Monday, January 31, 2011

Study, Study, Study

Perhaps it's "new-year-itis," but the urge to examine basic beliefs is tugging at me.  The process of reading the gospels laid out in parallel format has begun, and Jesus goes into the wilderness after his baptism by John today.  Another component of this study project is compiling a list of questions that arise from each day's gospel reading.  Making a list of beliefs about God is another project.  Thinking through the concepts of sin and atonement are still occupying a part of my "think time," too.

The very basic difference between Buddhism and Christianity is belief in a Creator-God.  The striking thing is that the practical applications of two very different systems of belief brings adherents to the same place of service.  This is what prompts me to examine my beliefs about God and to think about how those beliefs influence the way in which life is lived.

A project for this week is re-reading Emerson's essay on "Self Reliance."  For many people of my generation the writings of Emerson and his fellow New Englanders have been very influential in forming our views of life and religious belief, and it is my hope that reading this essay once more will remind me of how inspiring the essay was for me as a teen.

My prayer is that each of us will find inspiration, peace, and love through the leading of God, our interactions with others, and writings that challenge.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Go and Sin No More

Each evening just before falling asleep, my wife & i read a brief devotional together.  We have been reading a book of daily devotions written by a man of great faith, and two night's ago the devotional message was about sin.  That got me to thinking about the topic and wondering exactly what sin is.  Is sin deliberately choosing to separate one's self from God?  Is sin putting one's self at the center of one's existence, thinking of everyone and everything else as existing for one's own purposes?  Is sin breaking a list of rules?

The idea that God is "keeping score," in essence "making a list and checking it twice" to determine "who's naughty or nice" is troubling.  Yet, that's the concept many of us were taught: that God was to be feared because at the day of judgment there would be a reckoning for all the bad things we had done during our life on earth, that the good and the bad would be weighed in a balance.  If there was not enough good or too much bad, we would be condemned to eternal torment.

What did Jesus teach about sin?  He told the adulterous woman whose accusers were prepared to stone her that he did not condemn her and advised her to "go and sin no more."  He called tax collectors to repent of their abuses and inspired those who came to follow him to return their extorted gains.  His most condemnatory remarks were for those who made a great show of outward religion while the heart remained corrupt and for those who used religion for their own personal gain.  Exploring what Jesus had to say about sin may lead to a better understanding of the nature of sin and God's reaction to our sins.

For now, the brief statement that Jesus made in the Lord's Prayer is enough: "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us."  My prayer for each of us is that we may be quick to forgive others so that we do not carry the burden of anger, hurt, and revenge.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

To Be (at Peace)

There are many blogs that i follow, as anyone who reads my blog can see.  Many are full of advice from the experiences of others, and i find them quite helpful, but i am uncomfortable giving advice.  When i write, i enjoy reporting my own experiences in the hope those experiences resonate with others.  One of the things that has been helpful to me is meditation.  As i've incorporated a time of meditation in my morning devotionals and occasionally at other times during the day, some things have changed for me.  So today it seemed helpful to list some of the benefits i've enjoyed from the practice of meditation:

  • Life is more peaceful.
  • Sleep is more restful.
  • The present is more real.
  • Regrets about the past have largely disappeared.
  • Anxieties about the future are pretty much gone, too.
  • Food is more enjoyable and at the same time more filling.
  • Each day is an exciting adventure that i look forward to from the minute i arise.
  • Prayer is more authentic.
Each time i think, "i'll stop the list there," a new item that needs to be added pops into my head, but for now i'll stop at eight.  To say that YOU should meditate would be presumptuous, but i can say that the practice has been incredibly beneficial to me.  May your day be filled with joy and peace.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Walk in the Mall

Today as my wife and i took our daily walk in the local mall, a woman came out of a store with a T-shirt that had a graphic depicting Jesus on the cross with a clever quip about his "sacrificial" death.  My initial reaction was judgmental, as i thought how this image and lettering trivialized the terrible suffering of crucifixion.  Suddenly, my mind did a double-take, as if i had two minds conversing inside my head.  This other mind challenged me for so quickly condemning someone i didn't know, rather than seeing to the "mote" in my own eye.

As i walked on, i began to ask myself about the idea of "atonement."  Why should it be necessary for someone to die so horribly to "atone" for my sins and the sins of others?  If we worship a loving God, would such a God demand an atoning death to forgive the sins of humankind?  Such an idea is repugnant to me.  Within the matter of a few steps, i realized that i had never taken the time to think about concept of "atonement."

