Ending and Beginning

New Years.

Well, this is my last blog for 2015, #42.  I didn’t know that I wrote that much.  Let’s see: 52 sermons, 42 blogs, 12 newsletter articles, 40 letters to visitors and guests to church, a newspaper article, a couple of applications for positions on community boards,…  750+ pages of material?!!  Who would have ever thought that was in these old fingers to say nothing of the brain?

A central focus of almost half of those blogs was the Bible, the central book of the Christian faith.  In its pages reside God’s message for the salvation of humanity and the reconciliation of people to God.  It is the #1 bestselling book of all time.  However, it is also one of the least read and even more least studied books that most people own.  Like so many holy books it is broad enough and lengthy enough that it can be used and abused to any ideologist’s desire.  That having been said, it is still a book that needs to be studied and in the midst of the studying attuning one’s ear to what God is saying in and through the pages.

The end of one year and the beginning of a new year cycle lends itself to reflection.  We were at a dinner party last night and the question asked by the host for the guests to share was “What was the highlight of this past year?”  The conversation never got around to me but if it had I would have shared three things:

  • Getting to know new Christian friends in a new community.

The Body of Christ is much larger than one location.  Each portion of the Church is a bit different.  To be placed in a new location with a new part of that family is a great opportunity to grow and deepen, to allow the foundations of my belief system developed in a previous community be exposed and challenged by fresh eyes and brains and tested to see how much is me and how much is God’s.

  • Moving into our new home.

It had been a long time since I had been a renter.  In fact, in my adult life, since 1978, I had rented for a total of 9 weeks.  So, to move into a rental home in a new community was a new experience.  I like to personalize my home as does my wife (and she does a much better job at it than do I).  I like to be able to paint walls, hang pictures, landscape, create storage, etc.  I like to get my ‘stuff’ out of boxes and into permanent places.  I like to be able to mess up my own place and feel no remorse or fear of it belonging to another.  WE LOVE OUR NEW HOME.

  • The one year landmark experience.

Ever community and organization has a threshold through which a person must cross before they are truly welcomed as part of the community.  Some call it the honeymoon period but the threshold is different.  It is that time when people know you are truly “here” and not back there.  For me that landmark is when I begin to recognize people’s cars.  Funny as that may seem, in a small community you can do it…you can recognize people by the car they drive, wave and say hi, and know you are part of the community.

For the community members there is a different standard.  In Lincoln City I discovered it is the one year mark.  There are many people who come and go in our coastal community.  We discovered as we hit one year (almost to the day) that relationships began to change.  We didn’t feel invisible any longer.  People tended to include us more in discussions and to some degree in decisions.  A landmark had been crossed.

The beginning of a new year is also a time to look forward.  The year past is just that, past.  But what is ahead.  Ahead is where the adventure is.  Ahead is what grows out of the soil, the foundation of all that has gone before.  The future is one more step in our lives toward God’s ultimate fulfillment and purpose for our lives.  For me, that is what I look forward to: the prayerful discernment of where I sense God is leading me and Chapel by the Sea, defining that direction, planning the work that is needed to pursue that direction and then working the plan in obedience to God’s perceived will.

I downloaded a quote off a face book post a couple of days ago.  It said:

Grace didn’t save Noah when he built the ark, obedience did.

It was God’s grace that found Noah.  It was God’s love and mercy that called Noah.  It was God’s plan that directed Noah.  But, Noah had to obey, follow the instructions, keeping his heart and mind focused on God and not on the people around him.

So, that is what I look forward to doing in 2016….and 17 and 18 and… until God says, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.  Enter into your rest.”

Happy New Year everyone!!  May you too discern, define, plan, and implement all God has for you in 2016.