Welcome 2017 – Making it a year of Prayer

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.

Looking back

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.

Moving forward

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

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Count your blessings!

As I enter this new year, as I do every year, I like to reflect on the past year and of course look forward to the new.  It is so easy to look back on the year and see only the negatives.  Maybe your health wasn’t as it should be, your finances are in a mess, or perhaps you’re lonely and depressed.  Who knows what it might be, perhaps it was worse, maybe a death in the family or bankruptcy or loss of a job.  Any number of things can make us dwell on the negatives and not see any of the blessings God has provided.

Going back to my previous post, We are what we think, dwelling on the negative does you no good.  In fact it accentuates the negatives and brings what might just be a minor setback and carries it throughout your life.

Take for example a job loss.  Not only does that bring financial difficulties, but it can also bring about feelings of lack of self worth and depression.  This can affect you not only mentally, but physically by raising your blood pressure, causing headaches, or worse.  Look up the effects of stress on your body and you can see the damage it can do to your health. 

I personally struggle with stress and view it as the cause of most of my health issues from my bad back, high blood pressure and other issues.  Half the battle is realizing it, but it is still a major roadblock in my personal life.

What I tend to forget however, is how truly blessed I am.  Paul writes in Ephesians 1:3 about our spiritual blessings.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Also in Matthew 14:13-21 we read how Jesus provided for the needs of over five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish.

These and many other places in the Bible let us know how much God cares for us and how he will provide for all our needs (not necessarily our wants though).

Counting my Blessings

Let me reflect on this past year and not focus on the negatives of the past and not even on the negatives to come in 2011, but instead let me count my blessings and see how much God has given me.  I think if you sit back and spend the time to do the same, you’ll be amazed at how greatly you truly were blessed in 2010.

  • My Family – God has provided me with four awesome children.  My children are truly my pride and joy, I love them more and more each day and while they can try my patience at times, as we all did with your parents (sorry Mom and Dad), I can’t fathom the joy the bring me as I watch them learn and grow.  I watch my oldest turning into a young man, my daughter into a beautiful young lady and my two younger boys loving life and becoming best friends with each other.

    My wife, who is the love of my life, my best friend, my girl friend and my life time partner in this crazy world.  She puts up with my crap and still loves me.  She provides me stability in my chaos.  She is the strength in my weakness.  I love her more and more each day.

  • My health – Sure as I get older, I notice things about my body that I think, “Oh crap, I’m getting old.”  I look in the mirror and see my hair disappearing, but I look at that as a bonus as my hair cuts are shorter and I use less shampoo.  I had some major back issues this summer which had me laid up for almost a month, yet it provided me with plenty of time I needed to slow down and reflect on my life and the direction it was heading.  I also was able to catch up on my reading! Smile 

    Despite my problems, minor compared to others, I wake up each morning, which is a blessing in itself, am able to get out and live life to it’s fullest!

  • My job – I’ve been self employed for almost 10 years now and while it’s had it’s peaks and valleys and there is a whole separate level of stress that someone who has never worked for themselves as their main income will never understand, I feel blessed that I’ve been able to continue to do what I love for this long. 

    Business has been slow this year, in fact so slow that it has caused some troubles and issues that are not that pleasant, yet my family has yet to go hungry and I am thankful for that.  The slowness of the economy and the effects on my business has also been a blessing in disguise as it’s forced me to reevaluate how I market my business and services and has pushed me to be more aggressive and proactive in gaining new work.

  • My finances – Well let’s just say this is really my lack of finances.  The slow economy has hurt my income and cash flow enough that while we are still eating, there is little left for anything else.  Again this has been a blessing in disguise.  My wife and I have learned to do with less, we’ve learned to shop smarter, handle our finances better,  and have learned to focus on priorities and rid ourselves of some of the dead weight that is a drain on our finances.  While we still have a way to go, we are blessed by having to make these changes.
  • My friends – I’m blessed beyond belief with great friends.  I won’t name any personally as I’m sure I’ll forget some, but I’ve met new friends this year that have become a great blessing to my wife and I and indeed to my children as well.  Thank you for all you do and I look forward to our continued friendship into the new year and of course the  business opportunities we’re always thinking up. 

    Also to my old friends that have been there through thick and thin, through bountiful times and thin times, those friends that bless our lives each and every day.  God has put all of you into our lives for a reason.

I could go on and on about the many blessings that I have in my life, but the one thing that I want to remember through all this (and the one thing I hope my readers take away from this), is that God has blessed us all beyond belief, even though these blessings may not be obvious, step back from your troubles and look at how they can positively impact your life and the lives of those around you. 

I look forward to 2011, the many things I’ll learn and my growth while writing this blog, and to the many friends I hope to meet on here.

I would love to hear your comments and thoughts on the direction of this blog as well as how God has blessed you this year!