A New Beginning…

happy new year 2014Today begins a new year. But, you know that, and if you don’t, you’ve got bigger issues. I love the New Year’s holiday. I’m not so sure it’s not my favorite holiday next to Easter. No, it has nothing to do with the black-eyed peas and cabbage. It has to do with the inherent grace I find in changing the calendar. Not only is it a new day…it’s a new year! The New Year represents an opportunity to start over, to begin again…it offers us a new beginning. Certainly, much of the previous year goes with us, but there is an equal amount of opportunity ahead of us. It is wonderfully akin to the working of God’s grace in our lives. Certainly, all that was our life pre-Christ still influences us, and even, in some respects defines who we have been, but as God does His transforming work in our lives, all that is past remains in the past, and we are offered new life, new opportunities, and yes, new beginnings. 

I think that’s what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NIV).

Of course, the New Year is also when we reflect on the past year and make resolutions for the new. I’ve stated before I’ve resolved to make no resolutions because I always break them. I do have a few things I want to do better with in my life, so rather than make a resolution, I’m going to make them goals, and I’m even going to write them down here so someone (anyone, please!) can hold me accountable. I’m not very good at holding myself accountable. It’s too easy to make excuses to myself. I really do buy my own lies. I fool myself very easily. I’m not a very good accountability partner for myself. Besides, I heard someone say something that made sense to me this week: “A goal is not a goal until it’s written down. Otherwise, it’s just a dream.” I have lots of dreams. I need a few goals.

So, here are a few of my goals for 2014:

  1. I am setting a goal to blog more. Blogging takes time. I’ve fooled myself into believing I don’t have time to blog, but I’m remembering how cathartic it is to journal from time to time. I may not blog every day, but once a week would be a manageable goal.
  2. I am setting a goal to be restaurant free for the month of January. Honestly, this may be a much harder goal than the blogging once a week. It’s incredibly easy to meet folks “for lunch” to conduct pastoral visits or tend to administrative matters. Seriously, everyone has to eat, and if you can multi-task in the process, even better. Vanessa and I eat out way too much. It’s easy to walk in the house after a day of ministry and say, “Let’s go get something to eat.” Vanessa has been home most of the day, and she’s usually ready to get out of the house, too, so we load up and head out. I’ll be interested to see how it affects our bottom line and my waist line (which brings me to my third goal).
  3. I am setting a goal of losing 40 pounds in 2014. That’s right! I said it! 40 pounds! I’ve been in Monroe for 2.5 years, and in that time I’ve gained 15 pounds. There are a number of reasons I’ve gained that much weight. One, as a District Superintendent, I attended very few meetings where food was not involved. One of the things the Cabinet does best is eat, and we all know that restaurants are not very healthy places to eat. A second reason is we’re back close to Mom and Mom’s cooking. You know how it is, right? You go home. Mom’s taken the time to prepare all this food. You feel guilty for not eating it. After all, she might be offended, and who wants to offend their Mom? Not me! So, I eat. Thirdly, I’m not running nearly as much as I once was. I was averaging 20-25 miles per week for a long time. Now, I’m blessed if I get in 15 miles in a week. It was okay for me to say when I was running 20-25 miles a week that “I run that much so I can eat anything I want.” Not so much when I’m only making 15 miles on a good week, because I’m still eating like I was running 25.

Yeah, I know. I should set some goals around spiritual disciplines and spiritual formation, but I find those a bit more difficult to quantify (that’s probably one of the reasons I’m not the perfect pastor). Yes, I want to read the Bible more, but who doesn’t. Seriously, though. I read the Bible a lot already. Define “a lot”? Well, every day. I read devotionally, and I read for study as I prepare for worship and other related activities. Sometimes, I’ll read whole chapters. A few times I’ll read a whole book. Other times, I’ll read only a few verses. I come to the end of 2013 and I think I haven’t read enough. As I look to 2014, I think I should read more. It’d be a discipline. But I’m not quite sure how to quantify “more.” Can you feel me?

Then, there’s prayer. I should always have a goal of praying more. I should write it down (or did I just do that?), but then again, how do I define “more”? I pray a lot, and even as I say that, I’m thinking I don’t pray enough. I begin each day with a devotional prayer. Sometimes it’s long. Sometimes not. I end each day with a prayer of gratitude and a prayer for grace. Some are long, others are short. I pray with people throughout the day. I say “breath prayers” continuously. Still, I feel like I should pray more, that I should be more disciplined in the ways that I pray. But I’m not quite sure how to quantify it to write it down. Perhaps you have a suggestion for this not-so-perfect pastor.

I could go on, but the clock is ticking, and I’ve got things to do as the New Year kicks off. I’ve got to get busy achieving these goals and I have to do it now (there’s another goal I should have–learning and practicing patience–but HOW could I ever quantify that?). At least I’ve already accomplished one of my goals (to blog more–it’s been a long time since the last post on here!). That was pretty easy. Let’s see how long it lasts.

Until next time, keep looking up…

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