2005: A Look Back at the Year Behind

Yesterday was a work day, and so today is the day that feels like New Year’s to me personally. It’s always funny when New Year’s falls on a Sunday. A lot of the Sunday stuff gets pushed to Monday. So, I’m half-watching the Cotton Bowl right now, dong this writing, and looking forward even more to Wednesday night.

This extra holi-day has given me time to look back at the year a little. You can, of course, read a lot about the year Dennise and I had by going here. Last year, I wrote a blog at the end of the year which was pretty negative, in retrospect. And this year doesn’t feel like it’s ended much more positively for the world.
Nevertheless, I thought I’d look back at the year that was…

But before I do my personal reflection, here’s the year in review, from the funny folks at JibJab.

Seems to me the first big story of 2005 actually happened in 2004: the Tsunami. I read recently that 179,000 people are confirmed dead, tens of thousdans still missing, and tens of thousands more still living in tents and other temporary housing. Hard to imagine still now terribly devastating this event was. But, it was gratifying to see the response of the world community, wasn’t it? And it made Bill Clinton and GHW Bush good friends…so miracles do happen, don’t they?

In March, we were obsessed with the case of a woman in Florida. Everyone in America, including me, seemed to have an opinion about whether or not she should live or die. Even Congress had an opinion. She finally was allowed the die the good death that she and her husband had agreed on years earlier.

During the late Spring, there seemed to be a lot of silly celebrity news that obsessed folks….Martha Stewart got released from prison. Michael Jackson avoided going. Prince Charles got remarried.

In the late Spring, the Pope died and a new, more conservative one, was elected in his place. I happened to be in El Salvador at the time. And it was fascinating to see a mostly-Catholic country respond to the news. We were actually there to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. We took part in a huge march through San Salvador that featured probably in excess of 40,000 people from all over the world. The atmosphere was so peaceful and optimistic. It was so amazing to see so many people from so many parts of the world coming together in peace and solidarity.

Summer brought more terrorism…this time in the London “Tube.” What it showed more than anything, of course, is that the “first world” is by no means immune to terrorism, and that the question for our country is not “if” by “when” it will happen again.

Sometime in August, my personal year got incredibly busy and never slowed down again. (This can been seen in the dramatic drop off in blog entries around the time…)

What happened first was the Camp Casey movement just down the road in Crawford, Texas. It was truly an amazing thing, and I was grateful for the chance to play a small part in that movement. Although lots of folks say they don’t agree with Cindy Sheehan, more than half the country clearly agrees with her, and her main question remains unanswered to this day. (“What is the noble cause of this war?”)

I happen to believe that a just war needs a noble cause. And so I did support her asking that question. Lots of folks criticized her and the groups around her, and I certainly don’t find myself in total agreement with everything every person or group stands for within the peace movement. I never have, frankly. There are always groups with side-causes and agendas that distract from the main message.

But, to this day, I still cannot see the “just” nature of this war, according to what I understand “just war” theory to be. And Cindy was right in asking the questions about the “noble cause.”

Speaking of the war, sometime during the Fall, America passed the 2,000 mark in casualties for the year. At the end of the year, we find ourselves having lost over 2100 service men and women, with tens of thousands more injured and wounded.

Quite literally on the heels of the the three-weeks of Camp Casey ending, Hurricane Katrina hit along the Gulf Coast. As of this writing, much of the Gulf Coast is still in shambles. Questions are still being asked about the government’s response at every level. And more than a hundred thousand people have permanently moved to Texas…in what is probably the largest single migration to this state ever.

Still weary from Camp Casey, I jumped right into Katrina….through our church, I had the chance to work downtown at Dallas’ main emergency center. I heard first-hand heart-wrentching stories of how people literally walked out through the water. I saw folks with looks of shock on their face…folks who’d been staying for days in the Superdome, Baton-Rouge, and finally the Convention Center in Dallas. What was most heart-breaking to me was to know that no matter what aid we could give these folks, we still could not give them back what they had lost.

Along the way, our church got involved with a particular family called the Lees. We helped set them up in a rent house, over on Abrams, furnished the house, and paid for some supplies for them. It was certainly not enough, but again I was really moved by the stories they told us of their escape from New Orleans. I had promised myself all Fall that I would blog about them, but simply haven’t had the time. But I carry all their stories in my heart, and hopefully one day I will share them with their permission.

