New Year

The group, This Beautiful Republic, recorded a song by the same name.  The song is about someone going through a lack of trust with a loved one.  The lyricist tells the person to put his or her trust in Jesus and begin a new life in the New Year.  Good advice!

The New Year exemplifies new beginnings and along with it comes the infamous New Year’s resolutions.  You can’t turn on your television without seeing countless commercials for weight loss systems or products to help you stop smoking.  Sale flyers are offering great deals on work out wear and exercise equipment.  Fitness centers and gyms across the US are signing up new customers by the droves.

Ads run non-stop to help you organize everything from your closet, your home, and your life. Last night I saw a commercial that floored me.  A client wrote a professional home organizer that she didn’t didn’t know what to do now that her whole house was organized. The home organizer told her they could remain friends.  The client’s solution, however, was to buy a new and larger home so the organizer could organize it. Wow!  Even the organizer was stunned.

Exercising, losing weight, stop smoking, removing clutter, among others are all wonderful resolutions and will definitely help with lowering stress levels and improving your physical health, but have you ever thought about your spiritual health?  I guarantee you’ll never see a celebrity pitching a spiritual diet of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and good works.  No special plans by Jenny or a pitch from Marie or Oprah on how a daily dose of talking to God will improve your overall wellbeing or how a daily act of simple human kindness can improve another’s life as well as your own.

There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people suffering from poor spiritual health, and I’m not talking about atheists.  There are many believers who know something is missing in their lives and they don’t know what it is or how to find it.  For many the cure is to keep buying and spending their way to happiness, yet that doesn’t seem to fill the void so they keep searching for the newest widget or trend (much like the woman who bought the bigger home so the professional organizer could keep coming).  For others it’s much worse.

So where to begin?  Believe it or not there are many people who do not know how to pray.  As with all resolutions it’s best to start simple.  Start with a daily Lord’s Prayer, add a Hail Mary or pray a daily Rosary.  They claim if you do something daily for a year you’ll keep with it.  Once you have a set routine add something new.  It doesn’t have to be a standard prayer.  Share your day with Jesus.  Tell Him your problems.  Share your dreams.  Ask for His help.  Pray for others.

Need help starting a prayer life?  Talk to your pastor.  I’m sure he has a starter plan for you.  Another recommendation, see the film The War Room.  No, it has nothing to do with traditional war but a great deal to do with spiritual warfare and the power of prayer.  Write down your prayers.  Go to your quiet place and talk to God about them.  You will be surprised how the stress of the day lifts away.

If you don’t attend Sunday service, start—this Sunday.  Excuses like I don’t have time, or I have to work, just don’t hold up anymore.  Catholics have services on Saturday afternoon or evening.  On Sunday you can attend very early morning, mid-morning, or late morning Mass and some parishes offer a late afternoon Sunday Mass for people who party hardy on Saturday nights.  You can usually find a Mass that meets your schedule.

If you feel like the parish you’re attending doesn’t suit your style, then perhaps your New Year’s resolution is to search for one that does.  Some of the best advice I received was if your priest is not teaching scripture and church doctrine, get up from the pew, walk out, and find one who does.  While the elements of the Mass are universal, every parish has its own character.   If you’re “old school” then search for a church that offers a weekly Tridentine High Mass or Latin Mass.  From huge pipe organs, pianos, and guitars to orchestral choirs to children’s choirs, music at Mass is the same yet diverse.  Traditional to modern—cathedral to tiny church on the prairie—God is present.

Another aspect to improving your spiritual health is connecting with others, and I don’t mean on Facebook.  There is nothing like interacting with real people.  Every parish is made up of parishioners.  The people in your community have much more to offer and they usually come from all walks of life.  Some may share interests with you while others do not—variety is the spice of life.  Chances are you could share a pew with a bank executive, a janitor, a school teacher, or a truck driver.  Everyone is equal in God’s eyes; and all agree that Jesus is their Lord and Savior and the parish is the heart of their community.

Along with connecting to other humans is the rewarding aspect of giving them a hand up when they’re down. This is not exclusive to folks in your church but to anyone in your community.  From buying a police officer walking the beat a cup of hot coffee to volunteering at a local food bank to shoveling snow or mowing the lawn for an elderly neighbor, or driving a cancer patient to their doctor appointment, it doesn’t cost much to do something nice for someone else.

All this takes me back to that client who felt a void after her home was completely organized.  Instead of checking her spiritual gauge to fill the gap, she bought another home just so the organizer could stay in her life.  That person is looking for something, somebody who doesn’t leave when one job is done.  That someone is Jesus.

Last Christmas, my daughter gave me a small box.  It wasn’t expensive but inscribed on the top it read, “Mom, Pray More—Worry Less”.  Inside the box was a tiny notepad and pencil.  The plan is to write down every worry I have on the notepad, leave it in the box, and pray on it.  What a great way to start a spiritual health plan.  The best thing about it is you don’t have to wait for anything to be delivered, no sweating or starving involved, and no monthly membership.  It doesn’t get any better than that!

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