Rest in grace this new year

“… it is mainly for some clue to where I am going that I search through where I have been, some hint as to who I am becoming or failing to become that I delve into what used to be.”  Frederick Buechner

There’s alot about New Year’s to love.  Besides the gatherings and good food (I have a special fondness for this artery clogging Dutch treat called oliebollen), I love the unmarked calendar, the eager anticipation from 365 open days of “who knows what they might hold.”  And I value the opportunity to both recollect the past year, doing an inventory of sorts, and to anticipate the new year.

Remembering is a really important practice for the spiritual life.  Our sense of who we are is really a collection of memories.  Press the erase button and we don’t know who we are anymore.  Life and a healthy identity is unimaginable without a vivid memory.

One of the practices in our house is to stretch a scroll of paper across our dining room table and over the course of a day draw out the events of the past year.  It’s an exercise in remembering, a record of the good and hard parts that have shaped who we are as individuals and a family.

Today, why not find a quiet place and space to simply look back on this past year.  Piece together a chronology of important events from 2014: how did those events form you?  Take note of who were the significant people who shaped your life this year – why were they so significant?  Ask yourself where and how you have become more (or less) like Christ.

And while you’re at it, take time to look forward to the new year (a rear-view mirror glance is important but you can’t drive without looking ahead).  And I don’t mean resolutions – I think that whole tradition needs a good burial.  Instead, I’m thinking anticipation, which alongside of remembering is an equally vital faith practice.

In the biblical mind, the future grace of God is always breaking into the present.  That’s why Jesus repeatedly urged people to keep watch.  God is at work, in our world and in your life, up to something very good.

As you take time to think about the coming year, can I urge you to resolve less about what you need to do and rest more in what God has promised to do.  A promise, of course, has everything to do with the new year because it concerns the future.  Think of its Latin origins, meaning pro – forth, and mittere – to send.  God’s promises are like packages of grace sent from the future; they are declarations which announce the coming of a reality that does not yet exist today.

This New Year’s, I’m wondering how can I cooperate with this grace that is coming at me all the time and around me everywhere.

Reflect on God’s promises and try to imagine how they might take shape in your life in the coming year.  How would your life and our world be different if God’s promises took shape in the present moment?  Ask yourself, where would you like to see a specific promise of God come alive in a new way this year?  When you answer those questions, you’ve got a solid, grace-framed agenda for the coming year.

As you enter and anticipate this new year, watch for the breaking in of God’s good reality in your life and our world.

But before you do all that, take 3 minutes to check out the following spot-on video – it sets the right context for thinking about the coming year.

And happy new year to you!

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  1. #1 by Dianne Mantyka on January 2, 2015 - 9:15 am

    Love this reflection. Thanks!

  2. #2 by voelkel on January 2, 2015 - 12:19 pm

    Thanks, Phil. It was so special to have a few moments with you while we were in Toronto.

    We appreciated the suggestion of reviewing the past year. Actually we have already done this and found it something we must do every year from now on. So glad you are teaching your family this discipline!

    Blessings on you, friend. Let us look for and live the promises!

    Jack and Mary Anne

    Janvier (Javier) Voelkel
    http://urbana.org/go-and-do/ask-jack
    (520) 301 4230
    228 South Country Club Rd / Tucson AZ / 85716

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