Tag Archives: new year

The List of Lists: The Best End-of-Year Lists for 2015

e2bea3ef389032a3b8df0afe7f7999c8I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s (and my birthday). So much end-of-the-year reflection! So many lists! (Not to mention Gate of the Year, my new workbook/playbook for you to do your own yearly review and dream about 2016. It went out this morning to my email subscribers. You can still get it here.)

Here are some of my favorite lists of 2015. I’ll be away from the blog until next week sometime, but here’s plenty of goodness to tide you over until then.

The List of Lists: The Best of the Best of 2015

A Colossal Year: The Top Articles of 2015

Colossal has wonderful stories about the arts. Here we have a solar system timelapse, moon lanterns, an overturned iceberg, and more.

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Brain Picking’s 15 Best Books from 2015

I read only 20 books in 2015 (assuming I finish the one I’m currently working on). I’m setting the intent to read at least 26 this year–one every two weeks–and this list provides some great suggestions.

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The Year in Pictures: New York Times

Take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly with this collection. What’s your assessment of 2015?

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28 Pictures That Prove 2015 Wasn’t a Completely Terrible Year

Yes, Buzzfeed made the list of lists. There are some heartening images here. I for one needed them.

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The Top Six Good-News Stories of 2015

Courtesy of the Gates Foundation. America is free of rubella, Africa had a year without polio, and Neil deGrasse Tyson rocks. (Duh.)

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National Geographic: Travel Photos of the Year

I haven’t been able to find the results of their general photo contest–maybe they haven’t been announced yet–but here are their most popular travel photos of the year. Click and daydream.

UPDATE: Here are the winners of the overall contest. Hot off the presses!

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The Most Popular Running Stories of 2015

A personal favorite. You don’t have to be a runner to appreciate these stories–there are some lovely, inspiring pieces here. A 570-pound man ran twenty 5K races this year (as well as a 10K and half a Tough Mudder). If that doesn’t get you off the couch, nothing will.

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And closer to home, here were the ten most read posts here at the Blue Room. Enjoy… and see you in 2016.

Two Christians Talk Faith on Network TeeVee… with No Sky Fairy in Sight: on Stephen Colbert and Joe Biden

On Caitlyn Jenner and Pastoring a Transgender Person

Three Reasons why “Because It’s 2015” Is So Brilliant: thank you Justin Trudeau.

Love All: A Sermon for Advent: this sermon is five years old but it’s consistently one of the top posts each year. Maybe it’s linked from somewhere? I don’t think it’s one of my best but I’m glad it speaks to people.

Question: Why must we still talk about race? Answer: Twelve.

Failure to Adult: this was also one of Christian Century’s top posts.

A Racist Atticus and a Mess of a Book? Bring it On: true confession time, Go Set a Watchman is NOT one of the 20 books I read this year. But here’s why I still hope to.

No, God Doesn’t Have a Plan. But That’s OK

The Parable of the Pizzas: MaryAnn at her most sardonic.

A Christian without a Church

 

Nine Ways to Make New Year’s Resolutions Stick

An update from a previous post.

e2bea3ef389032a3b8df0afe7f7999c8Resolutions get a bad rap. There’s a lot of guilt in play, as people feel like they should make them. Other people make them and quickly break them: more guilt. Still other folks genuinely want to follow through but don’t know how.

As for me, I love looking back and looking forward. And I make resolutions, though I call them something else (see below). Whether I fulfill them or not is really secondary. This year I’ve decided to tackle this Ultimate Reading Challenge. And I’m setting a goal to run 1,000 miles in 2015. That’s about 20 miles a week, and feels ambitious but doable, since I’m running a half marathon in March and the Marine Corps Marathon in October. Training for those two races should put me at 750 easily, unless something happens.

And things do happen. Whether I achieve those goals or not, setting them is the important part for me. It points me in the direction I want to go.

Still, if you want to make some New Year’s goals stick, here are some tips that have worked for me and other people I know:

  1. Set an intention instead. Resolutions have always felt too brittle for me. (After all, when we don’t follow through, we say we broke them.) Intentions are more flexible. Listen to the difference between “I resolve” and “I set the intent.” The former feels like one of Harry Potter’s Unbreakable Vows; the latter points you in a worthwhile direction. Maybe you need the force of the former, but I like the latter because it can bend as our lives shift. And we can set intentions again and again. There’s a reason people in 12 step programs take things one day at a time.
  2. Make it a story. Most resolutions are vague goals that lack context. Donald Miller suggests we come up with stories instead. Stories are compelling, and they take us somewhere. According to Miller’s definition, a story involves a character who wants something and overcomes obstacles to get it. What could be a better framework for a New Year’s improvement project? “Lose weight” is a worthy goal, but without a concrete story to hang it on, it’s too easy to give up. So instead of getting in shape, a story-based resolution might be to complete a road race or do a big hike with friends.
  3. Explore the 5 W’s. In ninth grade journalism class I learned the basics of a news story: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. (Also How.) If you want your resolutions to stick, you need to spend some time with these questions. So you want to cook at home more instead of eating out. Who will support you in this effort, and whom will be impacted by this lifestyle change? What will you do to make this happen? When will you plan, shop and cook? Where will this happen—do you need to de-clutter the kitchen? stock the pantry? And most importantly, Why is it important that you do this? [Update: another way to look at this is to focus not on making goals, but on refining your systems.]
  4. Take things monthly. Gretchen Rubin is a pioneer of this approach. Her book The Happiness Project chronicles a year-long self-improvement project with a different emphasis each month (money, home, family, etc.). Why not pick something modest to work on in January? Then on January 31 you get to celebrate your success (or shrug off your failure) and move on to something new in February.
  5. Pick a word. Many of my pastor friends hand out stars with words on them to their congregations on Epiphany Sunday—I’ve done it myself. These words become a prayer or meditation focus. For folks who find self-reflection tedious, there’s something serendipitous about being given a word to live with for a whole year. (My 2014 word was compassion.)
  6. Let the resolution grow out of a deeper reflection. Ideally, a resolution, intention, or story will grow out of a period of reflecting on the year to come. In other words, don’t go for the same knee-jerk resolution you pick every year—it may not fit your life right now. If you’re about to move across country or get a promotion at work, it’s probably not the right time to take on a new hobby or join that CrossFit class. Or because of those changes, it may be the perfect time to take care of yourself. But the point is, your resolution needs to grow out of a realistic assessment of the year to come. I’ve been using this tool to say goodbye to 2014 and hello to 2015, but there are tons of tools like this on the Internet.
  7. Build in some No with your Yes. I’m convinced that a lot of resolutions fail because people add on habits or practices without taking other things away. So you want to spend 20 minutes each morning in prayer or meditation. OK… but what are you willing to give up in order to make that happen? (Additional sleep? that bleary-eyed early morning Facebook session?)
  8. Tell people. Every December writing group would together for a Christmas luncheon, and we would go around the table and share our writing goals for the coming year. Stating our goals aloud in the company of trusted friends was powerful. We are communal creatures—only the most disciplined among us can make a major life change without any support, encouragement or accountability from friends and family. If you’re one of those rocks or islands that Simon and Garfunkel sang about, congratulations. If you’re like the rest of us, tweet or Facebook your goals. Blog about them. Tell a friend. Heck, tell me in the comments—I will cheer you on!
  9. Take two steps, not just one. This one came from a recent issue of Runners World. According to the Journal of Consumer Research, people who take only one step toward an exercise or weight-loss regimen (like joining a gym) were more likely to engage in activities that were counterproductive (like bingeing on brownies). Meanwhile, their peers who took a follow-up step (working out right after joining the gym) were more likely to stick with their plan. So while Lao Tzu is right that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, don’t neglect the second step either.

What are your hopes for 2015? If you’re not sure where to start thinking, check out my post from earlier this week, What Will Be in 2015?

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Image source

What Will Be in 2015?

