Monday, October 29, 2018

A Season for Reflection

In the Everyday Journal group I belong to we are exploring the season we are in. I am using the contrasts in Ecclesiastes 3 metaphorically as way to examine my heart and mind in the season of life I am in. Unfortunately my month got very busy and I did not get to do a blog post for each verse as I had planned. So, this post will give the reflection questions for the remaining verses for anyone who is interested in using them. 

Photo by Aaron Burden,

"A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance." Ecclesiastes 3:4

  • Are there areas in your life where you have not given yourself time of permission to grieve properly? Any losses that you mourn? Any heart aches that you rushed by, covered over, moved past without allowing yourself time to experience grief?
  • Ask God to help you see those wounded places and to help you give them the time and space needed to grieve them.
  • What needs to be celebrated in your life? 
  • What has brought you joy?
  • Take time to experience and express gratitude to God for those things and times.
"A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them." Ecclesiastes 3:5a
Scattering and gathering stones reminds me of the altars that would be built in the Old Testament as a way of remembering what God had done. Read Deuteronomy 27:1-8 where God told his people to build an altar of stones to remember His commandments.
  • Are there times and events in your life where God protected you, rescued you, carried you through? 
  • Do you need to do something significant to help you remember them and to remind you of God's faithfulness? Maybe an art journal page or a piece of art or even a sculpture of stones in your garden.
  • Or maybe you have allowed things or habits in your life to become idols and you need to scatter them and return to fully worshiping God alone. Confess these things to God.
  • What spiritual practices might you engage in to help you focus on God?
  • A practice I did at a retreat one time was to write something I was struggling with on a stone, then leave that stone somewhere as a symbol of letting go of it and giving it to God in trust. What do you need to let go of?
"A time to embrace and a time to refrain." Ecclesiastes 3:5b
This makes me think of spiritual disciplines. Some are disciplines of engagement - embracing times of Bible study, prayer, worship, serving others, etc. Others are disciplines of abstinence - refraining from things in order to draw closer to God with things like fasting, silence, simplicity, serving in secret, etc.
  • Is this a season where you need to make more time to embrace the things that draw you closer to God? 
  • Do you need to deepen your time in the Word or prayer? 
  • Do you need to focus more on serving others rather than simply being focused on your own needs?
  • Do you need to refrain from something for a time in order to be reconnected with your dependence on God? 
  • Do you need to fast from food or social media or spend some time in solitude?
"A time to search and a time to give up." Ecclesiastes 3:6a
  • This seems like a great connection to reflection. Ask God to search your heart. (Psalm 139:23-24)
  • What does God reveal to you? Are your thoughts more Christ-centered or self-centered?
  • Are you searching for things in life to fulfill you that God alone can fulfill?
  • What might you need to let go of or give up in order to trust and rest in God alone?
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” ~Augustine

"A time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend." Ecclesiastes 3:6b-7a
This makes me think of Jesus talking in Matthew 6:19-20 about treasure: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

  • What areas of your life and which practices help you keep a kingdom focus?
  • Where do you need to throw away the things that are earthly and getting too much of your focus, that may be taking your time away from God? 
  • What areas of your life need to be built up or mended so that you "treasure God, investing your life in what God is doing and devoting yourself to the good of other people"?
Author Jan Johnson, in her book Abundant Simplicity, says that focusing on the messages the culture feeds us can often take our minds off of Kingdom matters. We need to look to Jesus and "subtly replace them with thoughts of treasuring God, investing our life in what God is doing and devoting ourselves to the good of other people."

