First of all may I wish you all a very happy New Year. I know that for some of you, 2010 was overshadowed by personal tragedy, and I am sure you are glad that it is over. For you, I hope that 2011 will bring in some way, a form of peace and reconciliation. And for those of you who sailed through on a wave of euphoria, I hope that your state of well-being continues for a long time to come. Whilst for those of us for whom last year was the usual bag of mixed blessings, I hope that next year's mixture is rich in content, yet balanced in distribution!
With a new year and a fresh start, our minds often turn to new resolutions and good intentions. The problem is they are never easy to maintain, are they? Especially when they involve your own well being! I mean, how are you expected to diet after Christmas when someone has bought you Jamie Oliver’s, or Nigella Lawson’s latest cook book? It's simply just not on! And who's going to take more exercise when it's freezing cold outside, even though they now have the latest "Fitness for the Over Fifties" video (and book and tape)? Let’s be honest, this time of year is not conducive to over-exertion or any kind physical exercise.
However, one wonders whether perhaps a little "spiritual exercise" may not come amiss. Now look, don’t get the wrong impression - I'm not asking you to set yourself targets in order to compete in a "spiritual marathon". That sort of exercise can seem far too daunting. No I'm thinking more along the lines of a walk or country ramble. A 'Ramble with God" perhaps.
Take it gently to start with, do some warm-up exercises. Perhaps a little daily prayer or chat with God as you walk to the shop, or bus stop, or even in the High Street. You would be surprised how much spiritually fitter you feel even doing this simple daily exercise.
And if felt like extending yourself a further, then a bit of light Christian reading and discernment could certainly be of benefit. I’ve emphasised the word discernment because so many of us just read the words without our "little grey cells" doing any great activity: words are not to be just read, they are to be explored, thought about, turned over in our minds and our hearts. And by so doing, you allow God to interact with you life.
So often, when people read the bible, they look for God just in the printed word. I’m not certain whether He is really to be found just in there. I’m not actually certain whether He is to be found just in the activity of our minds either. However, by reading the words and letting them wander around in our conscience, then somehow, I believe, God is to be found in the gaps and questions, building bridges and linking our thoughts with His. That’s where I believe God works.
But don’t take my word for it! Try it out for yourselves. Read your favourite passage from the Bible (not to much, mind!), or your least favourite, come to that. Let the words just wander around during a quiet space, perhaps whilst you're having a coffee break, or waiting for someone. Don't try and put your own interpretation on them immediately; see if something else happens. Try it often and you'll be quite surprised what turns up.
This is what I meant earlier by my "Ramble with God'. It is not too demanding or strenuous and it certainly ranks as one of my favourite forms of 'spiritual exercise". Give it a go as your New Year’s Resolution. I wish you well with it. If you find it difficult at first, then do persevere a little, or ask me for some tips or help. I would be delighted to oblige.
In the meantime, may you enjoy a peaceful new year, both in the Holy Spirit and in health and may God be with you always.