New Year Resolutions
New Year Resolutions/Rhythm of Life
2008 is almost upon us and often, as one year ends and another begins, we tend to become a bit self- reflective and make some hoped-filled and somewhat unrealistic decisions referred to as New Year’s resolutions. A few years ago I made a New Year’s resolution to not make New Year’s resolutions but I find I have even failed to keep that resolution. So, once again as I stand gazing upon a clean slate of a new year, I notice that there are images of resolutions dancing in my head.
For me these resolutions deal with the areas of personal disciplines and spiritual disciplines. Now, although I state these as separate categories I actually see them as interrelated. The incarnation of Jesus reminds me that we are united unified beings, flesh and blood and spirit. Thus, I must seek to live a life that acknowledges, affirms and embraces this truth. Therefore, when I look to develop my New Year’s resolutions or as I like to call it, my life rhythm for the new year, I must take a look at my entire being: physical, emotional, and spiritual.
Now I don’t know if you are one who likes to enter the year with a plan but if you are, I have included below a tool I have used to develop a rhythm of life for the upcoming year. If you are a resolution maker, I would encourage you to at least quickly look through this. It might give you some new ideas as you formalize your resolutions, or it may become a template that helps you bring clarity to the process. If you are not a resolution maker because you don’t want to set yourself up to fail or for any other reason, I still encourage you to take a prayerful look through the material below and see how God might lead you concerning the development of an intentional rhythm of life.
One word of caution: The purpose of the following is not to help you to develop an external framework that forces you into some kind of religious mode. Instead, the purpose is to put things into your life that over time will free you to become the unique creation of God that God has created you to be and to free you to more fully embrace and live in the unforced rhythms of God’s grace. This is about freedom and not about enslavement and external conformity. If you choose to develop a personal rhythm of life, hold on to it lightly and never use it as a club to beat yourself, for it is not a club for self abuse but rather wings that allow you to be free to enjoy God, life, others and yourself in new and deeper ways. If it becomes a club, let it go.
One word of advice: start small and build upon those successes. If you have never read your Bible on a consistent/daily basis, don’t think you are going to do it everyday of every week, but rather tell yourself you will read it one or two days a week. You can always do more, but it is important to start small and realistically and then you can build from there. Remember, some time is better than nothing. So start with a small something.
TAKE YOUR TIME: This is not a process I would suggest you rush through but one you prayerfully proceed through giving yourself and God plenty of time and space. The goal is to develop a flexible, evolving rhythm of life with which you can use not only this year but through out your life, tweaking it, adding and subtracting from it as you grow and as God leads.. This can become a tool that you revisit, evaluate and reconfigure each new year.
Rhythm of Life”
I Timothy 4:7, 8 and I Corinthians 9:24-27
“Many people seem to think that the spiritual life necessarily requires a definite and exacting plan of study. It does not. But it does require a definite plan of life; and courage in sticking to the plan, not merely for days or weeks, but for years. New mental and emotional habits must be formed, all our interests re-arranged in new proportion round a new center. This is something which cannot be hurried; but unless we take it seriously, can be infinitely delayed.” Evelyn Underhill
A rhythm of life is a self-designed guide to help you grow into the fullness of Christ.
A rhythm of life flows out of a desire to love God and be a good steward of the time, talents and life God has given you.
A rhythm of life reflects the uniqueness of who God created you to be.
A rhythm of life moves you toward a life characterized by loving, praising and serving God.
A rhythm of life provides a rhythm for living in which you can grow more intimately connected to
A rhythm of life is not something you do nearly as much as something that describes who you desire
and intend to be.
A rhythm of life involves the whole person.
A rhythm of life leads to congruence between your inner and outer life.
A rhythm of life must be held lightly, open to the promptings of God’s spirit and adaptable to the
realities of your life.
A rhythm of life is not a club to beat yourself with but a declaration of your love for and devotion to God and your desire for greater intimacy with God.
*A rhythm of life can be overwhelming to think about, so why not start with a rhythm of month, quarter, etc., and gradually work into a longer rhythm of life mindset.
Below are listed five components of a rhythm of life. Following that list you will find a worksheet you can use to help you develop your own rhythm of life.