"A time to be silent and a time to speak." Ecclesiastes 3:7b
  • Sometimes it is best to not speak our minds if doing so may offend or cause someone harm. Ask God to reveal any areas where He may be calling you to silence your voice.
  • Proverbs 31:8-9, however, call us to speak for the voiceless and destitute. Are there things in life that scream injustice to you? How might you speak up to help benefit those things or people?
  • Do you need to refrain from gossip or unkind talk? Do you need to defend those being spoken ill of?
  • Do you need to practice giving kind words more often?
"A time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace." Ecclesiastes 3:8
  • I personally struggle with loving others well, yet feel the clear call of God to do so. Ask God to show you who you may not be acting in loving ways toward. Spend time praying for them and asking God to help you love them.
  • What does it look like to love your neighbors? 
  • What are some steps you might take to show them love?
  • How might you counter the hate and division that seems to permeate our world?
  • How can you share God's love in your community today?
Thank you for journeying through a season of reflection with me this month. I pray that you will find, as I have, that reflection on all things - good and bad - helps us draw near to God, who has "made everything beautiful in its time". Ecclesiastes 3:11

Previous posts of reflection on Ecclesiastes 3 can be found hereherehere, and here.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

A Time to Build

A Time to Build

In the Everyday Journal group I belong to we are exploring the season we are in. I am using the contrasts in Ecclesiastes 3 metaphorically as way to examine my heart and mind in the season of life I am in. Today we come to the second contrast in verse 3.

"To everything there is a season....A time to tear down and a time to build up." Ecclesiastes 3:3
What comes to mind when I see tear down and build up is boundaries. Personal boundaries are the defenses we create - consciously or subconsciously - to protect ourselves emotionally. Like fences put up around a property to protect one physically, we build walls around the things or people that have hurt us in the past. Many times these boundaries are built when we are children, long before we have the capability to examine people and situations intellectually and then determine a course of action. As a result, in adulthood these boundaries are often unnoticed and happen automatically in response to a situation or a particular person. Our boundaries are often triggered, not something we do as a conscious action or choice.

As we mature, and often with the help of other people in our lives, we become aware of these automatic response boundaries and begin the work of determining which are healthy and which are unhealthy. It is often in marriage or other very close relationships that these boundaries are revealed. I grew up in a home with one parent who was an alcoholic and the other who was emotionally insecure. As a result of the dysfunction in my family I learned to put up boundaries at a very young age. In my adult years, at various seasons and stages of my life, I have learned to recognize the boundaries I built as a child, and some I added as an adult, and began the journey - the lifelong journey - of tearing down the unhealthy ones and building up or producing healthy ones. 

Not all boundaries are unhealthy. For example, when my dad was still alive I felt it necessary to protect my young daughter from unhealthy behavior. So, I got up the nerve to tell my dad that if he drank too much when we were with him, then we would leave or ask him to leave if we were at my house. To me, it was a healthy decision to not allow my daughter to be exposed to the emotional roller coaster that went along with overindulgence in alcohol. Often I find I must limit my time with and exposure to people who drain me too much. Often these are people who themselves have unhealthy boundaries, unable to see where they end and another person begins, often becoming overly dependent on other people resulting in unhealthy relationships. Knowing myself and knowing the activities and people that energize or drain me, enables me to build healthy boundaries.

For reflection:

What boundaries have been built in your life? Defensiveness is often an indicator.
Ask God to reveal which of these walls you have built are unhealthy.
Which ones might God be prompting you to tear down? To trust in Him instead of self-protection?
How might your risk taking those walls down?
Or where might you need to build some healthy boundaries? Healthy relational or time boundaries?

"When life hurts us, it’s easy to put walls, rationalizing that God allows them so we can protect ourselves. But self-protection is not the same as God-protection. Self-protection keeps the emphasis on us—on self. The walls we build after we are hurt are not always God’s spiritual protection for our hearts." 
~Esther Fleece, No More Faking Fine, Zondervan Pubplishing
My month has been much busier than I had anticipated and I was not able to do as much with this project as I had planned. So my next post will simply be reflection questions to go with the rest of the contrasts in Ecclesiastes 3.

For November our Everyday Journal group will be practicing gratitude with a guide from Bernice Hopper.

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Bernice Hopper, Valerie Sjodin and I are using one journal to record events, experiences and relationships and  to explore our word’s meaning in visual and fun ways. We are each blogging about our experiences and our art. If you would like to connect with others about creatively organizing your word, your ideas, thoughts, prayers, events, or your projects all in one journal, you are invited to join our Facebook group: Everyday Journals – Living Your Word of the Year.

