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My Year of Jubilee

On 29 December 2021 I turn fifty.

Me eating gelato in Nafplio, Greece

In the Bible, the fiftieth year is the celebration of Jubilee, the year after seven years of sevens, as outlined in Leviticus 25. There were four key components, as I understand it, of the Jubilee celebration. First, there is a forgiveness of debts. Second, slaves are set free. Third, boundary markers for property are reset. Fourth, no planting or harvesting is to take place.

Before I go much further, there is very little evidence the ancient Hebrews ever actually observed properly the Jubilee, and the Prophets specifically spell out the ignoring of Sabbaths, sabbatical years, and Jubilees as one of the reasons for the exile and captivity. Isaiah may have been talking about the ultimate Jubilee in Jesus when he referred to the ‘Year of the Lord’s favor’ in Isaiah 61:2. Jesus of course quotes this when he begins his ministry.

But back to Greenbean’s Jubilee.

The forgiveness of debt was more like catching up all the payments for a lease agreement than it was the forgiving of actual debt as in a credit card. However, the net effect of the program would have been to free up people from long obligations. Plus, the forgiveness of debt is a very powerful Old Testament and New Testament idea. Jesus uses that phraseology when referring to sin in the model prayer.

So — I announce on this day that as of December 29, 2021 any individual who owes me money or service is hereby released of that obligation.

Slavery is another issue altogether. I abhor slavery in any form and that includes elitism and classism, which is a certain kind of slavery that separates ruling people from the mere commoners. But I digress. The language about slavery, combined with debt forgiveness, has been interpreted variously through the years as a forgiving of wrongs done to us. Forgiveness.

This one has been tough. I am not a grudge keeper, but there are a handful of people who have hurt me deeply and I have uttered with my mouth or sworn in my heart that I will never forgive them. But here I am, forced to consider not only my Jubilee, but more importantly, the words of Jesus who says forgive, and it shall be forgiven you (Matthew 6). I want to follow Jesus, and we are never more like Christ than when we forgive.

I worked through this one today and shed more than a few tears. The hurt, though decades old, still feels fresh. Some is personal. Other is vocational. Some is old, and I’m thinking of 2010. Some is new, and I’m thinking of personal attacks against me in the midst of COVID-19. All of these things hurt. Yet, it is my Jubilee.

I, therefore, forgive all transgressions against me. This means there will be no recrimination, no reminders, and nothing but a desire for those people who have wronged me to be happy, healthy, blessed, and to be in a relationship with the Lord.

This forgiveness idea goes further, for me, though. I am very cognizant of my own failings. As a young man I was cold and harsh. I’ve said things that were at best rude but were also racist, misogynist, and insensitive. Although I have never attacked anyone in my lifetime physically, I have done so verbally. I had a job in college, and the last year I worked there, I mailed in it. I mean, I did not give them honest work for honest pay. I owe HEB an avocado. In 2008 I transgressed a church in Oregon when I lead them on and then told them no after I had told them yes. I am guilty of gossip. I can be judgmental.

For these things, and so much more, I ask that you forgive me, on this my Jubilee, especially If I have hurt you in any way.

Property boundaries are the third part of this celebration. I have very few literal property boundaries and they all are older than me and are in their original locations, so there is nothing to reset there. But the idea of a reset, of ‘returning to your property’ rings differently in my ear right now. It feels like a reset is needed in my mindset — the real estate of my soul. I need to reset to some things that I used to do when I was a young man. I was very ambitious with desires to write, lead, and make a difference. I came to realize my ambition when unchecked, could lead me to use people and manipulate, so over the decades I have crucified this ambition within me.

But I think I have gone too far. I need to reset some of this and recognize the natural ambition the Lord gave me is a part of who I am. Redeemed ambition is one that pushes myself to accomplish without manipulating others or using other people in the process. It means ambition for a better way, and not a bigger way. I need to reset some boundaries on my time, what I prioritize, and what really matters. I have a book that is finished and I will peddle it vigorously this year. I have another project with two co-authors which I will pursue with zeal. There is also a third, secret book which is one-third finished. I will finish it this year.

