Closing the Book on 2020

A certain satisfaction comes from typing 2020 for the last time. Okay, it probably isn’t the last time, but after the craziness encapsulated in this calendar year, my human compulsion is to say “good riddance.”

But there’s no guarantee that divisions will cease or viruses will be cured in the new year. The insanity of our world spinning totally out of control might not be any different once the calendar says January 2021.

In fact, the only way for a better tomorrow is to learn from the mistakes of yesterday and lessons of today. Which explains the reason I set aside time every December to reflect on my personal, spiritual, and professional life before setting goals and intentions in those areas for a new year.

If you’ve been following on the church’s Facebook page, you’ve seen some of the sermon meme and reflections I’ve been making. I’m also flipping through the sermon notes I take, and guess what? Two years is the perfect amount to fill up the notebook I was using, so as I close the book on 2020, I’ll literally be starting on a fresh page in a new notebook the first Sunday of January.

What does it look like when I reflect on the year?

I ask myself questions like:

  • What were my goals?
  • Did I meet the goals?
  • Was it simple? Challenging?
  • If I didn’t make a goal, was it because it wasn’t reasonable?
  • Can I measure progress toward the goal?
  • What would I like my relationships to look like? My attitude? My schedule? My relationship to God? My knowledge of the Bible? My business?

Then I journal about why things went they way they did. For example, if I had a goal to lose weight and I did, but then gained it all back during Candy Corn Season (yes, that’s a real thing in my world), then I’d write about that.

Did I do things I shouldn’t? Did I forget to do things I had been doing before? What was the root cause? It’s really not the sugary sweet’s fault. It needed my help to make it from the package into my mouth.

After reflecting on the how and why, I decide if this was a good goal. If it was, I decide if I want to set a similar goal for the next year (and I suggest making a first quarter action plan to help in reaching the goal).

Here’s a sample of the process, in regards to the sermon notes I take.

Why take sermon notes? I take sermon notes to help me create usable content for the Facebook page and as a place to record thoughts and ideas for blog posts.

Do I ever look at these notes again? I have several notebooks that I have never referred to again after closing the notebook for the last Sunday of those years.

Is this a bad thing? No, because I know the notes are there. And there have been times I’ve looked through them for inspiration for lessons I write or to refresh my memory about certain subjects. Plus, I know that writing things down helps me process and learn, so even if I don’t look at the notes again, they helped me in the moment.

Should I continue this practice next year? Yes, this has helped me focus during the sermons and remember what was said for days and weeks afterwards.

Now, a little something that surprised me this year.

You know what I did this year that I haven’t done before? I took notes about what was going on in our country during those weeks of quarantine.

During that time, I “went to church” by watching online services, but I didn’t take notes. It felt foreign to be on my couch with the television on like I was watching a movie. It didn’t seem like I was in church at all.

How weird! We sang along with the hymns. We prayed. There were two of us in the room, and we had gathered in Jesus’ name. Didn’t that mean He was in our midst?

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Matthew 18:20

Jesus is everywhere. All the time. There’s no excluding him if you have him in your heart.

But church services have a special anointing, a special guest: The Holy Ghost as Comforter.

That’s Who I missed during those at-home Sundays. Even when we went to the church building to help record the services for online viewing, it wasn’t the same experience as when most of the members returned to the building.

In fact, I experienced something similar with the “virtual” write-ins during National Novel Writing Month. A bunch of writers were apart writing but checking in online with word counts and such. There was no buzz of creative energy during those sessions. All the energy was my own, and I missed my writer friends.

There is something to be said about gathering together. That unity and fellowship doesn’t translate through virtual conferencing. At least not for me.

When I reflect on this year, I recall that I took many things for granted, but now that I’ve experienced life without these things, they mean more to me than ever before.

Church is about community, about physical gathering, about soaking up the sunlight of God’s spirit. It’s not something we can do separately, remotely or virtually.

And if that’s the only option, I think I opt for Heaven instead. And maybe that’s exactly what’s waiting for me in 2021.

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