In most jobs nowadays some structure of review or appraisal is built in. At regular intervals all workers are expected to undertake an assessment of their performance and to set new goals for the future, identifying where training is needed, where new skills are required, or where old knowledge and practices need to be up-dated. It is a process in which each person is expected to look at what they are doing, at what progress they have made, and how they can improve their output and attainments. Sometimes it is done alone, but often in partnership with a colleague, a manager, or a counsellor.
For Christians Lent provides exactly the same opportunities: a time to review what progress we have made in the basic Christian discipline of following Jesus and expressing His character and teaching in our daily lives. We need to stop and look carefully at what we are doing, where we are going, and what help we need to get there; otherwise we just drift along with no clear aims, no standards, and not much progress. Lent resolutions should emerge from such a self-appraisal, as practical steps to make definite progress in specific areas of Christian living. Good Lent resolutions are specific, definite and attainable. Vague aspirations (like being nicer to people, or going to church more often, or indulging myself less) usually get us nowhere and leave us frustrated and depressed. Be realistic, be specific, and make your targets measurable is a good basis for any sort of helpful review.
In the Christian tradition provision is made for someone to help with this review process. Many people today have a "soul friend" with whom they can discuss in friendly confidence details about their personal life, their prayers, and particular problems they have to face. In bygone days such a guide might have been called a spiritual director, but these days that sounds too formal and suggests that such a person knows all the answers and gives the orders, whereas in truth the essence of being a soul friend is to help another person find their own answers to their difficulties and to encourage and support them. We often cannot see the wood for the trees in our own lives; someone else can often see what we cannot, and from that different perspective can help us see a way forward when previously all seemed confusing.
Whether church members or not, we all need to review our priorities, values and goals in life, and decide on strategies to eliminate what is wrong and counter-productive and to strengthen what is positive and good. These days of Lent, dull days before the start of spring, are a good time for us all to do just that, to give us all a really good start in better living in the delights of spring. Have a good Lent, and a productive one. God bless you in your efforts. MALCOLM
- February 2005
- March 2005
- April 2005
- May 2005
- June 2005
- July 2005
- August/September 2005
- October 2005
- November 2005
- December 2005
About the Vicar's Letter
The Vicar's Letter has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002.
The Rev. Peter Graham also used to publish The Vicar's Letter in the parish magazine of 1964. Please see the Vicar's Letter area for these.