One of the long-standing traditions of the church that I attend is the weekly men’s prayer breakfast held at the Alabama Power building in downtown Birmingham. Even though I’ve been attending First Church since 2005, I’ve only recently started to attend the prayer breakfasts in October.
I was asked early on if I would be willing to be the speaker for New Year’s Eve, meaning that I had all the time in the world to prepare a talk that would relate to the pending conclusion of the first decade of the 21st century and what it may mean for us. Those who know me from college probably immediately realize this means I was finishing the talk at 6:15 a.m. this morning – it always starts on time at 7 a.m.
The amount of time between finding out when I would be talking and determining how I would approach it just left me with too many ways to go. In the end, I only had to look to the song that influences the quote I have in the “tell us something about yourself” section of my Facebook profile (that’s located just under your profile photo).
I really can’t tell you how I did, but I figured that I could share a version of what I said here on the site this New Year’s Eve and see what it calls you to feel or think as we prepare to raise a toast to the challenges that lay ahead.
I hope that it causes some thoughts and discussion, regardless of your belief system, as you think about how that belief will play into the coming year for you.
Best wishes to you and yours as we ring in the New Year.
Let the river run,
Let all the dreamers
Wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.
I will tell you right now that I am not a big fan of the film Working Girl – though I’ll admit to being a fan of both Sigourney Weaver and Harrison Ford. I’ve only been able to watch the film in bits and pieces in the more than 20 years since it was released and have never felt the need to go and see it on the big screen.
I cannot say the same thing about the movie’s anthem, the song “Let the River Run” written and performed by Carly Simon. It is New York’s hymn; it was originally given that title and it is interesting to note that it was written without any political or religious meaning behind it. Simon describes the song as being one that should describe the volatile nature of the city’s financial core.
I am proud to count myself as one of what I’ve been led to believe is a rather larger group of men who aren’t ashamed to admit that it’s one of those songs that can move them. I use it in playlists on my MP3 player for running. I’ve actually driven to my first day of work on three different occasions blasting the song at a reasonable level in the car. Those who’ve ever paid attention to the upper left corner of my Facebook profile under my photo will see a portion of the song’s first lines there for all to see at all times.
I tend to think that I do so since the song also shares a story of desire and hope. One portion of the song’s second verse has always stood out to me:
We the great and small
Stand on a star
And blaze a trail of desire
Through the dark’ning dawn.
There are times when we are blazing that trail of that we are not necessarily paying attention to what God has in store for us. In those moments we are always in such a rush to get to the finish line that we sometimes miss needed signals as well as opportunities to ask for help or assistance. We do enjoying running around from place to place without taking that moment to listen to what is being said to us in so many different ways.
There is a familiar passage that is found in Ecclesiastes 3: 1-13; one that tends to remind us to take a moment and slow down and take stock of all.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
What gain have the workers from their toil?
I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with.
He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live;
moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.
While we haven’t quite gotten to the part of the story that includes the Three Wise Men, it might be an opportune time to remember that they took a different way back to where they came from. They also took their time getting there, though not necessarily by choice, enabling them to be open to receiving messages sent to them by God.
If there is any lesson that I’ve had reinforced during the last three years, it is one of patience and of waiting for the time to be right rather than rushing something just because. Whether it’s a friend giving me somewhere to crash, words of support when times are extremely rough or simply a smile, it’s important that we’re able to fully embrace any signals that can possibly be received. It’s also been helpful in terms of being able to change direction if you begin to recognize that you’re heading in the wrong direction – something that is much tougher to do if you attempt to force your way through a situation without stopping for that moment of reflection.
As Bets and I pulled in from our trip up to Ohio on Monday evening, we enjoyed the sight of the Regions Center wearing its holiday garb. When we lived downtown we considered it one of the treats of being downtown residents – a Christmas card wrapped up in a bow and ready to send to anyone that was interested.
Pulling into our driveway we immediately noticed that the Christmas decorations on the house next door, all bright and glowing for every evening since Thanksgiving, had already been taken down.
We sat there and wondered why folks seem to constantly be in that rush for desire only to be willing to quickly put it away before the season is truly over. At the very least, even if circumstances call for you to put away the trappings, one would hope that you would keep the spirit of Christmas and the Good News that it brings with you for as long as possible (perhaps throughout as much of the New Year as possible).
If we are His and He is ours, perhaps as you look over your list or resolutions this evening as we prepare to ring in a new decade, we should take a moment and reflect on Deuteronomy 11: 7-11:
But it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the LORD has done.
Observe therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so that you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess,
and so that you may live long in the land that the LORD swore to your forefathers to give to them and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey.
The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden.
But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven.
As we make prepare to make promises to ourselves and to each other tonight and in the months ahead, let us try to align our goals with those that God has for us and commit to trying our best every day to live as He wants us to. Perhaps if we strive for that goal then the following words will take on new meaning to us:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
Let the river run,
Let all the dreamers
Wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.