03 Jan Pausing to Reflect before Moving Ahead
I love the start of a new year. Once upon a time there were certain rituals that marked this occasion—starting a new checkbook register, beginning a new appointment calendar, perhaps opening a new journal. Now, of course, I keep up with my appointments on my phone and most banking is done online, too (though, I must confess that I do still keep a checkbook register. It’s a long-standing habit I have no desire to break!)
I don’t make resolutions anymore, either. But I do use the ending of one year and beginning of the next as a time for reflection. I look back at the main events, the challenges and accomplishments, the setbacks and growth, and I make it a point to express my gratitude. And, I dream a bit about the year ahead. I think about those areas that I’d like to focus new (or renewed) attention on. I pray for my family and my church. I reflect on my work, and I set aside time and space for listening.
Over the past week I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to devote considerable attention to this process. I’ve walked and journaled and prayed. I’ve embraced more silence than normal. I’ve begun reading a couple of new books. After a busy Advent season, the solitude has fed my soul, but I’ve also re-connected with family and friends from Afghanistan to California. FaceTime is truly a miraculous gift!
It was gratifying to discover over the weekend that I have a lot of company in my end-of-year practice. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, blogged on Saturday that he ends each year by asking himself two questions: What was I excited about over the past twelve months and what could I have done better? He uses his reflections on these two questions to help him plan for the year ahead.
To Mr. Gates’ inquiries, I would pose a few others that we in the church might ask to help us evaluate our year:
- In what ways are we seeing God at work?
- Where are we experiencing energy and life?
- How are we making an impact in our community?
- What have we learned?
- What risks might we need to take?
- What should we continue to do, stop doing or start doing?
- How are we growing as followers of Jesus?
Bill Gates built one of the most successful companies in America and changed millions of lives around the world with his vision of personal computing. I wonder, Church, if we have a vision of changing lives for Jesus Christ? Are we ravenously hungry to see people find meaning and hope? Do we ache for people to be lifted from poverty and despair? Will we care enough to willingly and joyfully make sacrifices ourselves so that others might thrive, or even just survive? Perhaps the first question we need to ask is whether our faith and our relationship with God is having a life-changing impact in our own hearts. If it’s not a reality to us, we surely will never be able to share it with others.
My prayer for us in 2019 is that it will make a difference that we occupy our particular corner of the universe—and that you occupy yours. Let us embrace the work God wants to do in us and through us, that God’s kingdom will come, on Earth as it is in heaven.
Yours for the Kingdom,