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Just dropping by ... Making and keeping resolutions

Yevet Tenney for Progressive Dairyman Published on 31 December 2018

Whoever the calendar guru was, I wish he would have made New Year’s in the bright morning of spring instead of the midnight of winter. It would have been so much easier to make resolutions and keep them. In spring, you have the birds chirping, new flowers leaping into blossoms and grass spreading velvet green carpet everywhere.

The whole world is alive with becoming better. But January – ugh, you wake up to blackness and the ice of winter. No one wants to put on sweats and brave the outdoors. The weather is more conducive to sitting in front of the fire, sipping hot chocolate, dreaming of better days to come or reminiscing of brighter days gone by. Springtime, you are up and ready to put on the new man or woman and walk in newness of life.

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Everything around you screams, “Be better. Reach new heights. Become the person you were born to be!” Winter languidly whispers, “You can start your resolutions tomorrow, or the next day, or when it warms up.”

Alas, we can’t change the calendar. We must be content to kick out the bent and weary, bearded, old man of the old year and welcome that chubby bouncing baby of the new year in January. We must figure out a way to make our resolutions happen if we are going to make them in the first place.

A story of Elijah is instructive in this matter. Elijah was weary of the people’s sit-by-the fire-with-hot-chocolate attitude toward God. Sometimes they would do lip service to the God of Israel on the Sabbath and then worship Baal the rest of the week. Does that sound familiar? I find myself in that situation.

I go to church on Sunday and make decisions to conquer the world inside me – and come home to my old habits and weaknesses. Elijah asked a soul-searching question that applies to me. “How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21 King James Version).

Is it really that simple? Is it just a decision? I’ve made lots of decisions, but change hasn’t happened. A decision is more than just a thought and a desire to change. Stephen Covey, in his book Spiritual Roots of Human Relations, alludes to the fact that decision to change takes vision, commitment, self-discipline and integrity.

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We often think of integrity in terms of our relationships with other people. We don’t lie or steal, and we always tell the truth, but that is mere honesty. Integrity goes deeper; it has more to do with our relationship between ourselves and God. We can fool other people into believing we are “whited sepulchers,” as Jesus taught, and still be full of “dead men’s bones.” Integrity connotes harmony between what we do and what we say. With integrity, circumstances do not change who we are or how we act.

In other words, we are not like Cogsworth in the animated Beauty and the Beast. “Make promises we don’t intend to keep.” We weigh our words and plan our actions to be exactly what we intend to do. We make the most important promises to ourselves and God. Integrity dictates we will take time to consider our promises. We will not say, “Today, I am going to go without sugar for the rest of my life,” unless we have proved we can keep promises for the rest of our lives.

It is easier to start with small promises. “I will go without sugar until the end of the day.” We can control ourselves for one day. If we can’t, we need to only make the promise to go without sugar until noon. Gradually, we gain the power to make promises and keep them. If we write a resolution for the new year, we must consider it written in blood. We must be able to trust ourselves to keep our promises.

Change comes easier if we can visualize ourselves changing and keeping promises. If we meditate and pray about our decisions to change, we have God on our side. We see ourselves in our mind’s eye, telling Aunt Sarah, “Thank you – your lemon meringue pie looks delicious, but I am staying away from sugar for a while.” When the temptation comes, we have already made the decision – and because we have committed to God to keep our promises, it is easier to follow through.

Commitment and self-discipline are words that send terror to the heart of someone who has tried and failed multiple times. It almost becomes a joke but, in our hearts, it is a tragedy. We give up and determine it is too hard and not worth the effort. We beat ourselves up and vow never to try again. Then in a weak moment, we say, “I’ll try again,” only to fail another time. We make those promises, but we can’t trust ourselves to keep them.

We must learn to gradually allow ourselves to grow. We didn’t learn to walk in a day. We didn’t suddenly start speaking. It took time and effort. We must learn to deny the natural man in us one step at a time by learning to deny ourselves our indulgences one little vice at a time. If we conquer the little ones, the big ones take care of themselves.

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Often, we want to make forty-eleven New Year’s resolutions, and we end up breaking them all in the first week. We want to change all in one day. We want the weight just to fall off without any effort. We want the size 10 to just happen. We want to run the 25-mile marathon in January when we haven’t run in years. We want to play Mozart when we haven’t learned to play “Chopsticks.” Thus, we cheat ourselves, “halting between two opinions,” as Elijah put it.

“Self-discipline is often disguised as short-term pain, which often leads to long-term gains. The mistake many of us make is the need and want for short-term gains (immediate gratification), which often leads to long-term pain.”

—Charles F. Glassman, Brain Drain: The Breakthrough That Will Change Your Life

When we consider our New Year’s resolutions, we must study our desires. Do we really want the goal we are writing on the page? Do we really want to put in the discipline to gain what we have written down? Can I make a promise and keep it?

Once you really desire something, you are more willing to pay the price. You must want that size 10 dress more than you want a hundred days of sweet treats. You must want the feeling of self-mastery more than you want to indulge your passion in front of a computer or magazine.

You must want the joy of victory in running the 26-mile marathon more than you want the softness and warmth of your pillow in the frigid winds of February. If you are not willing to make the promise to God and to yourself, and keep that promise, don’t write it down. Choose goals you really want, not ones that would be good to have and tell your friends about.

Elijah showed the people the power of God when he challenged them to stop halting between two opinions. He obliterated all their excuses. He set up a contest between himself and the priests of Baal. He arranged his sacrifice with wood and poured barrels of water around the altar and challenged the priests of Baal to pray to their gods to light it. They prayed their prayers, and nothing happened.

And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.

Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.

Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.

—1 Kings 18:36-38 King James Version

The people were convinced of the power of God. Sometimes it would be nice to have that kind of miracle, to make us realize God can do all things. He can help us reach our goals if we are willing to make decisions with him in mind, pray like Elijah and follow through even in the midnight of January. The time of year makes no difference if we are willing to make and keep our promises.  end mark

Yevet Crandell Tenney is a Christian columnist who loves American values and traditions. She writes about faith, family and freedom.

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