Begin (again)

Dooway, The Druidston Hotel

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.         -T.S. Eliot

And so we begin again. The new year of 2015 is underway. The roads near my house were surprisingly free of traffic. The gym was nearly empty. Our neighborhood is quiet. It is time to make a beginning, to find a new voice and fresh words. For me, however, this new year is not a time for resolutions.

I just finished reading again Parker Palmer’s reflection about the artificial marking of a new year. Click here to be redirected to the onbeing website to read the post. I always appreciate Palmer’s perspectives on living and being and faith, and this entry is no exception. His words remind me of why I resist making New Year’s resolutions. They seem, well, so artificial. We lay our best intentions on the line, a bold hope, seeking some sort of accountability and encouragement in writing and/or speaking the words of them. Yet life, in its relentless passing, has a way of grinding those good intentions down to finest sand. They endure, but all too often the don’t resemble the idea or hope with which we cast them upon the tide of our days and hours.

No, I won’t make resolutions this year, but I do think I’ll join Palmer  in pondering some life-giving questions rather than hammering out pronouncements of change and intended improvement that will likely fade as winter’s chill gives way to spring’s greening.

Palmer offers a lovely poem, “We Look with Uncertainty” by Anne Hillman and a quote by Ranier Maria Rilke as inspiration for this process of questioning. The Rilke quote is from Letters to a Young Poet (one of my favorite books):

“…I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them, and the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then graduatlly, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” (treanslation by M.D. Herter Norton)

So here are the questions I’ll be pondering (do check out Parker Palmer’s, too):

  1. Is what I choose now central to what really matters in life? If not, can I let it go?
  2. How can I be a better steward of all that’s been entrusted to my care?
  3. What is God up to in my life? In the world around me? Am I listening and paying attention?
  4. Am I being vulnerable and taking risks for the sake of the gospel?
  5. How am I giving my call to creative work sufficient power and time?*

How about you? What questions might you ponder this year? How will you begin (again)?

*This question comes from a quote by the poet Mary Oliver that I read a few days ago. This statement has convicted me to do a better job of giving power and time to my creative gifts this year. Here’s the quote:

The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time. — Mary Oliver

Photo: Chris Wild, Creative Commons License. Thanks!


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. what has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.  –John 1:1-5

Today marks a new beginning–that of a brand new year. For many people this beginning means an opportunity to make promises and resolutions for how they hope to conduct themselves or manage their lives for 2012. There will be plenty of resolutions to lose weight, eat better, and work on becoming healthier. Other folks will resolve to spend less, save more, and rid themselves of consumer debt. Still other individuals will resolve to be kinder, to appreciate life more, or to find ways to help those in need.

Resolutions are not bad; in fact, they can be quite helpful in providing focus and direction. Sometimes, however, I wonder if we can become so focused on our resolutions that we neglect the beginning itself. We humans so love to plan, chart our course, and have goals and maps spread before us, to keep our eye on the prize, and our feet moving forward. Again, this is not wrong, but we miss something when we fail to honor and live with the beginning itself.

Today, for example, I worshiped with the good folks at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran where I am called to serve. For me, the opportunity to worship and offer thanks and praise to the source of all life, the Creator of the Universe, was the perfect way to honor the beginning of a new year. It helped set the tone for what I hope to be about in the coming months and on whom and what I desire to focus. For the disciple of Christ, the beginning is God, and all things, all life flows from that divine source.

Even if that is not your focus or the path on which you are walking, I invite you to spend this first week contemplating and simply honoring this new beginning. Don’t fret about resolutions and promises just yet. Live in the moment. Be grateful for the beginning of each new day of this first week of a new year. Let the past go. Leave last year behind you, and for at least these seven days live in the present moment. Live in the beginning. Resist the urge to plow ahead, cover ground, and strive for progress. Just be. Just begin. Give thanks for the blessing of this new beginning.

For Further Reflection…

Light a candle. Commit to spending at least 10 minutes on this exercise.

Focus on the words from the first five verses of John’s gospel (printed above). Read the passage aloud. Meditate on the words and the concept of the Word being present at the beginning of time as well as now at the beginning of a new year. Watch how the light of one candle does indeed overcome darkness, bringing warmth and hope. Know that God is good. Know that the Divine architect of the universe is with you, written deeply into your DNA. The “ruach” or breath of the Spirit flows in and out of you. Resist the urge to let the cares and concerns of your world disrupt your experience of the present moment.

When you are finished, give thanks for new light and new beginnings. Go gently into your day or to your rest.

(Photo by spcbrass used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!)