David Letterman, on The Late Show, made it famous. Of course, I'm referring to “The Top Ten.” With great fanfare, every night Letterman presents the Top Ten direct from the “home office.” Sometimes Letterman’s Top Ten are way out, but they always draw considerable laughter and are usually quite entertaining.
Over the years I have noted numerous other Top Ten list from other sources. These Top Tens have included the “Top Ten Liar's Lies,” the “Top Ten Recipes for Reindeer Snacks,” “Top Ten Most Expensive Books in the World,” and I am only scratching the surface.
In the same vein, I've decided to share my own “Top Ten Directives for a Better New Year.” Of course, everything I'm going to say is predicated upon the assumption that we are or will be in some kind of meaningful relationship with the Divine. And my Top Ten are in no particular order of importance. They are all significant.
1. Don't get stuck in yesterday! The Apostle Paul knew that one of the real secrets of effective living is having the capacity “to forget.” And it is!
2. Don't take the trip alone! A minister once asked a group of young people the following question: “Where is the loneliest place in the world?” Some suggested the parched desert, others suggested mountains where men and women have never set foot, and still others the middle of the restless ocean. Then one boy turned to the minister and said, “Give us your idea.” The minister thought a minute and said, “The loneliest place in the world is the human heart when love is absent.”
3. Forget the Joneses! Be your wonderful self! One of the most electrifying statements in the entire Bible is that we human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. So who are we to envy anybody else? We are not just somebody: we are somebody to God.
4. Just rise above it! In examining my life as a minister, I realize that numerous pastors are more capable than I am. Some are better educated than I am, smarter than I am, more creative than I am. But few try harder than I do. What I lack I try to compensate for with enthusiastic effort. Just rise above it.
5. Strive to keep your dream alive! Authentic dreamers are simply prisoners of their dreams. They are grasped by a vision of what this world, or this church, or this business, or this life can be. Never satisfied with what is, but always dreaming of the possibility, these authentic dreamers commit themselves to making the dream come true.
6. Read the fine print! When my wife was a teenager her mother always gave her this advice: “Take care of the little things and the big things won't happen.” That’s the fine print.
7. Put down your pots and pans awhile! Noted golfer Walter Hagan is reported to have said, “Don't hurry and don't worry. You are only here on a short visit, so be sure to smell the flowers.”
8. Humor is not excess baggage! The great theologian Reinhold Niebuhr once described humor as the prelude to faith, but it is also a prelude to hope. If we can laugh about it, we can make it.
9. Stay in touch with your source! In his Christmas address, Pope Francis criticized some of the Catholic leaders, who run the church, as suffering from “spiritual Alzheimer's.” The Pope was urging these leaders to “a true self-examination” to improve themselves in the ways of God. The real message is that all of us should do the same – be in touch with God and stay in touch with God.
10. Purpose is not optional! William James was so correct when he said, “The great secret of life is to spend it for something that outlasts it.”
Happy New Year!
Dr. Hal Brady is a retired pastor who continues to present the Good News of Jesus Christ and offer encouragement in a fresh and vital way though Hal Brady Ministries.