Sitting here with a cup of hot tea, on the last day before the Christmas tree comes down, I take a few minutes to ponder, as I do on this day each year, the ways God has been present, real, working…
On some days it feels as if 2020 has mocked us. It came in with a prophetic assignment. Numbers to God always have meaning. Always. This year had remarkable meaning according to the Hebrew calendar. It meant “grace,” “The house of God – the church,” and “fruit bearing or judgment.” Hmmm… Aren’t those interesting words.
Who hasn’t needed extra grace this year? The children came home. And stayed. The traveling spouse came home. And stayed. The quarantining. The cooking three meals a day for everyone. The closed business. The drop in sales. The wondering if it will ever open again. The isolation. The fear. The loss… Oh, how we’ve needed extra grace.
Then there’s the church. For the first time, the church doors closed. What would we do? How would we respond? We started wearing our pj’s to church as we watched it on a laptop. We missed our friends. We missed corporate worship. We missed our choirs. We still miss our choirs. We then had to create new church. Our small groups became church. Some of us joined small groups for the first time as we learned that the word “zoom” now had an entirely new meaning. Oh, how church changed.
Then there is the fruit bearing. Nothing reveals fruit like having to use it. The kindness when strangers are hungry. The patience when the kitchen table is now the school-house. The self-control when Kroger looks like Armageddon and you see that miraculously two packs of toilet paper exist all while the little signs says, “only take one.” The faith when we don’t know how we’re going to put gas in the car or food on the table. The love when the world has gone mad. In the middle of this hard to fathom year, God has opened up opportunity after opportunity for our fruit to grow.
And then there is the judgment piece. Are we being judged? Yes, God is a God of grace, but He is also a righteous judge. He doesn’t allow sin to go perpetually unchecked. Granted we will not see all that His judgment holds until the final years before His return, but He is a holy God. Is some of that in the middle of this? And if it is what did we do with that thought? Did we look at our hearts? Ask Him to search us? Repent of what we found?
But 2020 wasn’t just the start of a new year. It was also the beginning of a new decade. And that number for decade 20 had a Hebrew meaning, too. The word was “pan” and it means “the decade of the mouth.” Now, let’s ponder that for a moment. In a decade where it is about our mouths, it seems the enemy has done everything imaginable to silence them. Remember, the natural is so very often a picture of the spiritual and we have spent the better part of a year with our mouths covered up in the natural, all while the enemy is trying to do that in the spiritual.
On a personal level our Monday Musings have become highly suppressed. Over and over I hear of teachers of the gospel being more and more censored. What used to be a subtle desire to silence the church has now become a main street declaration against the voice of the church. Recently, a document was released to the government attacking every front of the Christian community from our Crisis Pregnancy Centers to our sexual abstinence programs to who a Christian organization can hire. It seems in this new decade every voice should be recognized, honored, protected and heard except the voice of the church, causing the church to have to decide whether we allow the enemy to silence us or we continue to declare the message we are called to give. Yes, it has been a year for sure.
We also have an entirely new dividing line of our lives. Many had it after WWII, the great depression, our generation knew it after 9/11. Now, this generation will forever be defined as the world we knew before Covid and the world after Covid. I mean, I have started blaming the Coronavirus on everything, from my messy closet to the perpetual losing of my keys. Philly looks at me to object to anything and I simply raise my hand and say, “Corona.”
Life has been fundamentally changed. But my thought as I leave 2020 is, “But have I?” And if I have, oh God please let it be for the better. Because the same God of red sea partings and lion mouth closings is the same God of 2020. And just like He had miracles in the mayhem for the children of Israel, and deliverance from the danger for Daniel facing the lions, He has held the same for us. So, on this day I simply like to remember all the red sea parting moments my God has done. And I write them down in detail. The exact experience. The identified moment.
I remember the moment God protected my parents on the highway when the metal covering that flew off the truck in front of them struck their car and could have killed them because they were barricaded in by large concrete walls on each side with nowhere to avoid its impact.
I remember the ski trip with the kids where we were able to share our hearts with them in ways we never have been able to before.
I remember the moment we got the call of the provision that our minds couldn’t have even dreamed up that restored to us in a moment what years had taken.
I remember the final bill we paid this year that if you had told us twelve years ago, we would have the money to do it, we wouldn’t have believed you.
I remember the salvations and baptisms this year of Love Nashville ladies and their children.
I remember the moment Sophie ate an entire bar of very dark chocolate and spent the night in doggy ER and I thought she might not ever come home again, but she did, only to go straight back to my purse to see if anything remained.
I remember the earthquake dream and tsunami dream God gave me that prepared my heart for what was to come, having no idea what 2020 would hold.
I remember the dream God made possible for me and Philly in 2020 and how God has revealed so much in it already that still needed to be healed in my heart that I didn’t even know.
I remember the red seas God parted for friends and family and our nation through prayers prayed in faith, believing even when everything in the natural mocked that very same faith.
And in each remembering, I realize that 2020 is not defined by Coronavirus or Racial Tensions or Rioting or Elections. 2020, like every other year, gets to be defined by what my heart allows it to be defined by And each year I try to move that heart back to my BIG GOD. Remembering His bigness in the smallness does more for me than any other act I do in this life to build my faith.
My word at the beginning of this year was “new wine.” I cannot begin to describe to you the ways God has poured “new wine” into me. But I had to be willing to let go of the old in order to get the new. The first letting go started at the end of 2019 when I heard the Lord say it is time for some necessary endings. I want you to go back to your original design of writing and teaching (as I had become employer and fundraiser and rarely had time to sit down and do what I’m doing now. And I was sullen and lost a little. So, naturally and without effort, The Next Experience ended, the doors of the strip clubs in our city closed and it all had this seemingly necessarily and gracious ending. I did an online Bible Study and enjoyed that beyond words! I’ve written more blogs this year than I’ve written in probably the last decade. Then, in the middle of the year we moved and God opened a door for me to build a home, a dream I’ve had for years but one I didn’t know would ever happen. He told me it will be a home to “house My glory.” But none of the new could have come had I held onto the old.
So, before you close out this truly notable year, don’t forget to take note of all the ways God has been with you, walked with you, provided for you, delighted you and loved you. What old has gone? What new has come? Remembering is far more powerful than any other gift we can give our heart.
As we move to 2021, want to know what 21 means? It means “manifest Spirit.” The Spirit of God actually made manifest. I cannot even imagine what that will mean for us, but oh my goodness I cannot wait to see!