Jan. 5, 2011 — -- As each new year comes around, it seems the most popular resolutions have to do with eating less and exercising more. They are noble goals to be sure, but it makes me wonder: In our efforts to develop healthier habits for our physical well-being, have we neglected our spiritual well-being?
January is a great time to reflect on your inner self and assess your spiritual state of being. It's a moment to ask yourself: Are you living superficially, are you allowing your faith to really penetrate daily life?
Not sure where to begin? Here are some goals to get the New Year's ball rolling.
Serve others. This year, look around for more opportunities to help someone without calling attention to yourself or without expecting anything in return. Even simple things like putting a hand on another's shoulder and offering an encouraging word or taking homemade soup and warm bread to a homebound older adult can make a difference in someone's life, including your own.
Help someone learn to read as a literacy volunteer. Teach them computer skills to enable them to become more employable. Be intentional in looking beyond your own needs to the needs of others. Then give yourself away.
Develop a holy curiosity. Nurture your inner life by reading more books on faith. Study scripture and commentaries, not as an obligation but as a privilege. Devote time to daily devotions and prayer. Think deep thoughts about life and your purpose.
Don't shy away from difficult topics like death and dying. Learn something new each day and ask for wisdom in all things. Curiosity is a sacred gift from God. Open it; use it.
Celebrate the simple things of life. Be careful not to confuse inner joy with the gotta-have trappings of our culture. Look for holy moments in ordinary life. Tap on the window when you see a tangerine sun melting into the horizon.
Savor the warmth of a crackling fire on a cold, gray day. Pay attention to the birds outside your window. Listen for the giggles of a child. Walk in the moonlight. Acknowledge the countless blessings of everyday life.
Laugh more. Complain less. Resolve to be a person that others enjoy being around. Have a positive outlook. Pay attention to the tone of your words. Look for humor in difficult or frustrating circumstances.
Swap good-hearted jokes and stories with others. Be less judgmental and more grace-filled. Refuse to be a gossip or a toxic drain on the lives of others. Each morning before your feet hit the floor, whisper a prayer for all that is good in your life.
New Year's Resolutions Worth Keeping
Be content. Learning to be content doesn't mean settling for the dregs of life. As the saying goes, it means to bloom where you are planted. Contentment is an attitude that comes with discovering that real happiness is not tethered to material things.
Don't waste your life constantly pursuing the things you think will make you happy: a bigger house, a newer car, expensive jewelry, a high-powered job. Make a mental list of the things you thought you had to have that quickly lost their luster once you got them. In moaning about what you don't have, you will miss the joy of all the blessings you already have.
Nurture relationships. Invest yourself in the lives of those you love. Give them your time, energy and focus. Play games with children. Be interested in teens. Ask them to teach you how to use the latest digital gadget. Pull up a chair and listen to the stories of older adults.
Don't wait for a more convenient time to invest yourself in the lives of others. Do it now, then cherish those face-to-face relationships.
Forgive. Make this the year you finally drop the heavy load of anger and pain that you've been dragging around since someone hurt you years ago. It's time to lighten the load and move forward.
Understand that forgiveness doesn't mean that what someone did to you was right. It just means that you are no longer willing to let resentment and bitterness slowly poison your life. Let it go and begin to heal.
Happy New Year to all as 2011 ushers in a fresh opportunity for spiritual progress.
Missy Buchanan is the author of "Talking with God in Old Age" and the soon-to-be-released "Don't Write My Obituary Just Yet," which will be published by Upper Room Books.