by Christine Sine
Many of us are entering the year with uncertainty about where we are headed. 2020 upended all our best laid plans and surfaced many of our insecurities. It exposed the vulnerabilities of our society and of the lives of many with whom we share the planet. So we enter 2021 feeling very unsure of ourselves.
This year, more than ever, I feel we need to spend time in discernment and seeking direction. We need the assurance that God is still with us and that in 2021, the divine presence will offer us a future of hope and promise. So how do we find that assurance and where do we think it will lead us in 2021?
Direction for a New Year
I don’t know about what you do, but my discernment process has tended to be fairly cerebral and I have always ended by setting concrete goals for the year. But if 2020 has taught me anything, it has shown me the importance of creativity and flexibility. Direction for 2021 is unlikely to lead towards concrete goals. I suspect that it is more likely to provide a framework of practices that enable me to journey safely with resilience, compassion and grace and I feel that has already begun with the writing of the prayer above which I plan to use over the next few weeks. It is providing the basis for a powerful centering exercise for me.
Tom and I are planning to take a day for discernment at the end of this week, and this year, creativity will be at the centre of my process.
I plan to begin by centering myself on the divine presence – in me, and around me. This year, I plan to use a new breathing exercise I am working on in partnership with the prayer above which came out of my breathing exercise reflection over the last couple of days. I will share this when I can but until then consider using this breathing exercise. You might prefer lectio divina or visio divina to focus your mind and your heart as you begin. Recognizing that we sit surrounded by and filled with the holy presence of God is a wonderful place to start. It is in this place of holy rest that we seek discernment.
Step 2 will be looking back. I will read through my journal and look through my photos from 2020 as I usually do, and have not only looked back in my journal but on Godspace, too. I have found this so helpful that I have put much of this looking back on Godspace into a new resource Guidelines for a Personal Retreat because I thought you might find the process helpful too.
Stirred by this reflective process, I realize that this year’s retreat needs to hold more creativity and flexibility than usual. At this point, I cannot choose between Lilly Lewin’s wonderful suggestions of using different coloured post-it notes to remind me of the high points and low points of the year, or Cindy Bunch’s idea of creating a compass which both looks back and forward or create a moodboard, suggested by Beth Stedman as a way to capture intentions and hopes for the year. A mood board is a type of poster that contains text, images, and samples of objects that serve as a visual tool for communicating ideas and creating inspiration. She explains “its prayer and contemplation through scissors and glue”. What I love about this tool is that it creates an artwork that can be displayed as a reminder throughout the year.
Step 3 will be looking forward. For this I will probably pull out both my doodling tools and my finger labyrinth, both tools that inspire creativity and mental resilience. They have the added advantage of encouraging me towards a journey rather than concrete goals.
Now don’t get me wrong, I already have several projects in the works for 2021 but I am aware, too, that 2020 has made me aware of how much more important people are than things. Relationships need to be a major priority for me, whether that mean more Zoom calls with family and friends or taking advantage of emerging face to face opportunities.
However, I am still excited about those projects I am working on, like the webinar next week, Discerning Your Way In The New Year, which will provide an opportunity for you to join me in a spiritual retreat process. If you are interested but cannot join at the time, register anyway as we will send a link afterwards so that you can access the webinar material.
I am also working on a new online course – Time to Heal – in conjunction with Lilly Lewin and others. This course will provide creative and contemplative tools that lead us towards healing within ourselves, our communities and God’s created world. I am really excited about this as I believe that 2021 will be a year of healing and feel that this is already the word God has given me as my focus for the year. I hope that you will join us in the process of healing, too, and we would appreciate your prayers. We hope to have this ready to launch during the season of Lent but that is not far away.
January is a time for dreaming, and as I look at all the dreams in my heart for this year, I know that I need to hold these loosely, allowing God to redirect and reshape me so that the divine presence rather than my Type A personality drives what I journey towards.
My Friday retreat will be followed by several others throughout the year to help me keep on the track that God has for me. This kind of process is so affirming and liberating for me and I hope it will be for you too.