It happened every August.
A van, an SUV, or a sedan would pull into our driveway and a college student’s parent would ask me how to find Carleton College. I would run inside for a map of Northfield from the small stack I kept near our door. Then with a yellow highlighter, I’d indicate the short route along tree-lined streets to the campus entrance.
Life in the town of Cows, Colleges, and Contentment changed every year when we collectively turned our calendars, signaling the end of summer and the beginning of a new academic year. Whether you attended school, taught school, owned a business downtown, or simply lived near campus, the quiet life of summer always gave way to new routines and new life buzzing in our community.
Even if you don’t live in a college town, chances are that the shift from summer to fall brought a noticeable change in your daily routine. We all feel an innate call to a fresh start as schools, churches, and other community groups kick-off their fall activities.
But 2020 has been different. Schools started with the COVID-19 cloud looming darkly on the horizon. The election had us all collectively holding our breaths. Now we’re looking at 2021 and wondering how to press restart on life?
What Do I Want to Change?
Some days I long for a magic wand to change a lot of what’s going on in the world. Don’t we all? Yet, what can I realistically change about my life and circumstances? Pastor Chuck Swindoll gave me the answer.
“I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.”
When it comes to restarting my life, I need to change myself — my attitudes. Who do I want to be? A person of hope.
I want to be a person who is daily transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
With Jesus Christ as our foundation for life, we have an eternal hope that changes how we live now. As we look to the cross, we're reminded that the love of our Redeemer defines our story and transforms our lives. Even if we feel forsaken, we can trust God because he can turn the stories of our lives around. In fact, he is doing extraordinary things in our everyday lives. That's why the people of God can keep getting up in a world of people giving up. The gospel changes everything. – Berean Baptist Church, Our Story
What do I want to change? I want to confront the dangerous undertow of worry, anxiety, and fear that threaten to erode my identity. Perhaps you've felt a similar overwhelm of emotions this past year.
What Needs to Happen Regularly to Become More Hopeful?
Pastor Roger and Pastor Tony taught a series entitled Keep Heart that equipped us with faith, courage, and hope for daily living. Recently Pastor Roger taught us how to guard our hearts against the noise of our flesh, the world, and the devil by being still with God in a regular rhythm of life. He encouraged us to stay the course of Christian living with these life-giving practices:
- Daily Bible reading
- Weekly corporate worship
- Regular fellowship with believers
If I want to be a person of hope, this is a prescription to keep my heart from fear, anxiety, and despair. If I miss a day of reading or a Sunday service, I won’t lose favor with God. But I do risk losing hope. How quickly I lose sight of who I am as a beloved child of God who's kept in his care.
Am I really that fragile? All the upsetting events of 2020 have proved that I am. Daily, fear has crept into my thoughts. Will my son be able to find a new job while everything is shutting down? When will I be able to see — and hug — my daughter who lives in Texas? Are my friends who live in Minneapolis safe while the city is burning? What kind of future do my friends and family of color face in our culture?
Thanks to Pastor Roger’s message, Guard Your Hearts from Fear, I began quieting the “cacophony of the world” with God’s Word.
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3 ESV).
I repeat this verse daily. In fact, it’s written on the wallpaper on my cellphone. I read it as soon as I pick up my phone during restless nights. And it works: when I remember to trust in God’s loving care, I renew my hope. Every day.
What’s Already in Place?
Restarting or resetting my life sounds dramatic, and big changes are hard to make. That’s why people who study human behavior suggest starting with what’s already in place: routines and resources.
This year I added “Bible + Prayer” to my daily To-Do list on my phone, and that’s helped me consistently follow through with my plan. I also set a timer for one minute of prayer. Only one minute?! It’s my baby step toward forming a habit that’s important for me. If I’m tempted to start my day without praying, I remind myself that I have time for at least one minute with God. It’s my starting point and I’ll be able to build on the routine I already have in place.
If you struggle with finding a routine, maybe flexibility is your routine. You’ll want to read Becky Hawkinson’s story for more encouragement about spending time with God in your way and why that’s important.
My husband and I have also consistently kept a Sunday morning routine for worshiping with our Berean faith family. Currently, that means we fill our coffee mugs and sit down together on the couch at home to participate in the online worship service. We sing praises to God, take sermon notes, and give to the mission of transforming lives. Keeping a rhythm of regular corporate worship makes life feel more normal. We don’t feel alone.
Most of us are rich in resources for spending time alone with God. If we don’t have a Bible app on our phones, we probably have at least one Bible on a bookshelf at home. During Pastor Appreciation Month, the Berean pastors shared what they were currently studying.
- Tony Manning, Executive Pastor - Nehemiah
- Roger Thompson, Teaching Pastor – Malachi and Revelation
- Ben Holden, Family Ministry Pastor – The life of Moses
- Brent Birdsall, Senior Adult Pastor – Romans and Proverbs
- Dusty Decker, Youth Ministry Pastor – Paul’s letters to the seven churches
- Dan Feldkamp, Lakeville Campus Pastor – Morning and Evening devotional by Charles Spurgeon
- Terry Foss, Worship Ministry Pastor – New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp
- Ken Parker, Sanctuary Worship Pastor – Deuteronomy, Psalms, Gospel of Luke
My "Hope" Plan for 2021
During 2020 I’ve been reading a devotional by Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies, which recommends a Bible passage for further reading and encouragement. I liked it so much that I plan to go through it again in 2021. Still, I need more.
Once a friend asked me how much time I set aside to be with God. I replied about twenty minutes. She responded, “And that’s enough?”
It wasn’t a judgment on me; I could tell by her expression. She went on to say that she desperately needed God and often spent an hour or more reading and praying. Her life circumstances were crushing her, and she needed more time with God in order to cling to the hope that she could find only in him.
As I think of living a life of hope, I recall this passage from 2 Corinthians.
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:1, 8-10 ESV).
To keep from losing heart, I need more time with God. Therefore, I plan to add reading through the Bible in a year. I’ve done this before, and it usually takes me longer than a year to complete a reading plan. Yet, my goal is not to finish reading the Bible in a year; my real goal is to spend more time with God so that my mind is daily renewed (Romans 12:20).
What's Your Plan for 2021?
What do you want to change? What needs to happen? What’s already in place? I hope you take the time to think about these questions and pray about a plan to move you forward.
I also encourage you to join me in reading through the Bible! First, consider which version of the Bible you’ll read. I change the version each time I read through the Bible because it helps me study familiar passages in a new way. This year I’m going to read the CSB She Reads Truth Bible. In the past, I’ve read The Message, the English Standard Version, the Revised Standard Version, and the New American Standard Version. One year I used an app on my phone, which was very convenient because I could also listen to the audio version. Choose a version that speaks to your heart.
Next, choose a reading plan. I prefer the Five Day Bible Reading Program. There's built-in flexibility to catch up or read ahead to fit my schedule and my life. Download the plan, print it, and tuck it in your Bible so you're ready for January 1. Then pray; tell God about your intention to spend more time with him this year and ask him to help you.
I pray that together we can enter 2021 with a hopeful heart that's grounded on the sure promises of God.