The week of New Year’s is one of my favorites of the year. The run-up to Christmas is over but schedules aren’t quite back to normal, so things are quieter, more relaxed. The kids are out of school (though they’ve been driving me a tidge crazy at times). And my birthday so close to New Year’s invites reflection and taking stock.

I love the idea of the new year being a clean slate. I need that every year. (I need it more often than that, actually—thank heaven for the weekly prayer of confession in worship, when we let go of the brokenness and ask that it be healed and renewed.)

As I think about what 2015 might bring to birth in my life, the following video came my way, “Acorn” by Madeline Sharafian. I love the story that’s told in just 4 beautiful minutes. I’m touched by this little acorn’s attempt to fulfill its destiny of “acornness,” yet in its own unique way. That is our human calling, is it not? I heard Jesuit priest and writer James Martin tell Krista Tippett this week:

As [Thomas] Merton said, for me to be a saint means to be myself. …I remember in the novitiate, there was a young novice who would get up in the morning at 6:30 and pray all the time. And I thought well, gee, to be holy, I guess I have to do that. So I’d get up and I’d pray, and I was falling asleep all the time. And then there was another novice who was super quiet, so I thought oh I have to be really quiet, and diffident. And, sort of soft spoken. And my spiritual director said to me, what’s wrong with you? You’re so quiet. I said, well, so-and-so’s quiet. And he’s really holy. And he said, you know, in order to become holy, you don’t become someone else. You just become yourself.

Whether you’re a resolution/intention-maker like me or not, I invite you to watch this in with a seeker’s heart and consider the hard work of transformation and the grace at play as well. What might 2015 hold for you?

As the artist says in her description: “Growing up is hard, but it’s also beautiful. We can do it!” Indeed.

Eight Ways to Make New Year’s Resolutions Stick

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This week marks the end of 2013, the beginning of 2014, and my 42nd birthday. (Yes, as of Thursday my age is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.)

What with the convergence of New Year’s and my birthday, I’ve always been a fan of taking stock, looking forward, and making resolutions. Sometimes I make specific goals. (I’ve even kept one or two!) Other times I have vague resolution-ish thoughts but nothing concrete, and that’s OK too.

Resolutions get a bad rap. There’s a lot of guilt in play, as people feel like they should make them. Other people make them and quickly break them: more guilt. Still other folks genuinely want to follow through but don’t know how.

Here are some tips that have worked for me and other people I know when making plans and hopes for the New Year:

