Set it on fire

night-fire-easter-celebration

Happy Thanksgiving.

Merry Christmas.

Happy New Year

These are such assumptive holidays and celebrations. After all, what if 2017 mainly represents failed hopes?

What if I look back over the year and the things that burst to the top of my mind with the force of an instant pot gone loco are failures, losses, pain, regrets, and the like? Pardon me if there doesn’t seem to be a lot of Feliz in my Navidad this year.

Oh, and by the way, Happy New Year! Happy New Year? Sure, the hap-hap-happiest New Year ever! I look forward to more of what happened last year. Which, if I’m being honest, amounts to a whole lot of regret.

Why regret? Have I mentioned I didn’t keep my resolutions in 2017? I never lost the 15 pounds (but I did put on 5). I didn’t write on my blog each week like I said. My marriage isn’t any stronger because of my Notebook-esque heart-pursuing, romance inducing practices. I stopped reading ‘thru the Bible in a year’ at Leviticus because Leviticus (I actually made it all the way through this year, but I know the plight of any whose tears left the pages upon pages of temple procedures bonded together forever).

2017 year-in-review: didn’t do it, never started, couldn’t stop, didn’t finish, wish I had, wish I hadn’t…

These thoughts are fresh on my mind after preparing for our church’s Christmas Eve service this year. Several people in my congregation faced loss or are staring it in the face in 2018. Some of our families had one less seat filled at Thanksgiving dinner. There were fewer presents under the Christmas tree and an indescribable fullness missing from the conversation. When one voice is lost, we all lose a piece of our own as well.

No matter what kind of year you may have had in 2017, here comes 2018 like a bat out of Helsinki. She’s inviting you in. Will you go reluctantly, expectantly, brazenly, cautiously?

The Apostle Paul was a guy who’d had highs and lows like none other. If you’re skeptical, read some of 2 Corinthians 11. But in spite of peaks and valleys and the in-between, he had this to say:

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, 14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore, let all of us who are mature think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you … (CSB)

There’s a level of maturity required to leave the past in the past and press on to the future. Erwin McManus devotes a couple of chapters in his new book to the idea of setting your past on fire. You make an altar of those things, good or bad, and light it up as you walk in slow motion toward the future.

It doesn’t mean you don’t remember people or forsake experiences. But there comes a time for us all to let go of whatever is hindering us. That could be a failed weight loss goal. But it might also be the loss of a loved one. A cancer diagnosis (saw too many of those in my circles in 2017). A dream job that has become a nightmare.

I don’t know what comes to your mind when you think of what (or who) you’d like to leave behind in 2017. For me, there are a few “didn’t do its” I’d like to just fuhgeddaboutit.

  • I didn’t write a blog with consistency. And I have excuses. Good ones. But they’re excuses. Goal fail.
  • I didn’t get 9-pack abs. My excuse? I eat too much. Oh food. I need you. I want you.  Goal fail.
  • I didn’t become more of the husband I want to be. Excuse, you ask? Pride…I chose to honor me instead of she. Goal fail.

There are more goal fail bullet points seared into my brain, but I’m trying to leave them behind for crying out loud.

How about you?

What must you leave behind in order to forge ahead into a brighter tomorrow? It’s that thought, that voice, that experience, that failure that’s weighing you down like Fat Albert on a bobsled team.

You can’t leave your cancer behind…it’s going with you. But perhaps there’s a new level of faith or an attitude you’d like to invite in. No amount of optimism will bring your loved one back to life…but what if you take that loss and channel it into choosing a fuller life this year in some capacity?

Within the realm of what you can control, what decisions will you make so that you aren’t sitting in the same seat on the regret bus come December 30, 2018?

What behaviors have to change? What habits have to be broken? How much pain and discomfort are you willing to endure in order to see growth or healing?

I wish I could invite you to cyber slap me if you find out I’m not following through on what I’m setting out to do and be in 2018. But I do plan on having better accountability and invite you to do the same wherever you are.

Share your goals and aspirations with people who are for you and love you and, even in the South, will tell you the stank nasty truth when necessary.

So, here’s you to 2017! The altar is set. The match is lit. Toss on 3.

1….

2….

 

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What Does Christmas Say About Your Rights?

You’re reminded every day of the rights that you have (especially if you’re an American). You have the right to vote, to free speech, to a fair trial, to consume, to vote, and on and on.

But that first Christmas is when rights died.

Jesus had the right to enter the world a heralded kind and hero, wealthy beyond the world’s imagination, loved by all, recognized by all–whether by choice or force. He had the right to call on 10,000 angels to deliver him from the suffering and death he was born to endure. 

But when the Son of God became Immanuel, those rights died.

 

 

Advent Anxiety

Waiting.

  Wondering.

    Questioning.

  What will he look like?

 Will he be healthy?

Does he really have a role to play in God’s grand story?

Lindsey is about six months away from giving birth to our third child. In a few weeks, Lord willing, we’ll find out if the balance of power will rest with the men or women of the house. From the fatherly side of things, it’s difficult to wait on the arrival of a child. I realized with Ben and Nora Jane and now unnamed child 3 just how powerless I am.

I’m powerless to make my child healthy. I’m powerless to protect Lindsey from drunk drivers or freak accidents that make headlines every day. The waiting (advent) can breed anxiety. That is, if trust isn’t placed in the only place that matters.

Imagine the myriad of questions that Mary had 6 months away from Jesus’ birth. 3 months. 3 weeks. 3 days before, as she’s journeying for the census and knows the time has come. Oh how intense that anxiety must have been!

She had the anxieties of every woman who gives birth. But she had the added anxieties that come with giving birth to the Savior of the world. That’s something we can’t imagine.

Waiting is a humbling experience. I can’t do anything. Waiting teaches me where to place my trust, namely, in God.

To all you moms, you know the Christmas story more intimately than a man ever will. May we all, like Mary, humble ourselves before God this Advent season. As we wait, we give thanks: “for he who is mighty has done great things for me…

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