Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Looking ahead to 2012 (My 150th post)

As I write, the setting sun casts a long shadow on the final day of my Texan vacation; I will arise early tomorrow morning to begin the long journey back to Memphis. Though the last ten days fall under the umbrella of "vacation," my time here felt like anything but a vacation. I'm teaching two classes at Rhodes, so I spent a lot of my time reading, researching, and preparing two syllabi and course calendars. My grandad died on my third day of rest, and we quickly boarded a plane to New Mexico to pay our final respects; less than 48 hours later, we were on a plane back to Texas. Four hours after our return to Dallas, I got in my car to drive 2 hours south in order to spend New Year's weekend with dear friends in Waco. New Year's Eve party, playing with the dog, hiking Cameron Park, and watching the new Mission Impossible film twice (yes, twice...in 24 hours) - something closer to an actual vacation. Today, I drove from Waco to Dallas to clean, pack, and hit the road at 7:00 AM tomorrow morning, and there will be a church choir rehearsal to lead as soon as I get back. I have travelled through the gamut of human emotions during these ten days joy, and now I am tired.

No one wants to greet the new year with a tired heart. We all want a fresh start on the tabula rasa of the year, but life has its own plans sometimes. Life also moves forward, whether or not we are ready to move into a new adventure, so with my spirit burdened by death, fatigued by travel, and concerned with a new semester, I nonetheless must ask myself, "What do I want to accomplish in 2012?" Having the right attitude at the onset is crucial to success, so I while I should and must grieve, rest, and laugh while I still can (I truly thank God that classes don't start for another week), I should not allow recent events to distract me from a wonderful year. So with that said, what do I want to accomplish in 2012?

2011 was a remarkable year full of large steps forward towards adulthood; I rented my first car. I know that sounds stupid, but you don't know how thrilled I was to sign my own rental papers! I directed my first choir concert featuring just my choir. I taught my very first lecture class this past spring. I coordinated and raised funds to bring my good friend Andrew Marin to spend a few days in residence in Memphis. I began designing my very own course to teach this semester at Rhodes. These were projects well beyond the scope of any endeavor I've ever taken, and each of them bore good fruit. These projects, as great as they were, are the beginning of even bigger undertakings this year. I will teach the course that I researched, Music of Latin America. I will work with Andrew Marin to start some dialogue-based programs in Memphis this year. I'm paying my way to go to Europe this summer. I'm taking my Chamber Singers on the road this spring. 2011 was a great year, but it's a prelude to the incredible adventures of 2012.

But what do I want to accomplish? A successful choir tour? An informative, thought provoking class? A thriving ministry of healing and reconciliation? Yes, yes, and yes, yet it's not enough. Those are things I want to accomplish, but I want to become a better person, a more mature disciple of Christ, a more thoughtful neighbor. I want to be Jimmy Cornfoot, man of God, and in order to be me, I must know me. In order to know who I am, I must know who Jesus is. If I am to know Jesus, then I should look upward to the heavens, outward to my neighbor - the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed - and inward to my spirit. If I can know Jesus, then everything else should fall in place, even when life throws you a curveball. To know Jesus, to love my neighbor, and to know my place in creation would be the greatest accomplishment I could achieve in 2012. These are goals not to be finished this year; they are steps to be taken every day of my life.

Here is what I want to be able to say on December 31, 2012. I want to write in my journal:

I grew in character, wisdom, and status not because I left the country or started new programs. I grew because I tried to teach a new class and stumbled about it like a blind man in the dark, but man, I gave it my best shot. I'm a better person because I got into a fight with my neighbor and took the initiative to apologize to her instead of waiting for her to come to me. I am more connected to God, to people, and to myself because I turned off the computer every night and weekend; it's okay to avoid social media to find real social community. I enjoy more peace because I looked for it. I did not run away from conflict, and I did not embrace it either. I saw personal and social tension as a necessary good and fertile soil for maturation, and I refused to shut down when I encountered something I could not understand. Fasting, silence, and meditation showed me that I don't need to be dependent on things; I can enjoy the Jesus within me without the benefit of things. I am, at the eve of 2013, a more peaceful, centered, and content man. To God be the glory.

Join me in a time of reflection, action, connectivity, exploration, and growth! Frohes neues Jahr!

Until next time,

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