We live in the Northpointe neighborhood in Pensacola, FL… the one that got hammered with a tornado Tuesday night (February 24, 2016). Aubrey and Ragan were away from home, babysitting for some friends while I held down the fort with my younger two children. We knew that a fairly large stormfront was coming through, but I had no idea that we would be in the center of it.
2014 has been a milestone year in my life. God sovereignly transformed my life sometime around Easter in the biggest way possible… He saved me from my own self-righteousness and unbelief. What I had previously thought was the Christian life, was really a false sense of hope and a works-based religion. You can read about that in My Personal Testimony.
Consistent with being a “new man”, my desires have changed radically this year. I spend a lot of my free time reading about Theology or watching sermons online. I have endeavored to “catch up” on the meat of Christian faith that I have missed out on, and it has been good. I have read God’s Word more consistently and with more fervor than ever in my life. I am truly thankful to my Lord and my Savior, Jesus Christ for this year.
A Different Kind of Resolution
My wife read an article about closing out the year writing letters to Jesus and placing them in your stockings before packing them away for the year. We thought it would be a good tradition to try out, so we all wrote letters of resolution to Jesus. In that letter I wrote my sincere commitments to serve and know Christ. It included overall statements, such as the desire to serve God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength. I also wrote practical things, such as continuing my daily time of reading the Bible, praying and studying.
So my public New Year’s Resolutions this year look more like changes in habit that I would like to implement in my life.
During a recent sermon, my pastor talked about life priorities and the correlation (or lack thereof) of time and energy spent doing things. This struck a chord with me because I have been contemplating this very idea for some time now. I often find, especially at the turn of the New Year, that people (myself included) spend time deciding what their priorities are. They write these down into a list and label the list as their New Year’s Resolutions. And yes, I have done this for a number of years. Finally they (we) go about their happy lives doing exactly what they did the previous year.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring)
I thought it appropriate to use this image and quote taken from the works of J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring) and the recent release of the The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for my New Year’s Resolution post. My wife, kids and I went to see the movie together and thoroughly enjoyed it. Anyway, each year has the potential to hold something new, perhaps something adventurous. While I don’t particularly feel that it will at the moment, the future is unknown and as Bilbo stated, “there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Ragan, our oldest daughter, had a run-in with gravity today… and gravity won. We were at Aubrey’s parent’s house today celebrating Aubrey’s mom’s birthday. It was later in the evening and the kids were out in the front yard playing in the small(ish) tree. The kids all came in yelling about Ragan having fallen out of the tree. So out we ran and when I reached Ragan she was crying and hysterical. After we got her to calm down a bit she let us know that she’d fallen on her hand and it hurt really bad. So, we got an ice pack for it and Aubrey and I took her to the emergency room (Santa Rosa Medical Center). They were very nice and got us through pretty quick. First off were some vitals, a bunch of questions and then a few X-Rays of the arm in question. A little more waiting and we got back to see the doctor.
They splinted it and gave her some pain medication and Aubrey is taking her to our pediatrician tomorrow. We were in and out in a couple of hours, which really isn’t that bad for an E.R. visit and Ragan is not feeling too terribly bad now. We were able to keep Aubrey’s parents informed via phone and texting and the rest of the world via Facebook. We thank you all for your kind words of encouragement, sympathy and of course your prayers.
The highlight of the E.R. visit, for me at least, was the old dude in the wheelchair who seemed to be either on drugs or a little off his rocker. He kept complaining that everything took too long and that the hospital needed to hire more help. He threatened to call Clinton and get him to take some action and that he new the hospital administrator. After he dropped a few profane words (no F-bombs) his wife (I’m assuming it was his wife) told him to keep it down and that there were children present. He started going on about not seeing any children when Aubrey chimed up and pointed out the fact that we were sitting there with our daughter. He was very apologetic about it, and then proceeded to bombard us with various stories and weird facts not all of which contained topics I would want to discuss with my children. I just tried to act like I was watching the television and prayed that he’d either quit talking to us or they’d call us back. The latter happened first and I was glad.
