Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Whole Thing Is About More, Not Less...

The whole focus on New Year’s has traditionally been, less. Promises to not eat as much, not watch so much television, not drink so much, not be away from the family as much. The list goes on and on. Commitment lists are long and, for most, short-lived. Lots of the things we want to give up on each year are hard and have so engrained themselves in our lives that you might as well pick up a school bus and balance it on your toe.

Years ago I had a wise man tell me that if I wanted to do something for the new year, make a change, commit to something small. Plan something doable. I always thought that was good advice. It can be worse to try and fail a big goal than to feel the gift of accomplishing something, albeit small. But it is not the nature of most, including myself, to do something small. I want to pick a mountain to move and dig in. I have also failed many times, and the disappointment was hard each time.

Setting big goals are important. Having high expectations and planning and executing hard things are good, essential and thrilling. When the little town of Mason, Texas, saw the State Championship in their sights they never stepped back. They had never won the championship, but they never allowed themselves to think they could not win it, either. David was but a small shepherd boy, and no one thought he was capable of taking on the giant Philistine warrior, Goliath. You know how that story ended.

I have thought long and hard about the real way to make a change in the way I live my life, my health and my walk with the Lord. It seems to boil down to more, not less. More Bluebell ice cream, more big cigars, more couch time, television and hunting. Wrong. That is what my flesh wants. That would be easiest, I think, and I have to say on so many levels it draws me in. I love all that stuff to an extreme; therefore lies a big chunk of the problem.

What I have concluded is that more will actually be less. More reading, more time in quiet reflection with God, more time with my family, more music, more walking uneven ground, more patience, more joy… I know from past experiences these things bring the changes, lifestyle, life vibe I love. They are the things that truly make me happy and feel good. I know from experience that when I am doing these things the things I would really like to decrease do, naturally, by themselves.

More can be hard too, maybe even harder than less. There were 12 guys who walked with Jesus for three years every day. They saw His miracles over and over. He even empowered them to perform miracles. They saw the sickest of the sick healed, they saw the dead brought back to life, they saw compassion and they lived in council by Jesus Himself for years, and still they struggled to get it. They were human as we all are and the things of the world, the lies we live with, are confusing and take us out of the game over and over. The first sentence in the literary classic “The Road Less Traveled” is, “Life is difficult.” It is.

Those 12 guys who walked with Jesus were slow to get it. But He came back one last time, standing on the shore as they returned from a barren fishing trip. He called to them as He had before, telling them to drop their nets and haul in their catch. There, on shore, was a small fire where He was cooking fish for them to share for breakfast. He loved them. He forgave Peter for denying Him. He told them, go, do what I have taught you. Guys, it’s time -- do hard things. And they did, most dying for professing His love and grace to those who needed to be loved the most, those who were sick, lonely and downtrodden.

The biggest change for me in recent years was one that I really did not plan specifically but was actually lead to. It was a flame. It was a heartfelt ache. It was obedience. It was a hunger from since I was a kid that brought it on. How do you explain the feeling you get when you know you’re loved?

Someone once asked Billy Graham, "If Christianity is valid, why is there so much evil in the world?"

To this the famous preacher replied, "With so much soap, why are there so many dirty people in the world? Christianity, like soap, must be personally applied if it is to make a difference in our lives."

What do I want to accomplish this year? I want to do more. I want to do more with others trying to explain that feeling inside that drives me today. The feeling I hungered for all my life. I will read more books and spend more time hiking and listening to God’s quiet words that encourage and counsel me. I am going to look for joy, pray for joy.

Am I going to quit Bluebell cookies and cream, quit watching television or balance a school bus on my toe? Probably not. But like those guys having breakfast that morning with Christ on the beach, I have felt His presence, and I am not afraid of brokenness. I am in for more.