The end of a year always signifies a time to reflect and ponder about the past year. We think about what we did, how we changed, the ups and downs there were, and what held meaning for us. In doing so it helps us identify what exactly we may want for the year to be.
As you reflect on this past year the question remains what do you want this coming year to be?
Every year I write down specific goals I have for myself. Sometimes I meet them but most of the time I look like the picture to the right when I read them come the end of the year.
I realize this practice without objectives, timely review dates, or someone holding me accountable, ends with me not accomplishing them. As with our own spiritual life, we also have to be intentional in how we set goals and go about them. So let's look at how we can set goals for our spiritual journey this new year and really hold to them.
Creating Spiritual Goals for the New Year
You may be asking shouldn't spirituality just come naturally? From my experience I would say "no". Developing spirituality is a process that takes intentionality and authenticity. Setting goals for our own spirituality can deepen our faith. It also focuses us on growing instead of just moving through the regular motion of our lives.
So here are some tips for creating and keeping our spiritual goals.
1. Align the with your Values - These are your goals so they should align to your values. I find identifying our personal values somewhat difficult without direction from others or something guiding me through an assessment process. Here is a values worksheet created by Virtus if you are interested in exploring your core values. There are lots of value worksheets out on the web if another one fits you better.
2. Think Backwards - Where/ who do you want to be at the end of 2019? It's helpful to think about your success and what that will look and feel like for you. Moving backwards also helps us identify how you got there.
3. Think Big but Start Small - It's easy for us to create lofty goals that are unrealistic to meet. That's why its important to think of small tangible things you can do that brings you closer to your overall goal. If your goal is to read more of the Bible than maybe it starts with reading a few verses every morning or using a daily app. Here are 10 apps you could use for a goal like this. The important part is breaking your goal into things you can manage and actually do.
4. Take Control - Set goals that rely on you not others. We have to be in control of the goals we set. When we allow others that privilege we give up our ability to direct our own lives. I believe God wants us to be free and open to choosing how to deepen that relationship with God and others.
5. SMART Goals - When you have an idea of what it is you would like to shoot now you need to write it down. Use a simple strategy to do this. I like to use the SMART technique. S - Specific M - Measurable A - Attainable R - Relevant T - Time Bound. This helps you narrow down exactly how you will meet your goal.
Keeping Spiritual Goals in the New Year
Now that you have identified a goal(s) for yourself it is important you keep it /them which is another task in itself. Here are some basic tips to help you.
1. Harness Unused Time - Sometimes the easiest and most effective way to deepen our faith is using time that is not being used. Maybe its in the shower, on the drive to work, or those few minutes you are waiting for your coffee to brew. Ask yourself do I have unused time I can devote to my spiritual goal.
2. Set Yourself up for Success - If music is your way to connect, leave instruments out in your living space not packed away in your closet where you are less likely to play them. With whatever practice or goal you have, set yourself up by creating the environment for you to succeed.
3. Get an Accountability Partner - It's important to share your goal with someone else you trust. When someone else knows about our goals than we are more likely to accomplish them. For some it may mean using social media while others it may be a personal conversation with another.
4. Planned Timely Reviews - Setting review times helps us reflect on the growth we have made and what we need to still do. I suggest quarterly review times which give you a few months time before reflecting.
5. Post It! - When we see our goals we are more likely to accomplish them. So find a place to put up your goal. It might be next to your bathroom mirror, at your work space, or on your car's dashboard. Purposefully placing it in a spot where you recognize it and read it often will increase the likelihood that you will meet it.
Spirituality - Don't get Carried Away
Remember you are setting goals for your own personal growth. Spirituality is different for different people. I want to leave you with this hilarious youtube video from JP Sears which identifies various ways people try to be ultra spiritual. Make your own goals to deepen your connection but don't get carried away.
Happy New Year!!! Thanks for following us this year! We will have lots new content coming your way such as exploring human diversity, becoming a welcoming community, and looking at other spiritual practices. This week set your spiritual goals for the New Year!
As the sun sets over the horizon, night settles in bringing with it a darkness that engulfs the landscape. Our eyes narrow as we search for light in a darkened world. Our gaze moves upward finding the twinkling beauty of the starlit sky lighting our way. We journey on hoping to find ourselves, our purpose, and our God. The collection of stars together is what makes the sky so majestic.
This time of year there is one star that shines brighter than the others, shouting from the sky "Come and find peace." It is this Christmas Star we have been following this Advent with the promise that new life abounds if we search. What will you find this Christmas? What spiritual birth waits for you? What is the God of all time and place placing in your world?
Let's look deeper at the Christmas Star and what meanings this Star may have for some this Christmas.
Spiritual Practice of Star Gazing
For as long as I can remember I have felt connected to the stars. I look up and lose myself in the amazing display. Every time I stare at them I am at awe for the beauty of creation and how incredible it is. For years I would come home and just sit in their beauty until I was ready to come inside. I realized for me sitting and looking at the stars was a spiritual practice. It quiets my mind and soul, focuses my awareness, connects me to something that is much greater. So this Advent season when I look up at the night sky I think of those who followed the Christmas star and journeyed that special night to find God in this world. I am also reminded of my journey to find God in this world and the new life that is waiting for me if I choose to go.
