2020 Resolved

If New Year’s resolutions are actual, binding commitments, then no, I would say I’m not inclined to make them.

To the extent the close of one year is a time of reflection on the 12 months just ended with thoughts on goals or what I could do better in the 12 months ahead, then yes, I almost always do that.

Even though it should go without saying, I have a weight loss goal for 2020. Twenty pounds.

I had a weight loss goal in 2017, and I met it and held steady for about 18 months. Then came a lot of disruption in 2018–moving, job change, lot of job-related events that ate into exercise time and put fattening food in front of me that I ate into. Plus, one of Bill’s ways of being supportive and encouraging as I settled in to the new job was to make sure a good meal was always waiting at dinner time. Next thing you know, 10 pounds has crept back on–just like that–and I can’t ignore it because I had almost everything I own altered to fit after losing much more than 10 pounds in 2017.

In about 20 pounds, I should have all of my closet available again, not just the “fat” clothes. Which is a pretty good motivator, since I refuse to buy bigger sizes.

So there, now you know. That’s my intention, too, since I’m sharing this goal as a means of accountability.

Similarly, I am resolving to swear less in 2020 and from now on. And now that I know that you know, that’s also a means of accountability. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t “cuss like a sailor,” but I don’t need to drop swear words in frustration–or not–with a frequency that is all too frequent. Swear words don’t mean I’m a bad person, or uncouth, and they certainly don’t mean I’m not a person of faith. But they don’t reflect well on any person, and their usage is probably confusing to others’ observations of someone who is supposed to be a person of faith. In me, they’re just a bad, weak habit to break.

Other goals:

Better time management and productivity at work. I’m not a time-waster and I tend to be fairly high-output, but I need to be more intentional about priorities and how I will keep those in mind as time-killing distractions arise.

Read more. At work, my time is spent reading, writing or in meetings. The kind of reading I do at work is not what I’m hoping to do more of. I probably didn’t read more than three books in 2019, and I intend to put the smart phone down and pick up books more often in 2020.

Increase hiking and walking mileage. I’m a pretty faithful 10,000-steps-a-day person already, so I’m starting from a decent threshold. But 10K-a-day is only about 4.5 miles for me, and if I can do better at the preceding two goals, I might be able combine them with this one and succeed in all three.

Such as, be more productive at work and better preserve after-hours time for fun, like listening to audiobooks while getting in more weekday mileage. My friend, Hank, has had a goal of hiking at least 50 miles a month ever since he retired almost eight years ago. For me to do that means averaging 12 miles hiked every weekend, since weekends are my only real opportunity except for holidays and days off. Once February rolls around, I’m gonna see if I can target at least 40 miles a month on average.

I’m also going to get back on the bike this year. I have a spinner bike for indoor training and I have a high-end road bike on which I once logged 3,000 miles a year–no, I’m not kidding–but I haven’t gotten onto either of them in at least two or three years. That changes this year. My goal is to be on my wheels as a participant in the October Cycle Sequatchie Century Ride. Century rides are 100 miles. I’ve done many before, and I want to do this one this year.

I can’t commit to a goal, but I do strongly hope that Bill and I may find a church home in Chattanooga sometime in 2020.

We were part of an incredible church family we loved in Knoxville for 20 years until a doctrinal issue led to a separation in the congregation in 2014. For the most part, the division was respectful disagreement, but the reality of it still was painful.

Yet we remained among a group of at least 100 we had been worshiping with since 1995, and that group added some fine new people we got to know and saw every week until we moved to Chattanooga in 2018. I never realized how special that group was before discovering the difficulty of finding a place here with the potential to mean as much. We’re still looking and have decided we’ll know when we find the place we’re supposed to be.

Finally, as always, I want to work on relationship with God and with people. I want to strengthen my prayer life and have it strengthen me in my effort toward effective and kind relationships with everybody.

Like a great mentor has often told me, when a coffee cup is bumped, what spills out is what’s inside it.

