On 1st January 2011 I weighed myself. The numbers were a little on the high side. I had decided to try and lose some weight and I wanted to know what I was starting from. I had been unwell during a fair amount of December with a frightening combination of cold/man flu and asthma. This led to me coughing and not being able to breathe to the point that I actually passed out. This happened several times and was quite scary for me and for anyone else who was around at the time. I had three courses of antibiotics and two courses of steroids before it all cleared up.
My asthma tends to get worse when I put on weight, so it seemed a good idea to lose some! I didn’t enjoy the whole ‘passing out’ thing and figured I ought to do whatever I could to avoid the same thing happening again. I am not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, but there is something about January 1st that can help to inspire us to do something new. So I weighed myself. Not much changed initially, but by the end of March I had lost a stone and by the end of June I was down to my lowest weight of the year. A total loss of 24lb! Reasonably impressive. Things haven’t gone quite so well since then on the weight front – since getting married I eat a lot better than I used to! My current weight is about half way between that at the beginning of the year and the low weight recorded half way through the year. Not too bad. Not too good though.
Some of you perhaps decided to lose some weight at the beginning of the year. Or take more exercise. Or read more. Or watch less TV. Or do something that you decided would be a good thing for you. Maybe you made some New Year’s resolutions or maybe you just decided to give something new a bit of a try. In either case, I wonder how you got on. Perhaps you would like to share with me. We could maybe encourage each other a little.
As I look back over the last few year’s several of my January initiatives have involved reading the Bible. Either reading the Bible more regularly, reading a different version, using particular Bible reading notes, using the lectionary or reading through the Bible in a year. Some of these projects have been more successful than others (so, by definition, some have been less successful).
I enjoy reading different versions of the Bible and using different resources to help me engage. Over the years I have used a variety of different Bible reading notes and found them challenging and encouraging. Generally speaking I prefer something that is all in one place so I do not need to spend time looking things up. I have read through the Bible in a Year on a few occasions and always feel good at the end of the year, although I must say that some of the books in the Old Testament are quite hard going. My favourite resource for this is The Bible in One Year in the NIV version. I currently have two copies of this and would be happy to lend one to someone interested in having a go at this in 2012. Or ask me to have a look at it. The Bible is organised into 365 sets of daily readings, with each day containing a reading from the Old Testament, a reading from the New Testament and a reading from Proverbs or Psalms. You can get similar Bibles in other translations and with different organisations of passages. There is a new one this year with passages arranged in chronological order. This can be a helpful way of reading through the Bible. You can also get New Testaments arranged into daily readings. My plan for 2012 is to use an NIV New Testament in a Year. (Obviously I spend quite a lot of time reading from and studying passages from the Bible in preparing sermons and talks – I am talking here about my personal reading away from things I am doing to prepare talks or notes.) I have New Living Translation version of the New Testament organised into 365 daily readings that is free to the first person who asks me for it! What an offer!
I would encourage each of you to think about when and how you are going to read the Bible next year. Will you work through a series of books? Start at page one and just keep going? Start at the beginning of the New Testament and see how that goes? Read the lectionary passages? (These are what we use in Church each week so you would be well prepared!) Read a new version? (Something like The Message reads almost like a novel and can give a new perspective to familiar passages.) Will you try some Bible reading notes, or some different ones? Talk to me if you want some advice or would like to look at some notes to be able to choose. Our website (www.cinderford-churches.org.uk) has Bible in the Year readings (via a link on the right side of each page on the site) and lectionary readings (via the Daily Prayer links on each page). Let me know if you are planning something new.
If you are completely happy with how you are currently reading the Bible, maybe you could think about another area of your Christian life. Start a prayer diary. Pray for the members of the church or your family or your neighbours on a regular basis. Get a map of Cinderford and pray for a different street each day or week. Get a prayer diary from one of dozens of Christian organisations who provide them. Talk to me if you want some ideas.
Anyway, have a great Christmas and a wonderful New Year.