With a new year just around the corner many of us are thinking about the intentions we would carry forward, the regrets we’d leave behind and the treasures we would maintain. Of course the date doesn’t matter that much, but it’s always a welcome gift to be in a liminal moment, a place of change and even renewal, when our hearts and minds are bent naturally to reflect and to dream.
One year closes and another opens. What will my new year bring? What will I bring to the new year? As people of faith we believe that God goes with us, and that God knows what awaits us… but we also know all too well that our faith is not in what we see but in what we hope. As much as God might know, we do not. This is the essence of hope. This is why we take such tight hold on these times to reflect and to dream. Hope is this intersection of what is not known and what is known. We recognize that the coming year has so much we cannot yet see, but also that God walks beside us, going before us, and coming after. Days of lightness and days of darkness are the same, rain and shine both speak of God’s presence, for in Christ all matter has been sung the song of love.
Still, to stand and look across the divide from one year to the next is exciting. I look back and see that I have too often neglected prayer. I have too often neglected to study. I have too often neglected to love. I see also that God has both ministered to me through the many and various people in my life, and God has ministered to them through me. God’s will is done regardless of my prayer, but I would have eyes wide open and be awake to see as much as I can. So I look out at the coming year and I pray: Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Perhaps the deepest blessing of a past year in which I did not see myself doing all that I should have done is seeing all that was done in spite of me, and in spite of any of my failing, and just beyond it to see God’s smile. To be reminded that almost there is sometimes exactly the place where I was going to be regardless of my effort or my intention. Almost there was the place I needed to be. Almost there was there all along. This is the root of hope for a new year, and all the intentions I may place within it. I do not hope for a better year, but for the year that is needed, for me, for those I love, for all in this hurting world of conflict and hatred.
I intend so much for this new year. No doubt in twelve months I will look back with some regrets. No worries. As long as God is there, the rain and shine, the darkness and light, the ups and downs of my year will be just fine. Deus in adjutorium meum intende.
With 2015 just around the corner I want to throw out as much encouragement as I can for you to make and attain some goals in the new year and to grow with God. I want to be a sacred companion for your new year.
This was a title we heard Fr. Richard Rohr use in his email I quoted in my last blog post… a sacred companion is a spiritual friend and/or a director who walks along with you. We walk with God, and a sacred companion is one who recognizes this and lives into that shared journey with you.
I personally come at this from two angles: 1) as a pastor and spiritual director, and 2) as a life coach. Let’s talk about the way each of these two roles can function for us in 2015.
As a spiritual friend directing you in prayer and spiritual growth I will be supplying you with a reading list of passages and questions for reflection. I’ll be supplying you with beginning places (intentions) and methods (different exercises) for prayer. You’ll journal and record the things you experience and discover in the practice of prayer and we’ll be in conversation about those experiences.
What does this spiritual relationship entail and require from you? You need to commit to several things: 1) At least a two month period of direction, 2) at least 30 minutes a day in prayer and reading, and 3) at least 30 minutes a week in conversation with me.
What does this spiritual relationship entail and require from me? I will be committing to several things as well: 1) praying for you daily, 2) reading the same passages you are reading, 3) at least 30 minutes a week in conversation with you, and 4) keeping in contact between our conversations.
Life coaching is a bit different from spiritual direction. In the life coaching relationship I still a companion, but I’m not directing the journey. I’m not providing you with readings and answers, but instead I’m asking questions and digging deep with you into the questions and goals you have about about your life. Life coaching is about managing change, setting goals, and achieving goals.
What does life coaching entail and require from you? Like a spiritual direction relationship, coaching will take some time and commitment… but the payoff can be more than worth it! You will be asked to: 1) be completely honest with me and yourself, 2) set some clear and measurable goals, 3) commit to yourself to pursue the changes and goals you identify as needed in your life, 4) meet with me for 45 minutes once a week, and 5) commit to at least four months of a coaching relationship.
What does life coaching entail and require from me? I also have a lot to do and accomplish with you coaching journey. I will be committed to: 1) being prepared for each meeting each week, 2) spending at least 45 minutes with you each week, 3) holding all our conversations in complete confidence, 4) being completely honest with you at all times, and 5) keeping in contact between our conversations.
A couple of my past posts on life coaching:
One Reason I Love Life Coaching: Healthy Dependence, and
I Will Listen
These are two ways I offer myself to you, in a committed journey of life. Have questions? Let’s chat. Have concerns? Let’s chat. Both spiritual direction and life coaching can happen, and happen well, either face to face, video chatting or over the phone. I actually do prefer Skype. Of course, I’m always happy to have some good conversations with you, but these kind of committed journeys achieve the most for both of us.
