Faith Matters

Andrew Watson: Be resolved to follow a better path in 2020

Spiritual 'resolutions' can help us develop healthy new habits, says the Rev Andrew Watson, who shares some ideas

Andrew Watson

Do you have space in your diary for new year spiritual resolutions?

ONE of the children in church last Sunday gave us a simple but excellent definition of a New Year's resolution - "doing something different".

Something different to the way we thought and acted last year, yes, that makes sense; less of a slave to our appetites and instincts, more in control for the better; less addicted to resentment and self-pity, more free to celebrate every day with gratitude.

A resolution begins with decision and resolve on the inside. We have to want to be well.

But it also very much means that we have to do something. Airy-fairy dreams don't last long.

We need to practise daily. We need to make good things our regular way of going.

It's easy to develop harmful habits - aim at nothing and you've already started - but the start of a new year is a fine opportunity to begin establishing some good patterns.

A habit is something that has become very much the natural rhythm of our lives, like eating and sleeping.

In the final advice he gave the Israelites, Moses reminded them of the commandments and laws God had given to guide them: "These commandments... are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children.

"Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

"Tie them... on your hands and... your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses..." (Deuteronomy 6: 6-9).

In other words, it is wise to set God and his Word as a kind of compass bearing at every point of the day, every aspect of our living.

It is wise to set God and his Word as a kind of compass bearing at every point of the day

Over these last years I have been suggesting spiritual 'resolutions' for members of our congregation to practise.

Here are a few of them:

  1. Every day, before your feet touch the floor, name your loved ones to God in prayer. One natural rhythm of life is waking up. Before or as we get up, let's acknowledge an infinitely more powerful being than ourselves and seek his grace and blessing for that which is most precious to us, our family and friends.
  2. Every night when your head hits the pillow, regardless of what time it is, give thanks for something. It may have been a tough day, even heartbreaking, but it will not have been without some mercy. The sun still rose. There was something of beauty and virtue if we were watching for it. Remember it, let the thought of it warm your heart and balance your mind as you drift temporarily into the dark and unconscious.
  3. With your first coffee of the day, read a little Scripture. Maybe you don't drink coffee, but with your first food and drink of the day feed your mind with a Psalm or a passage from the Gospels. Take just a few minutes early in the day before the tidal wave of other information starts rolling. Consider the wisdom of the ancients. Pay attention to what our Maker and Judge has to say.
  4. Every Sunday you're fit to rise, come to Church. One day of rest, refreshment and worship in every seven is a true gift for a healthy life rhythm - beneficial for body, mind and soul. Don't waste it. If at all possible, include in your day a gathering for praise, prayer and fellowship with people who follow Jesus.

Now these things are not a guarantee of a trouble-free life, or a magic formula for success.

But they are practical lessons for beginners who recognise their need to grow in relationship with God - little steps in the right direction.

I feel very much still in the 'beginner class' but have found these disciplines genuinely beneficial.

In a confused and often vicious world, seeking the counsel and comfort of one who loves us and gave himself for us opens a refuge of truth and wisdom and an oasis of wellbeing for our souls.

Rev Andrew Watson is minister of the Presbyterian congregations in Dunfanaghy and Carrigart in Co Donegal. He is also chaplain to Letterkenny Institute of Technology. He blogs at wordsurfers.com

Rev Andrew Watson

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