It seems to me there are two things people often do at the end of the year (spurred on by the media): to make resolutions for the year that is to come and to reflect on what has happened in the year about to end and on what might occur in the year to come. This can be on a personal basis (over which we have some control) or wider afield (over which we have little or no control). So here are my thoughts …
I recall coming across the idea of making new year resolutions as a youngster but soon learned that within a short time after making them I would be breaking them, and as a result tended to give up on the idea. It also seemed to me that the more specific the resolution was the more susceptible it was to be broken, yet at least here we had something on which progress (or not) might be measured. As for non-specific resolutions, these may be easier to make but the nature of such is it is often difficult to tell how well one is doing in keeping them. And with this in mind, here is my list, and let us say (the first half especially) it remains work in progress:
- To be a better husband, dad, neighbor, etc.
- To carry on my community activism (even more smartly than previous) realising the gaps are huge
- To live more close to God, doing His will
- To observe and reflect upon the world around me through my writings (especially my blog)
- To better organize my affairs
- To lose weight (let us say 2-3 stone)
- To visit India yet again
- To complete the book I have begun to write
- To go to the gym (or similar) to work out – at least 3 times a week
- To spend at least half an hour each day alone with God in prayer and reading the Bible
One of my favourite theologians from the past is Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758). As a young man he came up with seventy resolutions, which he would consider in their entirety on an at least weekly basis. While of a religious, non-specific nature, a lot of what he wrote makes sense and can be applied perfectly. His first resolution reads: “Resolved: I will DO whatever I think will be most to God’s glory; and my own good, profit and pleasure, for as long as I live. I will do all these things without any consideration of the time they take. Resolved: to do whatever I understand to be my duty and will provide the most good and benefit to mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I encounter, and no matter how many I experience or how severe they may be.” Two of my favourites read: “Resolved: To live with all my might, …while I do live” and “Resolved: Never to do anything which I would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life”. He preceded his list of resolutions with the following statement: “Aware that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do pray that, by his grace, he will enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are in line with his will, and that they will honor Christ”. While some who read this will not share Edwards’ (and my own) religious convictions, many on the list he did come up with strikes me as still relevant today, containing much wisdom that we will do well to heed.
As I look back on 2015, I realize first and foremost I have much to be grateful. While my shortcomings have been many, I have at least made some difference. In looking ahead, while the years in front of me may be few and health wise there are many more restrictions compared with not all that long ago, there is much that can be done if God spares me. Rather than focus on my own “little world” which may not be of interest to most, I will consider the wider world as it impacts on my own thinking, and concerns.
Those who read my blogs will know that the two (in some circles) taboo subjects I frequently return to are religion (I will return to this at the end) and politics (especially UKwise). The big event of 2015 was the General Election. While I did reflect on the pertinent issues and what was on offer by the various parties in terms of addressing these, I have not hidden the fact that I was disappointed that the wrong party got in but also there were no stand out alternatives (in my opinion of course). I will continue to reflect on developments, in terms of issues as they arise, what needs to happen and what does happen, including those relating to matters listed below, plus of course the forthcoming EU in-out referendum and the continuing debates about the future of social and health care and education. Of local interest are the elections, this coming May, and it will remain to be seen if the “rainbow coalition” hang onto power (I hope they do) and this too I will follow with keen interest. As for whether I get off my fence and join a particular political party, I have yet to decide, but I will try to engage with politicians of all flavours and in the political process when I am able, recognizing even with every good intention what politicians can achieve will be limited and often we have to continue doing what appears to be right.
The Middle East
Much of what is happening in the Middle East right now is confused and disturbing and takes a lot of unraveling, as does the UK response to what is going on, which I fear is not always as it should be. The rise of ISIS and radical Islam, the mounting refugee crisis, turmoil in Iraq and Syria, the power of Saudi and Iran, are all matters that have occupied our attention in the past year and will no doubt do so in the year to come. I have shared some thoughts on what could and should and might and might not happen with still being a long way from proposing and seeing implemented the appropriate solutions to the problems we are now seeing.
It is impossible to contemplate happenings in the Middle East without considering the place of Israel. While I have declared an interest given my belief Israel still has a pivotal part to play in the unraveling of the plans and purposes of God, I am far from taking the position of a Zionist apologist. Some of what the State of Israel has done in recent months has been plain wicked and it will incur the wrath of G*d. Yet in all the happenings referred to earlier, Israel remains a significant factor and will have a part to play as events unravel. I love Israel and G*d has not done with her. While nations around Israel seek its harm, I will pray for its good.
