By Laura Stephens-Reed
Can you believe that the calendar year is so quickly coming to a close? I feel certain that July was just a couple of weeks ago. (That could be due to the face-melting temperatures that persisted through most of October in Alabama, though.) The next few weeks will pass in a blur of too much turkey, (mostly) tasteful holiday lights, and frantic wrapping, and then it will be 2020.
It’s time, then, to begin turning our faces to the new year. (This is allowed, even with Advent still in sight, since December 1 resets the liturgical calendar.) Here are some prompts to encourage you to be proactive about planning for the coming months:
How has God been at work in, around, and through me this past year, and how will I celebrate that divine involvement? That’s right, setting goals for next year requires first gazing backward. Gratitude gives a much more worshipful and productive context for looking ahead.
Based on this awareness, what might God be nudging me to consider for 2020? Goal-setting that isn’t rooted in discernment means that my plans will likely face a stiff headwind.
What excites me about these possibilities? I want to gain energy from naming the good that could come from letting myself be prodded.
What do I still need to sit with? The nudging might be more of a gentle tap on the shoulder at this point than an elbow to the gut. How might I stay open to more obvious overtures from God?
What resources and support do I need to respond to the nudging? What do I already have – wisdom, talents, relationships, experiences – that I can draw upon? What do I need to acquire? How will I set up regular evaluation points to reflect on whether I’m still following God’s invitations and to notice positive changes?
Goal-setting in this vein acknowledges that God’s reign is already beginning to break in and that God invites us to partner in bringing it more fully into being. It unites us with others who share this vision. And it remains nimble enough to respond to changing circumstances and re-route our own tendency toward distraction even as we stay deeply rooted in holy hope and divine love.
Laura Stephens-Reed is Peer Learning Group Regional Director for Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. She also serves as a clergy coach and congregational consultant.