The season of Epiphany is a season of beginnings. It starts in January, the month when popular culture invites us to consider changes we want to make in our lives. Many of us who try keeping New Year's resolutions know how easy it is to lose track of our goals. Successful resolution-keepers often use one or more of these strategies:
- Keep in mind your longest-range hopes and and dreams, and make sure your short-term resolutions support that long-term vision. If your deepest dream is to teach children, that dream can help you stick to a short-term decision to investigate ways to return to school in the evenings or weekends.
- Find people who can support you in your hopes and dreams. Sometimes our best cheerleaders come from our own households, but sometimes we also need support from friends or even from relative strangers gathered together in purposeful support groups.
- Find positive ways to think about the changes you want to make. A resolution of "eating more fruits and vegetables, and taking a walk each day," is easier to keep than a resolution of "losing weight."
- Think of your efforts as experiments. Are they working for you? If not, what can you learn from these small setbacks? Sometimes we find out that our goals are unrealistic, or do not meet our deepest needs. Sometimes we find out that we need help if we want to make changes.
With your household . . .
- of children: Try a weekly family meal that has as its goal supporting one another in love and hope. You may want to start the meal with singing and prayer and to end with a round of praise for each other. For the latter, ask one person at a time to sit quietly, while the other family members take turns saying what they like about that person. End with a favorite family activity, like a walk to the nearest ice cream stand.
- of long-distance relatives of children (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.) can: Learn about one special interest each child has and find long-distant ways to support that interest. A little boy who dreams of owning his own horse might delight in hearing a favorite horse story read aloud to him, one chapter each week. A girl who's fascinated by dinosaurs might enjoy getting letters with clippings of the latest dinosaur discoveries.
- of adults or adults and teenagers: Try a scripture walk together. Read the week's Sunday gospel, then walk together in silence for 15-20 minutes. Spend the silent time thinking over the words of the gospel. When you get back, share your reflections. What words appealed to you the most? startled you? puzzled you? What good changes could you imagine if you acted on these words?
- of a single adult: Try meditative reading of a gospel passage. Say the words of the passage very slowly, pausing at least a second between each word. Let the sound of the words take shape in you. What words do you find yourself naturally drawn to? Repeat these words several times. As you go about your day, let some of the words come to mind as a reminder of your prayerful reading. Create a new response to the reading: rewrite a passage, or make a collage, poster or banner based on favorite words of scripture.
Try acting on a new household plan. Is there a place the household wants to travel to? a ministry you wish to do together? Brainstorm ways you could gather information, plan and make a dream come true. Consider ways to explore new hopes and dreams during the coming year. Adapt one of the restful, reflective practices suggested by Wayne Muller in his book Sabbath (Bantam Books, 1999).
Living the Good News is an online, lectionary-based curriculum for all ages.