Can we mix them up and do both? I think I’ve learned that we cannot in fact mix them up. We can do both over the same period of months, but our times together in conversation need to be kept strictly within the realm of spiritual direction or life coaching. We can do both over the same period of time, or one after the other, but not in a hybrid form of both at once.
Sound like something you could use? Let’s do this! 2015 waits!
It just feels natural to look at the coming new calendar year and begin to dream. It’s a new year, but also the same old me. What will I dream for the coming combo of old me and new days? Am I ready to grow and seek, find and fail? Am I ready to move with a sense of purpose and love? Am I dreaming wide awake?
I was richly blessed by the daily email today from Fr. Richard Rohr. If you don’t get his emails I’ll link that email entitled In Our End Is Our Beginning as well as quoting a bit from it. He’s always laying some beauty and wisdom on us, a deep quiet for our busy and hectic days.
He lays out some important ideas for moving into the new year, new and old practices that help us engage life and growth. Here is how he labels and describes them:
Contemplative practice: Contemplation is a “laboratory” in which you learn to die and to be reborn. The rest of your life becomes the field in which you live out this way of surrender and participation in Love. Commit to a daily practice of some kind–silent meditation, yoga, chanting, or maybe one of the “Rest” practices introduced in the Saturday meditations.
Sabbath: Set aside regular, longer periods of quiet or retreat, simply to rest in awareness of God’s presence. Find a rhythm of rest and work that allows for renewal so that you enter your active life from contemplative grounding.
Service: Allow the natural welling-up of love to flow outward in acts of justice, healing, and compassion. Life is not about you; you are about life!
Shadow work: The task of searching out and embracing shadow–the parts of yourself that you hide or ignore–is ongoing, the work of a lifetime. Let the people and circumstances that “push your buttons” be your teachers. Look for yourself with a loving gaze in the mirror of both your enemies and those who enthrall you.
Spiritual direction: If you do not have someone to guide you, to hold onto you during the times of not knowing, you will normally stay at your present level of growth. Seek out a sacred companion you can trust to be honest and present to your journey, who can reflect back to you God’s presence in your life and the world.
These are beautiful movements of life and growth. How do we make them a reality in our daily hustle and bustle? What of these might you engage in 2015? What other dreams and goals will you set for these coming new days? You can call them goals, dreams or new year’s resolutions, but let’s talk about making some plans for 2015…
First, keep your dreams simple and attainable. Want to engage that contemplative practice? Then be realistic. You won’t begin by chanting an hour every day at 4am. Neither will I. Think about your schedule and where and when you might take a regular break. Is it the commute to work? Mornings are great times to center on God and God’s grace. Is it at lunch when you need to re-energize for the rest of the day? Keep your goals fairly simple and within reach: not too easy, but attainable. Then you can really celebrate the victory of that dream and move on with bigger ones! But doesn’t faith mean that I must dream bigger than I can imagine or attain? Nope. God does bigger than we can imagine, and we are not called to usurp God’s role in moving past our own abilities and imaginations (Ephesians 3:14-21). You can keep it simple and faithful. God will always surprise us.
Sharing is Nice.
Second, share your goals and dreams and have them visible. Let some others know what you are dreaming. They might become partners with that dream! You might inspire them to dreams of their own! But most of all, you are speaking that dream aloud and giving it even greater life. Write down your dreams and plans and keep them visible, prominent in a journal or on a wall at home. This helps you to be reminded of your goals as well as tracking progress and measuring your journey toward a dream. Life, as well as dreams, are best when shared. We need each other.
Plan for Success & Failure.
Third, make some plans for the times when you will succeed and when you will fail. We don’t like to admit that we may not meet a goal or always live according to our dreams for doing life, but it’s a reality that we are frail, fickle and forgetful at times. Be ready to celebrate the successes and to forgive yourself for the failings. How will you celebrate a dream realized? How will you “lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord”? (Psalm 116) How will you forgive yourself, learn whatever should be learned from the failure, and faithfully move on? Both successes and failures will follow our best planning and dreaming. Plan on it.
And finally, I offer myself as a sacred companion. I like that description which Fr. Rohr uses for a spiritual friend who travels along with you. I will be that for you and will ask you to be the same for me. Whether your dreams are more spiritual in nature, seeking growth with God, or more daily life in nature, looking for a new job or car, I will walk that road with you. Let’s talk more about it.
“Let no one ever come to you
without leaving better and happier.
Be the living expression of God’s kindness:
kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes,
kindness in your smile.”
Mother Teresa of Calcutta