December 30, 2010

Resolved...

Happy New Year!

I

have fallen down on my blogging in recent months. I supposed I should resolve now to be a bit more consistent in my posting. Okay—a lot more consistent.

But according to the London Daily Mail, New Year’s Resolutions Barely Last Longer Than a Week. If my resolution lasts just one week, I will not be doing very well. So I have to determine if I should forget the whole thing and not make any resolutions for improvement in the new year or if I should find a way to commit myself to my resolutions in such a way that I can actually carry through.

The article from the Daily Mail gives some advice, but I think mirroring someone who actually managed to hold to his resolutions for far longer than a week might be the best course of action.

Jonathan Edwards

In 1722, a young Jonathan Edwards wrote a list of resolutions. He wasn’t satisfied with just a single resolution and his list was not intended to be a one-year shot. His list was seeking not a small change to improve himself in a small increment; his list was intended to be the foundation for a full personally reformed and transformed life.

As the Daily Mail pointed out in the article, humans don’t seem to have the willpower to follow through on resolutions. So Edward began his list of resolutions with two support systems. He resolved to remind himself of his resolutions by reading through them every week. And he sought the help of God.

Resolutions

“Being sensible that I am unable to do any thing with out God's help, I do humbly entreat him, by his grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ's sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

  1. Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration; without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved, to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the l good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved, so to do, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.
  2. Resolved, To be continually endeavouring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the fore-mentioned things.
  3. Resolved, If ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.
  4. Resolved, Never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God, nor be, nor suffer it, if I can possibly avoid it.
  5. Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.
  6. Resolved, To live with all my might, while I do live.
  7. Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.
  8. Resolved, To act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings, as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God. Vid. July 30.
  9. Resolved, To think much, on all occasions, of my dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.
  10. Resolved, When I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.
  11. Resolved, When I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances do not hinder.
  12. Resolved, If l take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.
  13. Resolved, To be endeavouring to find out fit objects of liberality and charity.
  14. Resolved, Never to do any thing out of revenge.
  15. Resolved, Never to suffer the least motions of anger towards irrational beings.
  16. Resolved, Never to speak evil of any one, so that it shall tend to his dishonour, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.
  17. Resolved, That I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
  18. Resolved, To live so, at all times, as I think is best in my most devout frames, and when I have the clearest notions of the things of the gospel, and another world.
  19. Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour before I should hear the last bump.
  20. Resolved, To maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.
  21. Resolved, Never to do anything, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him.
  22. Resolved, To endeavour to obtain for myself as much happiness in the other world as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigour, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.
  23. Resolved, Frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs, and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God's glory, to repute it as a breach of the fourth Resolution.
  24. Resolved, Whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause and then, both carefully endeavour to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it.
  25. Resolved, To examine carefully and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and so direct all my forces against it.
  26. Resolved, To cast away such things as I find do abate my assurance.
  27. Resolved, Never wilfully to omit any thing, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions.
  28. Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.
  29. Resolved, Never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession which I cannot hope god will accept.
  30. Resolved, To strive every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.
  31. Resolved, Never to say any thing at all against any body, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honour, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said any thing against any one, to bring it to, and try it strictly by, the test of this Resolution.
  32. Resolved, To be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that, in Prov. 20:6. ‘A faithful man, who can find?’ may not be partly fulfilled in me.
  33. Resolved, In do always what I can towards making, maintaining, and preserving peace, when it can be done without an overbalancing detriment in other respects. Dec. 26, 1722.
  34. Resolved, In narrations, never to speak any thing but the pure and simple verity.
  35. Resolved, Whenever I so much question whether I have done my duty, as that my quiet and calm is thereby disturbed, to set it down, and also how the question wee Resolved. Dec. 18, 1722.
  36. Resolved, Never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call to it. Dec. 19, 1722.