I must also likewise reset the boundaries in my personal life. The sprouts are grown now. They no longer need me to teach them or care for them. I need not tell them what to do. I must reset that boundary now in my fiftieth year and see my children as sojourners with me on the Jesus path. I can learn from them and they can learn from me and together we can be stronger, but they are my peers now. Special peers to be sure, but not little children who must be guided by the hand. This is a hard thing to let go of.

On this the dawning of my fiftieth year, I reset my mind, my soul, my work, and relationships.

And that brings me to the last of the four parts of Jubilee as I understand it. That is the prohibition on sowing and reaping, leaving the ground fallow. This would have been two years in a row for the Hebrews, because of the Sabbath year of the seventh set of sevens the year before. Mrs. Greenbean and I are now at a new place in our life. Our children are grown and we have liberty — Jubilee — to rediscover marriage at this stage in our lives as well as rediscover the world. When you don’t have crops to tend, you can travel. So that is my practice for the foreseeable future — to travel, visit, see, eat, learn, and grow as a citizen of the world. Who knows when bad health or economics or war or pandemics may come and rob the ability to travel.

I therefore on this day, commit to traveling at least once a year, and maybe two times a year, to some place I have never been before, or to revisit some grand locale I have enjoyed in the past.

Oh Lord, help me forgive and to let go of the pain. Forgive me for my sins of the mind, the mouth, and the rash moments. Allow my relationships to be pure and motivated by love. Help me to work hard and to accomplish the tasks I believe you have called me to do. Bless thou, the work of my hands. May my travels always be a blessing to the world and never a curse.
Thank you for the fifty years you’ve allowed me on this planet, in this flesh, with my family, and in this odd life of ministry. It has been a great blessing to me and I have enjoyed it. I boldly ask for another seventy years, that with Moses I may reflect on one hundred twenty years with you and sing your praises as I make my way into eternity. However, I wish to not live one more day than you have planned, and I submit to your will in all things. Thank you for the gift of Jubilee. In the name of Jesus the Messiah whom I follow. Amen.”

THE MARRIAGE JOURNEY

Today I have a special treat.  My long-time friend 
David Richardson is guest blogging for me.  
You can CLICK HERE to head over to 
David’s blog page, or you can click on the 
link in my blogroll on my homepage.  I told 
him he could blog about whatever he wanted to, 
and this is what was on his heart.  Thanks David 
for a great post with important reminders 
for us in our relationships.

Twenty two years. That’s how long Lara and I have been married. We started our marriage fresh off the heels of graduating from college. Now we’re on the verge of sending our oldest child off to college. Time sure flies!

Lovebirds!
Lovebirds!

We’ve learned some lessons along the way. I’d like to share them with you today because maybe some of the things we’ve picked up along the way will help you with your own marriage. Of course, we know there is plenty more to learn. But here is what we’ve gathered to this point about being husband and wife:

[1] Work at it. Good relationships don’t just happen. They demand effort on the part of the husband and the wife. Lara and I have had to learn new skills, hang in there during the not so easy times, and work on better understanding each other. I’m seeing that marriage requires intentional effort.

[2] Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. We see that it’s vital to share honestly with one another our thoughts and feelings in a healthy way. Men cannot read the mind of women, and women cannot read the mind of men. That just doesn’t happen. The phrase “I shouldn’t have to tell him/her” is one you might as well forget using. Unless your spouse is a mind reader, yes you do have speak up and communicate. How can your spouse know there is a problem if you don’t communicate? How can your spouse know to take care of a need in your life if you don’t communicate? See my point. You and I both have to speak up if we want good marriages.

[3] Forgive. I’m not a perfect husband. Far from it! I have failed Lara some along the way. And she has let me down at times too. We’ve realized that we are fully capable of wronging each other, and that puts us at a point of decision. Either we can stay mad and grow bitter at one another, or we can forgive. I’ve come to see that forgiveness means we bypass bitterness and refuse revenge. In other words, we say what needs to be said, let it go, don’t stew over it, and choose not to inflict a hurtful payback on one another. Has your spouse hurt you? Let me encourage you to do something: Forgive her or him as God has forgiven you.

