All is Quiet on New Years Day

As I type this, straddling the boundary between one year and the next, my entire family is asleep and the house is completely silent. I almost turned on Spotify, but then thought better of it. Sometimes, silence is the best music to write to.

Today is another New Years Day. Another chance for a fresh start. Another opportunity to dream big. We asked our boys tonight what they wanted to accomplish in 2013. Simeon, our preschooler, said he wanted to climb a mountain. Elijah, our kindergartner, said he wanted to plant a garden. (And there you have a case study in the differences of their little personalities.)

Meanwhile over in grown-up-land, I am trying to decide what my goals for this next year should be. Like many other folks, I like the idea of “goals” better than “resolutions” – perhaps because I’ve spent one too many years living in the midst of broken resolutions that it has jaded me. Last year I did not accomplish a single resolution I made on January 1. Maybe the semantic difference is what I need to succeed this time around. Ha!

I’ve heard and read in about a half dozen places now that our resolutions should be attainable. That seems like a good buzzword. It makes sense. Why would you set out to do something you know you can’t accomplish? That advice makes me think of our boys’ dreams to climb mountains and plant gardens.

And I find myself floating around somewhere between the two, between safe and impossible, trying to find a proper place to land my dreams.

Why set out to do something you know you can’t accomplish? Because when we do, we rely on a Power greater than ourselves to accomplish it. And isn’t that a better way to live, really? To do things that are bigger than yourself for something bigger than yourself?

The other thing everybody says is to make sure your goals are measurable. That you know when you’ve accomplished them, or how much farther you have to go. I used to believe in that a lot, and would tailor my resolutions accordingly. This year, that just feels too limiting and too guilt-inducing.

So without further ado, here are my goals for 2013 – some attainable and some not, and most completely and purposefully immeasurable:

1) Read. Now that my life is a lot less busy than it used to be, it opens up time to do other things I’ve let slide — including reading for pleasure. I’ve got a few dozen books on my “to read” list, and I’m looking forward to diving into them. I used to set a number of books I was going to read, but not this year. This year is all for pleasure, not to meet a quota.

2) Write. Closely related to that first goal is this second goal. My early mornings and late nights will not be filled with paper routes and research papers in 2013, so I can focus on one of my main passions: writing. I’ll be writing on this blog and finally get around to revising the manuscript of my book… and perhaps some other projects as well if there is ample time for them. Again, I used to set a number of blogs I was going to write, but not this year.

3) Publish. Speaking of my manuscript, it will be published in 2013 some way or another. I need to set this deadline for myself so I actually work on revising it. Hopefully, after it is edited and I send it out to a bunch of agents again someone will want to publish it. Absent that happening, I will self-publish it and make it available on Amazon for everyone!

4) Work at my dream job. Or at least get closer to it. Fill my 40+ hours a week with something I enjoy doing a lot more than working in the President’s Office at the University. This could look like a number of different things… maybe teaching at a community college. Maybe being a full-time author. Maybe being a full-time football blogger. Maybe getting hired on full-time at the church I’m on staff with. Maybe moving to another state to achieve any one of those things. In short, I want to do something that involves teaching and/or writing, and I want to get paid to do it. In 2013, I want to take more steps toward achieving that.

5) Be more patient. With my wife, with my kids, with my friends, with my coworkers, with humankind in general. Relearn how to roll with the punches.

So there you have it. I look forward to what 2013 has in store for us as our journey continues. What are your goals for this year?

Delayed Dreams

In the latter chapters of Genesis, we find that Jacob moved his whole family to Egypt so they could be with Joseph and escape the famine that was plaguing the Promised Land.

This was Jacob of “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” fame. The Jacob who wrestled with God. The Jacob who received a promise from God that his descendants would live in the Promised Land.

And here he was packing up and moving his descendants away from that Promised Land. To Egypt.

His other eleven sons had finally told him the truth: his favorite son Joseph wasn’t dead. They had sold him into slavery, and Joseph was now second-in-command over all of Egypt. And during a time when the known world was undergoing a famine and had to go to Egypt to buy food, Joseph was pretty much second-in-command over the entire region.

Shocked and excited, Jacob and his entire household moved to Egypt where they set up permanent residence. But something in him still burned to be in the Promised Land.

He knew that’s what God’s promise was. He knew eventually, his descendants would go back there. He kept thinking about it. I wonder if he kept talking about it, making sure his sons never forgot about the land where they truly belonged. As they settled into day-to-day life in Egypt, Jacob must have felt the fear that his sons would give in to the temptation to forget about Canaan and decide to live in Egypt forever. I wonder if his family got sick of him talking about the Promised Land.

Jacob lived in Egypt for 17 years. Seventeen years away from the land God promised him. And he never got to go back there until he died.

On his death bed, he made his sons promise to take him to the Promised Land to bury him once he died. Maybe he thought they’d stay there after the funeral. Maybe he just wanted to be back there as a way to express that he still believed God’s promise. Whatever the reasoning, the sons honored his wish.

As I read that story a couple weeks ago, the one thing that stood out to me was the seventeen years. Jacob held fast to God’s promise for seventeen years, even when he was about to die and realized he wouldn’t ever see the promised land again. Seventeen years of talking about it, and probably of having his sons tell him, “Dad, relax. We’re in Egypt now.”

This morning, I want to encourage you: when you have a dream — a calling, a passion, a promise — that is slow in realization, take heart in Jacob’s story. Hold fast. Even when people are sick of hearing about your dream, keep dreaming it. Even when people don’t understand it, keep following it. Even when people don’t understand the timing isn’t right yet and say, “Do something about it already!”, keep waiting faithfully for God’s timing.

(Think about this: Jacob could have moved back to Canaan any time he wanted to. Yet he remained in Egypt and waited for God’s timing to be realized.)

Don’t give up on your dreams, even when they are slow in coming to fruition. Whether you spend 17 years or 17 days in Egypt, you will make it to the promised land eventually. Because God is the one who calls it “promised.”