  37. Resolved, To inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent,—what sin I have committed,—and wherein I have denied myself; —also, at the end of every week, month, and year. Dec. 22 and 26, 1722.
  38. Resolved, Never to utter any thing that is sportive, or matter of laughter, on a Lord's day. Sabbath evening, Dec. 23, 1722.
  39. Resolved, Never to do any thing, of which I so much question the lawfulness, as that I intend, at the same time, to consider and examine afterwards, whether it be lawful or not; unless I as much question the lawfulness of the omission.
  40. Resolved, To inquire every night before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking. Jan. 7, 1723.
  41. Resolved, To ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better. Jan. 1, 1723.
  42. Resolved, Frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism, which I solemnly renewed when I was received into the communion Or the church, and which I have solemnly remade this 12th day of January, 1723.
  43. Resolved, Never, henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God's; agreeably to what is to be found in Saturday, Jan. 12th. Jan. 12, 1723.
  44. Resolved, That no other end but religion shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it. Jan. 12, 1723.
  45. Resolved, Never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion. Jan. 12 and 13, 1723.
  46. Resolved, Never to allow the least measure of any fretting or uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved, to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eye; and to be especially careful of it with respect to any of our family.
  47. Resolved, To endeavour, to my utmost, to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented and easy, compassionate and generous, humble and meek, submissive and obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable and even, patient, moderate, forgiving, and sincere, temper; and to do, at all times, what such a temper would lead me to; and to examine strictly, at the end of every week, whether I have so done. Sabbath morning, May 5, 1723.
  48. Resolved, Constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or not; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of May 26, 1723.
  49. Resolved, That this never shall be, if I can help it.
  50. Resolved, That I will act so, as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world. July 5, 1723.
  51. Resolved, That I will act so, in every respect, as I think I shall wish I had done, if I should at last be damned. July 8, 1723.
  52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, That I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.
  53. Resolved, To improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.
  54. Resolved, Whenever I hear anything spoken in commendation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, that I will endeavour to imitate it. July 8, 1723.
  55. Resolved, To endeavour, to my utmost, so to act, as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven and hell torments. July 8, 1723.
  56. Resolved, Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.
  57. Resolved, When 1 fear misfortunes and adversity, to examine whether I have done my duty, and resolve to do it, and let the event be just as Providence orders it. I will, as far as I can, be concerned about nothing but my duty and my sin. June 9, and July 13, 1723.
  58. Resolved, Not only to refrain from an air of dislike, fretfulness, and anger in conversation, but to exhibit an air of love, cheerfulness, and benignity. May 27, and July 13, 1723.
  59. Resolved, When I am most conscious of provocations to ill nature and anger, that I will strive most to feel and act good-naturedly; yea, at such times, to manifest good nature, though I think that in other respects it would be disadvantageous, and so as world be imprudent at other times. May 12, July 11, and July 13.
  60. Resolved, Whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4 and 13, 1723.
  61. Resolved, That I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it—that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, &c. May 21, and July 13, 1723.
  62. Resolved, Never to do any thing but my duty, and then, according to Eph. 6:6–8. to do it willingly and cheerfully, as unto the Lord, and not to man: knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord. June 25, and July 13, 1723.
  63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, To act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. Jan.14, and July 13, 1723.
  64. Resolved, When I find these “groanings which cannot be uttered,” of which the apostle speaks, and those “ breathings of soul for the longing it hash,” of which the psalmist speaks, Psalm 119:20. that I will promote them to the utmost of my power; and that I will not be weary of earnestly endeavouring to vent my desires, nor of the repetitions of such earnestness. July 23, and Aug. 10, 1723.
  65. Resolved, Very much to exercise myself in this, all my life long, viz.with the greatest openness of which I am capable, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him, all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance, according to Dr. Manton's Sermon on the 119th Psalm. July 26, and Aug.10, 1723.
  66. Resolved, That I will endeavour always to keep a benign aspect, and air of acting and speaking, in all places, and in all companies, except it should so happen that duty requires otherwise.
  67. Resolved, After afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them; what good I have got by them; and, what l might have got by them.
  68. Resolved, To confess frankly to myself, all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. July 23, and Aug. 10, 1723.
  69. Resolved, Always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Aug. 11, 1723.
  70. Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak. Aug. 17, 1723.

