On Being a Seminarian: A Wonderful Exhaustion…

This is part of a weekend series I’m writing for Near Emmaus. Be sure to check out other posts by other blogs, especially if you’re interested in biblical studies.

A couple years ago, I was really into running. I still go for a jog or two every now and then (with a few months in between jogs), but back then I was running nearly every day. Sometimes it was only a mile or two. Other times it was three or four miles. Once, to train for a 10k (6.2 miles), I ran a little over nine miles. I know these distances may not be very far for some, but for an asthmatic like myself, they were oftentimes torturous.

If it was such torture, then why did I do it? Why did I push myself through something as boring and miserable as running seems? For one thing, I needed the exercise (still do). For another, although the process wreaked havoc on my lungs, I enjoyed the “runner’s high” afterward (the extra boost of endorphins after a good workout). And after my recent Hebrew class, I had a similar feeling once I got home.

In the first semester of Hebrew, it was all about learning the grammar. For the second semester, it’s all about translating. There’s no final exam; mostly small assignments and displaying an efficient ability to read the language. And as I am quickly finding out, translating Hebrew is a lot like going for a long run for the first time: I’m exercising brain muscles I didn’t even know I had.

Such a feeling, though, isn’t applicable only to translating languages. I had that feeling again on Tuesday when I finished a fair amount of critical reading for my “Paul and the Law” class. Reading biblical scholarship is a style I’m still getting used to. I can’t let my mind check out for a paragraph or two and jump back in without really missing much. If I’m seeking to understand the scholar, I have to read more slowly and carefully lest I miss something important. Yet reading in this way, at least for me, requires a lot more mental energy. Like with Hebrew, I’m working brain muscles I didn’t know were there.

None of this is intended to suggest that seminary is too much work. One must take only as much as one can bear, but I believe I have a reasonably-sized workload this semester that’ll push me beyond the limits I thought I had. Again, I think of an example from my running experiences.

In 2012, Eugene hosted the Olympic Trials. There were a couple days in the middle of the trials when no athletes were competing. So, to keep people interested in the event, a local track club held an all-comers meet with several different running events. I chose to give it a whirl just for fun and signed up for the “jogger’s” mile. We were asked to write our expected time on our name tags so they could group us together with more efficiency. Not feeling like any record breaker, I put 6:45/mile. When it came time to run the event, I chose to run with the 6:15/mile group to see if I might get pulled to a faster pace. Sure enough, I ran the mile in 5:50, tying my high school best. So much for it being a “jogger’s” mile.

My point here is that seminary is becoming wonderfully exhausting. I don’t always get the “runner’s high” after every assignment or reading binge, but I get it enough to know that this is something I truly enjoy – this process of being pushed and pulled to a faster pace of studying and learning. I’m not sure if I’ll feel this way come the final weeks of this semester with my two 10-12 page research papers coming due, but for now, it’s a feeling I’m trying to harness and utilize to get through each assignment. Sometimes, in order to test our true abilities, we need to be pushed beyond what we thought we could handle. We need to be pulled to a faster pace.

With all that said, I think this raises an important issue for many seminarians: How much is too much? It also involves asking ourselves a tough question: Is this difficult challenge a healthy one or is it legitimately burning us out? If the latter, what are all the factors contributing to the “burn out” feeling? Too much ministry involvement? Poor time management? (I’m guilty of that one, but I think God is a Doctor Who fan, so I think He understands.) What’s your experience when it comes to the workload of seminary, your PhD work, or your everyday life? 

Blogging When Busy…

It was slightly alarming to see that I haven’t written a post since June 8th. Two weeks would have been more understandable, but three? Just ridiculous.

A couple things have happened since then, though. I started reading a lot more, which took time away from writing. And I also took up a second job working for the Eugene Emeralds as part of their grounds crew, which took time away from both reading and writing. With July right around the corner, I now have to make sure I have a place to live in Portland before I start school in September. I’m a little hard pressed to find time to write these days.

Yet it’s no excuse. I love to do it – partially because it seems to encourage others and mostly because it helps process things I learn from the Lord. And while journaling goes a long way, putting something into a blog takes a little extra effort. I can’t sit down, spill out all my thoughts, and expect people to understand. Virginia Woolf was good at that, but I don’t think I am.

