Archives For New Years Resolutions

corks with datesAs every sommelier worth his saltine crackers knows: good wine comes from tortured grapes. It is a dusty secret Californian vintners accidentally unearthed that the more the grape has to struggle for survival, the higher the quality of wine that can be gleaned.

Thus, arid and gravelly mountainsides are good for nothing, horticulturally speaking, save for some masochistic grapes, notably the Bordeaux varietals. Grapes harvested after a season of longsuffering produce a vintage that insiders will dub “a good year.”

This phenomenon is not an idiosyncrasy of oenology alone, but of theology as well.

If I ask you what makes a good year in your life, you may reply with one or more of these generic blessings: physical health, career promotion, relational fulfillment, financial prosperity (or at least solvency). But you’d be wrong.

Well, you would be half-wrong. A good year is whatever improves our sanctification, i.e. what makes us more like Christ, draws us closer to God, and increases our usefulness in giving God glory.

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December 29, 2014

Your Tombstone This Year

by Clint Archer

A sagacious life-coach would urge us all to occasionally zoom out and put our lives in perspective. A written assignment might include, “What would you want the epitaph on your tombstone to say?” A percipient piece of advice for looking ahead. But there is a far less lugubrious genus of tombstone on the market that commemorates accomplishments as they occur. And the best part: you don’t need to die to get one!

deal toyIn 1931 the DuPont corporation developed a material called Lucite, a type of tough glass used for fighter plane windshields. Half a generation later the corporate world annexed the material to fashion paper-weight sized trophies as mementos that mark milestones and reward deal makers for a noteworthy coup. Lehman Brothers apparently employed a full time tombstone designer at $85k per annum to keep the offerings fresh (that was before a real tombstone was raised over its belly-up corpse).

The diminutive size of the Lucite tombstone (or “deal toy”) matches its import—as your gravestone will encompass the impression your lifespan left, these translucent trinkets announce lesser accomplishments, but can still act as little goal markers for which to strive throughout life.

The epitaph visualization is intended to calibrate our lives for the inevitability of eternity. I am a sucker for this type of long-range planning. When Jesse Johnson was my roommate in seminary, he discovered (read: pried in my stuff and stole…) my planning tools; he still teases me about the timeline that has targets and goals for every year from age one (acquire teeth) to age one hundred (remember to pull rip cord while skydiving). Yes, some of those were penned in retrospectively, and the future milestones are all in pencil as per Proverbs 16:9.

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There are no new sins, only more diverse and efficient ways of committing them. Before we let the mainstream of 21st Century culture catch us in its current, let’s hit pause for a moment and get our bearings. Perhaps it’s time to swim against the information flow.

Here are four godly disciplines to pursue in 2014 that have taken on a unique significance in the last five to ten years.

1. Pluck the I out of your iPhone.

not invincibleThe advent of smart phones has introduced an unprecedented rate of interruption into our social interactions. Phones have made us selfish and inconsiderate in ways that used to be deemed boorish and uncultured.

Formerly, if someone walked up to you and began talking while you were already engaged in another conversation, that the person would be considered rude.

But this decade has made us feel rude for not replying instantly to any interruption that hails from our phone.

You know how frustrating it is to be halted mid-sentence by a text chime tone, only to have the person you were talking with treat the “What’s up?” ping as if it were a life-and-death enquiry. I understand if Jack Bauer asked me to hold my thought while he checked the text message from the President. But very few people work for CTU or are on call to intercept a terrorist attack.

Most people answer their phones for one reason only: they heard it “Ping.” How Pavlovian can you get?

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In preparation for my yearly resolution to read through the Bible (which often runs out of fuel at points and needs fresh motivation), I have begun to carbo-load on motivation by researching reading plans and getting poised for a good year of actually doing what I set out to do.

Lotito eating bicycle

I usually make ten resolutions with the hope of keeping about four. My theory is that’s better than making none or making four and keeping one.

Anyway, I came across this funny Frenchman who inspired me to keep nibbling at my old Bible reading plan until it is done. His name is Monsieur Mangetout (pronounced mun-jê-toot), which is a sobriquet meaning “Mr Eats it All.”

His real name is Michel Lotito (1950-2007). He made his living by entertaining people who were fascinated by what he could stomach. He could and did consume huge quantities of indigestible material, including metal, glass, and rubber. (Though he complained that eating hard-boiled eggs and bananas made him ill.)

In his illustrious career Mangetout downed (these figures might seem hard to swallow, but I’m really not making any of this up) …

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January 1I wish that my life was lived with such unthwartable intentionality and unbroken cadence that all my best intentions, hopes, dreams, strategies, and plans just scurried into their rank and file behind me like submissive infantrymen flanking their fearless general into battle as I marched unhindered through my schedule. However, if I don’t intermittently remind them who’s boss, my delinquent platoon of would-be accomplishments, attainments, and acquisitions abscond instead into obscurity, leaving me with a motley crew of foot shuffling “coulda-shoulda-woulda” excuses in their place.

That’s why I’m an annual advocate of making New Year’s resolutions.

Note that I didn’t say “keeping” said resolutions. To be overly transparent, I have to admit that my rate of keeping resolutions beyond the first three months of resolve is about a rate of 20%. I usually make ten resolutions, and end up keeping two of them until at least April. One one occasion I managed to stay on the raging rodeo bull of distraction long enough to actually accomplish a goal. That particular resolution, which tackled my love handles and other BMI eye-sores, saw a total loss of about 6kg (20 lbs?) by literally going to the gym every weekday for three months. When I realized the untapped power of an unbroken commitment, I renewed my allegiance to the hapless art of annual goal setting.

My reasoning follows this litigious track: If I didn’t make ten resolutions each year, then the 1.5 that reach the coveted status of being crossed off the list wouldn’t have a fighting chance. Yes, I fail eight or so out of ten times, every year; yes, it is accompanied with the semi-demoralizing reminder that I am a consummate loser; BUT if I didn’t make any resolutions at all, I would have no hope of attaining any of my goals.

I know it sounds a little like the lottery ticket purchaser’s argument that if you don’t buy a ticket, you don’t stand a chance at all, which is worse than the one-in-a-googleplex chance they have of winning. But there is a fundamental difference: I’m actually in (some) control of my resolutions. I can stack the deck in my favor with these five tips to help you actually keep a resolution or two in 2013… Continue Reading…