I can't help it; I'm a sucker for new year's resolutions. I know January 1st is really no different than any other 24-hour day. I know I can "start my best life now," whenever "now" happens to be. But there's something about New Year's Day that feels like the first crisp page of a journal. Plus it's a memorable marker in time. So here I raise my Ebenezer.
You may have no interest in reading my resolutions, and you're welcome to stop reading now - I'm just using you for my own purposes. When I make these resolutions public, it helps me keep them - it worked for me a couple years ago when I posted my resolution to blog each month. Even if no one reads this, I'll still behave as though someone did. It's like having an unknown number of accountability partners, which is great for a people-pleaser like me. :)
In 2015, here's what I want to especially practice:
1. I will practice gratitude.
I recently read Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts." I had been hesitant to read it, despite many recommendations. Maybe it was just the cover with the dress and the bird's nest, but "30-something lesbian" did not seem to be its target market. Expecting it to be fluffy Christian mom stuff, I sampled chapter one, and ended up reading the whole book in one sitting. Without skirting around the suffering and depression we all experience, Voskamp convinces you of your need to practice gratitude, to document specific things you're grateful for in your day as they happen. This has the lovely side effect of making you fully present in those moments, "weighing them down with your full attention," so that instead of feeling like you're always running out of time, you actually start to feel like you're filling up with these exquisite slivers of time. I've been trying this a bit during the Christmas season, and it totally works. It's reminding me of times in my life when I was so much more aware of and grateful for God's presence... my very first sermon was about "praying with your eyes open," but I lost practice. On Christmas morning, I got a little notebook in my stocking, and I knew instantly what it would be for. My list begins tomorrow, and we'll see how long it takes to get to one thousand. I'm also going to carry my camera around a lot more, so I can document the things I'm grateful for in more visual ways.
2. I will practice contemplation.
I'm one of those people who gets the Richard Rohr e-mails every day, but who rarely puts his words into practice. He writes a lot about contemplation - having short times of silent meditation built into your day, time to simply and wordlessly sit with God. Over a lifetime, this actually begins changing the pathways in your brain and helps you react differently to stress, and develop more of an ability to listen to God. I've tried this on and off in the past, but with my current work and its "word-iness" and increased potential for situations of conflict and criticism, I think it's time to make this a regularly scheduled morning activity.
3. I will practice seeing God as female.
I believe God has no gender. But despite this head-belief, I've spent my entire life imagining and referring to God as male. Because patriarchy. To be honest, I've always thought that Christians who used feminine terms for God were New Age-y and weird, but lately I've realized it's equally weird to default to masculine God images. I'm not very good at imagining gender-less beings, so I figured that one year of picturing a female God would at least begin to bring some balance to my thirty years of male God. For this year, when I pray, I will try to focus on God's feminine characteristics. When someone uses male pronouns for God, I will change them to female pronouns in my head. I say "in my head" because being a gay Christian makes me edgy enough, and I want to keep building bridges like Sarah Bessey, so I will refrain from publicly referring to God as "She" for now. Maybe that will be an experiment for 2016...
4. I will practice using social media in ways that don't make me crazy.
I actually have no idea how to do this, so this is more of a confession of un-health and a request for suggestions. Here's the problem: I was barely managing my online life with email, Facebook and blog-reading. Just barely. But then Eric Garner happened, and I realized that my Twitter feed was all over it, while my Facebook feed remained silent on the topic. So now I have taken up tweeting and following Twitter regularly, and guys, it's pushing me over the edge. The digital chatter is constant and hard to escape. Every time I dip my toes into the online stream I feel swept away by its current. When I see unread blogs, tweets, or Facebook posts, my brain treats them like things on my to-do list, and reading them is like checking them off, which becomes addictive. I am not ready to give up social media altogether - not only do I use it for work, but I learn a lot from the blogs and tweets I read, and I depend on Facebook to keep up with people I love who live far from me. I know I want to unplug and stay offline on my Sabbath, but what other practices do you guys suggest to keep healthy daily checks and balances on social media?