Streamers’ New Year’s Resolutions
With Baby New Year set to come kicking and crying into the world we thought it’d be fun to ask what Stream writers have in mind for their New Year’s Resolutions.
I’m a firm believer in writing things down. So every December 31, I curl up with my journal to list New Year’s resolutions. But first, I flip back to find my resolutions from the previous year.
More often than not, I’ve forgotten the goals I wrote down. But you know what’s funny? I usually made progress on them anyway.
I don’t believe in “speaking your truth into the universe.” But I do believe that God is a God of order, not confusion. And the inner workings of our mind can be quite confusing if we don’t find a way to sort through them.
So I write. When I use pen and paper to materialize what’s floating around inside, the hints of dread and vague desires vanish. Instead, I have clear fears to combat and real dreams to pursue, right there in bright, beautiful ink.
I truly believe that kind of clarity matters. Especially when it comes to charting a course for a new year.
Is there something that helps you cut through the confusion? Do more of it. If it’s writing like me, indulge with a new journal and an easy-flowing pen. If it’s walking in the morning, buy yourself some new shoes. If it’s talking to yourself aloud, ignore the funny stares.
Oh — what’s my resolution for 2018? There are lots. But a big one is to write things down even more. And I have plenty of fresh journals.
My main resolution is to focus on God’s long-range plans for our lives and concentrate on executing or creating the things that fulfill those plans. Conversely, stop wasting time on things that don’t build the kingdom or my life. Okay, so that’s the high-and-mighty stuff. The more grounded resolution is be “physically and fiscally fit.” The more whimsical resolution is to write at least one Hallmark Christmas movie. (Oh, for those who read my article on my addiction, I’ve also come up with a spiffy sequel idea for The Christmas Cottage.)
In one sense, prepping for 2018 is worthless if you haven’t shed the garbage from 2017. My wife and I have an annual tradition where we light a fire, then prayerfully reflect on the previous year. We write down on little pieces of paper the various people, events and issues that have grieved, hurt or hindered us; all the things we need to forgive and hand over to God in order to start the new year fresh. It’s very powerful.
Remembering the big things is easy. However, what is most surprising is those things we had shoved to the back of our mind, but on reflection had really done a number on us. The Holy Spirit leans over my shoulder, “Psss. You never forgave so-and-so.” “But what he did didn’t really bother me. I’m over it.” “Really? Wanna bet on that?” “Oh, wow. You’re right.”
We hand them over to God, toss the paper on the fire and watch it burn away.
We had a couple from church join us one year. The wife wasn’t too impressed with the idea, but with a very fine and fancy margarita in hand, she was game to go along. Thirty minutes later she returns from the fire pit, tears streaming down her face. She said she had no idea some of the burdens she’d been carrying.
So perhaps a wise resolution would be to not wait until New Year’s 2019, but to reflect daily reflect and hand all troubles to the fire of the Holy Spirit. (And actually stop eating the stuff that makes me unfit.)
Have you ever had someone at work tell you, “Hey, let’s all write down our favorite New Year’s resolution for all the world to see!” Yikes. I can’t think of any I’ve made and kept for more than a few weeks. I’ll bet if you couldn’t identify with publicizing your best New Year’s Resolutions, you can at least nod your head with that!
There’s one exception, though. I decided one year to read the Bible all the way through, and by the end of the year I finished it. I’ve read it through several times since then, though not always in line with the calendar year like that. It’s given me the Bible’s big picture like nothing else could. It’s a story of God’s faithfulness to His people and His promises, even when the people got squirrelly. It’s the story of Jesus Christ from front to back. And it’s what keeps me grounded.
I’m reading it through again this year, except I started November. I’m a little bit behind on the plan, but I’ll catch up. It’s worth the read, like nothing else in the world.
Every year it’s the same. I want to eat healthy and lose weight, but by March my resolve has petered out. Okay, so I get off the weight I put on at Christmas the year before!
I am reminded of Romans 7:18-19: “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”
And I’ve found out that the only food that doesn’t stick to me is a bland, gluten-free no-wheat bread with turkey sandwich and water to drink. Seriously, why can’t McDonald’s have delicious and healthy food? I’ve determined that fast food is 1) evil and 2) marketed toward single working mothers who have no time to cook a proper meal. And especially to those with three-year-olds!
Do you ever find that you do what you should not do? Or maybe you don’t do what you should do? I do. And it isn’t always about food.
Although I pray throughout the day, I want to spend more time praying in the morning, before my toddler wakes up. I’ve told my boys that we can’t know God unless we talk to Him — and I believe that. My most peaceful moments come when I’m having quiet time with my heavenly Father in the morning with my coffee. It’s just us. And I can focus on what I want to say, and listen to His voice in return. These are precious moments and give me a good spiritual foundation for the rest of the day.
