One of the best ways to learn is by examining our experiences. One of the best ways to grow is to establish goals that we can pursue. Here is an invitation to combine these two into an exercise that can help you in your faith development journey.
This past Sunday, we took time to journal in church. People were invited to reflect on the year past and write observations. Then we took time to look into the upcoming year and anticipate where God might be leading us. We kept the ‘journals’ at church in individually sealed envelopes. We’ll return them next New Years.
Here is the list of thought starters we used. The idea is to read the list and pick two or three that most help you for each respective year. If you would like to think about what God is up to in your life, you might enjoy joining in the exercise. If you can think of other good prompts, I invite you to share them with us.
- Make a list of things you are thankful for in the past year.
- How was God present to you last year? Helping or guiding you?
- How would you evaluate the ‘speed of your life’ in the past year? Too slow, too fast, or just right? What can you say to God about this?
- Is there a story in the Bible that reminds you of your past year?
- What was the most meaningful thing you did in 2016? The most difficult? What might God be saying in these circumstances?
- Ask God to give you a word for the year ahead – one that will help you stay focused on him.
- What goal might God have for you in the coming year?
- What concern do you have that you want to entrust to God?
- What is one thing you can do to create more margin in your life? How will you use that margin to pay closer attention to God?
- Who will you be praying for in the year ahead?
- Is there a story, character, or verse in the Bible that you are led to embrace for the year ahead?
- What is something you are looking forward to in 2016? Share with God how you hope he will use this to shape your faith?
- How would you like to grow spiritually in the year ahead? What can you do to encourage this growth?
- Is there anything you believe God wants you to stop doing? What might God want you to pay special attention to preserving? What might God want you to start doing?
- Who will walk with you for support and encourage you?
Grandma Melissa is doing an amazing job of qualifying for Grandma of the Year. She is playful. She is available. She is present. She is thoughtful.
Here is one example of her careful planning. We were all going out to dinner. Grandma knew that dinner would go better with some entertainment for Anilu. On the way to the restaurant, grandma gave a little clue, “I have a tablet for you.” Anilu’s face lit up and she exclaimed, “I like tablets.” Once the order was placed, the tablet was requested. Suddenly, the atmosphere shifted. Grandma pulled out a brand new tablet full of drawing paper. Anilu looked as if she had no idea what it was. What she did know is that this is not the tablet she was expecting! Her idea of a tablet is an electronic device with games and videos. What is a child to do with paper and colored pencils???
Sometimes the generation gap produces a communication gap! Other times it is a culture shift that produces the disconnect. For centuries, ‘Christian language’ was a shared vocabulary. You could use words like sin, salvation, sanctification, and redemption and people would engage in a friendly conversation. Christian language is no longer a shared commodity in our culture. Some have rejected it. Others have never heard or learned it.
That is not necessarily a problem, unless you think the words you are using make sense to someone who has no idea what you are talking about. Some of us learned ‘gospel presentations’ that tell people the story of Jesus. The problem is we are using words that either have a different meaning or no meaning for people we are talking to.
It is a new day. Tablet means different things to different people (imagine what Moses pictured when you mentioned a tablet). Jesus means different things to different people. Anilu likes tablets. People like Jesus. But if you want to have a conversation about either one, you need to make sure you are talking the same language.
I still think the tablet was worth a point for grandma of the year…
Added thoughts: Here is a link to a podcast with some helpful thoughts on connecting with people. If you are short on time, start at the 5:30 mark.
November 28, we welcomed Daniella Sofia into the world. She is the younger sister of Ana Lucia. Anilu has quickly taken on the role of ‘big sister’ with joy and delight. In the picture, you see her feeding her new baby sister.
I’m sure Ani feels very grown up and capable, but if you look closely there is a very large hand under the baby. Ani is doing her thing, but dad (Zach) is supplying the strength and security the baby needs.
Isn’t this a picture of life? We act very capable and determined to do our thing. We make plans, buy supplies, plan calendars, and set everything in order for an occasion. However, we sometimes need to be reminded that underneath the order of our days, there is a divine Order supporting us.
