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This one’s gonna be different. Don’t we tell ourselves that every year? Don’t we start out with enthusiasm, with actual, resolute resolutions that by gum we are going to follow through on? Aren’t we certain that we can cast off the shadow of the previous 365 days simply because the date on the calendar now has a new number attached to it?

Well, don’t we?

I submit that the new year is a fraud, a sham, a flim-flam, a bamboozlement. A year can’t change things. Only we can. And it’s harder to do than a simple resolution might convey. To change one’s self fundamentally requires radical thinking and aggressive discarding of old thoughts, habits, and relationships. Most of us won’t ever do it. We’re too comfortable as we are. Only the most terrible and unexpected events — natural disaster, death, fatal illness — are enough to shock us out of complacency. And then, perhaps, only temporarily.

So…what to do with 2018 and its bright, shiny promises of change and renewal? Start small. Change one way of thinking. Give yourself a mantra — “first impressions are always wrong” for instance — to nip a habit of snap judgment in the bud. Or start each morning by doing one new thing: making your bed, trying a new stretch or simply saying, “I will be open to new possibilities today.” Repeated actions have a tendency to work their ways into our lives in ways we cannot foresee.

Or take up reading a new blog regularly. Work your way one chapter at a time through the bible. Smile at people you don’t know and won’t see again. Anything that might trigger a new, green sprout of thinking, a tiny revelation, an awkward step in a new direction.

And if it all falls apart, don’t berate yourself. January first isn’t the only day for changes. You can do that on February third, April 17th, or November 30th. You can do it anytime. Let yourself be open to nudges and signs and questions. Sometimes that’s the most essential part of change.

If we each turn ourselves one degree, together we can make a revolution — literally and figuratively.

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2016 — the year that was. It’s practically played out, virtually put to bed. Maybe it was a great year for you (Cubs fans), but for me it was largely a crapfest. We lost some good people, and I don’t mean just the famous ones. I lost three of my beloved cats. I lost my friend Mary. I am worried about the future when I look upon the wreckage of the past.

But enough about what is practically last year. We’ve got a whole new one stretching in front of us, and lots of people are doing lots of thinking about what might happen in it…or what they hope might happen.

Think about 2016 as a suitcase. You’ve arrived home. What do you want to take out of your suitcase and discard, and what would you like to carry on into 2017? Sure, most of us would like to stuff our suitcases with money, but realistically, unless we all hit the lottery simultaneously, that’s probably not going to happen. So deal with what you’ve already got packed: your job, your relationships, and — most importantly — your spirituality.

I would like to unpack lingering bitterness toward others. It’s heavy, and it’s weighing me down. I would also like to unpack the past…not forget about it, but stop feeling the sting of regret. I would like to add to my suitcase hope, focus and direction, especially vis-à-vis my relationship with God. I’d like to know that I’m on the right path, that I’m heading toward God in the most direct way possible. Inasmuch as a person can know her intended purpose on earth, I’d like to know that I’m at least hovering nearby it.

I’ve got a few things for your suitcases, too. I wish you peace of mind and heart. I wish you honest conversations and open hearts. I wish you closer family ties and better days ahead.

And you? What will you pack in your suitcase? What are you willing to leave behind? Are you certain you need everything you’ve packed? Or are you willing to walk into the new year with an empty bag, and wait for God to fill it? Whatever you decide, I wish you the very best in 2017.

 

 

skyWhat is your word for 2016?

Many of my friends, instead of making New Year’s Resolutions, are choosing a single word to inspire their year. At one level I get the appeal.  Most of us make the same resolutions year after year. Eat less.  Drink less.  Exercise more.  Be more organized.

Resolutions don’t do much for me, but the single word approach wasn’t cutting it either.

What I really wanted to do was post a plea on my Facebook wall.  “I know that many of you aren’t religious.  I get that.  But I would really appreciate it if you would cease and desist with the posts about how narrow-minded and judgmental religious people are.  Quite frankly, it seems ironically narrow-minded and judgmental.”

I thought about it, but I didn’t post it.  I didn’t want to seem belligerent or judgmental myself.

I woke up on New Year’s Day to a stellar irony.  I hadn’t posted about lack-of-tolerance, but one of my other posts had set off a member of the narrow-minded non-religious. I hate to admit how badly it upset me.  It was even more upsetting to see how many likes her nasty comment had received.

I had to fight down the urge to comment myself. I managed to get up and walk away.

What does this have to do with prayer and faith?  The truth of the matter is that I am more than a touch confrontational. The only sport I enjoyed playing in school? Hockey. On my own, walking away is almost impossible.  Keeping my mouth shut is twice as tough.

Sometimes I manage to do it because I know it is what God wants.  Other times, I pull it off because I am busy asking for guidance.  Still other times I’m too busy giving God a piece of my mind.

God-ward.  Microsoft Word says this isn’t a legitimate word but it is my word for the year. When I am turned toward God, I have hope and can see the possibilities.  Turned God-ward, I am stronger than I am alone.  Without Him, it is far too easy to be judgmental and outspoken, two things that never build people up but only tear them down.

My word for 2016?  God-ward.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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