Components of a rhythm of life:
-Our deepest selves
- Spiritual Disciplines:
“The activities constituting the disciplines have no value in themselves. The aim and substance of the spiritual life is not fasting, prayer, hymn singing, frugal living and so forth. Rather, it is the effective and full enjoyment of active love of God and humankind in all the daily rounds of normal existence where we are placed.” Dallas Willard
The following is a list of classical spiritual disciplines. You can find definitions/explanations for each of these in the works of Richard Foster (Celebration of Discipline) and Dallas Willard (Spirit of the Disciplines) as well as online.
Meditation, Solitude, Celebration, Guidance, Prayer, Silence, Submission, Accountability, Fasting, Service, Fellowship,
Spiritual Direction, Study, Confession, Sacrifice, Simplicity, Frugality, Worship, Chastity, Journaling, Contemplation, Secrecy,
Spiritual Reading, Retreats, Memorization.
Expanded list of disciplines: (1) Bible study; (2) prayer; (3) the Lord’s Supper; (4) fellowship groups/accountability; (5) confession (purgative way); (6) self evaluation (illuminative way); (7) focus on the life of Christ (unitive way); (8) devotional reading/Scripture reading; (9) silence; (10) meditation; (11) fasting/eating disciplines; (12) simplicity-vow of poverty; (13) submission-vow of obedience; (14) purity- vow of chastity; (15) worship; (16) service; (17) confession; (18) guidance; (19) celebration; (20) daily prayer covenant; (21) singing and praises; (22) memorization of Scripture; (23) listening to tapes; (24) daily witness; (25) proportionate financial stewardship; (26) ecological stewardship; (27) social justice; (28) visiting prisoners; (29) sacrificial acts of compassion; (30) family altar; (31) spousal prayers; (32) quiet days with God; (33) spiritual life retreats; (34) spiritual direction; (35) spiritual journaling; (36) affirmation; (37) soliloquy; (38) physical conditioning; (39) foot washing; (40 examen of consciousness; (41) spiritual pilgrimage; (42) setting a rule;
(43) living in the present moment; (44) Sabbath; (45) prayer of the hours; (46) artistic practices – painting, dancing, theater, music group, mime, poetry; (47) spiritual reading – biographies, autobiographies, Christian classics (old and contemporary); (48) secrecy – keeping silent about the things we do with/for God; (49) visiting awesome places – places of natural or humanly created beauty, devastation, or where significant events have taken place; (50) gardening; (51) work/daily routines/employment; (52) paying attention to dreams; (53) what would you add to this list…
(above is taken from Holy Invitations by Jeannette Bakke)
3. Self Care: Parker Palmer writes, “Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on this earth to offer to others.”
* “A monk should live as if he were to die tomorrow, but at the same time treat the body as if he were to live on with it for many years to come.” Palladius
Regularity of Components:
When constructing your “Rhythm of Life” pay special attention to:
special areas of struggle/attachment (to things in your life that you are tied to, they can be neutral or even good things such as food, exercise, money, wisdom…) the critical piece is that in some way they have power over you and have assumed a place of great importance in your life to such a degree that they shape you choices and use of resources such as time and money. See I Cor. 6:12, 10:23, Heb. 12:1
-Your rhythm should be designed with these in mind. That way you can put in place activities, spiritual disciplines, accountability, etc. to help you gain experience freedom.
“Rhythm of Life” Worksheet
Prayerfully work through the following components of a rhythm of life, keeping the answers to the following questions in mind:
• What are God’s dreams (goals/will) for my life?
• Who has God uniquely created me to be?
• Where do I feel God is calling me to stretch and grow?
• What could I lay aside that could help me to hear God, respond to God and be more intimate with God?
• What could help my life blossom at this time?
• What areas of my life do I need to get a handle on?
• What practices seem as though they would be life-giving and what practices seem as though they would be deadening, boring, or exhausting?
Setting a Rhythm - Listening for a Way
Setting a rhythm or listening for a way simply means we reflect on, pray about, and consider the Holy Spirit’s promptings regarding disciplines. Questions such as what, when, where, how, and with whom become an intentional part of our prayer. Sometimes it seems as though it would be easier to choose a few disciplines on our own and combine them in a way we know we can manage. When we decide on our spiritual disciplines through a process of prayer and reflection, however, we are more likely to choose disciplines that engage and interest us and avoid getting involved in a routine for its own sake. Participating in God-invited disciplines sets a tone and expectation from the beginning that disciplines are about being with and listening to God. This kind of planning embodies our desires to depend on the Holy Spirit.
