It’s the first day of the year — and perhaps more than any other time in our little life times we are hoping, wishing, and praying for a prosperous and joyous year. It’s been a ‘strange’ year for me ‘in my head.’ I’m a historian by trade. When I perceive the tumult of 2020, the pages of history scream at me. And when they scream they’re saying something like this, “Really? You guys think this is tough? Really?” When I go to my “woe is me” place I hear their screams.
The WW2 generation lost 75 million people in a span of a few years. Our world has been disrupted. Theirs was destroyed. The slaves here in America lost scores of innocent lives (2 million alone died just on the trip over to the Americas) and suffered unknown psychological trauma that persists to this day. Our world has been disrupted. Theirs was destroyed. The Native Americans lost 20 million upon the settling of the Americas after it was all said and done. Our world has been disrupted. Theirs was destroyed. The list goes on and on. I didn’t bother to cover even more tragic episodes and the suffering people had to live with–the Khans of Mongolia, the Roman Empire’s escapades, the Goths, the Vikings, the Germanic Tribes, Stalin, Lenin, Mussolini, Hitler, and the carnage left behind their leadership. And to be fair we Christians don’t have a spotless record–just see the Crusades, the exploits of the Popes in the hegemonic years of Catholicism, and the chaos after the Reformation. Sheesh. Comparatively speaking with the other generations of history and the burdens they carried, you and I are just carrying a paper weight.
But that doesn’t really work does it? I mean our problems are still REAL, right? The tumult of 2020 is REAL TUMULT to you and me! It IS what it IS! I know nothing about my own homeland being ravaged by war. But I know what fear was instilled when a virus jumped the pond and came to our shores. I know nothing of genocide. But I know what it was like to see hundreds of cars lined up on our church’s property filled with families needing food they could no longer afford to buy. I know nothing of sociopolitical decay the likes of which the earlier epochs saw. But I do see increased anxiety and depression amongst people who were doing just fine about a year ago. My point is this–our stuff is real. And just like God saw earlier generations through their pain, I remain confident He will see us through ours.
It’s why I step into a new year with hope and prayer and expectancy. Indeed I do not know what the year shall bring. But I have hope. And sometimes that’s all ya need. So as we step into the new year, allow me to say, “Hey don’t let the craziness of 2020 darken your path for 2021.” I feel that temptation to just ‘blah blah blah’ it and go through the motions. I’m NOT a happier man than I was this time last year. And I am STILL lamenting the loss of 2020. And I am YET in somewhat of a funk. But not only do previous generations scream at me, so does a still, small voice whisper to me something like this, “I’m your Father my boy. And I’ve got you. You gotta trust me. I love you kiddo. I’ve made promises to you and I will keep them. Will you trust me? Will you keep living by faith? Will you dare believe I have a plan even still?” The still small voice is far sweeter than the screams.
Pray with me that you and I will step into 2021 with hope. With trust. With faith. With determination to live life to the fullest each and every day. Any normal year I’d be working on my year goals, making April write hers down, etc. But I’ve retreated from this normal mode for weeks. Because the year has been too much to bare. I mean it’s been a tough tough year. And we’re still in it. Just because 2021 shows up does NOT mean all of a sudden the world’s problems disappear. But considering what God did to rescue all of the generations before us with much worse issues, who are we to act like that God has disappeared and careless as to what we’re going through? Indeed if he could settle the world after WW2 how much more can he do it for us today given our problems are lesser than that world of yesterday? O Grant God that we would rise up and walk by faith! Help us to stand for you today! Let’s go get after it in 2021!
Cultures all around the world have traditions on the first day of the year, most of which revolve around hopes and anticipations for a prosperous new year. In many Southern homes today and especially many African American homes, black-eyed peas and cornbread will be served. It’s an amalgamation of different practices for sure. We do know that many of the slaves coming from West Africa were given black eyed peas on the Middle Passage while they were chained to the holding troughs in the ships. When the slaves arrived to the plantations they planted those peas and eventually both slaves and slaveholders enjoyed black eyed peas on a regular basis. Thomas Jefferson even grew them in his Monticello garden. Over the years these ingredients came to rest on New Year’s Day. There were perhaps Jewish and Scottish and Irish influences here. Whatever the case, I promise you RIGHT NOW there are families in the South eating black eyed peas and cornbread today and will tell you, “Hey that’s just what we do.” But the history behind it is that people who had been oppressed would, by faith, cook those black eyed peas and trust that the coming year would bring a little lighter load, a little more freedom, and a lot more joy. The lesson is this — find your own version of black eyed peas and act like a thing is so, even though it ain’t so, in order that it might be so.
