Goodbye, For Now

Well, we’ve finally made it to the last year of 2016 and that means that I’ve reach the end of a journey here at this blog.  On January 1st of this year I began posting regularly on the blog and made it a goal to post something everyday.  I had different reasons for that and I spelled those out in the initial post for 2016.

Did I reach any of those goals?  I’ve made some progress with some and not so much with others.  And as the year swung into full force, I didn’t have as much time to write as I would have liked and, therefore, I didn’t get to go as deep into certain areas as I would have liked.  But such is life.

If my tally is correct, I wound up posting on 364 of 366 days.  I made the daily  posting goal up until December and then missed two days.  But that’s OK.  The planet is still spinning and that leaves that goal intact for another year.

I’m not sure when or if I’ll ever post again on this blog.  Something could be posted tomorrow or there may never be anything else.

I appreciate all of those who have paused to read some of the things here.  I hope something has been beneficial.

 

 

Friday Picture: 2016 In Pictures

Each Friday this year I’ve tried to post a picture.  Via those pictures, here’s a look back of some of the things that happened in 2016.

Alabama defeated Clemson in the finals of the 2015 College Football Playoff.

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Shortly thereafter, I started a bathroom remodeling project.

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On Spring Break, we saw the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile.

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May brought the Regions Tradition to Greystone.

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Ahhh, Lake Guntersville.

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Then there was a trip to Arkansas to visit one of the kids working at a camp.

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Later in the summer there was a trip to Disney World.

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Fall brought a trip to see the Crimson Tide.

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November brought a presidential election and a result I didn’t expect.

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As the year concludes, Alabama is back in the College Football Playoff.

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Breaking Down the Alabama Defense

ESPN.com does a great job of breaking down the numbers on the Alabama defense and makes the case that this could be one of the best in college football history.

Win two more games and they can argue their case.  Lose one of the next two and it won’t matter.

Living by Faith

“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,
but the righteous shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4 ESV)

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that there were several things I’ve learned this year that have helped me to cope with fear.  In the post, I only mentioned two of them:

  • The passing of time.  As time passes, the things we fear tend to move by us.  However, this doesn’t work well if more fear causing things line up in front of us.
  • Take no counsel from fear (or arrogance).  This was the main subject of yesterday’s post.

But there is a third thing that I’ve learned this year that has helped me to cope with fear and many other things:  learning to live by faith.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago something that I heard from James Macdonald:

Everything is a test of faith.  Everything.  Therefore, everything will either grow our faith or shrink our faith.

Letting this permeate my being has been huge.  I also discussed this in a post a couple of weeks back and wrote this:

When we believe this, it changes how we see the things happening in our lives — i.e. we see things as being allowed by God — and that change[s] the way we react to things. If we view events as us vs. life, our reactions can be hostile and volatile. But when we see things as being allowed by God, we are more likely to respond in a way that pleases God (or at least our chances better).

I haven’t lived this out perfectly, but I do live better and handle things better when I do remember this.

 

Never Take Counsel From Fear…Or Arrogance

“Never take counsel of your fears.” – Stonewall Jackson

This past Sunday, our pastor delivered his final sermon of 2016, “Four Fears Banished by Christmas.”  In this message, he detailed four times in the Christmas story where people encountered fear:

  • Luke 1:12 – Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, who is overcome by fear when an angel visits him to give the news he will soon have a son.
  • Matthew 1:20– Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, also encounters fear as he ponders the situation of he and Mary.
  • Luke 1:29-30– Mary experiences fear as she encounters the angel Gabriel.
  • Luke 2:9– The shepherds were filled with fear as the angel visited them and the glory of the Lord shone around them.

Our pastor pointed out that fear is a God-given emotion, so experiencing fear is not always sinful.  But like anger, fear can either be used sinfully or righteously.  For example, it is appropriate to fear the Lord and we are told that experiencing this is the beginning of knowledge.  In the four examples above, the people experienced fear, but they are given perspective through their encounters with the angels.  This new perspective includes a reminder of where they are in God’s plans and thus their fear is transformed into faith.  Accordingly, it is very important how we process fear.

To be clear, the sermon wasn’t about “how to deal with fear,” like some sort of self-help seminar.  It was about the gospel.  Jesus Christ has come and He is coming again.  But living in Christ is supposed to change everything, and that includes how we view things.  Accordingly, it changes how we handle fear.

That’s where this intersects with me.  You see, for me, 2016 has been the year of living in fear.  And to be clear, I haven’t handled it very well.  Sleepless nights, gut-churning with acid, mind-racing.  All the good stuff related to not processing fear properly.  That’s been my year.

On the surface, it’s easy to say, “You’re not trusting God.  Trust God and do not fear.”  But in reality, it’s a lot harder to process.  As I’ve told Sweet Wife over the last several weeks, it’s like my insides are shaking all of the time with because of the stress and fear.  As a Christian, I know that this response has been wrong, but it’s just been hard to constantly regain perspective when you have to battle the fear and anxiety all of the waking hours.

