Monday, September 13, 2010

'Today is a New Day'

[That's the title of a fantastic message presented by my colleague, Pastor Glen VanderKloot. It's worth the time it will take you to read it. Glen is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Springfield, Illinois. You can receive his daily emailed inspirations by going to this web site and following the prompts.]
Today is a new day!

Yesterday is over. Yesterday does not matter.  It does
not matter how often you messed up.  It does not  matter
how badly you messed up.  The past is past.  There is
nothing you can do about it, other than learn from it
and let it go.

It is essential that we learn to let go of yesterday. 

Joyce Chapman wrote...

    If you're still hanging onto a dead dream of
    yesterday, laying flowers on its grave by the hour,
    you cannot be planting the seeds for a new dream
    to grow today.

We have to let go.  Paul understood this.
He wrote to the Philippians...

    This one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind
    and straining forward to what lies ahead.
    Philippians 3:13 NRSV

That does not mean we should forget good memories. 
We want to treasure those good memories in our hearts
and minds forever.   It does not mean to forget lessons
learned. Those lessons will keep us from making the
same mistakes over and over again.  Gary Marshall said...

    It's always helpful to learn from your mistakes
    because then your mistakes seem worthwhile.

Let go of all the things from yesterday that drag you down.
Let go of all the things from yesterday that hold you back.
Let go of all the things from yesterday that cause you
    shame and embarrassment.
Let go of all the things from yesterday that cause
    you guilt.
Let go of all the things from yesterday that leave
    you with regret.

Today is a new day!  Let us join with the Psalm writer
and say...

    This is the day that the LORD has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.
    Psalm 118:24 NRSV

We can let go of yesterday's guilt and regrets. 

We can let go of guilt and regret because Jesus has
taken our guilt and regret with him to the cross at
Calvary.  Jesus has set us free.  We are forgiven. 
The slate is wiped clean.  God said through the
prophet Jeremiah...

    These people that I've saved will start out
    with a clean slate.
    Jeremiah 50:18  The Message

We have a clean slate.  Every day we can make a fresh
start and a new beginning.

There are some clergy that who will tell you that God is
keeping a record of everything wrong you have ever done,
ever said or ever thought. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Satan might be keeping track, but not
God.  Instead, God speaking through the prophet
Isaiah, says...

    I, I am the One who erases all your sins,
    for my sake; I will not remember your sins. 
    Isaiah 43:25 NRSV

God erases all our sins. God no longer remembers our
sins.  If God has let go of our sins, surely we too
can let go instead of being crippled by guilt and regret.
Today is a new day!  Let us join with the Psalm writer
and say...

    This is the day that the LORD has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.
    Psalm 118:24 NRSV

The Father celebrates when his children come home.
So welcome home! 

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, the
younger son asks for his inheritance early. After
he receives it from his father, he takes off to a
foreign and exotic land.  He is the life of the party
until his money runs out.  Then he is stuck with the
lowest of the low jobs for a Jewish man:
feeding the pigs. 

Luke tells us that suddenly it dawned on him that his
father's servants have it better than he does.  So
he decides to go home.  He rehearses his apology to
his father and even offers to give up the rights
of a son and instead be a servant.

What kind of reception does he get? Jesus tells us...

    But while he was still far off,
    his father saw him and was filled with 
    compassion; he ran and put his arms around him
    and kissed him.
    Luke 15:20 NRSV

Joy, celebration, compassion and love - that was
his father's reaction to his homecoming.  The father
welcomed him home, not as a servant, but as the long
lost son who has come home.  The Father explains...

    Let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine
    was dead and is alive again; he was lost and
    is found!
    Luke 15:23-24  NRSV

What did the father and all of his household except
the older brother do?

    And they began to celebrate.   
    Luke 15:24 NRSV

Our Father in heaven is filled with joy, compassion,
and love when any of his wayward children come home. 
When we come home, it is a time for celebration.
When we come home, it is party time.

So, believe that you can make a fresh start and do it. 
That is what God offers to us.  Paul writes...
    Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone
    united with the Messiah gets a fresh start,
    is created new.
    2 Corinthians 5:16 The Message

It does not matter what has happened in the past. 
You can have a fresh start, a new beginning.  Paul
explains further...

    If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation.
    The old things have gone; everything is made new!  
    2 Corinthians 5:17  NCV
The old is gone.  Everything is made new.  You can make
a fresh start.

A sculptor ruined a huge piece of beautiful Carrara marble.
It was left in the courtyard of the cathedral in Florence,
Italy, for almost a hundred years. Artisans thought it
was beyond repair.

In 1505, a young sculptor by the name of Michelangelo
was asked if he thought anything could be done with
"The Giant." He measured the block and carefully noted
the imperfections caused by the bungling workman of an
earlier day. To his mind came the image of the young
shepherd boy David. He carefully made a sketch of that
biblical character as he envisioned him. For 3 years
he worked steadily, his chisel skillfully shaping the
marble into a beautiful towering figure, 18 feet high
and weighing 9 tons.

Beginning fresh often is a product having the vision
to see beyond the ordinary and into the extraordinary.
The Bible is full of stories of people and nations who
were able to envision what could be. 

Hara is a mother and recovering addict who has been
incarcerated multiple times on drug-related charges.
"I never committed a crime sober," she says. She used
alcohol and drugs on and off for 22 years to help her
cope with a very painful life.

Hara has made a fresh start. You can too. On February
20 this year, Hara was released from prison. Again.
This time, though, she was determined to do something
different. To help her in her quest for a new life,
she sought the help of Connections, a program of
Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. Connections
works with incarcerated women and their families,
as well as women re-entering the community following

The Connections staff knew that Hara was serious
about change and willing to work at it. The people
at Connections went to work helping Hara in her
transition from prison to the free world.

The staff helped her get a bus pass, put together
her resume and find work.

Hara, who is in recovery from her addiction,
insists that there are people like her who want
to change. And that once they're able to change,
they can reach out to others who are struggling
-- in a way that others who haven't been through
these hardships just can't.

That's exactly what Hara does. While going to college,
she works at Project Success, which helps people,
including those recently released from prison, make
a way to go to college.

She's also a volunteer for the Department of Women's
Justice Services, part of the Sheriff's Department.
A passionate speaker, Hara talks to incarcerated women,
women on furlough, social workers, youth and church
groups.  She tells those just getting out of prison...

    Never give up. Whatever your problem is,
    I say it's not who you are.     You can change.
    You can start life over. 

Today is a new day!  Let us join with the Psalm
writer and say...

    This is the day that the LORD has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.
    Psalm 118:24 NRSV
It is time for a fresh start and a new beginning. 
Will you make one? 

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