Instead, I have to edit and rephrase. I have to say it out loud as I write it to make sure it sounds understandable (this is especially fun at Starbucks when I’m sitting alone). As my good friend Tyler once told me, I can’t just throw a bunch of letters on a document and see what sticks. Every word, sentence, and paragraph is there because I chose to put it there.

I say all this to point out that finding time to write is more than finding a mere hour there or half hour here. It’s finding a solid several hours without any other obligation to work on my craft – to fine-tune it to make it the best I possibly can. It sounds tedious and boring, but I love it. Because at the end of it all, when I see the post fully written, edited, and published on my blog, I don’t simply feel productive; I feel satisfaction in having to work hard and work well to create something.

What these last three weeks have taught me is that blogging in seminary is going to be tough. Not only will I be a full time student; I’ll also be working at least part time, which means there’ll be little time for much else. Strangely enough, though, I’m excited about all of this. I’m excited about spending hours upon hours studying and reading and then turning around to go to work. I’m excited about experiencing life in the largest city I will have ever lived in. I’m excited about taking a plunge into something that fully engages me. Such an experience will need to be processed, which means I will have to blog at some point.

A lot is going to change in the coming months and every bit of it is exciting. Despite how busy it will be, I want to commit to writing posts in here partially because they encourage others, partially because it helps me process things, and mostly because it honors God to practice the talents and gifts we’ve been given. It doesn’t matter how busy life gets; if you aren’t doing what you love (even if you aren’t getting paid for it), then you’re doing it wrong.

On to more posts!

God bless.

Accepted…

Most job interviews I’ve been in have been awkward, especially group interviews. People stutter, nervously tap their shoes, or have something stuck in their hair when they walk in (you know who you are). Wednesday’s group interview was incredibly different, for none of us was applying for a job; we were applying for school.

George Fox Evangelical Seminary was one of the first schools I had thought about back in ’09 and ’10 when I was figuring out my future. Of course back then I was also considering law school, but due to terrible LSAT scores, I wisely gave up that pipe dream. And in the fifth year of undergrad studies, I had the opportunity to take two more Religious Studies classes with my favorite professor, Daniel Falk, who not only wrote me a letter of recommendation to George Fox, but also thought seminary would be a good fit for me.

During those classes I read material, participated in group discussions, and wrote more than I ever have before for any of my English classes. It was stressful, uncomfortable, and nerve-wracking, but I loved every bit of it. When that winter term was over, Dr. Falk invited both of those classes (totaling maybe 20 people, tops, with three overlap students – myself included) to his house for dinner to celebrate a fun term. We watched The Life of Bryan with side commentary from Dr. Falk and ate Yumm bowls, which were surprisingly delicious. Afterwards we talked church, theology, and Scripture and it was then that I truly knew what I wanted to do next: Seminary.

At approximately 11:30 Thursday morning I received an email from one Sheila Bartlet, admissions counselor for George Fox Seminary, congratulating me on my acceptance to the Seminary for this fall. Even though it has been two full days since that email, it is still sinking in. An idea I had in the fall of ’09 has now become a reality; I’m going to be a seminarian. I have the opportunity of a lifetime waiting for me right around the corner. With a few more forms to fill out and some finances to gather together, the only thing I really need to do between now and September 2nd is show up. Somehow, I am dumbfounded by this.

And yet I have never been more excited about attending school and I know that the excitement will only increase the closer we get to September (I’ve always been one of those weird kids who gets excited about school not for seeing all my friends again or getting new clothes – though they’re a part of it – but for the new pencils, paper, backpacks, and other school supplies. I am a nerd. I was born that way). While the excitement is a great thing, I know (and hope) that this will be the most challenging academic environment I have ever been in. I will read, discuss, and write more than I did in those two classes with Falk or really with all the classes I’ve ever taken combined. Whatever social life I did have, especially on Facebook, will probably be non-existent. Yet I believe there will be one more thing, something I noticed while in the interview on Wednesday: Belonging.

