Posted by: smstrouse | December 31, 2011

New Year – New Word

I love Dilbert’s reaction in today’s cartoon, when someone wishes him a Happy New Year: “I don’t celebrate the magical thinking that says one random point in the space-time continuum is somehow special.”

I agree with the Big D in a way. What’s the big deal with January 1?  Especially when we call September the new year, as in new academic calendar. In the church, Advent is the beginning of the new year. In my congregation, July 1 is the beginning of the new fiscal year. And in our multicultural society today, there are many ‘new’ years.

Be that as all that may, there is still something about January 1 that turns our attention to the past (what do I need to let go?) – and the future (what do I need to embrace?).  It’s about more than making resolutions, which seems to me to be more of an exercise in guilt-production. Some talk about setting intentions, and that’s better.

But what I have come to appreciate and find a more meaningful practice is that of asking for a word. I got the idea last year from Christine Valters Paintner on her Abbey of the Arts website. She reminds us of the ancient Desert Mothers and Fathers and how people would go out to them and ask for a word that would be their own personal bit of wisdom on which to ponder, pray, and live.

My word last year was ‘light.’  As I contemplated taking on the responsibility of being the interim executive director of the Interfaith Center at the Presidio, while also being the full-time past or at First United, I wanted to be able to stay within the ‘light of the world’ and to allow it to inform me in all my transactions and decisions.

What will my word be for the coming year? I don’t know yet. I like the phrase that Valters Paintner uses of allowing a word or phrase to ‘shimmer’ before me. And that is what I’m going to do – take the time for quiet pondering and reflection. Oops, that’s a resolution, isn’t it? Ah well, so be it.

Happy “random point in the space-time continuum”!



  1. There are at least three points in the space-time continuum that are special, seems to me: 1) the beginning – “In the beginning was the Word”; “In the beginning when God created”; the Big Bang; 2) Jesus’ birth – “a savior, who is Christ the Lord”; “for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou has prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel”; 3) the end – “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away”; “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth”. Not “magical”, certainly, but of significant importance.

    Other points that come to mind are that point when you are the oldest generation in your family; your child/ren is/are born; your child/ren dies before you; you realize more of your life is behind you; you realize the world isn’t fair – or even very predictable; and so on. One could argue that the beginning and ending of everything, and the middle point of each, are special in space-time, I think.

    I’m hoping God gives me “chocolate” as my word for the year. I think it would be good to meditate on chocolate. We’ll see.
    Peace, Bill


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