Spiritual Birth Through Advent
Recently, I listened to a Project Zion Podcast - Extra Shot Episode 42 - about the Spiritual Practice of Advent. Minister Katie Harmon-Mclaughlin discusses the journey of Advent and what we can do to birth new spiritual life. Its an entertaining episode also highlighting the importance of spiritual practices. Enjoy the extra shot and hopefully it will help you start or find spiritual birth this Advent season.
Science of the Christmas Star
Scientists have speculated about the Christmas Star or Bethlehem Star for years trying to figure out a logical explanation for it. I think its great that people question and try to find answers with their own theological understandings. For this particular question the website 1 minute astronomers gives some possible explanations for such an event happening around the time of the birth of Christ. Check it out for some quick, interesting reading.
God In the World
Christmas is the day we remember God gracing us with his son Jesus who turned our world upside down. He brings peace, love, joy, and hope. It is through Jesus where God is revealed and love is given. I also find a resounding message through the event that "We are not alone." God's love is so immense that he continually places himself in this world if we choose to see it. He may not look like what we have known, or what we expect but he's there nonetheless. If we choose to follow the Star we come to find God. And once we find God our lives are filled with light. We realize God is with us and that we our God's hands and feet in this world. So what will you find this Christmas? How will you journey with God in the world?
Let me leave you with this great video produced by Monica Scott Music of kids singing about the Christmas Star and their journey to find God.
Merry Christmas!!! I pray that you and your loved ones will be filled with Peace this Christmas. Please surround yourself with people you love this week!
Playing the guitar is one thing that brings me joy. Despite my limited ability (because I have no rhythm) I feel my heart jump. I remember coming home from college for the summer after having just learned how to play guitar chords. I was excited to be able to play an instrument and I wanted to share it with others. This propelled me in offering to play the song "Seek Ye First" to my home congregation. That day I felt this incredible spirit moving with me because I just wanted to give what I had. So there I was up in front strumming my guitar and leading them through the song (something I would never have done before). I was about six words into the song, when I realized I had never played with other people singing before. I also distinctly recall remembering the small fact that I have no rhythm. It was apparent to me that people were lost in the song because my strumming was too fast and irregular. Despite this tremendous downturn I pushed on and finished the song. The amazing thing was any other time in my life I would have turned red, sat down and been ashamed of myself and my abilities. However in this instant I was joyful and satisfied. I knew my entire purpose was to share my joy with God and others, which I did. It didn't matter if I wasn't the best, its what I had to give in that time and space.
I think there is an incredible power within us if we share the things that bring us Joy. Joy is an attitude of the heart that empowers us to be genuinely happy and/or content with ourselves. When we share joy, we share our hearts with others. It makes us lighthearted, playful, and whole. So with the virtue of Joy being the focus this Advent week let's look closer at how joy impacts us, and the connection it has with our spirituality.
Get in Your Heart Space
Amanda Gore is the author of "Joy an Inside Job". The book explores how Joy impacts our lives in astounding ways. She believes the most important space on earth is in our heart. Please watch her entertaining TEDx presentation which talks about these three steps in creating more Joy in our World.
1. Stop Judging - Become Present
2. Drop to our Hearts - Place Intention
3. Scatter Joy with Zoots
Joy and Spirituality
Society is made up of people who are spiritually seeking the presence of God and/or a deeper connection with others and themselves. Joy is one of the many things we find along our search. Joy is a selfless emotion that connects with God and others. Rev. Christopher Benek authors an article about the difference between Joy and Happiness. He writes it's not about trying to be happy for ourselves but having Joy in our lives. In so doing this is a commitment to others. In other words the focus of having Joy is community. Joy is about the well being of others and when our focus is on others we open ourselves to experiencing Joy.
The word "Joy" can be found throughout the Bible. This is personified through singing, shouting, and rejoicing. However for some of us, we might be saying how do I find Joy if I am spiritually lost or dead? First I want to acknowledge you are not alone. Second I want to encourage you by saying Joy is possible even in our suffering.
I think the advice given above is where we start by find your heart space, joining a welcoming community, and asking yourself what do I have to give. We all have Joy inside of us that is waiting to be freed. Deepak Chopra shares his "8 Secrets to Free Your Spirit and Find Joy" which are realistic ways for us to begin experiencing Joy. Joy is freeing because it moves us away from our own self conscious thoughts that sometimes drown our spirits. In Joy we find the beauty of others and the connectedness of life.
This advent when we remember the coming of Christ let us remember the Joy he brings. Even now, he continues to want to bring that Joy to you. So allow his enduring Joy to reside in your heart because the message will free you. It is in Joy where we live for others by singing, shouting, and rejoicing until the morning comes.
Joy Through Laughing
I believe laughing is one of the best ways we can find joy in our lives. It instantly connects us with others and leaves us feeling light and happy. This Coca-Cola commercial is of a man laughing on a subway. As you watch it, I dare you to not laugh or smile. Just as with laughter, joy can be contagious.
Please find your heart space this week doing something you love. Allow Joy to fill it and if you are willing share it with someone else. Next week we look closer at our journey toward the Christmas Star.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.
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