On the last day of the year I always take stock of the last 365 days. Then, during the first few days of the new year I slow down to think, pray and purpose for the next year ahead. Most likely, you do too. The season begs reflection and, at some level, all people accept this invitation in one form or another. But for some of us, we long for intentionality and deeper reflection. This year our community is planning to take four simple steps: Examen, Desire, Impact, and Honor. As we step into 2018, we invite you to join us! And since today is New Year's Eve, let's get right to it!
EXAMEN: December 31
Today we begin our year end reflection with an Examen. The Examen is a simple prayer practice in five steps that helps us reflect on the past day, week, month, or--in this case--year.
Begin by recalling that God is always with you and affirming that God has been with you in every moment over the last 365 days.
Second, take several minutes to remember and review the past year. What happened this past year? It's probably easiest to work through month by month. You may want to get out your calendar or journal to help you remember. But rather than get bogged down with all the small details, try to focus on some of the defining moments and experiences of the past year.
Third, take not of how you felt when you experienced those things. Were you happy? Sad? Angry? Frustrated? Hurt? Defeated? Despairing? How do you feel now as you recall these events of the past year?
Fourth, have a conversation with Jesus. Speaking with Jesus as a friend, simply share your heart and listen for his response. You can have this conversation for as long as you like. :)
Finally, close this time of reflection with a prayer of gratitude and hope for the next year!
DESIRE: January 1
"Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4
In our Life Compass workshop we place "Desires" as the North Compass point. We do this because it most closely relates to North in determining what we end up doing! If we're honest with ourselves, in the end, we do what we want to do. In fact, Frederick Beuchner's famouse quote, "Vocation is where your great passion meets the world's great hunger" lives and dies on desire. So today, we take stock of our desires.
Begin by making yourself comfortable in your chair and take a few deep, calming breaths.
Then, ask yourself, "What do I long for? What do I want this year?" Without judgment, allow yourself to be honest with this question. Is there a dream you've long held, but never given any energy to? Is there an impossible hope you carry that you've been burying? Does your heart ache for something that you're afraid will cost you too much if you actually pursue it?
Make a short list of 2-5 things you want to do, accomplish or change in 2018.
Funny thing about desires is that if we keep them hidden or buried, they just rear their heads in ways that are often unhealthy. They control us, rather than serve us and energize us. Worse, they undermine our ability to live out the invitation from the first half of this verse. Psalm 37:4 invites us to first delight ourselves in the Lord. Our Desires may be North, but God's Desires are True North; not our plans, but God's purposes in the world and in our lives.
Spend the last part of this reflection worshiping God and enjoying His loving presence with you. Ask Him to form your desires toward His. And then Celebrate that God has placed desires in you that HE wants you to pursue! Listen for his voice of affirmation for the desires He has given you!
IMPACT: January 2
"Everyone is at the mercy of another one's dream" -Sam Baker
I don't know about you, but this quote hits me right between the eyes. First of all, I have a lot of big dreams and I've seen the impact--both good and bad--of those dreams on the people around me. Sadly, the impact of my dreams have had far more negative impact than I care to admit. Secondly, I recognize that I and the people I love are at the mercy of leaders, CEO's, politicians, friends and neighbors who are living out their dreams. Most of the time those dreams make my life better. And yet, some cause more harm than good. Ever heard the phrase, "When Helping Hurts"? Not all helping is equal and often the help we think we are offering only causes more pain and suffering. So, today is our "gut check" day.
Close your eyes and imagine you're riding on a train. You've befriended a young family sitting near you and you're enjoying playing games with their young son. About halfway to your destination you hear a loud explosion and everything goes black. When you come to, you're mangled and bleeding. You look around for your new friends and your heart breaks. They didn't survive. How could this happen? Who could have done this?
This is exactly what happened to Sam Baker. While traveling in Peru, a bomb placed by a rebel group exploded in his train car. To some in Peru the rebel group were heroes with a dream to establish a new government. But that day, their dream killed 7 people and severly maimed Sam.
Think back to the dreams and desires for 2018 you articulated yesterday. Pick one and play it out in your mind. If you go for this and accomplish it, what impact will it have?
...for your family?
...for your neighbors and community?
...for the workers necesarry to accomplish it?
...for the environment?
...for your children and future generations?
...for those its intended to help?
...for people indirectly affected?
Is the cost worth it?
How could you be more mindful of the "uninteded consequences"?
Is there a way to adjust how you go about pursuing this desire so that these consequences can be avoided?
Close in prayer, humbly submitting to Jesus the desires of your heart and seeking His leadership.
HONOR: January 3
"Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies." --Hebrews 13:3
There is work for us to do this year. There are desires in our hearts that we are to pursue. There are people (including ourselves) that we are to care for, fight for, serve, encourage and heal. If 2018 doesn't bring us closer to the goodness of God's Kingdom, then we are wasting our time.
But how can we move with purpose and confidence while carrying all of the weight of what we learned yesterday? It's enough to cripple us with fear. "It would be better if I did nothing!" we tell ourselves. And wouldn't the evil one love it if we believed that lie!
I think a good place to begin is HONOR.
Honor is seeking the perspective and guidance of those we seek to serve. Honor is submitting to patience and the wisdom of our elders. Honor is listening longer than feels comfortable. Honor is putting ourselves in others' shoes. Honor is "feeling their pain in our own bodies". Honor is setting aside our ambitions and reputation.
How do you define "honor"? What do you think is the best way to honor the people in your life?
Choose one of your 2018 desires. Who is the person/people most likely to be impacted?
What is one way you can honor them as you pursue this goal?
Do the same for each of your 2018 desires and dreams.
Spend some time in conversation with Jesus asking him to open your eyes to the ways you can pursue the dreams and desires he's given you in a spirit of humility and honor.
Be still and quiet. Listen for Jesus' words. What is he asking you to pursue in 2018? How does he want you to do it? As we come to the end of these exercises, remain open to anything Jesus may ask of you: to redirect your priorities; challenge you to pursue harder; surprise you with his invitations.
As you complete these exercises, listen or sing along with this song: