Starting over

I heard a preacher a few years back state that the great thing about the new year is “that we get to start over.”  I didn’t think much of the comment at the time, but over the years, that one comment has simmered in my brain.   God shows His grace in giving us a time to begin again.  The new year is, of course, not the full expression of God’s grace.  In fact, it is such a small reflection of His grace that we usually overlook it.  

There is something valuable, though, in rebooting our lives at this time of year.  We can laugh about how all the exercise and diets plans have gone down the tubes by February 1st, but the fact remains that in our culture, the new year is a time to reassess our lives.   Most of us do live in a time and a place in which we have the opportunities to develop new habits.  To set new goals.  To dream new dreams.

The fact that we can change our lives points to the fact that we are not robots driven by our past, our family history or our biological impulses.  Years ago, there was pastor who tried to reconcile a father with his son.  The effort failed as the father remarked, “My son is a drug addict.  That’s what he is.”  The father’s pain had blinded him to the work of grace in his own son’s life.  Change had come, but he refused to see it.

By God’s grace, change in this life is possible.  Not easy.  Not quick. But possible.

The new year does bring hope.  We do get to start over.

2012 reading plan

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”                                                                ― Harry S. Truman (33rd President of the US)

Over the holidays I pushed myself to finish up two books I had started earlier in the year.  I find it helpful to set goals for my reading as it keeps me focused and pushes some of my competitive “buttons” – even if the challenge in only internal.  Over the years, I have made it a habit to write down the name of each book I finish which has given me insight into my reading/thinking patterns over the years.

This year I’ve committed to reading 3 books a month, although it would be great to hit 40.  I usually read a few books at a time sometimes as many as 6 or 8.  My goal for 2012 is to read in four basic categories: history, theology, practical theology and fiction.

You can’t say that“, which is Ken Livingstone’s memoirs, is my current history book.  Livingstone was the former mayor of London and is running again this spring.  In the theology category, I’ve started Dan Doriani’s commentary on Matthew.  Doriani was my professor at Covenant Seminary and writes in a devotional style so I’ve been reading a chapter each morning.  N.T. Wright’s “Virtue Reborn” is my current choice in practical theology and Flannery O’Connor’s “The Complete Stories” is the fiction book next to my reading chair.

The Steve Jobs biography was a Christmas gift so that’ll be next on the history list.  Wright’s “Simply Jesus” and Stetzer’s “Viral Churches” should be mail – purchased with a Waterstone gift card. Plenty of books on the shelf waiting to be read as well.

Got a reading plan for 2012?

Make more enemies

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to make more enemies. “What??”, you say.  Let me explain.

A few weeks back I received a blistering email in response to a tweet I posted (long story). After recovering from the initial shock, I’ve been thinking that maybe it’s not so bad to make some people upset. As a Christian who is wants to see God’s people live way that gives glory to the God we serve, it shouldn’t surprise me that I might make some folks upset. Both those on the left and the right, may be frustrated with me at times and rightly so.

Now that doesn’t mean that I want to be a jerk who annoys everyone I come in contact with. No – in fact, my second resolution is to learn basic greetings in Somali, Polish and Arabic so I can greet more people on the streets of London. But I have resolved to not worry so much about how people might respond to my writing. My hope is that I’ll be able to challenge some and encourage others but in doing so, I may even get a few more emails.

And that’s OK.

“I am a man!”

For her birthday yesterday, I took Jos to see the play “Driving Miss Daisy” with James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave.  Over the years, we’ve tried to see about one play per year.   I’ve never seen the movie but we’ll watch it now over the Christmas holidays with the kids.

Jones plays “Hoke”, an African-American driver for “Miss Daisy”, an elderly Jewish widow (Redgrave).   Following their relationship, the play touches on various social issues in America from the late 40’s to the early 70’s.   Set in Atlanta, the play reminded me of my childhood growing up in South Carolina, Florida and Alabama.  The “Piggly Wiggly“, ice tea and that Southern drawl brought back memories from days gone by.

Two lines in the play stuck in my mind as we rode home on the tube.  In one scene, Miss Daisy refuses to let Hoke stop the car on a long road trip so he can urinate because he wasn’t allowed to use the restrooms at the petrol station.  In the ensuing argument, Hoke yells at Miss Daisy, “I am a man!”  His dignity challenged, Hoke lets her know the truth. Then towards the end of the play, Miss Daisy, the rich yet lonely woman, tells Hoke, “You’re my best friend.”

The dignity of all people and our need for relationships – two key truths that “Driving Miss Daisy” affirmed.

Two key truths that the Bible affirms when it states that we all are made in the image of God (Gen 1).   In my mind, art is well done when it reflects the truth about the world while engaging the emotions.  “Driving Miss Daisy” is good art; reflecting truth and touching the heart.

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