No More Resolutions

resolutions

David Harward, “Your New Clock”

A few years ago I heard a great definition of the word “expectation”: preconceived resentment. This is an apt description of what happens when we get emotionally attached to our desires.

It’s New Year’s day. I want to offer my definition of “resolution”: preconceived failure.

“Only 8% of people are always successful in achieving their resolutions. 19% achieve their resolutions every other year. 49% have infrequent success. 24% (one in four people) NEVER succeed and have failed on every resolution every year. That means that 3 out of 4 people almost never succeed. (from Steve Shapiro)

So who is it that thought it was that important to make new year’s resolutions that we know we will break within days if not hours of our decision? And why do we keep repeating the pattern?

But we want our lives to be better! How do we go about doing it?

I have three pieces to the puzzle of a new transforming way of entering the new year.

Peter Bregman wrote an interesting piece for the Harvard Business Review on the failure of goal setting. (Don’t set goals, choose focus)

In the article he cited studies which show that Big Hairy Audacious Goals don’t really work the way they are intended. Not only do they set people and organizations up for failure, but they are also easy to circumvent and cheat.

Instead he counsels us to choose areas of focus for our time and energy:

“A goal defines an outcome you want to achieve; an area of focus establishes activities you want to spend your time doing. A goal is a result; an area of focus is a path. A goal points to a future you intend to reach; an area of focus settles you into the present.

I have struggled with failure and procrastination. I am still learning about the importance of staying present and living my process. This greater process I call God’s fully dimensional life.

Where I am now is not where God wants me to be, yet where I am now is where God loves me fully.

So, goal setting is counter-productive, but being intentional about what we focus our time and energy on is a good direction to head. That is the first piece of my puzzle.

The second piece of the puzzle comes from Leonard Sweet:

One of the traps of goal setting and resolutions for me is that focus on control. Control is an activity of the ego self that constructs a reality that matches its view of what is important. The problem? When we center our lives on self-made constructs we live out of balance. We live limited lives.

A fully dimensional life is founded on the Essence of God’s presence not on anything or anyone else (including our selves).

When we get caught up in power and control we fail because so much of existence is beyond our control. So we set ourselves up for disappointment.

A life that focuses on preparedness and trust is responsive to our present reality and to the living work of the Creator. It is a life that remains open to God’s promise and possibilities.

One last piece to my puzzle. This time from my Uncle Bob Farr.

I said to the man at the gate of the year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread into the unknown.’ He said to me, ‘Put your hand into the hand of God, and that shall be better for you than a light to your way or a map to the path to be taken.’

When we focus on specific goals and resolutions we unwittingly place all the emphasis on what we can do and what is important and significant to us. When we do that we take the guiding wind and waves of the Spirit out of the equation and place ourselves in the role of source and initiator.

However, when we reconnect with the Author of the Universe for the direction of our daily lives we renew our participation in something that is so much greater than we can ever imagine.

Your turn:

On this New Year’s Day I am renewing my focus on

  • Remaining open to God’s possibilities,
  • Reconnecting with living guidance of God’s Spirit, and
  • Centering and focusing my life on the Energy which fills the universe.

Over the next week I will be share more about my focus areas for the new year.

What will you focus on this year?

Share

Did Baby Jesus Dream?

Adele Enerson

We continue in the midst of the season of Christmas, which actually begins with Christmas Day and ends on Epiphany (January 6).

So what kinds of dreams do you think the infant Jesus had?

This photo and illustration by Adele Enerson shows her imagining what her sleeping child might be dreaming about. I like this version: it holds so much hope.

Do we still have the innocent hope of a child?

For more photos you can check out:

Share

Following the Magi: Home Another Way

So, we’ve gathered at the manger. We have left our gifts. We have seen what the angels sang about. It is time to return to the sheep. I hope they are okay. It is time to find our way home.

Should we go and tell King Herod what we found? He said he wanted to honor the child, but I’m not sure. Did he seem a bit creepy to you? He did to me.

What do we do now?

We can share some of the wonderings of the shepherds and the Magi after they found the child they searched for. We have spent days, weeks, even months preparing for the Christmas celebration. And a couple days after, we are left feeling somewhat empty.

We have to clean up the house and put away all the decorations. If we visited in another place we have to pack up and go home.

It is time to get back to normal life, right?

If that is all we seek, our old normal life, then we have missed the point of the journey and the visit.

