Blessings to you as we begin 2015! Each time the calendar turns to January and a new year there is the opportunity to both reflect upon the past and look forward to what the year ahead will bring. Sure we all have expectations for the coming year and maybe even some leftover Christmas bills that will come due in a few weeks, but overwhelmingly our mood should be positive. The fact is we have the choice to see our glass as half-full or half-empty. One’s perspective really does matter! Let me give you a couple of examples, one from the word of God and the other personal.
Back in the fall our church studied Philippians. It is one of Paul’s most personal letters. For Paul, despite circumstances that included confinement and the possibility of death, he found reasons to rejoice. He rejoiced both in the successful spreading of the gospel message and the transforming presence of Christ in the lives of those at Philippi.
Something else really stands out though—contentment. Paul shared his heart and the true contentment found in simple things and in serving Jesus. He wrote of this contentment in Philippians 4:11–12. Paul’s words speak to me of the satisfaction that can be found in the often overlooked pleasures of relationships, life, and the joy and peace which only come from the hand of God and knowing Jesus Christ.
Today, so many people delight themselves in the complexities of life, technology or the latest “App,” but fail to recognize the greatest and most joyful experiences can come from the simplest of origins. Now, I am not against technology. I like my gadgets and the latest tech stuff that can make our lives more productive and effective. Yet, technical advances should never rob us of the enjoyment of simple pleasures such as God’s creation and the close relationships we have with others.
Not too long ago I was looking through my prayer journal from 2010 and ran across an entry from July 3. On that day my family had the opportunity to do something we had never done before. We went with our closest friends on a daylong canoe trip down the Little River in Johnston County. We were all excited, yet somewhat apprehensive, as well. I had never piloted a canoe before and my wife did not swim, this is not to even mention our complete dislike of anything that might involve a snake! Snakes in a canoe on a river don’t go together!
So, after lugging the canoes to the river bank and strategically placing our vehicles at a bridge crossing downstream we finally got underway. Thirty minutes into this new excursion, our apprehension turned to absolute joy and contentment. We paddled slowly down the river enjoying God’s creation and quality time with the most important people in the world to us.
Thinking back now, it was one of the best days I was ever blessed to experience. We didn’t take a watch. We turned off the cell phones. There were no video game, iPad, or television distractions. I had no concern for e-mail, finances, or whatever problems tomorrow held. The simplest things God had to offer in the river, wildlife, intimate friendships, and time with family were of more interest and depth than anything this modern world could ever offer. That was a gift that changed my perspective!
At the time my family was going through some major challenges and the simple pleasures of that day made me realize even more, we don’t need the nicest things, plan an extravagant trip, or have the latest techno-cool devices to experience true contentment and joy. Sharing in the glory of God’s creation, the irreplaceable bonds of family and friends, and reveling in the joy of the Lord are enough sometimes…simple pleasures.
On that day almost five years ago I believe I found out what Paul meant by true contentment, if only for a day. We’ve been on the river a few times since then, but nothing compares to that day when the Lord taught me a great lesson, a lesson on perspective. So, step back and get a different perspective in 2015, maybe even from a canoe.