Looking Back/Looking Ahead

     I'm writing this on New Year's Eve, which for me is always a day of wonder - as in, "I wonder how I survived last year" or " I wonder why things happened as they did" or more importantly, "I wonder what this next year will bring."  I also wonder how Dick Clark never seems to change, but that's another issue all together. 

     As a pastor who does a bit of counseling, I know that if we don't make choices about the direction of our lives, we are going to be reacting to what others do.  Often that leaves us dealing with the consequences of the foolishness and mistakes of others.  Many of us are too trusting of the good will and "fairness" of others, not realizing that the agendas they have often have little to do with our well-being.  When all is said and done, we sometimes end up feeling used or mistreated, and we then try to make ourselves feel good by blaming others for our misery.  We blame our spouses/significant others, our parents, our bosses, the economy, the world situation, Elvis, or whatever person or phenomenon we have encountered - and here's the kicker: nothing ever changes. 

     So... what's wrong in your life?  What's missing?  What mistakes have you made that need fixing?  What is left undone?  As you ask these questions, notice how easy it is to blame others for the holes in our lives. 

     What do we do?  In Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion Show on Public Radio (Saturdays at 3 or 6pm, Sundays at 11 am, KPCC 89.3 FM), one of my favorite parts of the show is a recurring mock commercial from the "Catsup Advisory Board," which offers some timely advice.  When the husband and wife protagonists in the little mini-drama commercials are having trouble dealing with life's difficulties, the usual diagnosis is that they aren't getting enough catsup.  Life going nowhere?  Career stuck?  Kids won't leave home? Frustrated?  The "natural mellowing agents" in catsup will help even out our moods and make everything seem ok (even if they aren't).  "Catsup - for the good life."  Busts me up every time. 

     Is that the solution?  Just mellow out?  Take something to push the pain or discomfort away?  Blame is a good mellowing agent, whether it's directed at others or ourselves.  It diffuses the issues enough that we are soon mellowed into an uncomfortable inactive state. 

     People of faith have other options.  Look realistically at your life (don't just accept the view that others put on you, and get rid of what you know to be sin in your lives - see James 1:22-26, Colossians 3: 1-4), accept the forgiveness that is offered you in Christ (this releases us from being controlled by guilt and self-blame - see John 3: 14-18), forgive others (this releases US from the power that blaming others to excuse our problems has over us - see Ephesians 4:31-32), ask God for guidance and power to live out your faith, and begin to move out in new or better directions (see James 1:5-8).  Cut the strings, break the chains, Find joy and peace in Christ as you serve him and his people. 

Blessings this new year! 

Pastor Larry