[4] Seek counseling. It’s ok to sit down with a counselor and talk through issues. I will unashamedly tell you we’ve done that before. And it was good for us. A counselor helps a couple talk through issues that maybe they would not discuss on their own. If your marriage is struggling, and you just can’t seem to fix it on your own. reach out for help. It’s a smart thing to do.

[5] Put your spouse first. Selfishness destroys marriages. The biggest regrets I have so far about my marriage all go back to the times when I’ve been solely focused on me. That has never worked well. So I’m seeing that marriage requires I focus on caring for her. And, at the same time, she focuses on caring for me. The same is true for you and your spouse. You both have to put each other first. And this only works if both of you do this. It can’t be the sort of deal where one is putting their spouse first and the other is not. Both parties have to be on board with this.

[6] Look to God. I don’t want to sound preachy here. But I will say that having God in our lives is what has saved and improved our marriage. God is loving, forgiving, and patient. Because we look to Him, He helps us love, forgive, and hang in there with each other. I don’t know if we’d still be together if it wasn’t for God. We need Him as individuals and as a couple. So do you! Through Jesus Christ, you too can have a relationship with Him that helps you in every area of your life, including your marriage!

I enjoy my marriage now more than I ever have before. Really, I do! It’s not perfect. No marriage is. But it is a good union between two people who are willing to work at it, get real, forgive in the midst of failure, look out for the needs of each other, and seek help from above.

I wish you well in your marriage. Hang in there with that special someone you looked at and told “I do.” With God’s help, you can make it. And even better than that, you can enjoy it too!

FORGIVENESS

Today is a guest post by my buddy David Richardson.  David and I met when we were doing doctoral work together, and have kept up our friendship through the miracle of the interwebs.  I asked him to write us a blog post, and he wrote a very good one.  You should check out David’s blog at http://www.daviderichardson.blogspot.com.  You can also follow him on Twitter@davidrich70.


For a moment, I was an angry Dad.

Early on a Saturday morning, I was watching my six year old son play goalie in a YMCA soccer game.  Emerson was really doing well in defending his goal.  Finally, a kid from the other team managed to get a great kick past my son and score on him.  That did not bother me.  I knew that was eventually going to happen.  But what got to me was what happened next:  the kid who scored the goal stood there, pointed at my Emerson, and had a few “choice words” for him.  I could hear the trash talk on the sidelines where I was standing.  My son just stood there and said nothing back to the bully from the other team.

That’s what made me angry.

I did not like seeing my boy called out like that.  So I walked over behind the goal and stood there a few feet from my son as the game continued.  I kept saying “You’re doing good, boy!  I’m proud of you.  Keep it up.  Daddy’s right here with you.”  He couldn’t say anything back because the game was going on.  But he was nodding to let me know he heard me.

Finally, it was halftime.  I walked out onto the field and hugged my son. Then I asked him how he felt about what happened.  Emerson looked at me, smiled, and said, “It’s ok, Dad.  I already forgave that boy.”

I was not angry anymore.  Not at all.  Instead, I was inspired by that sacred moment on the YMCA soccer field in central Florida.

Forgiveness.  What a beautiful thing.  It’s not always easy.  But it is always right.

I’ve come to realize that when we forgive, we do two things:  (1) Refuse revenge.  (2) Bypass bitterness.  It does not mean what the other person did to us is “ok”.  But it does mean we choose not to pay them back or stew inside with bitterness.

I’ve forgiven folks before.  And I’ve needed folks to forgive me along the way too.  Every time it happens, I am reminded that few things are more beautiful and powerful than that.

That’s the Gospel.  God forgives us when we lie on a tax form, cheat on a business trip, gossip on the phone, or bully on the soccer field.  Then we are in turn asked to extend each other the same blessing.

Life’s too short to stay angry and lick our wounds as the victim.  There comes a point where we have to let it go and forgive.  And when we do, we heal enough to move on with the life God has laid out for us.

Emerson reminded me of an awesome truth that day.  Forgiveness is the way to go.  Always.

May God help us all forgive each other in the same way He has forgiven us.