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Six Simple spiritual goals for a happier new year

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Aleteia: Losing 20 pounds may be more dramatic, but other things will make a bigger impact on your life.
It feels like I’m starting from scratch over and over again. At the start of almost every new year I recommit to daily study. It’s one of the few acts that truly makes a difference in my life the more I do it; I’m more centered and better able to see the big picture when I start or end my day with God’s words. Even when sometimes they are difficult to swallow. Those Israelites I read about who seem to keep forgetting God’s miracles and blessings in their lives? I cringe as I see myself in their complaints to Moses. In 2018, once again I’ll dive in, hoping not to forget how this daily practice helps me.

As you, too, start a new year, take it as a renewed opportunity to set off on a path of spiritual growth and renewal by setting a resolution regarding prayer, obedience, service, example, scripture study, and forgiveness. Let the following quotes from the Bible guide you. It might be less dramatic than the goal of losing 20 pounds, but in the long run, these are the things that will make a larger impact on your life.

Get rid of a pesky habit
Maybe you haven’t gone totally off the rails. But in quiet moments you can probably see where you could use a little improvement. The beauty of a faithful life is that we can be forgiven and try again. Arika Clark of Arizona, with a long history in her dysfunctional family of origin, realized that her goal of marrying a good man in a religious service wasn’t where she was headed. She was dating a guy with radically different standards, someone who was taking her away from her faith rather than making her a better person.

“I realigned myself and committed again,” Arika says. “Jesus Christ suffered so that we could be forgiven for the mistakes we make. I had to remind myself of this — there was no possible way that I was too far off the path, no possible way that I would not be forgiven. God loves us so much that He is willing to forgive every sin we commit, as long as we ask. That was my hardest challenge, I had to ask.” Less than a year after this realization, Arika married a devoted fellow saint committed to the same kind of life she had always hoped for.

Whether you need to work on something small or something big, there is a way forward. Make this year the time to get rid of a pesky habit you know is keeping you from God.

Be more considerate
The holidays may be when you most often think of volunteering and giving, but need isn’t limited to one time a year. Figure out a specific, measurable goal for your efforts to reach out to the less fortunate. That may be financial — a set amount of money each month to a cause in your community. But if you can donate your time in addition to money, that’s the best combination.

And remember that volunteering at a soup kitchen isn’t the only way to do kind deeds. Sometimes it’s just being more considerate of the people around you. Leah Gerling made a resolution to change the way she spoke to herself and other women in her life: to use diction that builds them up rather than tears them down.

“I noticed all these incredible, talented women in my life who speak so terribly about themselves. Why do we do this? They say such negative stuff that they’d never say to anyone else.” I’m such a bad mother, Why can’t I get in shape, I’m so ditzy. All the little comments her friends would say criticizing themselves. Leah made an effort to call people out on their negative self-talk and remind them of all they do. It may not be immediately life-changing, but she’s seeing a way to strengthen the women around her just by paying a little more attention.

Set a good example
I always talk to my kids about being a good example. The job doesn’t go away once you reach adulthood. Audrey Kern of Anchorage, Alaska, has seen how personal connections can make a big difference in the lives of others — especially the elderly.

“A lot of seniors have no human contact during the winter. They’re cooped up at home and maybe only go out once a week or less, like a trip to the post office.” With her five kids, she tries to make eye contact and smile at everyone she sees while they are out running errands. “People need connection,” she says. Even if it is just for a moment. Imagine the light showing through the Kern family’s eyes, reaching out with love and kindness to all around them.

You may not be comfortable talking about your faith, but the way you do things can be just as loud a message in glorifying God. Think of your everyday interactions and figure out a way you can shine your light.

Learn a new verse every month
Liz Demke of Sandy, Utah, chose to learn a scripture verse each month of 2015. Her husband and two kids were less than thrilled about the memorization project, but it seemed manageable. John 3:16 started them out in January. Each night at dinner (or most weeknights at least) they’d practice the verse. On Sunday evening they’d talk about what the words meant and why there were important. “We can’t do a new one every week — that would be way too much work. But I knew I could focus on just one verse that seemed important for our family.” Verses about love have come in handy when sibling rivalry is a problem. The family planned to continue throughout the forthcoming years, and Liz may even let other members of the family select some of the scriptures to study.

Pray a lot
It is the most basic of God’s commands — talk to Him. For some reason, we get complacent and only go through the motions. Until we’re in trouble, that is. Then suddenly we revive our heartfelt prayers and yearn for the peace of connection.

Mother and writer Melissa Dalton-Bradford, after losing a child, quotes Pastor Dennis Lennon in a 2011 blog post at Segullah as she recognizes the necessity of prayer. “With powerful prayer, however — and with many endlessly sweet hours of powerful prayer, I should add — we are infused with living water and Christ’s blood, which save us from spiritual anemia. It is then we learn for ourselves the truth and beauty of what Lennon writes and what I know from experience to be true: ‘What blood is to the body, prayer is to the soul.’ ”

Forgive someone
You’ve heard all the adages about how forgiveness helps you more than the person who wronged you. There are amazing stories about communities who come together to forgive one who has done evil in their midst. All that can be true, but forgiving is still really hard.

If you’ve been holding onto pain or anger, make 2018 your year to move forward and leave those feelings behind. For Andrea (who’d rather not share her last name), 2016 was her first year as a single mother. The previous 20 months costed her tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, ripped her family apart, and destroyed the life she once knew. “My kids have been through hell. Now we have to move forward and rebuild,” she said. Her divorce from her childhood sweetheart couldn’t have been more painful. Now that she’s in a new apartment with custody arrangements sorted out, she doesn’t have the constant reminder of her ex-husband.

Forgiveness is a long road, one involving a lot of prayer and work. The peace it brings is well worth it, though, whether the burden is recent or far in your past.

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