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

A Time to Heal

A Time to Heal

I am slowly making my way through Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 this month. I'm using the contrasts found in those verses as a way to reflect on the season of life I am in at the moment. In a weekly newsletter I receive from Shelly Miller about Sabbath, she is slowly working through the 23rd Psalm. This morning I opened her email and read these words: 

"He restores my soul." Psalm 23:3

Did those words stop you in your tracks and make you catch your breath, as they did for me? God restores my soul. He restores me. Those are comforting, encouraging, hope-filled words.

I was planning on just skipping over the next line in Ecclesiastes 3:3 - "A time to kill and a time to heal." In my initial reading of it there just seemed to be so much that is similar to what I wrote about verse 2 "a time to be born and a time to die", that I simply thought it would be redundant. That is, until I read the words above from Psalm 23:3. How can I skip over a verse about healing and restoration, topics that are dear to my heart?

Last weekend my church held our annual leader's retreat. We began our day with a passage of Scripture to reflect on with the practice of lectio divina (a way to reflect and meditate slowly on Scripture). The passage used was Luke 9:23-25, a very familiar passage about denying self and following Jesus. But the leader of this session used an unfamiliar version, The New English Bible.
"And to all he said, 'If anyone wishes to be a follower of mine, he must leave self behind; day after day he must take up his cross and come with me. Whoever cares for his own safety is lost; but if a man will let himself be lost for my sake, that man is safe. What will a man gain by winning the whole world, at the cost of his true self." NEB
It can be a good practice to read passages of Scripture, especially familiar ones, in different versions. Many times we hear or see something in a different light. In Jesus' day, to take up a cross was equivalent to a death march. The cross in those days was a manner of execution. In this passage the thing being executed is self. As I reflected on this passage at the retreat I thought about another passage where Jesus says we "cannot serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24). There Jesus was contrasting the love of money and the love of God, but I think it can also be applied to anything that takes our focus and devotion off of God. So, here in this passage, it seems to be a question of mastery - who has control of your life, you or God? 

The next thing I notice is that Jesus says, "if a man will let himself be lost for my sake...". The words "let himself be" indicate two things to me. First, Jesus will not force us to give Him control of our lives. He prefers a voluntary sacrifice; an intentional devotion. Then I notice that these words also convey rest and trust - let yourself be - let go of control, loosen your grasp, release. Then lean on Jesus, depend on His control of your life. What do you gain by loosening your grasp on controlling your own self and turning control over to Jesus? Your true self. It is a burdensome weight carrying the yoke of our false self - the one trying to please the whole world, trying to gain more and more, trying to be more and more - more powerful, more successful, more beautiful, more accomplished, more _______ - you fill in the blank. Jesus gave us a glimpse of what life is like when we give Him control.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
When we release the burden of carrying around our false self and give up control of our life to Jesus, our load is light and we find rest. So, while we do need to die to self, as I wrote about a few days ago, we can take the steps necessary to do so knowing that God promises rest and restoration. Healing of our self comes as we place our-self before God and let our-self be lost in Him. He will heal and restore your soul.

Ask God to examine your heart and life and reflect on these questions:
  • Ask God to reveal areas of your life where you may be clinging to control. Pray for His enabling power to help you let go and release control to Him.
  • What needs to be put to death? What habits or attitudes?
  • Where do you need healing and restoration?
  • Where do you need to experience rest?
  • What practices help you rest?
  • Maybe you need to remind yourself today of places you have already released control and remember God's faithfulness in carrying you. What are those places? Celebrate them today.