Tonight our black eyed peas will be chocolate and marshmallows and graham crackers nexts to a roaring fire. I shall kiss my babies and ask them what they’re dreaming about for a new year of life together. I shall record their utterances and keep a journal over the years. Perhaps when they are my age they shall look back and see that it wasn’t as bad as they thought it was-that God had answered many prayers, and sustained them along the way like he did the slaves riding over on the ships, the Native Americans who survived the carnage, the WW2 generation who protected a whole planet, and so on and so on.
My goals for 2021 are as follows:
- Daily prayer with my April – we started this about a month ago. And it exposes my heart each time. Sometimes I can’t wait to pray. Sometimes I want to sleep a few more minutes. But it gives me crystal clear clarity as to the condition of my heart and my April’s. Because we invest 10 minutes in morning prayer before we even get out of bed, I already know what spiritual need I have before the Lord and how to support my spouse. I’ve figured out that if she and I are doing well other things seem to fall in line. Man that girl is so fair and so fine. SMH.
- Jenkins Family Brunch Revivals – before Covid every Saturday our family picked a spot to grub. Well even if we gotta take a bundle of grapes to the park, I commit to get them out on Saturdays again this year regardless of what is closed. Tomorrow’s is a treat. We’re heading up to Idyllwild mountain to play in the snow and eat some goodies.
- Date Night w/Each Child 4 times each this year – That’s 12 nights dedicated to a 1-1 date with Dad. I’m somewhat ashamed to say this is hard for me. Not that I won’t totally enjoy it. It’s just a commitment and hard work to figure something out for the other two. But I know the payoff is grand. And I’m making this commitment.
- Excellence with the DMin – I’ve transferred out of the PhD program. I could not keep it up given life’s current demands. This has caused heartache for the past 3 years. But I believe it’s God’s will for me as well. I’ll now finish a Doctor of Ministry degree hopefully in the next 18 months. Classes start in March but the work starts now. Most of the coursework is done insofar that I completed my coursework for the PhD and was in the middle of comps. I’ll be working home every Tuesday to get ahead on the week’s sermon. And I’ll be reading about 200 pgs a week for the doctoral work. Every Saturday I’ll be working solely on this degree and a couple nights each week until it’s done. My research focus: Racial Reconciliation
- 4 Workouts per week – In my Ronald Reagan voice, “There I go again.” I’m fat. Too fat. The great struggle of my life. But I’ve got a carrot in front of me – cheaper life insurance. I’ve got to get to a certain number for health’s sake regardless of insurance. And I’ve got a plan and a diet to match it. Please pray for discipline here. (No need to send help on this. You can help me greatly by whispering a prayer). 4 workouts mostly means 3 mi walks for me. But hopefully as some pounds shave off I’ll have some mojo to get the intensity up a bit.
129 books – these are books for ME. I’ll read plenty across the year and they’re all good. But I read lots for work, sermon prep, and research. These 12 will be novels and bio’s for sure. Working on one now that’s like 800 pages so maybe I should let that one count as 3. In fact I think I will. LOL!
- 12 Blog entries – when I write I am worshipping my Lord. It is solely an act of worship to give way to the written word. Glory to God. Perhaps these blogs may help and bless others. That’ll be a bonus. But I’m gonna do 12. And hopefully more.
- Found MJF ministries – I’ll say more on this down the road. I love pastors. And leaders. And this valley. And they’ve never been in more tough shape than they are this year. April and I have been dreaming of our family’s gospel expression for nearly a decade. We think we’re close.
- Be a Shepherd and a Friend to SW and to the Valley – On my wall reads this quote, “I bear in mind that I will given an account to the prince of all pastors about the sheep entrusted to me.” – St. Augustine