Pastor’s Ponderings January 2016

Red Happy New Year with Lamppost

It’s that time of year again! For me, the New Year always brings a deep desire to “do better” than I did the year before. Do you feel that way too? As I look back at all the times I have failed in keeping my resolutions I have come to realize that they have often stem from not measuring up or self-reliance (I need to improve and I’ll do it myself). How difficult it is for us to live into God’s unconditional love and acceptance of ourselves and to rely on God to help us become the persons God has created us to be. Rather than try so hard to become the people we yearn to be, maybe we just need to embrace the mystery that God loves us and gives us all we need to live out the call God has on our lives.

And so I share with you words of wisdom by Christine Valters Paintner, my online abbess with whom I have taken several online retreats to deepen may relationship with the Lord. May they guide you into the New Year as well!

New Year’s resolutions often come from a place of lack, or of thinking we know how to “fix” ourselves. Unfortunately, they are often fueled by a consumer culture that is eager for us to buy things to improve ourselves. Embracing mystery, on the other hand, honors our profound giftedness and depth and acknowledges that coming to know ourselves and God is a lifetime exploration. Here are ten essential practices to help support you in this journey.

  1. Breathe deeply. Our breath is our connection to the life force that sustains us. Let yourself be filled with awe and wonder at the marvels of this intimate gift. Sit for three minutes savoring that you are breathed into.
  2. Embrace night wisdom. One of the great gifts of dreams is that they reveal the shadows we must wrestle with and the joys that call to us, whether or not they make sense to the waking world.
  3. Dance freely. Dance is a way to experience union with ourselves, one another, and the divine. Each day put on one piece of music that you love, close the door, and dance. Pay attention to what rises up in the process.
  4. Follow the thread. Each of us has a unique unfolding story and call in this world. We don’t “figure this out,” but rather we allow the story to emerge in its own time.
  5. Trust in what you love. What experiences make your heart beat loudly, no matter how at odds they feel with your current life (and perhaps especially because they do)? Make room to honor what brings you alive.
  6. Let the rhythms of nature guide you. When we turn to the natural world we find with each day, each moon cycle, and each season a rhythm of fullness and emptiness. Embrace the filling and emptiness that immerses us in an experience of mystery.
  7. Release what is no longer necessary. Reflect on what is most essential. Then ask yourself, what are the thoughts, attitudes, or expectations about life that keep you from freedom?
  8. Remember that you will die. St. Benedict writes in his Rule to “keep death daily before your eyes.” This is never an act of morbid obsession, but a reminder of life’s incredible gift.
  9. Ask for the wisdom of your ancestors. Each of us is the inheritor of generations of stories that beat through our blood. We can call upon this great “cloud of witnesses” to support us in our own wrestling.
  10. Open yourself to receiving a word for the year ahead. In quiet moments, what are the desires you hear being whispered from your heart? What word or phrase shimmers forth, inviting you to dwell with it in the months ahead? Imagine if your New Year’s wasn’t about fixing or improving, but about deepening and transforming, about embracing the holy mystery at the heart of the world
© Christine Valters Paintner at Used by permission.


I hope you’ll choose one or two of these practices to embrace God’s mystery and honor your profound giftedness. God bless you and Happy New Year!

In Christ’s love, Pastor Lynn

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