Something makes me think that the world in general (and Evangelicalism in particular) would be much better off if some of us would make similar resolutions.

Perhaps I should work on this myself. And maybe, with God’s help, I can manage to keep after it for more than one week.

 

December 24, 2010

Blog Header - December 22, 2010

I took this photo of my friend Shawn at the last concert my band Remembrance played. We joke that Shawn is our roadie. He’s at each of the concerts and helps set up the equipment. Or, more accurately, he sets up the equipment and we help him a little bit. He is able to lift pretty much anything without breaking a sweat. It’s really amazing!

December 22, 2010

Blog Header - December 19, 2010

I took this picture after Remembranceplayed a recent benefit concert to raise funds for Explorers, a special needs little league group. This young man was one of the Explorers. I love his smile.

December 17, 2010

Blog Header - December 5, 2010

Front Royal’s recent Christmas parade gave us another reason to love this town. We went to the Christmas parade a couple weeks ago. (Yes, I said Christmas parade. That’s what it’s called here—not “Holiday” parade or “Parade That Must Not Be Named,” but “Christmas Parade.”)

At the end of a traditional Christmas parade, typically Santa comes riding in a horse and carriage to launch the Christmas season. But the town’s horse and carriage had come through earlier—carrying the mayor’s wife or someone. But as the photo here shows, when the end of the parade came Santa Claus was there. Except in Front Royal Santa rides in a monster truck.

I love this town!

December 16, 2010

Merry Christmas in DC

Those who know me well know that I would prefer to stay out of Washington, DC, as much as possible. I’m not a city boy. However, Washington is a beautiful city (as cities go), and when you have time to actually look at the city instead of trying to drive in the traffic, it can actually be enjoyable.

For the past few weeks I have been working on a project that has taken me inside the city limits. My normal office is just outside the city, just over the Potomac River from the Kennedy Center. We can see the major landmarks from our office window. The Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, the Tidal Basin, the Lincoln Memorial, and the White House are all directly in our view from the office windows. We get to see the sun rising over Capitol Hill each morning—so the view is great and I don’t usually have to actually go into town to see the sights.

But for the past two weeks I have come to my office just outside of DC and then caught the metro train into one of our downtown offices on the corner of G and 10th Streets. This means I don’t have to drive in the city traffic and I still get to see the beautiful Christmas decorations all over the place.

Deloitte’s G Street office is in a beautiful office building attached to the Grand Hyatt DC hotel. The office’s lobby is a large square of marble and it extends all the way to the top of the building where it terminates in a huge skylight. The lobby has four large palm trees in huge marble boxes. There are fountains flanking the entrance to my office.

Because of the long nights we have had recently, I have been staying in the Grand Hyatt DC hotel. My office building’s lobby opens to my office and also to the hotel, so I don’t even have to go outside to get to the hotel. In fact, the Metro Center subway station I get off at has an escalator that goes directly into my office lobby—so I don’t have to go outside at all.

Anyway... I was heading out of the hotel yesterday morning to go back to the office. I stepped into the lobby, which is decorated for the season. Christmas presents are filling the boxes that hold the palm trees, ribbons decorate the tops of the boxes, and lights spiral up the palm tree trunks. It’s quite beautiful. So I stopped, put down my backpack, set up my tripod and camera and took these pictures.

Washington, D.C., is a beautiful city with some very beautiful buildings. And sometimes it just requires us to stop for long enough to notice.

