Back to the basics for the New Year

Making New Year’s resolutions today? I’ve done my share over the years, but until the end of the year I don’t even remember them. In this guest post, Mary Jane Smith suggests we stick to the basics — God’s basics.


Packing Up

II Cor. 5: 17  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.”

The Christmas season is by far my favorite time of year.  Especially here in Florida, I miss the four seasons of Ohio – but I certainly do not miss the cold, rainy, snowy winters there!

Today as I started my day, I thought back to my Holiday decoration and the pleasure I receive from the sparkling white lights and the ornaments collected over my lifetime.  Some are treasured ones passed down from family who have long ago gone to be with Jesus.  Some are lovingly hand-painted and were given to me this year.  Each one represents a time and a story from my life and special people and events that touched my life.

I sigh as I realize as quickly as it came, Christmas is over for this year, and I must face the “take-down” process . . . the boxing and storing of precious items to wait for another year to be brought out and carefully placed again next year.  As everything gets put away, I remember when I was younger, this was my day to make my resolutions!  I no longer sit down and “make a list” like I did back then.

However, I do meditate on what Jesus has brought me through during the year.  Only He knows what I will face as the New Year dawns.  I review areas of my life that need attention and pray for His guidance to either alter or change areas completely as He points them out to me.  My goals have become less dramatic as I age.  I am no longer focused on “making a living”, so much as “making a life” that pleases my Father.

As I look around the living room, now clear of the Holiday decorations, it is back to basics.  This reminds me that God wants us always to go back to His basics — prayer, Bible study, and worship.  If I continue to stay connected to my Father through prayer; remain immersed in His Word; and faithfully gather with my church family to worship, I will not need to depend on resolutions to make the New Year a better year.

God already knows what the coming year holds for each of us.  So, for a wonderful New Year all we need is to stay connected to our Father and walk the path He directs regardless of the circumstances.  We will be able to look back and like Paul, we can say . . . “the old has gone, the new has come.”



New Year’s Day Elijah

Encouragement for all of us from a guest contributor, Vicki VanNatta.


January 1, 2013, New Year’s Day:

Sigh…Do I really have to face another one of these? Setting goals, evaluating the past year, reviewing my accomplishments – except in my case I review what I didn’t accomplish, which is more obvious. All those things left undone on Dec 31, like a kitchen counter cluttered with the effects of a busy week of running to and fro. It’s draining. January 1 seems like a day designed to showcase my failures, highlight my shortcomings and remind me that my life is passing by—and what exactly have I really accomplished? How will I be remembered? Will I be remembered? What did I do with the time I had? How in the world did I manage to waste so many years?

So I would rather go to bed – yes, I know it’s 10am. And for a person who battles depression, going back to bed at 10am is like an alcoholic having a vodka on the rocks at 10am; a sign that today I am again falling off the wagon. Going to bed, curling up under the safety of blankets and comforter, letting sleep make it all go away for a few hours—I may as well have had several drinks at 10am. I sleep and sleep and sleep some more. Drifting in and out. Feeling guilty, rehearsing my failures during times of consciousness. And to top it off, back to bed at 6:30pm, sleeping soundly until –


January 2, 2013:

What time is it??? 4am?

Lord, did you waken me for a reason? It has to be you, Lord, because I’m that no-good sleepaholic bum. Remember? I wasted a day under the covers. Wasted the day I was supposed to be setting goals and creating my life’s plan for this year. Yes, I was truly wide awake and hungry. Only my hunger pangs got me out of bed.

Hot food and drink. A hot shower. Small blessings I often overlook. I visited someone in the hospital this week, and now this morning, standing under hot water running over me, I thought of all those people lying in hospital beds who may not be able to shower for a long time. I’m blessed.

I remember my mom telling me, “Get a good night’s sleep. Things will look better in the morning.” You were right, Mom, they do.

Perhaps I needed the sleep. Can 12 hours of sleep ever be God’s plan? Doesn’t sleeping 12 hours make me a ‘sluggard’? Don’t I remember reading something in Proverbs about lazy people who will come to no good?

But wasn’t it Elijah who slept for hours when he wanted to die? And wasn’t he a prophet or someone God used in an amazing way? Now where is that story? Searching my Bible, I find it. The story of Elijah in I Kings 19.

Elijah was ‘zealous for the Lord,’ but on this day, he ran into the desert, sat under a tree and told God he wanted to die. Utterly hopeless, he slept and ate and slept and ate, in that time finding strength to continue. He heard God’s voice, then, when God spoke to him; and he went on with the work God gave him.

In the end, he never did die, but God took him home in the middle of a whirlwind, in a chariot of fire pulled by horses of fire (2 Kings 2:11). Amazing! He never had to die an earthly death even though he begged for God to take his life that day in the desert.

Yes. I slept the day away, but I think it was God’s plan for me. This morning I have renewed strength and hope; determination to make some changes that need to be made; renewed awareness of the Holy Spirit in my life; and realization of simple blessings – like a hot shower.

New Year’s Day isn’t a day to review my failures. It’s a day to look forward and see that God has given me one more day to be a blessing to someone, to be ‘zealous for the Lord God Almighty.’  Don’t look back. God has forgotten those mistakes of your past. You should work at forgetting them too. You may not be exactly where you want to be, but aren’t you glad you aren’t where you were 20 years ago?

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

New and Improved New Year’s Resolutioning

Yes, I know the title of this post uses a word that is not a word. But that’s the only thing that came to me at 3:30 this morning, and you know how that goes — once a thing like this is stuck in your head, it’s … stuck. You can’t seem to clear it out to make room for new ideas. So we’ll just have to live with that title.

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, I am — to use a phrase from James — a double-minded woman. I tend to scoff just a bit at this yearly practice, knowing quite well what happens to most promises made just because the calendar says January 1.

And yet, precisely because the calendar says January 1, most of us do find ourselves thinking about new beginnings, a fresh start, and new hope.

So just as James’s double-minded person is blown to and fro like wind-driven waves of the sea, my own January 1 practices have been inconsistent and contradictory. In the past, I’ve sometimes said, “Nope, no resolutions. That’s useless.” But I have also sat down on New Year’s Day with six friends and written out my goals for the year. Then we tucked away our lists, read them again after 365 days, and reported on our progress. Now that’s accountability, right? Don’t be too impressed … items on my list have been “carried forward” for about three years now … 

So if you’re going to do this New Year’s Resolutioning thing, may I suggest a new and improved way? Actually, it’s not my idea. I’d only like to point you to Marc Kinna’s post on Letters of Truth and recommend that you write your own letter as he suggests, letting the Holy Spirit help you.

“Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.”

I think this is the key to all we do. Our human efforts produce human results … and those often are not impressive or pretty. The wind of the Holy Spirit blowing through our lives, though, leads us into truth, produces fruit we might think impossible, and births life within us.

Try writing a Letter of Truth today. I did, after reading Marc’s post yesterday, and tomorrow I’ll share with you how the Spirit startled me. 

Blessings in your New Year.


Scripture: John 3:6 (NLT)

P.S. Thank you, Marc!