22 Dec 2016

How to get a really NEW year

First you have to be fed up. Yes, fed up with the old year, fed up enough to want things to be different.

What are you fed up with?

Have you had enough of worrying about what others think?
Are you done with spinning those wheels and not really sure if you are making progress?
Do you so dread the state of your relationships that you are wishing up ways to avoid the people?

Sometimes we think that being fed up is a sign of weakness or that we are being plain ungrateful. Well, we all have areas of weakness and we may well be ungrateful. It may be that your weaknesses (a lack of discipline or self-control) contribute to the state of things. Certainly being grateful cures us of many ills so we don't live in chronic discontentment. But being fed up is different. It is a sign.

The thing is when we feel fed up, we tend to blame it on others. This will only ensure we never get a New year because we have absolutely no power to change others.

So, the difficult and necessary thing to do is to ask:
a. How would I like things to be?b. What am I doing that is keeping things from being the way I want them to be?

The parent who wants the eighteen year old to grow up but continues to dole out pocket money, calls to ensure there is lunch, tidies the room for him, will stay fed up.

When we are fed up, we are also tired. Our resources have run out. We will begin to go through the motions. We will start to numb. We may even resort to forms of escapism. The length of time spent in gossip, playing online games, over-eating or under-eating. We may even do things we would not normally do, like visit a casino or seek out titillating experiences when prodded on by others.

As 2016 begins to fold over and a new page is waiting to be written, take some time to slow down and consider how things are in your life.

This is why Advent is such a powerful practice. It slows us down and turns us towards deeper concerns in life. It is inevitable that Christmas will get busy. But Advent observation has already primed us so that a few hours or a day given to reflect and prepare for the new year will really help usher in a year open and ready for newness.

Today, mark out a few time periods when you can sit and pray, think, and plan for the New Year.

These questions will help:

a. How would I like things to be? [list each area of your life]

b. What am I doing that is keeping things from being the way I want them to be? [is it fear that people won't respond? Do you want to at least have tried or give up on what you value?]

c. Where is my energy level now?

d. What saps me most and what refuels me?

These simple but powerful questions will surface what is deep within you. Your longings, your anxieties, your life management. When we are dissatisfied or struggle with ongoing issues, we will grow tired and that in turns reduces our resilience and perseverance. It's a downward spiral.

All of us live with some degree of illusion. We have this ideal we hold ourselves and others to. Even if they are godly ideals, they can end up holding us hostage if we learn how to mature from where we are to where we believe and want to be.  
All of us want to be more loving. But the journey of maturation into being a person who genuinely loves others is different for each of us. If we hold on to an illusory ideal where we congratulate ourselves one day and condemn ourselves the next, we won't actually grow. A swing moves alright, but it doesn't actually lead to a real change in location.

Philippe Malouin, Milan

Real change that comes through maturation is a gift of God, and God loves 'upcycling' - the process of using available material to craft new, beautiful and useful creations.

All you need for the New Year is within you.

The stronger marriage between your parents.
The lighter and more caring atmosphere at home.
The community of faithful friends.
The steadier, closer walk with God.
That organised kitchen/desk/wardrobe.
The commitment and joy of meaningful work.
The loosening of bonds that hold others in poverty and oppression.

Your dreams and longings. Your hopes and aspirations. Your wild ideas. They may be held back because you are not taking them seriously enough, allowing your fears to stall you. They may be held back because you have not rested, eaten, exercised well so that you are alert and energetic.

May you experience a New year my friends as you brave it and seek answers to the questions.

"Praise be to the LORD, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens'  ~ Psalm 68v19

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