My 2015 New Year’s Resignations: random thoughts at this busy time of year

It’s the holiday season and New Year’s Resolutions take too much work (resolve) both to write and to enact. So for a few laughs and as an occasion for reflection I offer up the following 15 New Year’s Resignations for 2015. Feel free to join me LEs or ignore me and get back to celebrating with your family. You know you can turn this internet thing off, right?

1. Stop Presidential Primary Watching

Jeb Bush is in! I can’t help it. As a bit of a political junkie who usually lands somewhere in the middle of the two parties, I love it when both parties have primaries. But good grief!!! It sure seems early for this. So not this year! I won’t change the channel if it comes on, but no primary coverage binges for me in 2015. There will be plenty of time for wackiness in 2016.

2. Stopping Abusing the Snooze

I don’t feel so bad about my 5:50 snooze to get up and start the coffee and turn up the heat, nor do I feel bad about the snooze that I use to wake our son. But the next two just make my wife angry. So here’s your new year’s present dear: two snoozes only during the week and maybe three on weekends.

3. Stop Using the Penultimate Hymn as a Bathroom Break

With their colorful history you’d expect the Scots to have a more lively musical tradition, but alas. The Presbyterian hymnal is really fit only for funerals. Maybe it’s my Pentecostal upbringing raising its head, but I just can’t deal with four of those hymns per service. I usually manage to duck out for at least one, and blame it on a final cup of coffee. So this year, I shall stay in my pew and use the third hymn as an opportunity to fill out my check and tithe envelope instead.

4. Stop Counting Hits and Wondering Why This Blog has so Many.

It’s been read 28492 times at last count, exponentially more than most of my posts. WHY? I’ve tried to figure it out, but can’t. It’s kept me up nights. And I still have no idea. So in 2015 I’m just going to let it go. So good-bye Josiah Bartlett, we miss your steady hand at the rudder of the ship of state.

5. Stop the White Hairs.

Enough already. The “distinguished looking” stage should be sufficient.

6. Stop Plugging the Books.

What books you ask? Good Question! Lost in the Middle? Claiming an Inclusive Faith for Christians Who Are Both Liberal and Evangelical and Found in the Middle! Theology and Ethics for Christians Who Are Both Liberal and Evangelical both by Wesley Wildman and Stephen Chapin Garner. They’re great reads and the impetus behind the website. Christmas or New Year’s presents?

7. Stop Pretending that I’ll Actually Do #6.

Ain’t gonna happen #6, so perhaps #7.

8. Stop the “us” Language in Regards to Euro/Western History and Culture.

This is the big one. Back when I was a youth minister in Needham, MA I challenged my Seniors not to give up something, but to change something for Lent. I’ll never forget what one of my kids, his name was Aaron, decided to try. For Lent, we decided to work on changing his language, specifically to stop using “gay” as a synonym for lame or stupid or boring. That Aaron was a profound seventeen year old. Language matters, perhaps more than we think, and I have some sloppy linguistic habits of my own that need breaking in 2015. One of the things that I habitually do when I lecture on World Religions is unreflectively use the first person plural family of pronouns (we, us, our, nos, notre, nous) when talking about Western religions and philosophical traditions. This is no longer a defensible verbal habit and it actually works to undo some of the lessons that I’m working to teach in that class by reinforcing boundaries that a good class in World Religions ought to tear down.

I do, however, reserve the right to use first person pronouns (I, me, mine, je, me, ma, mes) when talking about all things Southern. Y’all better just get used to it.

9. Stop Looking Down my Nose a E-book Readers.

Just as I’ve never understood students who refuse to write in their books to preserve their resale value, I do not understand e-book readers. I could never bring myself to sell a book I enjoyed or from which I learned something. I still have my books from my freshman year religion classes! And it’s not that I’m a hoarder. Rather, if you take a text and its arguments seriously (and I don’t mean novels) then how can you NOT underline things and make marginal comments and how can you not want to keep a hard copy for future reference? E-book users are like folks who claim to love hamburgers and then go to McDonalds. What are you doing, they aren’t REAL books! But this year? In 2015, I will not pledge to try e-books, but I will work to stop insulting them and their devotees in my blog. Please note that this entry was written and posted pre-2015.

