Beginning Anew

In this season of the year we have two events that invite us to reflect on the past and move into the new. In the first, Jesus’s birth is seen as changing the world. John the Baptist comes before him to prepare the way. He calls the people to repentance (an invitation to take stock of what is going wrong in our lives and the world and to make a decision to change or be changed). And Jesus as the son of God–God present with us in the world (Emmanuel), the one who makes all things new (the Messiah or Christ)—makes change possible.

In the second, the end of the old year and the beginning of the new one is also understood as a time to take stock—to reflect on the past and to make resolutions about changes to be made.

I can’t say that I find it easy to take advantage of what the season offers. I don’t always feel reflective. I can’t program myself to talk with and listen to Jesus in the light of some seasonal schedule, and I usually avoid making New Year’s resolutions so I won’t break them. Yet I do know that taking time for reflection and review of the past day, month, or year can open me to personal insights, create more space for the Holy Spirit’s gifts, and give me a chance to choose changes that matter.

Thank you, readers, for affording me the opportunity this past year to reflect on things that I care about and to express openings that have come to me. Whether you take time for reflection and renewal at this time of year or not, may your new year bring Spirit-filled change and rich and fulfilling newness for you.

Queries:

What is important to you at this time of year?

To reflect and consider possible New Year’s resolutions, would it be easier to take time alone or to do the work encouraged by being part of a group?

Prayer:

As the daylight gets longer, use the natural phenomenon to make you more conscious of opening to the Light of Christ.

For further reflection:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (see John 1: 1-5).

Advertisement

Freedom to Change

I have certain religious and political/social justice ideas that I value. I can be caught trying to change other people to get them to agree with my point of view. I don’t think those efforts ever work.

Recently I had two experiences that resulted in openings. After the Charleston shootings I was talking with a white friend about racism. I caught myself trying to change him.   What I got was resistance and defensiveness. I was frustrated because if white people can’t talk about racism, how can blacks and whites make any progress in racial equality. So I backed off the arguing and somehow I invited his story. What he shared opened my eyes and changed me. No longer was I the one with superior ideas. We became equals. At that point, unexpectedly and freely, he suggested he could change.

On another occasion I was working on a committee trying to develop a statement about how a person becomes a member of the Religious Society of Friends. Friends in the yearly meeting had different ideas. One point of view was that a person becomes a member at birth if one’s parents are members. That understanding was very important to a number of Friends because it gave them such a deep feeling of long-term belonging and being valued. One such person helped us express the idea correctly. Although her “birthright” membership is in a meeting in another yearly meeting where she hasn’t lived for many years, our effort to include what mattered to her left her feeling very affirmed and valued by a yearly meeting to which she didn’t belong officially. Suddenly and unexpectedly she found herself re-thinking her feelings about her membership. A new decision became a possibility.

From these examples I see that we are not changed by arguments but rather by having our persons respected and our hearts touched. The power of God joins us soul to soul as one.

—————-

Queries:

What is your experience of being in the midst of strongly-held different points of view?

What helps you be open to change? To feel free to change? To know that you are God’s beloved?

—————

Prayer:

Pray with Psalm 131, put it in your own words, until you can feel what it would feel like to be “calmed and quieted like a weaned child with its mother . . .”

————-

For further reflection:

“Not by strength of arguments or by a particular disquisition of each doctrine, and convincement of my understanding thereby, came I to receive and bear witness of the Truth, but by being secretly reached by the Life.”   –Robert Barclay, Apology, Proposition 11, section 7

“Beloved, let us love one another . . .” (See I John 4:7, 12-13).