01 January 2012

525,600 Minutes

It's something I've done pretty much every year since I was a kid, and maybe you do it to? At New Year's Eve I stop and reflect on the past year. I like to sit down and list out in my journal all the major events, or the things that stand out to me.  I think it's exceptionally interesting to look at a year in its entirety, see where it began, and where it ended, and to think of all the life that happened in just 525,600 minutes. Of course the small events of my life seem dwarfed when we look at the scale of world events in 2011:

 Osama bin Laden, Muammar Gaddafi, and Kim Jong Il are all dead. The space shuttle made its final flight. The middle east saw the upheaval of the "Arab Spring" uprisings. The horn of Africa suffered a devastating famine. Japan weathered the sudden tragedy of the major earthquake and tsunami and resulting nuclear disaster. Earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and forest fires seemed to touch every corner of the globe. Europe faced fiscal crisis while the U.S. struggled through its own economic woes and related protests. The world population surpassed 7 billion. U.S. troops finally left Iraq. Planes crashed, wars were fought, terrorists attacked, people murdered. 

In all, the world continued very much as it has since man first sinned. And those are the events by which the rest of the world will measure 2011. Of course we all have our own methods of weighing and measuring a year. What did I accomplish that I'm proud of? Did I achieve any goals? What were my favorite moments? What was fun? What was crazy and unexpected? What was difficult? Did I end up where I thought I would?

2011 was certainly not a dull year! Lots of change, lots of learning, lots of stretching, and some struggle along the way. I added Costa Rica, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Venezuela to my "Countries I've Visited" list. Learned a new language, made dozens of new friends who are scattered around the world, developed my abilities as a photographer, tried scuba diving, lazed on a Costa Rican beach, experienced a chilean rodeo, and made a new home in Lima. And we heard, saw, and shared lots of stories about how God is moving in Latin America. Lots of lots of blessings in 2011 for which to praise the Lord! 

Certainly there were sad and difficult parts of the year too, and I think it's important to reflect on those and praise the Lord for them as well. We appreciate the good times more when we have tasted of the bad. But also, looking back at the challenges that 2011 brought reminds me of the faithfulness of my Heavenly Father. He was there just as real and present in the tearful farewells and lonely moments as He was in times of rejoicing and laughing with friends. His faithfulness has never been contingent upon my circumstances. 

Of course, maybe boiling a year down to major events really isn't the best way to evaluate it. As I've been pondering, I'll admit I've had "Seasons of Love" stuck in my head from Rent. It asks a good question, "How do we measure a year?" And even more importantly, "How do we measure a life?"

Seasons of Love-
Five hundred twenty-five thousand Six hundred minutes,
Five hundred twenty-five thousand Moments so dear

Five hundred twenty-five thousand Six hundred minutes

How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, In cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife

In five hundred twenty-five thousand Six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?
How about love? How about love?How about love? 
Measure in love. Seasons of love.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand Six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand journeys to plan
Five hundred twenty-five thousand Six hundred minutes
How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned, Or in times that he cried
In bridges he burned, Or the way that she died

It's time now to sing out, Tho' the story never ends
Let's celebrate Remember a year in the life of friends
Remember the love.

So how do we measure it? 525,600 minutes? That's what we are handed every January 1st. (Of course this year will be fewer since the Mayan's have declared the world is ending, so you better really get busy!) It's a lot of minutes. But in the grand scheme of things, it's less than a breath, and we're not promised a single one of them. The song suggests that we measure it in love. It may be a secular song, but I have to say I don't think they are far off. What matters more than the goals we checked off, or the experiences collected, is how we lived the majority of minutes when nothing exceptional was happening at all. How did we love God, and how did we love others? How did we leverage the 525,600 minutes we were entrusted with to glorify God and share Him with the people around us? 

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 reminds us that, "Not all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." 

How our years, and ultimately our lives, will be measured is by whether we accepted the gift of salvation that is available to all men through Jesus's sacrificial death, and then, what we do with the new life we have in Christ after that. If I died today, how would my life measure up? How would yours?

Of course the really great thing about New Year's is that our time of reflection on the year past is also the time we consider the year to come. We evaluate our lives,  mull over changes to be made, and consider what we want to accomplish. As we go about the process of setting goals and making changes this year, let us be mindful of what really matters. Sure we can try to eat healthy, exercise, floss, drink more water, spend less time on facebook. Those are all good things, and could very well be honoring to God, but no matter what your resolutions are this year, remember to make your personal relationship with Christ your top priority. Unfortunately it's a lesson that I constantly struggle with. As Oswald Chambers writes, "There is only one relationship that matters, and that is your personal relationship to a personal Redeemer and Lord. Let everything else go, but maintain that at all costs, and God will fulfill His purpose through our life. One individual life may be of priceless value to God's purposes, and yours may be that life." 

If you haven't put your trust in Jesus, I can think of no better way to begin a new year than with a new life in Christ. And if you have a personal relationship with Christ, I pray you'll use the new year to share the Good News with those around you and show His love in the way you live. 

May you be blessed abundantly in 2012 and may God be glorified in the year to come!
Happy New Year! 

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