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New Year

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2013! I hope that, as you read this newsletter, you are filled with hope and expectation for the year that lies ahead. We have been through the busy and holy season of Advent. We have experienced the joys, disappointments, exhaustion and euphoria of Christmas. And now we find ourselves stepping out (or plunging headlong, depending on your perspective) into a new year.

Since it’s the beginning of a new year, I’m sure many of you have made a few New Year’s Resolutions. Maybe you plan to exercise more. Or pray more. Or read more. For my part, I haven’t sat down and composed a formal list of resolutions, but there are a few things I’ve decided to commit to here at the beginning of 2013. If you don’t mind, I’ll share a few of them with you so that maybe you can hold me accountable.

For starters, I plan to eat more slowly and mindfully. It may sound strange to start with that one, but yesterday I had the privilege of participating in an interfaith scripture study, and our topic was food. Our small group of Jews, Christians and Muslims shared what our faith teaches us about eating. Of course, we Christians don’t have dietary laws like our Muslim and Orthodox Jewish friends do. But our shared discussion reminded me that eating is a sacred act. We are not meant to gobble down our food without tasting it or without gratitude. So I ask myself, do I see each meal as an opportunity to be grateful to God and to enjoy the tastes of God’s good creation? Do I make an effort to eat real food instead of processed foods whose origins I know nothing about? This year I plan to be more intentional and mindful about food.

Another goal I have is to write more personal notes. By hand. I love receiving notes from people and to know that they have taken the time and effort to sit down with a pen and to think about what they want to say. I want to take the time to write thank you notes or “thinking of you” notes. “Poking” someone on Facebook just doesn’t cut it.

I’m going to stop (or try hard to reduce) multi-tasking. There is no way that I can listen carefully to someone on the phone and also check my email. Or listen to my children and fiddle with Facebook. Or ponder the Scriptures and work on my to-do list. Maybe others can give their full attention to two things at once, but I can’t.

This list of resolutions may seem odd and disconnected, but in fact they have something in common: Each one invites me to slow down, to be mindful, to be fully present. Each one is actually a spiritual practice. It’s a spiritual discipline to be fully present to the person, the food, the note or the task that God has placed in front of you. And it’s not easy. For me, at least. But, with God’s help, 2013 can be a year, as the 17th century monk Brother Lawrence said, for “practicing the presence of God.” May it be so for all of us.