Posts tagged " New Year "

Did You Make that Resolution?

January 11th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 14 comments

Want to lose weight?  Me too.  And so did 84 female housekeepers in seven different hotels who typically clean fifteen rooms a day. They were measured for physiological health variables affected by exercise and then two Harvard University psychologists informed half the women (untruthfully) that their daily work alone constituted enough exercise to make them lose weight and keep healthy.

In 2007, Psychological Science reported that those in the informed group lost weight, lowered their blood pressure, and had significantly healthier body-fat percentage, body mass index, and waist-to-hip ratio while the others had no changes.

What you believe can make your body do amazing things.

Making resolutions is easier than keeping them but how do we increase the likelihood of keeping them all year and really achieving meaningful results?  There is much useful advice to be found, but here is one spiritual key to keeping your New Year resolutions.

Generally, when are you most likely to keep your word?  Often, the answer depends on how much you value the person to whom you make the promise.

For example, if you assure your college roommate that you’ll stop leaving your clothing lying around the dorm you might occasionally forget to keep your word.  Your roommate is, after all, just your roommate.  However, if you assure your boss, who has put your job on the line, that you’ll make ten sales calls each day, you might just keep your word.

A resolution is making a promise to yourself. If you promise yourself, say, to stop smoking, keeping your resolution will partially depend upon how important and worthy you think you are.

It is helpful to think of abandoning a resolution as a sin.  You should carefully  think before pledging your word to others and so you should seriously think before pledging to yourself. You will make fewer resolutions, but be more likely to keep them.

Examine these five verses.  The word inside the brackets shows the Hebrew.…

  1. when [ki] a person will sin…
    (Leviticus 4:1)
  2. If [im] the anointed kohen [priest] will sin…
    (Leviticus 4:3)
  3. If [im] the entire congregation of Israel will err…
    (Leviticus 4:13)
  4. When [asher] a ruler sins…
    (Leviticus 4:22)
  5. If [im] one individual from among the people of the land will sin…
    (Leviticus 4:27)

Significantly, in one chapter describing the same action, three different Hebrew words are used for ‘when’ or ‘if’.  Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that the three Hebrew words used above imply different levels of probability.

  • asher means it will almost definitely happen.
  • ki means it will probably happen.
  • im means it might but probably not.

Verse 1 acknowledges that an ordinary person by himself will probably sin.

Verse 2 declares that a special priest probably won’t.

Verse 3 that everyone in a group will probably not all commit the same sin at the same time.

Verse 4 reminds us that a ruler has many temptations and will surely sin.

Verse 5 gives us an amazing insight. It seems to be speaking about an individual, just like the first verse. But a different word is used, implying that this time the individual has a smaller chance of sinning. By seeing himself as a worthy part of a group, including remarkable people like anointed priests and rulers, he is more likely to weigh his actions carefully.

God wants us to feel morally worthy and even holy.  Seeing ourselves as part of an important group, rather than only focusing on ourselves as individuals can help. We can also elevate our sense of self-worth by recognizing our role as a child of God.  Extending our connection to others we respect reinforces in us that we are morally worthy and significant. Just as we tend to be careful when committing to other people, we should be careful with commitments made to ourselves.

What we believe can make our bodies do amazing things. Being aware that what we say to ourselves and others substantially shapes our lives is key to leading the life we wish. Perils of Profanity: You Are What You Speak shares ancient Jewish wisdom that can help us escape the mediocrity and negativity around us and truly make 2017 the year we wish it to be.

adapted from  Thought Tool  Jan. 4, 2012

New Year – Old Year

December 26th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools 18 comments

When I was nine, I saved up every penny to fulfill my yearning for an electric train.  Finally, I ran to the hobby store. Arriving home, I set up the circular track.  My little engine, pulling two coaches and a caboose, circled endlessly, repeatedly passing the same wooden station and plastic trees I set up beside my track.

I dreamed of laying out one long straight run so that my train could explore new landscapes.  But one long track would quickly take the train out of my sight.  Neither straight line nor circle was ideal.

What a metaphor for life!  Making each year merely a dreary replica of last year is as dissatisfying as constantly seeking the new and novel.


Year of the Squirrel

December 28th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 1 comment

What happens if you extract a little blood from a hibernating ground squirrel, preserve it till the summer and inject it into another squirrel?  That active little mammal with his bushy tail will instantly go into hibernation.

 We don’t clearly understand if cold weather sets off the chemical changes in squirrel blood that signals hibernation time. We do know that hibernation helps animals endure the winter because hibernating bodies require only a tiny percentage of the energy needed when awake.  Hibernation is a state in which animals’ body metabolism and heart rate slow down so dramatically that they can easily last the winter on their accumulated fat. However, their brain activity remains pretty much the same as when they’re awake. 

 We humans don’t hibernate but we do sleep.  When we sleep our metabolism hardly changes and our energy needs drop by only about 5%. However, our brain activity vastly changes from our waking brain wave patterns.  I think one could say that hibernation chiefly affects the body while sleep also affects the brain.

 In the Lord’s language, Hebrew, the word for sleep is exactly the same as the word for year.


Do not love sleep lest you become impoverished…

(Proverbs 20:13)


And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years

(Genesis 5:3)



That Hebrew word also has two other meanings; ‘repeat’ and ‘change.’


Amasa was not vigilant about the sword in Yoav’s hand and he

struck him with it into his fifth rib and he spilled his innards onto the ground;he did not repeat (the blow) and he (Amasa) died.

(II Samuel 20:10)


I will not desecrate my covenant and I will not change the utterance of my lips.

(Psalms 89:35)


How strange is that?   Repeat means doing the same thing again, while change means doing something different. What message is God giving us through the way His language links these two opposite concepts along with year and sleep?


The potential trap for us is allowing each day or year to be nothing but a repetition of the one before.  Animals hibernate to cope with the wintery problems of the present and in the spring they awake to continue exactly what they were doing in the fall. They endlessly repeat past years’ activities.


We have a choice. We can be animal-like and do the same. We can view sleep as nothing more than a human version of hibernation with the focus on the biological component.   We can see a new year as simply a calendar fact. New Year’s Eve partying can serve as an attempt to camouflage the dreary passage of time and the gloomy likelihood that the coming year will repeat the mistakes of the one fading away. 


Alternatively, we can see how different we are from animals and that every single day we are blessed with the ability to start anew and bring about refreshing changes that improve our lives. We can awake each morning with a smile on our faces, a prayer on our lips, and hope and happiness in our hearts as we embrace the day. Each sleep can herald new resolutions of change, growth, and improvement just as each new yearly cycle should so the same.


Each evening, we can set an agenda to make the next day somewhat better than the one before. Instead of treating the night of December 31st as another meaningless party, we can contemplate ways to change in the coming year.  Quiet thought will quickly produce a list of important changes that will make our 2011 better than 2010


We can pick from two contrasting equations.


Sleep = year = repeat


  Sleep = year = change.


Since we are not animals, the choice is ours to make.