Tuesday, December 31, 2019

New Goals for a New Year

I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions, as they too-often set us up for failure and disappointment. We arrive at December 31 having not been performing certain activities or maintaining certain habits, and then put pressure on ourselves to suddenly flip a switch on January 1—start a new behavior and maintain it faithfully for the next 365 days. And when we don’t—inevitably failing at keeping our resolution—we beat ourselves up over our lack of discipline.

But I do believe in setting goals for the coming year. I think it is helpful to decide on a few things, personally and professionally, that we want to consciously strive for in the year to come. Doing so helps us to not aimlessly float through the next 12 months, just keeping the status quo and trying to survive.

So, here are some personal and professional goals I’m setting for this coming year. Some of them have a starting date of January 1, but most are things I’m hoping to accomplish by the end of 2020.

Personal Goals:
  • Wake up at 6:30am everyday
    • I stay up too late and sleep in too much. I've never been a morning person but always had a desire to be so, especially because on the rare occasion I do get up early, it is peaceful and serene and a wonderful way to start the day. So, this is the year...finally!
  • Read scripture daily (devotionally, and not just for sermon prep)
    • I read a lot of scripture throughout my week, but almost none of it is done for personal or devotional reasons. So, I'm planning to read scripture daily this year, using The Bible Project's app called "Read Scripture". Join me if you'd like.
  • Read 3 novels
    • I don't read much fiction, but always enjoy it when I do.
  • Explore and further understand the Enneagram
    • I continue to hear wonderful things from trusted friends and colleagues about the power of the Ennegram in being a way to understand yourself and others, but I've never dove in to understanding this helpful tool. I've taken the test and sort of have a number in my mind about what I might be, but I'd like to do a little more research and see if this resource isn't really helpful as a person and pastor.

Professional Goals:
  • Read 12 non-fiction books
    • I read quite a bit, but always wish I read more. And I even have a new reading recliner in my living room, so no excuses!
  • Be more intentionally pastoral
    • This was among my goals last year too, but I am still committed to being more intentionally pastoral in my life and work. I let all sorts of excuses, including my relatively young age, keep me from boldly speaking prophetic, encouraging, and wise words over people and I want to get better at embracing my role of pastor.
  • Connect with local pastors
    • I still don't know enough of my my local pastor colleagues, and certainly don't have a strong enough support group of people in my vocational network.
  • Start an alternative worship gathering
    • This goal doesn't involve changing how we currently worship on Sunday mornings (although it could down the line), but I'm experiencing a desire and sensing a need for some sort of alternative worship offering at our church (and for our community). I don't know exactly what this will look like or when we would meet, but there are a number of us beginning to talk and dream about this project. I'm thinking it would be more experiential, communal, and practical, and that we would begin this experiment next Fall.
  • Help our church faithfully navigate the chaos of an election year
    • This one is tricky. I'm definitely not interested in telling people who to vote for or promoting partisan politics of any kind. And as the pastor of a politically diverse church, I want to properly shepherd all of my flock. But I also know that this next year is going to get very heated, politically, and I will feel a strong temptation to never say anything controversial. So, I'm trying to figure out the most faithful and helpful way for me to engage politics. I want to be a pastor who promotes good, healthy, helpful conversation about things that matter. I want to be a pastor who reminds his church that neither party has a stranglehold on faithfulness and that the kingdom of God is almost always in contradiction to the kingdoms of the world. I want to be a pastor who is willing to talk about issues that are too often seen as 'political' -- things like creation care, poverty, peace/violence/war, and God's love for all people.
Now, what about you? What new behaviors, habits, or activities are you being invited into this year? What goals do you have? What would you like to accomplish or change by the end of 2020? Let’s make this another year of being open and pliable to the ways in which we can be transformed as healthy, holistic people and as more faithful disciples of Jesus.

Monday, November 25, 2019

A Perpetual State of Gratitude

You wouldn’t think thankfulness would be tricky to come by. You would assume it would be the easiest of attitudes and that a day of the year set aside to offer ‘Thanksgiving’ would be terribly redundant and wholly unnecessary because of our daily posture of gratitude.

I mean, we have so much to be thankful for. Family and friends, food and shelter, careers and hobbies, health and wealth—the list could go on and on. And as people of faith, the most resounding reason for gratitude is nothing less than the saving work of Jesus.

“…we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus…All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:14-15

What better reason for gratitude could there be?! God is redeeming and resurrecting us in the same way he did Jesus, and his unending grace continues to pour into more and more people! If that doesn’t lead to thanksgiving, I’m not sure what would.

And yet we all-too-often live with unhealthy expectations and a grandiose sense of entitlement—as if the blessings we get weren’t given, but earned; or like we deserve what we have…and even more. We live in the richest country the world has ever known, yet what we have is rarely enough and we seldom pause to give praise to the one who provides it all. And even when we do pause for a day—or at least a moment at the dinner table—to give thanks for what we have and celebrate that it’s enough, many of us spend the next day shopping “Black Friday” sales for things we don’t really need.

It’s an insane way to live, when you really stop to think about it.

So, let’s spend this week being grateful for the blessings of our lives. Let’s gather with family and friends around the Thanksgiving table to remember these blessings and give thanks. But let’s commit to being a thankful people all the time, in all seasons, especially because of God’s grace working in our lives and in so many lives around the world.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Strengthening Our Spiritual Sight

In a world that no longer values Sunday morning church services the way it once did, a reason often given for non-attendance is that God can be worshipped anywhere. I can worship God in my pajamas. Which is absolutely true. God can be found on the golf course or the ski hill. God can be found at the coffee shop with friends or the breakfast table with family. Without a doubt.

But, while God is most-certainly present in all those places, I’m not sure God is always recognized at those places. Because seeing God everywhere takes effort. It takes work and commitment and intentionality. It eventually happens more routinely and effortlessly, but not without stringent training. We must discipline our spiritual vision and exercise our sacred sight. We must dedicate ourselves to being aware of God’s presence in specific and intentional ways if we ever expect to casually and naturally observe God’s presence all around. It doesn’t just happen.

Which is just one of the reasons for the significance of regular, communal worship. Finding God in the obvious places of the world—in beautiful sanctuaries with devoted Jesus followers; singing songs, praying prayers, and hearing from God’s Word—trains us to be holistic worshippers in all of life. We start easy—by gathering with our faith community on a Sunday morning to recognize God’s presence and give praise for God’s goodness—and in the process, we become more adept at seeing God everywhere.

So, the point of Sunday worship gatherings isn’t that these are the only times and places where we can find God. God is not restricted by the four walls of our buildings, but is present and powerful in all places, at all times. But these gatherings are vital for molding our spiritual muscles and training our sacred sight to be able to find God in all parts of our lives. There’s power in our worship rituals, because they prepare us to be God’s people all throughout our week, with everyone we encounter, in every place our journey leads.