(Blogger’s Note: This is the last in a series of posts looking back at 2016, and ahead to the new year. Thank you so very much to everyone who read the posts at Pilgrim Strong this year. Your encouraging comments and friendship are so much a part of what’s real in my life. We really are “just walking each other home.” May the Lord bless and keep you. May He make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. May He lift up his glorious countenance upon you. And give you peace. I hope you’ll join me for a new and different kind of writing adventure next year at noteaday.com. )
When the final numbers come in, these are the likely top 10 movies of 2016:
1) Finding Dory
2) Captain America: Civil War
3) The Secret Life of Pets
4) The Jungle Book
5) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
8) Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice
9) Suicide Squad
10) Doctor Strange
Notice any trends? It’s all fantasy. More and more every day, we’re living a very real life in a make-believe world driven by fantasy and conflict. We’re losing touch with reality at unsurpassed momentum. And so many of those whose public professions you hear about making things great again, are really just driven by self-serving motives best advanced when you’re kept in a fog. I’m imploring you not to be part of the shell game.
It’s never been more important that we take responsibility for ourselves, especially as it relates to how we formulate important, fundamental opinions. To a great extent, civility’s survivability depends on how successful we are in knowing what we believe, and why. I’m challenging you to be as shrewd as Kido the cat as you face the bait-and-switch shell game ahead in 2017.
You watched that video didn’t you? Admit it. I knew you couldn’t resist.
In 2017, please don’t let your reality be based on people or media conglomerates or commercial businesses whose self interest is to manipulate every part of your brain. Just say no.
You can help yourself with two things: filters and anchor points. These are my working definitions:
Filter – methods, personal experiences and hands-on techniques you can use to sift fantasy from reality; lies from truth.
Anchor Point – a solid, unwavering, fixed point of reference reminding you of your identity, purpose, and direction. A practice creating a north star-like quality.
I think a lot about those two things this time every year. Isn’t it wonderful how every 365 days, we sort of get to imagine new beginnings, second chances, and do overs?
On pilgrimage in Spain this year I felt the strongest calling to make 2017 a time when I’ll take my eyes off myself and be ever-aware of the motives behind my actions. In 2017, I’ll launch a new blog designed to do just that. (You can sign up to follow that blog by email here). I’ll travel a lot – it’s high on my priority list for understanding a world outside Jonesboro, Arkansas. There will be an extended adventure/walk somewhere, most likely on the first one-quarter of the Appalachian Trail or the John Muir Trail, and I’ll walk upwards of a thousand miles getting ready, and actually doing it. I’ll start fishing again. I love fishing, and have missed it for years. I’m going back to stand in cold streams and feel the thrill of a taut, jerking line. And I want to spend a lot of time thinking about how my giftings can help others. Those are some of my plans for the new year.
In all the things I’ll do, I’ve resolved to do them with more vigor, deeper passion, greater gusto. I want to take deep breaths of fresh air, stand in awed amazement at breathtaking vistas, listen intently to birds singing at the dawning of a new day. And I never want to stop having laughable dreams. They’re among my greatest personal anchor points.
As we close out this frenetic year and look to a clean start, I wanted to share with you some possible ideas for thinking about your own filters and anchor points.
- When it comes to social media, learn to recognize bait, and just don’t take it. It’s easy enough to spot certain trigger words that immediately create a “we vs. them” forum. Don’t get caught up in the false idea that your participation in these discussions advances some convicting cause or that you’re making a difference. You’re not, and no one’s really listening anyway because everyone’s talking and thinking about what they’re going to say next. Don’t take the bait.
- As a general rule for social media, limit your time there, and don’t use it as a babysitter for your boredom. I have a lot of work to do here.
- Limit your time watching television. I haven’t watched network news in almost 80 days and life is better. The world isn’t nearly as bad as they’re telling you.
- Resist the comfort zone you perceive in being around people just like you. Yesterday, I received the nicest note from a man who’d read one of my blog posts in this series and he asked for some clarification on a religious matter I’d raised. We had a wonderful genuine exchange about some things on which we disagree, and yet further advanced the respect we have for one another. Isn’t that so refreshing?
- Do your best to look at situations through the eyes of others, and realize that very few things are truly as they seem. There’s usually much more to the story.
- Be proactive, not reactive. And calm down, for crying out loud.
- Resolve to listen more than you speak. Be present. Again, I speak to myself.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. I’ve laughed at myself more in the last couple of years than in all the rest of my life combined.
- Be someone’s cheerleader. Younger, older, it doesn’t matter. This is SO important. One of the things I believe most about life is that we’re at our very best when we’re cheering for others. I have a few specific people already picked out for 2017.
- Do some very difficult things all ALONE. I’d never discount the immeasurable value of sharing life experiences with a loving, trusted partner, but some of my most profound anchor points also come from times when it was just me, mentally and physically depleted, and when I had no idea what came next.
“You can’t accomplish ANYTHING without the possibility of failure.” ~ Gary “Laz” Cantrell, founder of the Barkley Marathons, the race that eats its young
- Meditate regularly on why you believe what you believe. The ability to answer this simple question is important for you and everyone you touch.
- Keep an understanding inside your head that the current world economy is driven by fear and conflict. Don’t be afraid. Is it any accident this phrase is mentioned 365 times in the bible?
- Consider a daily journal and the lasting power your written words can have on your outlook.
- Develop some new hobbies that actually require a lot of time. I mentioned fishing as one I’ll bring back next year. And I love watching Bob Ross videos and trying my hand at painting, even though the outcome is always laughable.
- Read. Pretty simple.
- Do some good deeds that remain a complete secret. Don’t tell anyone.
- View life through the lens of time. So much of my thinking now is shaped by the realization of how short my time is on earth.
- Invite people into your home. I think this is so important, and it’s such a shame that the “dinner party” is less a part of society than it once was. We’re designed for communal fellowship. Three years ago we began hosting a New Year’s Day Feast for as many friends as we can get to come. I love this day, and it gets my year off to a great start surrounded by people I care about. In fact, I’m planning the menu this morning for our fourth annual event.
In fact, it’s time to go do that now.
Happy New Year, everyone.