While several of my colleagues questioned my plan to return to church in December, I was resolved. I couldn’t imagine not being here for the whirlwind that is this season in our church. It has been a joy to be with you again. As we enter a new year though, I am grateful that our theme for the month is the Path of Finding Our Center. It is easy to get a bit off-kilter in December.

Finding our center is not about being self-centered. It is instead about finding our way home.

It’s not about staying there, of course. Rather it is about connecting anew with who we are and have always been beneath our goals and regrets and to-do lists. It is that core of original blessing gifted to us at birth that informs our joys, values, and connections.

The New Year is often about resolving to do this or that thing that we imagine will make us happier by improving our looks, finances or some such. The Path of Finding Our Center is about belonging again to ourselves. Trusting that within and beyond the doings of our days, there is within each of us a “hidden wholeness” as Thomas Merton wrote. When we tend to it, we will find connection and guidance.

The Path of Finding Our Center is one that invites practice. Each of us will need to discover what helps us return to the path. Perhaps it is silence or poetry or sitting with sacred text. Maybe it is a meditative walk or listening to music. It will be slightly different for each of us.

However, we get there, the benefit is clear. Our interactions with others come from a more whole and holy place. It’s not about appearing centered. It is about living from a place rooted in our values and hopes rather than reacting out of our anger and fear. It is about getting still, so we can move in the direction of our choosing rather than flying off the handle in a chaotic spin. It is about leaving other voices behind until only one remains and we recognize it as our own, as Mary Oliver described in her poem “The Journey.”

This is a worthy endeavor for a new year. I’m so grateful to be in it with you.

January Sparkler

Lao Tzu said that at the center of our being, you have the answer; you know who you are, and you know what you want. The challenge, of course, is getting to the center of our being. There is always so much noise and so many distractions.

Likely we have all known of, if we have not known them personally, someone or ones who seem able to turn down the noise and go inward. Viktor Frankl, survivor of a Nazi concentration camp maintained that regardless of circumstance we can choose who we will be. As a psychiatrist, he described it this way. “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”

Let this rumble in you for the course of a walk or a day. Then, name a time in which you embraced that space. That is, you didn’t react, you responded. What did you learn about yourself?

Spend another moment in reflection and call to mind people you have known who seem to regularly choose that space. Who are they? What have you learned from them?