Welcome to a new year filled with incredible potential.
Here in Seattle the sun is shining, the Olympic mountains are covered in snow, and it is not hard to believe that only good things lie ahead. By the end of summer, the snow will be gone and the hope and promise they offered may be gone too.
Unfortunately, our new years’ resolutions often share a similar fate. So how do we make them stick? As I mentioned in my post, Making New Year Resolutions as a Spiritual Discipline, I believe these wonderful resolutions we make each year will not stick unless we incorporate them into our spiritual disciplines.
My husband Tom and I have done just that. We go on prayer retreats three or four times a year to refocus our lives and evaluate how well we are following our sense of God’s purpose for us. We prayerfully read the resolutions we made for the year, listen to see what further direction God might give and develop a plan of action for the next few months to move us closer towards our goals.
Retreats are not just important for individuals; they are also important for organizations. Going on retreat with our staff or ministry teams is something I highly encourage. 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.
The following process – what I call taking a spiritual audit – is one that you might like to take alone and also as part of your leadership enrichment to help you focus for the season. Take out your journal, find some alone time, sit prayerfully in the presence of God and get to work.
Look back over the last year:
Consolations: what has been life-gaining and deepened your sense of connection to God and God’s purposes for you? How could you strengthen these aspects of your life?
Desolations: what has been life draining and made you lose that sense of intimacy with God and your confidence in God’s purposes for you? How is God speaking to you through this?
What are the major pressures in your life and ministry? Where do you think the pressure comes? What are the underlying causes? What is one thing you could do in this next year to relieve some of this pressure?
How do the above impact your spiritual well being? Write down the positive and negative impacts of the consolations, desolations and pressures on your life and ministry. Share them with a spouse, friend or spiritual advisor. Prayerfully consider ways you could harness this impact so that your heart could be open to new possibilities for a better future. What is one new practice you could incorporate into your spiritual disciplines to maximize the life giving nature of these forces?
Look back at your spiritual life:
How has God spoken to you in the last week? Take some time to reflect on what God has said to you through prayer, through scripture, through the needs and words of others, through other means.
What rhythm do you move to? What daily, weekly and yearly events set the rhythm for your life? In what ways do these enhance your spiritual well-being? In what ways do they distract you from achieving your full spiritual potential?
What gives you joy in your spiritual journey at present? Make a list of those aspects of your life that make you eager to get out of bed in the morning and face the day’s routines. Which of these give you a joyful sense of God’s presence with you throughout the day? In what ways could you enhance these aspects of your life?
Where do you sense God is currently at work in your transformation? In what areas of your life do you feel you are becoming more Christlike? What would give God the most opportunity to continue that work?
What do you do on a regular basis to nurture your spiritual life? Looking back over your consolations and desolations from the last year, what has made you feel close to God? What regular practices would nurture that closeness? What are the major distractions that interfere with regular spiritual disciplines?
Now, prayerfully consider what God has said to you through this process. Read back over what you wrote in your journal. What most stands out for you as you read. Reflect on it. Spend some time in silence listening to the still small voice of God.
Now its time to look ahead:
- What changes is God prompting you to make in order to further your spiritual growth:
- In your daily or weekly commitments and rhythms?
- In your spiritual routines?
- How will you ensure that these changes are adhered to?
- What is one new practice you would like to institute to help maintain your new resolutions?
- What is one relationship you could nurture to provide accountability and encouragement as you walk this journey?
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