My Year In Review: Blog Edition

Tis the time of year when there will be many year in review type of articles and lists, so I thought I would add to the onslaught by doing a quick review of my own.  The end of the year is a great time to reflect on all that has taken place.  So in this space I want to look back at topics and posts that helped define 2012 for me.  The links will take you to each entry.

I usually begin each year by doing my own personal/spiritual review using the Fruit of the Spirit.  Reading through the Old Testament historical books this past spring, I was reminded that for all the self-examination and disciplines we can engage in, there are still areas in our life that stubbornly remain unchanged.  The Hebrew scripture calls these The High Places.  I’m not sure how I have done at removing mine.

April brought me to the poetic books of the Old Testament (I read through the OT this past year) and the book of Job is a book that seems to yield new layers of meaning each time I read it.  I summarized the most recent layer in Worldviews, Greek Mythology, and Job.  I actually have done quite a bit of reading on Greek mythology in recent months.  It’s one of those subjects I always heard a lot about but never fully understood, so I decided to absorb all I could on the subject.

Speaking of Greek mythology, one of the most interesting books I read this past year was Moonwalking With Einstein.  It is a book about memory techniques, especially those associated with the ancient Greeks.  I am currently using these techniques to recall 100 of the Greek gods and where they fit in the Greek pantheon.  The technique works!

And while we are on the topic of books, I decided to share the Top Five Books That Have Influenced Me thus far on my journey.

One of the more popular posts of this past year was a reflection on prayer and the word Amen.  Honestly, this has not been the easiest or most fulfilling of years for me, so I am grateful that sometimes Amen is all that God needs to hear from me.

Every year brings its share of tragedies to the headlines, but this year seemed especially heavy with senseless violence.  I could have reposted God’s Plan Or Personal Responsibility on several different occasions these past twelve months.  It is always fascinating to observe how people use/misuse or blame God whenever these things occur.

To end on a high note, a fortune cookie once told me that I should write a book.  And that materialized this past year with the release of Ten Essential Words.  If you haven’t checked it out yet, I would be delighted for you to give it a read and let me know your thoughts.  I started writing it back in 2006, so it was a personal milestone to see it come to fruition.

Fortune Cookie

The cookie told me to do it

I’ll continue to use this blog to share what I’m reading, what I’m thinking, and what I’m writing.  Looking ahead to 2013, my brother and I are taking a trip to Greece and Turkey in March, so I’m sure this will turn in to a bit of a travel blog as well.  If you don’t already follow this blog (or my book website) and you enjoy it, please do so.  The content differs between the two, so sign up for both!

Thanks for processing life with me and sharing your comments.  Have a blessed New Year!


The High Places

I have recently been reading through the historical books of the Old Testament: 1 & Kings, 1 & Chronicles.  I love history, so I enjoy pouring over the details of kings, timelines, and intersections with major historical events in the Ancient Near East – you know, all that geek stuff most don’t pay attention to!  Bad rulers are scolded for their tolerance of foreign religion to run rampant through their land, while good kings are praised for tearing down the idols left by their predecessor.

Though I have read through these sections before, there is a reoccurring phrase that keeps jumping out at me.  Over a dozen times, even after good kings are praised, scripture adds the phrase:

The high places, however, were not removed.

The high places were locations of cultic worship associated with Baal, Molech, and Asherah, among other foreign gods.   They were typically located outside of cities on hilltops or mounds, perhaps contributing to the name, high places.  Another explanation to the name comes from the idea that Baal was associated with being god of the clouds, mountaintops, and other high places.  Over time however, they could be found anywhere.

I wondered why these high places were so difficult to purge from the land, even among the best of rulers.  I wondered if their location – remote and out of the way – made it seem like they were not worth the trouble of identifying and dismantling.  After having pegged the obvious perpetrators – large temples to Baal, Asherah poles set up in prominent places in the cities and in the temple in Jerusalem – perhaps traveling about the countryside for these small, crudely fashioned shrines seemed pointless.  Or maybe after spending time ridding the country of the large idols, kings figured they had other business to attend to.  Like modern-day politicians, perhaps they figured they had sufficiently grabbed the headlines; it was time to move on to other policy issues.  Yet, these historical writers note time after time that the high places were not removed.

It occurred to me, however, that as easy as it is to question these good kings, I have high places in my own life that seem too difficult to tackle.  Truth be known there are places in the remote areas of my heart and mind that I don’t want to make the effort to tear down.  It would be difficult to tackle and besides, those places are hardly observable to others.  And dare I say that part of me doesn’t even want to take them down.  After all, I try to read the Bible, develop a regular prayer time, and engage in other practices that bring me closer to God.  I just walked through my Fruit of the Spirit year in review.  Aren’t I doing enough?

The high places, however, were not removed.

Reading this over and over, I don’t want this to be true of me.  The first step, I suppose, is to simply acknowledge that they exist and that they have more allure than I give them credit for.  More than once I have found my mind or attitude drifting – wandering the remote countrysides of my heart and mind – only for that phrase, the high places,  to come to mind.  It is enough to give me pause and question what my next choice will be.

So what are the high places in your life?  When all is written, will it be recorded that you had the courage to go beyond the obvious to sweep clean all the unseen areas of your heart?  Or will it read: The high places, however, were not removed?