steer. Then I could ease into the brakes.

Slowing down on icy roads takes practice, fortunately, as Christians, we have a good Teacher. God longs to spend time with us. Just as the bridegroom in Song of Solomon sought to be with His bride, God knocks at our door in the still moments of the day. He waits there and whispers, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

The question is “Are any quiet moments left?” Do we fill them all up, so we have no time remaining for Him? The rest we long for is found in those moments of learning from Him. The desire to rush through the storm diminishes as we take His hand and find comfort in Him. But, if we rush through the day and lock the door of our heart as we slip beneath the covers, then, like the bride, we may finally drag ourselves from our beds to answer his knocking, only to discover that He has withdrawn himself. (SOS 5:1-6)

 

4. Stop.

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This is where I find myself.

That day on the highway, the storm never got so bad that I couldn’t keep creeping along. By the time I reached the bottom of that horrid sheet of ice, I had nearly driven out of the worst of it. But, sometimes, the storm comes against you so hard that you have no other choice. You have to stop.

We each go through different kinds of storms: Storms of sickness, of financial pressures, of job difficulties, of relationship problems, of time pressures, of loss. Sometimes more than one storm strikes at once. We’re tempted to do all the wrong things to navigate the fury around us. We start spinning like a whirling dervish (or a car on ice), trying to manage everything…It doesn’t have to be that way.

Sometimes we just need to stop.

We may compare our lives to someone else and say, “I have no excuse. If they can do that, then I can handle this.” It’s good to be encouraged by what others are doing, unless in attempting to do likewise we take our eyes off of our Leader.

It doesn’t matter if your storm is no more than a sprinkle and a breeze—if it has distracted you from Christ and made it impossible for you to clearly see the path He has laid out before you: Stop. Find a quiet place. Step away from the storm. The place of greatest peace is in His presence. Wait on Him. Let Him take all the elements of the storm, whatever they may be, and say, “Peace be still.”

Does this mean we disengage from life? No. The disciples’ ship didn’t stop sailing because they left their posts and went to Jesus, but it would have sunk if they hadn’t gone to him. The few moments they took to seek help from the Savior was the step that eventually saved them and the ship.

Stopping is a choice. Occasionally, God stops us. He says, “Okay, if you’re not going to stop yourself then I’m going to help.” Usually, the circumstances are not too pleasant. Most of the time, however, stopping is up to us. God doesn’t force us to pull away from the mayhem around us. He waits. He drops hints and clues. The Holy Spirit prompts us that we have lost sight of things and need to step back, but He doesn’t usually force us to stop. He wants us to choose to seek Him.

Some of God’s greatest works were done while His people were standing still. (Check out Exodus 14:13.) Ruth’s redemption came as she sat still. (Ruth 3:18) We try to force our way through the storm, thinking once we’re on the other side we’ll be able to figure everything out. It rarely occurs to us in those moments that perhaps God wants us to quietly sort through things with Him, so once the fog lifts we’ll already be headed in the right direction.

I’ve recently taken time to slow down. To reflect on where things are and where God is leading. But, I can clearly see I also need to take time to stop. Sometimes, stopping has to be orchestrated, and I’ve begun looking for places in my “score” where I can put a several measure rest. I don’t know exactly how or when or where, but I’m looking forward to those extra moments with the Lord!

How about you? Where are you right now? Do you just need to keep following the taillights? Have you gotten off the path? Is it time to slow down?

 

Where is your favorite place to spend time alone with the Lord? I’d love to hear about it!

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ABOUT RACHEL MILLER

I am the author of three books, including the In All Thy Ways Devotional Journal. You can check them all out here. I also run a Christian editing and writing service. Check it out and let me know how I can help you.

Focus (not resolutions) for 2014

I was the kind of kid who spent a lot of time observing. I watched what people did and waited to see the results. When it came to New Year’s resolutions, the results were overwhelmingly bad. So, I made up my mind I would not fall into that cyclical trap. But, like everyone else, I sensed the importance of that day. It was the end of one season and the beginning of another. That made it noteworthy. I wanted to start the new year in the right direction. But, I knew if I made a whole bunch of resolutions, or even one for that matter, I would fail.

