Good day everyone. This is what I woke up to this morning....
So it looks like I will have plenty of time to contemplate this past year and look into the New Year......
When I think about the past year - the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic around the world, the political and social upheaval, the mental health crisis, the urgent environmental challenges, the difficulties along the border, and so on gratitude might not be my instinctive response....it is where I choose to begin.
Replay the last 12 months and recall some specific events. What were the highlights and encouragements? What did I achieve? When did I experience joy and wonder? Who were the people who e encouraged me? Who was there when I needed help? Whose words or actions inspired me to become a better person? I share these in a prayer of gratitude with God. As I prepare to leave 2020, what do I want to take with me? What good tings have I gained? What have I learned? What holy habits have I begun to develop this year that I want to take into the coming year?
Lament and Repent
Replay the last 12 months and recall some specific events. How has the pandemic and political and social upheaval around the world affected me? What have I found particularly difficult, or even painful this year? I share my laments with God. Where did I get things wrong this year? In what ways have I sinned and fallen short of God's best for me? I talk with God about this as I repent and ask for forgiveness.
Reboot and Resolve
How do I feel about 2021? What am I looking forward to? What am I hoping for? Am I anxious about anything? Talk with God about your answers. Lord, what are You asking of me this year? How do you want me to be different?
Since we are not going anywhere this day, I extend this column and share with you a beautiful piece written by Lynne Babb in going forward into the new year. I have only changed the year.
Two postures for entering into the New Year
What do I need to remember as I enter 2021? What do I need to embrace for a fresh start in a new year? Here are two foundational ideas or postures that I’m hoping will shape 2021 for me. “Posture” implies a way of standing, and I hope I can stand firm in these two truths.
- I am beloved. Henri Nouwen talks about being beloved more vividly than anyone else I’ve read. In his wonderful book, The Life of the Beloved, he writes:
Becoming the Beloved means letting the truth of our Belovedness become enfleshed in everything we think, say, or do. . . . What is required is to become the Beloved in the commonplaces of my daily existence and, bit by bit, to close the gap that exists between what I know myself to be and the countless specific realities of everyday life. Becoming the Beloved is pulling the truth revealed to me from above into the ordinariness of what I am, in fact, thinking of, talking about, and doing from hour to hour (pages 45 and 46).
I love that he discusses the “gap that exists between what I know myself to be” as God’s beloved and “the countless specific realities of everyday life.” God’s love is described so vividly in the Bible, and it pours into my life in so many ways, yet so often I don’t feel it or dwell in it. It’s so easy to feel self-critical. The task, according to Nouwen, is to pull “the truth revealed to me from above into the ordinariness” of daily life.
This is not necessarily easy, and I’m so glad he affirms the challenge. In the middle of the quotation above, he writes that this “entails a long and painful process of appropriation or, better, incarnation.” In 2021 I want to grow in beginning each day from a place of belovedness that flows into daily life. I want to see belovedness incarnated in my life more and more each day. I am God’s beloved child and I want to live that way.
- I am sent. My second foundational attitude or posture for 2021 comes from the benediction Pastor Doug Kelly says most Sundays at Seattle’s Bethany Presbyterian Church: “You go nowhere by accident. Everywhere you go, God has a purpose for your being there.”
Our word “mission” comes from the Latin “missio,” which means sent. In his prayer for all believers, Jesus says, “As the Father sent me into the world, so I send you into the world” (John 17:18). We have been sent into the world as Jesus was sent, so it’s true that we go nowhere by accident. God has a purpose for us wherever we go, even in the moments when that purpose seems quite small or insignificant.
What is that purpose? Here are some of the ways I would describe it:
To be faithful to God’s call each day.
To show God’s love to the people around me as much as possible.
To be God’s agent of reconciliation in as many settings as possible.
To abide in Christ so that I can bear the lasting fruit God wants me to bear.
I want to go into 2021 knowing I am beloved and knowing I have been sent to exactly the place where I am. I want to follow God’s guidance and fulfill God’s purposes as much as I can, resting in the fact that I am God’s beloved child.
I close with this prayer:
God of the seasons, Lover of the ages,
Master of every moment:
You who are beyond time yet within all time.
We return to you what you have given to us —
the moments, the minutes, the hours, the days,
the weeks, the months, and the year of 2020.
Time has been gracious to us again,
and we thank you for freely giving us these human bodies,
these events, and these relationships.
We have lived another year and we have died another year,
and now you are granting us the beginnings of another.
We now hand over to you the blessed year, 2020,
with all that it gave us and all that it took from us,
knowing that both are necessary, just like our breath.
We trust you in both the givings and the takings,
the inhalings and the exhalings.
May every breath of 2021 be a breath of the Holy Spirit,
joyfully received and joyfully returned,
beginning with this one right now.
Stay safe, warm and well.....Shalom,