Zach would never take his hand away and leave Ani holding the baby. She is not capable on her own of providing all that is needed. She may not want help. She may not even realize help is there. But for this scene to remain one of bliss, dad’s hand must remain a part of the equation.
Reflect with me: Where is God’s hand under my life? Is there any area where I am acting like I don’t need him or want him? Have I ever thought about what my life would be like without his hand under me? He not only is able; he wants to hold us. Even when life is hard, it is good to remember we are in good hands.
These pictures contain an illustration of one of the reasons I believe there is a God who created the heavens and the earth. I saw these mini rock piles stacked in a roundabout near my home. They were not there not there one day and the next, several cleverly located stacks decorated the center circle.
How do rock piles point to God? I am convinced those rocks did not get there by themselves. I believe someone put them there. They didn’t materialize overnight and form this array of attention grabbing details without someone helping them. I don’t believe they stacked themselves, or that they grew out of surrounding rocks, or were carved over time to make this engaging display. Someone wanted to display their artistic idea and these rocks became their media.
When I look at the creation that surrounds me, it is too complex to evolve or mystically appear without some Designer behind it. Even the most intricate explanation I have heard pertaining to the origins of the earth do not challenge my conviction that ‘In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth.” For me, that is not incompatible with science. God did his creative ‘overnight’ demonstration a long time ago. The earth we see today has changed from that first morning. But the earth we see today still points me back to the One who made it.
Whether you live on an ice cap, a parched desert, a drenched rain forest, or a spectacular mountain side, you can choose to spend your energy explaining away or embracing the Creator. For now, I can be rather delighted in this human made reminder that Someone helped me get to where I am. I’ll choose the embrace and give thanks to the One who made me and the anonymous rock artist who gave me this image.
How many ‘artistic expressions’ do you see?
On the way to the office, I saw a father and daughter riding a tandem bike. The little girl could not have been more than second grade. None the less, she was peddling with her dad on their way to school.
I looked at this and wondered to myself, what would happen if dad quit peddling? I can’t imagine it would have been long before the bike would have slowed to an untenable speed and fallen over. The little girl did contribute to the forward movement, but she did not have the strength to propel it forward without some help.
This is a great image for us of following Jesus. We are not along for a free ride with no effort. We are not placed in charge of the bike and expected to provide all the power. We are invited to climb on and join Jesus in the journey.
Who is providing power for your ‘discipleship bike’?
Who is the man in the mirror? That is our beloved Marcel Eisma in a unique self portrait. Marcel has been providing thought provoking images for our worship services and our blog for the past two years. This month, we say goodbye to Marcel and Jill. They are moving to a new home in a different state. We would love to draft him, but he said the pictures would not have a local feel!
We want to thank Marcel for his generous donation of time and talent. Also, for his provocative notes where he has opened up and shared a part of his journey with Jesus and has challenged us to reflect on ours. He has blessed us with an avenue of reflection we call visio divina – seeing God in the things around us.
Here is wishing you the very best on the journey and thanking you for enriching ours.
Location: Algonquin Road, Woodway, WA
- The end of time has always caused a lot of anxiety, or at least a lot of questions. As humans, we all know that our time on earth is finite. I once heard it say that “life is a one way street with a dead end.” I find it depressing to think about life that way. One of my favorite sayings is from Dr. Seuss: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
- Jesus taught us that we are not human beings with a spiritual experience, but we are spiritual beings with a human experience. Our life on earth is just that; when He calls us home, our spiritual life has merely begun.
- The book of Revelations offers us a glimpse of what’s around the corner, just like a traffic mirror. But what we see is distorted by our own fears and preconceptions, and also because words simply cannot describe God’s reality. It’s like explaining a typewriter to a goldfish.
- When we look in this mirror, we also get a distorted view of ourselves. On one hand we see only the flaws, mostly focusing on the things that went wrong. On the other hand we see things through pink glasses, easily pardoning our own transgressions because ‘there are so many people who have done things that are much worse than I have.’
- At the end of time, none of this matters. It is not what we’ve done, how we’ve done it, or how successful we have been that means anything. The only thing that matters is that we accept God’s grace through our faith in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Each of us is the prodigal son, returning home.