As we near the end of 2016, many of us are looking ahead to the new year. You may be planning, setting goals, or considering your New Year's Resolutions. As you think about the upcoming year, I encourage you to welcome God into that process. Consider what he is inviting you into for this upcoming year. How are you making space for your spiritual growth? What resources or rhythms do you need in order thrive with God? Take some time to listen to God and your soul as you look ahead to 2017.
Here are 10 resources that can help you launch into a great new year and thrive with God.
1. The Wheel of Life.
The Wheel of Life is a tool that helps you reflect on your current life, and identify changes you want to make in order to thrive. Click here for a tutorial and free Wheel of Life worksheet packet.
2. Read a book that will ignite your spiritual growth.
A great book has the power to influence our spiritual trajectory, and lead us into new insights and encounters with God. Here is a list of 10 Great Books to Ignite Your Spiritual Growth - I highly recommend every one of these books.
3. Go on a spiritual retreat.
Taking an extended time of silence and solitude with God can be an incredible place of spiritual nourishment and renewal. Here is a simple step-by-step Guide to Taking a Spiritual Retreat. Spiritual retreats take a bit of planning, but they are totally worth the investment of time and energy. I try to take 1 or 2 spiritual retreats every year, and they have become foundational in my relationship with God.
4. Join the Spiritual Journeyers Facebook Group.
I host and lead this group, and it is a great place to receive guidance and connection for your faith journey. People can freely participate in the group discussions, and we often share our struggles, breakthroughs, and prayer requests with each other. Click here to join the Spiritual Journeyers FB group.
5. Meet with a spiritual director.
My monthly conversations with a spiritual director are a vital place for my own spiritual growth. She and I pray together, talk about what God is doing in my life, and discern together how to respond to God. If you are looking for a spiritual director, I'd love to meet with you. You can read about the spiritual direction services I offer here. I currently have the availablity for a handful of new clients.
6. Create a new Rhythm For Life.
A rhythm for life is a simple statement of personal habits that you choose to practice to intentionally make space for God's presence and voice. The new year is a great time to reassess your current spiritual rhythms. Ask God to give you a few practices and habits to make space for him.
7. Join the Journeyers Collective.
The Collective is my monthly membership program that invites you into regular spiritual direction with me in a group setting, a private Facebook group, and a members-only library of resources for your spiritual growth. Membership costs $18/mo or $118/yr. You can find out more about the Journeyers Collective here.
8. Put the essential things first.
You alone have the power to choose how you spend your life. Make sure you are doing what is essential to who God has called you to be. As you think about your typical day or week, how can you block out the time and space for what is most important? For more on this, read Why You Need to Master the Art of Saying No to the Nonessentials.
9. Intentionally make time to do life-giving things.
What activities fuel your joy, creativity, and life? Make a list of those things. We often don't give ourselves permission to do these things. For the sake of your soul, create time and space this year to do the things that give you life. Some life-giving things for me are writing, date nights with my husband, weekly exercise, and reading good books. What's on your list?
10. Subscribe to my Notes email newsletter.
I send out a email with practical tools and guidance for your spiritual journey. Think of it as your spiritual director popping into your inbox to say hi and give you permission for your soul to breathe. Want to receive these emails from me? Sign up here.
What action steps are you taking as you plan and vision for 2017? What do you need to help you thrive with God this coming year? Please share in the comments.
If you enjoyed this post, check out these related posts:
10 Practical Ideas For Your Spiritual Growth
How a Spiritual Director Can Help Your Spiritual Growth
How to Create Space to Listen to the Voice of God
This is a continuation of "My Spiritual Practices," a blog series highlighting a variety of people through interviews about their spiritual life and practices.
I love learning from other people, and in particular, learning how they live out their faith in daily life. Each person being interviewed is sharing an intimate look at their lives. For that, I am grateful. My hope is that these interviews will offer us a snapshot of how different people experience God in their lives, and that they might inspire and guide us in our own unique spiritual journeys.
