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New Year ♦ New Birth

“He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Love in the Time of Cholera

Maybe each new year is really a new birth. We go into it with plans, checklists, things to accomplish, then as the year lives its life we are transformed, sometimes without even recognizing it. Some years the transformation is due to joyous moments, others due to heartbreak. For most of us the year brings both; are both going to be a source of new life?

If both joy and heartbreak are to become sources of new life we need to resist our tendency to want to skip ahead, to prognosticate and forecast. Our constant concern about the “next thing,” and our knack for expectation can prevent our new birth. It is interesting that we find ourselves being constantly surprised by life. The unexpected being the stuff of life, you would think that we would expect it, that we would be open to different outcomes, to surprises. Yet, most of us are so distracted by our schedule and our plan that we leave little room, so when it happens, it throws us off course, it shakes us, at times to the core, and makes us question some of the key markers of who we are becoming.

Maybe that’s why Jesus said:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? . . . But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Matthew 6:25, 33-34 (NRSV)

Questioning, re-evaluation, reflection can become the medium for awareness. It is in this paying attention to the present, to the ways where God has been at work in our lives, where, as Garcia-Marquez tells us, we are obliged to be reborn.

Our new birth, our opportunity to be about God’s kingdom, the availability of transformation is here! It’s in our living, in our engagement with what life brings. As we prepare for a new year let us make a commitment to engaging our lives fully. How has this passing year changed us? How has God been present in our lives? Identifying where God has been might give us clues where to find God in the coming year.

As I look back to this passing year I recognize that there are three practices that I want to engage in this coming year. These are not “resolutions” instead they are ways of attending to God’s movements in my life. Practices that allow me to engage the coming year as an opportunity to become a more faithful follower of Jesus, as an opportunity to be born again.

This year I am committing to presence, to faithful discernment, and to communal life.

Being present means living for today. It means being intentional in my relationship to God, to those closest to me (to my life partner and our children) and to those that God sends my way. For me it is also about being present to place, paying attention to the geography around me and the way that it is holy.

I believe that there are decisions that we make that more faithfully reflect God’s doings in us and for us, that God wants our decision making to reflect God’s vision of shalom for us, for our communities and for our world. I believe more than ever that God cares, about the decisions I make, about how I live my life for God’s kingdom. Faithful discernment takes time, intention, and attention. It also requires a community where the leading of the Spirit can be “tested out.”

My commitment to communal life is a desire to be more attentive to the communal covenants I have made in baptism, marriage and ordination. How can I live these covenants in ways that they live into their potential as means of grace in my life, for the life of the world?

I know this coming year will surprise us with joys and opportunities also with heart breaks and disappointments. But I also know that “[y]ou can tell adult and authentic faith by people’s ability to deal with darkness, failure, and non validation of the ego – and by their quiet but confident joy!” (Richard Rohr in The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See). My prayer is that I’ll be open to the new birth that comes from engaging life fully that I’ll be open to the joy that comes from seeking God’s kingdom.

May this year be a year of presence . . . of life together . . . a year of openness to surprise knowing that God is with us along the way!

Happy New Year!

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