This week’s devotion is from Sheena.

Read John 15:1-8

The pine needles and the tinsel are being swept away and the decorations are boxed and in the loft. Well most of them, there’s always one that escapes and you find it in the spring clean.
New Year and new beginnings. But we can’t box up 2020 and put it up the loft. A change in a digit from 2020 to 2021 doesn’t mean that COVID and all that came with it can be forgotten, there is a light on the horizon, a vaccine and a knowledge that ‘this too shall pass’ but it hasn’t quite yet.

2020 meant different things to different people and there is a long list of all the negatives we experienced. But if you think hard enough there were positives – maybe working from home actually suits you better, or home schooling was hard but you now know how to help you kids when they struggle with homework. You’ve embraced new technology, you’ve explored your local area, you know your neighbours a bit better, you’re more resilient, you can Quizoom.

I found coming off the hamster wheel I had made for myself was a blessing. I needed pruning, I needed all the extras taken away and the scaffolding I had constructed around my life removed to actually see God and have time to spend time with Him.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:1-4)

Having the branches cut off is painful and you might miss those bits that have gone. But’ This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.’ (John 15:8) That discomfort is worth it.

Our kids did a lot of walking last year. Not many miles but enough to get some exercise. And it always surprised me how quickly they were diverted from the road ahead – a worm on the path had to be lovingly moved to the side, we had to look under rocks for ants and slugs, there were trees to climb and brambles to eat. A couple of miles to the top of a hill could have easily taken us a day.

And I wonder if that’s sometime us and God, we walk the path with our Father holding our hand but there are so many things to distract us – hobbies, promotions, socialising. And 2020 pruned a lot of that back. All have their place, we can be put in the position of meeting new people, telling them about Jesus, making our lives richer and helps us develop our gifts. But if we’re not careful we can have become so mesmerised by climbing the tree or seeing what’s under that rock that we lose sight of the path. And I want to stand at the top of the hill with my Father looking down at what I’ve done in my life and knowing it was the way He wanted it to be.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

On the first of January there is a push to make New Years resolutions – this year I will be fluent in Spanish, a size 8 and able to do a triathlon. And as restrictions slowly lift during this year there will be the pull to return to ‘the good old days.’ But did God teach you something in 2020? Has something shifted? Are you supposed to return to everything you did before? Have you been called into something new?

God talks to us 365 days of the year. He might chose January the first to tell you about a new purpose in your life, but it might be the second, or in May or November. Listen to God, don’t listen to expectations of those around you, the media or yourself. Those adverts for weight watchers, the idyllic summer holiday offers, the new gym membership – all those images tend to bombard us in January, they are from the media not from God. And we are inevitably disappointed when we didn’t lose the stone in a month we were told we could. God’s plan for us is so much better than what we could decide for ourselves. Learning Spanish, being a size 8 with a whole new wardrobe and being able to swim then run then cycle won’t make me happy or satisfy me like God can. But if it is God’s will that we are to do some of those things he’ll point us in the right direction.

My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding—
indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5)

Dear Father,

We thank you for this New Year, for a vaccination and for the hope that we will be able to return to doing the things we miss. But Lord, if you have used the last year to teach me anything, to shape my character or give me a new purpose don’t let me forget that. Please Father, you have shaped my life, keep shaping it, keep directing me and take my hand and lead me on the path you have carved out for me.

Amen

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