Unlike any interview I’ve ever been in, I felt comfortable in that interview. I mean I still stuttered, tapped my toes, and I’m pretty sure something was in my hair, but none of those things kept me from being engaged in the discussion of the group surrounding me. I felt more than focused; I felt as though I was where I belonged.

A little under three months remain between now and September 2nd and there is a lot I need to prepare for: moving, finances, a potential car change, and refreshing my mind on the things I’ve studied with Falk. All that to say there might be fewer posts in July and August, but there also might be more posts because I tend to write more when I’m reading more. Those posts might also become more theologically and/or Scripturally based due to my reading material. But I hope to keep writing no matter what – even through Seminary – on the things God teaches me and leads me through. Some grow by talking about it; I grow by writing about it.

What I cannot help but acknowledge is how this feels like a major accomplishment, which it is, but it is only the beginning. It’s going to be tough and my mental, emotional, and spiritual endurance will be tested again and again at greater levels than it has before. But I believe I’m ready for it.

Thank you to everyone who helped encourage me in this pursuit, despite it taking me at least two years to finally do. Your encouragement, however small you might have thought it, proved to be enormous because it kept me thinking about it. It kept me asking God about it, which is always what encouragement should beckon one to do: seek God.

God bless.

Preparing the Way…

Waking up three hours before work was not what I had in mind to start this week. It did, however, give me the prime opportunity to start a morning reading routine. Morning reading routines have often been all-or-nothing for me; either I get up really early and read a ton or I sleep in, not read anything, and almost show up late to work. Got to make life suspenseful, right?

Anyhow, I started reading Luke’s Gospel. I wish I could say it’s my favorite Gospel, but they are all my favorites. Luke’s unique elements, though, begin with the first chapter. Matthew is the only other Gospel with a birth narrative, but Luke has two birth narratives; one for Jesus and one for John the Baptist. Where one might expect Luke to start with the birth of the Savior of the World, he starts with his fore-runner, John.

What hits me about this back story to John the Baptist is his role in God’s story. Every Gospel reveals John’s task, but Luke has Gabriel, one of God’s most prominent angels, delivering the news to Zechariah, John’s father. If you aren’t familiar with the story, Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth believe they’ll never have children because it seemed to them that Elizabeth was barren. To their wonderful surprise, declares Gabriel, they’re going to have a son. Yet what is said about him is the most important thing:

“And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord,” (1:17).

Later in the same chapter, Zechariah regains his ability to speak and sings a song after John’s birth. He sings, “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,” (1:76).

In Luke 3 Isaiah 40:3 is used to describe John, “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him,’” (3:4b). While all the Synoptic Gospels quote Isaiah 40:3, Luke emphasizes John the Baptist’s role in how God would rescue His people: He prepares the way. He gets things ready.

What I think God was asking me was what am I preparing? Or, to be more precise, how am I preparing?

Back in high school, I golfed a lot. I even skipped soccer during my junior year just so that I could play more golf. I wanted to do well for the upcoming season and the only way that would happen was if I practiced as much as possible. Back then, Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, and Phil Mickelson were among the top five of the world’s best golfers. What did they all have in common besides a ridiculous ability to hit a golf ball? A ridiculous work ethic in preparing for each tournament.

It is no mystery that the best athletes in any sport are the ones who prepare the most. They’re like Vijay; the first on the driving range and the last to leave. Every swing, every shot, and every possible scenario is played out in practice so that when it comes time to compete, nothing will catch them off guard.

What would this look like spiritually? How do we prepare the way for God to work in our lives? Prayer, reading Scripture, meeting with fellow believers – all of those are helpful, but what else? Are we practicing what we preach? Are we actively seeking to share Jesus – not a pamphlet, business card, or tract about Him – with those around us?

It’s not a surprise that on the day I decide to start preparing for my day more effectively is the day God reminds me of the importance of preparation. Jesus needed John to prepare things for Him because maybe who He was and what He had to say was more than the people could bear. I think the same could be said for many today; they’re not ready to receive Him. So in essence, we’re the ones to warm people up for Christ; to get in a spot where they might be more ready, willing, and able to receive Him.

Yet this immediately raises another difficult task: Are we preparing ourselves for this task? Like I said above, are we practicing Jesus’ words, praying as often as possible, and sharing all we have with the church we’re a part of? In order to prepare others, we must be prepared already. In order to give Jesus to others, we must already have Him.

