New Year’s Resolutions and the Defeat of Failure

Every January, people all over America feel compelled to make resolutions. We all seem to understand that these resolutions should be positive changes that will transform our lives. We know the drill. Weight loss, exercise, healthy eating, spending time with your kids, saving money, and the list continues. We also know the stereotype of resolutions — most of us fail and give up by the beginning of February. In fact, studies have shown that the best time to get a good deal on exercise equipment is February. By then, those purchases made in the shadow of resolutions become eyesores in the room, and something else to walk around or hang clothes on.

I was pondering this very dilemma as the first of January loomed in front of me, even while the Christmas tree lights still glowed. Reading through the book of Galatians, though, I was struck by the fact that I often make resolutions focused on behavior. An external change. Which often leaves our internal lives in exactly the same spot they were the previous year. What could make this different?

In Galatians 5:16, God answers this question for us. He tells us to first focus on walking in the Spirit. When we focus on that, the second part of the verse becomes reality: We will not fulfill the cravings of the flesh, or our “unspiritual” nature. It was suddenly so clear to me! The resolution should simply be to focus on strengthening our individual relationships with God, and then our cravings that distract us from Him would vanish. Not immediately, and not overnight. But they would eventually be banished from us.

I found rich encouragement from this fact. The behaviors that take our energy and attention away from God and His Word are manageable. They are under our control. But only through our relationship with God, not separate from it.

I hope this encourages you, too. Failure is not an option. Why? Because God is not waiting for us to impress Him with our stringent resolutions and self-sacrifice. He simply delights in the time we spend with Him. And that is one resolution we can all fulfill. Here’s to success!

Spread the Love

When someone loves something, really falls unashamedly in love with something, he tells someone. Lots of someones. Restaurants, movies, shops, contractors — we naturally tell others about discoveries we are enthusiastic about. Books follow right in line. Friends share books, acquaintances share books, even strangers have been known to bond over books.

My career choice is no surprise, with the backdrop of a love of reading and all things books. I am a high school English teacher. I dream of ways to lure teenagers into my world — a world of words, of pages, and of books. Stories have changed me, guided me, comforted me. Books have been constant companions of mine. I used to have a high standard for what books I wanted my students to read. But after so many years, I now cheer for whatever they are reading. Spotting a teen with a book spreads a smile across my face. The joy in day. The thrill of victory.

Living between the pages is easy — open a book cover, crawl inside, and live in another place. Another time. Another planet. Any experience you dream about can be found in a book. There’s no wrong choice. Different choices, different preferences, different perspectives. Dive in a book and live between its pages.

O, library, how do I love thee?

Towers of shelves, lined with books, wind around this labyrinth of story.   A hushed reverence for the magical journeys, lifelong quests, and treasures of life’s wisom settles in the room like a fog over the ocean.  Fantastical moments transpire here.  Lifetime friends connect here.  Foes are conquered, love is discovered, and battles are fought and won.  And all of this happens here, at the library.  All between the pages of a book.

Some of my happy childhood memories are of libraries.  Wandering through the aisles of shelves much taller than I was, with books as far as my eyes could see, never felt ordinary or dull.  Instead, it felt like magic.

My mom tells the story of the librarians granting me special persmission to attend story time when I was only two years old, even though the minimum age was three.  My older sister went, and the librarians invited me, because I sat so still and listened so attentively.  And I am sure my mom was thrilled for those extra few minutes to wander the aisles and choose books for herself!

As an adult, I still love the library.  To me, it is the ultimate expression of leisure time.  Browsing rows upon rows of books, with pratically no limit to what I can bring home, offers endless opportunities, rivaling the Goldan Corral buffet.  Where else can you leave with a huge stack of adventures, life lessons, self-help, and other worlds to explore, without even spending a dime?  

Sadly, too few young people know this special thrill.  Even as a high school English teacher, I have to admit that young people today are relunctant readers.  And with Netflix, you tube, video games, and a dozen other digital options, who can blame them?  I tell my students often (to which they offer only perplexed glances) that I am so glad I was not born in the digital age.  My childhood revolved around three channels on the television, with no remote — a student asked me one day what on earth we did without a television remote.  I said, “We walked across the living room and turned the channel knob on the television.”  They were stunned.  Mortified, even.   And what about rotary phones?  I remember clearly when we finally got a touch tone phone.  We thought we had hit the big time.  As a teenager, we had our first microwave and VCR.  Our family’s first personal computer was a Commodore 64.  And who can forget Atari?

Our options for entertainment were limited.  But nothing could beat flopping across my bed during a lazy afternoon and devouring a novel.  All these decades later, leisure reading still gives me that same feeling — pure delight, and a quiet satisfaction, entering new places, meeting new friends, discovering new truths.  Experiences I may never have in “real life” I have had between the pages of a book.  And that is still one of my very favorite places to be.