Word of the Week

new-years-resolutions-for-2014-adjusting-financial-goalsLast week on New Year's Day, I was sitting among a table of family and one person asked,

"Where do you want you life to be at this moment in 2018 that you aren't in today?"

Everyone went around the table to share as we feasted on the traditional southern meal that Kevin put together for the evening-- greens, black-eyed peas, okra and fried chicken of course. So good.

Some folks talked about getting better in shape. Others talked about where they wanted to be in their careers.

We imagined what my 6 month old daughter would say if she could talk "I want to walk." (And we know she will after all the moving around she's doing lately. . . bring on the baby gates!)

When it came to my turn, I could only answer, "I don't know."

The folks around the table graciously accepted my answer and we moved on in conversation, but I wondered about it later.

How could I say, "I don't know?!!" Aren't I " a get stuff done, know where I am going" kind of person?

But, after 2016 being such a banner year, a year when so many BIG dreams came together, dreams like publishing my first book and welcoming a child into our home and continuing to have opportunities to help churches in the interim work I love-- dreams that were YEARS in the making, it's hard to imagine what I will get into this year.

It's ok that I don't know. 

Will 2017 be about preaching in a more full-time way in a congregation? Maybe.

Will 2017 mean devoting serious attention to my new book project about how God creates families in unconventional ways? Maybe

Will 2017 include more travel and attention given to the foundation that got going last year called Our Courageous Kids? Maybe

Will 2017 be about something that I can't even articulate to you right now? FOR SURE!

So maybe it's time to dream about new dreams? Or find strength to remain faithful to what I know for sure. 

One Sunday ago, I preached at Oaklands Presbyterian Church in Laurel, MD, my friend LeAnn's lovely congregation. I am the first to admit that often the material of my sermons always has connection to what I am struggling with in my own life.  Don't let a preacher tell you otherwise. 

So while sharing about the "Slaughter of the Innocents/ Jesus flees to Egypt" passage from Matthew 2, I couldn't help but add in another reading from four chapters over in the same book:

Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into bars, yet your Heavenly Father feeds them . . . Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to the span of your life?

For it's such timeless wisdom. Everyday has enough troubles of its own, we need not take our mind on over to tomorrow's troubles!  Yet of course so HARD to practice. Who really does?

Yet, the point of my sermon was this:  God gives us the direction we need when we need it (though often not a moment before). And in response, our job is simply to listen and then do it. Just as God directed Joseph about where his family was to live, God will also direct us.

From the big details (where will I work in 2017?) to the in between (how will I find more time for my friends this year?) to the small (what will I make for dinner tonight?) I know a loving God who cares about it ALL.

And in my heart of heart, I believe this about my 2017 and I believe this about yours. God will lead you. Period.

Plans aren't all that necessary. In fact, often OUR plans get in the way.

Join me in listening, though.

January 2013 began with a bang. A quiet bang that is. I left my position of pastor at Washington Plaza Baptist Church in Reston in pursue more writing projects and support the work of Feed The Children. I blogged and sought to practice Sabbath keeping as I transitioned. Some days it went better than others.

imageIn February as I settled into my new life of nomad in chief (spending half my time in Arlington, VA and half in Oklahoma City, OK), I continued the tradition of cookie on a stick baking for my new Feed The Children family throwing one amazing Valentine's party (If I do say so myself :), I visited new churches like this one in Tennessee and was humbled along the way, and I fell in love with the ministry of writing.

In March, I participated in my first US Feed The Children food distribution in my hometown of Washington DC realizing how hungry some of my neighbors actually were.  I continued to pack and re-pack my bags learning more about simplicity every day. And I wrote a post for the Associated Baptist Press called, "I Left the Church, Don't Hate Me" that explained how I was trying to figuring out my pastoral calling in my new life.

As April rolled around, I continued to breathe deeply even though I wanted to hyperventilate some days out of feelings of "What am I doing with all this new free time I have?" I thought a lot Imageabout the young men with disabilities in Kenya that I'd met the previous August and how work makes us feel useful. One day in Oklahoma I went without shoes along with the rest of the staff of Feed The Children to raise awareness about childhood poverty. As I got deeper into the journey of writer-pastor I faced fears of the big questions of life like "Am I good enough?"

In May, Kevin and I traveled to Central America for the first time together. Guatemala won a special place in my heart for its beauty and the kind souls of its children. Oklahoma City was never the same after the F-5 tornado hit Moore. I wrote this prayer in response that went viral the week of the tragedy.

Women of WatongaAs the summer began, I continued to preach once a month at Watonga Indian Baptist Mission in Oklahoma, took a short vacation to Costa Rica for the wedding of a dear friend and got in a ride on a zip line through the jungle, and reflected on the fact that Kevin had been at Feed The Children for over one year. Oh what a difference a year can make in your life!

In July, I spent some time back at youth camp with my friends from Son Servants. And, it became clearer and clearer that my vocational calling as I looked forward was all about creating something that didn't exist.

August was not a great month in the Hagan household as if out of nowhere, I got sick with an infection that caused much havoc on all of my lower abdominal organs. I had emergency surgery and was in the hospital in Oklahoma for several days. I learned much about being cared for by others and resting deeper than I ever had in my entire life. Though it took me till September to feel like writing about it.

HBApreachingIn October as I started feel stronger every day, the travel picked up again. I worked in Nashville, TN alongside Feed The Children assisting with social media at several key events. I preached at Hawaii Baptist academy as their pastor for Christian Emphasis week. I hit my stride in truly feeling at home in my skin as a pastor outside of the church-- even writing a three-part series about it.

The highlight of November was absolutely our trip to Africa. My heart overflowed with JOY with every minute I was in Kenya. I couldn't but write about joy with every post describing this trip. I became official at Feed The Children (it was a long time coming!) taking on the position of Ambassador of Social Advocacy though my pay did not change (I am learning to work for free).

1425738_10152117196929809_1922494367_nThough I didn't blog about it here, in December Kevin and I continued our Christmas tour in Central America-- visiting with orphans and other children in our programs in Honduras and Nicaragua. We played the part of "father" and "mother" Christmas bringing gifts to thousands of children. It was an amazing privilege of presence. On the blog, I joined with colleagues and friends to bring you the Baby Jesus Blog.

This sermon I preached at my church, Martin Luther King Christian in Reston, VA in early August theologically sums up how I feel about 2013. This was a year of suffering. This was also a year of resurrection.

I am glad, though, that through it all grace has been ever present and I've survived. Thanks for reading and cheering me on along the way.

Happy New Year!