Have you ever had one of those days? For me last Monday was a bit of a howler. The day when many people returned to work or settled back into a more normal routine after the Christmas and New Year break; the day when with fresh vigour and renewed aspirations for 2023 we launch out into the world once again, determined to make a difference. With the latest diet plan downloaded, a monthly financial budget agreed, and of course, a determination to never miss a day of our new daily Bible reading plan, we hit the ground running!
My Monday was going well until I noticed my car had a flat tyre, this was closely followed by the realisation (upon further inspection), that a full set of four new tyres was required; bang goes the monthly budget! Undeterred by that setback I revisited my ‘to do’ list and decided to tackle the minor domestic electrical job I’d been planning to do all last year. True to form, with the light fading as evening approached, there I was on a step ladder with a screwdriver in hand and a torch between my teeth giving light to a ceiling rose as I attempted to wire in a loop circuit; I’d always thought it would be a simple job. Add to that the fact that my JCB loader at the farm had developed a fuel leak, I was recovering from another bout of Covid-19, and my wife had just started another course of chemotherapy it made for a pretty ropey picture! I’m not looking for sympathy, but sometimes it’s hard to see beyond those tough days.
However, today is a new day and those seemingly all-consuming concerns of earlier in the week have largely faded away. It might just be me, but have you noticed how much the small (and sometimes annoying) things in life can distract us from taking time to focus on the big picture? As the new year unfolds our church life can so easily slip back into the same old patterns; have we stopped to ask if our activities are still relevant, or is their time and usefulness over? What about ourselves, have we stopped to consider our inner journey? Are we able to listen or have we simply jumped back on the treadmill? Could God be calling us to a new season? Perhaps at the beginning of another year we’d do well to look beyond the everyday, take some time to reflect, and ask a few questions of ourselves.
Last Sunday we celebrated one element of the story of Christ’s birth, Epiphany (manifestation) and the visit of the magi (Matthew 2:1-12). I was struck by some questions my sister-in-law Grace Redpath* asked her congregation, and wanted to simply leave them with you to ponder and reflect on during this week, hoping that when you encounter those ropey days you’re able to see beyond as you venture in to 2023. There are seven questions, perhaps you could reflect on one each day of the coming week.
Grace writes; ‘At the beginning of this new year, as you reflect on your life’s journey - the experiences you carry, the scraps of your story, the fragments that seem painful as well as those you think of as beautiful – as you set off into the unfamiliar territory of 2023 and venture into unmapped terrain, here are some questions for you to ponder. Questions as you listen to your heart – maybe only one question is for you, the one that stands out. Stay with it and take some time to reflect.
What are you looking for?
What star will you follow, the star that will light/illumine your path?
How can you find your footing when what you have counted on is shifting beneath you?
What do you need for the journey, to navigate the path? Who or what will sustain you?
Is there anything you need to leave behind, something that’s too heavy to carry?
Can you think of an experience or encounter that has acted as a catalyst for you to change direction?
Or are you at a turning point now, today, ready to travel a different road home – home to the place where God stays, where God is, remembering that God promises to be with us always?’*
Director: Scotland & Northern England
* Rev Grace Redpath; St Andrew’s Scottish Episcopal Church, Kelso