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Starting the New Year Well

January 6, 2019

Another Way for week of January 4, 2019

Starting the New Year Well

Do any of your goals for the New Year include drawing closer to God, or deepening your walk of discipleship?

Perhaps “disciple” isn’t in your active vocabulary of how you think of or describe your faith life. The early disciples who followed Jesus were kind of like students of a favorite professor or of a certain school of philosophy. Our learning should be lifelong, including actively following the teachings of Jesus.

Two books have helped me ponder these ideas, and look freshly at desires for my own life. One book is not published yet but that I had the opportunity to edit, called By The Way: Getting Serious about Following Jesus. The author’s name is Derek Vreeland, and while he has self-published a number of books, this is his first book by a regular trade book publisher which means getting the book out more widely.

The book is designed to help new believers or young people joining a church to be grounded in some basics—including things (as I told the author) that I have kind of forgotten or left by the wayside, even though I’ve gone to church faithfully all my life (well, there was that year or two in college where I wasn’t so faithful, like many others).

But even today, I tend to let good habits slide: reading the Bible, praying authentically, serving others, living what I believe.

One of my faith habits of the last several years has been participating in a very small group with “Morning prayers” at the office, begun by my former boss and supported fervently by my current one. So it’s not “time off” or letting our work slide, but it has become an important part of our work praying for other staff members, our board, authors, people who do contract work for us (editors and proofeaders), readers, and website visitors. It is also a chance to breathe deeply and focus on being in the presence of God. We use a book called Take Our Moments and Our Days compiled a number of years ago; it is patterned like an Anglican prayer book which gives you readings for every day and then steps you through various prayers.

I picked up a memoir that has helped me appreciate this prayer book and this practice even more, titled The Close: A Young Woman’s First Year at Seminary. It is written by Chloe Breyer, who went to a small Episcopal seminary in New York City known as General Theological Seminary. The word Close in her title referred to a part of campus that was like a cloister, a garden-y space in the city set aside for reflection and prayer.

Being Episcopal, the seminarians were expected to participate in prayer meetings at least five times a day: morning and evening prayer in a chapel with others, and then various prayers and sometimes communion or Eucharist, depending on the day of the week. She struggled at first with trying to keep track of the hymnal and multiple other books in the pew rack, as many as six. Finding the collects and readings and recitations and songs was at first distracting from actual prayer, but she wrote, “As my historical understanding [of Christianity] grows, I feel the power of a prayer spoken by centuries of Christian worshippers. Although I still doubt that God would find a lovely hymn more pleasing than an act of charity, more often now, I leave evening prayer feeling refreshed” (p. 107, Basic Books, Perseus Books Group, NY, 2000).

Her comment compares to my own experience with written prayers passed down through centuries, at first having almost zero appreciation and wondering how any could appreciate prayers that can become mere ritual or rote and not thought about at all. I grew up with spontaneous—always unwritten prayers.

Wherever you find yourself on this spectrum of prayer, know that God is as close as our most intimate, hidden thoughts and needs. God wants us to draw closer, however we experience both the Maker of the universe, and our soul friend who knows us better than we do ourselves. May it be so in the coming year.

***

I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences of faith, and stories. Or what you’re reading in the new year! Comment here.
Books I mention: the first two are available now and the last one is available for preorder, publishing in June 2019.

Take Our Moments and Our Days

Take Our Moments and Our Days: Prayerbook

The Close (a memoir)

By The Way

Or contact me at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

 

 

2 Comments
  1. Thank you for your titles and tips. Recently, I came across a quote to ponder recently: Writing is a form of active prayer. Maybe . . .

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