Discerning Your Way Through 2021

How seriously will you follow Christ in 2021? 2020 is over and most of us are thinking about what we want to focus our own lives and those of our congregations in the coming year.

It’s hard because looking ahead is almost as uncertain as looking back. We don’t know when we will be able to hold “normal” services again. We don’t know when we will be able to gather without the fear of contagion, and
we don’t know how the turmoil of 2020 will change all that we do in the future.

I strongly recommend that you and your church leaders take time at the beginning of this year to listen and to learn what God is saying and how you need to adapt. Don’t assume that the future will look like the past. Consider a personal spiritual retreat and a virtual retreat with your leadership team. God is birthing something new, and we need to be prepared to be a part of it.

God is birthing something new, and we need to be prepared to be a part of it. ~ Christine Sine Click To Tweet

Here are some suggestions on how to look back and reflect on the year that has passed and then look forward to enrich your life as you prepare for the year ahead.

  1. Gain a clear sense of purpose for the coming year. Many of us live in a state of chronic randomness. We give little thought to what God has called us to do and find it hard to set boundaries or say no to the many
    good things we are asked to do that do not reflect that purpose. 2020 has encouraged us to reset our priorities both as individuals and as a church congregation. What have you learned during 2020 that will help you gain a clear sense of purpose for 2021?
  2. Set some goals. In spite of the uncertainties, we can still set goals– goals that encourage us to view the coming year more as a journey than as a destination. We need inward goals that enrich our spirits, upward
    goals that strengthen our relationship to God, and outward goals that encourage us to care for our neighbours. A balanced life requires equilibrium in all three. In what ways has 2020 encouraged you to set
    new goals for your spiritual life and for your congregation during 2021?
  3. Develop regular spiritual practices. Many people I talk to say that 2020 has enriched their spiritual lives as they have developed new practices to help them maintain stability during this stressful season. What new practices did you develop during 2020 that will enrich your life in the coming year?
  4. Practice Sabbath. Working at home with less time spent travelling has made it possible for many of us to incorporate regular sabbath time in our schedules. This is probably the most enriching habit that we can
    develop not just for our spiritual lives but for our bodies and our minds as well. How will you maintain a regular Sabbath during 2021?
  5. Develop habits of gratitude. This has become part of my Sabbath discipline. When I started asking myself each week “What am I grateful for?” it revolutionized my attitude towards myself and toward the
    world around me. 2020 has, at times, challenged that practices as sometimes I have not felt particularly grateful for the stress and the anxiety. However, making a deliberate attempt to incorporate gratitude each week invigorates me and turns my attitude from “woe is me” to thankfulness.
  6. Learn to look and listen for the presence of God. Using contemplative practices like lectio divina and the prayer of examen have opened my eyes and my ears to the presence of God in all of creation, in every
    encounter, and in each moment of the day. It has been one of the mainstays of my spiritual life during 2020, enabling me to discern the presence of God in all that is happening.
  7. Practice compassion. More than everything I think our world needs to see a caring and compassionate God in 2021 and we do too. Psychologists tell us that one of the best ways to help people who are depressed is to get them out helping others. All of us need the discipline of reaching out to others in love and compassion yet often find that in the busyness of our lives reaching out to others is often marginalized.
  8. Become a servant. “Consider the needs of others as more important than your own” Paul reminds us, but our culture tells us “its all about me.” Hedonism and narcissism are well practiced arts that never satisfy.
    There is no greater joy I know than doing something for someone else.
  9. Get out into God’s good creation. Whether it be gardening, hiking, biking, fishing or just sitting by the seashore, time spent outdoors is enriching and therapeutic for all of us and I think will be more important than ever in the coming year.
  10. Set aside days throughout the year for refocusing and reflection. By now most of you know that I am a strong advocate for retreat days that help keep us on track throughout the year. You might like to plan these
    now so that they become protected times for you. Some of us like to take 2-3 days every 3 or 4 months. Others find that a day a month is more appropriate. Whatever suits you, make sure that you incorporate
    this practice into your year’s schedule. It will help you keep on track through the turbulence of the year to come.

None of us know what 2021 will hold, but we can go into with our oil lamps full or empty. I hope that you will take time to prepare and fill your oil lamp.

About the Author

Christine Sine

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Christine Aroney-Sine is the founder and facilitator for the popular contemplative blog Godspace, which grew out of her passion for creative spirituality, gardening and sustainability. Together with her husband, Tom, she also co-founded Mustard Seed Associates. She has authored many books, the most recent being The Gift of Wonder: Creative Practices For Delighting in God. Christine describes herself as a contemplative activist, passionate gardener, author, and liturgist. .

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