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Two postures for entering into the New Year

Wednesday January 6 2016

Two postures for entering into the New Year

What do I need to remember as I enter 2016? What do I need to embrace for a fresh start in a new year? Here are two foundational ideas or postures that I’m hoping will shape 2016 for me. “Posture” implies a way of standing, and I hope I can stand firm in these two truths.

1. I am beloved. Henri Nouwen talks about being beloved more vividly than anyone else I’ve read. In his wonderful book, The Life of the Beloved, he writes:

Becoming the Beloved means letting the truth of our Belovedness become enfleshed in everything we think, say, or do. . . . What is required is to become the Beloved in the commonplaces of my daily existence and, bit by bit, to close the gap that exists between what I know myself to be and the countless specific realities of everyday life. Becoming the Beloved is pulling the truth revealed to me from above into the ordinariness of what I am, in fact, thinking of, talking about, and doing from hour to hour (pages 45 and 46).

I love that he discusses the “gap that exists between what I know myself to be” as God’s beloved and “the countless specific realities of everyday life.” God’s love is described so vividly in the Bible, and it pours into my life in so many ways, yet so often I don’t feel it or dwell in it. It’s so easy to feel self-critical. The task, according to Nouwen, is to pull “the truth revealed to me from above into the ordinariness” of daily life.

This is not necessarily easy, and I’m so glad he affirms the challenge. In the middle of the quotation above, he writes that this “entails a long and painful process of appropriation or, better, incarnation.” In 2016 I want to grow in beginning each day from a place of belovedness that flows into daily life. I want to see belovedness incarnated in my life more and more each day. I am God’s beloved child and I want to live that way.

2. I am sent. My second foundational attitude or posture for 2016 comes from the benediction Pastor Doug Kelly says most Sundays at Seattle’s Bethany Presbyterian Church: “You go nowhere by accident. Everywhere you go, God has a purpose for your being there.”[1]

Our word “mission” comes from the Latin “missio,” which means sent. In his prayer for all believers, Jesus says, “As the Father sent me into the world, so I send you into the world” (John 17:18). We have been sent into the world as Jesus was sent, so it’s true that we go nowhere by accident. (If you'd like to read more about being sent, I highly recommend Sentness: Six Postures for Missional Christians by my friend Darren Cronshaw and Kim Hammond.)

So God has a purpose for us wherever we go, even in the moments when that purpose seems quite small or insignificant. What is that purpose? Here are some of the ways I would describe it:

To be faithful to God’s call each day.
To show God’s love to the people around me as much as possible.
To be God’s agent of reconciliation in as many settings as possible.
To abide in Christ so that I can bear the lasting fruit God wants me to bear.

I want to go into 2016 knowing I am beloved and knowing I have been sent to exactly the place where I am. I want to follow God’s guidance and fulfill God’s purposes as much as I can, resting in the fact that I am God’s beloved child.

As you enter 2016, here are some questions to reflect on:

1. In what settings do you know deep inside that you are God’s beloved? Make plans to go to those places often in 2016.

2. What are the biggest obstacles to knowing you are beloved? With whom could you talk and pray about those obstacles?

3. If someone asked you, “what is your purpose in Christ,” how would you answer?

4. What are the biggest obstacles you experience to knowing you go nowhere by accident? With whom could you talk and pray about those obstacles?

(If you’d like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up under “subscribe” in the right hand column. This post originally appeared on the Godspace blog. Illustration: Lynne Baab at age four, watercolor by Dave Baab.)

[1] Doug Kelly's benediction comes from Richard Halverson, former chaplain of the U.S. Senate. Halverson's benediction went like this: "You go nowhere by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you. Wherever you are, God has put you there. God has a purpose in your being there. Christ lives in you and has something he wants to do through you where you are. Believe this and go in the grace and love and power of Jesus Christ." When corresponding with Doug Kelly about this blog post, Doug wrote: "I heard the benediction at a conference where the speaker had met with Halverson at the end of his time at a church and he asked him what was the most impactful thing he had given his church.  Halverson thought it was probably this benediction."



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