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A Fond Goodbye

Holy Family

It’s 8:00 p.m. on New Year’s Eve … and I’m going to bed.

It shouldn’t be that surprising: I’ve spent much of the last four days in bed. I’ve been closing out 2011 with a miserable head cold.

Between the NyQuil and the naps, the sniffling and the coughing, I’ve managed to plan my sermon topics for Lent and Easter … and do some reflecting on both the old year and the new.

The year 2011 has presented its own particular kinds of blessings and challenges. On the whole, it has not been an easy year. Some are like that, I think.

And so, 2012 begins with great hope and promise.

I haven’t made any resolutions for the new year, no drastic changes or dramatic shifts that will click into place at 12:01 a.m. on January 1. But I’ve been wondering, perhaps more than usual, what will this year hold for me? And I couldn’t help but think, today, of the speculation surrounding December 20, 2012.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not advocating an alarmist perspective, or even wondering of the validity of such speculation. I am just enjoying the opportunity of wondering about the coming year.

What complications will be simplified?

What friendships might change?

What hurts will ease?

What opportunities will come?

What new people may come into my life?

What will be the cause for celebration?

No one can know, of course, what the year will bring. There wouldn’t be much point in wondering, if you could know for sure. But I suppose that’s what this season is for: wondering.

Perhaps that’s why I shy away from resolutions. Resolutions seem like one more attempt to be in control, to conform our lives to some prescribed norm. I wish for the threshold between the old and the new year to be less about control, and more about wonder … about mystery.

May the mystery of this season surround you, and give you hope.

Spring is bursting forth

I wonder if it hurts to bloom.

We sigh and smile at the sweetness of tiny green buds on nearly bare branches and assume it’s all ease and pleasantries.

I wonder if it hurts to bloom.

As the sap begins to quicken the branches, do the trees feel the tingle of pins and needles as I do when the feeling begins to come back to a hand or foot that has been “asleep”?

What does the bursting forth of the bud of a new flower or leaf feel like? Is it easy, like soap slipping through your fingers? Or does it require something more, like the pain and labor of childbirth?

My soul has known the dormancy of winter. And I have known what it is like to feel spring returning to my heart.

If blooming is as strenuous on the trees and flowers as transformation and new growth is for me, then I really should not take it so lightly. I should pay more attention. I should raise my arms in the air and dance and sing … in order to honor their sacrifice and celebrate their toil.

Anais Nin wrote: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Here’s to the trees and the flowers! And to all of us struggling to bloom!

Talking Football

I enjoy sports.

I have my favorite teams.

I know enough about the games to not be a nuisance to real sports fans (who may be watching alongside me) by asking rudimentary questions.

However, it should be noted that under no circumstances do I enjoy discussing the game. If you’ve seen it and I haven’t … I don’t really want a play-by-play. If we’ve both seen it, I don’t want to engage in color commentary. And if I’ve seen it and you haven’t, please don’t expect more from me than a report on who won. (If you’re lucky, I might also remember the score.)

So, tonight, when the beloved nephew began to explain (in excruciating detail) not only which NFL teams he likes, but also each of the teams he doesn’t like and why he doesn’t like them (including a very complete analysis of players abilities and attitudes) … how did I find myself hanging on every word?

I don’t know. It’s a mystery.

But I could almost guarantee that that child could talk to me for hours about anything at all (or nothing at all) and he would have my undivided attention.

Just an observation …


By the way: what’s a “nose guard”?

Resolutions Are for Chumps?

Blogger Ashley Ambirge recently wrote a blog post entitled: “Resolutions Are For Chumps. I Choose Revolution.” The basic theme of that particular essay was that we don’t actually need all the things we think we need.

The wheels in my brain started to move and I began to consider the ways in which we mark the beginning of a new year. Almost always it seems like we’re making resolutions to be better, to whip ourselves into shape based on the expectations that culture or other people set for us.

For example, have you ever heard a variation on these themes before?

– This year I’m going to lose weight.

– This year I’m going to get organized.

– This year I’m going to improve my financial situation.

Now, I’m not suggesting that New Year’s resolutions are a bad thing. But I wonder if they don’t feed our tendency to let the opinions of others overrule our own inner wisdom. Would it be possible to come up with a New Year’s resolution that, rather than imposing an artificially constructed expectation on ourselves from the outside, would help us be more attentive to the longing of our hearts and the wisdom of our souls?

I’m going to suggest a commitment to a daily practice of attentiveness. Whether it’s silence, meditation, prayer, journaling or any number of other disciplines … committing to a practice that helps you listen to yourself (and to the Spirit of God within you) will be healthier, more authentic, and more freeing than any other resolution I know of.

Anyway, it’s just a thought.

Happy New Year, friends!


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