Then the little one wakes up and demands cartoons and a “squishy peanut butter sandwich” or chicken nuggets for breakfast!
Maybe that’s a small resolution, but it’s something I will enjoy and appreciate — unlike a bland turkey sandwich.
My resolution is to tell more personal stories of the brave men and women serving our nation overseas. While the vast majority of Americans “support the troops,” not enough of us are paying attention to the military community’s enormous daily sacrifices.
As we ring in the New Year, thousands of Americans are still in Afghanistan, where our troops have been serving for more than 16 years. It is now possible for a young soldier, sailor, airman or Marine to deploy to the country where 9/11 was planned without being old enough to remember the worst terrorist attack in American history. We owe it to the volunteer warriors fighting America’s longest war to take more notice of their efforts.
American troops are also risking their lives in global hotspots like Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Niger and the Korean Peninsula, where war could erupt at any moment. This year, I intend to speak with some of the courageous men and women stationed in faraway places to help ordinary civilians like me understand what they are sacrificing for our freedom.
Thank you to The Stream for allowing me to take you on this journey. Please keep our troops and their families in your daily prayers – in 2018 and beyond.
Michael Brown tweeted recently that you’re more likely to keep your New Year’s resolution if you just pick one. I agree.
It’s also easier to track a resolution if it’s concrete. If you resolve not to drink any sugary soft drinks and then drink three Cokes on February 14, you’ll know you’ve fallen off the wagon. If you resolve to be kinder, there’s a lot of wiggle room.
Mine is more like the latter. That is, it’s going to be hard to measure. But by making it public, I’m hoping friends will help hold me accountable.
Here goes: I want to deepen my prayer life.
I already have a good system in place. I used to just pray spontaneously in my head. But at some point I realized that I tended always to pray the same things. That’s not a problem in itself. But such repetition can become automatic. It’s weird that we can say prayers in our heads and still manage not to pay attention to what we’re praying. It’s one of the overlooked effects of the fall.
When I started praying the Divine Office several years ago, it changed my life for the better. The Office, also called the Liturgy of the Hours or the breviary, is an ancient way of praying with Scripture during certain times of the day. It follows the Christian year, which helps to sanctify the different units of time in which we live our lives: the hours, days, weeks, months and seasons.
Unless you have the four-volume set of prayers, however, it can be quite complicated. I learned using the single-volume, which is easier to travel with. It requires a separate guidebook (published every year). And it has at least five colored ribbons, which you need to keep track of feast days and other changes in the Christian year.
Then, a few years ago, prayer apps became available. I now use the free IBreviary app, which takes all the fuss and bother out of it. The date and prayers are loaded automatically.
The Divine Office has been the single most important breakthrough in my prayer life. I pray the morning and evening prayers, and sometimes the nighttime prayer, called compline.
Alas, with every benefit comes a cost. It’s so easy to load and read the prayers that it, too, has become automatic. I often find myself reading and praying one thing while thinking about something else.
My resolution is to overcome this problem, to keep my attention focused on what I’m praying. Feel free to ask me at random times if I’m keeping this resolution. That would be helpful, since my mind tends to wander …
Let’s see, I can’t say I resolve to hit the gym because I already do hit the gym a decent amount. I can’t say I resolve to improve my health, which greatly deteriorated in 2016 due to circumstances out of my control, because I’m already working on that. I like Tom Gilson’s plan to read through the Bible but I already started a Bible-verse-a-day plan much earlier this year (great for busy people by the way).
So without cheating, what new, motivational goal can I come up with? I’m inherently lazy when it comes to most things, believe it or not; if it doesn’t involve writing, computers or exercise it’s probably not gonna happen. I’m the type of person who volunteers for a chili cook-off then backs out when I get stressed about time (that was last weekend).
I think I will go with trying to be a better example to my token lefty/agnostic friend. I have one close friend on the left who I get into political debates with constantly. He thinks everyone on the right is racist and never stops sending me articles associating the right, evangelicals and white supremacism.
I do not understand his mentality (my boyfriend is black) and I usually respond by pointing out how it’s really the left that is associated with white supremacism. But this accomplishes nothing except him losing his temper (he always says he’s ending the conversation at that point – but the next day he’s right back to forwarding me articles).
I think I need to stop pushing his buttons in order to win that argument. Although I find it amusing, I’m not being a very good witness. I’m never going to win him for Christ by making him mad all the time. It’s time to be a bit more thoughtful and stop using my political debating skills just to win an argument. People’s souls are worth far more.