Monday, December 31, 2012

Into a New Year

When I think of this holiday, I think about a late night party with a bunch of cheap, shiny bling and something bubbly to drink.  When I was young, there was usually a bottle of sparkling grape juice around, or something equally as child-appropriate and weird.  It was always something you don't drink any other day of the year.  Still is actually, since not many people I know pop open a champagne bottle on any normal day.  There's always a bunch of upbeat music, excited announcers, and a big, shiny ball of lights that slowly drops over New York City.  Why a shiny ball of lights?  I have no idea.

Wikipedia says a Time Ball ( was a ball lit or painted a noticeable color that was dropped at a specific time each day.  It would notify ships when that time was reached so they could set their clocks.  Since the advent of radio communications, this is obviously obsolete. It's said that the Times Square NYE ceremony was designed to incorporate this to symbolically start the new year.  Times Square was also re-named based on the popularity of this celebration.

This begs an important question to me.  If at the cusp of a new year, when we celebrate the past, put it behind us, and move on to new and better times, if our biggest symbolic gesture is the stroke of a new clock, why do we use such an archaic symbol to represent it?  This is a system that was used for less than 100 years and became obsolete just 17 years after the first Times Square Ball Drop.  I would even venture to guess that the "Time Ball" system was known only to the keepers of the time balls and the naval crews who used them!

Why not church bells?  A beeping alarm?  That annoying iPhone alarm that you hear everywhere?

As odd as this tradition is, the idea of people hanging on to meaningless traditions is nothing new to the world.  Look at the Texas law books, which are filled with hundreds, even thousands laws that were never redacted, but obviously no longer apply.  Or look at the religious services around the world that follow ceremony, even after the intended symbolic gesture of the ceremony is no longer culturally relevant.  Even popular TV has picked up shows like Storage Wars and Hoarders, where people are shown to hold on to overwhelming amounts of useless junk just to avoid losing the past.

To understand why would require asking a much, much greater mind than mine.  My simple guess is that we're scared of the unknown.  Each one of us lived 366 days of experiences since the last ball drop.  Some great, some awful, but they were all lived.  Each one of us could write a book about what happened to us in the last year (and some have!).  And whether we enjoyed them or not, whether we loved or hated those days behind us, 99% of us would fight against ever losing those experiences.

Our experiences make us who we are.  Our failures build us, and our successes raise us.  Even (some would say especially) the worst of our experiences build character in us that tell the world who we are and what we stand for.

But I want to challenge that today.  While today is about celebrating the last 366 days, tomorrow is about the next 365.  Tonight at midnight, when that archaic ball drops, I challenge myself and anyone reading to think not about the experiences of the last year, but about the person you have become since 2011.  I want you to think about what that person is capable of, what good he or she can do in the world.  And I want you to throw away, violently, everything that you used to be, and everything you've done.  I want nothing to hold you back from making a difference in the world in 2013.

In the paraphrased words of Paul the Apostle, this one thing I ask of you; forget what is behind, and strain toward what is ahead.  Press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called you in Christ Jesus.

What will you leave behind?

Who will you strive to become?

Always moving forward,


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Who Am I?

Why is this such a hard question to answer sometimes? If anyone knows this answer best, shouldn't it be me? Still, any time I'm asked to “tell me about yourself!,” my answer is something between an unintelligible stammer and a blank stare. Once I was asked to prepare an “elevator speech,” as an exercise to introduce myself and my career, including some marketing to benefit my organization. As much as the idea of using a casual greeting to directly plug in a marketing opportunity disgusts me, I can't help but appreciate the idea of preparing my introduction. But first, I have to answer that difficult question: Who am I?

I was born an American and a Texan. I guess this defines me to an extent, but I feel so different from my fellow Texans and Americans sometimes. Maybe it means my life isn't as challenging as it is for many people around the world. My being born into a white, middle-class family certainly contributes to this. These circumstances definitely shape me, but I don't think they define me.

I was raised in the Christian faith. A Church of Christ, to be specific. So I know all of the traditional church stories, I learned how to sing hymns from a young age, and I became comfortable inside a church building. Again, these things shaped me, but this time I think it goes another step. I wasn't just born into these things, I accepted them as part of me. I accepted the Christian faith and continued to be active in a church through college and into my adult life. Even more, I shaped my faith a little differently than my parents', and even became comfortable outside of the Church of Christ doctrine as I decided where exactly my faith led me.

Other parts of me had little to do with the family I was born into. I inherited a love for music, and was supported in learning to play piano, guitar, and percussion instruments throughout my school years. This love for music almost shaped my career, as I finished my first year of college as a Music Education major (see my upcoming post, My Character Paradox for details on this). While I don't play any instruments on a regular basis, my appreciation for music leads me to search for new and creative music in the pop scene, not to mention my enjoyment of our weekly musical worship service on Sunday mornings.

One thing that's all my own is the most important relationship in my life. Since I was 14, I have dated the same girl. We met at a school function, dated through all 4 years of High School, went off to college together, and were married during our college years. My wife and I have often shared our happiness that we met so young, that we were able to grow together during some of our most shaping years.

Thinking about all of these makes me feel more confident about my identity, but it makes me realize something else; the first things that come to mind about myself are often not these bedrock traits, rather they are the current events of my life. Whether it's my job, my home, or my choice of hobby, these short-term facets of my life seem to get my attention.

There is, however, one current event in my life that I hope will stay with me for the rest of my days. My wife and I, after 4 years of trying to start a family the natural way, are pursuing adoption. For the last year of my life, this event has consumed a large part of my identity. From deciding to pursue adoption over fertility treatments, to choosing the best adoption agency for us, to trimming the budget month after month to save up the huge amount of medical and legal fees associated with an adoption, rarely a day goes by that I don't think about it. Our pursuit of adoption has brought us closer and closer, until now, when we're so close to starting our home study that we've begun to collect baby supplies and plan our nursery.

With all of this in mind, I guess this is how I would introduce myself.

I'm a happily married Christian from Texas. I've always had a love for music, I spend my free time training for distance running events, and I can't want to bring home our first adopted child so I can share all the things I love with him or her.

But enough about me, tell me a little about yourself!


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