What about the sacrificial rites that are described in the Old Testament?  Were these necessary to maintain relationship with God?  i can't accept such a notion.  The offering of one's best, whether it is a "lamb without blemish" or the best life one can lead, is what is needed.  Forgiveness has to do with motive and intention, not a symbolic act.  Considering the teaching about the offerings of Cain and Abel, that one was acceptable while the other was not, i wonder if the acceptable offering had more to do with the intention inherent in the offering rather that the offering itself.  Was one acceptable because it was offered as the best there was to offer, while the other was unacceptable because the best was withheld?

As the prophet Micah said, "What doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"  My prayer for each of us is that we will give our best because that is the sacrifice of a loving heart.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Immortal, Invisible . . .

Permanence and impermanence have been on my mind today, and, in fact, for several days.  When we look through the wall of windows at the back of our house we see a HUGE oak tree, perhaps two hundred years old.  Our house is situated so that the eye is drawn to this magnificent tree.  What a genius the architect who sited the house was!  The changes that we see each year in this tree are so amazing.  There are, of course, the seasonal changes--the greening up in the spring, the cooling shade it creates in the summer, the golden color and abundant acorns (not to mention tons of leaves in which the yard becomes buried) of the fall, and the stark beauty of the leafless tree in the winter.  Over a period of years, there are other more subtle changes as the structure of the tree becomes larger, so that periodically we have to call on the arborist and his crew to thin out the limbs so that light can pass through to the lower limbs and cut them back so that our roof is not threatened.

Yet, even given its long life, this tree is not permanent.  One day it will fall or have to be felled.  Eventually disease will attack it, or it will be irreparably damaged by wind or ice.  One hopes it will never be cut in the name of "progress."  Whatever brings it down, come down it will.

All around us and in us, nature is made up of myriad cycles, cycles within cycles, everything changes.  Some change is regular and predictable, other changes seem random, but given the logic of nature, there is probably a pattern in these seemingly random changes that we cannot discern.  In the Dalai Lama's book, Becoming Enlightened, he writes about escaping the cyclic pattern of existence.  It is this very cyclic nature of life that gives me comfort.  The faith that there is one permanent, never-altered being that has set all of these complex cycles in motion causes me take heart in the nature of change and relish the experience of witnessing and living the changes that are a part of our existence in this life.

These lines from the hymn that begins with the words that are the title of this post express what is in my heart today:

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
. . . We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.

May we all appreciate the magic of the patterns of nature and the permanence of nature's God.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It's All Your Fault

January has been a blur.  The demands of life have been great, and while i've haven't done one thing that i didn't want to do, the activity level has not been conducive to a tranquil life.  Last night, as i went to bed, my frustration meter took a sharp upward tick, and my level of frustration with the busyness of life had to be talked about.  My patient wife listened, and we went to sleep.  It was a deep and restful sleep, and when i woke up this morning, i determined that today would be another day of fasting.

From last Sunday afternoon until yesterday afternoon, i "fasted" from computer use.  While visiting friends in another town, i left my computer at home--no email, no blogging, no following of others' blogs.  When i opened my computer again upon our return home, i found that i had not missed using it that much, though i was glad to see what others had written on their blogs and enjoyed catching up with friends through reading their emails and their Facebook posts.

Today's "fast" was one of fasting from responsibilities.  It was a day of taking some time for myself, of enjoying a personal retreat, thinking about some issues that are of concern to me.  To my amazement, i found a number of the blogs i follow had posts about blame, a subject that is much on my mind.  Why are we so obsessed with placing blame?  The top headline on our local paper's front page was about a mother seeking to assign blame to as many people as possible for her child's drowning.  We've witnessed all the finger-pointing to assign blame for the shootings in Arizona.  When something goes wrong, how often do we say, "It's not my fault.  I didn't do it?"

Do we accomplish anything by assigning blame?  Why is it so difficult to accept the fact that sometimes bad things, or even merely inconvenient things, just happen?  Is it someone's fault (maybe my own?) that life has been so full of activity this month?  No, that's just the way it worked out.  Every activity has been enjoyable, but last night, it was too much of a good thing.  After analyzing and discovering that's the case, it's been good to call a halt for this one day.

