Celebrating the New Year has always meant a stream of old movies or opening a new book, and of course, getting organized. I guess the best thing about New Year’s is the sense of personal renewal we all feel, making resolutions to better people; physically, financially, and personally. I also feel the blessing of renewal every week we have our Encounter with Christ prayer group. We are constantly seeking to revive ourselves for God and others. Out of love for what we have received from Him who has loved us first, we make weekly commitments to honor Him. I recently wrote of staying in spiritual practice by means of this Spiritual Muscle Memory.
Depending on our temperament, habits, personal life and memory to be truthful, some of these resolutions stick better than others. It depends which one of us you ask and what they have going on that week, but I believe everyone who meets with us on a Thursday morning would agree that we never walk away empty-handed. I went through my “Encounter With Christ” posts for the year, reviewing our resolutions (How we will act and pray for the week at the bottom of each post) and decided to revisit the ones have helped me grow the most and that I continue to practice as a fruit of having made the commitment for the week. Here are my top three for 2018.
One of my most popular posts for the year with a record amount of hits for my blog, probably because of the miraculous ways God permitted us to witness the fruits of our prayers so quickly and so evidently in one day. We prayed a “Nine Hour Novena” to the Infant of Prague for three or four urgent requests and saw dramatic results within hours of our coming together in what was one of the better-attended Encounters we had for the year. The results of a novena are amazing, whether it be 9 days, 9 hours, or even the 9 Memorare prayers in a row as St Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) was known to have used as her “quick novena.” I have used this one throughout the year, whether for a broken heart or a sick child, and saw miraculous results. Thank you Jesus , Our Blessed Mother, and the Saints for these beautiful devotions that have kept my heart close to yours by repetition and practice; a touchstone throughout my day, week and life.
A touching story in which a mother prays Psalm 23 for her addicted son, who was encouraged by an Uber driver as they drove toward a rehab program. Our resolution for the week was to memorize Psalm 23 and keep it handy. I have found that in difficult times, the words to this well-known prayer–which can be also prayed as an act of faith–rolls out of my heart without effort. I sometimes need help finishing the whole Psalm, but I have found the Holy Spirit beginning the prayer in my soul in times of distress, and the first few lines instantly escaping my lips and my heart flying to God my Father. “The Lord is my Shepherd…”
Having relationships in which we can share our faith seemed to be top priority to everyone this year. Not only was it my most popular blog article of the year, but also of all the nearly 200 posts I have written since I started my blog over 9 years ago. I think there is an emptiness we all feel in this world in terms of relationships. We often think other people can fill us up with all that we need, and sometimes, that works for a little while. But more often, after spending time with any one person, no matter how deeply we love them, we eventually recognize it isn’t enough to fill in that empty space somewhere deep inside of us. St Augustine reminded us that our hearts are restless until they rest in God; Blaise Pascal is famously misquoted regarding the “God-shaped hole” in our hearts that only God Himself can fill (a “vacuum” in our hearts for God); but regardless of which direction you take this idea, it seems to land at this: once we have God in our hearts, we need to share Him, and sharing Him with someone who also loves Him seems to be a divine and human intersection of the meaning of our lives. It feels like home. When we find brothers or sisters in faith, we often desire it so strongly for the others we love who are without these relationships. Sometimes misaligned relationships spring up where faith doesn’t exist because people are looking to other people to be what God is supposed to be for them. A phenomenon that is “looking for love in all the wrong places” (sorry, I DO live in Music City…you are gonna get a country song now and then) seems to be epidemic in a life lived without really knowing Jesus. I always quote a dear friend who tells her kids when they are upset, “Go talk to Jesus! I love you and will try to help, but he is the one you need to talk to first”, as she points them to a quiet spot to pray. The bottom line is when you find the alignment of putting God first and then share your faith in a human relationship, it brings together one of the greatest gifts we can experience on this earthly journey, where the human meets the Divine. Quiet prayer first and then sharing your faith in Jesus? Let’s just call it the ultimate resolution for a life-time.
Honorable Mentions: Membership
It wasn’t my favorite read from my own work, but what has probably changed my heart the most over the past year is giving thanks to God in the bad times. Forcing a disposition of gratitude, even if we have to speak it into existence by faith first, has a powerful effect. Nothing breaks off spirits of self-pity, victimization, anger, resentment (and all the fruits of the tree of evil) more than giving thanks and praise to God and His beautiful Son, Jesus Christ, as loud as you can right in the middle of your pain. I received this light so many times this year from conversations, podcasts, books, etc.
Even more effective? Sing your praise! “I Sing You To Me, Mrs. Boss.”
I leave you with my prayer for all who read this and myself for the 2019: may we all rejoice in God and give thanks and praise to Him in the most joyful and the most difficult experiences of our lives, and every moment in between.
My soul magnifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid;
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed;
Because He who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His name;
And His mercy is from generation to generation
on those who fear Him.
He has shown might with His arm,
He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and has exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has given help to Israel, his servant, mindful of His mercy
Even as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.