Our New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day were pretty quiet. New Year’s Eve kicked off with -16 degrees and a blizzard warning, which pretty much materialized. Suanne was called in to work to fill in for someone who could not make it in. She got home about 8:00 PM. We hit the hay by 11:00 PM. New Year’s Day was spent at home. We began with a family tradition; watching the Tournament of Roses Parade. I pretty much watched football the rest of the day. After all, New Year’s Day is the day of the “Big” college bowl games. Of course, I was waiting for the Rose Bowl and the match-up between Ohio State and Washington. Today we move on.
The idea of starting a new year is always a little exciting and a little challenging. There is a sense in which we get to start fresh, even though this is rather artificial. I start my reading list over at New Year. My goal each year is to read twelve books related to ministry. I exceeded my goal in 2018 by reading 20 books. At the beginning of each year, I also try to outline what I will focus on in my preaching. That has been a great exercise for me over the years and has made my preaching far more intentional.
The challenging part of beginning a new year is setting some honest, personal goals. I have three recurring goals that I tend to renew every year. I want to lose some weight, exercise more (primarily running) and be intentional about writing. I believe these goals are realistic, but they are not automatic. They will take discipline and intentionality. They are perpetual goals because I will never come to a time when I can say that I have completed them.
I think about the new year, I have been personally stirred by some things I have been reading. I was reminded this morning, in my devotions, that we were created in the image of God. There is much debate about what that means exactly, but a part of being created in the image of God is that we were created to be creative. The exciting and freeing thing about this truth is that each of us can express our creativity in very personal and unique ways. For me, creativity comes out in writing and woodworking. In writing I work with my mind and in woodworking I work with my hands. I believe I can glorify God in both ways. God has given each of us certain gifts and He delights when we use them for His glory. Paul addressed this idea in Romans 12:6-8. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. One of the greatest gifts God has given to each of us is the gift of creativity, which is expressed in a multitude of ways.
For Christmas this year, I received a book by Sigurd Olson; “The Singing Wilderness.” Sigurd Olson was a naturalist and an avid outdoorsman. He primarily wrote about his experiences in northern Minnesota; primarily his adventures in the Boundary Waters Canoe area. He writes about the wilderness in ways that make me want to strap on my backpack and head out into the woods. He has stirred within me a desire to spend more time out in nature this year. As we look for our next “permanent” home, I want to find a place that will give me easy access to nature. I spend so much of my time in an office. There is a stirring inside of me to get out into nature and experience it firsthand.
Every time we come to a new year, we have to balance the reality of our life with the dreams and desires that we have. The primary reality of my life is that I have been called by God to serve Him as a pastor. Right now, that means serving the people of Cavalier Baptist Church in the best way that I can. It means helping them decipher God’s will for them as a church and helping them to select the next pastor who will lead them into the future. But I also need to carve out some time to pursue my dreams. There is room for both. As David says Psalm 37:4. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
It is good to take some time at the beginning of the year to reflect upon where you want to go. Time can easily slip through our hands. Our time on earth is short, and is getting shorter every day. God wants us to make the most of the time that we have. Part of God’s plan for us is that we would be fully engaged in life; not just marking time until our time is up. Whoever we want to be in the future, we need to start becoming that now. Whatever we want to accomplish in the future, we need to start accomplishing it now. Whatever we want to experience in the future, we need to start to experience it now. God has given each of us a unique set of dreams and desires. It is up to us to do our part to make those dreams and desires a reality.
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.