New Years is one of my favorite seasons of the year. The joy of the Christmas season and the warmth of family feasts always lift my spirit. No matter how challenging the year has been, I typically enter the New Year rejuvenated. It’s a natural time to redefine my personal vision. In keeping with this rhythm, I often reflect on the milestones and accomplishments of the past year. The accomplishments I focus on are personal, organizational, and national.
Three years ago, I was blessed to spend Christmas in South Africa. My family and I will never forget the feeling of waking up to a bright sunrise near the seashore. The region was quiet, remote, and peaceful. Despite the exotic surroundings, the highlight of the trip was the time we spent together as a family. At the end of that trip, we traveled back to the U.S. to complete our year-end tradition of sending out the old year in a powerful church service.
We were especially thankful for the way things had unfolded in 2004. As 2005 opened, I felt clear and focused. In addition to setting new personal and professional goals, my family and I made a decision to make a difference in our nation by starting the High Impact Leadership Coalition (HILC). We decided to lift our voices to attempt to change the direction of our nation by educating, equipping, and inspiring Christian clergy and laymen to engage in the political process and take action on strategic cultural issues. Our primary focus was to get minority leaders (blacks and Hispanics) to join the broader Christian community in standing for biblical values and positive cultural change in our nation.
Little did I know that in just a few months we would be launched into an amazing flurry of productive activity. HILC became an overnight success and attracted the attention of many conservative, minority leaders. At the same time I would also face a diagnosis of advanced cancer before the year was up. Later that fall I engaged in a literal fight for my life. During that special Christmas and New Years in 2004, I had no idea how important the year ahead would be. Fortunately, the strength that I received fortified me for the turbulent season ahead.
This season could be preparing us for the most important year of our lives. National change is in the air. Personal change is in the air. Some have concerns about the economy. Many will lose their homes, their property, their bank accounts, and their dreams.
So how do we prepare ourselves for the unexpected? Or how do we make the most out of this unique season of time? Before I recommend a new approach to the New Year, let me tell you what I think does not work.
Most of us make some form of New Year’s resolutions. A large percentage of these resolves will revolve around overcoming negatives in our lives. We will vow to quit smoking, lose weight, get in shape, get out of debt, or take some other corrective action. Unfortunately, by mid-February many of these fervent resolves are long forgotten, health club attendance lapses, and our “new leaf” looks just like our old one.
I am convinced that the “overcoming negatives” approach to the New Year only works for a small number of people who have the right combination of inspiration, know-how, and opportunity to change. On the other hand, we could shift our focus and decide to become courageous persons who live by a personal code of honor and ethics. This means attempting to live our lives by playing close attention to our ideals.
As someone once put it, we need to be the quality people we are looking to see. Let me explain. As a civically minded, Christian activist, I too often get caught up in causes and programs. Sometimes, though, I forget the basics of my faith. I forget that how we treat people everyday may say more to those around me than 100 fancy speeches. In light of this, my goal for 2008 is to express the kindness of Jesus Christ
What are the positive things upon which you can focus? How can you be the person that makes a difference in your home, your community, and your world?
Let’s make this year count!
Happy New Year