Meditation Monday – Rethinking 2024

by Christine Sine
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by Christine Sine

Happy new year, and welcome to 2024. Can you believe it? Yesterday we laid the old year down with all its sorrow and joy mingled together and today a new year dawned with all kinds of hopes and expectation. We all know that it could be another challenging year with much sorrow and pain, but that is all the more reason to look forward with a positive attitude and some good spiritual practices that will help us weather the storms.

A Time for Review – The value of Retreat

Last week Tom and I enjoyed three days at Anacortes just north of Seattle. We go there every year at this time for a refocusing retreat to reflect on the year that has past and prepare for the year to come. I find it is good to make an effort to walk slowly through all I am leaving behind before looking ahead.  I always start by reading through my journal for the last year, highlighting the high and lows of the year. It is good to walk back through the key things I did, as well as the events that most shaped the year. I like to reflect on what I learned about myself, those around me and also the world in which I live. I love to remember the joy and shed tears for the sorrows. Some people like to make a list to help them on this journey. My artist friends even enjoy using different colours and embellishing their reminiscing with doodles and sketches. I prefer just to make a rough outline to think back on.

It was the changing light of the sunrise and sunset different each day, yet always the same beautiful golden orb hanging on the horizon, that held my attention. It became my image for the new year. It contrasted with the rising and setting of the moon full on our first night, obviously waning by our last. The moon changed so quickly, like the year that was passing, fading quickly into what would in a few short days be a moonless night. Our rhythm through the year looks more like the moon than the sun I thought. It will not be constant, it will wax and wane. Sometimes it will be invisible. Quite liberating that! Don’t try and force God or your coming year into a rhythm that does not belong.

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Looking Back With Gratitude

As I looked back, I was amazed at what an encouraging journey the year held. It started on a real low point. Severe headaches and neck pain made me think I should give up gardening and knitting, two of my favourite activities. It soon became obvious however that it was more a process of rethinking rather than  giving up. I purchased some new raised beds that sit at 2’6′ and mean I can garden without bending over. They are wonderful. I also started a whole new series of stretching and strengthening exercises that improved my pain considerably and meant I could once more knit. It was with great delight that I recently finished a baby sweater for our downstairs tenants.

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Looking back made me realize that 2023 was a year of bounty, productivity and reconnection. Just saying that gives me joy. The wars in Ukraine and Gaza overshadowed the year and fulled me down, so that it was easy for me to end on a negative note, but when I looked back negativity was not what struck me about the year. I reconnected to friends, I reconnected to the garden and I reconnected to my creativity and now I am reconnecting to some of my dreams for the future too. I am very excited that next week I will record my first interview, an introductory one, with Forrest Inslee for my new podcast Liturgical Rebels. The following week I hope to conduct interviews with my first three guests – Kelly Latimore, Drew Jackson and Scott Erickson. I am very excited about this. Liturgical Rebels is all about helping people to think outside the box with their approaches to spirituality and practice, and these three artists and poets can really help us find our ways forward.

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Reflect Prayerfully

A lot of my friends like to use the Ignatian Prayer of Examen or something like this ecological examen as a framework for reflecting back on the year. To hold each high and low point in our hands, examine it, rejoice in the right and confess where we went wrong, before we release it to all the detritus of the dying year can be a great practice of release and freedom. Others prefer to use a labyrinth or a lectio exercise – lectio divina, visio divina or lectio tierra are all possible approaches that can help us to reflect and release the year that has passed.

When I asked myself “What spiritual practices gave me the strongest connection to God in 2023?” it was not any of these processes that came to mind however. My use of embodied exercises that use  breath prayers and circling prayers, the writing of poetry and my creation of my Advent/Christmas wreath, and sacred space stand out for me. There are also my awe and wonder walks which continue to be a mainstay of my spiritual practices. I am already thinking about how I can adapt these practices for the beginning of 2024. Looks like a lot of different practices doesn’t it, which is great for me as I love variety.

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Rethink the Future

Each new year seems to provide a blank slate on which to rethink how we do things.It is also, I suspect, my theme for 2024. I can rethink ministry, rethink spiritual practices and in some ways rethink priorities as we move into a new year. It is important for all of us as we look ahead, even though we think we may very quickly forget the resolutions we make.  that’s why I don’t make resolutions anymore. I focus on intentions.

As I do this so there are several questions I ask myself:

How might I become more like Jesus?

How do I look after my own physical and spiritual health?

How might I become more considerate of others, especially the most vulnerable in society?

How might I become more active in the preservation of God’s good creation?

Self, others, creation. All of these need to be considered as we look to the future.

Circling prayer exercises, like the one I created for Advent last year are a wonderful way to rethink our focus. Here is a prayer I wrote over the weekend after reflecting in this way. It both helps me put the old year to rest and prepare for the new year.

As the old year dies,
And we lay it to rest.
Circle us God who is above us,
Circle what is good within us,
That we might grow stronger each day.
Circle us, God who is beside us,
Circle us with your wisdom,
That we might discern right from wrong.
Circle us God who is within us,
Circle us with your love,
That we might show compassion for the vulnerable.

Circle us God who is above us,
With the brilliance of your light.
Circle us God who is beside us,
With grateful and repentant hearts.
Circle us God who is within us,
With the comfort of your abiding.

As the new year is born,
And we welcome a new day,
Circle us God who is above us,
With the knowledge of your faithfulness.
Circle us God who is beside us,
With the trust of your presence.
Circle us God who is within us,
With the hope of your renewal.

Light bringer, joy filler, love incarnate,
You who are One,
You who are three,
Circle us with the wonder of your life.

(c) Christine Sine 2023.


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