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  • Shanley McConnell

Devotion: The New Year

Updated: Jan 18

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Hello! Welcome to one of my first posts of 2020. I hope you are well, and had a restful Christmas and New Year season. I'm thrilled to welcome you back to the blog for another year of posts, updates, reviews, etc. As always, if there's any type of story (or good challenge) you might like me to try, please don't hesitate to email me ideas at shanleymcconnell@gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you.


One of my goals this year is to spend more time mediating. And mediating on the words of glory, of God. I don't usually write New Resolutions in the sense that they extend the entire year----I write a couple of achievable goals each month. From anything as simple as booking an eye-appointment to taking the long circuit Port Meadow walk once a month. Maybe reading three or four new books to developing a semi-consistent bedtime for February. Who knows what each month will bring? 12 months flies by so quickly, and yet, each seasons brings new responsibilities and fresh outlooks.


But this year I would like to cherish time before the Lord. No matter what season it is, I know that this will always bring me peace. I thought that, instead of journaling my thoughts in a notebook, I would write them here on the blog. To look back on in the years to come. Please feel free to read whenever I do a post like this one below. :)


Wishing you all the best.



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Sometimes my week begins on odd-days; as in a Wednesday afternoon when all the craziness and stress of unexpectedness finally settles, or a Monday morning before new scheduling begins. This week I feel like square one is today, Thursday at 2:48pm. And this is ok.


It becomes easier to practice morning-principles when we realize that rest comes in intervals. When we feel the peace of knowing what we can and cannot organize. Coming to this place of understanding allows us to adopt the principle of priority.


In Exodus 16, the people of God were starving, lost in a desert, hopeless. They were afraid. And God felt compassion. He told Moses that he would send them meat at twilight and bread in the morning. This was to be a sign of his covenant. He would protect and take care of his people. "Morning by morning the people of God gathered the bread (manna), for it melted as soon as the sun grew warm," v21. This action was a critical part of their day; it gave them physical strength and made concrete their confidence in God's faithfulness, as read in Lamentations 3. "The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning," v22-23.  


Not everyone is a morning person. Sometimes weekly schedules are out of our control, and "the morning" arrives at uncustomary hours in the day. But 2020, I'm learning that morning is a principle, not simply a time of day. It's about finding a moment to reflect and gather heavenly devotion. Giving your heart a moment to open, be refreshed and assimilate truth.


♪ Andrew Ehrenzeller, So Proud of You.



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"Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and the preciousness of these will be yours," Matthew 6v33.


In 2nd Kings 4, the prophet Elisha meets a young widow. Creditors were demanding payment for the debts she owed, threatening to take her children away as part of the bargain. Desperate, she approached the man of God. What do you have? he asked. In the house?


They refocused their attention on a meager pot of oil. Elisha commanded her to pour this oil into empty jars and the oil flowed. It was a miracle. How such a small amount of ointment (anointing) flowed over and freely into the vessels until all were full. She sold the oil, paid off her debts and lived with her sons. Without fear of lack.


And I think, maybe the answer we've been praying for is already with us. Luke 17, in mustard-seed faith watered to move-mountains, v6. Psalms 73 reads: "My flesh and heart may fail, but God is my strength----my heart and portion forever," v26. And when there is nothing. When our house is empty, and our heart desperate, remember that God will provide.


♪ Hillsong Young & Free, Highs & Lows.



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Learning to rest is a practiced art----one often lost in our modern culture, in a time where schedules are full. Full with good, worthwhile things, too. I love reading back a weekly-calendar, and realizing how full it was.


The truth is: sometimes all the appointments, errands, and productiveness catches up with our momentum, and we are left feeling overwhelmed and exhaustion. When we spend time on things that matter to us (family, studies, career-pursuits), there is this adrenaline strength that keeps us focused.


I struggle with fatigue. Because it comes unexpectedly, I often feel ashamed taking time away from studies to sleep and recharge. I know how easy it can be to feel discouraged----saddled with a sense of wasted opportunity and time.


I have learned that time spent in recovery, in solace of quietness, is wise. I once read a quote that paraphrased rest as an investment for the diligence. In Mark 6, Jesus's disciples return from preaching, healing-----seeking the heart of God in wonderful things-----and still, Jesus encouraged them too rest. "Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while," v31.


I know this can be a difficult thing to prioritize. I worry about my relationships, my writing, my career, my responsibilities. Will taking time away cause them to falter? But I'm learning that these fears are not always dependent on me.


Spending time to rest will strengthen me as I interact with day to day plans. What does rest look like? I think this, too, wears grace. It'll be different for every individual, situation and season. Today, resting is breakfast, a cup of coffee and worship. Tomorrow, a walk through University parks. On Monday, a conversation outside the library? All of these are moments that pause the afternoon and carry it forward towards something reimagined.


♪ HOUSEFIRES, Build My Life.



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"Unless one competes according two the rules, he or she will not win the prize," 2nd Timothy 2:5


Any proficient athlete knows and has chosen the rigorous training of achieving victory. With scheduled sacrifices and preparation, they must build muscle and stamina. In poetry, this system is similar: a writer must dedicate time to reading widely in and around their favored genres, edit, re-edit and enhance the premise of a work already precious to them. They must consider the audience while simultaneously remaining attentive to the voice and structure of traditional poetic forms.


This can be difficult when one's imagination feels a little weak----writer's block, perhaps? And the space where one feels stuck between inspiration and momentum is lonely. With art as subjective as poetry, it can feel impossible to understand the rules of winning/losing. As writers, we are often encouraged to count our rejections (when we do, we remind ourselves of all the times we pursued success). And this, in turn, is part of the victory. If we remain convinced by the work we create, the act of submitting it for review is part of building muscle and strength. 1 Corinthians 9 reads: "Run in such a way that you may win," v24.


Here, the winning is not only the running. It's in the way that we approach the beginning, middle and end of such an endeavor, in sport, humanity, science, business, art. As a believer in Jesus, I have the confidence that there is grace found in the space of loneliness, the process of seeming struggle and failure. This grace is majesty, this grace is wonder. It is "the gift of God, and not the result of our own works," Ephesians 2v8-9. This gift "releases us from the law." Because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, this gift fulfills and renews the law," Romans 7v6. This means that our success is greater than worldly recognition.


The love we share for excellence is enough. As I read these verse I think on 2nd Timothy 3, and wish you the same encouragement. "Continue in the things learned, knowing from whom all long-lasting, eternal accomplishment is found." This is the way we learn to win.


♪ Communion (feat. Steffany Gretzinger and Brandon Lake from Bethel Music) - Maverick City | TRIBL.

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