Happy new year and welcome to a year filled 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. It is not hard for me to believe this will be a wonderful year. The sun is shining, and I am looking out my office window at the beautiful snow covered Olympic mountains. Yet by the end of summer the snow will be gone and the hope and promise they offered may be gone too.
I have already shared ideas on how to make resolutions that stick and talked about the refocusing prayer retreats Tom and I take but feel I cannot emphasize this enough.
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 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.
The process I outline below – what I call taking a spiritual audit is one that you might like to take alone and also as part of your leadership enrichment. 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 in which you could harness this impact so that your heart could be broken 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?
This is the second post I have written on preparation for the new year. You might also like to check out Making New Years Resolutions as a Spiritual Discipline.