I’m not suggesting we all quit the day jobs and become missionaries; I’m simply saying we’re all missionaries wherever we are. So if that’s the case, how are we treating our coworkers? Are we loving the regular people in our lives – the baristas, bankers, and bosses? Are we already in the habit of embodying Jesus so that whether we’re aware of it or not we share Him with others? It is by no means an easy task, but it’s the task before each of us.

It might help to think through every aspect of your daily life and the people you come across. How are you treating them? Could you treat them better – showing more kindness, gentleness, patience, self control, etc.? When I consider how well or not well I’m preparing the way for God to work, I realize there is always room for improvement.

God bless.

Reading to Mean Something…

“Just out of curiosity, how many of us read our Bibles?” Scott, my pastor, asked our Villages group last night. It was a serious question that he didn’t want us to feel guilty over. And we weren’t. We all admitted that we have read some Scripture in recent weeks, but overall we could be reading a little more. “Sporadic” was frequently used when we went person by person around the room – including myself.

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about the importance of starting each day with some time devoted to God. Whether it was two minutes or twenty minutes, I had said that starting with God – allowing Him to envelope you with His presence – was the most important thing. When I had written that post, I made up my mind to devote my mornings to Him and read more Scripture. It helped, for two-ish days. And once my work schedule had changed, my reading or praying withered to almost not at all. In a matter of days.

I’m not pointing this out to publicly beat myself up (although Jim Carrey in Liar Liar does it really well). I bring it up because I have noticed a definite correlation between the amount of Scripture I read and how Christ-minded I am when at work or the grocery store or just out driving. Actually, I should say how not Christ-minded I am when around others. It’s like I’m a different person.

You probably couldn’t even notice it, either. I’d still be polite and kind and probably have a good thing to say about God or two. Maybe I’d share a thought from a Scripture I had read weeks ago or something from a pastor’s sermon I found deep and really spiritual or whatever. You wouldn’t notice because I have these habits so heavily engrained in my day-to-day walk that they have begun to lack meaning. If I can help it, I don’t want anything I do to lack meaning, especially carry out God’s love.

Again, I’m not trying to get anyone’s pity. It’s not the end of the world that I don’t read my Bible as often as I should. But that’s just it; I don’t do a lot of things as I should. I believe that is the bigger problem. And what I can’t help but notice is that the only remedy is Jesus. If I’m not seeking Him on a day-to-day basis (heck, barely on a once-a-week basis as of late), then how in the world am I going to be able to do things as I should?

Here again comes that indirect challenge from Scott – who, by the way, admitted that he’s also been reading less than he’d like (then again, his wife did just give birth… his wife who read her Bible on the day their baby was born, probably while she was giving birth). Reading our Bible isn’t the thing that’s going to make us change, sure, but it’s a start. After all, who’s the Bible about? God. His Son Jesus. The work of the Holy Spirit. If we want to get into tune with what God has done, is doing, and will do in the future, we can start with Scripture.

As Scott reminded us last night; the goal isn’t to get us to check another thing off some imaginary list. When we stand before God, He isn’t going to say, “All of that sinning sure looks bad, but hey, you did read your Bible on a daily basis, so you’re good to go.” The whole goal with Bible reading, prayer, community, giving, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting the prisoners isn’t to build a golden spiritual résumé where God awards us an honorable spot in heaven’s hierarchy. It’s to let our light shine before others so that God may be praised.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven,” – Matthew 5:14-16

In order to advance God’s kingdom; to become a more Christ-like person, a better coworker, friend, relative, teammate; and to allow the Helper, the Holy Spirit, more room to roam, we who love Jesus must practice His characteristics. What helps to practice those characteristics? Reading Scripture and seeing how He did things. Praying for eyes to see even further than we can in our current spiritual position. Gathering with a fellowship as they did in Acts to share what we have so that no one lacks anything. Especially meaning.

God gives life to us, which means He gives meaning to us. If we want to mean something to somebody – really anybody – we must get it from the Source of Meaning. Scripture is chock-full of His meaning.