If Christmas means anything, it means we are to be transformed.

In Luke 2:20, the shepherds went away rejoicing. In Matthew 2:10, the Magi rejoiced when they found the child under the star. They were so affected by their visit that they defied the King and found another way home.

So how are we to be transformed by our honoring the birth of Christ?

We need to first of all share in the joy of those first visitors.

Sadly, one of the perceptions we have about our normal lives is that they are humdrum and without a whole lot of interest and excitement. That is why we put so much energy into these festivals: life is boring and we crave excitement, so let’s find a reason to party. Then we can forget how drab our existence is.

The coming of Light in the manger is to show us that the normal life God intends for us is full of joy and celebration.

Our normal life needs to filled with the fullness and depth of joy that comes from experiencing the living presence of the light of the universe.

Another lesson from our visit to the manger scene is shown by Mary. Throughout the various Nativity stories, Mary is said to contemplate in her heart the events and words of others. She remembered. She kept remembering and in that memory lies her new life.

We need to be people who remember the wisdom of events and caring people in our lives. It is easy for me to forget what happened yesterday. Yet, the life that comes to my from the source of history provides me reason to try to remember and when I remember I find myself changed by the events of not only the past but the present.

As we nurture a remembering life, we look to each present moment as a wonderful opportunity to experience the living presence of hope.

The third lesson from the child in the manger is the centrality of embodying our life.

It is easy for us to want to split ourselves into pieces and compartments. We think it is easier to control and manage. And it is, up to a point.

Yet, as we continue to divide and conquer our lives we fracture and fragment. We become less and less the whole people that God creates us to be. We split body from spirit. We divorce head and heart. We separate work and faith.

That is not living in light of the Incarnation.

At Christmas, God chose to integrate all the pieces that we try to scatter in our lives. Divinity unites with flesh and heaven and earth are brought together in that cave.

As we come to and leave the presence of the child we are to be reunited with our selves. We are meant to embody and integrate all that God has given us.

This body is no longer the enemy, it again the gift of the creator. It is the image of God that is now transformed by the promise of resurrection.

In leaving the manger we complete the circle. The Magi looked up and found a star to follow, they looked inside to find a heart of great meaning, and as they leave they stand on the solid ground of earth and again look to heaven with new hope and great joy.

Complete the circle.

Share

Christmas Eve Lights

Christmas Eve. I gathered with my community of faith with candle light in a dimly lit worship space. I read these words:

“The light was in the world, and the world came into being through the light, but the world didn’t recognize the light.” (John 1:10 CEB)

I feel the bite of those words. I am part of that darkness that is so involved with so many other things that I miss the light of life. There is so much flash and noise in my life I can’t see the one part of my life that is truly alive: the presence of mercy and love.

I like the old answers to dusty questions, so I shut my eyes to fresh truth. I am the one doing the talking, after all, I am the preacher. I’m supposed to keep getting the word out.

But do I listen?

Can I hear the word that comes to me first?

I’m too enamored by my own familiar thoughts that there is no space for the Word of life to sneak in, until I stop and face my emptiness in the quiet. There a whisper tugs at my heart. An ancient yet newly born word triggers a deep desire.

Where did that small and full light come from?

The Word continues on that dark night in worship:

The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” — John 1:10,14 CEB

That’s what thrills my soul: someone real. Someone who is fully alive whose simple presence pulls me toward the light.

I thought I needed ideas to be alive. I thought I could be satisfied with mere words and thoughts and understanding. But I was wrong.

I need Life embodied. I need truth that walks and cries and laughs. I need light that is touchable.

The candle wax drips on my fingers as we pass the flame from candle to candle and sing a simple song to the beloved Presence of life that now shares a body like ours.

Just like ours!

But don’t we want to get rid of these fragile bodies? After all, aren’t they the source of our pain, sorrow, and anxiety?

But that doesn’t fit with the truth of the Incarnation of Christ. That doesn’t fit with Christmas.

God chose to create us with these bodies, made in the very image of our God. Even after we get lost and reject the light, it isn’t as partial beings that salvation is brought to us. Our healing is within these fragile bodies, these breakable hearts, and these wayward minds.

Word became flesh and love reconciles us.

And in the silence and the powerful light of simple candles that we know.

Light comes. Life is here. Do I see it? Where do I know it?

We have nowhere else to go. The gift is holding us.

Hallelujah. Emmanuel.

Share