  1. Set an intention instead. Resolutions have always felt too brittle for me. (After all, when we don’t follow through, we say we broke them.) Intentions are more flexible. Listen to the difference between “I resolve” and “I set the intent.” The former feels like one of Harry Potter’s Unbreakable Vows; the latter points you in a worthwhile direction. Maybe you need the force of the former, but I like the latter because it can bend as our lives shift. And we can set intentions again and again. There’s a reason people in 12 step programs take things one day at a time.
  2. Make it a story. Most resolutions are vague goals that lack context. Donald Miller suggests we come up with stories instead. Stories are compelling, and they take us somewhere. According to Miller’s definition, a story involves a character who wants something and overcomes obstacles to get it. What could be a better framework for a New Year’s improvement project? “Lose weight” is a worthy goal, but without a concrete story to hang it on, it’s too easy to give up. So instead of getting in shape, a story-based resolution might be to complete a road race or do a big hike with friends.
  3. Explore the 5 W’s. In ninth grade journalism class I learned the basics of a news story: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. (Also How.) If you want your resolutions to stick, you need to spend some time with these questions. So you want to cook at home more instead of eating out. Who will support you in this effort, and whom will be impacted by this lifestyle change? What will you do to make this happen? When will you plan, shop and cook? Where will this happen—do you need to de-clutter the kitchen? stock the pantry? And most importantly, Why is it important that you do this? [Update: another way to look at this is to focus not on making goals, but on refining your systems.]
  4. Take things monthly. Gretchen Rubin is a pioneer of this approach. Her book The Happiness Project chronicles a year-long self-improvement project with a different emphasis each month (money, home, family, etc.). Why not pick something modest to work on in January? Then on January 31 you get to celebrate your success (or shrug off your failure) and move on to something new in February.
  5. Pick a word. My friend Ruth Everhart chooses a word or phrase to guide her for the year. And many of my pastor friends hand out stars with words on them to their congregations on Epiphany Sunday—I’ve done it myself. These words become a prayer or meditation focus. For folks who find self-reflection tedious, there’s something serendipitous about being given a word to live with for a whole year. (My 2013 word was breathe.)
  6. Let the resolution grow out of a deeper reflection. Ideally, a resolution, intention, or story will grow out of a period of reflecting on the year to come. In other words, don’t go for the same knee-jerk resolution you pick every year—it may not fit your life right now. If you’re about to move across country or get a promotion at work, it’s probably not the right time to take on a new hobby or join that CrossFit class. Or because of those changes, it may be the perfect time to take care of yoursef. But the point is, your resolution needs to grow out of a realistic assessment of the year to come. I’ve been using this tool to say goodbye to 2013 and hello to 2014, but there are tons of tools like this on the Internet.
  7. Build in some No with your Yes. I’m convinced that a lot of resolutions fail because people add on habits or practices without taking other things away. So you want to spend 20 minutes each morning in prayer or meditation. OK… but what are you willing to give up in order to make that happen? (Additional sleep? that bleary-eyed early morning Facebook session?)
  8. Tell people. Every December my Writing Revs get together for a Christmas luncheon, and we always go around the table and share our writing goals for the coming year. Stating our goals aloud in the company of trusted friends is powerful. We are communal creatures—only the most disciplined among us can make a major life change without any support, encouragement or accountability from friends and family. If you’re one of those rocks or islands that Simon and Garfunkel sang about, congratulations. If you’re like the rest of us, tweet or Facebook your goals. Blog about them. Tell a friend. Heck, tell me in the comments—I will cheer you on!

~

One of my resolutions in 2014 is to make better use of my email list—sign up here to receive a free preview of my next book before it is released, information about a Lent online retreat, and other goodies.

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photo credit: Kanko* via photopin cc . I’m told the image says “I wish you a Happy New Year”. And I do.

What’s Your Word for 2011?

I’ve been doing some dreaming and planning for 2011. Last Tuesday was “think day” for church stuff: worship planning, goals, etc. Wednesday was focused on personal life and writing. I do like the reset of a new year to refocus. The fact that the new year coincides with my birthday only reinforces the power of that. I don’t make resolutions, because those seem too rigid. I do set intentions, however. (Heck, I do that monthly, a la Happiness Project.)

One word kept coming up as I thought about 2011, and the word is “rootedness.” With such a busy life and so many demands on my time and energy, staying grounded is an ongoing challenge. It is easy to be “blown about by every wind of doctrine.” Or if not doctrine, then Internet kerfuffles, random anxieties and the crisis du jour.

My personal hopes for 2011 all grew out of that word:

  • rooted in the physical world (more walks outside, regular excursions to hike or explore)
  • rooted in deep relationships (I’m intending to write actual letters this year, and to have more phone conversations, and do less relationships-via-Facebook)
  • rooted in creativity (schedule regular “spirit days,” write the durn book).

I’ve also been playing the word game with the church. The church I used to serve would give out paper stars at Epiphany. Each had a word on it that was the person’s “prayer word” for the year. The words were all over the map: wisdom, peace, harmony.

The idea comes from a friend of mine, Margee Iddings, who recently shared the whole concept, which I love. The pastor thinks about the upcoming year: what the church will be facing, upcoming challenges and such. What virtues or attributes will be needed to face these challenges? Put those words on stars, and have people choose them at random. Then people are invited to find other people who share their word and talk briefly about what that word means to them and other brief questions.

It is often the case that people receive the word they need.

Next year, our congregation will be going through the presbytery’s “transforming congregations” project, making some decisions about what to do with our manse, and thinking about how to increase our connection to the larger community. Here are the words I chose:

  • trust
  • courage
  • compassion
  • risk
  • radiance
  • faith
  • attentiveness
  • joy

What would your word be for 2011?

Image: Epiphany Stars