10. Stop Looking for “Loyalty Displays” at Church Functions

This one will take some explaining. Deep down in our psyches, we are built for life in communities. But the danger here is that as we form communities that transcend our genetic ties and work beyond our kin group to support one another, we open ourselves up for possible exploitation by “free-riders.” Some of this terminology is specific to evolutionary theory and cognitive science, so readers familiar with the work of Jonathan Haidt may recognize the phrasing, but I’ll try to translate all of this into laymen’s terms. Put simply, we want to be reassured that folks with whom we share and cooperate will share and cooperate in turn. We have an innate need to look for signs of loyalty that indicate a likelihood of reciprocity. In most small group situations this habit of looking for “loyalty displays” serves us fairly well, but in our churches? Several of Jesus’ most profound parables have to do with warning us against looking for, expecting, and making such indications of reciprocity. (Check out Matthew 20:1-15, 13:24-30, and Luke 17:1-19) I don’t think I can give these up entirely, but in 2015 I’m going to work to be more aware of this phenomenon in others and myself.

11. Stop Worrying about our Gifted Minster’s Retirement.

We’re lucky to have a great minister who I’d characterize as both Liberal and Evangelical in the historically robust senses of those terms. And this past year he warned us all that he has two years left before retirement. In years past, a church might have looked at the retirement of a senior minister as a chance to get younger and hipper, but those of us who continue to struggle along in mainline congregations know how bare the cupboard can seem when we look for new ministers. So many candidates are what, in the world of NFL coaching, we might call “retreads,” second career folks who came to the vocation late in life. But our minister has shown some real wisdom, even in this and continues to chastise us when we worry. The church, he argues, is not made by the minster, but by the people who build and perpetuate the culture of the place. I’ll use 2015 to try to take his words seriously.

12. Stop Incessantly Monitoring the Thermostat.

It’s a reality of life in Canada six months out of the year. “Shut the door!” “Turn off the bathroom fan!” “Turn down the heat!” These are the true sounds of Christmas in my house, the constant aural companions of the season. But I do wonder what an actual empirical test would show. How much cold hard cash (in Canada there is no other kind) is saved on average per utterance?

13. Stop Allowing the New England Patriots to Ruin or Perfect my Week.

It’s amazing how 56 players and a hand full of coaches can absolutely ruin my entire week or launch me off to work on Monday with a smile and a “can-do” attitude. But it’s true! And my students know it as well. Nothing says Monday morning pop-quiz like losing to the Dolphins. In 2015 I pledge not to let this happen anymore. But of course, I mean only the 2015 regular season. Right now, it’s PLAYOFF TIME!!! and all bets are off.

14. Stop Counting Other People’s Money.

“Judgment” is unavoidable though some of our habits of judgment are open to intentional manipulation and modification. (I’ll explore this issue in more depth in my first post of 2015) So, on the one hand, I know that I cannot avoid knowing what I know about people and their resources and thus I cannot wholly avoid making snap judgments about their priorities. But, on the other hand, I can cultivate secondary habits of intentional reflection that cause me to reconsider and temper my judgments. Example: I cannot help but “count other people’s money” (thank pro-athletics for this phrase) when I see schoolteachers and manual laborers giving generously of their time and money, but see doctors and bankers try to dicker with the cub-scouts about the price of their fund-raiser Christmas trees. So I’ll work on holding my tongue and struggle to reign in my habits of thought as well.

15. Stop Trying to Calculate What Percentage of my Life I have Remaining.

80.4 years is the average life expectancy for a male resident of Canada. Most of you are reading this in December 2014 or January 2015, the month in which I turn 39. By my calculations, if I am statistically average, I’ve lived 48.5% of my life. What have I to show for it? An amazing kid! A bunch of empty beer bottles. A few academic articles in the works. But where’s the big book? Where is the history changing, epoch making contribution to humanity? I’ve only got 51.5% of my life left to do these things, so less blogging and more doing!

Happy New Year to You All!

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