As September flew by, dominated by Katrina, October brought preparations for our church’s move into our new building. This is what totally dominated my October and November. I don’t think I can ever remember being quite so busy in the church as I was those two months. Again, the absence of my blog entries tells you all you need to know about how busy I was.

The new building move is another of the great personal highlights of my year. We’ve been dreaming/planning this move ever since I came to Northaven in 2001. And to actually finally be in the new building is a great joy. Architecturally, it’s truly a stunning place. Attendance is way up. The attitude of everyone is good and filled with excitement. There have already been plenty of new challenges, and plenty more on the way, I am sure….but it’s been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Then, came the Christmas season. As you might imagine, it’s also always an incredibly busy time of year too. Piled on top of the joy of the holiday were two back-to-back funerals, in the days just before Christmas Eve. Once again, a busy, busy time.

So, that’s pretty much my year in review. Makes me tired to think about it. Although I’ve been sleeping a lot the past few days, to just try and clear my mind a little and get ready to get at 2006. It’s been really, really good to get a little break here these past few days.
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Another interesting thing to review for this year is the growth of my website. According to my year-end statistics, I had almost 20,000 visitors to my site, and more than 10,000 “unique” visitors this year.

To put that in some perspective, I’ve this website for more than five years, and in that time I’d only ever accumulated about 20,000 visitors. In one month alone (August) I had over 2,000 visitors, as folks downloaded “Prairie Chapel Road.” (More than 6 gigs of downloads that month alone….for a song that’s only 3.5 megs…you do the math…) The song was played on radio stations around the country, and has been used in two documentary films, and in a story on BBC radio.

So, that’s been terribly gratifying. But the growth in website visits has continued. Ever since August I’ve averaged almost 900 visitors a month!! I am sure that some of you are stopping by to see if there’s anything new posted to the blog, or any new music news. So, I will promise to be a better correspondent from now on.

I probably will not surprise you that the most popular blog entry is the “Prairie Chapel Road” entry. What might surprise you is to know that the second-most popular blog entry is the one I wrote on Father’s Day last year.
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Well, with a little rest these last days, I feel like I’m recovering a sense of “normal” again. And this morning, I spend about thirty minutes going through old emails. I had over 600 messages in my “read” mail folder that needed to be filed. Did that.

Then, I cleaned out my “file attachments” folder too. It’s the place where I send all the file attachments folk send my via email. And it’s interesting to look back at the stuff that accumulates in that folder. Most junk, really.
…Tons of embedded jpgs.
…Lots of pdf folks thought I’d like to see.
…Assorted “vcf” cards.
…A movie someone sent me about a dog running around with a lit Roman candle in his mouth.
…A bunch of doc files from work.
…A ton of useless html spam files.

When I got done clearing it out, and deleting it from the trash, it turned out to be about 2/3rds of a GIG of information. That’s right, 2/3rds of ONE GIG. And that appeared to only be six month’s worth….

The average file attachment folder, and the average human life, accumulates a lot of junk in the span of a year. One of the blessings of a New Year is the chance to start again. As the grown-up children we are, we adults get to call “do over” every January 1st. Perhaps that’s why folks jump and yell and scream in Time Square….it’s thrilling to imagine wiping the slate clean, and starting over.

Of course, we never forget the experiences of joy, pain, sorrow, love, that we were touched by in any one year. Like jpegs in an html spam file, those experiences stay embedded in us for a long time. But life moves on. I will be forever grateful this year for the move to the new church….for the chance to be involved in the epic history of Camp Casey…for the chance to do a little for Katrina victims…for the chance to march in El Salvador. But mostly, I am grateful for every day with my family. And I mean that sincerely.

Some years, I have made huge lists of resolutions. I have only one general one for this year. That’s to get back to music with a vengeance. I really want to get the CD done and out for public consumption. I really want to play more live shows than I’ve been playing. Many of you are kind to write me and ask me when I’ll be playing and when the CD will be done, and I appreciate your gentle prodding.

I need music for balance in my life and I find that life is not nearly as full when I get busy with so many other demands on my time. So, somehow, I’m resolving to work music back in much more directly and powerfully than it’s been these past few months.

In the meantime, I’m praying for peace, working for peace, and hoping that whatever comes in this next year will be full of new adventure and excitement.

Hope the New Year brings you adventure and excitement too.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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