 

December 08, 2010

Peace on earth; good will toward men

I

confess to having a melancholy spirit. Happy and carefree on the outside, deep down I am often a scared child trying to fight off fits of anxiety. Due to the masks we all wear, I don’t know that I am any different from anyone else—although I suspect that I am.

One of my friends told me that I have the personality described by research studies into “evolutionary intelligence.” Mary-Elaine Jacobsen calls this everyday genius in her book The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius [Amazon] (It is an outstanding book, by the way, and I highly recommend it.)

I don’t know that I’m willing to claim the title “genius,” but I definitely fit the description in the book. And part of that description is a trend toward a melancholy nature.

So now we are heading into Christmastime—my favorite time of the year. I love the way many concentrate on showing good will to their fellow man. People are a little bit nicer, a little bit friendlier, a little bit kinder. It’s a great time of year.

But some people are not quite so nice. Santa Claus is getting fired for having a sense of humor. Our government is asking us to spy and report on each other. And there are terrorists out there who would love to wipe us off the face of the earth. And there are ax murdering homeless people in the town Disney built. None of that indicates good will. In fact, it indicates a lot of hate out there in the world.

The Melancholy is encroaching.

When I get this way, it helps if I try to see things through another person’s eyes—another person who went through a similar melancholy moment at Christmastime. It helps me realize the similarities we all have and maybe not feel so sorry for myself and for my nation. So as I rode the subway to work this morning I listened to Christmas carols on my Zune, and my favorite Christmas carol began to play. Before the song was over there were tears streaming down my face. The girl in the seat facing mine gave me an odd look, but didn’t say anything—interaction with others is frowned on in the subway. Let me tell you the song’s story...

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote this carol on Christmas Day 1863. It was during the War Between the States and Longfellow, who had lost his wife just two years prior, had just learned that his son, Charles Appleton Longfellow, having suffered wounds as a soldier in the Battle of New Hope Church (in Virginia) during the Mine Run Campaign. He considered what was happening in the world and was thrown into a melancholy state.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

But as he considered the overarching truth of God’s sovereignty he penned these words:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Here are the words for the entire song, including two verses usually not included in church hymnals because of their highly personal nature and their obvious reference to the current events at the time of the war.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn, the households born
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

So the melancholy is here, but so is my love of Christmas and of Jesus, whose birthday is the reason for all of this. In my mind it is the promise that it will all end well, even when it seems like things just aren’t going as they should. It’s okay. Our God has always won; he is winning; he will win in the end.

 

December 06, 2010

Blog Header - November 28, 2010

Blog header from November 28, 2010. I took this photo at our church’s Thanksgiving feast.

December 04, 2010

Grammar rules to remember

A

fter a long and extremely busy week of writing, editing, and performing all manner of literary futility, I have finally reached the weekend. It is now time for photography and music.

This week commemorated the 27th wedding anniversary of my good friends John and Arlene Coulter. I remember sitting with my girlfriend (now my wife) at their reception and thinking about how great it would be to get married.

So, in honor of John and Arlene’s anniversary, I present Arlene’s grammar rules for grammarians.

Grammar Rules for Grammarians—and the rest of us

  • Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  • And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction.
  • It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  • Avoid clich├ęs like the plague.
  • Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
  • Be more or less specific.
  • Remarks in brackets (however relevant) are (usually) (but not always) unnecessary.
  • Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
  • No sentence fragments.
  • Contractions aren’t necessary and shouldn’t be used.
  • Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
  • Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
  • One should NEVER generalize.
  • Comparisons are as bad as clich├ęs.
  • Don’t use no double negatives.
  • Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  • One-word sentences? Eliminate.
  • Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  • The passive voice is to be ignored.
  • Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.
  • Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.
  • Kill all exclamation points!!!
  • Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
  • Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth shaking ideas.
  • Use the apostrophe in it’s proper place and omit it when its not needed.
  • Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
  • If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly.
  • Puns are for children, not groan readers.
  • Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  • Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
  • Who needs rhetorical questions?
  • Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.