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Advice for the New Year 2017

Have you ever made resolutions for the New Year? Those resolutions usually have to do with diet, exercise, church attendance, saving money, or stopping a bad habit. Most resolutions fail because it is just too hard to change our lifestyle to accommodate it. About the only sure way to change a lifestyle is to have a heart attack, stroke, or sudden death. Sounds extreme to me.

Better, we need to seek sound advice, and then follow through with positive action. If a parent can connect with their child when they are young, that child has an opportunity to develop an improved lifestyle as they age. In the book “Posterity,” by Dorie Lawson, I read some interesting letters from famous people to their children. These letters were designed to save their child from failure, and to nudge them toward success. Let me share some sage advice for the New Year from people of success.

Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the US Declaration of Independence, served as our third President. He had accomplished more than most people in horticulture, music, mechanics, mathematics, and education. Known as a busy man, his opinion of labor shows in a letter to his 15 year-old daughter Patsy. She had complained about the amount of homework she had to do, and received a loving rebuke from her father who was on a business trip in Europe. He wrote in part, “It is your future happiness which interests me, and nothing can contribute more to it than the contracting a habit of industry and activity. Of all the cankers of human happiness, none corrodes it with so silent, yet baneful a tooth, as indolence. Exercise and application produce order in our affairs, health of body, cheerfulness of mind, and these make us precious to our friends.”

Daniel Webster was an American statesman who served as a member of the House of Representatives, a US Senator, and as the Secretary of State under three presidents. Known as a powerful orator and strict constitutionalist, Webster helped shape the Supreme Court deliberations. In 1834, Webster wrote a letter to his 13-year old son Edward, who had just started Phillips Exeter Academy. He wrote, “Above all, remember your moral and religious concerns. Be constant at church, and prayers, and every opportunity for worship. There can be no solid character and no true happiness which are not founded on a sense of religious duty.”

Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, 26th President of the US, gained national fame as a Rough Rider during the Spanish-American War in 1898. He overcame being a sickly child, and was later seen as a strong physical presence. Knowing his story, makes this letter to his somewhat frail 14 year-old son Kermit, even more interesting. Roosevelt says in part, “I would rather have a boy of mine stand high in his studies than high in athletics, but I could a great deal rather have him show true manliness of character than show either intellectual or physical prowess.”

Lastly, here are the final words of a scathing letter from General John J. Pershing to his 15 year-old son Warren. General Pershing was the leader of the US Army during WW1, and achieved great victories. He was awarded America’s uppermost honors, and was ranked highest in the military, just below George Washington. His son Warren was languishing in his teens, and seemed destined for failure. While on a trip to South America, Pershing wrote a letter that would make anyone stand up and walk straight. His closing words were, “What I have said above, Warren, is entirely for your own good, as I see it, from the standpoint of a father who is interested in the future of his son. Don’t be a quitter; don’t be a failure.” Warren went on to graduate from Yale and founded a successful Wall Street investment company. He was a positive testimony to his amazing father.

As you enter the New Year 2017, determine to honor your Heavenly Father with every aspect of your life. Jesus said in John 5:19, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” Now there’s a resolution we should all attempt!

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