I confess, climate change is something that has in the past been low down on my agenda. Whether or not or rather to what extent the unusual flooding we are seeing now in the North of England or droughts we are seeing in parts of Africa (to give but two examples) is down to climate change, I do not purport to have enough knowledge to give a well thought out view. The same goes for the environmental cost of the alternatives for building a new main UK airport runway, investment in renewable as opposed to non renewable energy and the desirability or not of fracking, along with a host of other environment related matters. However, these are all important considerations and will be ones that I will be watching.
One of my own particular fixations that not too many others share is my interest in what I have termed as “culture wars” and is a subject I often refer to, for it often relates to things happening in the news. While I am under no illusion I can bring about some sort of theocracy and can reflect that past attempts to do so have often had disastrous consequences, I do lament that as a nation the UK have drifted away from the Judaeo Christian consensus it once held, and significantly so compared to what was the case in my childhood. Given the influx of other cultures and religions, including new ageism and the rising tide of Islam, and the move toward secularism and non-belief, this may not be surprising. But this shift does have consequences and, as I have argued in earlier blogs, many of which are negative. I will continue to survey the battle field and will play my part in ensuring the right side wins, as it surely will one day.
Homelessness & Sanctuary seeking
I suppose the plight of the poor and disadvantaged has been the primary focus of my community activism and this looks likely to remain even though community service should cover all whatever the interest and circumstance. Sometimes, and frustratingly so, there is a lot we can’t change and yet there is a lot we can and is one reason why I have a particular interest in homelessness. Besides the worldwide refugee crisis that will not go away, we still have some sanctuary seekers living here in the UK. While not my primary activist interest, I suspect there will be a lot that needs doing to help in this area in the months to come and I will continue to monitor what is going on and try to help where I can.
USA, Russia and China
I mention USA, Russia and China from among the hundreds of other nations not covered so far because I believe they will all play a part in the shaping of World events in 2016. Much of media coverage is focusing on next November’s presidential election with a possible showdown between two (in my view not particularly desirable) candidates: Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, and with a current president that has not lived up to my hopes and expectations. But there is a lot more to the USA than presidential elections, and while US influence in what happens in the world at large is dwindling, it remains significant, and the phrase “when America sneezes, Britain catches a cold” still holds some truth. Regarding Russia, it seems that it continues to flex its muscle and has expansionist aspirations. Its role in the current Syrian crisis remains pivotal and while its plans to defeat ISIS is one the West can agree, its propping up of a corrupt Assad Syrian regime is likely to be problematical. China has continued to grow its economy despite recent set backs and has quietly got on with becoming a major player on the world stage, including its sizable investment in the UK. I believe this is set to continue in 2016.
Life and death
I am of an age when hardly a day goes by when someone I knew of who has featured in the news, who I have been aware of often over a long period, dies. Moreover, hardly a week goes by when someone I knew, often well, in real life, also dies. I have attended more funerals this year than previous years and expect this trend to continue. It is a sobering thought seeing those who I first knew when they were young and vigorous become old and decrepit (and sometimes doolally taboot). Not only does this increase my resolve to pay my respects and carry on the worthwhile legacy that many of the departed have left but also to reflect on how transient is life.
I mention Sport because while not able to participate much these days, it remains one of my pleasures as a follower and a fan, something I follow in its many different manifestations and often it provides a metaphor on life itself. There have been a number of sporting events in 2015 that I have followed with interest (e.g. Rugby and Cricket World Cups) and have written about. I look forward to what 2016 has to offer, climaxed by the Olympic Games in Rio. I have no predictions and hope sport will be the winner.
I mention religion because it is a subject that underlies much of my blog and other writing, even though I try to cater for those of all religions and none. I believe religion is important because it seeks to address many of the great questions that non religions don’t and can’t, which if not answered satisfactorily render much of life meaningless (in my opinion). But I am not religious or a supporter of religions other than that which it to do with having a relationship with and following Jesus. I have and will continue to respectfully, offering the hand of friendship, engage with those of other religions (especially Jews and Muslims). But most of all, I will try to extend Christ’s Kingdom here on earth and where possible in the context of the Church in all its manifestations, and be brought to task in my needing to God fully and my neighbor also. Regarding the visible church, one narrative is it is in the doldrums, beset by false teaching and lukewarmness and has its back against the wall, but another is there are remarkable signs of God’s Holy Spirit working, all over the world and in unlikely places. My job is not to be negative but rather to encourage, serve and pass on what I know. One of the comforts of being a follower of Christ is while I survey, often with consternation, many events taking place in the world, I am confident that the babe in the Christmas manger we have just celebrated is the King who is coming to reign on the Earth and who will put wrongs to right.