So yes, last week I told you that while New Years resolutions are so good and so helpful, we don’t need a new year in order to make them. What if we sat down in the middle of September and asked ourselves, what needs some tweaking? But here we are, at the “beginning” of our year and so we do, out of habit mostly, ask ourselves what we could change or quit or improve.
I had a conversation with a friend before the holidays that sparked some inspiration for me in this area. We talked about framing our lives and needs and goals in the context of “more or less.” My students had a speaker this fall talk to them similarly about the idea of “adding and subtracting.” I’m practicing asking myself each morning, What do I need more/less of today?
This is good for several reasons. One, when we start goal setting we typically are just saying “more!!” We want to do more, see more, talk more, invest more, on and on and on. The only way we usually say “less” is if we want to quit something entirely, which, let’s be real, is rarely successful. Less cigarettes! Less alcohol! Less Netflix! And then we inevitably binge on any of these things.
Just as there is a no for every yes, there is a less for every more. You don’t want one without the other. It is similar to how we as Christians often approach Lent. We remove something, but we are supposed to fill that “gap” with a more dedicated seeking of relationship with Christ. If all we are concerned with is “less chocolate,” we are wasting our time.
You were a rollercoaster! So much has happened and I am incredibly grateful for you. At the beginning I was not so sure; I told people it felt really old, maybe because it was more syllables than any age I’d been before (or will be, for another nine years). Or maybe it is that when you start inching closer to 30 something happens inside you. Like all of a sudden some of those life goals or hopes that you have kept stuffed in the back of your mind start pushing their way to the forefront, and things start to matter a little more than they used to. Each passing year makes me hold my days a little more tenderly, knowing there are (I know it is morbid) less and less left.
But the days were beautiful and full of surprises. When I rolled up to my 27th birthday party in that sassy romper and lipstick I had no idea that a year later I would be living in a different home, have a different job, and have traveled practically around the world.
It has been one of those weeks where I am learning a whole lot of little things. My best friend is always asking the question, “What are you learning?” so, here you go:
Celebration actually is a discipline. Last weekend some friends and I threw a party. It turned out incredibly fun, but the honest truth is that beforehand we were all pretty cranky. It was snowing, we had procrastinated preparation, and just all around were not feeling it. But then it was so fun! And I said to one of them, “This is why celebration is considered a discipline. It is actually work – but it is worth it.” We have to celebrate. Even when life is hard and it doesn’t feel like there is anything to celebrate – there is. There is always something to celebrate. You might just need to look harder. I also learned that you never get too old to be fun. But I can tell you that story some other time.
He’s gone. Was any of it real? Was He who He said He was? Was it all a grand trick – and I fell for it?
I was part of planning the Good Friday experience at my church this year, so as you can imagine, I have been thinking about it a lot. I have been actively placing myself in the place of those who knew Jesus, who loved Him, who followed Him, who gave up their lives and joined His mission. And who watched Him be arrested, tortured, and killed. They saw Him die. I cannot imagine the deep sorrow they experienced.
I wake up with that familiar pit in my stomach. Anxiety sits on my stomach like an overweight toddler, waking me up from my sleep. And then God’s voice says: Who are you inviting to sit at your table?
Oh wait, Fear and Shame, how the heck did you two get a seat here? You didn’t. You actually weren’t invited. You show up uninvited all the time. You come in like loud, obnoxious children – acting like you own the place. The worst kind of party crashers.
But this is my table. My mind. My heart. I don’t actually want you here.
Hey. Let’s all take a deep breathe together, shall we? Don’t speak. Don’t complain. Can we all, just for a second, sit together in silence? Can we take a moment to just be together? Yes, because when we do that – we take a moment in the quiet and see each other for what we really are – brothers and sisters. When we look each other in the eyes, and see each other’s hearts, we can’t hide anymore. We can’t call each other names or judge each other – we just see each other. For the love of Pete, stop posting mean things on Facebook. OVER IT.
It’s been a hard little while, hasn’t it? Let’s just be real about it – life is hard. There won’t be a time in the history of a broken world where we aren’t just that: broken. So let’s realize that hard will always be here, but what do we know about that? There is always good and hard. They are never separate.
“In church on Sunday we participate in a liturgy – a ritualized way of worship – that we repeat each week and by which we are transformed. Even those traditions that claim to be freeform or nonliturgical include practices and patterns in worship. Therefore, the question is not whether we have a liturgy. The question is, ‘What kind of people is our liturgy forming us to be?’” (Liturgy of the Ordinary, 30-31)
I’m reading this new book (if you need a recommendation here it is), Liturgy of the Ordinary. It takes the daily activities of our lives (waking up, brushing our teeth, eating leftovers, checking email, etc.) and transforms them into spiritual practices with deep meaning. Overall, it is a reminder that every small part of our lives is important. Everything has meaning.
I’ve been particularly struck by the quote above, specifically the final lines: “The question is not whether we have a liturgy. The question is, ‘What kind of people is our liturgy forming us to be?’”
I’ll be honest; I’m struggling with JOY.
Remember the first week of Advent where I said of the weekly themes (Hope, Peace, JOY, Love): “In the church we toss these words at people like fuzzy blankets, all happy and glittery. In reality they have depth and strength to them that are highly underrated”? Gosh. I keep coming back to that. This world is messy and hard and broken. I mean seriously – my heart is breaking over Aleppo. Not to mention all the other heart wrenching events of this year. And JOY – it seems the most fuzzy and glittery of them all.