Everything is as it should be, and tomorrow i'm ready to jump back into the stream of activity that life demands for now.  My wish for each of us is that we know when to plunge into that stream and when to sit on the bank and watch the stream flowing by.  Fault-finding has no role to play.

Friday, January 14, 2011

He Lives within My Heart

This morning's reading was from John's gospel and told of Mary Magdalene's conversation with the risen Jesus outside the tomb.  As i meditated this morning, my attention was drawn to a phrase from a hymn (Yes, again with the hymns).  It is not a hymn of very high literary or musical quality, but one that is well know and frequently sung during the Easter season, though not in my own church.  The hymn ends with these lines:  "You ask me how i know He lives?  He lives within my heart!"  My own belief is that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead, but i understand those who do not believe in a literal resurrection There are other valid ways of viewing the resurrection narratives in the gospels, & there is a deeper teaching than the literal resurrection of Jesus.  The essential teaching for me is that the words of the hymn are true in my own life: i have confidence that Jesus is alive because i sense his presence at the core of my life.

It is natural, i suppose, that as i age i think more of death.  Death has never been something that i have feared, and even as a young man i could honestly say that i was "longing for a blessed death."  Though life is wonderful, death is not something fearful for me.  If i understand Buddhist teaching about death, it is something for which we should prepare through meditation on the transitory nature of life and contemplation of the end of one's current life and rebirth into the next life.  This idea of rebirth fascinates me, and i cannot dismiss the concept altogether. The conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus comes to mind, though the "rebirth" of which Jesus speaks is very different from the Buddhist concept of rebirth.   The Christian concept of life after death is certainly far from from the Buddhist concept, but who is to say what happens once this present life ends.

The question of what sort of life we shall have after death is not an important one for me, though i am confident that the present life is part of a continuum in which death is the door to a new existence and that the soul is eternal.  The concern for me is how to live the present life, not in order to merit some better existence after death, but in order to make life better for myself now by making life better for others.

May our lives be made richer and more abundant through the knowledge that serving one another is our calling and is the path through which we achieve a "blessed death."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Let Us All Keep Silence

If you read much of this blog, you know that hymns are always in my head.  God speaks to me through hymns more than by any other means.  Lately, my thoughts have been about silence.  During my meditation this morning, the words of a hymn which we no longer sing came to me.  It begins, "God Himself is with us, Let us all keep silence."  It always struck me as peculiar when we sang that hymn years ago that we sang enthusiastically about keeping silence, even as we were doing anything but, and that after singing the hymn, we went busily and noisily about the service of worship.  The masculine reference to God with which the hymn begins is bothersome, too, but there is a great truth in these first lines.  We cannot hear the voice of God if we are not silent and listening for it.

Each Lord's Day, as we participate in worship with others, i am looking for the presence of God with us, for a "Sabbath rest," as Whittier says, that conveys the spirit of Jesus in the midst of worship.  Silence is a rare commodity, and i often think as i play for a service about whether my playing is leading others to listen for the voice of God in the worship service or whether it is a distraction that calls attention to itself and the music rather than to the presence of God.

Silence is such a wonderful gift, and we all need to experience it more, i believe, both in our private lives and in our lives in fellowship with others.  My prayer for you and for myself is that we will all know the blessings of conscious, sustained silence at least once every day.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Two Wonderful Writers

The Dalai Lama's book, Becoming Enlightened, has kept my mind occupied the past several days.  As i read, i am often reminded of the teachings of Jesus that tell us that in order to save one's life, one must lose it and that whoever wishes to be great must become a servant. This book will require several readings before i can understand and internalize what the Dalai Lama is saying, and i regret that i do not have the underlying knowledge of Buddhist writings that would aid me.  It is a wonderful book, and i heartily recommend it.

Another favorite writer is Leo Babauta, whose blog, zenhabits, i read regularly.  Today i read his post, the zen of doing, and i need to re-read this post regularly.  Multitasking is the bane of a peaceful life, and often i must remind myself to experience each task, each moment, each activity as fully as possible, without allowing my mind to be distracted.  It is the same when i meditate, the mind wanders off to what it thinks are more important things, like tasks waiting to be accomplished, and must be called back to the focus of meditation.  The discipline of focused meditation is a great way to learn to live in the moment, and i am confident that the longer i practice, the more i will learn to truly experience each present moment as God gives it to me.