Alan Fadling (M. Div., Fuller Theological Seminary) is President and Founder of Unhurried Living, Inc. in Mission Viejo, CA, inspiring people to rest deeper, live fuller and lead better. He speaks and consults internationally, as well as nationally with organizations such as Saddleback Church, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Cru, Halftime Institute, Apprentice Institute and Open Doors International. He is the award-winning author of An Unhurried Life (IVP 2013), honored with a Christianity Today Award of Merit in spirituality, and a contributing author to Eternal Living: Reflections on Dallas Willard’s Teaching on Faith and Formation (IVP 2015). He is a certified spiritual director, and he lives in Mission Viejo, California with his wife, Gem, and their three sons.
How do you connect with God? What spiritual practices and rhythms do you have?
Perhaps the most important practice for me over the years has been my monthly days of solitude, silence, and prayer. In my busyness, I need spaces set aside that are not measured by productivity, but simply in terms of relationship and rest. I need space to listen since so much of my ministry is about speaking.
I’m also wired as someone nourished by learning, so I love good, solid, spiritual reading. I love finding classics that have stood the test of time and seeing the intersections with my life and my times.
What daily or weekly spiritual practices are most important to you?
Lately, I’ve returned to praying the psalms in the rhythm of the daily office. I especially appreciate Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours. I’m currently praying through the Autumn & Wintertime volume, but there are also Springtime and Summertime volumes. Sometimes I pray through them alone. Sometimes my wife, Gem, and I pray them together. I usually pray them aloud rather than reading them in my head. They return me to praying the hours during my six weeks of training in spiritual direction at the Benedictine Abbey at Pecos, New Mexico.
As for a weekly rhythm, I’ve been deeply grateful for our local church, Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Costa Mesa, CA. I love the integration of the rhythm of the liturgy, of the Christian year, of a focus on spiritual formation in community, of well-rooted preaching and, finally, of the Christ-centered focus of the Eucharist as the high point of the service.
Describe the environment that helps you best connect with God.
I love connecting with God in solitude, but I also love connecting with God in community. I love the focus of being with God alone, and I love the richness of being alone together with God and with others.
Maybe most important for me, it helps to be in a setting in which the focus is on God. I struggle to connect with God in gatherings where human personality and human excitement is the main energy in the room. We Christian leaders can have such a noisy (and maybe even needy) presence when we lead gatherings. It doesn’t help.
What tools or resources help you connect with God?
Journaling has been an important tool for me. I recently wrote my 9,000th journal page. That’s somewhere around six million words. It’s probably obsessive, but it’s also likely my most important way of praying. Walking, literally, with God helps me remain grounded as well.
How have your spiritual practices changed over recent years?
Earlier in my journey, I found that I thrived on a lot of input and interaction with biblical and other spiritual content. Lately, I’ve found it more helpful to go deeper with much less content.
The way I prayed for others in the past was far more structured and intensive as well. More recently, I’m more likely to set aside some time and trust God’s Spirit to bring to mind those for whom I can pray, remembering them in the presence of God’s grace with gratitude.
On days when your schedule changes, are you able to adapt your spiritual practices to fit in with a different environment?
I’m a person most comfortable in predictable structures, so surprises or changes in rhythm are always a challenge. For a number of years now, I’ve been seeking to practice God’s presence moment-to-moment. I’ve found this a very portable and flexible practice.
Do you practice the Sabbath or spiritual retreat? If so, what does that look like for you?
We have not observed a regular weekly Sabbath due to my irregular ministry schedule, but my wife and I regularly set aside monthly overnight retreats at a local retreat center. We get away together. Most of that time is spent alone, but we usually share with one another over meals. I also seek to honor solitude times I’m leading for others rather than “cheating” and using those times to do work. It’s a potential occupational hazard though.
What people or relationships contribute most to your spiritual growth?
Having a spiritual director with whom I can share my journey and process my experience of God continues to be a critical and fruitful relationship. So much of my work is serving others in this role, so having someone who is listening to my life over time is so good. I also enjoy sharing my spiritual journey with my wife. I’ve been grateful for having shared a common spiritual path with one another.
