My message at our contemplative service for January 28, 2018. I did not write this sermon down, but the same gist is here.
Well, we’re at the end of January, and I’m wondering how many of you made New Year’s resolutions? If you made them, how many of you have kept those resolutions? Research tells us that about 40% of the population make these resolutions and a few weeks later, less than 10% are actually still working on them.
Given those statistics, I was so glad when a friend introduced me to “setting intentions” several years ago. An intention is the commitment you make to carry out an action or a goal. It is not the goal, or the resolution, itself–it is the actually commitment to the process.
At the end of 2017, I reflected back on how I spent my free time. You see, with Hayley leaving for college in August, I thought I would have a lot of extra time to engage in activities of my choosing. When I meditated on that, however, I realized that I couldn’t really put my finger on any one activity, practice, or accomplishment that had been made on behalf of my self care.
One of the intentions I set for early 2018 was to revisit my self care and spiritual practices and create a mindful approach to both.
Being a lover of all things office supply-ish, I began searching for just the right planner that would help me organize this intention. I will admit that I do love to start with paper planners at the beginning of a new year but by the end of January or so, they end up sitting on my side table in my meditation room.
I spent considerable time looking for a planner that included more than a professional approach and would offer me the guidance I was seeking. And, ta-da! I found that in the InnerGuide planner.
It begins with a self assessment about your intentions for your life and then transitions you into monthly (and weekly) intentions focusing on your life goals. Every month has one page divided into various sections (personal life, career, home, family/friends, play, etc.) with just a few lines. It is there where I list my commitments for the month.
Last week, I was sharing with my spiritual director how much I valued this tool. When I have pockets of time, I open my guide up to that page and it reminds me of the commitments I’ve made in all aspects of my life. Maybe that 5 minutes can be used to write a personalize birthday card, or that 20 minutes can be spent in centering prayer. I expressed to my spiritual director that it was giving the structure I needed to live meaningfully.
When I noted that, Katie looked at me and said, “I know this word brings with it negative connotations at times, but what I hear is that the planner provides discipline.” She then told me a story about a friend who, after sitting with the word “discipline” for awhile, developed her own definition for the word: remembering what we want.
By remembering what we want, we are more likely to follow through on our intentions. And so, my discipline of handwriting birthday cards draws me into closer meaningful connection with friends and family. My discipline of centering prayer encourages me to return to the God within and listen for that quiet wise voice.
As we commit to new aspects of our spiritual formation, setting intentions and applying spiritual disciplines creates the fertile sacred space where our relationship with the Creator can grow.
Thomas Merton, Trappist monk and contemplative, created a prayer that captures the importance of intention as part of our spiritual life. He notes that God sees and appreciates our desire to do God’s will just as much as the action itself. I’ll close our message with this prayer and then invite you to engage in our three prayer stations.