My prayer is that you and i will relish each moment in the knowledge that life is too fragile and too brief to spend the present full of concern about the future or regret about the past.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Come and Find the Quiet Center

Today has been an extraordinarily peaceful day.  Part of this comes from the snow that blankets everything.  This white covering on the ground, the streets and walks, the roofs is magical because it is so unusual in our area.  We only see such a snow once every two or three winters, as a rule, and it seldom stays on the ground more than a day.  The cold is promised to stay for several days, so we will get to enjoy this beauty for much longer than normal.  We marvel that the snow brightens the night and dampens the noises that we usually hear.

I have been thinking about peace--peace in my life, peace in our society, peace in the world, peace in southern Sudan--for the past couple of days.  The poem by Shirley E. Murray from which this post title comes contains these words:

clear the chaos and the clutter,
clear our eyes, that we can see
all the things that really matter,
be at peace, and simply be.

If we can "simply be," we are at peace, and that peace surrounds us, touching all those with whom we come in contact.  Clearing the chaos and clutter, so that with clear eyes i can see the things that really matter, is at the heart of finding the transforming mindfulness that allows me to "be," sensing the presence of God everywhere and at all times.

Today one of the blogs that i follow faithfully, tinybuddha, offered a post that began with this quote: “Peace is not merely a distant goal we seek but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.  A second post on the same blog was written by Natalie Smith.  If we are to have peace in the world, peace in our society, it must begin with each of us, and we must relish those moments of peace just as Natalie describes her special moment.  Only then will evils like the recent shooting in Tuscon become a distant memory.

My prayer for myself and for you is that we find the quiet center that allows us to have peace in our lives and in the world.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Architecture and Worship

This Lord's Day i substituted for an organist friend while he attended a workshop.  The church in which i played is a beautiful Arts and Crafts building.  The interior is full of lovely wood, and the plaster is painted a perfect yellow-gold, but the most amazing aspect of the building's interior is its huge stained glass windows with vivid reds and blues and a rich golden brown.  The floors, ceiling, walls, and windows vibrate with such glorious richness that they seem to be alive.  Outside today a winter storm was gaining strength, but  inside this wonderful room there was no hint of the frigid weather.  The image that came to mind was that of a womb protecting those who worshiped from all dangers and discomforts.  As i contemplated this image, i wondered if this was what the act of worship and the space in which it takes place should call to mind.  Worship is complex, but the feeling of safety in the community that is the church is a part of why we come together for worship.  As we worship, we are bound together by our common devotion to God, though we may have different theological perspectives, different lifestyles, different politics.  If we are truly the church, we respect our differences and are safe in disclosing our vulnerabilities to one another.  This beautifully crafted room engendered just such a response, and when we left, i felt rested and inspired for service, having spent this time in the safety of fellow Christians and the space in which we had gathered.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Perfect Day

My blog post yesterday was a mixture of discouragement and optimism, the optimism coming from my confidence that the gift of a new day would bring new opportunities to experience the presence of God.  That was exactly what the day brought, and this morning i am filled with joy and peace because of that experience.  i had only to stop relying on myself, to slow down and wait for God rather than rushing through the day as if my life depended on crowding as much as i could into it.  i went to sleep last night with a deep feeling of satisfaction, falling asleep as i was saying a prayer of thanks for all the goodness of the day.  i slept soundly and woke this morning feeling refreshed.

Once again, i learned that every day is perfect as God gives it to us.  The imperfection rises from my failure to appreciate each moment, my allowing busyness to prevent me from acknowledging the presence of God in each of the day's experiences.

My prayer for myself and for you this morning is that we will open our hearts to the joy and peace of this day and every moment in it, knowing that this day is a gift from God and therefore perfect.

Friday, January 7, 2011

O, Still Small Voice of Calm

Yesterday was one of those days that are a whirlwind.  By the time it was over, i was completely exhausted and drained emotionally.  Nothing bad happened; i simply allowed myself to overbook the day and paid the consequence.  In my blog post yesterday, i ended by praying that i, and those who read my post, would spend the day anointing the feet of Jesus.  That's not how i spent my day, though certainly service to others was involved.  That service was not the focus of my day.  Instead, my focus was on gritting my teeth and getting through the day--not a wise way to face the challenges of the day.  It didn't help that i didn't feel particularly well yesterday, something that is quite unusual for me.  Perhaps i had a little bug that kept me from being at my best.

