“For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” T.S. Eliot
We have arrived at the end of 2023. I write with a grateful heart. It has been three years since Seeing Fireflies began. Some of you have been here since the very beginning. Thank you! Some of you have just joined in the last couple of months. Thank you! I pray you have found encouragement, hope, and some sparks of insight here. It is a great blessing to me to share life with you!
It has become my practice to offer a special end-of-the-year article. As we look back and remember, may you also hear the new year’s new voice of blessing as I share some of my wishes for you.
The year is coming to an end quickly for me. I have been sick for the last couple of weeks. My first wish for you in the new year is health and strength.
May God bless you with His love and grant you good health and strength.
Before we move into the new year, I would like to share one of my favorite Christmas articles at Seeing Fireflies - A Thrill of Hope: The Soul Felt It's Worth
“The most amazing truth of Christmas is that we can see God face to face. We matter enough to God for him to come to us…He became real to us in a way we could understand. He became like us so we could see him and be with him. He became our living hope. That is thrilling!
As we look back, you may recall journeying through Romans 8 with me during Lent this past year. There is so much to learn there. My favorite article from the series was What Makes Things Good. I encourage you to take a fresh look at it. I enriched the content after more reflection on Romans 8 throughout the year. It’s a reminder of God’s love and goodness, even amid hard times.
May God bless you with His love and the gift of his presence in the new year.
Of course there were many other articles shared this past year. Here are the top 5, based on the number of most reads:
*What Does It Mean To Be Home
*Treasuring the Million Ways To Be A Good Mom
*When You Are Waiting
*The Rhythm of Your Life
*The Gift of Letting Go
The things that I am reading find their way into my thinking and writing. These are the best books I read this past year that helped spark my imagination here at Seeing Fireflies:
Hearing God Through the Year by Dallas Willard, compiled and edited by Jan Johnson
This is a daily devotional drawn from Willard’s book, Hearing God. I really enjoyed it and found it helped me be mindful not only of hearing God but sharing life with God throughout my days this past year.
Desiring God’s Will: Aligning our Hearts with the Heart of God by David G. Benner
The subtitle says it all here. Benner writes in the preface: “Learning to desire God’s will is not something we can accomplish by resolve or willpower. As we shall see, it occurs only when we live so close to God’s heart that the rhythm of our own heartbeat comes to reflect the divine pulse.” This book is the third in a series. I recommend all three books: Surrender to Love, The Gift of Being Yourself, and this one, Desiring God’s Will.
My Rock My Refuge: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms by Timothy Keller
You will see two books by Tim Keller on my best books list this year. He died earlier this year. This one is a devotional that will walk you through the Psalms. Keller notes, "Every situation in life is represented in the book of Psalms...Psalms, then, are not just a matchless primer of teaching but a medicine chest for the heart and the best possible guide for practical living." I found it to be a welcome companion this past year.
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Timothy Keller
I also loved this book. It is a thoughtful meditation on one of Jesus’ most famous parables - The Prodigal Son, which Keller notes may be better referred to as the story of The Two Lost Sons. Keller notes: “Jesus is showing us the God of Great Expenditure, who is nothing if not prodigal toward us, his children. God’s reckless grace is our greatest hope, a life-changing experience, and the subject of this book.”
Joy and Human Flourishing: Essays on Theology, Culture, and the Good Life, Miroslav Volf and Justin E. Crisp, editors
Sometimes books carry a fun memory with them. This was an airplane book for me and reminds me of a fun adventure I had this past year. I became interested in it after hearing a podcast featuring Miroslav Volf. Hearing him speak made me want to learn more from him. This collection of essays is not light reading but gives you something to ponder on a topic worth reflecting on - Joy. Volf notes that while joy is an emotion that ranks close to the top in the hierarchy of emotions, it is also the least studied. Volf encourages us to embrace joy, saying it is “a feature of a flourishing life, a life that is lived well and that goes well.”
Hidden in Plain Sight: The Secret of More by Mark Buchanan
I have heard other writers talk about Mark Buchanan. This is the first book of his that I have read and I enjoyed it. It goes along well with what we are about here at Seeing Fireflies. Buchanan writes: “This is a book about practicing virtue, which at first may seem - it did to me - a descent into something narrow… I never imagined life to the full. But that’s what I’m discovering: a world vast and beautiful and holy - that all along has been hidden in plain sight.” Buchanan shares that he is grappling with the question - How do I get more of God in my life? He uses 2 Peter 1:1-9 as a guide for the book.
Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry by Ruth Haley Barton
I heard Ruth Haley Barton speak at a conference and decided to buy one of her books. I am so glad I picked this one! Don't let the title throw you. What I realized is that we are all leaders. You may be leading your family or a team at church or in your work. Moreover, we all need to lead ourselves. Barton does a deep dive into the life of Moses in this book and there is a lot to take away from it. She writes: [This book] is about the presence of God in the middle of a person’s leadership.” She helps us see what it looks like to lead our lives in partnership with God. It includes a personal leadership assessment and a guide for groups.
The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis
The Weight of Glory was written as a sermon. I have been carrying it around with me in the back of my mind throughout the year. I often wonder if I am totally getting what C.S. Lewis is saying. His style requires patience for me but at the end I always think it’s lovely to hear from him. His images often open things up in a new way. The other thing that is striking about Lewis is despite his formidable intellect, he often tells readers about what he has misunderstood. It’s as if he is saying - I'm here with you, figuring it out as I go along as well. The way he concludes this sermon is beautiful! It found its way into my article, The Value of Human Life.
May God bless with His love and wisdom and a desire to learn and grow in the new year.
As I look back on 2023, it was a time of change for me. It included more travel as we checked out colleges for both our kids. It included trying new things. One favorite was a conference I attended. It included adjusting to new ways to parent, new rhythms in family and personal schedules and more.
As things change, I appreciate daily markers - things to ground me and keep me focused in a good way. My early morning routine of solitude, stillness, study and prayer is vital for me. I have also come to love an evening pause each day. While my morning routine fills me up and centers me, my evening routine helps me pause and let go. It draws me to give thanks and enter the wonder of God. It’s quite simple, I try to catch the sunset each day. Sometimes I miss most of it. Sometimes I only see the beginning but every time, it’s a wonder to behold. Each day is different. It always evokes a “wow” and reminds me to give thanks for other good things from the day.
I wonder what your daily markers are?
Here is a sunset from this past week.
May God bless you with His love and show you his goodness and wonder as you go through your days.
Mark Buchanan’s book inspired a focus for me personally this past year from 2 Peter: Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord. Who knows, maybe a new focus may emerge in 2024. I am excited to discover what lies ahead!
As we move into the new year,
May the Lord bless you with his love,
Keep you in his care,
And be with you -
Your rock and your refuge,
Your guide and your protector,
Your Lord and your friend.
Here’s to a great end to 2023 and a new beginning in 2024!