It’s a little early, but I wanted to write a year-end review and make some resolutions for the new year in print so that people would know about the past and hold me accountable to the future.
The year started with Star Gift Sunday and the word “endurance” for the second year. Believing in making our own fate, I took another one and it was nicer but in the same vein. In the month of December, I can’t honestly remember what I “endured”, so I take that as a good sign.
There was much sadness this year — if I remember correctly — Holly Hassett died, my Uncle Chick died, my 21 year old cat, Dutch, died. My clients suffered through addiction, mental health, and relationship issues that were painful — extremely painful.
I spent hours and hours playing DC Universe Online — an addicting role-playing game where you get to be a superhero in real time, if not the real world. It’s an incredible 3-D experience and it feels like you’re actually in that world. Ethical decisions about just how violent to be in the game made it difficult at times, but Batman never used guns in the comics so I never did either.
The reason I mention this is that it’s tied to my resolution for 2014. I fought evil in 2013 — both on the computer and in real life. In 2014, I want to do good, and let evil respond for once. I have spent the past few years on my blog arguing with people about the right way to do things, or what I believe is the right way to do things. I am sick of arguing about politics. I am tired of spitting into the wind, though I much prefer that than keeping quiet and swallowing the bile getting passed around as faith and caring for each other, getting depressed as things get worse between people and we become a nation of haves and have-nots, deserving and not-deserving, with more and more of us becoming pained while fewer and fewer of us live well beyond our means — leaving, I believe, no one in good spiritual shape.
Sadly, I am not immune to the whole “no one in good spiritual shape” part, at least that’s how it feels sometimes. After years of not preaching on any sort of regular basis, I untethered. Maybe others are right. Maybe my theology is wrong. Maybe I don’t have it right. As my grandmother used to say, “the proof is in the pudding”. Either the world around me gets better or it doesn’t. Either I feel spiritually centered or I don’t. Either my life has meaning to me and others or it doesn’t. Even though my life has felt more and more whole, and my business has become more and more successful, and it feels like I’m going in the right direction, I want to test my theories out.
With that said, I want to give them the best possible chance of succeeding, so I want to spend as much time with my mentor and myself as I can. I have found when I am feeling off-base or insecure about my faith, it’s best to go back to the beginning, and the beginning in this case is Jesus. I have been part of a wonderful religious community for the past few years, but even that has been scattered. I attend South Church in New Britain, I do chaplaincy once or twice a month at a hospital for the mentally ill, and I attend services at my wife’s interim church on occasion. I am surrounded by friends and colleagues that I want to see and sometimes I go to see them. I need to go to the source and stay there for a bit. I don’t want Republican Jesus or Democratic Jesus, I don’t want Pauline (Catholic) Jesus or Petrine (Orthodox) Jesus, I don’t want Christian Right Jesus, certainly, and I don’t want off-the-deep-end-liberal-don’t-even-recognize-him-Jesus either. I am well aware, having been to grad school, that I am not going to find the historical Jesus easily either. Given that, I will have to settle for the character of Jesus as found in the gospels. The preacher of the words that I took so seriously as a kid — that’s the Jesus I want to reconnect with.
I have begun reading a book on The Beatitudes by Spiros Zodhiatus. So far, it seems both faithful and scholarly and makes some good points about the way Jesus spoke and what he meant when he said it. I hope to spend the year reading it and other books about the central character of my faith, Jesus, as he appears in the Bible, trying to get a handle on how to live before I try to live it.
My grandmother also said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” and so I want to do things that take the place of ranting and berating others, even if I believe their views are insane or off-base or mean-spirited or anything else. I have noticed in 2013 that I have become all of those things myself at times when my views are questioned or challenged and I don’t like myself at those times. Zodhiatus’ book says speaks to this in his book (See? It’s helping already…). I want to be an anchored person this year, despite whatever circumstances I might come across. I don’t want to be worse, or have to dig myself out of a hole. As I said, I don’t want to fight evil (as I understand it), I want to do good (as I understand it) and see if it works. I want my actions to bespeak my faith in 2014. I’ll still get upset about things, I am sure. Homelessness, poverty, racism, and drug addiction haven’t gone away. You’ll no doubt hear those things again here, in this blog. But I don’t want to fight, yell, have steam come out of my ears, or hurt someone else’s or my own feelings. I want to build, not defend or tear down.
What that means — or at least has in the past — is fewer distractions, and more renewal. I suspect I’ll put away DCU Online, have plans to spend more time listening to, learning, and playing music. Maybe Harry Chapin will make it back into my standard playlist again. Maybe I’ll listen to more U2 or some other band will move me in the right direction — toward myself. In any case, spending more time with my guitar and/or our piano will be a good thing.
Lastly, I want to spend more time with friends or family out in the world. I want to golf with my friend Al this year. I want to spend quality time with my family this year, especially over the summer, as my daughters grow older, and before they move on to whatever comes next for a 12 year old and a 14 year old daughter. I want to spend time with Cathi and Joe and Todd and Peter and Cy and Gordon, my new friend Julian and my Deering friends, and my wife, father sister, and brother.
As I have thought about this, and as I write, I am sure that this set of New Year’s resolutions will be like any other year — it can’t all be done, but I want to give it a try, so I want the theme of life this year to be “do something” and “be your best self”, as close to the character of Jesus as I can, as best I can understand. That’s my meditation on 2013 and my meditation plan for 2014.