This morning as i prayed, i tried to sort out my feelings about yesterday in my conversation with God.  Phrases from the Whittier poem that we sing as "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, forgive our foolish ways" kept popping into my head.  One stanza ends with these lines:

Let sense be dumb,
Let flesh retire,
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still small voice of calm.

i realized that is what my day lacked yesterday.  i allowed the "wind" of the day to prevent me from listening for that "still small voice" that would have brought me calm had i stopped long enough to listen for it.  i confess that i am still not entirely at peace.  i have many responsibilities facing me today, but instead of allowing the day to take control and beat me up, i'm going to try and listen for the voice of God that is there.  i may not be entirely successful, but i won't feel guilty if i'm not, because i know that God is at work in my life and it is God that will do the work of transformation, not me.

My prayer this morning is that each of us will listen for the "still small voice of calm" speaking "through the earthquake, wind, and fire" of our lives.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

To Thine Own Self Be True

Two men that i admire deny the existence of a Creator, and i have been reading what they have to say.  Their denial of the existence of God doesn't bother me, but those who noisily preach God's existence by insisting on a literal acceptance of the Biblical account of creation that denies the evidence of science do bother me.  The personal faith of the so-called Creationists and proponents of Intelligent Design doesn't upset me.  It is their insistence that any discussion of the evidence of science that contradicts their views is offensive.  Their intolerance and their campaign to force others to hear their views, the forced teaching of these views by those who don't accept them, is very disturbing to me.  

There are two basic beliefs of which i am convinced: first, that there is a Creator who is the ultimate cause of all that is, and second, that each of us is an immortal soul.  i don't seek evidence of the truth of these two beliefs; they are so much a part of me that to deny them would be to deny my very existence.  The fact that others are not convinced of these beliefs is not troubling to me.  Each of us must be faithful to the intuitions of our own hearts, and we are wrong to insist that others hear our views, much less be forced to transmit them to others.

As i prayed and meditated this morning, i read in the 18th chapter of John's gospel the account of Jesus being slapped by an official of the high priest when Jesus was brought before Annas.  My first reaction was, "How could someone have dared to slap this great and good person?"  As i prayed about the reading, i realized that every time i ignore a good that i could do for another i am in fact slapping Jesus.  On the other hand, every time i do good for another i am pouring oil on the feet of Jesus.  My responsibility, then, is to look for ways to pour oil on Jesus' feet and to be reminded that ignoring opportunities to do good injure Jesus again and again.

My prayer this morning is that we will be true to our own hearts and spend our day anointing the feet of Jesus.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Let All Things Now Living

This morning a gentle rain is falling and the world outside is filled with a beautiful fog.  As i meditated, i thought about the great infinity that is God and the miracle of God's love.  It is amazing that the Creator of all things loves all creation, every living being, me included.  i thought of the miracle of the cycles of nature, being reminded by the raindrops i heard falling on the roof.  i thought of Katherine Davis' wonderful hymn that begins with the words that are the title of this post.  The lines that immediately came to mind were

His law he enforces,
The stars in their courses,
And sun in its orbit obediently shine;
The hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains,
The deeps of the ocean proclaim him divine.

Davis' original words refer to God in the masculine gender, but that doesn't diminish the way her text expresses how i feel this morning.  God has wonderfully made this creation, and i rejoice that his infinite love comes to me in the quiet.

May your day be filled with wonder and joy in the majesty of creation.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Word Made Flesh

Last Lord's Day, our pastors were away to visit family members in another state, and one of our lay leaders preached.  The Gospel Lesson was the first chapter of John, a difficult reading for me to understand, as is most of John's gospel.  Two points of his sermon seemed to be made for my sake, though I'm certain the preacher was not preaching to me.  But as he made these two points, i thought, "God is bringing me new understandings through this sermon."

First, the preacher made a statement to the effect that every time one does a service for another, the Word is being made flesh.  Why had i never thought of the phrase, "the word made flesh," in that way?  Certainly, each time we become Jesus to another we are putting flesh on the abstract concept of the Word, and the person to whom we have become Jesus in turn becomes Jesus to us, the Word made flesh, just as Jesus said that "when you do it unto the least of these my brothers, you do it unto me."  Suddenly the prologue of John's gospel became so much clearer to me.  This is the Word, that we love and serve one another!

