A few years ago, I picked up the practice of choosing a “word-of-the-year” or intention as opposed to making annual resolutions. It’s simple. Just choose a word to explore from all aspects throughout the year – how does the dictionary define the word; how does scripture apply the word; how does the word work in your life, and a myriad other ways to dissect and study one word. Before you give me credit for such a fabulous idea, I stole it from a friend, but feel free to appropriate the idea for your own use.
Frankly, I never really took resolutions too seriously. Diets, exercise, and bullet journals sound great until you try to put them into practice. At that point, they just become tedious. When results do not appear immediately, the flimsiest of excuses will divert
us me from our my best intentions.
As such, I went through a phase when I purposefully set ridiculous resolutions. In 2010, I resolved to learn to accessorize. Yes, that is nearly as petty as it sounds. Nearly ten years later, all I can show for my efforts are a couple of belts and a basket full of winter scarves. In 2012, I resolved to drink more coffee and more martinis. Low bar. Wildly successful – depending upon how you define “success.”
An intention is different. A word becomes a year-long quest to explore and to learn. It’s more like a game than an assignment – more task-oriented than result-oriented.
Resolutions for years 2013 through 2015 were quite unremarkable as I can’t even recall what they were. When I took up the word game in 2016, things changed. In 2016, I chose “faith.” In 2017, my word was “me too,” before #metoo was popular and with a different meaning. In 2018, I embarked upon exploring “gratitude” and was mildly successful. Whereas resolutions tend to repeat, words are more apt to change each year. Better yet, they can complement and enhance one another over time.
Feeling as if I could have done a better job with “gratitude” this past year, I rummaged for a word that would reinforce “gratitude.” Becoming increasingly aware of how important it is to be present, my word for 2019 is “mindfulness.”
I’m going to admit right up front that I am appropriating this word from popular psychology and Eastern philosophy – where they tend to define it loosely along the lines of “non-judgmental awareness of the present moment.” (mindspirit.com) Even more incorrigible, I plan to tweak it for my own purposes because I need a singular word that encapsulates my intention for the year.
Whereas mindfulness in Eastern philosophy is about being present in the moment so that ultimately one can transcend this world and become one with the “All” or the “sacred,” I worship a bigger and better-defined God. Where followers of certain Eastern philosophies are trying to transcend or escape this world, being present for me is a matter of reflecting mindfully my God back into this world. In other words, my ultimate assignment is not to escape this world but rather to help to illuminate my God within this world.
It’s a lofty word/intention for 2019, but you can see how it is intertwined with “faith,” “me too,” and “gratitude” and a logical step toward taking all of those intentions to new levels.
Maybe, I’d be better off resolving to eat more kale or to man the elliptical for thirty minutes at least three times a week.
A funny thing happened almost as soon as I settled upon an intention and began to explore what that might look like over the course of the year, I immediately felt under attack. Yes, literally under attack. At the precise moment I begin thinking about being present so that I can become more grateful and connect more deeply with God and others – I was swallowed into a vortex of chaos and urgency. Coincidence?
I think not.
Breezy comments about “being under attack by the enemy” used to make me cringe. My mind would shrug off such clichés as spiritual rugs under which the self-righteous could sweep the messiness of life and keep marching. My sincere apologies for every time I secretly sneered at a declaration of spiritual assault. We are under attack. And like bacteria feeds on sugar and water, the enemy thrives in an environment of discord, disorder, and detachment. He uses distraction so cleverly that we forget that we are under attack and even scoff when others acknowledge the state of affairs.
So, my response is to make a real effort to tone down the discord, disorder, and detachment in favor of being mindful of my God in all circumstances and being present with my family, friends, and others.
Sadly, I must report that the enemy has taken Round 1. My friend, Jane, from whom I stole this brilliant word-intention concept had surgery yesterday. Weeks ago, I had put it on my calendar to remind me to check on her. It was important enough to me that I took the effort to note it in my calendar so that I wouldn’t have an excuse for forgetting. I failed. I didn’t check in with her until I had gotten a text from her that the surgery went well. Yikes! Not very present or mindful at all.
I wish that I could tell you that I took Round 2. Alas, no. I was late posting this blog entry. My self-imposed deadline for posting new entries is once a week – on Thursday at 5:44 p.m. (Central). I missed my deadline this week because I was under spiritual attack. Every attempt that I made to complete my draft was met head on – emails, phone calls, text messages “demanding” my urgent attention. Some of the enemies “weapons” were less worthy – Victoria and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel are getting so much hype. Once I missed my “deadline,” I even considered just letting this week go. I missed the deadline. What was the point? No one will notice. There’s always next week.
As the enemy sensed victory and slithered off to attack someone else, two things happened. First, I was reminded that some people actually follow this little blog. That’s not my doing. When I send my weekly posts into cyberspace, I pray that God will have them land where they need to be seen – where He wants these words used. In 2018, over 6,000 visitors from nearly 60 countries visited the blog. That’s a mind-boggling response to my humble prayers. There must be something in this mess of a blog that the enemy doesn’t want someone to hear.
Second, I received a phone call from my brother sharing a story about a friend of his, an elderly man who is gravely ill. My brother learned of his friend’s condition through a chance “pocket dial.” (This is one of the many reasons why I’m not God. I’d never in my providence think to use a misdialed phone to connect people in need – but our God did.) My brother and sister-in-law have been able to visit with his friend. During the visits, they learned that the friend is a non-believer. Even so, his friend accepted their offers to pray over him.
What does this have to do with my missed deadline? Everything. I don’t know if the prayers prayed over my brother’s friend changed his heart – but I was reminded – “better late than never.” God’s timing can’t be thwarted by the enemy’s attempts to delay us.
Like the thief who hung next to our Lord at Calvary grabbed a last-minute ticket to paradise, it’s never too late for us to take steps that will lead us closer to God. It’s never too late to answer God’s call in our lives. It’s never too late to pray for a friend. And, better late than never when you miss your blog’s “deadline.”
Dear Father, whatever our resolutions may be for this new year, help us to stay focused on what really matters. Send your Spirit to guide us ever closer to You. Let us be ever mindful of the example set by your Son, Jesus. May we be present in each moment so that we can connect with the needs of others and be prepared to meet those needs.
Armor us for battle against the enemy. When the enemy takes a skirmish against us, remind us that we CAN always go home again. Remind us that we are better late than never to take that first step.
Father, we thank you for bringing Jane through her surgery safely and we pray for her continued recovery. We also thank you for the chance to pray over a friend who is likely to leave this life sooner rather than later. We pray that he will be with You in paradise when his time comes. Only You hold the power to move in his heart (and ours) but thank You for blessing us with the chance to plant seeds of faith in every heart we meet.