Join Our Inspirational Facebook Group
Bernice Hopper, Valerie Sjodin and I are using one journal to record events, experiences and relationships and  to explore our word’s meaning in visual and fun ways. We are each blogging about our experiences and our art. If you would like to connect with others about creatively organizing your word, your ideas, thoughts, prayers, events, or your projects all in one journal, you are invited to join our Facebook group: Everyday Journals – Living Your Word of the Year.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A Time to Plant

A Time to Plant

"A time to plant and a time to uproot" Ecclesiastes 3:2
When I think about planting, immediately Jesus' Parable of the Sower comes to mind. In order for planting to be successful and abundant, good soil is required - whether that planting is in the soil of the earth or in our hearts and minds, as this parable points to. The NIV Study Bible notes says this regarding an abundant crop that comes from good soil:
"The quantity of increase depends on the quality of soil."
Luke's Gospel has an account of the Parable of the Sower in Luke 8:4-15. I won't quote the full passage, but will simply focus on how Jesus explains the parable. The seed scattered on the ground represents "the word of God" (vs 11). He goes on, "
"Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." Luke 8:12-15
We have a responsibility to examine the soil of our heart and minds in order to give the seed - the Word of God - a healthy place to grow and produce fruit. So again, let's use this contrast of planting and uprooting, found in Ecclesiastes 3:2, metaphorically for reflection.

Ask God to examine your heart and life and reflect on these questions.
  • Where might there be weeds that are preventing the good soil in your life? Habits that distract you and keep you from spending time in God's Word and in Prayer.
  • What spiritual practices may help you choke those weeds? 
  • What might God want to plant in you right now, in this season? 
  • What might He want to uproot? 
  • What might need pruning? 
In her book, Abundant Simplicity, Jan Johnson speaks of the spiritual disciplines of engagement and of abstinence. 
"Disciplines of engagement help us take in the life of God. Disciplines of abstinence help us let go of life draining behaviors. We need to exhale what is unnecessary as well as inhale nourishment from God." ~ Jan Johnson
Disciplines of engagement are things such as study, prayer, serving others, worship, community, etc. Disciplines of abstinence can include thins such as fasting, solitude, silence, serving in secret, frugality, simplicity of speech and time, etc.

Jan Johnson points out that we are more prone to practice disciplines of engagement. We fill up. But, she says, "They may know, practice and teach spiritual disciplines, but they still find themselves being impatient, egotistical or pushy. This is because they have not blended engagement disciplines with abstinence disciplines, which prune away self-indulgence and willfulness...If we don;t practice abstinence disciplines regularly, we find ourselves stuck. We become reliant on our own devices..." ~Jan Johnson

Practicing disciplines of abstinence may help us get in touch with those things that may be keeping us from a deeper walk with God. God may use these times spent in spiritual practices to help prune us for greater growth. This is definitely what happens in seasons such as Lent, when we choose to abstain from a particular food or practice and instead choose to focus on God. What might God be calling you to in this particular season?

Join Our Inspirational Facebook Group
Bernice Hopper, Valerie Sjodin and I are using one journal to record events, experiences and relationships and  to explore our word’s meaning in visual and fun ways. We are each blogging about our experiences and our art. If you would like to connect with others about creatively organizing your word, your ideas, thoughts, prayers, events, or your projects all in one journal, you are invited to join our Facebook group: Everyday Journals – Living Your Word of the Year.

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Friday, October 5, 2018

A Season For Everything

Welcome October! This is one of my favorite months. The change of season is so visible and vivid during the month of October, with cooler weather and colorful leaves. There is a rhythm in nature's seasons that is predictable and constant year after year. Seasons in our lives are not always as visible or predictable as the seasons in nature are. But we do experience seasons in life.

My daughter recently mentioned that this year is her 20th high school reunion. That took my breath away! I remember the season I was in when she graduated. I was so surprised at how hard it hit me. Her four years of high school had gone by so fast, and then it was done. My little girl had become a strong, independent young woman and all of a sudden my role in life changed. I struggled with that for quite a while, even with little things like not following the school year calendar after 12 years of living by it. Gradually I adjusted, but it was a season of change.
"For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
    A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
    A time for war and a time for peace.
What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end." 
Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 New Living Translation (NLT)
In this passage in the book of Ecclesiastes we are reminded that all seasons - those in nature and those in life -are determined by God. Seasons in our life are not without purpose, for it is often through the change of seasons in our life that growth and maturity and transformation take place.

