What do you do with the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day?
In our family, we tend travel sometime within this week. My favorite part of the drive is the reflection conversation my wife, Emily, and I have somewhere along the way. There is just something about the beginning of a new year that stokes reflection on the past year and preparation for the next. Honestly, most of us spend our time reacting to what comes our way rather than planning and setting the trajectory of our lives. If we want to see change, we have to begin with reflection and preparation.
So, whether it’s on your drive back from Christmas or cleaning up around the house, I would encourage you to reflect on of how you are doing. Reflect on how you’re doing in your pursuit of Christ and on your life as a whole. In my own life, I’ve always found this type of holistic reflection essential. If my desire is to spend more time in the Word, it can easily be thwarted by my lack of commitment to making time for adequate sleep each night. Or if my desire is to be more productive, it can be undermined by my lack of exercise.
I won’t attempt to provide an exhaustive list of reflection questions, as there are some great resources already available. The best place to start is Donald Whitney’s 10 Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year. For my pastor friends, Kevin DeYoung has also put a helpful list of 10 Questions as well. You will notice in these sets of questions they focus on key area of spiritual disciplines, personal holiness, and evangelism. However, they also focus on areas of productivity, diet, exercise, family, and friendships.
As Emily and I look back over our year, we usually ask questions along these lines:
- What are some of the highlights or major moments of this last year? This helps us wrap our minds around both the good and bad of the past year. It is always surprising to me how much I forget over the course of a year. This also provides a context for some of the changes we want to make in the new year.
- How have you changed and grown this year as a husband/wife, father/mother, minister, employee/employer, student, friend? All of us have different roles and responsibilities. It is helpful to think through how we have changed or grown in each of these areas. This also helps us look more holistically at our lives.
- What would you like to do better or do more of this year? While many can’t wait for 2016 to end, there are likely some things you would like to continue from this year into the next. It is helpful to acknowledge the growth you have seen and yet seek to do more or do better at in the new year. Rejoice in growth, but seek to grow more and more.
- What would you like to stop doing or do less of this year? Be honest. What have been the hang ups, obstacles, or sins that need to be addressed at the beginning of this year? Often your answer to this question will arise from considering your answer to the previous question. Doing the things we know we should do or want to do more of means doing less of other things.
- What will you do to implement these changes in your life? Every change we seek to make will require a plan. It will require counting the cost, evaluating the impact it will have on our life, and considering the ways we will accomplish it. Be realistic. Make plans prayerfully. Without a plan, you’ll merely be wishing for change in the new year. With a plan, you’ll be on your way to seeing change in the new year.
Resources for a New Year
As you reflect and plan for change in the new year, you may find some of the following resources (and ideas) helpful:
Bible Reading Plans:
- ESV Bible Reading Plans – Take your pick. Get the ESV app and have the plans available on your phones. Set reminders via email or notifications on your phone. (See also Ligonier’s Bible Reading Plans for 2017)
- Church Reading Plan – Does your church have a Bible reading plan? Ask your pastors if you’re not sure. Consider doing this with others in your small group and holding one another accountable.
- Foundations Bible Reading Plan (Adults, Teenagers, Kids) – I am looking forward to utilizing this resource in our Student Ministry. It is a Bible reading plan and a journaling method that provides a reproducible model for Bible reading in disciple-making.
- ESV Reader’s Bible – I received this as a gift this year and am planning on reading through the Gospels and Acts over the course of the first few months of 2017. I’ll share more about how this goes later in the year.
- She Reads Truth and He Reads Truth – Do you prefer to read your Bible on your phone or tablet? These apps may be for you. They provide a very accessible way to work through a Bible reading plan or individual study. You can do it with others or join in the community conversation through the apps.
- The best way to grow in prayer is to pray. Cut out the noise, focus on the Lord, use a journal, don’t give up, keep praying.
- However, there are some great resources worth reading to help you in this pursuit. I’ve read the first and look forward to reading the second:
- A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracted World by Paul Miller
- Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller
- 1o Ideas and 10 Tips for Family Devotions in 2017 Whether you are in a groove or seeking to start family devotions with more consistency, this is a great resource for you.
- Family Worship by Donald Whitney. In addition to the book, Crossway has provided a 5-Day Email Course: Family Worship 101.
- Begin with prayer. We simply cannot rush past this pivotal starting point. What we care about, we pray about. What we pray about, we often live out.
- Be a better neighbor. Stay outside a little longer, have your neighbors over for dinner, be more intentional in your daily rhythms. However, you may also consider some of these resources:
- Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear by Scott Sauls
- The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door by Jay Paythak and Dave Runyon
- Get to know the gospel more deeply. I am convinced that we will not share the gospel faithfully unless we know the gospel deeply. Consider these resources:
- The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing by Jonathan Dodson
- The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler
- An End of Year Marriage Check Up by Kevin DeYoung. Don’t neglect this area in the new year. Get a sitter and go grab coffee over these questions.
- Happily Ever After: Finding Grace in the Messes of Marriage by Desiring God (devotional). Maybe reading through something together as a husband and wife is your thing. This looks like a great resource from a number of different authors.
- Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies | Check out his blog for more resources on this topic (#productivity) OR his online course.
- What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman | You can also find some resources at the What’s Best Next Blog.
- Create a Budget. Most people don’t do it because it seems too daunting. I made this mistake early in my twenties. There are too many good resources available now that you do not have an excuse. If you have a budget, evaluate how you are doing and make necessary changes.
- Visit with a Financial Advisor. Earlier this year I met with a local Edward Jones Financial Advisor. You may even check if there are any financial advisors in your church. Most will review your information and walk through some action items at no cost.
- Start Using Mint. There are other personal finance apps, but this is my personal favorite. It allows you to see trends in your spending, which helps in setting your budget. It also allows you to sync all your accounts and bills in once place. Plus, you can use Mint on your phone, tablet, or computer.
- Get a Gym Membership. Our family loves the Triangle YMCA. It offers multiple locations, great programs, childcare, and connects us with our community. If you think you cannot afford a membership, ask about financial assistance plans at your local gym.
- Couch to 5k. I know, I know. If getting started seems daunting, this may be a great place to start. Accomplishing some goals can go a long way in starting exercising.
- Get a Fitbit. Maybe being more aware of your physical activity will help you be more intentional. If you like goals and competition, Fitbit provides an avenue to experience both of these. It will also track just about everything else in your life (sleep, weight, diet, etc…). Personal confession, I use to have one but stopped using it mostly because it required charging. There are other models that do not require this.