Instead of New Year’s resolutions, why not consider birthday resolutions, marking the anniversary of your birth with some evaluation and goals? In my case, my birthday is Dec. 31, so my annual resolutions coincide with the calendar year. Here are some of my goals for the coming year, some more serious and challenging than others, offered in the hope that they might inspire a few ideas of your own.
- Use fewer exclamation marks. Have you noticed? Cyberspace is glutted with this form of punctuation which is supposed to be reserved for the rarest of cases. A young, over-zealous newspaper editor once used three-inch font for a headline reporting the opening of a shopping center. His publisher nixed it. His counsel: “Save something back for the Second Coming.” Good advice then and now. More than toning down punctuation, during 2019 I don’t want to contribute to the shrill hyperbole that has overtaken our culture. If everything is superlative, nothing is. If every opinion is shouted, little is actually heard.
- Let go of grudges. Too often, I am tempted to hold on to a hurt or to repeatedly rehearse some injustice. (As a starter, I will try this year to forgive people who drive slowly for miles in the left lane.) I must learn to trust God. At the end of history, those souls will be dealt with by a just Deity.
- Instead of merely reading more, read deeper. I’d like to spend more time in 2019 reading fiction, including more classics. I recently read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden. They aren’t old; they are timeless, dealing with every contemporary issue confronting us today. That’s why they’re called classics. Thanks to laptops, tablets, smart phones and Apple Watches, we have instant access to information (and misinformation) and opinions on every conceivable topic. But sometimes all that grazing is like trying to satisfy our hunger with those tiny cucumber sandwiches served at receptions. Once in a while, we need a steak and potato.
- Talk less and listen more (a tall order for a preacher). I want to do more listening in prayer, no longer dominating conversations with my Heavenly Parent. I want to listen more to others, learning their stories. Every Wednesday night, our church provides a free meal for our community friends, including homeless and nearly-homeless persons. As I move from table to table each week, I want to learn more about their hopes, dreams, failures and fears. Our congregation recently had a conversation on race. As a part of this emphasis, our deacons hosted a dialogue. Panelists consisted of church members, including an African-American man and woman, a Hispanic person and a white mother of a biracial son. I sat at the back of the room and watched with delight as rich and honest conversation flowed. No one is ever just one thing, merely black, white, Asian, gay, straight, homeless or immigrant. This year, I want to really hear people.
- Eat more frozen custard. This needs no explanation.
- Stop worrying if people like me or approve of me. For example, if you judge me for No. 5, that’s on you, not me. If my goal each day is to not disappoint someone, I usually end up disappointing myself. I cannot live defensively, any more than a great football team can play with the goal of not making mistakes.
- Give up my dream of playing second base for the Kansas City Royals. If they ever needed me, it was last season. They didn’t call. I’m done.
- Finally, overcome some of my OCD tendencies and stop making so many lists. Oops. (But notice I resisted adding an exclamation point.)