The second point that impressed itself on me was that being a Christian means that we are followers of Jesus.  To be a follower of Jesus means to do as Jesus instructed.  Being a Christian is not an intellectual assent to faith, but a course of action.  It seemed to me that i was seeing the role of our actions as an expression of our faith, as if for the first time, that i was understanding for the first time that serving others as Jesus instructed is not only an expression of our faith but a path leading us to faith.  One of the functions of the church is to bind Jesus' followers together to make possible service that is not possible alone, to have a larger vision of how better to serve others.  Being a part of the church enables those of us who follow Jesus to accomplish much for others that we could not do alone.

Even now, as i write about the experience of this worship service, i am amazed at the impact of being reminded of truths i already knew and of seeing the beginning of John's gospel in a new way had on me as i sat in the service.  My prayer is that you and i will "make the Word flesh" in service to others and that those of us who call ourselves Christians will see the actions of serving others as both the path to faith and as an expression of that faith.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

If Only . . .

During the past couple of days, i have encountered several who live their lives by an "if only" philosophy.  Their happiness depends on some future conclusion: if only this task were completed, happiness would come; if only there were more money in my bank account, happiness would come; if only others loved me more, happiness would come.  My heart goes out to those who are dependent on future events or the actions of others to realize happiness, because i don't believe such happiness will ever arrive.  i continue to try and eliminate "if only's," "should's," "need to's," "ought to's," and the like from my vocabulary.  i am coming to realize that true happiness comes from experiencing each moment of the hear and now fully, from depending on God to take care of the future, and from ceasing to regret past mistakes.  If i live in the present moment and sense God in my heart right here, right now, there is true joy, peace, and happiness, and that happiness is not dependent on external events or on the actions of others.

i must mention one surprise that came to me last evening as i opened our devotional booklet for this new year.  Each night just before we fall asleep, my wife and i read a daily devotional.  The devotional for January 1 was titled, "A Clean Slate."  i was astonished because this was the very image i had of this new year.  i remarked to my wife that perhaps this was a sign that God is leading me to some new truth in this coming year, or perhaps it's just a happy coincidence.  i'll try to practice what i preached in the paragraph above and trust God to take care of the future by leading me to find out whether "sign" or "coincidence" is the right label for what i've described.

May you live life fully in the present and enjoy the gifts of God in each moment you experience today and through the rest of the moments of this new year.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Clean Slate, An Adventure

A couple of days ago, i posted about the removal of our Christmas decorations from our home and how this is always upsetting to me.  i sought to focus on how the restoration of our home to normalcy--in the sense that decorating for Christmas is a special event, something out of the ordinary--is important to my wife, and i tried to set aside my usual anxieties about packing all the decorations away and focusing on meeting her needs.  By the second day of this chore, i was much more relaxed about it and could take joy in seeing the normal appearance of our house restored.

As i thought about the new year that begins today this morning in my readings, prayers, & meditation, it suddenly came to me that this restoring of our home to its usual appearance and the subsequent cleaning up is a symbol of the new beginning that the start of a new year offers.  By removing the Christmas decor, we are marking the end to the celebration which concludes the old year and preparing our home for the new year and its promise.

Two other images came to me as i sat in the quiet of the early morning.  One was of how each new day is like a clean slate that God has given us, just as the new year is a clean slate full of opportunity and optimistic expectations.  The past is gone, and we begin afresh, asking God to lead us and order our lives.  When i attended school, we used old-fashioned chalk boards.  i can remember what fun it was to erase those big green boards, then to take a damp cloth and remove the chalk dust residue, leaving a shiny green surface on which the teacher could write.  Each new day is like that.  The residue of the past has been wiped away, and the slate that is our lives is ready for fresh learning.

If you have read many of my posts, you are aware that one of my great loves is bike riding.  Each time i begin to ride, i am excited about new experiences, even though i usually follow the same bike trail each time i ride.  There are always new things to see and new thoughts to think during the ride.  i thought this morning of what a great adventure it would be to climb on my bike and just ride as long as i want for as far as i want, without the constraints of a time limit that i usually must abide by.  My thought this morning was that the new year is just such an adventure.  Even though the year will come to an end, at the beginning of the year, the days stretch out before us in a long procession and the end seems to be far distant.  What new experiences, thoughts, and learning await us during this coming year?  What adventures are there for us to enjoy if we are open to them?

May your new year be a great adventure and may each day be a clean slate ready to be filled with marks that bring you joy and satisfaction.