Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Looking Back On My 2012 Goals

Well, as 2013 is well under way, I thought I would take some time to reflect on the goals I set in 2012 and see how well I did with them. I for the last several years, I have attempted (not always in blog format) to take time to reflect on my past year, and set goals in the new year to help me become a better version of myself.

So here are my goals from 2012, and how I fared in them.

Practice Sabbath, Solitude, Silence, and Fasting—This was once a strength for me, but I’ve allowed this discipline to slip in recent years. I slept with my phone in a separate room for most of the year, and managed to carve some time out for each of these disciplines, but didn’t have any extended solitude, silence, or fasting. And, unfortunately, I did not practice a regular period of rest and refreshment. I need to change this in 2013.

Blog More Consistently—Last year, I hoped to have at least 105 posts (2 per week), and I barely had 75 posts. This year, I am planning to write reviews of books, restaurants, and other products about once a week, so I’m hoping that will help me carve more space for this habit. I also feel like reflections on travels and adventures with Jamie will help me build a discipline of reflection in my life.

Exercise—Last year, I wanted to at least walk 30 minutes per day for a minimum of 3-5 days per week. I easily maintained this goal, and I was able to insert about 45 minutes of riding bicycle and other types of aerobic and strength training into my weekly routine.

Lose Weight—Continuing to build on the successes of 2011, I would like to lose weight during 2012. My weight as of February of last year was 197 pounds. I had hoped to lose at least 18 pounds during 2012, and maintain that lighter weight, but I came up a little short. I start this year at 190, and I’m hoping to drop at least 10 pounds to 180 and continue to be there at this time next year.

Parkersburg Half-Marathon—It eluded me both in 2011 and 2012.

Steward Resources More Wisely—In 2012, Jamie and I took some steps to lower our footprint (and our utility bills) and hope to continue this trend in 2013. Among our choices have been running heating and AC at lower and higher temperatures, and eating mostly vegetarian while at home.

Get Outdoors—My goal was to get outside for at least 30 minutes a day. Many days I exceeded this goal. I want this trend to continue in 2013.

Connect—I wanted to continue the trend of visiting with friends both near and far. These times of connecting are a refreshment to my soul. I’m hoping we can connect with even more people in 2013.

Plant a Garden—Of course this is a goal every year. I’d love for us to grow more of our food this year, and this time with our hands in the soil will also help us spend time outdoors.

Leave Margins—I tend to stay on the go most of the time. I think it would be good to leave some ‘wiggle-room’ in my schedule, and in so doing,it will probably afford me more opportunities to connect and enjoy spontaneity in the rhythm of life. This is a goal that I did not achieve to my liking in 2012, so I will need to work on it in 2013 for sure.

What about you? What are your goals for 2012? What habits would you like to make or break in the coming year?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review: Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton

This book is part of a long list of books I read over the last year or so and I’ve been meaning to review. Toxic Charity by Robert D. Lupton is one of the best books I have read that deals with the challenge of churches and charities who can actually be doing more harm than good through some of their initiatives. The subtitle of the book is “How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How To Reverse It).” I love the fact that he doesn't just point out an issue, but he also suggests methods for addressing it.

The book doesn’t point fingers to specific initiatives, but rather deals with broad-stroke systemic problems that often plague groups who have the best of intentions but may actually be doing damage to others. In one section of the book, Lupton states, “Giving to those in need what they could be gaining from their own initiative may well be the kindest way to destroy people.”

What I appreciate most about this book is that Lupton is not a theorist. He has been in the trenches working to fight urban poverty in the United States for many years. I also appreciate that the content and subject matter apply to a wide array of contexts, including international arenas. He doesn’t just limit his content to that of a practioner in a local context but takes time to draw on universals as well as the findings and views of others including the Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo denotes in her book Dead Aid.

I believe that churches and charities (and individuals who participate in charitable enterprises through the contribution of their time, talents, or resources) would benefit from giving this book a read. I further believe that the contents of this book would benefit both those inside and outside the arena of faith based service initiatives.

