Saturday, February 16, 2013

Newness Series: Starting Over

New Life Old Life signs*

Every morning when the first graders get to school, their clothes-pin clips (which are labeled with their names) are back on the neutral color. I forget what the colors mean, but let’s say blue is neutral and then there are levels for good behavior (as well as levels for poor behavior). If a child behaves well, and the teacher notices, they get to move their clip up to the next level and get a sticker. If they continue to behave well, they get to continue to move their clip up more levels. If they behave poorly, they move their clip down until the office or their parents get involved.

Everyone can have an off day. So, let’s say Tim was having a hard day. He had a dental appointment right after school that he was worried about. So, he didn’t focus during language arts and he acted up, joking with his table group during math. He had to move his clip down twice that day, which certainly didn’t seem fair given the dentist was waiting for him so he could have a shot and have a cavity filled. Sometimes teachers just don’t understand.

But that afternoon, he goes to the dentist and goes to bed and comes in the next day. Whew! The dental visit wasn’t so bad. His mom got him a new truck after it was over. And today, he feels great. Thankfully, the struggles of the day before are gone. His clip, like all the others, has been moved to the neutral color. He has another chance to make good choices and earn rewards.

He gets to start over.

So often in life, we carry the baggage of our pasts with us. The devil beats us up with thoughts about how horrible we were, the evil, selfish, hurtful, deceptive choices we’ve made. He tells us we’ll never change. He takes us right back to that moment when we made that bad decision, and we relive it with vivid, agonizing clarity. Then, the devil shames us for it, condemning us. “You haven’t changed, you know. You’re incapable of changing. That other person still hurts because of what you did,” or whatever. Those thoughts weigh us down. We can’t forgive ourselves. And if we’ve asked God for forgiveness, we don’t always believe it’s happened. We certainly don’t feel free.

But what if forgiveness works like those clips in the classroom? Yes, Tim had a tough day, made some poor choices. But the following morning, his past is washed clean. Nothing left. He gets to start over. His teacher doesn’t hold yesterday’s mistakes against him.

And God, in His forgiveness, doesn’t hold yesterday’s sins against you. That’s GOOD NEWS!

Are there areas in your life where you’d like to start over? So what, it’s not January 1st? You can still begin again. You can begin right now, no matter what time the clock reads, or what date is on the calendar, and make changes. You can become forgiven. You can seek God to make things right, if that’s where He leads.

You can leave your past behind you and move on.

You can start over!

Here’s to a future that is free from the burdens of the past!

Photo credit: From by mrpuen.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Newness Series: Embracing Grace

flower pot with fresh growth
In a new season, don’t expect things to be the same. Should go without saying, right? But we’re creatures of habit and we draw security from doing things the same way or expecting that if we do, we’ll have the same results. But in a new season, everything is negotiable. Nothing is certain.

One thing that shouldn’t change is our hope.

Recently, I queued up a song on my mp3 player that I hadn’t heard in a while, Chris Rice’s Smellin’ Coffee. I love the line about waking up and the past being gone. That’s the hope of a new season. That’s the gift of a new day, a new week,
a new year.

Winter can drag on, can’t it? But I’m glad God gives us seasons. Seasons remind us of newness because change is always happening. And new years. A new year comes complete with hope. That’s why people make resolutions. They feel emboldened by the fresh start.

Truth is, everyday offers the gift of hope.

This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

(Lamentations 3:21-23 NKJV)

So, no matter how yesterday went, we can leave it with God. Good or bad, we can walk forward, unencumbered. Into a new season, into a new day, a new year. Embracing grace.