What gets in the way of your spiritual growth?
Mostly me. Just about any self-hyphenated dynamic is usually the issue: self-importance, self-seeking, self-deprecation, you name it.
What do you do when you get spiritually stuck?
Journaling sometimes helps me find my way out of some internal barriers. And though I’m an introvert, I need to talk with trusted friends, share my frustrations, stuck places and such to find perspective.
How do you connect with God through life transitions?
Funny thing about “transitions.” My wife and I found ourselves using that words so often that we decided maybe instead of calling so many moments a “transition,” we’d just decide we were simply on a journey. Journeys are simply a series of transitions strung together.
What is one particular way you’ve experienced God recently?
My favorite moments of witnessing God’s presence, God’s generosity, God’s work is when I facilitate a retreat for a group of leaders. So many Christian leaders are so very busy for God that they don’t make time to simply enjoy God. Seeing the peace and joy on their faces when they rediscover and remember God-with-them is an immeasurable treasure to me.
What bit of wisdom from your own spiritual journey do you want others to know?
Maturity moves in the direction of simplicity. Not necessarily in the direction of ease, but definitely simplicity. Enjoy Jesus. Learn from him. Live what you learn. He’s a genius.
If you enjoyed this post, check out these related posts:
My Spiritual Practices: An Interview With Eddy Ekmekji
My Spiritual Practices: An Interview With Cat Moore
My Spiritual Practices: An Interview With Mark Hage
The Meaning of Advent
Advent is the season in the Christian year of preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Advent is a time to remember our longing and need for a Messiah, as well as look forward to our Savior's second coming. The word "advent" comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning "coming." During the Advent season we wait and hope in prayerful expectation, crying out together, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."
In the midst of holiday celebrations, Christmas carols, and exchanging gifts, Advent is meant to be a time of remembrance. In Advent we remember that we live in darkness and exile. We remember that we are crying out to God to save us. We remember that God promised us a Messiah and a new reign. We remember that the promise to us is Jesus Christ who has come and will come again.
Some people grow up with Advent traditions. For others, the concept of Advent may be new. Observing Advent can not only enrich your celebration of Christmas, but it can also be a powerful, shaping experience in your spiritual growth and relationship with God.
How to Observe Advent
As you prepare for Christmas, you may want to consider observing Advent through the practice of using an Advent wreath. For hundreds of years, Christians have used an Advent wreath and candles to inspire their anticipation and hope for the coming of Christ at Christmas. Through lighting candles, reading from the Bible, and praying, we remember the meaning of Christ's birth, and allow God to prepare our hearts to welcome Christ into our lives.
There is no set meaning for the candles of the Advent wreath, except for the center "Christ candle," which always signifies the birth of Christ. Some people see the candles as pointing to peace, joy, hope, and love. Others may have the candles symbolize key figures in the birth story of Jesus, such as Mary and Joseph, the angels, the wise men, and the shepherds.
I've created a guide for personal, family, or corporate worship that can accompany the lighting of the candles of the Advent wreath. You can use a real Advent wreath and candles, or simply make your own. In the center of the wreath, a white pillar candle like this one can be used. I encourage you to adapt the guide in whatever way fits you and your community best.
Weekly Advent Readings
Click on the links below to print and download. Or click here to sign up and have them sent to your inbox.
Advent Readings and Prayers Week 1: Waiting
Advent Readings and Prayers Week 2: Forgiveness
Advent Readings and Prayers Week 3: Joy
Advent Readings and Prayers Week 4: Coming of Christ
Advent Readings and Prayers: Christmas Celebration
Lord, help us to celebrate the season of Advent, and prepare for the coming of Jesus into our lives.
How do you celebrate Advent? Are there other ways that you prepare for Christmas? Please share in the comments.
Aloha! I'm Larissa. I help others go deeper in the faith journey with God.
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