2018: A New Year

New Year’s Day represents something powerful in the Western psyche. We love the idea of a fresh start, a second chance, hope, and the idea that this year might be different than the last.

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newyear2018_24-dea0cc09d9b756a44574e87b010b6115To be honest, I am beginning this year simply grateful. On December 29th, my absolutely amazing dad had a serious heart attack. Though I will spare you the details, I sat for an hour or so waiting for a text/call from my mom (dad had been care-flighted and mom was driving that way) that might mean I never get to see his face, hear his voice, or say “I love you” again. I will never forget those 60 minutes. Due to God’s providence and an amazing collection of factors, not only is my dad alive, but even better, his heart sustained NO permanent damage. I would share more, but it is too personal and I am still processing through some difficult emotions. This year could have been so different. I am thankful. I am so thankful. I love my dad who has always been such a tender, strong, Biblically-grounded, inspiring, persevering, visionary, encouraging, hard-working, responsible, present, and trustworthy man. Yep, that about sums it up.

We we are weeks away from our little girl being born. We will then have one son and one daughter! I have no idea how I will juggle family, work, and a full-time doctorate, but there is no point trying to figure that out. Not possible. One must be thrust into a situation before they can know how to arrange the beautiful parts. For now, I am working hard to get ahead on my Ph.D. work (if there is such a thing as getting ahead). Worrying about the future is not fruitful (though I can be quite good at it). Jesus said, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27)

New Year’s Day has come and gone. It goes without saying that there is nothing particularly magical about a specific day. That being said, New Year’s Day represents something powerful in the Western psyche. We love the idea of a fresh start, a second chance, hope, and the idea that this year might be different than the last. For some reason, it is at the beginning of the year when we Westerners are willing to let our hearts dream a little, consider an alternative future, and relinquish at least some of our skepticism.

For this reason, this is usually the time when we all make insanely impractical resolutions. Setting goals, especially if you have someone holding you accountable, can be really helpful. It may be time to lose weight, implement a discipline in your life, enroll in school, ask for the raise, exercise, or plug into your local church in a meaningful way (instead of being a useless bump on a log). In a word, it is a time when we pledge to be more intentional in one or more areas of our lives. Sadly, most people are not very intentional.

Making resolutions is not an intrinsically bad practice, but it may not always be useful either. I think Christians should go about this cultural practice a little differently. What if the majority of your resolutions were birthed out of prayer? In other words, your resolutions are something that the Holy Spirit is already committed to realizing in your life. Granted, I don’t think every resolution has to be of this nature, but I am absolutely convinced that hearing God about the upcoming year is the best recipe for Kingdom success (not just success), personal growth in Christ, influencing neighbors and co-workers for Christ, seeing a relationship restored (God may tell you to take the first step), stepping into the freedom of Christ, forgiving someone, or taking the risk you have been scared to take.

So make the little resolutions and strive to improve. That is great. But take time as an individual and a family to pray, seek God’s face, hear his voice, and make resolutions that not only have eternal value, but are backed by God’s word and his specific vision for your life.

Happy New Year! Let’s begin the year as we ought to begin each day: seeking God. Only his will and desires truly matter.

New Year’s Resolutions (bla bla)

Don’t try to tackle the world. Instead, do your best to create new routines. It was Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher, who believed that your character is ultimately transformed through the formation of new habits. Do something long enough and it begins to become you.

2011-year-resolution-400x400I had a few quick thoughts regarding resolutions of the New Year.

First of all, you will not keep them perfectly.

Secondly, if you make too many of them, you will end up feeling like a failure.

Third, if you go too big, you will get discouraged and stop trying.

When you think about making New Year’s resolutions, think “routine.” And when you think routine, think manageable. Small steps are best if you hope to sustain any new practice.

Don’t try to tackle the world. Instead, do your best to create new routines. It was Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher, who believed that your character is ultimately transformed through the formation of new habits. Do something long enough and it begins to become you.

Let’s be honest. One domino knocks down another. Then that domino knocks down the next. All of the dominoes do not fall at once. If you want to make big changes, think small. Think consistent. Think imperfection. Imperfection? Sometimes you so want to get things in order that you do not take the good step because you want to do things perfectly. A perfectionist seldom completes a task, and most often, struggles to get started own the first place. If your goal is to work out four times per week and you have a week when you only work out once, then be grateful that you worked out once. Then, the next week, go for it again.

And, to speak to spiritual matters, spend time in prayer. Seek the Lord. Ask him where he wants you to grow. Reading God’s Word? Time in prayer? Giving generously? Sharing your faith even when you aren’t sure the Holy Spirit is leading you? Plugging into a small group? Attempting to do something that you know could end in failure? Become a servant in your local church that the leaders can count on? You get the idea.

As Christians, it is easy to just come up with goals, but we are called to so, so, so much more. Get in God’s face. Hear his voice. Your best best for a fulfilling, satisfying year (by the way, God is NOT opposed to this) is to hear one or two things from him rather than creating a multitude of resolutions that are rooted in everything but him. Granted, not every goal has to be overtly spiritual. But on the other side of things, all things are spiritual. Discipline yourself to lose 20 pounds and before you know it, that discipline will spill over into other areas. 

Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” I can’t guarantee wealth, but if you will focus on developing new habit routines, you will see results.