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Articles and reflections to support your life and faith from pastors, staff, and members of St. Philip the Deacon.

Inspired Intentions for 2021

By Amanda Berger

(This article first appeared in our Inspire magazine in Winter 2019. Given the current world situation it may be difficult to pursue some of the suggestions in person, but many of the things suggested below can be done at home, through virtual experiences or online classes.)

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” -Romans 12:2

Let’s face it: when it comes to New Year’s resolutions most of us give up before we even start. Resolutions of losing weight, exercising more or spending less time with our technological gadgets are well-intentioned, but aren’t really much fun and seldom last more than a couple of weeks at best.  While self-improvement is a noble aim, especially as we seek to renew and transform our hearts and minds to be more like Jesus, if those resolutions are lackluster or require more time and energy than we have at our disposal, we are destined to fail.

Beginning in 2004, I set out to make my New Year’s resolutions fun. For over 15 years, I’ve not only accomplished a crazy amount of lifetime goals, but had fun doing it. So, in no particular order, here are my top 5 favorite resolutions:

  1. Get to know your city. Each week, take yourself on a “date.” Visit a new shop, restaurant, garden, park, coffee shop, library, or museum. Explore things that are a little outside your comfort zone and neighborhood. Keep a little journal and note the place and your impressions. You won’t regret this adventurous time for yourself, and when family comes to visit or friends are looking for ideas of things to do, you will become their go-to person for exploring the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. 
  2. Try a hobby that has always sparked your interest. Pottery? Sailing? Cooking? Swing dancing? Weaving? Curling? All of these activities and so many more are easily available through local organizations and community education classes. It’s typically affordable and requires a low commitment. If you totally fall in love with it, then you can find ways to dig deeper into it through connections you make in your class.
  3. Spend a year living in a foreign country. Ok, so not really. But you can still take a year to read about a country, cook their food, learn a little of the language, enjoy their films and literature, and take advantage of local options to explore that culture. For example, imagine yourself living in St. Petersburg, Russia. Visit the Russian Museum of Art, enjoy dinner at Moscow on the Hill, learn to make borsht, read some Dostoyevsky, enjoy the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s performance of Prokofiev and watch the Nutcracker Ballet. This can easily be done with pretty much any country, especially because we live in such a beautifully diverse metro area.
  4. Embrace a new spiritual practice. It’s easy to fall into predictable patterns in our relationship with God (just like any other relationship, eh?) So, what would it look like to shake things up a bit? Invest in a new daily devotional book, work with a spiritual director or go on a retreat. Commit to worship at a new time each week (each of our worship services at SPD are so different!). Sign up for a bible study or class for the first time, or trying a creative spiritual practice like praying in color or Bible art journaling. Maybe your heart longs to try out combining faith with movement like our Yogafaith classes. The options are endless for deepening our spiritual lives, and inevitably will lead to new friendships with other believers as well.
  5. Create a standing date once a month for a whole year. We all know that investing in relationships is worthwhile, but gets placed on the back burner when life gets busy. Consider implementing a standing date with someone that you want to invest in. If they’re local, try to meet up in person. If they are far away, a phone or video chat will do as well, but make it consistent. Carve out that time to connect and you’ll look forward to it the rest of the month.

Use your imagination. What speaks to you and your interests? Consider reading a favorite author’s entire oeuvre.  Go see live music every Friday night. Commit to walking everywhere you go within 3 miles of your home. Start a bridge club. Learn to make French pastry. The options are endless and not only feed your body, heart and soul, but also make you a more interesting person.


 Tips for Accomplishing Your Goals

  • You don’t have to start now or do them all at once. You have the whole year to try things, so it’s okay to wait until March, July or October to start.
  • Break down big goals. If attempting a big or ambiguous resolution, like “simplify my home,” can you break that down into six do-able steps? For example, deep clean one room each month. Throw out faded or broken Christmas decorations as you put them away in January. Once a week, declutter and organize a drawer or closet. Have a garage sale. Try a buying fast for 30 days. Hire someone to clean the windows. Now, space these tasks out over the course of several months.
  • Take a break and come back to it. So you miss a few days or get sidetracked for a month. Who really cares? No one is grading you. Jump back in with something especially fun.
  • When you’re done, you’re done. Maybe you imagined living into your resolution for the whole year, but now it’s September and you’re over it. It’s okay. Be done. Whatever you did was more than you had at the beginning of the year, so congratulate yourself on choosing a fun resolution and sticking to it.

One Word Practice

Some people choose a single word to give shape and meaning to the year ahead. Words like peace, release, listen, nurture, love–so many others!–can provide a guide and touchpoint for determining your practices and commitments for the year ahead.  If you need help discovering your one word, Amanda recommends Susannah Conway’s Find Your Word. (Admittedly, it can be a little “new age-y” at times, but her process and questions are so, so good!)  Then, use the link below to download a devotional created by Pastor Cheryl Mathison and Amanda Berger to help you word through the first few weeks of the new year with your one word.

One Word Devotional


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“It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”

Maya Angelou