Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Pressing On

"...[O]ne thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind 
and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 
I press toward the goal for the prize 
of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."  
--Phil. 3:13b-14

If I have learned nothing else this past year, it is that I have the ability to change.  And with it the God-given responsibility to do so.

"How many of you make New Year's Resolutions?" I heard the young preacher ask the last Saturday of 2012 as I sat squirming in the middle of the meager congregation.  He had just read from Phillipians 3 about the Apostle Paul pressing onward to lay hold of his prize.  From this passage, the preacher had built a solid argument for why we should both use our time wisely and not cling to what was left in the past.  This meant that procrastination and self-pity, two of my worst nemeses, were no longer an option.

"I know some people out there don't set New Years Resolutions," he continued--I being chief among them.   My reasoning was thus:  Wasn't having a resolution just a meaningless ritual that was never followed through?  These things were for the unbeliever anyway; it was for them to turn over the new leaf, not us, because we already have new life in Christ.  And if this new life were all about grace, why try to pull yourself up by your bootstraps through your own good efforts?

What I failed to see was that these sorts of "meaningless rituals" could actually be a vehicle for the life God calls us to.  "I would encourage yo to [make these resolutions] and to make your goals measurable," the preacher went on.  "Do you feel like God is calling you to start a business?  Take steps to make that happen.  There is very little that happens in your life that you cannot control.  It matters what you do with what you're given."

I've seen much in my life in 2012 that needs changing--be it attitude adjustments, worn-out habits, or my limited field of view.  This may not be an exhaustive list--and at the end of 2013 not all of it may have been accomplished--but the following provides at least a snapshot for where I want to go in the coming year and what in my life I can truly change.

Goals for 2013
*Publish my first book
*Pen the first completed draft of my grandfather's biography
*Provide for myself by means of regular work and my own house
*Publish 1-2 blog entries/articles a week
*Pray systematically and consistently
*Set up regular dates with close family and friends
*Exercise 3 times a week
*Add three songs to my clarinet repertoire and make them concert-ready
*Finish one crochet project a month
*Finish a queen-sized quilt by hand
*Start a master's degree program
*Earn my teaching certificate

The last thing the preacher said that night still rings in my ears: "Don't allow your past to cripple you and make you worthless for God."  The past doesn't necessarily mean the absolute-worst-thing-I've-ever-done; it could just be the way I've always done things.  If I were honest, I might say that the way I've always done it has never quite worked, and continuing to do things that way just perpetuates the cycle and puts me that much farther behind.  I don't want to give myself a handicap before I even step inside the starting block.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Christmas Letter

My Christmas tradition has been to write an end-of-the-year letter that encapsulates where I feel the LORD is leading me in the coming year and what I hope to look forward to.  Here is this year's installment.

Beloved Friends and Family
Merry Christmas once again, my sweet loved ones. There is much to celebrate in this blessed season. Yet even as I write these words I know that for some of you, 2012 has been not a year of joyous celebration but one of loss and sorrow. However, no matter the season in our lives we can be confident that, as Philipians 1:6 says, “He who began a good work in us will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Whatever loss we have faced this year, loved ones, it does not have to define us. Our lack may simply be a tool for the LORD to bring us closer to Him. This is a lesson that I have had to face head-on recently, but even in this I can be thankful: The LORD has seen me through these times and has given me good things to celebrate in the midst of them.
Two thousand twelve opened with me privately tutoring a young boy with special needs named Sam. Having unsuccessfully searched for employment in the months after returning from Korea, I found the job through a friend and former co-worker that had recommended me by name. Sam has been a bright spot for me this year in his goofy, fun-loving way, and serving his family has been such a blessing. I hope to continue to be a blessing to them for however long the LORD wants me to be with them.
At the same time I was helping with Sam, I was able to help others catch the vision of what God wants to do in the nations through a class called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. In the class, adult students learned the foundations of missions and the purpose for continuing to reach out to other people groups. They also gathered ideas for how to use their new knowledge in their daily lives, whether still in the States or abroad.
Towards the end of the summer, God opened an opportunity for me to use my talents at a law office downtown. I was super-busy learning about criminal defense law and the ins and outs of the judicial system. Through the position, the LORD was able to bring members of the nations to me and I was able to pray for them.
The other thing the LORD brought into my life this past year was to be a part of Toastmasters, an internationally recognized volunteer organization which seeks to provide a positive atmosphere for its members to grow in leadership and communication skills. I will have an opportunity in the coming year to increase my leadership skills through the Vice President Public Relations officer. Though the position frightens me just a little, I know it will give me a great opportunity to reach out with my talents and bless those around me—as well to practice the skills I will need for stepping into whatever community God eventually may place me in.
I am thankful to be back in Texas, but adventure still stirs my heart. I yearn to see more not just of the world, but of where the LORD will take me in the coming year and how He can use me to reach the nations. As we end 2012 and look forward to a hopeful future, I leave you with the words from Isaiah: “Enlarge the place of your tent... stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare.” Let us expand our vision for what the LORD has for us in the coming days and seek to be a blessing to those around us.
                                                                                               All My Love,