God is not out to get us. Is that sometimes hard to believe?
When one thing after another goes “wrong.” When the workload ahead looks overwhelming. When there are dozens of questions and very few answers, it can be hard to hope.
The goal is to make a choice to believe, a choice to decide to hope against hope. It is not easy. The first step is to focus on this moment, just as it is. Mindfulness also narrows our perspective and makes it easier to hope.
Today, as much of the church celebrates Epiphany, it is wonderful day to consider what gifts we want to offer to God in the coming year.
I did a meditation in the book “A Quiet Place Apart: Guided Meditations for Advent, Christmas, New Year and Epiphany” by Jane E. Ayer. Here are Ms. Ayer’s books on Amazon. Most seem out of print and quite expensive.
However, I do find her work just wonderful to do in a group or by yourself. Her meditation for New Year is a very effective way to go before the Lord to consider this year’s goals. Since it’s so hard to find, I’ll summarize it so you can try it yourself.
She places the meditation in the context of Joseph and Mary going to present the baby Jesus at the Temple. You do a Lectio Divina in the words of Luke:2:21-40. As you savor these words, you visualize yourself standing with Joseph, Mary and Jesus as the baby is redeemed and then visited by Simeon and Anna. Then you find yourself before the altar in Jerusalem offering your gifts. This requires a period of quiet prayer, listening to God and your innermost self.
Ms. Ayer asks you to give God the gift of yourself, your authentic self. She asks you to think about how you want to focus your efforts in 2020 in these life areas:
- Spirituality and prayer
- Family, friends, community and church
- Work or career
- Recreation and relaxation
- Stress reduction
- Relationships: the unhealthy, new ones, past ones
- Habit, character flaws and attitudes
IF you haven’t thought about the coming year and what you would like to change, this is an excellent spiritual exercise.
We have many rituals on New Year’s Eve, and none involve partying.
During the day, I re-read my journals, which include prayers, to get a full scope of the year. As I read, I keep two lists: things to praise and things to which I say “good riddance.”
The “good riddance” list goes into one of our few remaining ashtrays to be burned. Illness and hurt and my husband’s career: Goodbye to all that.
I open a Bible where I keep the prayer that I wrote to God on New Year’s Eve last year. After reading it and reviewing my praises, I write another letter to God to be sealed away for 365 days.
Then, when we are home, we go to our church’s Watch Night service. Our church is diverse, and this service is a great gift from the African-American tradition. We sing, listen and pray for the return of Christ until midnight. Then everyone enjoys a dessert potluck. (We usually book it home, as midnight is an aspirational time in our calendars these days.)
My mother died on Dec. 27, slipping away in the sleep that had become a huge percentage of her days. She had dementia, and living in a skilled nursing home brought out the worst in her anxiety, depression and anger.
The day before she died, I had a brief visual of Jesus holding Mother and carrying her away. My impression was that he was talking to her. I ignored it as a figment of my imagination. Now I wonder if it was a kindness from the Lord, who knows that I have been concerned about the state of my mother’s relationship with God.
I think He had a long talk with her. I think she listened. I hope she agreed that she would forgive a list of folks and let Jesus’ death apply to her sins. That would be the gentleness of God.
All the festivities and food are slowing down. The Feast of Stephen, or Boxing Day, is a good time for us to slow down too.
I’ve always wondered what the discussion process was in putting the commemoration of Christianity’s first martyr the day after Christmas. Perhaps it is to show the possible cost of loving Jesus.
Today, try this mindfulness exercise: Eat silently and alone for one of your snacks or even a meal. Enjoy the presence of God with you, and pay attention to the sights, smells and tastes of the food he has blessed for you.
In him was life, and that life was the light of people. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.