Newsletter January 2022 - First Presbyterian Ridgewood, NJ
As I sit down to type my first First Press article of 2022, I am reminded of the practice of adopting New Year’s resolutions. And I recall the many resolutions I’ve sincerely written over the years and then kept for little more than a month, or even in some cases, a week. Cutting out junk food. Adhering to daily exercise routines. Eight hours of sleep a night. Reading a book a week. Reading through the Bible in a year. Keeping in touch with long-distance friends. Submitting First Press articles on time.
One could look at such attempts and subsequent lack of success and beat oneself up. But that is not exactly helpful. On the other hand, one could take a more constructive approach and once again look at the beginning of a new year as an opportunity for a fresh start, the beginning of a new and improved life.
As one whose responsibility it is to encourage growth in the spiritual dimension of life, I am going to take this opportunity to urge all of us to become more attentive to God in 2022. To be more attentive to what God is up to in our own lives, in our life together and in the world.
Throughout the centuries, people of faith have adopted spiritual practices as a way to be attentive to God. Daily prayer. Scripture reading. Morning devotions. Weekly worship. Committing time to serving others. These are time-tested methods of drawing close to God and listening for God’s leading in our lives. To embark on one or more of these spiritual practices with an open mind and open heart often leads to spiritual growth.
Yet, to begin such a practice, and then falter and miss a day or days or more, is not the equivalent of failure. Nor is it any reason to abandon the practice. Instead, it presents an opportunity to begin anew. One more thing: I am convinced that God is walking with each of us on our life’s journeys. God is always there, willing to speak to us through the experiences of our lives. Willing to love, comfort, encourage, guide and teach us, if only we pay attention, if only we listen.
To this point, Frederick Buechner writes the following in Listening to Your Life:
“The question is not whether the things that happen to you are chance things or God’s things because, of course, they are both at once. There is no chance thing through which God cannot speak - even the walk from the house to the garage that you have walked ten thousand times before, even the moments when you cannot believe there is a God who speaks at all anywhere. He speaks, I believe, and the words he speaks are incarnate in the flesh and blood of ourselves and of our own footsore and sacred journeys. We cannot live our lives constantly looking back, listening back, lest we be turned to pillars of longing and regret, but to live without listening at all is to live deaf to the fullness of the music. Sometimes we avoid listening for fear of what we may hear, sometimes for fear that we may hear nothing at all but the empty rattle of our own feet on the pavement. But be not affeard, says Caliban, nor is he the only one to say it. ‘Be not afraid,’ says another, ‘for lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’ He says he is with us on our journeys. He says he has been with us since each of our journeys began. Listen for him. Listen to the sweet and bitter airs of your present and your past for the sound of him.”
Or to put it another way, remember the promise of Advent: Emmanuel, God with us. May we pay attention.
Grace and peace,