There are so many unexpected things in this world, so many mysteries and wonders...
A somewhat belated Happy New Year to you all. Mine had a very strange beginning, practically from the moment I opened my eyes on January 1. Maybe it’s something my friends at Mysterious Ways magazine can help me with. I’ll explain in a minute.
First I want to talk about Guideposts and the year ahead. In the nearly 70 years since Norman Vincent Peale and his wife, Ruth, founded the company, Guideposts has tried to give the world something it hungers for—hope and comfort and inspiration. Our customers have always been our partners in this endeavor through the stories they share in our magazines and books and on social media.
I like to say that Dr. Peale invented user-generated content. In fact, the first time I heard that phrase at a conference way back in the digital Stone Age, I had to laugh: “Oh, you mean real people telling true stories about what’s important in their lives.” I got a funny look for that comment but I was right. Dr. Peale was definitely onto something when he and Ruth started the magazine, and they fought through many obstacles to make it successful. They knew that people wanted to hear stories about how faith works in other people’s lives.
You are our partners in another very important way as well: prayer. OurPrayer, Guideposts' prayer outreach, received more than a million prayer requests last year. Once upon a time the editors would sit down every Monday morning and rifle through a pile of cards and letters and find a few to read aloud before praying for all who had written in requesting prayer. We still do. But now most prayer requests come through the OurPrayer Facebook page and other digital platforms, and each and every one is read and prayed for by thousands of volunteers all around the world. The sun never sets on Guideposts and ourprayer, thanks to you.
Digital technology hasn’t changed people fundamentally. But it has accelerated and expanded the way we inspire one another and form social groups. We can share enormous amounts of information with someone on the other side of the world in real time. You can inspire and give hope to people anywhere and at any time. The opportunities to find new and more exciting ways to pray and share stories are boundless. After all, every Guideposts story has a prayer and every prayer has a story.
We want to think big this year because the world is becoming a smaller place. There are more than 2 billion Internet users on the planet and that number is only going up, as 8 new people start using the Internet every second. More than 2 billion people who are already, at least theoretically, connected.
Yet people still love their books and their magazines and that’s still what we do best in products like Daily Guideposts, our annual devotional book, and Angels on Earth magazine. Our new magazine, Mysterious Ways, is showing great promise. You should check it out. Which reminds me, I promised to tell you the strange start my year got off to.
Right before my large, hungry golden retriever nudged me awake early New Year’s morning I was having an intense dream. The only thing I can remember from the dream is the word Dartmouth, a small college in New England I’ve never been to. I’ve never known anyone who went there. There was absolutely no reason on earth I should be dreaming about it. And yet I retained that one vivid image of the Dartmouth logo.
I threw on some clothes, leashed up Millie and hit the street. I turned the corner and nearly collided with two young men who I was fairly certain hadn’t been to bed yet. They practically fell on Millie, wishing her a happy new year and rubbing her all over, which makes her very happy and energized and a bit hard to control on a city sidewalk. I looked more closely at them while they mauled my dog. They were both wearing Dartmouth sweatshirts.
I went home and complained to Julee while I fed Millie. “I hate it when something that inexplicable seems so absurd. I’ve never seen anyone in New York wearing Dartmouth swag. Why would I have a prophetic dream about something so meaningless?”
“Maybe God’s messing with you,” Julee said.
I gave her a look. Not in a bad way, she explained, but as a reminder that there are so many unexpected things in this world, so many mysteries and wonders. So many possibilities.
“Don’t think you have to understand everything,” she said. “That wouldn’t be any fun.”
It was a good way to start the year 2014, I decided. A hint that there was more to come that I wasn’t quite ready to understand yet. And that’s fine. That just means that anything is possible.