Making New Year Resolutions that Stick.

Olympic mountain view

Olympic mountain view

It is the beginning of a new year with incredible potential. We have enjoyed the excitement of fireworks and New Year parties. All of us have hopes and expectations for the months that lie ahead. We eagerly make resolutions about what to eat, when to pray and how to live, knowing that most of these will be discarded before the month is out. Sitting here looking out my office window at the beautiful snow covered Olympic mountains, it is not hard for me to believe that this year holds incredible new possibilities. But I know that by the end of summer the snow will be gone and the hope and promise they offered may be gone too. So how do we make resolutions that stick?

For Tom and I, our refocusing prayer retreats which we take every three months are an important part of our yearly rhythm which helps keep us on the path we believe God wants us to follow. The end of year retreat we have just returned from was no exception.

Retreats are not just important for us as individuals, they are also important for us as an organization. Taking a retreat with your staff or ministry team is something I would highly encourage at this season. Over the years,  our MSA staff retreats have totally reshaped the ways we function as an organization. They led us to develop a rule of life, helped us to reimagine ourselves as a community that discerns together the will of God for our organization and pointed us towards the discernment process we use each week in our team meetings. As you can imagine, how we prepare for the new year is a common theme for me at this time of the year. Next week I will share some of the insights I have gained from reading Parker Palmer’s book A Hidden Wholeness but today wanted to repost a revised version of the spiritual audit I have used for years to help me rethink my spiritual journey.

Look back over the last week or month

  • Consolations: what has life gaining and deepened your sense of connection to God?
  • Desolations: what has been life draining and made you lose that sense of intimacy with God?
  • How is God speaking to you through this?
  • What are the major pressures in your life?  Where do you think the pressure comes from and what are the underlying causes?
  • How do these affect your spiritual well being?
  • In what ways could they be harnessed so that your heart could be broken open to new possibilities for a better future?
  • What daily and weekly events set the rhythm for your life?  Which of these contribute to your spiritual well being and which distract from it?

How well are you maintaining your spiritual life:

  • What gives you joy in your spiritual journey at present?
  • Where do you sense God is currently at work in your transformation?  What would give God the most opportunity to continue that work?
  • What do you do on a regular basis to nurture your spiritual life?
  • What are the major distractions that interfere with regular spiritual disciplines?

How has God spoken to you in the last week:

  1. through prayer
  2. through scripture
  3. through the needs of others
  4. through the words of others
  5. through other means

What changes is God prompting  you to make in order to further your spiritual growth:

  1. In your daily or weekly commitments and rhythms?
  2. In your spiritual routines?

How will you ensure that these changes are adhered to?

  1. What is one new practice you would like to institute to help maintain your new resolutions?
  2. What is one relationship you could nurture to provide accountability and encouragement as you walk this journey?

You may also like to revisit some of the other posts I have written in past years that address some of these issues.

Leading Spiritually – A Series on Leading with Discernment

Welcoming the New Year – What Do We Expect?

Tools for Prayer – Moving Beyond Chronic Randomness to Intentionality

Did Jesus Lead a Balanced Life?

The Spirituality of Rhythm

Sit in the contentment of the moment – Pray with us

This morning I wrote this prayer during my morning meditations.

God we sit in the contentment of this moment,
Knowing it holds all we need to find you,
We sit with still hearts and quiet minds to welcome everything it offers,
May we be at peace, experience freedom and enter your rest.

it seemed like a great sentiment to start the day with especially as we are on retreat with the MSA team.  It was a way to help me focus.  But it wasn’t long before my equilibrium fragmented.  Someone blew a fuse that disconnected the internet and panic, panic we couldn’t figure it out at first.  Now I am back on line but the contentment of the moment that I had experienced earlier in the morning has definitely gone.  How to regain that I was wondering.  Our team meets again in 20 minutes and I feel the need to be centered and attentive to God.

In moments like this it is always easy to get stressed out (at least for me) but I realize too that it is more important than anything to sit quietly in the presence of God and just rest in the stillness of the moment – so guess what – the start of our retreat this morning will be some quiet moments of reflection and centering all our hearts on God

We would appreciate your prayers at this time.  We are brainstorming about the next 2 -3 years and we need God’s wisdom and discernment as we move forward.

Catching Up

Ever returned from a trip to find a mountain of work waiting and feeling as though you have just been on a visit to another planet.  Certainly how I feel at the moment. While we were gone it seems as though the whole world has been turned upside down and inside out.  The economic crisis goes from bad to worse, the mail is overflowing across the dining room table and my inbox has hundreds of messages I am not sure I want to look at.  As for Google reader – I don’t even want to think about the thousands of blog posts I have been out of touch with.

So I am just going to wipe the slate clean and start afresh from today.  Noticed on Brother Maynard’s blog that Emergent Village is reimagining itself more as a network than as a typical charitable organization.  The report from the Board of Friends of Emergent Village is well worth reading.  This is of great interest to me as that is the same way that MSA is heading and it looks as though they too used a discernment process like we are working on. Everywhere we go people are talking about the need for connectedness, for community and networking.  I think that the spirit of God is definitely doing something new and it will be exciting to see what develops – maybe we are entering a new age of Christian unity and cooperation – but then again maybe that is just wishful thinking.

Emergent village also mentioned that Stevee Collins has started to post links to alternative worship in the UK.  Here is a great link to a worship service at Grace with Jonny Baker one of the more creative worship leaders we know.