Once we have ideas about which disciplines God is leading us to, we make a provisional plan. We decide what methods we will use to practice the disciplines, how much time will be involved and at what interval, when we will take part, where and for what purposes. These details also become part of our prayer. A rhythm or plan usually contains a number of disciplines. Some of them may be practiced daily. Others may be practiced a few times a week, weekly, monthly, or a few times a year. The plan may include individual, small group, and large group disciplines. It is the incorporation of these spiritual disciplines that will shape and form our rhythm of life.
Having a rhythm or plan can be helpful or harmful. “If we adopt a plan as a way of taking control of ourselves and our spiritual development, it can be injurious. It is easy to lose sight of grace and get caught up in spiritual good works and ideas about our holiness, rather than God’s. We can get sidetracked. When we are light-handed and openhearted in the creation of a rhythm, however, inviting the Spirit of God to guide us in shaping it, we are more likely to choose disciplines that are helpful and freeing rather than inhibiting. If we are willing to let our plan grow and change as we continue to listen to God, the process can be part of the Spirit’s work in our lives rather than exclusively our own.” Jeannette Bakke
1. Relationships (Goals for relationships)
Others (Which people are my priority?)
Yourself (How do you get along with yourself?)
2. Spiritual Disciplines (Which disciplines will help me to cooperate with what God is up to in my life and the world around me?)
Meditation Solitude Celebration Guidance
Prayer Silence Submission Accountability
Fasting Service Fellowship Spiritual Direction
Study Confession Sacrifice
Simplicity/Frugality Worship Chastity
Journaling Contemplation Secrecy
Spiritual Reading b Retreats Memorization
Expanded list of disciplines: (1) Bible study; (2) prayer; (3) the Lord’s Supper; (4) fellowship groups/accountability; (5) confession (purgative way); (6) self evaluation (illuminative way); (7) focus on the life of Christ (unitive way); (8) devotional reading/Scripture reading; (9) silence;
(10) meditation; (11) fasting/eating disciplines; (12) simplicity-vow of poverty; (13) submission-vow of obedience; (14) purity- vow of chastity; (15) worship; (16) service; (17) confession; (18) guidance; (19) celebration; (20) daily prayer covenant; (21) singing and praises; (22) memorization of Scripture; (23) listening to tapes; (24) daily witness; (25) proportionate financial stewardship; (26) ecological stewardship; (27) social justice; (28) visiting prisoners; (29) sacrificial acts of compassion; (30) family altar; (31) spousal prayers; (32) quiet days with God; (33) spiritual life retreats; (34) spiritual direction; (35) spiritual journaling; (36) affirmation; (37) soliloquy; (38) physical conditioning; (39) foot washing; (40 examen of consciousness; (41) spiritual pilgrimage; (42) setting a rhythm; (43) living in the present moment; (44) Sabbath; (45) prayer of the hours; (46) artistic practices – painting, dancing, theater, music group, mime, poetry; (47) spiritual reading – biographies, autobiographies, Christian classics (old and contemporary); (48) secrecy – keeping silent about the things we do with/for God; (49) visiting awesome places – places of natural or humanly created beauty, devastation, or where significant events have taken place; (50) gardening; (51) work/daily routines/employment; (52) paying attention to dreams; (53) what would you add to this list…
(above is taken from Holy Invitations)
Sleeping (# of hours, bedtime…)
Eating/Nutrition (Diet, slow down, types of food, frequency, supplements…)
Exercise (# of times, duration, type…)
Enrichment (reading, music, art, schooling, seminars, retreats …)
4. Work (How will I work in a manner that is more in tune with the presence of God?)
5. Play (What will I do and how will I recharge my batteries recreationally?)
1. Once you have filled in the above, go through and determine the frequency with which these will take place (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly). Remember, it is good to start small and build on success. Also be realistic; if you don’t read your Bible at all, don’t suddenly set your goal for seven days a week.
2. After you have completed all the above, transfer material to a place you can review it from time to time.
3. Review your plan:
What elements have you included in your plan? Why?
Are the means you have chosen adequate to achieve your goals?
Does your rhythm of life take into account:
a. Your weaknesses
b. Your God-given uniqueness
c. Your whole self (body, soul, and spirit)
Is your rhythm of life realistically challenging?
Share your rhythm with someone who will support, encourage and
pray for you as well as keep you accountable
The rhythm of life is a means to an end. It is never to be an end in itself.
Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard
Holy Invitation by Jeannette Bakke
Material prepared by Larry Warner…www.b-ing.org
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