‘The dog ate my Bible’ and other excuses in the new year

Thrift stores are overflowing with cast-off clothing and knickknacks, since many folks have resolved to de-clutter closets and tackle basement boxes in the new year.

Weeding out stuff that no longer fits is fine, but don’t forget the extra baggage in your heart.

First, are we dragging heavy grudges into 2019? You know, the festering memory of the injury someone did to us five years ago, which we occasionally dust off and examine?

And each time, the anger that ravaged us returns, and we harden our hearts against that person.

Sometimes grudges accompany a bitter divorce, after which the couple stops talking to each other, much to the sorrow of the kids.

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Forgiving an ex-spouse doesn’t mean becoming best friends, but at least agreeing on amicable interactions for the children’s sake.

We can let go of grudges by praying for spouses, friends and siblings who’ve wronged us, perhaps relying on a lovely petition in the Eastern Orthodox Church, which asks God simply to give people “health and salvation.”

Second, many people in the new year continue feeding addictions like drinking, smoking marijuana, gambling or watching pornography by relying on tired excuses. Too much stress at work, discord at home — and maybe the phase of the moon isn’t right.

Still, every so often, an addict has a moment of clarity — call it God’s grace — urging them to address the destructive behavior, but sadly nothing will change if they reject that little voice inside.

Rather than dragging life-draining addictions into 2019, heed that little voice — and find a support group or counselor, or both.

The principles of Alcohol Anonymous can help, since the initial steps are admitting the habit is wrecking your life, and then surrendering to a higher power.

St. Francis de Sales offers encouragement for people making difficult changes: “God will send an angel to carry you over the most dangerous places.”

Finally, as we’re pondering our spiritual baggage, we may discover familiar excuses about why we don’t pray.

Protesting we’re too busy is common, especially for people like yours truly with multiple deadlines, who somehow find time to watch nightly movies.

What else steals our time? Maybe posting cute photos of the kids on social media or getting into political disputes on the neighborhood list serve.

Maybe filling our cart at the local Stuff Mart, hoping our purchases will increase our happiness, except they don’t.

Many Christians spend one hour a week at church, assuming they go to church at all, and then tick God off their list — but would an hour be enough for our beloved children and spouse?

Even Jesus begged his friends in the Garden of Gethsemane for one hour of prayer, and they all fell asleep, so we know avoidance has a long history.

We needn’t join a monastery to improve our relationship with God. Instead, we can begin by dusting off the Bible and spending time reading it — and then pondering how the words apply to us.

Praying with Scripture tops my list of New Year’s resolutions, as I’d hate to tell St. Peter at the pearly gates, “The dog ate my Bible.”

Christ said, “Narrow is the way which leads to life and few find it.” And if you’ve ever squeezed through a narrow passageway, you know that toting a suitcase crammed with stuff makes it tougher.

Let’s pray God will shower us with grace to cast off grudges, addictions and the excuses we use to avoid him. Let’s pray he’ll send an angel to help us on our journey, so we may one day hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Lorraine has written eight books, most recently a cozy mystery, “Death Dons a Mask.” Her email is lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com.

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