A Season for Intention

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 
Matthew 2:1-2

For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1

One year ago this month, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, or ADHD. Since then, it’s been an interesting and challenging journey of self-examination and of trying to find an effective combination of therapy, meds, and management strategies to help me live well with a brain that doesn’t always do what I want or expect it to do (still working on that one…). Through this diagnosis, I feel like have gotten to know myself in a whole new way – to better know my strengths, like creativity, boldness, and empathy… but also to know my shortcomings, which sometimes feel too numerous to list.

Most of these shortcomings stem from one central struggle with which I wrestle daily: a disconnect between intention and action that is a hallmark of ADHD. I intend to use my time in certain ways – to get this or that done, to make sure I arrive here or there on time, to show up and be fully present, or simply to relax! – but with a brain that acts like a very large and poorly leash-trained golden retriever, it is immensely challenging to consistently match my actions to my intentions. And even though I know now this is because of the way my brain is hardwired, I still carry with me a lifetime of shame over not being able to get it together and just get things done like a “normal” person. I so profoundly resonate with Paul’s writings in Romans 7, where Paul writes: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” Preach it, Paul.

But, just like Paul, I find my (literally) saving grace in looking to Christ. Centering myself in Christ helps me to do better at living with intention – to let go of paralyzing shame and anxieties, to release distractions and illusions, and to anchor myself in the present. A life of intention is a life of mindfulness and attentiveness to the present moment. And that present moment matters, because it is where we find God, now, living and active. 

As we turn the page to begin this new chapter – 2023 – the time is perfect to begin this new year with intention. On January 1 – the first Sunday of the year – we set the tone for 2023 at St. John’s with a “New Christma-piphany” service, as I took to calling it, haha. We read lessons and sang carols and, for the first time, we engaged in an Epiphany practice that has become increasingly popular in many churches over recent years: the practice of choosing “star words.” It’s a pretty simple practice – we passed a basket full of cutout paper stars, all facedown, with a single word written on each one; each person then prayerfully chose a star at random. The purpose of this word is to be a point of focus and reflection – of intention – something to carry with you throughout the coming year. As a star once drew the Magi to find the infant Jesus in Bethlehem, we pray and trust that God will use these stars to lead us and guide us to find Christ in our lives now.

If you want to start your year off with intention in this way, you can watch the video of our January 1 worship service here and follow along in the bulletin here. You can also draw a star word online – as I was preparing this service, I prayed and drew a word here on this site. The word I drew was “Optimism” – and then the star I drew during worship said “Abundance” – and I feel deeply grateful to be starting off this year with such a hopeful, uplifting direction!

In addition to “optimism” and “abundance,” I do think that “intention” is likewise a word I’d like to focus on this year, to keep gently pulling myself back into the present and into God’s loving presence. I encourage you to take part in this practice as well. Let’s begin our journey through 2023 with stars in our eyes and our hearts fixed on Christ.

A prayer from our January 1 worship service:
Ever-living God, our wisdom and our way, long ago you sent a star to guide the Magi to the infant Jesus. As that star once drew the hearts of many toward Bethlehem, so may these stars draw each of us irresistibly toward you. Open our hearts to receive these words today. Through them, reveal to us whatever gift or focus or intention you know will help us draw nearer to you in the year to come, that we may glorify you with lives of faithfulness, intention, and grace, through Christ our Savior.

Adapted from an article first published in St. John’s January 2023 newsletter.

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