Happy New Year’s! The sound reverberates through the world signaling a new beginning. I feel the weight of last year’s unkept resolutions lift off my shoulders and sail into the hope that this year will be different. It’s time to start over with a clean white sheet of new days brimming with possibilities.

I know I can make changes. I know I can be better. Perfect? No, but better. I don’t want to write down any shackle resolutions that bind me to feelings of guilt when I fail. I just want some sure-fire, baby-step principles that will lead to incremental change designed to keep me pointed in the right direction.

It’s not where you are on the road of progression; it is the direction and speed at which you travel that makes the difference. As I grow older, I realize that slow is okay. You don’t have so far to go to change direction if you get off on the wrong road. Aesop’s “Tortoise and the Hare” still has merit. I find the faster I go, the more I must clean up and pick up.

I have precious little time to go back and do things over that should have been done right the first time. Here are four principles that, if followed, are guaranteed to make the new year the happiest yet:

1. Pray with purpose. It is easy to fall out of bed on your knees and pray the usual shopping list of wants and needs and send up a few token thank yous, but to kneel before the Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, the mighty King, to praise and have a true conversation is a whole different thing.


If you are like me, you don’t always get that image in your mind before you start to talk. Praying with a purpose means you spend a few minutes getting your mind right. Think about what it would really be like if you were kneeling at the throne of Jehovah. What would you thank Him for? What would you ask Him? What if you knew you could ask Him anything and He would answer? What would you ask? Would you take time to listen for the answer?

I am guilty of just asking and jumping up, and I’m on my way. How can you have a conversation with someone who never waits for a response? No wonder sometimes we don’t feel God is really there for us. Are we really there for Him? How would really listening and expecting answers change your life? From experience, I know listening for answers makes all the difference. Do I pray like that all the time? No, and I think I have missed out.

Those spiritual whisperings will change your life. The Lord means it when He says, “Ask and ye shall receive.” Sometimes the answer comes while you are on your knees as a whisper in your mind. Sometimes you hear it in the sermon on Sunday or from the lips of a friend, but it comes. You just need to be prepared to listen.

2. Read for resilience. Often, I find myself in a rut digging deeper and deeper. I fix the same breakfast, clean my house in the same pattern and I have the same political and social conversations with the same people. I crawl into the same side of the bed every night and say the same ritual, “I love you” to my husband, and wake up to do it all over again.

You could set your clock to the ways and patterns in which I live my life. Flexibility and resilience are an afterthought. I don’t recognize how set in my ways I am until something or someone shakes up the routine. This certainly isn’t the childlike character Jesus was alluding to when He counseled us to become like little children. Children are curious, inventive and flexible.

They go from one bump on the head to the next and still get up and go back for more. They experiment and grow with the adventure of living. As a grandma, I am not as apt to rush around to have an adventure on every corner like a child, but I can read. Reading allows you to have a safe adventure without the hard knocks of life.

Someone else has already been there and done that. You can benefit from their experiences. Self-help books have adventures built-in. They give you new perspectives and help you put on a new you. The scriptures are the ultimate self-help books. Reading them will help you walk in newness of life if you search for and apply the principles they teach.

3. Face-to-face. Face-to-phone, face-to-television or face-to-tablet have become normal human positions. You can walk through a café and see people sitting together without seeing phones staring up at them. They must be interrupted to take the order. Teens sit in the same room and text each other. Children pound on their parents’ knees for attention, only to get a brush of the hand and a firm “don’t bother me now” reception.

Children stare in wonderment at the contraption that is more important than anything else. I wonder if we are quickly losing face-to-face communication altogether. I remember when speaking to another person with eye contact was paramount. It showed you were honest and a person of integrity. You read the emotional patterns on the face and in the body language.

You knew when people were pleased and when they were not just by the light in their eyes and the set of their shoulders. Now we must see it on Facebook in emoticons before we know how a person is feeling. Face-to-face communication is a gift. It is the pathway to charity which is one of the greatest gifts of God.

Put away the phone when you are talking to someone. Make sure they see and feel your listening ear, not just notice your physical presence.

4. Finally, gratitude for grace. Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary describes grace as “the unmerited favor of God toward man.” Daily, we experience grace from God. The morning sun rises to light the world with God’s grace. The stars spatter the sky at night with the grace of God. Our eyes are filled with light and we see the miracles of God all around us.

Every flower, tree and animal upon the face of the earth is evidence of God’s infinite grace. Our bodies, though they grow old, heal and regenerate from disease and wounds. We are able to hear the magical sounds of the world, laughter of a child, music of a magnificent symphony and the babble of a brook as it churns and tumbles over the rocks toward the sea.

God’s gifts are everywhere. We cannot count them or measure the infinite worth of each one, yet they are all evidence of His matchless grace. Gratitude for God’s grace brings humility as we realize that without His grace we are nothing. It isn’t enough to pray a shopping list prayer and give a token thanks.

For us to experience lasting change, we must recognize God’s grace in our lives. We must enumerate our blessings and tell Him we appreciate His goodness. We must allow Him to make changes in our heart and express gratitude for the changes. Why? So God can feel better about us? No, so we can feel better about God. When gratitude fills our heart, we feel the presence of God and His love towards us.

We are the ones who need to recognize our progress and build upon the changes as God gives them to us. It is easy to express and feel grateful for all the wonders of God’s good grace, but it is quite another thing to be grateful for challenges which are God’s grace in disguise. No one wants to feel pain, but pain is a magnificent teacher.

From pain, we learn to appreciate the absence of pain and have empathy for those who must live with it daily. From our trials, we learn to use our problem-solving skills and realize our dependence on God. If we never had a trial, we would never learn to walk. It is the falling and getting up that makes a child strong enough to run.

In every trial, there is a hidden plan for progression and chance to get to know our Maker. And that is what it’s all about: progression, not resolutions.  end mark