I watched how others met the day. Some friends traditionally got together with their friends and family. They always seemed to have a good time. Some people started diets. Others joined gyms. Some people set work or study goals. On New Year’s Eve our church usually had a game night, followed by preaching and “praying in” the new year. That was nice, but it wasn’t personal.

When I was fifteen, I started my own New Year’s tradition. I don’t really remember where the idea came from, or what made me so determined to do it. I’m just glad I did. That year, I decided I would spend time with the Lord on New Year’s Eve, asking Him for direction for the year ahead. That’s hard to accomplish with everything else going on!

I still remember slipping off into a side room at church and squeezing in just a few minutes. I didn’t have long, but I was able to read some scripture and spend time asking Him what He wanted me to focus on over the next year. I don’t remember now what the answer was, what I ended up working towards in the twelve months that followed. But, I remember that night as if it were yesterday (and believe me, it wasn’t!) Those few moments were so precious that I’ve kept the tradition up every year since.

Some years, the Lord has already shown me what He wants me to focus on before New Year’s Eve arrives. Sometimes it comes in those quiet moments as the world outside my window erupts in cheers and fireworks. Some years, it comes in the first few days of the fledgling year.

As we approached the end of 2013, I was feeling more than a bit overwhelmed. My best friend called me for my birthday and, I am ashamed to say, got an earful of all my troubles. (Thank you for being so patient!) Every direction I looked, I saw more things that needed to be done and no means, energy or time to do them. I honestly couldn’t see how I would ever sort through my thoughts enough to figure out what I was going to focus on in 2014. What aspects of ministry needed more attention? What writing should I be focusing on? Which projects did I need to let go and which did I need to expand?

When we decided to take a trip to Ohio for my cousin’s (beautiful!) wedding, I thought this might be the first year since I was fifteen that I didn’t get those special moments with the Lord. And, to be completely open and honest, I felt if I did somehow get a few moments with Him, I would just completely mess it up because my thoughts concerning the new year were so tangled. But, God is gracious. In the end, I had an entire hour—just me and God. (I have five pages of journal notes to prove it!) The time was sweet and refreshing and profitable; but as I came away from it, I still didn’t know for sure what the Lord wanted me to focus on in 2014. That bothered me, so I kept praying.

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Sunday night was the night it all came together. We had an unusual church service. Instead of the usual song or two followed by preaching. We sang a couple of songs, and then had a praise and testimony time. Then each person shared a verse and two reasons why it was special to them.

My thoughts immediately went to Isaiah 26:3,4:

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord forever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.”

This passage has been a favorite of mine for more years than I can count.

Peace has always been important to me, not necessarily quiet, just peace. If our hearts are not at peace, how can we ever hope to hear God? If our relationships are not at peace, how can we glorify God through them? How can we minister together if we are warring against one another?

But peace is not always easy to maintain because we are all full of that dreadful little thing called pride.

Pride, which relies on self to fix everything, worries.

Pride, which is always right, causes contention.

Pride, which wants its own way, destroys our ability to put others first.

Isaiah 26 gives the secret to peace. It isn’t seeing the problems solved, the relationships mended, or the strife melted away. Those are only the results. The true secret to peace is our gaze; not of our eyes, but of our hearts.

Peace comes from having our thoughts completely fixed on God. The word here translated “mind” is beautiful. Specific to this verse it carries the meaning of thoughts and, more importantly, meditations. A thought can be fleeting, here one second gone the next—believe me, I experience that problem on a daily basis! But, meditation is a process. It begins with a thought, but that thought is never let go. It is developed and expanded and internalized. It becomes a root of our thinking process.

