Monthly Archives: February 2014

Appreciating What We Do Well

English: Gold Medal of vancouver2010
Gold Medal of Vancouver 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stories about Olympic athletes show two key attributes: an ability that they consistently develop and a vision of what they might accomplish.

I believe that God also gives congregations specific abilities and that congregations flourish by focusing on what they might accomplish together. By focusing on experiences of excellence and holy we can re-frame past difficulties and recognize God leading us into ministry together. By focusing on our strengths, we can achieve excellence.

Over the next month or so I hope we will listen to each other’s stories of when we have experienced our congregation excel and our hopes for the future. Then collect all of our stories and look for correlations, times when several people experienced the same ability or expressed the same hope for what God is calling us to accomplish together.

From now on, brothers and sisters,
if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable,
focus your thoughts on these things:
all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure,
all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.

– Philippians 4:8 (CEB)

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Where Is God in All This?

Each time I contemplate a topic for this post, I ask myself: “Where is God in all this?” Then I read the news, comic strips, Facebook posts, the weather, … I take our dog for a walk and consider the stars, the grass, and everything in between. Always asking: “Where is God in all this?”

This practice has started change my prayers. Instead of listing concerns, I have begun listing where God has begun providing answers. Instead of a concern about a particular disease, I have a praise for medical technology through which God is providing healing. Instead of grief of someone’s passing, praise that pain and suffering are past and entrance into God’s presence. Instead of distress about those who are hungry or homelessness, praise for those who provide food and shelter.

Natchez Trace Parkway (R. Shaw photo)
Natchez Trace Parkway (R. Shaw photo)

My Navy experience taught me that providing a list of places to avoid made people dangerously curious. Now I wonder if a list of sailor friendly establishments, might have drastically reduced problems.

Similarly, when driving focusing on the lines separating lanes leads to drifting from one side of the lane to the other. But by focusing on the center of the lane, on a spot where I want my car to go, yields a straight and smooth ride.

By asking, “Where is God in all this?” I tend to look further in to the future recognizing where God is preparing the way for me.

From now on, brothers and sisters,
if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable,
focus your thoughts on these things:
all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure,
all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.
– Philippians 4:8 (CEB)

 

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Triangles

As Valentine’s Day approaches merchants entice lovers with sparkly trinkets, luscious chocolates, and bright red flowers all designed to prove their love. But to draw closer to the one you love, come closer to God.

Basic human relationships form in triangles. A gift can form a third corner of a triangle with the lovers forming the other two. But since the gift cannot pull back, it forms a weak triangle. A mutual friend or family member might form the third corner, but people often  alter the shape of the triangle, pulling themselves in closer to one side or the other to distancing the remaining corner.

God - Lover - BelovedWhen God is at the apex of a relationship triangle, strengthening one’s relationship with God strengthens one’s relationship with those we love. The closer we draw near to God, the closer we can draw to others, for as we draw closer to God we appreciate God’s reconciliation with us despite our short comings, encouraging us to let go of past difficulties with those we love.

Interestingly, as one side draws closer to God, the other side also draws nearer to God, reducing the distance between the couple.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
James 4:8 (NRSV)

 

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In the Zone

Is your prayer life in-the-zone?

The opening seconds of this year’s Superbowl snapped one team’s attention to winning the game and allowed the other team’s attention to ramble. Great athletes speak of being in-the-zone when their entire being –body, mind and soul– is fully focused on the task at hand.

Cleaning Supplies for Spring Cleaning
Cleaning Supplies for Spring Cleaning (Photo credit: Chiot’s Run)

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus lists among the beatitudes those of “pure of heart.” We get the word cathartic from the word translated as pure, a process of purging to clean everything out. While modern poets consider the heart the center of emotion, ancient Greeks considered the heart as the center of reason. Thus this verse might be interpreted as beginning: “Blessed are the clean of mind,” or as “Happy are those in-the-zone,” or “Honored are those who purge out all distractions from the task at hand.” Later in this sermon Jesus tells us to go to a closed room to pray, to find a place free from distractions to focus on God.

Scientists studying people who meditate regularly perform better at other tasks. By learning to focus on the task of prayer, purging distractions in a quiet place, we exercise our intellectual muscles of concentration so we can get in-the-zone for other tasks.

Great leaders throughout the ages tell how when life gets extremely complicated, spending a few minutes in prayer allows them to accomplish more. Spending a few minutes warming up our muscles of concentration, purging distractions, puts us in-the-zone.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right.
Then you can see God in the outside world.
– Matthew 5:8 (The Message)

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