“Behold, I am doing a new thingNow it springs forth; do you not see it?” Isaiah 43:19

I think that as people get older, their agendas don’t include doing too many new things. Habits take over and ruts get more comfortable.

But sometimes new things invade your life surreptitiously.  They “spring forth,” put down roots and one day, you realize that you’re changing your life by involving new things, even unintentionally.

One of my Summer 2016 new things, unexpectedly, is the book The Seven Decisions: Understanding the Keys to Personal Success. Self-help books are not a staple of my library and I don’t know what attracted me to this one. I think it was the writing style that took over my attention and moved me along. Danced me along is a better way to put it:

“THE BUCK STOPS HERE. I understand that the beginning of wisdom is to accept responsibility for my own problems and that by accepting responsibility for my past, I free myself to move into a bigger, brighter future of my own choosing. Never again will I blame my parents, . . . boss, or employees for my present situation. . . I will look forward. I will not let my history control my destiny. . . Today I will begin the process of changing where I am— mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally . . . by changing the way I think. My thoughts will be constructive, never destructive. My mind will live in the solutions of the future. . . .The rise and fall of my emotional tide will not deter me from my course.  . . . My life will not be an apology. It will be a statement. The buck stops here. I control my thoughts. I control my emotions. In the future, when I am tempted to ask the question “Why me?” I will immediately counter with the answer, “Why not me?” . . . . In times of adversity, I will not have a problem to deal with; I will have a choice to make. . . I will be prepared for something great! I am responsible . . . . The buck stops here.”

Exhausting, isn’t it? And stimulating. I am reading the book avidly while changing my life.  The buck stops here!

The second new thing in my present life is my retreat at Emmaus House in Ocean Grove. My only time at that center was at a meeting last October and I remember being impressed by the food at dinner. One day this spring, while looking over the Emmaus House brochure, I remembered the food. I made a decision, made a call, and registered for a June retreat. 

The food wasn’t the reason; it was the bait.

That retreat was quietly amazing with a sense of welcome that was immediate and lasting. Welcome came from each one of us toward each of the others, a situation that has never been part of my comfort zone . . . until it was. A daily Eucharistic service was followed by a listening and sharing circle with what I found to be particularly ponderable statements:

“God cannot not love you”

“Retreat is a time in which we see how we have met the Christ in many disguises throughout one wonderful life”

And, in light of my summer of new things:

“To acknowledge and cross a new threshold is always a challenge. It demands courage and a sense of trust in whatever is emerging. . . . No threshold needs to be a threat, but rather an invitation and a promise. Whatever comes, the great sacrament of life will remain faithful to us.”

(By the way, the food was great.)

Here’s the third new thing—definitely the most curious: I joined Work Out World, a very large gym in the area. Very large. Very filled with serious machines. My favorite is a treadmill complete with advice: When I pressed the cardio button, it questioned my age and, when I entered it, the machine immediately became disapproving—not of me but of the speed and elevation levels I had somehow reached. It proceeded to take over and directed me to a target heart rate 30 points less.

Each time I set out for the gym, I’m aware of something like nerves but more like a recognition of something new. As I leave after each session, I’m aware of something accomplished that is much more than exercise. 

All of these things might be called “Self-Improvement” or “Wholeness.”  But what about the hints of mystery and spiritual wonderment, needing to do the right thing, openness to each moment’s grace, risk-taking? 

Behold, Summer of 2016 is springing forth.  I’m happy to live it.