I suppose that’s not a very Christian attitude… sorry.
The gauntlet has been thrown down, the New Year’s Resolutions for 2012 made and the proverbial ball is in my court to do something about it. The trees in the picture above show a progression of the seasons and how they affect the tree. It’s basically the same, except for some surface changes in the leaf color and leaf volume. I feel like this year, so far, has been basically maintaining the status quo.
What should I be changing? Well, the main thing I wanted to change centered around putting God first… in everything. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” I really don’t feel like I’m currently doing that; I feel more like I’m just maintaining the status quo. Sure I started a read the bible in a year program, which I’m currently on track with. Other than that, though, I don’t feel like anything has changed. God hasn’t taken a larger role in my every day life than in 2011… at least not yet. I guess I’m writing this to be out in the open and hold myself accountable before the world (wide web) to never be content with being stagnant in my faith.
How are the other resolutions (goals) coming? I’m still training for the New Orleans marathon in March. I haven’t practiced any piano this year. I did, however, implement some cross training this week which will hopefully start working on the mid-section fat. Finally, we are still working on debt. We’re taking a bit of a step back because our oldest daughter just got braces today. That required a fairly large down payment, which we were able to pay without getting behind in our bills, and adds another payment to our list. I think that we are doing well in that area, though, and expect to keep striving towards the goal of being debt free.
Ever hear that song, “The Future’s So Bright” by Timbuk 3? [Video] The catch phrase goes, “the future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.” That is a little of what I feel like looking forward to 2012. We have taken some excellent steps towards becoming debt free, I have a great job, I’m training for my second marathon, I’m growing closer and closer to God… it seems like a year of possibilities (at least at this moment).
So with further ado about nothing, here are my 2012 New Year’s Resolutions.
1. The Greatest Command
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
I am not saying that I am a “law” man or a legalist. I fully believe that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, and not from myself. It is a gift of God, not by works, so that none can boast. (Paraphrased from Ephesians 2:8-9).
However, living as Christ lived is a worthy enough goal. I’ve been stewing over this verse for the past 6 months or so and have decided that this is what I want to focus on this year.
What does it mean to love the Lord your God with all your heart? What does it mean to love the Lord your God with all your soul… all your mind… and all your strength? What does that type of love and devotion look like in my every day life? What does it look like in the morning before I’ve had my coffee? What does it look like when I’m frustrated with something at work? If I were to truly act out this commandment in my life, how would my priorities change or my life for that matter?
Don’t you think that one is big enough to be the only resolution for this year? lol I think so. I thought about listing some others here, just as a blogging placeholder, but they haven’t really changed from last year. So I’ll just list them out here more as “continuing goals” for this year. They are:
- Practice My Talents – More specifically, the piano
- Run in my second marathon
- Get rid of the gut – I mean it this time!
- Pay off debt – We are going to hammer on this one until the debt monster is finally dead!
Well, I hope you and yours have a very Happy New Year and an excellent start to 2012! God bless.
Once again I find myself at the end of a year looking back on the resolutions I made at the start. How did I do? Was it worth setting any goals at all? Let’s have a look see.
The point of this resolution was to try to focus my attention and energies on dying to “self”. Did I succeed? Well, not completely. I don’t think this is one you can perfect during your lifetime, though, it certainly is a worthwhile goal. So how much did I grow in this area? To be honest, I don’t have any clue. I know that God promises that He will finish the work that He began in me.
…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
I’m glad that God is control of the progress, though I do realize that I have a responsibility to live my life “in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27).
2. Practice My Talents
This one centered mainly around practicing the piano. How did I do? Fail. I totally did not spend any extra time practicing, other than the time required to prepare for Sunday mornings.
3. Marathon #2
Also a fail, though not entirely my fault. Right after my first marathon I was clowning around with my kids and ended up with a stress fracture, so I was not able to run for quite some time. I was able to get back into training by April, however, the time off was more of a setback then I thought it would be. I did manage to run another half marathon, though, and am currently training for my next marathon.