Do not feel guilty if you’re like me and haven’t been reading much of your Bible. That isn’t the goal; the goal is to do something and be somebody with what we read.

God bless.

Initial Thoughts After One Day of Only-Phone Calls…

I didn’t make many phone calls today. Of course, when your sole objective for the day is to get your room clean (something I did not accomplish), you don’t really need to talk to people. But I noticed something about the few phone calls I did make and it’s something that I’m going to have to guard myself against.

My brother sent me a text reminding me of an upcoming phone bill, but he used a particular phrase that I paused over for a bit. He said, “When you’re up for it, we’ll talk…” I know that he meant it in a way of saying, “when you’re free,” but my comfort zone’s lawyer whispered, “He said, ‘When you’re up for it,’ well you don’t have to be up for it right now; you can be ‘busy’ with something…”

The whole point behind my decision to only call people for one month (at least, maybe longer) was to challenge myself in vocally engaging people. I had today off and apart from cleaning my room and heading over to Barnes & Noble, I had nothing planned. The only way for me to have been “busy” with something was if my room-cleaning had somehow distracted me from my phone or if my car had exploded. What did I do? Shirking the comfort-zone mentality, I called my brother.

What I’m finding a little unnerving is that this was only day one; there are 30 days (at least) left to go. If I’m already avoiding calling people, then I’ve already lost in this challenge. There’d be no point to keep going with something I already lost at. And I can’t even imagine how I’d feel if this had been a New Year’s resolution; it’d be a long year for sure.

In short, today was a success, but had potential of becoming a failure. I made nothing but phone calls, finished reading a book, wrote in my journal, and now have written a blog. In regards to my resolutions, I’m (thankfully) off to a good start (except that asking-a-girl-out part). But today was day one; it’s time to put my head down and commit to the long-haul.

God bless!

(And kudos to Sierra for also having a successful day!)

Closing Loopholes for 2013…

I wonder if there have ever been any kids to question not Santa’s existence, but the contract they’ve apparently been placed under? If they’re good (to Santa’s standards), they get gifts. If they’re bad, they get coal. But what if, my five-year-old mind asks, there was something better than Santa? Who says that I have to submit to Santa’s terms and conditions, especially when my grandpa gave me better gifts?

I think this whole concept of being good in order to receive gifts is a prime example of our American mindset: We like to set up contracts. In school, work, buying a car or a house, or even setting up a phone plan; contracts are used pretty much every where we go. Even looking at my Crossway ESV Study Bible I find a page indicating all the copyrights Crossway has held. Doesn’t matter that it’s a Bible; there’s still a contract.

I can’t knock them because they’re useful. In many ways, they’re for our benefit to have these contracts set up and outlined in the most specific terms possible – just so that every detail is covered and that nobody involved with the contract gets cheated. “Everybody wins” is the idea, more or less. What I do find problematic, though, is that this contractual way of thinking has become a framework in which we oftentimes approach God. “I will commit to…” we might say, but what we might be thinking after that is, “… insofar as it doesn’t cost me more than this.”

Our personal covenants with God become contracts with pages and pages of fine print that nobody ever wants to read. And yet it’s there because we tend to want a fallback plan. In case things get serious or out of hand, we want that fine print there to act as our loophole; our way out. “I will commit [amount of money] to God this year insofar as I make [amount of money].” I believe God finds such claims utterly ridiculous.

I say all of this because New Years Eve is right around the corner. It’s the time of year where many, many people (including myself) make “commitments” to various things for the entire year. And yet when it comes time to actually practice those things, we might carry them out, but only for a while. When I think back to previous resolutions, I realize that I only practiced those resolutions for maybe a month or two. Somewhere along the way, I found a loophole to the contract I made with myself and took a break. It was a break that lasted until the next resolution.

What if we cut that condition-making mindset? What if we set up our resolutions with a condition of no conditions? What would it look like if we were actually committed to a contract we made with God or with each other that we actually have to carry out regardless of circumstances? Well, that’s my goal for this year. And that’s my one condition for 2013’s resolution: Under no circumstances am I allowed to slack off or back out of the things I’ve included in my resolution.

