Still Thinking About New Year’s Resolutions

Feb 5, 2024

By Susan Young Thornton

Experts say a core spiritual practice – even if it’s only a few minutes a day – and a commitment to working with others are key to keeping resolutions. (For more detail, read Rethinking New Year’s Resolutions.)

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In the last edition of the eNews we considered whether working with others could help us keep our well-intentioned beginning of the year resolutions. Now we’ll turn our thoughts to whether grounding ourselves in a core spiritual practice could help us, too.

In a January 4th article in religionnews.com Yonat Shimron quoted Kevin Miguel Garcia, a spiritual coach based in Atlanta, who said “resolutions that slow you down are easier to stick with than those that commit you to speeding up.” He recommends “spending about 15 minutes a day connecting to oneself or to God, by meditating, stretching, repeating a mantra, a chant or a nudge word.” Other practices referenced were mindfulness meditation, centering prayer, and journaling.

Spiritual Practices or Disciplines were relatively unknown to Reformed type Christians until the 1978 publication of Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. Foster, a Quaker, focused on classic practices in three categories: the inward disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, and study; the outward disciplines of simplicity, solitude, submission and service, and the corporate disciplines of confession, worship, guidance and celebration. Since that time, people of faith have expanded their definition of what might qualify as a spiritual practice – always asking the question, what can we do to draw closer to God? Or said another way, what can we do to become more aware of God’s presence among us? Such questions have led some to suggest that a walk in the woods, planting a garden, enjoying a delicious meal, or spending time with grandchildren can open us to the abundant life. Such practices can also deepen our awareness of those who do not enjoy the same abundance that we do.

Credit: forbes.com

This awareness leads us back to the idea of resolutions, be they made at the beginning of a new year or any other time. What do we do with what we now see? What we now hear? Will we be moved to action, either personal or corporate? How might those quiet times, this slowing down guide our actions? Might we work for the preservation of those wonders of creation, the Giant Redwoods, or join a community gardening group dedicated to providing fresh fruits and vegetables to a local food bank, cook and or serve meals at a soup kitchen, volunteer at an after-school tutoring center, become a  Big Brother or Big Sister, help build a Habitat Home, advocate for quality, affordable health care, or…?

Our faith tradition is rich in examples of persons whose deep spiritual life led them to work to make the world a better place. Borrowing a phrase from the Jewish traidtion, these Christians practiced tikkun olam – subscribing to the idea that “the world is broken so humans must repair it.” Sounds a lot like working toward what we call the Kin-dom or Reign of God.

Mother Teresa’s life among and service to the poor was a result of daily prayer. Martin Luther King’s advocacy for equal rights and the dignity of all God’s children was grounded in his faithful study of scripture. Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter’s hammer wielding was and continues to be inspired by the words, “whatever you do for the least of these you do for me.”

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There are countless people in our own presbytery who feed, clothe, house, comfort, and heal, because they have heard that still small voice in times of quiet reflection or attentive activity. They strive daily to walk in the way of Jesus – to be kind, humble, and just. Perhaps our presbytery-wide resolution might be to deepen our own spiritual practices so that we might each be agents of God’s abiding love in a broken and hurting world.