Back on the Wagon

How are those new year’s resolutions holding up? You’re now 27 days into the year. Only 64% of them survive the first month according to one 2016 study. Another study labeled January 12 as the “most deadly day” for resolutions.

Here’s what tends to happen: you start off strong, you do great—until you don’t. And since you messed up yesterday, you might as well mess up today…and tomorrow…and now you’re off the wagon.

People battling addictions face the same struggle. Six months of sobriety end in a three-month bender.

What if we planned for the fact that we will fail?

A skydiving instructor explained that it isn’t the initial impact with the ground that kills you. If your chute totally fails, when you hit the ground, you’ll break an awful lot of bones before something worse happens. You bounce – and then land again, but this time, with a bunch of broken bones. It’s what happens after the disaster that proves fatal.

Let’s have high expectations and lofty goals, but let’s plan for what happens after we mess up. Let’s be prepared for the bounce.

If that sounds strange to you, remember that it doesn’t sound weird to God. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” John set a high goal: he didn’t want us to sin! But there’s a healthy dose of realism and preparation that follows. “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (Read more in 1 John 2:1-6)

Maybe you’ve already broken your new year’s resolution. Don’t let one failure become the reason for a second. Instead, let it be your fuel for a better future.

What can we learn from the dying?

Death has a certain way of giving us perspective. Perhaps that’s why the teacher wrote, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Bronnie Ware was a palliative care (hospice) nurse for many years. On average, she spent the last 3-12 weeks of life with her patients. Many times, they would spontaneously express regrets about how they had lived their lives. This happened so many times that Ware wrote a book cataloguing the five most common regrets of the dying:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Many people lived their entire lives with a dream that they never even attempted to pursue.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. Ware heard this so often that she intentionally simplified her lifestyle so she could “need” less and work less.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. Many take guilt to the grave rather than risking an apology. Others never said what was most important to the people that were most important.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Don’t we all see friends and talk about getting together—but never do it?

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. Worry and dread and anxiety are parasites of joy. Happiness is a choice.

In Christianity, we have an amazing opportunity to learn from the dead. Will you make the decisions necessary to benefit from that knowledge?

Self-Centered Resolutions?

James Hinkle likes to say that the biggest room in anyone’s home is the room for improvement. He’s absolutely correct, and this is the time of year when we think about what we need to improve and how we might work on that. We make our resolutions to spend less, save more, eat less, exercise more, worry less, and pray more—and those are great resolutions. We need to take care of ourselves.

Here’s the thing, though: nobody is going to stand around your casket one day and say, “Man, aren’t you glad he lost those 5 pounds?” “Isn’t that awesome? He had a lot extra to retire on!”

What they will remember is how you treated them, your acts of kindness or your acts of cruelty.

I’m not suggesting that we don’t need to work on self-improvement—all of us do. If our poor self-care leads to an untimely end and puts a burden on others, our loved ones will remember and regret that.

What I am suggesting is, that if you really want to improve yourself, improve yourself in a way that improves others.

If you want to spend less and save more—do it so that you can be more generous with others.

If you want to get in better physical shape—do it so that you can be more present in the lives of your kids and grandkids and serve better in the kingdom.

If you want to worry less and pray more, do it so you can free energy and space to help other people carry their burdens.

We won’t be remembered for being a little better with our money or our health, but we’ll never be forgotten for being kinder and more present for the people around us. If you want to make a difference, make that your resolution for 2019.

A Study of Romans

We spent the last part of 2018 (and the first part of 2019) working through the great book of Romans. If you haven’t spent some time with Romans lately – you really should!

Romans teaches us that the ground is level at the foot of the cross.

It reminds us that we all stand in desperate need of God’s great kindness and grace.

It teaches us to treat each other with patience and love on the basis of the grace we have received.

It’s just good, and it’s exactly what the church needs to hear today.

If you’re interested in spending some time studying Romans, I’ve put together a study guide that we’ve used. You can find the study guide over on the church website. Enjoy!