Posted by Rev. Daniel Christian on December 30, 2017
Diets and gym membership commercials are upon us. Put down the wine bottle and cookies and let the New Year resolutions begin. I saw a couple jogging on the sidewalk. It was clear they were both new to this form of exercise. Their clothes were not the sleek athletic designs that seasoned runners wear. Their jogging form was loose and raggedy. Just watching them made me short of breath.
We met simultaneously at the street corner. I slowed down so that I could make a right hand turn. I gave them time to cross and wave them forward. They wobbled up to the corner, bent over and started wheezing and insisted I go first. They seemed to be saying through the gasps that they were going to be hunched over for a while. My guess was that they were getting an early start on their New Year resolution.
Statistics show that by February most New Year resolutions will be faded memories. I don't make resolutions as I make a mission statement for the year. I think that was my New Year resolution one year. The difference is, the latter is broad and flexible, and the former is strict and binding.
Mission is living your life with purpose. How might this year be different then last? Most importantly how might I live deeper into God's love this year? How do I share that love with others this year?
Personal and community change is not easy. Why does it seem that when a change occurs in our life, we rarely feel good about it in the beginning? I wonder if I would have yelled out the window to the jogging couple, “How do you feel? Are you likin’ the change?” Instead of giving me the thumbs up, I think they may have hoisted an entirely different digit.
When it comes to matters of faith, being nudged forward by the presence of a Holy other in your life is particularly challenging. Let's face it, sitting and watching NFL playoffs is more attractive fun and not nearly as challenging as changing your life in a deep and meaningful way.
Life change at any level is asking us to look deeper and give ourselves I gut check. In the book of Acts, we see major change happening. Holy transformations revealed to us in the book of Acts do not come out of grit and self-determination. Fine traits that can lead to positive results. In Acts, the change arrives as a gift from the Holy Spirit.
We see that the Spirit is something that is given. It isn't something we can purchase, control or predict.
If the spirit cannot be predicted, and our mission or resolution is to deepen our faith, how do we make ourselves open to it?
One of my favorite literary characters is Winnie the Pooh. Being a bear of little brain, he sees the world as simple, pure, sometimes confusing. Pooh lives peacefully with all of this and doesn't fuss about it. Pooh says, “when I am lost I go to the places where I can be found.”
Not to put too simple a point on it, when we open ourselves to gifts of the Holy Spirit, we are opening our lives to the journey to go to the places, where we can be found.
Here is something to think about for those who are hoping to walk deeper into your spiritual lives. What might living into the presence of Spirit in your daily life really look like? What will your daily spiritual or religious practice be?
It looks like this. If the voice of God has a clear promise and the cost of that promise is vague, watch out. It might be the voice of ego, your mother or something else. If the cost is clear, the promise is vague, yet alluring and moves you forward in a true and meaningful way, you just might be responding to the Spirit.
Said another way, spiritual calling and response is something that will cost you. The outcomes are not guarantees. However, this is what life looks like when “you walk by faith.”
Whatever your mission statement is for this year, I hope you can go gently, compassionately and peacefully into 2018. Have a blessed and happy New Year!
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