Rule of Life and New Year’s Resolutions

I have been thinking about New Year’s resolutions, and I have realized that for me they tend to be reactionary to specific desires and many times what is currently happening.  For example, I always want to lose the weight I gained during the holidays and a little bit more. I make a resolution/goal to lose weight and I do usually lose the holiday gain but not more.  I found that there is another way that does not need to include resolutions and goals.  The Rule of Life is a document of simple statements that create a pattern of life to live by. So a New Year’s resolution concerning weight loss for me would be something like to lose 5 pounds by summer, whereas corresponding life rules would be something like “eat small portions” and “exercise daily”.  You can see that resolutions and life rules can go hand-in-hand.  The Rule of Life provides an order and a foundation to proceed with the resolution if needed.  And if the Rule of Life is working well there is really no need for any resolutions.

So what is the purpose for creating a Rule of Life? For me, it is to better serve God, and that includes keeping myself healthy, having healthy relationships, being available for the opportunities God gives me, and making use of some of the spiritual disciplines.   I have not formally set down and created a list of life rules, but informally I have some rules I follow.  Some rules, like daily scripture reading, prayer many times a day, and weekly worship with other Christians,  I have faithfully followed for most of my life.  I do not like the term ‘rules’, I would rather call them habits or guides.  Keeping these habits or guides have made my life better, and better prepared me to serve my God.  Doing them does not save me or make me better than others, because God has done all the saving.  At my church Immanuel we have the “Marks of Discipleship” (scroll down in the link to the marks), which are a somewhat similar concept to the Rule of Life.

About 15 years ago, three words came to me over a period of a year. I believe the Holy Spirit gave me those words. The first word that came to me was “Intentional”.  I need to be intentional in what I do.  The second word was “Discipline”.  It takes discipline to be intentional.  And the third word was “Relationships”.  “People are important”, said my college pastor to me way back then, but it has taken over 40 years for that to fully sink in.  Those three words have helped me in my life to better serve God.  Those three words can be made into life rules. 

  1. Be intentional in my actions.
  2. Be disciplined with my intentions.
  3. Make my relationships a priority.
  4. Always recognize that “people are important” (to add a fourth one, quoting my college pastor).

Am I going to make some rules or habits for life?  I am thinking about it.  Looking at the above two paragraphs you can see I already have several unofficial habits of life that help guide me and make my life more intentional.  I see this as a way to counteract some of the bad cultural forces in the world today.  I need to be intentional instead of reactive to today’s culture. The goal is to keep my life centered on God.  He is my foundation.  Note, a Rule of Life is not something one can whip up in an hour or two, rather one should spend some time to prayerfully consider how God has gifted you, what opportunities there are, and how to best grow to become more like Jesus.  Take some time to do it right.  I am thinking of doing that.  Some categories I have decided to look at are 

  1. Spiritual, Relationship with God
  2. (Other) Relationships
  3. Healthy Living
  4. Service Opportunities

This list of categories for me is a starting point.  Your Rule of Life does not have to be long with many details (e.g. the Rule of St. Benedict), but it can be short and creative (e.g. this and this). I suspect mine will be a page or two.

I think a Rule of Life document should define how you interact with people and what activities you will always engage in.  It is a little late to get this done by January 1 because it should take some thought and deliberation, but it is something to consider doing and not something to put it off.

PS I pray during this Christmas season, you remember (and have remembered) that Jesus came to earth and was born so that he could bring us back into relationship with God.  Christmas is primarily about Jesus and not about gifts and family though those are nice too.

My View, Your View, Worldviews

Have you ever been frustrated at someone because they can not seem to understand what you are saying?  Maybe that is why we seem so divisive today. People can view the world very differently than you do. The next several posts I will explore some different ways of viewing the world.  All the posts will give a very broad brushstroke of the worldviews. Note people do mix and match portions of worldviews, taking an idea you want from one worldview and leaving other ideas to grab from a different worldview.

This post will focus on the broad worldview of Postmodernism.  This seems to be where society is transitioning to. I believe we are in a transition period from Modernism to Postmodernism or whatever the new worldview will be.  

Modernism was all about reason.  One relied on reason to determine the facts, the reality.  The idea was that by reason through science we would progress as a society in improving ourselves. We progressed technologically but socially we did not.

Postmodern scholars about 60-70 years ago pointed out that there is always a bias in how the facts were presented, and about 40 years ago these ideas started to take hold in today’s culture.  Due to assumed bias, Postmodernism provides no objective verification of the facts. Because of that they said the truth can not be known. Most postmoderns will allow some truth to be known, but most say that absolute moral truth can not be known. They tend to distrust all authority.  They say we are shaped by outside cultural and societal forces. (For example, industry though advertising has influenced us to be consumers of their products.)

Language is a powerful tool, but the rules and framework of a language provide constraints to the thoughts and ideas.  A postmodern would see that as mind control. The postmodern will make use of metaphors in creative ways to provide conceptual liberation and new connections of thought. Since the postmodern sees interpretation as a key part of any information, they are willing to interpret the information as they decide, not necessarily by any objective manner.  They are also interested in deconstructing any text to show the bias in the text. Their positive focus instead is on the persuasive power of stories. Stories are important in a postmodern world.

A postmodern would point out that Heath White, the author of the book (Postmodernism 101: A First Course for the Curious Christian) I mostly used to write this, is giving his perspective on Postmodernism, and I in my note taking and writing this post has constrained it further with my own bias. 

I am a believer in objective truth. Postmoderns believe that there is no such thing as objective truth.   So how can we have a conversation with a postmodern? You need to realize that using reason will not convince a postmodern.  They can claim bias. Using a story to make your point will work better. You also need to be aware that they may interpret things differently than you.  I have seen a Facebook post where the Thanksgiving holiday was interpreted as a reminder of the oppression of Native Americans by the White settlers. That is not how I would interpret the Thanksgiving holiday, but postmodernism allows you the freedom to interpret as you desire.  Don’t be surprised at the different views postmodern people will promote. They feel free to do so. Again I have seen the same event in 2016 as being interpreted by members of both political parties as a reason to vote against the other presidential candidate. Objective truth would make that impossible.  So, as always, be wary of political party claims this election season. You need to be careful to discern the truth. Since postmodernism is a broad worldview that has entered our society many years ago, you need to take a look at yourself and ask “How has postmodernism affected the way I view the world?” I am asking myself that question.

Who am I?

What defines me? Who am I?  What is my identity? Those questions get asked by a lot of people.  I have asked those questions of myself over the years. I can come up with many different answers.  I am a retired computer person, a retired research meteorologist, an American, a graduate of the University of Washington, a graduate of Camas High School, a Lutheran Christian, a husband, and a heterosexual white male.  None of these answers really matter. What matters is that I am forgiven and loved, a child of God. That is who I am. That is what matters, and it is all because of what Jesus did out of love for me and you.

We tend to make a big deal out of our identities, many times too big of a deal.  We get into “us versus them” tribalism. So we compare ourselves, our group identity, with others, and say something like this, “We are better than you because we are the great UW Huskies and you are only lowly WSU Cougars”, or vice versa. Rivalries can be fun, but they are not important and are not defining who we really are.  Deep down inside we are all the same. There is no “us versus them”. We all are broken, corrupt, self-centered people. We are sinful people in need of help. The strange thing is God still loves us despite our many faults. It is his unconditional agape love (talked about in the last post, What is love? – heinsite) that restores us to him.  We are loved and forgiven. We can be his, and that becomes our identity.  We become forgiven and loved children of God. Turn to God and receive his love.  That is what really matters.