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With the Joy of a BeginnerWith the Joy of a Beginner
by Michael Harbour

    We’ve only just begun!

    I am old enough to remember Karen and Richard Carpenter turning that phrase into a hit song. Perhaps that is one of my problems! A trusted friend wondered aloud to me the other day, “Maybe it is a mid-life crisis.” Well, yes I did buy a sporty little V-8 Dodge Dakota. It is solid black with no paint accents! It has yellow raised letter tires. One friend wondered if the police had stopped me yet. He said, “It looks fast standing still!” The answer was no to both speculations. Of course, the friend who said that I might be in a mid-life crisis then said that I was in denial! I am NOT! How do you get out of that one?!

    The mission of the church is to make disciples. A disciple is a learner. I know that very often we get folks in the church who think that they have already learned it all. They have thought enough or have done enough and would rather not have their comfort disturbed by anything new. I am convinced that when a church is filled with people who are no longer learning, that community is no longer being faithful to God. Those folks are no longer disciples.

    Wayne Cordeiro tells about the last request of Jigoro Kano, who founded the art of Judo, and who held the highest black-belt ranking in the art. Kano left instructions to his students regarding his funeral. He told them to bury him wearing a white belt, the mark of a beginner, a learner. I want to be like that. I want to be a disciple. I want to get better. I have not yet peaked! How could I have reached mid-life?! I’m not even educated yet!

I want to be a disciple. I want to get better.
    In an effort to get better, I have set some goals in my life. Have you set some targets? I have little targets and big targets. Back in January I decided to give up my addiction to Diet Coke. Of course that meant that I really had to give up soft drinks all together. I have been surprised at how easy that little target has been hit. My other little one has been the surrender of candy! Now, that one is a continuing struggle. Sandra would often get candy at Sam’s Wholesale, especially those 5 pound bags of Hot Tamales. It is torture to walk past a small mountain of cinnamon jellybeans! My daughter is selective with her candy. Occasionally she will put the ones she did not like in my hands so I could throw them away for her. Now, that was a real test. I would grieve over putting perfectly good candy in the trash! Maybe I should make her eat them! Or maybe I could make care packages to send to starving kids in far away lands. They would appreciate getting candy rather than those peas we did not want to eat back in the 1960’s. (Didn’t your parents ever tell you that there were starving kids all over the world that would be thankful to eat your English peas?) Anyway, candy is harder than Coke! Those are little targets.

    My big targets are my New Year’s resolutions. Here is the abbreviated form of my more elaborate list:

  • Fight the negative thought loop!
  • Think about the good things.
  • Remember that God is near and that I can afford to be non-anxious about everything.
  • Tell yourself that you are the beloved of God. God loves you even knowing you.
  • Give yourself away with love, just like Jesus.
  • Forgive other people before they ask you.
  • Listen with a still heart.
  • Remember that you don’t have to set everybody straight!
  • Pray to God during every hour of the day, being thankful, confessing, adoring, and asking for what people need.
  • Live in expectation of the answers from God.
  • Encourage a child.
  • Write more notes to your friends telling them that you think about them and pray for them and love them.
  • Read the newspaper everyday. (I’m not getting this one done!)
  • Read as many books as possible this year.
  • Love someone you don’t like.
  • Love someone who doesn’t like you!
  • Do unto to others as God would have you do.
  • Take a Sabbath. The world can operate just fine without your help!
  • Put your family before your work.
  • Tell everyone the good news of grace and mercy for them from God.
  • Be affectionate in a holy way.
  • Be courageous and compassionate.
  • Don’t eat until you are hungry and stop eating at the first sign of fullness.
  • Love a stranger.
  • Lean into life and be excellent.

    Oh, and a new target acquired in the last two months is, read five psalms a day, aloud. And perhaps encompassed in these particulars is the imitation of the Jesus style. Lynn Anderson describes that style as being available, sensitive, helpful, and creative (in The Jesus Touch). This is how I want to be! I am not real good at it yet, but I am learning. I am not in a mid-life crisis! How could I be? I am just getting started!

      © 2002, Michael Harbour. Used by permission.

      Title: "With the Joy of a Beginner"
      Author: Michael Harbour
      Publication Date: June 5, 2002

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 About the Author
Michael Harbour is the preaching minister at Southeast Church of Christ in Houston, Texas.


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