The story goes that Sven, a Swede, moved into a house right across the street from Ole, a stout Norwegian in Northern Minnesota. Ole decided to go over and introduce himself. He nodded at Sven and said, “I’m your neighbor, Ole. I understand you’re a Swede then.” Sven looked squarely at Ole and replied in a huff, “Ja, I was born a Swede, baptized a Swede, married a swede, and I plan to die a Swede.” Ole looked at him incredulously and said, “Uffda, man! Don’t you ever want to improve yourself then?” (I’m walking on dangerous ground because my dad was a Norwegian and my mom is a Swede!)

This story makes me laugh but it also reminds me of one of my favorite things to do at this time of year…make New Year’s Resolutions. Yes, I am “one of those people.” I have found there are pretty much two kinds of people. Those who make New Year’s Resolutions and those who don’t. Over Christmas, my brother Pete and I were talking about the interesting challenge of starting new routines. It’s funny how some things can be made quickly into a routine and other things start and quickly fizzle out. Resolutions are like that. Over the years I have learned which ones I make that are probably “good intentions” but not long lasting. Each year I try to get better at following through with the resolutions that also ultimately have the goal of improving myself.

One of the things that striving to stay true to a resolution and to improve ourselves, is a concept I think about a lot, intentional living. Being conscious about getting the most out of life and putting the most into it as well is its basic essence. Maybe instead of asking about one’s New Year’s Resolutions we can instead ask, “How are you planning on living intentionally this year?” For me, intentional living means that I want to be fit physically as well as intellectually. I want to intentionally challenge myself by stretching in meaningful ways and in ways that bring me joy, and I want to intentionally focus on doing what I can to bring help, joy, or meaning to others around me. To be intentional, you have to focus and think deeply about what you are doing. By doing that, habits and routines can be more easily fostered. I have my intentional living plan (New Year’s Resolutions) for this year written in my journal, I’ve shared them out loud with others…I keep them in mind and in front of me lest I forget!

We read in 2 Timothy 1:7 that “the spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” Hmm… sounds an awful lot like intentional living.

What is your plan to practice intentional living this year? You don’t want to hear Ole in your ear wondering, “Uffda, don’t you want to improve yourself, then?”

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