Ah, the new year. It is laid out before me—clean and inviting. How do I begin this new chapter with the intention of letting God write through me?
First, I recognize the tools at my disposal. I begin with the confidence of knowing that the God of the universe is with me each moment. God created me a unique individual made in God’s image and will use me to the extent I make myself available. I thus spend time with God in a manner that allows God to set the agenda. This happens in two ways: On a daily basis, I spend time in contemplative prayer. Routines vary, but my typical daily routine is a short reading of scripture or a spiritually-focused work, centering prayer, and Anglican prayer beads. These practices keep me centered on God and kingdom living as I enter into my day. Second, for deep listening, I do an eight-day silent retreat each spring. This is when God digs deep and surfaces the issues with which I need to deal. It is like a wire-brush scrubbing—painful yet cleansing. God is always gentle with me as I face these demons while wrapped in God’s loving embrace.
My second focus as I begin the chapter is to recognize what I am up against. There is evil in this world that would keep my focus off of being available for the kingdom. N.T. Wright shares that there are three unhealthy ways that Christians address evil. The first way is to ignore it—close our eyes to these forces. Unfortunately, we can be blindsided as we go about life and “bad” things happen. In reaction we shut ourselves off from God due to disappointment that our prayers are not answered. Second, is to go to the opposite extreme and magnify the power of evil in the world. Forces of evil are seen around every corner and our focus becomes consumed with constant battle. We come to believe that responsibility rests in us alone. Third, we view ourselves as above evil—a pharisaical perspective. We look down on others who contribute to the suffering in the world with a blind eye to our own capacity for evil. Each of these ways of looking at evil distract us from the opportunity of being fully available for God’s use. A better lens is to have a healthy dose of realism of evil along with a recognition that the victory is already won! I recognize the evil within me as I can so easily mistreat others in small and large ways. With this awareness, I acknowledge the evil in the world with humility and dependence on God.
My response, therefore, is to recognize God’s greatness and grace in using me as an instrument and with confidence move into this pure, unspotted new chapter. I dedicate myself—every part of myself—for use in the work that God is accomplishing today and every day. I acknowledge that I am accepting a way of life that involves suffering as that was the life of my Lord. And, with gratitude, I recognize that I enter into the grace of a chapter of peace and love that is beyond my understanding.
Grace and peace in this New Year!
 Wright, N.T. (2014). The Lord and His Prayer. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.