But if you can’t read the book, there is an incredible oath/commitment he encourages individuals and institutions to take that could reverse systemic problems that exist to date.

Here are the principles as some food for thought.

  • Never do for the poor what they have (or could have) the capacity to do for themselves.
  • Limit one-way giving to emergency situations
  • Strive to empower the poor through employment, lending, and investing, using grants sparingly to reinforce achievements
  • Subordinate self-interests to the needs of those being served
  • Listen closely to htose you seek to help, especially to what is not being said—unspoken feelings may contain essential clues to effective service
  • Above all, do no harm
And as I said before, if you can grab a copy—do so. And even better, if you happen to be able to hear Lupton speak, take advantage of the opportunity. I have not had had the opportunity myself, but I have friends who have, and they were given much to think about in their philanthropy and service for others.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Passion Conference and the #EndIt Movement

My good friend Cameron King, his wife, and about 60,000 other people gathered in Atlanta Georgia earlier this month to attend the 2013Passion Conference. This is one of the best conferences I know of for college students and young professionals who are passionate about their faith as well as serving others. The conference over the last few years has raised milliions to fight global poverty, human trafficking, slavery, and many other issues.

This year, they began a new initiative called #enditmovement. The goal of #enditmovement is to work toward the end of human trafficking and modern day slavery and to mobilize others to take a stand to end slavery. I love the fact that more and more people in our world are being mobilized to take tangible steps to love their global neighbors as well as their next door neighbors.

May we each continue to take steps to make a difference in this world, and look for opportunities to truly love tangibly. I'm proud of my friend Cameron and the growing movement of people I've been able to connect with over the last few years who are dedicating their time, their talents, and their resources toward ending slavery, trafficking, systemic poverty, and choosing to pursue justice in this world. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Review: A Testament of Hope by Dr Martin Luther King Jr

As The Martin Luther King Jr Day of Service has passed, and the efforts of Dr. King are top of mind for many in the US and around the world, I thought that this would be a fitting time to write a brief review of A Testament OfHope which is a collection of the writings interviews and speeches of the late Dr. King.

As a person who is concerned with issues of justice as well as issues of faith, I find that by reading and reflecting on the words of those in the past who have dedicated themselves towards making a better place, I am able to better serve in related a related way today. Dr. King's example and words continue to motivate people to pursue justice and serve others. 

This book of speeches, essays, and interviews is utterly inspring. To be able to sit and read the writings of one of the leaders of the African American Civil Rights movment in the United States, as well those of a passionate ambassador for peace is an encouragement for anyone who is carrying the torch forward. Our world is significantly different than that of Dr. King’s, but looking back, we can see the effects of a life dedicated toward making a difference.

As we continue to live in the legacy of Dr King and other activists of the past, I believe that people young and old around the world can appreciate the words of this book, and should take the time to read it and reflect on the words and life of Dr. King.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Martin Luther King Day 2013

For the last few years, as this holiday approaches, I like to take time to read speeches watch videos and reflect on the outcome of the efforts and life of Dr. King and other activists and ambassadors for justice in our world.

I remember reading a few years back that Dr. Martin LutherKing Day was initially meant to be dedicated as a day of service in our communities and in our world. And as I write this note, it is my hope that more people will take the day as an opportunity to either serve actively immediately or begin reflecting on where they may be called to serve.

In the words of Dr. King, “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” Those words echo the teachings of Jesus, “The greatest among you will be the servant of all.”

So today, I encourage you, look for opportunities to serve. As we celebrate the life, mission, and vision of Dr. King, may we each find a place to serve. There are many great needs in this world, including extremepoverty, slavery, and the environment. The world needs passionate and purposeful people who will make daily commitments to justice and to service.

You and I may never have the platform, the reach, or the impact of Dr. King, but that isn’t why we should ever do anything. We should pursue justice because it is the right thing to do, and, again in the words of Dr. King, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

May we all be people who resolve to follow the example of Dr. King and others, and to strive to faithfully live out the words of the ancient Hebrew prophet, Micah and “Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”