Recently, someone said something that hurt me deeply. Their words revealed that a gulf I hoped would somehow be spanned probably never will be. Over the next twenty-four hours, thoughts came about that person, their family, and our relationship. Each time, I had to make a specific choice not to let my mind camp there because I love that person, and I don’t want that to be destroyed. It could have been, quickly and easily. I had to (not so simply) let it go and turn my heart back to where it needed to be centered—back to Christ.

The word translated “mind” also refers to our “frame and formation”. The frame of a house is what establishes its shape and boundaries. It determines both its appearance and its functionality. This also refers to our shaping as vessels in a potter’s hands. Will we say, “Hey, you don’t know what you’re doing!” Or will we allow God to shape us?

Our thoughts and meditations, our frame and formation are all to be “stayed”—to rest—upon God. They’re just supposed to lay right there and not move. He is to be the underlying support. If I meditate on Christ, how will I have room to think of the ways others have wronged me? If my mind is fixed on His power to deliver from any situation, how can I worry about things I cannot control?

God promises peace to the person who keeps their mind fixed on Him. But, it isn’t just any peace it is “perfect peace.” Literally, it’s “peace, peace” or shalom, shalom. The word covers nearly every aspect of the idea of peace. It refers to relationships, health, prosperity, our welfare, freedom from wars, and most importantly our relationship with the Lord. God doesn’t just promise us a little peace. He promises a double dose of perfect peace. And the best part is that WE do not have to keep it.

Notice the verse says, “THOU wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.” It is God’s job to keep us in perfect peace, our job is simply to keep our eyes on Him.

As I was reading these verses in Sunday night’s service, I couldn’t help but think of a similar passage in Philippians:

“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6,7

God never changes. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, He is there waiting, ready to not only give us peace but also to keep us in it.

My heart was soaring by the time I had finished reading those verses. I knew immediately this was what I had been praying for. This was what God wanted me to focus on in 2014:

Him.

But God didn’t stop there. When our sharing time was over. We sang one last hymn. It goes like this:

There is never a day so dreary,

There is never a night so long,

But the soul that is trusting Jesus

Will somewhere find a song.

There is never a cross so heavy,

There is never a weight of woe,

But that Jesus will help to carry

Because He loveth so.

There is never a guilty sinner,

There is never a wand’ring one,

But that God can in mercy pardon

Through Jesus Christ, His Son.

Chorus –

Wonderful, wonderful Jesus,

In the heart He implanteth a song:

A song of deliverance, of courage of strength;

In the heart He implanteth a song.

-Anna B. Russell

I know there will be dreary days and long nights in 2014. There will be heavy crosses and weights of woe. I know there will be a need for deliverance, for courage, and for strength. And, I know the same wonderful, wonderful Jesus who pardoned this guilty wandering sinner, will be in the midst of each one.

As we sang that hymn, my thoughts ran to another song, one of my favorite Russian hymns, which declares not just that Jesus will implant a song in my heart, but that HE is that song. (You can listen to it here! Don’t worry. It’s in English!)

As if all this wasn’t enough, God still wasn’t done. When the song was over, the message began. The text verses were these:

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, LOOKING UNTO JESUS the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down on the right hand of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” Hebrews 12:1-3

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It goes right back to our gaze and right back to our minds. It also goes back to the idea of the path set before us in this new year. If we forget to consider Christ and what he suffered, we will faint. But in light of all He did for us to obtain our salvation and victory over the grave, how can we be wearied in our daily trials? Yes, sometimes they are many and overwhelming. Often they are undeniably and unbelievably painful. But, He took upon Him the sins and the punishment of the whole world.

The service closed with communion. And I realized we were doing exactly what the verses had said: Considering Christ. I couldn’t even imagine a better way to end the service, nor to solidify in my mind what my focus is to be this year. And not only this year, but always.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.”

– Helen H. Lemmel

May each of you have a blessed and peaceful new year!

What has God given you to focus on this year? Please share in the comments.

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ABOUT RACHEL MILLER

I am the author of three books, including the Walking in His Promises Devotional Journal. You can check them all out here. I also run a Christian editing and writing service. Check it out and let me know how I can help you.