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Wednesday, January 9 2008
A few lines from W.H. Auden's, "For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio," (1941-3) express the sentiment many of us have as we begin the new year, returning to the seeming mundaneness of everyday living:
"Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes --
Some have got broken -- and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week --
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted -- quite unsuccessfully --
To love all our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers..."
"The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory, and already the mind begins to be vaguely aware of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now be very far off. But for the time being, here we all are, back to the moderate Aristotelian city of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid's geometry and Newton's mechanics would account for our experience, and the kitchen table exists because I scrub it."
Auden reminds us that after the fanfare of Christmas, reality sets in, and we return, each of us, to the humdrum of the daily grind. And yet, it is a time for a fresh start, a renewed perspective, as we prepare for the challenges that will face us. With this in mind, I offer a few thoughts for keeping perspective in the new year.
First, have a plan as you begin the year. Truth be known, never throughout the year are we more prone to think with a fresh perspective, than at the beginning of the year. Sure, a lot of "resolutions" fall by the wayside, but just the same, what areas of your life would you like to improve in, or do differently? Look at your life in terms of a quadrant: the vocational; the relational; the spiritual; and the recreational. Why not set up a few achievable goals in each of these areas?
Second, reflect on what it means when we say that "God is in our life." Paul says in one of his letters, "Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). I'm not exactly sure how we net that out in our individual lives, but I've been asking myself, how would my everyday life be different if I really tried to put God into the equation, and not just on Sunday morning? How would my life be different?
Third, commit yourself to reading more, and watching less television. I'm a college basketball junkie, and I can't ever seem to get enough of SportsCenter! Yet I'm convinced that what may seemingly be a natural way to unwind after the day's work may not be that beneficial for me in the long term. Why not find a book on a subject that interests you (or that you got for Christmas), and try reading for just thirty minutes each evening, say three or four nights a week? I'll bet within a few weeks time, you'll begin to realize the benefits of reading.
Fourth, and along similar lines, cultivate your spiritual life with God. Most men I know struggle greatly in this area (I'm no exception), and most of the comments I hear from guys are like, "So where do I begin?" I'm convinced that we've made the devotional life much more difficult than it really is. One could do a lot worse than to simply read a chapter in the Bible each day, and prayerfully reflect on what God is saying, and how it applies to your life. Over the years, I've become convinced that if you are going to read the Bible (or any devotional), if it doesn't happen in the morning, it probably won't happen.
C. S. Lewis observes in Mere Christianity, "The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice...letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind."
Let me know if I can be of assistance. Best wishes in the New Year!
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