Steve Macchia Blog

New Year Reflections: Remember and Give Thanks

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One of the pillars of the spiritual life that we encourage leaders to consider is the discipline of reflection. Accompanying our personal and community time in the Scriptures and in prayer, reflection is best seen in the ways we “remember and give thanks” to God for the life of abundance he invites us to embrace each new day.  On our soul care retreats and in our spiritual formation groups we teach the importance of reflection, specifically through the ancient practice of “Daily Examen.”

 

As you anticipate the start of a new year, it’s good for your soul to look back with gratitude on 2014 and ahead with anticipation for all that awaits you in 2015. Here are a few suggestions to consider as you spend a few quiet moments with the Lord in the midst of your New Year celebrations…

 

1.  Spend some quiet time with the Lord and simply become aware of God’s presence. Quiet your hurried heart and ask God to bring clarity to your reflections.

2.  Review the past year with gratitude, recalling the gifts God gave to you in 2014. Gifts from God might include new or renewed relationships, special events or experiences, etc.

3.  Pay attention to the emotions that these recollections evoke; what remembrance of this past year brings fear, joy, anxiety, sorrow or elation? Note these in written form.

4.  What one major event of the past year stands out among the rest? Pray through and process how it has shaped you either positively or negatively.

5.  Look ahead to 2015. What are your expectations, hopes and dreams for the New Year? List them in your journal and pray over them on the first few days of the New Year.

 

God bless you as you partake of this prayer-filled, year-end Examen.



Note to Self: Beware of Advent Noise

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Wow, I’m shocked how many “Advent devotionals” are available this year…many more than in years past.

 

In addition to the many written options available in book format, I’m noticing on Facebook, via numerous e-mail lists, and for whatever reason I’m even auto-subscribed to several more coming into my inbox either daily or weekly between now and Christmas Day. Some I can see already will be excellent; others rather mediocre. Some are by individuals I admire or organizations I support or published by churches I’m connected with or ministries I know and follow. Everyone has very good intentions: helping their reader engage more meaningfully in the Advent and Christmas season. A few have pretty obvious ulterior motives: asking for a donation.

 

But, my fear is that these very devotionals – and their ancillary web pages, resources, events, etc. – will provide so much additional noise to an already over-cluttered, over-committed and over-saturated season of the year that they will contribute more to my/our seasonal exhaustion rather than my/our spiritual invigoration. It’s already feeling a bit like the Black Friday and Cyber Monday chatter of retail…just sayin.

 

My counsel, for what it’s worth…don’t try to do it all. Limit your intake. Focus on what seems most soul-satisfying and relationship-building (as in between you and God, and you and your faith community). Collect and then collate; don’t attempt the status of super Christian in one short month. Instead, and in the midst of all that’s already on your holiday calendar, purpose to focus – yes, really focus – on the true meaning of Advent and Christmas. Which, by the way, is about waiting and wondering, watching and hoping, listening and praying, anticipating and expecting, all wrapped up as one holy season. If you’re in a rush now, you might end up turning the page into the New Year and scratching your head, amazed how quickly it all slipped away amidst the noise and confusion.

 

You can’t enjoy the full beauty of Advent and Christmas if you think you need to do or read or attend or know it all…it simply might be too noisy for your soul. Watch out if you’re more interested in knowing more about Advent than you are experiencing the fullness of Advent. Be sure to behold the coming of the Lord in the love of the Christ Child, and then become what you receive.