It happened that today as I was in my car, along with my regular companion, Radio 4, my ears pricked up when the speaker on “Thought for the Day” started to talk about Samuel Johnson. Some will know that Samuel Johnson is a particular hero of mine, even though I suspect I would have clashed with this rather irritating know-all had we ever met. He is partly my inspiration for this blog because of his thirst for knowledge in all areas and his ability to comment on the issues of his time. What the speaker brought out (and as it isn’t yet on the podcast I rely on my defective memory) was how at this end of year time, Dr. Johnson pondered, agonised even, on what he had done in the past year, being far from satisfied, the sorry state of the world in which he lived and what he would do in the year that was ahead of him in order to make a difference, mindful to give God the glory and act in accordance with his will.
Another snippet I couldn’t find on the Internet was something that had been doing the rounds on social media regarding new year resolutions. The words were to the effect: “I resolve to do in the year that is to begin what I had resolved to do in the year that has past and the year before that” etc. Long ago I recognised that while new year resolutions were often well intended, making and then breaking them soon after can be quite frustrating, such that in the future we stop making them. When I wrote “Outside the Camp“, some three years ago, I came up with ten resolutions I was intent on keeping.
- Honour God.
- Organize my affairs.
- Take care of my family.
- Complete a book started fifteen years ago, based on the Song of Solomon.
- Engage in the public square about what is right and what should happen.
- Pass on what I know about community to those who might do most good.
- Help my church and other churches respond to issues raised in this book.
- Champion the causes of homeless folk and asylum seekers.
- Take a wider (national / international) view regarding community activism.
- Tie up loose ends regarding my activities in the community thus far.
Looking back on those three years, I can see that progress has been made although regarding the first three of these resolutions (maybe the most important) the carrying out of them is very much work in progress still. In my dotage and declining years, I see each day as a precious gift and to be lived to the full notwithstanding one’s own limitations. If I have big ideas I would like to see come to pass, besides publishing my Song of Solomon commentary, I would like to set up a one stop shop that will help those on the edges of society to lead fulfilled lives, to travel around India one more time to revisit and encourage friends made over the years, see my son become a follower of Jesus and go on an all round the world sea cruise!
When it comes resolutions, I think of those the eighteenth century American preacher, Jonathan Edwards, came up with, all seventy of them. He prefaced these with the comment: “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without 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.” Besides being resolved to re-read these resolutions, which rather than being pious platitudes deal with many matters of great practical importance, I intend to take on board much of the wisdom Edwards shared.
As I write, the new year is now only twelve hours away and many of the thoughts, hopes and trepidations of Dr Johnson are mine also. While having a good knees up with one’s friends and singing Auld Lang Syne may well be a good way to see the new year in, I hope to do so by praying with some of my friends and entreating the Almighty regarding many of those concerns that are on our hearts, for I am increasingly becoming aware that this is the way by which we can most effectively rise to the challenges that are ahead of us.