To Glisten in the New Year
Dec 30, 2018
On Sunday, 12/30, we used the sermon portion of our service as a time to look together as a community at the spiritual reflection Reservoir published this fall. The below text is a modified version of the guided reflection given by Ivy Anthony.
As you read through the reflection, feel free to peruse the electronic version of My Life With Jesus, or print it out to follow along and fill out.
It’s such a joy to be here with all of you today! Kids and youth, all of us gathering to spend the last Sunday of 2018 together. We’ve almost made it—almost made it to the end of 2018! Today’s question of the day gave you a second to name a few things that have been favorable and maybe less favorable for you over the last year. And so for all the ways that making it to the end of 2018 feels like a significant triumph for some of you—and for some of you less so—we still have made it!
At our dinner table last night I posed this question of the day and the descriptor that rose to the top was “adventure”. So congratulations! Because no matter which way you spin it 2018 has been an adventure— we have traveled far in 2018, all the way around the sun!
It’s jarring to look back at all the certainty that has happened—concrete experiences, felt emotions—And then to turn to 2019, this vast year of unknown ahead of us.
And it’s this time of year—the end of the year—when we look out at the horizon of 2019 with so much of the unknown ahead of us—so many days to unfold—where we don’t know what they will look like or what they will entail. And so we start to name and form some certainties that we can enter the year with—this is where “resolutions” come in!
And for so many these resolutions are so helpful—an opportunity of new beginnings, of hope, (from what we are turning from perhaps in the last year).
For me though, this time of year—on the cusp of a new year—often creates a little more anxiety than excitement. I haven’t often been great at making resolutions and even “Less great” at “sticking to” resolutions. And yet it goes deeper than the resolutions, I think. It’s not really about drinking more water or stretching more, or spending more time with God. Those are all great, but it’s that I’m daunted by the picture/the image of myself that I hope to turn into because of those things. That there’s a time-stamp to it—that at some distant horizon in 2019,some 8 weeks or 6 months in, I’ll be a newer, better, more glistening version of myself.
Much of my life, I’ve realized, actually has been a series of trying to reach that glisten—that distant glow—where I’ll arrive at my better self.
I don’t know if this is true for you or not, but I remember as a young kid dreaming of a time ahead, just out of reach, a glistening edge of life’s landscape ahead of me: what it would be like for instance, when I finally reached the age of 16—“Oooh, I’ll be such a “cool” version of myself” – I’ll have my license, be driving and experiencing more freedom, and maybe a taste of what it is to be in new love, innocent love…
And once I hit 16, there was a lot less “glisten”. I realized that having my license meant more responsibility and carting my brothers around and doing errands and evidently getting a lot of milk from the local convenience store.
And so I’d find myself dreaming of what it would be like to be in my young adult years, moving out of my parent’s ((cold)) house, partnered with someone I adore fully and who adores me fully, where answers to questions of heart-ache, and loss of innocence and how to keep my head above water and out of the tangles of anxiety would be apparent.
And of course reaching that horizon – and realizing there wasn’t much of a glisten there at all.
And so it goes. I’m 41, an age by which my younger self would have told me I’d have a large cache of wisdom and groundedness in my being with all the life and experiences I’ve lived, where I’d have more answers in my back pocket than questions, an age where I thought I’d “do” relationships better than I am and where I’d find my strong, unwavering voice and where I could balance the harried-ness of life with large swaths of graciousness, and patience and understanding dealt to all those around me at every turn.
Alas—my younger self would be disappointed.
But I am not.
My younger self would hope that I’d have arrived at some magical point of life.
I haven’t arrived.
But I am here.
And you are here.
And that matters.
And that just might be the glistening horizon. We might be sitting in it right now. Each other’s glow – with Jesus’s light refracting off of all of my hot messy self, just as I am.
This is where glistening happens. With the fullness of ourselves—just as we are—and with the fullness of God just as He always is.