4. Get Rid of the Gut
Miserable fail! I think it actually got bigger. Nuf said.
5. Pay Off Debt
Success! No, we did not pay off all of our debt. However, I can proudly announce that the only debt we have left is our student loans, the car payment and a small-ish medical debt. Once we decided to get on board with Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and truly get focused, God came along side us and helped us to pay off way more than I could have anticipated.
Well, that’s it for last year. So long, 2011, you were good to us.
The company I work for (Columbia Southern University) is based in Alabama and they have been very involved in relief efforts for the areas that were recently affected by the tornadoes. Here are some pictures that they have distributed to the company; I thought I’d share them.
These two photos were taking from a helicopter that was assessing the damage around the Tuscaloosa, AL area. The first photo was taken as the flight was heading back into Tuscaloosa from the East on Western heading. You can see the wide path of destruction for miles back in to the town. You can see Bryant-Denney Stadium on the top right of the photo to give you a perspective of how close it came to the University of Alabama.
This next photo was from inside Tuscaloosa at neighborhoods that are now destroyed. Many streets are open through the area and this is very easy to get in to. But the people who live there are not so friendly right now to sight seekers.
Part of the relief efforts include my company “adopting” Cullman, AL. As part of that they sent a group of people to the area with relief supplies. Here are some up close photos from that area.
Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), the people in these affected areas could really use your prayers and support.
Financial peace? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Well, if you are like many Americans, myself included, it may seem like it. My wife and I have been on a journey to get out of debt for years now, but we just could never make enough progress. Not only that, but in the midst of it all there has been no “financial peace” to speak of. I am the money manager in the house and after pay day I would get what I called the “after bills blues”. I felt like the guy in the picture above.
Something had to give; and it has. My wife and I have recently joined a class being offered at our church on finances. It is the Financial Peace University class by Dave Ramsey. We are about five classes in and it has been really good. A lot of the principals were not new concepts to us, but we were just not making good progress. I think this class has served not only to educate us more, but to focus our energies into a unified effort to accomplish a goal. The first of those goals? GET OUT OF DEBT! FOR GOOD!
The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is slave to the lender.
Proverbs 22:7 (NIV)
That’s right! The borrower (that’s me) is slave to the lender. A lot of times it feels like it too, when the creditors are calling you and harassing you because you owe them money. Many times I’ve wanted to get angry at these people for always wanting their precious payments, but I can’t. I borrowed money from them and as a person of integrity it is on me to repay that debt in as timely a manner as possible. Sigh. I am flat out tired of being a slave to anyone other than my heavenly Father, my Savior, my Creator.
Well, something must change, right? Right!
We have established a budget and are sticking to it as best we can. We have employed the “envelope system” for our budget categories that make sense. Dave Ramsey says that, “if you don’t plan where every dollar goes you’ll wonder were it all went.” I’ve proven that plenty of times so we’re going the other way now.
Time to downsize! We’re also downsizing our living expenses. We don’t own our home; we’re renters. So we have notified our landlord that we are not renewing our lease at the end of next month. We are currently in search of cheaper/smaller housing. Cheaper because we need to save money and smaller because the utilities on our current house are killing us.
Sell Stuff! Dave Ramsey says, “sell so much stuff that the kids think they’re next.” This is also a good preparation for the move. We’re having a huge garage sale and will be getting rid of a bunch of “stuff” that we really don’t need. Hopefully we’ll make enough money to help defray the costs of the move so that we’re not too set back in our budgeting.
Of course the best action we can take is to pray; connect with the One True God … the guy that owns it all! So do I think I can just pray to God and He’ll take care of all of my debt and give me a huge house and a lot of stuff to fill it? Heck no! He will, however, change me in a way that aligns me more to His will, to His character and gives me wisdom to make better choices.
So, if you are also the praying type, please pray for us as we make some radical changes for the better.
One more Dave Ramsey quote, “live like no one else now so that later, you can live like no one else.”