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NIV is used unless otherwise noted.

The Rough, the Smooth: Day 1

God bless thy year!
Thy going in, thy coming out,
Thy rest, thy traveling about.
The rough, the smooth,
The bright, the drear.
God bless thy year!  Old English prayer

There is something about a new year that gives us a sense of fresh beginnings and slates-wiped-clean. But—unless Jacob Marley pays us a visit--most of us will wake up on any given January 1 with pretty much the same problems and opportunities we turned the light out on at 11:59 on December 31.

The lines above, often called “A Prayer for the New Year,” could just as truly be called “A Prayer for the New Day,” because our days are the bricks on which our year is built and the material from which a life of both change and stability are fashioned.

Why is it, then, that we celebrate our new years as if they held an almost magical ability to create change, yet we greet the beginning of most days like an old, somewhat tedious, friends whose presence is a given, until one day, whether through tragic circumstances or the inevitability of old age, we realize that our days are not endless, but numbered. And for many, it is then that they stop leaning forward for a glimpse into the future and rest in the time at hand, understanding that today and this minute are all that we have.

I imagine the words of the above prayer cross-stitched on a sampler and resident on the plastered wall of a small cottage with smoke curling out of its chimney and a cozied teapot ready for unexpected guests. The people who made their home in that little cottage in a place and time that might seem so different from ours, lived, as do we, with days and years that were filled with joys, sorrows, blessings and challenges. And perhaps, with the wisdom to know that the only life we can count on is the one we have in this moment.

…give thanks in all circumstances… (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Nancy Shirah

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