And so this is really what our service will be about today, what I’m inviting you into deeper today—yes, time to be with God and time to reflect with God— time to sit in the glisten.
We are going to take some time in this service today to interact with the spiritual reflection in your hands. This reflection, if you can think of it as such, is actually a guide of how to glisten and how to keep glistening in the New Year.
I’ll make space for 3 different areas of reflection this morning: Just how are you experiencing the love of Jesus these days?—What are the spiritual practices and ways that you feel like might be enlivening that love of Jesus (or not). What about the joy of living—does that sound like an apt descriptor for your life right now? How about community—what ways are you feeling connected? And what ways are you hoping for more in any of these areas? You won’t be asked to share any of these reflections with anyone this morning in service, but at the end of service you will have an opportunity to let us know if you’d appreciate talking with a trained leader or pastor on staff more about your reflection.
I encourage you that, while reflecting can feel void of movement, that we are just pausing time, it actually is an incredibly potent and effective tool. It allows you and God together to probe your soul.
It’s for the discovery of your own soul—what YOU are here on this earth for! It’s for the glisten!
Richard Rohr says “Your soul is who you are in God and who God is in you.” Right?! We do not “make” or “create” our own souls. We awaken them, allow them, and live out of their deepest messages.
This reflection time – is all the hope that a resolution could be. It allows you inroads to unearth the newest of beginnings – the deepest messages of your soul, that God and you get to discover together.
So let’s take a reflection moment right now, by looking inward:
This week’s program included an insert with a prompt that said simply: “I am” followed by blank lines. Those present were encouraged to take creative/free license in filling in this prompt and fill the lines with identity, feelings, maladies, disappointments, or anything else. “I am— I am a pastor at Reservoir Church. I am a fabulous mom to 3 kids. I am thankful for… I am craving…” Feel free to consider this prompt on your own now.
I am __________________________________________________.
Part 1: Love of God
I wrote down a lot of things in that little “I am ______” moment.
“I am a mom”…
“I am wandering”…
“I am full of dreams.”
“I am afraid of dreaming.”
“I am loved by God.”
To glisten is the effect of Jesus’ love hitting us squarely in the soul. Where all those deepest dreams and messages of who we are and who we can become live, and when hit with Jesus’ love they get stirred up like dust in a sun-beam. Visible where they once were not—hundreds of particles, swirling in the light: glistening.
And it’s exciting to see them hit the light of day, and it can also feel a little overwhelming as we try to form them in the midst of the “hard facts of our lives” (Thurman).
We’ve spent some time over the past 4 weeks looking at the dreams and nightmares of the various individuals that surround the birth narrative of Jesus. Hopefully you’ve gotten a glimpse of how this is not just an ancient story-line, but one that enfolds your story too today. The dream for so many was that a Savior would come and flip the world as they knew it for the better—where this King to come would bust through ways that only seemed to offer dead-ends and the boundaries that only succeeded at keeping people on the margins of society, where amid strange and scary times there would be “newness”—a hope filled to the brim with kindness, humility and LOVE.
The deep, abiding LOVE of Jesus…
That keeps us upright in our contemporary world as we fumble and fail and struggle through our days sometimes.
This LOVE of Jesus is what I hope we can still dream for today.
Love that perhaps has lost its luster/its shine in our days—roughed up a bit as it scratches across the bumps and valleys of our harsh day, but one that when we can carve a moment of reflection, polishes quickly to a piercing light that glistens off of us, wherever we are, in the fullness of who we are, and energizes us with a never vanishing love for all the dead ends that we may need to bust through and the barriers and walls that we may need to dismantle in 2019.
I read the words of John Paul Lederach (Mennonite and author), who said this compelling thing about glistening as it relates to the Christmas story. He said that “Mary and Joseph glistened to the unexpected seed they carried toward the light of day”.
And it’s compelled me to ask myself:
How can I be like Mary and Joseph? How can I carry all that is within me: the unexpected, the unknown, the messy, and expose it to the light of each day—to glisten? How do I keep glistening?