Such a sole condition disables any loopholes that I in my lazy state might use just so that I don’t have to do the things that I’d said I’d do. I’m writing all of this in a public form just so that I’d have some degree of accountability. Granted, having someone in person to act as an accountability partner might be more effective, but be that is it may, there are certain commitments I’d like more people to know about:

1. Read more Scripture…

Compared to some people, it might seem like I read a lot of Scripture. But honestly, I haven’t read all that much in recent months. It needs to change. Charissa Lamb (Scott’s wife) talked about this a while back that if she doesn’t get some Scripture-reading in by 10am, she feels physically different. Having gone on reading streaks that ebb and flow at varying points, I’d have to say that I agree. It’s a subtle difference in how I feel, but it’s there.

2.  Read more books…

Sort of an extension of reading more Scripture, but yet brings its own benefits. Sometimes we could use a healthy dose of a different perspective on different passages of Scripture. And oftentimes we find these different perspectives in various books that we might read in addition to Scripture. Beyond offering different perspectives, reading more books helps to improve vocabulary, which helps improve writing.

3.  Journal more…

I originally had this as #2 on my list, but the more I think about it, I have more to write about if I’ve been reading more, like I said above. Not only does my vocabulary increase, but so does my word count. Last night I browsed through my electronic journal to see how many pages I’ve written within the last year. Sadly, the number is only 57. When I was a junior in college I was consistently on a pace of 220 pages per year. Granted, I’m no longer in college and therefore have less free time, but still, a writer needs to write.

4.  Blog more…

In my first year of blogging, I had written over 100 posts. This post is #288 in a little over three years of blogging, which is less than a 100 posts per year. Blogging is different than journaling because it offers some public light into personal thoughts. Journaling is needed, too, obviously, because it offers a safe space to throw whatever is on my mind onto paper. But, like reading various books, I oftentimes need a different perspective on my thoughts.

My main reason for writing blogs, though, is to encourage whoever might stumble upon it. And given the various responses I’ve had (literally from all over the world) I’m finding that sometimes some people somewhere in the world like to read what I’ve written. So in a way, it’s a commitment I’m making to whoever might read these posts.

5.  Give more…

Scott Lamb challenged us (Emmaus Life) with this question earlier this morning: How much do we actually give? In can be to each other, to the church, to random people in need – whoever; how much do we actually give? When I think of how much I’ve “tithed” within the last year, I realize that it’s probably been less than 1%. Sure, I’m working a wage job that pays me a little better than minimum and I have a ton of student loan debt, but I don’t want to hide behind that. I don’t want that to be a loophole for what I should be doing.

6.  Apply to Western Seminary…

This was on my list a couple years ago, but I never committed to it. I got some brochures and some emails from a recruiter (Brian LePort, very awesome dude), but beyond that I didn’t do much. I didn’t apply. And yet now, since I’ve been away from church leadership, I’ve been more eager to go back to school and study Scripture with people who’ve studied it way more than I have. And it’d be cool to learn Greek and Hebrew.

7.  Ask a girl out…

I’ve been single for a while and I might actually keep my room and car clean if there was a girl I was trying to impress. Also, I caught the garter at the last wedding I attended. That’s saying something, right?

All of the above is my resolution for 2013. And if I had to include a second condition to the condition of no conditions (paradox; not contradiction), it’d be that all of the above begins today. Writing out a New Year’s Resolution and waiting until New Years to start it is sort of like saying, “I’ll start this tomorrow.” Personally, I think if you’re led to change something about yourself, the sooner the better. You just might need all the inspiration and momentum you can get, so start it right away and don’t look back. It’s just like Bilbo when he left the Shire in The Hobbit; he didn’t have time to pack all his things and prepare for his journey. He just took off. And he took off running.

My hope with this is to have various people from varying parts of the U.S. and the world to sort of keep me committed to what I’ve laid out here. It’s like I was talking about earlier, if I am truly committed to all these things, I could use more watchful eyes to make sure I don’t fall back from these commitments. I don’t want to make the mistake of backing out of something I’ve committed to. It’s like Jesus said, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’” – Matthew 5:37. Or as James says, “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no,” – 5:12.

Hope this helps as you consider your own resolutions. Feel free to comment on mine.

God bless.