Your decrees are the theme of my song wherever I lodge.
When it comes to daily Bible reading, our goal should be less about information or inspiration than it is about transformation. We do not need quick pick-me-ups nearly as much as we need to change the background music animating our lives. We need to swap out the mix of financial anxiety, general selfishness, yesterday’s Tweets and last week’s college football scores with one that rehearses the love of God, the beauty of grace and the hope of the Gospel. May the decrees of God’s Word become the theme song of your life in 2023.
Thanks to ’22: The downsides of the tri-demic have been much discussed, the upsides not so much. I think we’d do well to note that the spiritual practices we had in place going into it were not enough to keep fear, greed and tribalism at bay.
Five Thousand Per Year: Much has been written about the response of players and commentators to Damar Hamlin’s collapse during MNF’s Bills/Bengals game. Like others, I think the default to prayer is worth observing and perhaps leveraging. I also want to note something I’ve not seen much made of yet – 5K people die from work-related injuries every year, most in very low wage jobs.
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The Comedian > The Academic: I’ve appreciated the insights offered by MIT’s Sherry Turkle on the downsides of smart phones, and I had intended to cite the following statement of hers in today’s update: “Our phones are not accessories, but psychologically potent devices that change not just what we do but who we are.” However, even though I often take issue with Bill Maher, I thought his related comments carry more punch. “The tycoons of social media have to stop pretending that they’re friendly nerd gods building a better world, and admit they’re just tobacco farmers in t-shirts, selling an addictive product to children. Philip Morris just wanted your lungs. The App Store wants your soul.”
Without Comment: 1) Although Americans divide along political lines over how U.S. History should be taught, a study by More in Common suggests the differences are smaller than most people think; 2) 20% of U.S. marriages are now interracial; 3) One in three Americans eats fast food every day; 4) 92 countries have populations that are collapsing; 5) 61% of the students at Wellesley and 70% of those at Smith (both women’s colleges) identify as LGBTQ; 6) The word that the pundits at Lake Superior State University most want banned in 2023 is G.O.A.T. – as in Greatest Of All Time, followed by inflection point, quiet quitting and irregardless; 7) Though seldom reported, between 1990 and 2020, 1.1 billion people were lifted out of extreme poverty.
New Year. New You?: Last week was ground zero for setting resolutions. Perhaps you made one. And perhaps you are still keeping it! But with history as our guide, we both know it’s unlikely to see February. Why do we consistently fail to keep our good intentions? Among other reasons, our willpower is quite weak. It’s not a muscle that grows stronger with use. It’s a $20 bill that, if spent resisting chocolate chip cookies is not available for getting up early to read the Bible. “But wait,” you say. “I know people who resist cookies and get up early to read the Bible. How do they do it?” The answer is: Habits. They used their limited will to set up lasting habits. And habits, once established, require no will to maintain.
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Color Me Surprised: I did not skim many of the year-end lists, but I did look at a few. 1) I was surprised by the annual list of the “highest-paid dead celebrities.” My guesses for ’22 included perennial favorites – Elvis, Michael Jackson, John Lennon, Leonard Cohen, Dr. Seuss and Charles Schulz. It turns out, I missed the top two: JRR Tolkien ($500M) and Kobe Bryant ($400M). Likewise, if asked to name teens’ favorite fast food franchise, I would have guessed some Southern CA outfit I’d never heard of. It turns out that Chick-fil-A, the closed-on-Sunday chain, won for the second year, besting Starbucks, Chipotle, McDonald’s and Olive Garden.
Word of the Week: There were several nominations, but I am giving the honors to flightmare, in recognition of Southwest’s “terrible, horrible, no good,” very bad week.
Clarification: Last week I mentioned I’d be back today (DV). Several of you asked, “What’s DV?” Silly me. It used to mean Deo volente – i.e., “God willing.” But when I googled it last week, I found Deo volente now has a lot of competition – e.g., digital video, dependent variable, Dick Vitale, Death Valley and the Dengue Virus.
Closing Prayer: I am no longer my own, but Yours. Put me to what You will, place me with whom You will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed for You or laid aside for You, exalted for You or brought low for You. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, You are mine, and I am Yours. May it be so. And may the covenant which I have just made here on earth be confirmed in heaven. Amen. (This prayer is the New Year’s Covenant that John Wesley established for the Methodist Church.)