As we’ve followed the story of Mary and Joseph over the stretch of this Christmas season, we can see that it was their love for this unborn, mysterious Jesus.
It was their love that wasn’t even fully formed, but fully open to discovery. It allowed them to be risky, to move in the midst of threat, to be guided by stars and angels, and songs and poems—breaking through thresholds of social class and culture and refugee status to see their purpose and role in the great unveiling of the greatest of all loves: Jesus as important—pivotal and worthy.
Their glistening came from a deep knowing that would grow and overturn the systems of enslavement/guilt/judgement/darkness and usher in peace/freedom and light.
All because they glistened to the seed that was inside them.
A seed that we too have and carry today.
That we are invited to bring again and again to the light of our days.
Zechariah, one of these Christmas story voices, the long -awaited father to John the Baptist prophecy’s and says these words:
Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
down the path of peace. (MSG) Luke 1: 78 – 79
And this is the hope of this next reflection time right now—that you, to the degree that you have energy and presence to do so, will reflect and remember those moments of God breaking into your life with His radiant light—light that isn’t just “an alluring glow out at a distant horizon” or a “mirage,” but is a steady, constant promise of never-ceasing LOVE—the activator of all our dreams and the active ingredient that allows our multi-faceted selves to glisten.
Take a few minutes to reflect on the love of Jesus.
Part 2: The Joy of Living
I love that last line of the scripture we read together, of Zechariah’s words –
“(God will show us) the way, one foot at a time,
down the path of peace.”
It is such a counter-cultural way of navigating life right? One foot at a time. He seems to suggest a slower, more rooted cadence—one that rests in this trust of God, and one that promotes that the life you witness and experience where you stand is indeed valuable, worthy of taking in and being a part of.
We, though, are often conditioned to look at a year ahead of us and answer: What are your goals for the year? What will you have accomplished by the end of Quarter 2? What are you striving toward?
How much of what you accomplish in your days do you measure by your feet? How much of your work goals? Or your homework? Or your instrument practice?
Not much I’d guess! We measure in time right? Hours, minutes, seconds…. ((how much can we get done, in how little time – go!)
Zechariah, though, in his moment gives us a different measurement for finding peace and—I believe—joy, in our living: by our own feet.
To look at the vastness of the year ahead and make an action plan and put dreams into motion is not by any means “bad.”
But the components of those plans and dreams are found by the life we stand in right at our feet: Where we work, play and live—being present to the life that surrounds us, and trusting that God will each step of the way illuminate what it is we should put our energy and goals and dreams and attention toward. And the effect of this is how we catch the glistening all around us: the beauty and the sorrow, the light and the darkness.
How many of you have seen something glisten?
Sun as it shimmers on snow?
Cheeks when tears slide down them?
Moonbeams as they hit the ripples of water….?
Moist rocks on a beach, when the sun hits them?
My guess is that for most of us to witness and behold these moments, we were standing and watching, with close proximity. We leaned in, to the person with tears, we were sliding our own feet over the glistening rocks on the beach. We were present to the glistening. We might feel joy and amazement and wonder.
Maybe this is what Zechariah, after months of being silent as he waited for the birth of his child, hopes for us to still hear today: to stand in our life fully, whatever it may offer us, presents opportunities to glisten and receive joy from God.
And maybe it’s just worth reflecting on this a bit: The joy of living.
You’ll find this next reflection moment in your packet. Take some time to think about these prompts and questions. As before, don’t feel pressure to fully answer all of them. Take freedom to stay with one train of thought or just enjoy silence and stillness.
Part 3: The Gift of Community
This past year I’ve felt that tick of time more than ever. The swiftness of it! With my oldest in high school, I’m realizing that it’s just 3 years and 7 months, and 4 days… give or take… that she’ll be out of our house (likely).
And so these words of being present and guided by God “one foot at a time” have felt powerful and kept my eyes more widely open to the moments where connection can come with her, but also connection in the communities that her activities draw me in to.
