Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes, and General Mental Mayhem


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My 2014 Theme

I’ll be honest. This was a hard one. 175739981Last year, my word came so easily to me. It felt right, from the start. This time, I had the word knocking around in my head before the end of the year, but I really needed to sit with it. I still feel like I need to sit with it.

I normally reveal my theme for year earlier in the month, or at least try to. But this time, I just didn’t feel prepared to write the post. I’m still don’t feel like I’m ready, but maybe that’s why I need to. I need to get it out there. I need to start using this lens to look through the next 11+ months. It’s not necessarily that I feel rushed to put the info out there, but then again, January is, of course, the best place with which to start the New Year. As Maria Von Trapp would say, “Let’s start at the very beginning; a very good place to start.”

I really liked the momentum I’ve built over the past two years with SIMPLIFY and PRIORITIZE. I wanted to continue in that vain. I wanted to continue whittling down until only the things I needed were present. (Well, maybe what I needed, and an extra pair of cute shoes.) But then I thought, after you prioritize and simplify, what comes next? Well, for me, it will be CLARIFY.

I’ve been sort of writing this blog post all day. I was trying to think of why I’m hesitant to put the old proverbial pen to paper. And I have one ugly thought: I’m scared. I don’t think I’ve ever had that feeling before when dreaming up my word for the year. Actually, I’m not sure I’m having it now. But it could be. Perhaps it’s just indigestion from this cleanse I’m on. I’m still in the exploration phase, as you can see. Maybe I’m scared of what will be revealed, or what it means for me next. I don’t know. So, here I am, word vomiting for all the world to see. You’re welcome.

But there it is: CLARIFY. My 2014 will be trying to find answers to questions I have, and very likely, answers to questions God has yet to plant in my brain. My plan is also to continue narrowing down my stuff, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I honestly have no idea where it will lead. And even more honestly, that is sort of exciting to me.

There you go, 2014. Let’s CLARIFY together and see what happens.

Psalm 37:23-24

New Living Translation (NLT)

23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.

Why this verse? I thought of others like it and the older, more famous brother, Jeremiah 14:29. But this one won out because I really liked how the two verses fit together, and I really love the second one most of all. I like that it’s honest in that I will stumble, but still comforting. And unlike cousin verses, it describes less God Omnipotent and more Immanuel, God with us. He’s in it with me.

So, bring it on 2014. We’re ready.

For those of you new to reading about my tradition, every year in January, some of my friends and I determine “words for the year” or themes. We use our theme as a lens throughout the year, much like a a guide. We feel it leads us to be more proactive, or intentional, with our lives and time. It is loosely based on the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Whereas most people only seem to look back on the year after it has passed, we allow this to help us look forward as well. We believe it helps us not just allow life to happen to us, or pass us by as we often describe time, but to be active, thinking participants.


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A Friend’s Take on the New Year: March 1 isn’t too late.

I just read this fantastic post by one of my very best friends, Daron. He’s been so influential on my life the last decade or so, and is the one who introduced me to my Word for the Year thinking.

Here’s the way he explains our tradition (much better than I):

I was listening to a podcast once about Jewish Holidays. It struck me that the Jewish faith purposely incorporates a time meant for reflection. I would not consider myself a Jewish scholar, but the rabbi on the podcast explained that three very important holidays, distinguished as “high holidays”, stood out from the rest. The rabbi described the Jewish concept of time like this. Imagine a spiraling river flowing upward around and around and around. Each time it completes a circular curve flowing just above the last it can be thought of as a year in the passage of time as we know it (the Jewish calendar is a little different from the western calendar, but roughly the same amount of time passes). The river moves forward ever winding and surging. Although the forward direction is always the same it is not linear, it does not leave its latest path in the past. It moves back, swirling just above where it just flowed. Now imagine three brilliant beams of light shooting up from below soaring up to the heavens as far as the eye can see. These beams of light touch the flowing, spiraling river at the same point in every rotation. These beams of light are the three high holidays. They bring together the past, present, and future. Despite the current location of the river, the beam of light is the same and brings tradition, connection, and stability every time it touches the river of time.

Two high holidays in particular caught my attention. These were Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year’s Day, and ironically the day of remembrance. It can be found in Leviticus 23:24-25. It is the day Jews look back not just over the year but also to the beginning of creation and to Adam to reflect. They take in how they measure up to the creation that they were intended to be and reflect of the flow of the river to this point, specifically to their personal point on the river. Most importantly putting creation into perspective with the concept of God‘s sovereignty. I am told that one of the practices of this holiday is to walk along a river bank and empty your pockets into the river (for the environmentalist out there, don’t you fret. The practice calls for filling your pocket with bread before hand). Symbolically this is the act of “casting off” sins. So, during this holiday you are taking stock in where you have come and where you have deviated from the path of God and from creation.

