The Annual Update

Well, I suppose I’m just posting once a year now, but I keep the domain name in case I want to do something different with this website.

Today, I’m thinking about New Year’s Resolutions and what’s on my to-do list.

What are my main projects for 2023?

  1. Finish the work for my certificate in spiritual direction, from Columbia Theological Seminary.
  2. Read books on death and dying for a Lenten sermon series.
  3. Read books on the Fruit of the Spirit for an Easter series on that topic.
  4. Read some David Bentley Hart theology.
  5. Keep exercising.
  6. Prepare a small group (or one-time presentation) on “The Most Important Contradictions in the Bible,” which would basically serve as an “Intro to the Bible” class or (in the case of a one-time presentation) a summary of my biblical hermeneutic.

This list (mostly about work) may help me focus on my New Year’s Resolutions.

Buckling down and reading is important to me, because even after getting rid of 75% of my books over the past few years, I still have shelves of books that I haven’t read all the way through. I’m developing a new relationship with books: I once wanted them all over the place. Now, they feel like clutter. Perhaps if I didn’t have to move every few years, I’d feel the same as I did a few years ago. But now, I see no point in owning them for over a decade and not finishing them. It’s ridiculous, and morally, it’s even selfish. Someone else could have that book, especially if it’s valuable, which a couple of mine are. Either read them, or get rid of them (either by selling them or giving them away).

This past year, my goals were to teach well, cook more, play guitar more, exercise, travel to see friends, and spend more time outside. I taught two fun small groups (“Spirituality for Atheists and Unrefined Christians” and “Biblical Myths to Live By”), both of which served some non-religious or nominally religious persons, which was my goal. I didn’t cook much more, and I probably played guitar even less! I kept up with my gym membership (a crossfit-style gym with classes, which I attend three times a week), and we traveled to Tennessee, Idaho, and Boston (to see family). Not sure if I really spent more time outside.

I believe I came up with those resolutions by asking myself, “What if 2022 was my last year alive?” My resolutions for 2023 might have a similar origin.

What if 2023 was my last year to live?

Then yes, the books on death and dying seem very appropriate. The Fruit of the Spirit is a wonderful list of character traits, accessible to skeptics and devotees alike. Strangely enough, I’m almost to the point where I could write some sort of pamphlet of my basic life-wisdom (all cribbed from others, of course).

I’m still quite excited about a book series on Christian History, and indeed, I’ve just purchased another old book by Walter Nigg, Warriors of God: The Great Religious Orders and Their Founders, which seems like it could make the perfect backbone of a sermon series. You could tell the stories of Basil, Benedict, Teresa, Francis, et al, and then discern the implications of their community-formation work for today’s churches. That series might not happen until 2024, but it’ll be good to get started on it sometime this year.

So, for 2023, let’s see if we can boil it down to some basics:

  1. First, read the books on death and dying, so that Lenten sermon series can be decent. This means shunning the rest of my reading material. History and theology will have to wait. My Harper’s Magazine subscription is expiring, after more than 16 years of being a subscriber. But I don’t have time to read the articles, and many are of little interest to me these days.
  2. Finish the certificate on spiritual direction, but do a little reading on good listening skills. I’m sure I’ve got some spiritual direction books that would scratch that itch.
  3. Exercise.
  4. Travel with Kathleen and Edith to state parks, campgrounds, national parks, etc. We have such fun in these places together, it’d be silly not to keep doing it.

Changes might be on the horizon for 2023, so there’s more to come, but let’s see if we can start the year off right, focusing on a few important things.

In years past, I was more explicit about my goals of eating right and drinking no alcohol, but now this has become habit (as exercise has). In July, I’ll be four years alcohol free! It has been the best decision I ever made (because it made everything else in my life better, including my spiritual life), and I aim to never drink alcohol again. Just no reason to do it. I’ve reduced my meat and dairy by about 90% since November of 2020, so that’s been nice as well. My bad cholesterol went down about 20 points. I joke that I’m about as good of a vegan as I am a Christian: I want to get better but I’m failing regularly. If I get my death and dying books finished, I’ll read one or two on nutrition and diet.

If you’re still reading this, thanks for listening, and I hope you have a lovely year.