Her swim coach pitched to me over the summer that I should become the team’s “Volunteer Coordinator”. Which means that for any home meet that we throw, I’d be responsible for getting parents to volunteer for all the roles that are needed to successfully run the meet.
Every single person, including my daughter, who heard this proposal said “don’t do it” Flat out: “this is a very, very bad idea”.
I said, “yes.”
And the months that have unfolded since then have been full of glistening. I’ve had conversations on swim decks where this Coach will come up to me and say, “OK – I’m having a crisis of faith. Here are all the people that I know that are suffering, dying, have died, are in the hospital… and they are all my age”
And for the most part I’m listening and saying “gosh, I don’t know.”
But I’m realizing that this is what allows for glistening to happen: to be stunned in the midst of messiness,the light and the wet and the tears and the soppiness of life, by the beauty of connection, of unexpectedness that is formed in the midst of it all.
And what a gift it is…
…to find one another in the most unexpected places and realize that we can refract light off of each other, that we not only get to be witnesses of this glistening, but we are also an essential part of the whole process! We cast light and refract light as well.
John Paul Lederach says:
“To glisten: To be present with others in ways that help them shine into their deepest color, purpose, and wisdom.”
And this swim coach, by being her truly unfiltered self—exposing all her deepest messages of her soulat not a pre-determined time, or place—has helped me shine into my deepest color, purpose and wisdom.
And so I wonder for you today what the gift of community looks like. Take a few minutes to look at the prompts and questions in your reflection packet now.
2018 has been a host of adventures, and 2019 will bring a lot more adventures, no doubt. At times this past year I’ve been drenched in tears: with sorrow and heartache as I watch division and violence and sickness ravage my close radius of life, and beyond my reach—tears of disappointment in myself, tears of fear, of failure or letting people down… AND
Tears of joy, as I see friends discover more of themselves and their own cadence of “one foot in front of another,” as I see my kids navigate their own new beginnings and discover themselves and their place in this world…
Tears of sweat of work and efforts of health, and the exertion and sheer energy it takes to do this life.
And yet, I’m coming to see that this is the ripest of conditions for glistening: without soppiness, it’s hard to glisten. And so I’ll try to not dry myself off and worry about staying presentable, but I’ll try instead to stay connected to God and others, in all that I am and TO all that God is.
John Paul Lederach says:
That the presence of the Divine among us seems to follow simple guideposts… acceptance and equality are incarnated through the fundamental commitment that the sun and rain are offered to all. No exceptions
Rain has this intriguing quality. Droplets fall as individuated little spheres. Once splashed, however, rain spreads, melds, and flows. When mixed with the sudden appearance of the sun, it makes everything shine.
Rain glistens to everything.
God is offered to all. No exceptions.
God glistens to everyone.
And Genesis says:
14 God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night. They will mark events, sacred seasons, days, and years. 15 They will be lights in the dome of the sky to shine on the earth.” And that’s what happened. 16 God made the stars and two great lights: the larger light to rule over the day and the smaller light to rule over the night. 17 God put them in the dome of the sky to shine on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw how good it was.
There’s always light, offered to all.
God made two great lights. For the day and for the night.
There’s rain, offered to all.
There’s always the potential to glisten.
There is evening and there is morning—there is both, filled with light.
There is your day right now, filled with light, and there is your day tomorrow, and there are 365 days upon you in 2019—a landscape of glistening potential ahead of you.
In this year my friends, may you know that you are worthy of glistening. In all that you named yourself to be at the beginning of the service. All of it. All of who you are is loved. You are indeed the object of God’s desire, where His light can refract and spread in abundance to all those around you. Yes, the dark spots you hope to hide and the spots out for all to see. The smooth surfaces, and the surfaces that hold the characteristic bumps and holes of life. .
May you know this as you enter 2019.
In Jesus’ holy, glistening, name.