But over the last few weeks, several things have happened that have really helped me.  First — and this is an easy one — some time has passed.  As time moves by the events that create fear also pass.  If they pass and nothing takes their place in the fear line, then things tend to get better.  My improvement has been somewhat because of this.

But on the other hand, there always seems to be something lining up to cause fear.  During 2016, it has been a seemingly daily, weekly and monthly thing.  If that sort of pace is always at play, then fear is always something that has to be handled.  And that brings me to the quote from above, “Never take counsel of your fears.

When I heard this, it immediately clicked with me because I have been taking counsel from my fears.  My fears have been giving me my marching orders.  In my line of work, I have to make a lot of decisions and I have to plan for things.  For most of the year I have just “hoped” that 2016 would be better because time is passing, yet I also realized recently that as things continue to pop up and go wrong that I am making decisions from a place of panic and fear, rather than from solid data and experience.  When I heard this quote, I realized what I was doing wrong and realized that I needed to stop this practice immediately.  And so I am trying.

The reality is also that some of the problems that have occurred in 2016 have also happened because of arrogance.  For a long time, things have gone really well and when that happens one tends to think that everything they touch will turn to gold.  And when that happens, the fundamentals of decision making can go out the window.  I can recall one specific situation where I simply made a bad decision in 2014 (out of arrogance) and now that chicken has come home to roost.  So instead of dealing with a situation back in 2014, I arrogantly proceeded with my own plans and this year I’ve been fearfully dealing with the problem.

There has also been one other major game-changer for me in relation to processing fear, but I hope to touch on that before this last week of the year is finished.

So as I ponder 2017, I am looking forward in hope.  I know that Jesus has saved me and that an eternity with Him awaits.  All other things offer no comparison at all.  This should be my all-time perspective.  We are reminded in 1 John 4:18 that perfect love casts out fear.  Ultimately, this world and its fears and trials and struggles will pass away.  For those in Christ, a new world and an eternity away.  Those struggles of today won’t be in that future perfect eternity.

As I stand in the present and make decisions, those decisions need to be made with a clear head and a pure heart.  That cannot be done when taking counsel from fear.  And that cannot be done when standing before the mirror of arrogance.

The Day After Christmas

Well, our family successfully navigated through the Christmas holiday. of 2016. We stepped through a very busy Christmas Eve and continued a good pace through a Christmas day that included family time, church and a trip to see Sweet Wife’s family.  All in all it was a very good couple of days and we consider ourselves very blessed.

Now comes the day after Christmas.

This day will hopefully include the repackaging of all of the Christmas ornaments and decorations back into their respective boxes and the placing of those boxes back into the attic.  I’m very much looking forward to this!

But the day after Christmas also brings something else for me: a burst of renewal as I sense the arrival of a new year.  I’m not sure why this happens with me, but it tends to happen every year.  As the flipping of the calendar approaches, I just sort of get revived.  It’s a new beginning, a new start.  It’s a time to start new things and to end others.  It’s a defining moment in time that sort of naturally allows for new patterns and beginnings.

This year, for example, I decided to try to post something to this blog every day.  In years past, I’ve done things like started a project to journal every day or to read through the Bible in a year.  It just makes sense to start something like this on January 1.

This year, I don’t plan any regular activities like these.  Instead, for 2017 I just feel a general renewal type feeling.  I have complained regularly that 2016 has been hard, but what I’m ready to do in 2017 is to start again with renewed energy and apply the lessons that I’ve learned this year.  What are these lessons?  Well, that’s something that I’ll hopefully comment on in a day or two, but I am happy to have learned these lessons and I’m ready to apply them.

Sunday Worship: Merry Christmas

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11 ESV)

This is one of those special Christmas days that actually falls on a Sunday.  And because of that, many of us will get the opportunity to gather and worship in a church to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  (For others, this may pose a dilemma as the rigors of celebrating the birth of Christ get in the way with the actual worship of Him.)

But one of the neat things about Christmas the holiday — even in the USA circa 2016 — is that this holiday points us right to Jesus.  No matter what a person’s religious background may be, no matter what stage of life, no matter where a person is, Christmas (like a couple of other holidays) points people right to Jesus.  Whether we love the holiday or loathe it, at some point, the question will cross our minds, “what is this all about?”

The answer to that question is Jesus.  Good news of great joy has come — for all people.  A Savior has been born and given to us.  This is important because we’re all sinners and we’ve all sinned against God, who is perfect and wants nothing to do with sin.  But God, in His state of perfect love, made a way for us to be reconciled to Him through Jesus.  And that is what Christmas is about. It’s about Jesus making that journey to us so that we could be reconciled to God through Him. 

Another blessing is that we don’t just worship God once a year. We actually get to worship Him whenever and wherever!  But today, as we wake up on the Lord’s Day which falls on Christmas, let’s especially worship Him.  


“Sunday Worship” is a weekly series that can hopefully be used to help prepare our hearts to worship God Almighty.  You can read all of the posts in this series by clicking here.