What I’ve been up to (or “A Requiem for 2015 and Words for 2016”) 

Well folks, it’s THAT day. January 1. First day of the year. The “threshold day”, where you can look back at what was and look ahead to what might be.

In between. Liminal. (One of my favorite words, btw.)

It’s as good a day as any to set some words down and send them out into the inter-worlds.

What have I been up to? Where have I been? What will I be up to?

These are the questions I’m thinking about today, and the first few days of 2016.

What have I been up to?

Healing, mostly. Doing a lot of “soul work.” Mining in the darkest places (my heart and yours, folks) for the stuff that has been driving and haunting me for most of my life. I find them down there in the caverns and tunnels and nooks and crannies of my memory and consciousness, and then I haul them (with a fair amount of sweat and tears) up to the surface where they can lay in the sun, where the most amazing thing happens…

Because there they get changed. It’s funny how when the sun strikes something it changes it. If you hold it up to the light, it changes to light.

Things are healed and transformed. Wounds become scars which become stories which become the means by which we offer the world around us hope and healing and strength to go on for another day.

Trouble is, most of us don’t like to go to the mines… Mines are, by nature, dark, scary, and places of sweat, toil, and really hard work.

But that’s where the coal is. (And the diamonds.)

I’ve also been finishing Seminary. I shut down almost all creative output (“making”) around June/July in order to focus on the essentials: teaching and music on Sundays, being a husband/father, and cranking through the last few hours of my masters degree.

I ran a little bit more in 2015 than I ever have before. I ran two races: the first was a 10k in March that was difficult (actually, it kicked my butt), but I managed to finish without too much difficulty.

However, I had also committed to running a half-marathon in 2015, so on October 31 we drove up to Boston, Georgia, and I started running. Two and a half hours (and 13.1 miles) later, I staggered across the finish line, exclaiming, “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.”

In a few ways, it was, but in many ways it was actually one of the more profound experiences of my life. I learned that the limits that we impose on ourselves are often more illusory than we believe. We can push back on the boundaries (some of which we impose on ourselves, some of which are imposed by others), and accomplish much, much more than we otherwise think.

I also learned that the only race you can run is your own. You can’t worry about other people. I was passed by grandmothers, and I passed teenagers. I learned that I had no control over what other people did: I could only put one foot in front of the other.

Lastly, I learned that, well, sometimes you can’t be “cool.” When I was pushing through the last 3 miles of that race, I had gone well beyond what I thought I was capable of, and I started breaking down, both physically and emotionally. I was in a fair amount of pain, had nothing left in the tank, and couldn’t see the finish line (at least in part because I run without my glasses), and I was on the verge of tears.

But I kept going, and the more I ran, the less I was capable of thinking about what other folks thought of me. For a person who admittedly makes “image” a part of their life (due to a calling that puts me on stages and in pulpits in front of people), this was really significant to me. I had no control over my image. I was a mess.

And I was okay.

I survived, and stumbled across the finish line, and lived to tell the tale.

So that’s a little bit of my 2015.

Looking forward, I have some thoughts about going into 2016. I’m not going to share all of my personal goals (at least yet), but here are some things that I’m passionate about, and that I’m challenging myself (and maybe you as well) to this year.

CHALLENGES for 2016

  • Seek beauty. Start with Hymn to the Cherubim (those Orthodox!)
  • Seek wholeness. Go to the mines yourself. The world desperately needs people who are on the journey towards healing, wholeness, transcendence, enlightenment. They don’t just need a holy club that’s going to heaven. They need (as Jesus would put it), people who are producing “fruit” (and fruit, on the whole tastes good). So go see a counselor. Get quiet. Become aware of the “thoughts” you’re having that aren’t really thoughts so much as they are reactive video tapes.
  • Elevate your thinking. Don’t be satisfied with what the media tells you (whether you are partial to FoxNews, MSNBC, Huffington Post or the Drudge Report). Look beyond the headlines, and evaluate what you hear and read. Have a conversation that makes you think, and that helps you consider something from another point of view.
  • Make something. The only way we are going to impact the culture is to make more of it. I’m paraphrasing author Andy Crouch, and I fully believe in it. The world is not going to change and evolve on its own; and spiritual people are called to help this world grow in love, compassion, and connection. So, write a blog; make some music; make some peace; make some crafts and give them away. Bless the world. 
  • Read something spiritual. Every day. My choice is the Bible, among other things, but you get the point: embrace Spiritual thinking and a Spiritual mode of being in the world.
  • Walk a little. Get physically healthy. We are unified beings: our physical health affects our spiritual health which effects our emotional health which effects our physical health and so on and so on.

So here we go, 2016! Let’s do this people!

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