When life bumps me, I want what spills out to be the result of a prayer life that instills the fruits of the spirit.



I Know That My Redeemer Lives

I haven’t posted in a while, I know. Today was Easter Sunday, and it was exceptional, one to remember for multiple reasons, so here I am.

The exceptional and memorable part wasn’t all good. About 8 a.m. today, Bill got the call that his older sister, Mary, had passed away. She was about 16 years older than he is and, after daytime in-home care for the last seven years, she transitioned to a local nursing home not far from her house in Dandridge, Tennessee about three weeks ago. On Thursday night, Mary had what her doctors called “a mini stroke.” Between that and developing pneumonia in a lung, she never really recovered.

A short while later, we left the house for church with Mary on our minds. I’ll always remember this Easter for it being the day she departed this life.

As close friends know, we have struggled to find a church fit in Chattanooga. The exceptional group of people we’d known and worshiped with in Knoxville for more than 20 years, and the special chemistry and shared outlook we enjoyed as part of Grace Presbyterian, have proved a tough act to follow.

Let me caution that the jury is still out, but the church we visited this morning felt more like home to us than any of the several we’ve been to previously in Chattanooga. Most churches are fuller than usual on Easter morning and the order and program of worship tends to be not just Easter-centric, but kind of all about Easter. As it should be, since Easter Sunday is the most important day of the Christian calendar.

All of which is to say that we walked into the third of three services at Northshore Fellowship this morning busily managing our expectations, given the past lacks of connection where we’ve tried going to church. When I tell you the sanctuary (an older, reclaimed, medium-sized building very typical of a new church plant) was standing room only, believe it. We had to wait to go inside for all the people leaving the service just ended to come outside.

The church meets in a still very up-and-coming, but already trendy part of downtown Chattanooga. Its website points out that “parking is in short supply,” and cautions about some next-door businesses: “Do not park at Walgreens or the Post Office. They will tow.” Depending on your age group, Bible study and other gatherings happen in an adjacent coffee shop, pizzeria, architectural firm or donut stand.

We were glad to find a parking spot on church property 10 minutes before services. That 10 minutes was used up as the last worship group before us made their way out in the morning’s beautiful sunshine.

People were dressed variously–overwhelmingly casual and informal, just like the introductions and passing of the peace.

Bill and I have been accustomed to a mix of standard hymns and contemporary songs at church for years. In my heart, though, I do tend to light up at a hymn. There’s a familiarity with both the lyrics and the melody that lets me sing as fully as I feel like. As I’ve become more practiced at contemporary praise songs, they’ve also become more familiar, but singing a hymn is like catching up with a long-lost loved one for me.

Well, let me just tell you, when Northshore Fellowship began the 10:45 a.m. service with its 30-person choir (all ages, both genders, no choir robes) knocking me backward with its rich harmony on “I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” I was already getting to my feet before the song leader turned at the end of the first verse and gestured for the congregation to stand.

You don’t know how long I’ve waited to have that feeling in worship.

So long, in fact, that I quickly pulled out my phone to record the audio of the hymn. It was so great, I knew I’d want to listen again. I replayed it for Bill in the car after church, and we both talked about the good experience we’d just had. A timely, animated and impactful sermon, too. We will be back next week.

Meantime, I felt like I ought to do something with the audio. Among the many reasons I love hiking, including the times we’ve traveled specifically to do some hiking in new, celebrated territory, is that spending hours in majestic scenery is for me like spending communion with the Creator. Climbing mountains, overlooking a pristine lake or tromping in the “cathedral of the woods”–the hand of God is everywhere I turn.

Not to mention, as John Muir said and it’s so often true for me: “The mountains are calling, and I must go.”

So I put my recording of the opening worship song from Northshore Fellowship to use as the soundtrack of a slide show of some images from some of the most beautiful and inspiring places I’ve gotten to visit–checking out the Master’s handiwork, that is. I hope you like it.

And remember what Henry David Thoreau said, too: “Not all who wander are lost.”

I suggest those who are might find God if they go outside.