Sunday, January 4, 2015

Happy New Year 2015

Ministerial Meditations

by The Rev. Connie Yost

January 4, 2015

Beautiful Big Bend National Park, Texas

New Year's Resolution

Well, I did it again, bringing in
that infant Purity across the land,
welcoming Innocence with gin
in New York, waiting up
to help Chicago,
Denver, L.A., Fairbanks, Hon-
olulu--and now
the high school bands are alienating Dallas,
and girls in gold and tangerine
have lost all touch with Pasadena,
and young men with muscles and missing teeth
are dreaming of personal fouls,
and it's all beginning again, just like
those other Januaries in
instant reply.

But I've had enough
of turning to look back, the old
post-morteming of defeat:
people I loved but didn't touch,
friends I haven't seen for years,
strangers who smiled but didn't speak--failures,
failures.  No,
I refuse to leave it at that, because
somewhere, off camera,
January is coming like Venus
up from the murk of December, re-
virginized, as innocent
of loss as any dawn.  Resolved: this year
I'm going to break my losing streak,
I'm going to stay alert, reach out,
speak when not spoken to,
read the minds of people in the streets.
I'm going to practice every day,
stay in training, and be moderate
in all things.
All things but love.

~ Philip Appleman ~

(New and Selected Poems, 1956-1996)

Here we are at the beginning of a New Year, so let me start by wishing you a Happy New Year.  I’ve long enjoyed the ending of one year and the beginning of another as a time of reflection and discernment of what I want to bring more of into my life this year.

I like this poem because it highlights the pitfalls of the process.  Reflection on the year gone by is necessary so we can know where we’ve been, where we’ve had success, where we’ve had joy, where we’ve gone off-track, and where we need to make amends.  All necessary for our growth, relationships and well-being.

 But we can easily get mired in regrets and emotional self-flagellation, the “old post-morteming of defeat.  If you’re like me, it won’t be hard to make a long list of New Year’s Resolutions, attempting to correct the failures of the last year.  I’ll practice the piano more, spend more time on my art, stop swearing at other drivers, post more on my blog, stick to my diet, walk 10,000 steps every day, etc. etc.

With any luck, I’ll actually do some or maybe even all of these things this year.  But this year I’m approaching my resolutions differently.  Rather than looking at them as reproaching me for my past failures, I am looking at them as a way to bring more joy into my life.  I may not like sticking to my diet, but I know I will like losing weight.  It’s hard learning something new, like drawing and painting, but the only way to learn is to keep doing it.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Every artist was first an amateur.”  

So as the poem says, “I'm going to practice every day, stay in training.”  One of the most important ways we can “stay in training” is to check-in with ourselves on a daily basis.  A spiritual practice will help you do that.  It can be anything that helps you quiet yourself so you can listen to your spirit – the longings, the passions, the wounds – everything that makes you “you.”  Spiritual practices include prayer, meditation, walking in nature, journaling or spiritual writing, spiritual reading (Lectio Divina), chanting or spiritual singing, spiritual art and many others that are an integral part of a particular religious tradition.

Adopting a regular spiritual practice is a great way to keep in touch with yourself and for many people, it is a way to feel connected to and supported by your higher power, God/Goddess, Spirit of Life—whatever name speaks to you.  As a process theologian, I believe that we co-create reality with the mystery that I call God; that God is continually inviting us – luring us—to lives that include more truth, more beauty, more creativity, more compassion, more love.  The wonderful poet and priest John O’Donohue says, “There is an unseen world that dreams us and knows our true direction and destiny.”

So for this New Year, amidst all your New Year’s Resolutions, I invite you to make one more – to find or continue the spiritual practice that supports you and brings you more fully alive with joy and love.  “Practice every day, stay in training, and be moderate in all things.  All things but love.”

Copyright 2015 Constance B. Yost.  All rights reserved.