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A brand-new year has begun. What will it become? Will it be a blessing or a struggle? Chances are it will be both. How should we approach the next 12 months?

Maybe the best thing to do in this new year is remembering the practices of Christians through the centuries. Practices that go back to the early days of our faith. Practices of prayer, meditation, focused reading of the Bible, and living compassionately.

We all pray at various times of the day. We pray at church. The typical type of pray practiced is when we ask God to act in some manner to help those hurting, or sick, or in need. This is a good practice to maintain. However, we could add another dimension to our prayer life, the practice of listening to God. Early Christians would repeat a short phrase over and over to focus their minds in order to actively listen in their prayers. Phrases like “Lord Jesus, forgive a sinner like me.” Once your mind in calmed, you let your mind be open to the guidance that God may provide.

Meditation can begin in the same manner as the praying described above. It can also be accomplished by focusing on the flame of a candle and listening. In many ways, meditation is a way to pray, to open yourself to the presence of God around you. At various times during worship, I “center” myself by closing my eyes and envisioning my feet sinking into the floor like tree roots seeking the Earth God created. Then I imagine reaching upward toward God and being open to the flow of God’s presence through all of us.

Focused Bible readings are different than just reading selections of passages, but rather reading small sections repeatedly. Select a special passage for you and as you read it over and again, stress the first word, then the second, and so on through the entire passage. But rather than reading it one time right after another, pause between each reading and think about the meaning of the passage with the new understanding of the focus being on a new word. Don’t rush this, let each reading settle in your thoughts and understanding, then go to the next time through stressing a new word.

Finally, we come to living compassionately. This goes beyond being nice to other people. It means being aware of how everything we do has an impact on the world and people around us. As we are the stewards of all that God created, we need to act responsibly toward every-one and everything that God has made. We cannot “fix” everything and everyone. We can examine how we treat the people around us. We can examine what we throw away and waste. We can do better to respect that which God created.

Maybe these tools will impact how we review the year 2018 next January.

Shalom, Darrell

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