The next holiday, Yom Kippur, is 9 days later. It is the Day of Atonement. So, having taken stock of your life, your community, and your origins during Rosh Hashanah you recognize where you have fallen short and it is on this day of Yom Kippur you work to right your path. In Old Testament it was on this day that the “High Priest made an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the people. This act of atonement brought reconciliation between the people and God.” It can be found in Leviticus 16:8-34; 23:27-32. It is traditionally when Jews attempt to make amends to those they have wronged. It is a day of fasting and repenting of sins. In some respects it is a day to align and calibrate oneself with God for the coming wind in the flowing river. It is a day to start fresh and in step with the purpose for which you were created in the first place. A very cool holiday, I must say.

So after wading the deep waters of the concepts of time, atonement, and alignment I began to ponder. What would my life look like if I were standing at the end of the year that has yet to happen? How would my perspective on helplessness and the ziggy, zaggy nature of my life change? What would I do differently? What would I have done differently? As I found myself at the end of each year and imagined being there before it began I started to recognize patterns. Each year did flow into the next. I was just so focused on what was unfolding in front of me that I could not take in the perspective that God was sovereign and because I was aligned with him I was never helpless.

So, I set out to “live atoned.” There is a place where this idea is contemplated everyday. In the smoke filled rooms crowded with those who know a far heavier burden of the zigging, zagging peril of losing your way from creation a prayer is recited. This prayer acts as a life vest in the raging river of life for those caught in the grip of addiction. It is called the serenity prayer. “GOD, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen. – Reinhold Neibuhr, 1926”

This is a lot easier said than done. How do I balance the tensions of being fully present in my life while fully open to the desire of God for my life? I stand on the edge of the current year and ask, “Who am I with my current strengths and weaknesses, and in my current circumstances?” I do a mini Rosh Hashanah. I then take an imaginary motorboat to the end of the bend in the river and I ask, “Given who and where I was, with those strengths and weaknesses and in those circumstances at the beginning of this year, what will I say the year was about? What will I have been involved in? How will I have invested my time and energy? What would have been wise to think about and to do?” Then I race against the current back to the present for a mini Yom Kippur, a day of atonement. I calibrate with God, and live my life in a way for God to use me. I don’t force my desired path. I don’t make plans that cannot be broken. I simply do the things that I can do to make a way for God to use me and do the things only He can do. There are times God will still zig and zag, but I find that I do not feel as blind sighted. I find that aligning my day-to-day life brings the stability of a life connected to all He has done before me and all He will do once I am gone. I have the peace of a connected story.

To make this tangible I choose a theme word for the year. It is a word that describes the year to come. I am open for it to change (and it has), but it is a word that gives the year a sense of course. I also choose a scripture that embodies this word. It is often something that has leapt out to me as I read and attempted to align with God. It is not something that I try to shape for my own purposes or needs, but one that makes sense. It acts as a word of encouragement from God. Finally I choose a theme song for the year. Why a theme song? Well, because it is cool. Seriously, wouldn’t life just be so much better if you had theme music like a movie or your favorite television show? I mean seriously, how much better would driving to work be if the theme song from Magnum PI was playing in the background? There is a secondary reason for the theme song. It is a very effective antidote to the inevitable wane in momentum (think Rocky as he nears the top of the seemingly insurmountable series of steps to the tune of Eye of the Tiger).

And that’s a much more developed explanation than I gave. Great, now that he’s got it written down I can read this every year to get ready for the New Year! Thanks, Daron!


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My 2012 Theme

Well, as some of you may know, a few friends and myself pick a theme for the year, and have done so for the last few years. This tradition is loosely based on the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. My friend, Daron, inaugurated it about five years or so back. Since then, I’ve really latched on to it and look forward to discussing my theme with close friends.

The basic idea is that instead of merely looking back at the year to see what happened at the end, you start the year by looking ahead to see what you think the year might be about. Then you use the theme as a lens in which to view things throughout the year and see if you can incorporate it. At it’s basis, it’s a way to be proactive/responsive to the year, and not let the year just happen to you. It’s an intentional way to live rather than reactive…which is how I prefer to live.

Now, come December, I start this process again. I evaluate the year, see how things went, remember what happened, take stock of my responses or reactions. Sometimes the theme has changed completely over the course of the year. Sometimes the theme still holds true.

2011 was an interesting year. Very different from others for a variety of reasons. After taking a hard look, I feel like the theme “Prioritize” held up pretty well for the first half of the year. For the second half, I’d say it was more like “Heal” because it was a time to recoup from all the changes life brought. Lots of changes during the year and the few months at the end of 2010. So, the latter half of the year gave me time for myself to rest. That’s not something I have ever been great at doing, in any way shape or form, so perhaps it was good that it was thrust upon me.

But I feel like I learned a few things along the way. After all, what a waste it would’ve been for me to go through it and not learn anything. And now I feel like I’m up for something similar and something different in 2012.

Anyway, all this is leading up to my 2012 theme. And after a period of reflection, I have decided to go with “Prioritize” again. I want to give it another go and see how 2012 shakes out differently. I believe it will, and I look forward to seeing the ways that it might.

So here goes….

Word:
“Prioritize”

Verse:
Proverbs 16:3, “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”

Song:

“Empty Me” by Jeremy Camp