A Resolute "No"


It’s New Year’s Day morning, the Sun has taken over for last night’s Blue Moon, and it is awfully quiet around here. We hosted an NYE party for Maria and five of her 12-year-old friends last night, and everybody is apparently still snoozing in the other room. I have no idea how late they stayed up. But they seemed to have fun with the party hats, noisemakers and such. Just after midnight, we stepped out under the clear Blue Moon and lit some sparkler. It was a nice moment.

For anybody who missed it, I wrote a new song recently that sums up how I feel about New Year’s Day. Hear it here.

As for resolutions, I used to be pretty obsessed with making them. Having failed miserably to keep them, I stopped cold turkey a few years back.

Somehow, I am feeling the desire to make a few again. Mainly because, to me, making them not only helps my process of looking forward, but also of reflecting back on the year that has passed. So, some resolutions to follow.

OK, two. Yep, just two resolutions for the year.

Keep Walking
Not counting the current Christmas break, this has been a pretty good year, walking-wise, for me. I haven’t talked much about it here. But I’ve been endeavoring to get at last 7,000 steps each day on my Go Zone Pedometer. It helps. I’ve definitely felt better because of it. And so, I want to keep going with this.

Relearn the power of “No.”
This is the biggie. And I’ve been considering it for some weeks now.

It seems odd to be listing something that is actually a negative as a “resolution,” but it is what it is.

Over the past few years, I’ve gotten very good at “Yes.” There is a power that comes from Yes. We had a great, great, GREAT year at Northaven. Much of that comes from myself, and others, saying “Yes” is a lot of great opportunities that came our way.

And it turned out to be all good. Really good. Really, really good.

It’s really the same for most of my life too. I have a great life and there is a lot of good stuff happening in it. The cup runneth over. In fact, the cup keeps running…down the sides…down the table leg and all the way to the floor….more grace and more good stuff than I possibly deserve. It’s all good. It’s what inspired that new song.

It’s just too much.

That’s such a strange thing to say, really. But there comes a time when you can’t “do” any more. Too many times, my schedule is double-booked…or triple-booked. Time and time again, Facebook friends would even make jokes about it (“How do you do it all?”) (“How do you keep up with that schedule?”) And I’d always think to myself, “Yes, it’s a lot…but it’s all good” as if that justified every additional meeting and task.

But there comes a moment when you just can’t add another meeting. You can’t do another favor for somebody else.

Well, you can, but it could kill you.

I don’t know how close to that line I am, but I’m pretty sure I walked up to it a time or two this year.

This all came to head this Fall when one of our key staff was out on medical leave. A lot at church fell back on me. Again, all of it was all good stuff, and it all turned out well, but it was just too much. Also this year, I made some commitments to folks in the community that I did not keep. I am deeply embarrassed by this, and am still trying to figure out how to apologize and move forward.

The point is, I got stretched way too thin, and said “Yes,” to too many things, let others down, let my family down, and let myself down along the way. Too many times, when in the midst of doing one thing and being one place, I worried about the other places, and the other things, I was “supposed” to be doing at the exact same moment. This eventually robs you of the ability to live in each moment of life. I spent way too much time stressed about all that was undone, or half-done, and how I had let myself and others down.

Also, time and time again, the thing that usually gets left out in this kind of busy schedule is the time for self and family. Too many times, I didn’t walk, I didn’t journal, I didn’t spend the time with family, I didn’t work on music, because I said “I can do this one more thing….what will it hurt?”

Probably a lot of folks don’t realize how truly introverted I am. Really. No kidding. Painfully introverted. Being out in public is a big daily challenge. For all I ever write publicly, post on Facebook, blogs, etc…for all the events I talk about being a part of, there is a lot that never gets said…private thoughts and feelings that stay private.

As I’ve said before, I have great sympathy for Brian Wilson, and could easily understand how somebody might spend weeks, months, or even years, eating Cheetos in bed, with the covers over their head.

Along the way, most introverts more or less learn how to “deal” with the extroverted world. (We sort of have to. It’s always there.)

Some of us “cover” pretty well for the most part. But if we don’t take that time to replenish, it catches up with us in spades. And, unlike extroverts, we don’t replenish by being engaged with the world, but by withdrawing regularly and frequently.

So, when I get to that moment of saying “what will it hurt?” to add that “one more thing,” the answer is, me.

When you have a life where you cups runs over, and there’s more than you could ever eat, even if it’s all delicious, you still run the risk of, at any moment, becoming Mr. Creosote.

BTW, I also realize that inside of all this previous confession is humbly recognizing that there is GREAT hubris in ever having pretended that I could be all things to all people and do all the potentially possible things.

Yes, there is humility in trying to “be there” for others. But there’s is also hubris in imagining that nobody else could do what you do but you. The truth is, I’m not that all-powerful or all-important to the Universe that I can’t miss more meetings and events now and then.

So, in sum, while I don’t plan to stop saying Yes (way too much good comes from that…), I am hoping to say “No” more too, at least on a personal level and as it relates to my own schedule and how I spend my time.

Maybe it will be waiting before saying an immediate “Yes.” You know, taking a day to think things over before jumping in to something…not double-scheduling days (as much as it is up to me) and saying “No” to some things so I can say “Yes” to others.

There’s a lot about Stephen Covey’s writing I don’t like. But there’s one line that has always stayed with me, at least in my head. This year, I’m hoping it makes it back into my heart:

“It’s easy to say “No” when there is a deeper “Yes” burning within.”

I’m so pleased with what has been going on at church this past year. But I’m going to trust in staff and lay folk to do their jobs, and try to simply concentrate on the basics of what I can, and should, be doing.

I’m so pleased with everything that’s been going on with Connections the past few years. But some of it has been at the expense of my own music. I need to get back to that….more recording…more writing…more playing my stuff…to finally finish that long-delayed CD.

When I say “Yes” to other demands, I put off things that could be helpful to me…
…exercise
…prayer/journaling
…my own music
…family time.

I need to remember that these are the “deeper Yesses” I have within me.

~~~~~~~~

So, that’s it, in a nutshell…walk and relearn the power of “No” so that I might say “Yes” to my life.

And keep giving thanks for all the crazy-good things that life brings my way.

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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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