The first thing to do when blogging a “Year in Review” at the turn of the year is to post it at the appropriate time. Tradition tells us that the most appropriate time to review a year, be it a summary of political events, personal growth, or even one’s checkbook register, is at the end of the year. Somewhere between 27 December and New Year’s Eve all the major news wires (and quite a few blogs) had put up some sort of retrospective of the past year.
Things were no different here at Mere Orthodoxy, with Matt Anderson throwing up a look back at the highlights of 2007 of the blog that brings you the best coverage and thought-provoking analysis of the crossroads between Christianity and culture, in my humble opinion anyways. Keith Buhler (the Enthusiasmos) authored a stunning signpost for the coming year by re-counting the timeless insights of Christian thinkers—insights all from ages previous to our own yet not-so-surprisingly relevant to 2008 and the centuries, G.W., to come.
Tradition demanding what it will, I nevertheless managed to entirely skip my Year in Review until well into the middle of the first month of the new year. This slightly late and always irritating tendency of mine has its roots in 2007, and in an attempt to deal with it I’m finding it helpful to look back and see just what might make me consistently hang out just behind the power curve.
Perhaps it all started with my new job. 2007 began with a roar of engines (four, to be exact, and each at approximately 40,000 pounds of thrust) as I lifted off into the world of mobility aviation. Newly arrived at my C-17 flying squadron, I felt poised to shoulder the burden of moving the Department of Defense’s assets from continent. My first flight trans-Atlantic flight took place in March and I was well on my way to seeing just how heavy the burden of the Air Force’s core competency of Rapid Global Mobility can sometimes be. I spent approximately half of 2007 flying missions overseas, with a large portion of that time at deployed locations. Most members of the U.S. Armed Forces laugh rather cynically at the well-worn slogan, “Join the military, see the world” as they peel potatoes or change light bulbs in such exotic locations as Grand Forks, ND, or Enid, OK. Not so for the Air Force cargo pilot...I quite literally saw the world from 30,000 feet, traveling over the North Atlantic, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Persian Gulf.
With all my flying duties, I’ve found it hard to keep up on the multitude of other interests and duties that vie for my time and attention. When I was younger, my parents told me that life never slowed down...it just continued to speed up until your body couldn’t handle it anymore and you finally keeled over in exhaustion. I remember laughing at this since every older person I knew put tennis balls on the feet of their walkers to guard against the thrilling and all-too-real possibility of it rolling away during an afternoon shamble through the nursing home garden. But now that I’m getting older I think my parents might have been on to something.
Life is full of possibilities and demands, and as each year goes by these both seem to increase. Both the possibilities of the future and the demands of the present have positive and negative aspects, and both require a careful and simple approach to living if one is not to be overwhelmed by either. They also are conducive to these year-end reviews. So, without further ado, the "Possibilities and Demands in Tex's Life, 2008":
Arabic language study: One month in Jordan and a year of Rosetta Stone’s Arabic program is hardly sufficient for mastery of the ancient language of poets, but the bits and pieces I have learned pave the way for future study. My goal: a two week self-guided language and culture immersion program in Israel and the West Bank this summer.
A way forward towards peace and wisdom in the Middle East: Studying at the University of Jordan this year provided opportunities to meet with and discuss the future with students and professors. While many of the conversations were frustrating in that they were replete with discouragement over past events and lacked particular strategies for future change, they gave me some sense of the ideas and issues that college undergrads and grads are struggling with in the Levant. A particularly noteworthy discovery was the sad emphasis on technical education and what amounts to rote memorization of facts and stats, rather than learning how to think. While this emphasis in Jordanian (and other Middle Eastern countries’) education will have some negative long-term effects, it is exciting to learn of current attempts being made to counter this trend.
The importance of seeing my job as part of a Christian vocation: I entered the U.S. Air Force to learn how to be a godly layman in a secular society. I’ve found that, like so many other men and women in the American Church, it is easy to compartmentalize life into self-contained segments of work, church, home, and play rather than finding ways for each of these spheres of life to interact. Such segregation, while understandable, makes a wholistic understanding of one’s life impossible and leads to frustration with the daily grind that keeps the individual from doing what he or she really wants to do. Popularity of such sitcoms as The Office is understandable since light-hearted cynicism is seen as the only viable option for dealing with the inanity and purposelessness of work without falling into despair. A series of sermons on work, preached by the Reverend Rob Rayburn of Faith Presbyterian Church, have been particularly helpful as I re-evaluate the manner in which I view my work—coming to see it as an integral part of my vocation as a Christian man in a secular society.
Writing for Mere Orthodoxy: I write for this blog with the express purpose of giving old ideas a new lease on life (the good ones, anyways), of promoting real thought in a society that is overloaded by soundbytes and information, and, less altruistically, to help me think through issues that are of personal existential import. I am looking forward to beginning series on important figures in Arab and Muslim history, evaluating the Westminster Confession of Faith as a proper understanding of Christian theology, and highlighting the continued interplay between East and West in the Middle East as the American people continue their policy of engagement with foreign powers.
Flying the C-17 around the world in support of a war, which “is nothing but a continuation of politics by other means” (Clausewitz): America’s continuation of politics by other means means that I will most likely spend at least six months of the next year in places other than the United States. While seeing the world on the taxpayer’s dime has its benefits, it is particularly demanding when it entails that personal pursuits, further studies, and involvement in my church and community take a back seat to the requirements of our nation. It is a privilege to serve America in this way, but no service is free and the price I pay to defend and protect the American way of life sometimes seems to be a demanding one.
Writing for Mere Orthodoxy: My goal is to post a minimum of twice weekly. While compared with the torrential output of more verbose bloggers (see here, here, and here) a twice-weekly effort may seem inconsequential, I am committed to providing the readers of this site with thoughtful and educated insights on current events, combined with helpful distillations of the logorrheic musings of more academic minds.
Maintaining and developing my friendships: In a world that has gone virtual, it sometimes seems that we’ve virtually lost our ability to remain in long-term and profitable relationships with flesh-and-blood people. My life is packed with meetings, trips, on-line research and studies, blogrolls, and numerous hours typing e-mails, answering phones, and filing papers, making it difficult to find time for the joie de vivre that comes from sharing in conversations and life with true friends. Still, given the great value and importance of interacting with people (to say nothing of Biblical injunctions and wisdom; see Proverbs 27:17 and Mark 12:30), one of my main priorities in the new year will be to go beyond fulfilling my obligations to others and working towards becoming a true friend.
So, there you have it...a year in review with a view to the coming year. I guarantee you that the tennis balls are coming off the bottom of my walker as I plan to do something much more thrilling than shuffle from meal period to sleep period in 2008. Come what may, I look forward to living a full life and seeking to balance all the new possibilities and demands with this my consistent prayer,
"Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee. Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store. Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee."