The beginning of a new year is often a time when we do two things: Reflect on the past year and set goals for the coming year. I do this personally.
I find it good to reflect on the past year: What have I learned? What have I accomplished? What have I left undone? What am I happy about? What do I not want to repeat? How have I grown? Where do I need to grow? Did I follow God's path for me as best as I could discern it? How did I make life better for those around me? Where did I do harm to others or fail to do good where I could have? How did I handle the challenges and difficulties of 2009, which were unforeseen just a year ago?
When I address these questions honestly, they give me good feedback. I learn from both successes and failures, challenges and joys. It is good to reflect. Without reflection, I tend to keep doing what I have done in the past and getting the same results. I do not use reflection to beat myself up or pat myself on the back, but to learn and grow.
Let me give you an example: One thing I will reflect on as this year ends is "The Three Simple Rules." I began 2009 with a message series about them, and determined to keep them in my life. How have I done with these three rules now that I am no longer wearing a rubber band on my wrist to help me remember them?
Do no harm. Where have I done harm? Where have I treated others with love and respect?
Do good. Have I done all the good that was there for me to do this year? Where have I done good, and where have I put it aside?
Stay in love with God. What did I do this last year to stay in love with God? Did I follow the spiritual disciples that help me feel his presence? Did I love others as if they were Christ?
Reflection is good. It prepares me to make a difference in the coming year.
I also find it good to set goals for the coming year. I find that when I have no goals, I seldom accomplish anything. Now, I do often set my goals too high and don't completely reach them, but I find that even when I do make that mistake that I still move toward those goals. I find it helpful to write down those goals and review them from time to time so I don't forget them.
One of our goals each year should be to grow spirituality; that is, to deepen our relationship with God and to mature spiritually as the Apostle Paul writes in his letters. I find in this area of my life, as you probably do too, that we seldom grow accidentally.
As you look back on 2009, what are your reflections? As you look forward to 2010, what are your goals? May God guide us in both and may God's blessings be abundant in your life in 2010.
Pastor Diann O'Bryant is the minister of Gilman United Methodist Church, 312 Gilman St., Marietta. Thoughts of Faith is a weekly column written by various ministers and lay people. Those interested in scheduling a date for writing a Thoughts of Faith column should contact Janet Gossett at 376-5446 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if a Thoughts of Faith column is written at the writer's convenience and sent to The Times, it will run the first available date.