'Tis the season to take a good long look in the mirror (just not first thing in the morning on Jan. 1), to see if there is any room for improvement.
If the mirror doesn't reveal any needs, just ask friends and family, they're sure to have more than one suggestion.
A recent office poll reveals that one staff member has resolved to be "nicer," another has promised to do one nice thing just for herself, and several are engaging in weight reduction programs.
And, if her New Year's resolution is successful, my niece in Iowa will give up smoking.
Not everyone's New Year's resolution is health related, at least not related to good health. For those for whom life is taking a bit too long, perhaps they have resolved to increase their intake of calories from fat.
The tradition of making a New Year's Resolution may go back as far as the Babylonians, but their new year probably began in the springtime. Jan. 1 marked the beginning of the New Year in accordance with the Julian calendar, established by Julius Caesar in 46 BC. According to some historians, the year prior was purposely elongated to 445 days in order to synchronize the calendar with the sun. (The Gregorian calendar, introduced in 1582, and still in use today, kept Jan. 1, as the first day of the new year.)
According to an article on Wikipedia, recent research shows that while 52 percent of participants in a resolution study were confident of success with their goals, only 12 percent actually achieved them.
I've never been one to set a New Year's resolution and I resolve not to start this year. Oh, it's not that I've got all of my ducks in a row and trained to stay there or that I don't have a bad habit (or 12) to overcome, I'm just not wired for resolutions. Whether on Jan. 1 or June 30, if I resolve to change something within myself, I immediately begin to obsess about whatever needs changing and my mental gymnast warms up. She is very talented, much more talented than her physical counterpart, and soon I am completely exhausted (curiously, both physically and mentally) and I give up giving up my bad habit.
That being said, I have set some goals. It has long been on my heart to dive into the Sermon on the Mount with the aim to make my heart a parchment where my Lord can inscribe his Word. That desire was underscored by the recent reading of Ronnie McBrayer's latest book, "The Jesus Tribe."
As the political season continues to heat up; as the world powers continue to broker, bluster and rattle their sabers; as inflation rises and the dollar loses more buying power; as the struggle to keep body and soul together continues to increase, it is of paramount importance to remember and practice Jesus' teachings.
Jesus had little to say about the Roman Empire and would likely have as little to say about the United States today or any other empire throughout history. He proclaimed a present and coming kingdom where those who would follow him would find a place.
And as McBrayer so eloquently put it, "...we must do business with this man Jesus and realize that either (1) Jesus did not mean what he said, (2) he did not say what he meant, or (3) he actually said what he meant and meant what he said."
Jesus promises that the merciful will receive mercy. I must, therefore, be merciful at all times, for I am in need of his generous mercies. (Matthew 5:7)
Jesus warns that our forgiveness is contingent upon our willingness to forgive others. I must, therefore, cultivate a forgiving heart, lest my many sins follow me through death's door and on to judgment. (Matthew 6:14, 15)
Jesus counsels us not to judge or we too will be judged, in the same way we have judged others in Matthew 7:1 and 2. Having been on the receiving end of unjust judgment and having held the rod of judgment myself against others, I dare not subject myself to the same measure I once used. As David said to Gad in 2 Samuel 24:14 "Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men."
Over the next several weeks, it is my intent to write out the Sermon on the Mount, a piece at a time, letting the words flow from my eyes to my mind, through my heart and then out onto the page before me. Will it change that heart? Will it transform my character, making me more like the One I follow? Only time will tell.
It is admittedly, an unusual pursuit. According to David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, speaking about a survey conducted by that group, "Only 9 out of 1,000 survey respondents -- that's not quite one percent -- mentioned that one of their objectives for the next year was getting closer to God in some way. Even in the rare instance when people mention spiritual goals, it is often about activity undertaken for God, rather than a personal pursuit of God or an experience with God."
The most beautiful promise of the beatitudes "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God," (Matthew 5:8) is indeed an impossible dream, unless I allow the Lord to purify this heart of mine and write his words on it. (Jeremiah 31:33)
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock." Matthew 7:24, 25
I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Let's walk together for awhile and discover Him; together.