I am currently reading a book by Jan Johnson called Abundant Simplicity. A book about being intentional in ordering our life in order to live in a deeper, more abundant relationship with God. As we think about transformation and how the seasons of our life can shape us for growth let me share a few quotes from the book that may help us in our perspective about seasons and change.
"As we are able to converse with God at a deeper level of maturity, we have the capacity to hear more complex things….God tends to be gentle, telling us only what we can stand to hear in that moment of our growth…." ~ Jan Johnson, Abundant Simplicity, p30-31
"Transformative growth works in a spiral...As we're ready, God allows basic issues to resurface, but each time he lets us see ourselves more clearly so that better and deeper pruning work can be done. If we're wise, we'll take notes about what we're learning so we can look back and remember what we've learned when we work through it with God the next time." ~ Jan Johnson, Abundant Simplicity, p32-33.
Thinking of transformation in a linear manner often leaves me somewhat discouraged when I face an issue that I thought I had dealt with in the past. So I find encouragement in Jan's view that transformation and spiritual growth is more of a spiral, that when these issues arise again, It is not failure, it is simply time to work on them at a deeper level. I also find great comfort in this. We serve a God who cares deeply for us, so deeply as to not allow us to be too overwhelmed in the trials and life experiences we face, until He sees in us growth that enables us to handle more. God's loving pruning enables us to grow and mature in Christ's likeness. Our trust in His faithfulness and love enable us to endure, knowing that He loves us and has our best interests at heart.

"No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it." 1 Corinthians 10:13 NRSV

This month in our faithart group, Everyday Journals, we are taking a look at the season of life we are in - A SEASON FOR _________. For the month of October I have decided to use the contrasts found in Ecclesiastes 3:2-8 metaphorically, as self-examination questions, a way of contemplation and opening myself to God for His loving examination. Join me if you like! There will be information at the end of this post on how to join our group.

My first fall leaf for this season.

The first contrast is seen in verse 2: "A time to be born and a time to die".
Throughout the Bible birth and death are used metaphorically for the spiritual life. Scripture calls us to be "born again" (John 3:16), referring to the need to be born anew spiritually as we commit to following Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord. There are also numerous references in the Bible to death as a voluntary act of giving up our former ways of living (see Ephesians 4:22 and Romans 6:11 for examples) and embracing the new life God calls us to live. With those metaphors in mind, I am using the following questions to dig deeper:
  • What does God want to birth in me? 
  • What needs to be renewed? To be born again or afresh? 
  • What in my life, my heart, my mind needs renewal?
  • What must I die to for this change to occur? A habit or practice or attitude to give up, eliminate, or change.
  • What needs to be removed to make room for it?
  • What practices (spiritual or otherwise) might I engage in or abstain from that may help me connect deeper with God's call to be renewed?

Join Our Inspirational Facebook Group
Bernice Hopper, Valerie Sjodin and I are using one journal to record events, experiences and relationships and  to explore our word’s meaning in visual and fun ways. We are each blogging about our experiences and our art. If you would like to connect with others about creatively organizing your word, your ideas, thoughts, prayers, events, or your projects all in one journal, you are invited to join our Facebook group: Everyday Journals – Living Your Word of the Year.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A Time to Pause

Our theme this month in the Everyday Journals group is A Time For... Valerie Sjodin asked us to think about what it is time for in our current season of life. For me, this month it is a time to pause, even as the school year begins and my schedule picks up the pace. My hubby and I generally take a vacation in September or early October and rent a cottage east of us on Lake Erie. We love these fall vacations. The summer season is done and school is back in session so the lake area is quiet and uncrowded. We can relax and enjoy peaceful surroundings.

We started our week visiting our area's newest Metropark. Howard Marsh just opened in May and we have not had a chance to visit it yet. Since it is on the way to the cottage we decided to head over early and spend some time there. We were not disappointed! Toledo has incredible Metroparks. The new one was formerly a large working farm that the park system in conjunction with ODNR has returned to wetlands - 1000 acres! We saw many types of birds and other wildlife and enjoyed walking the trails and boardwalks.

This morning I went for a sunrise walk, which is a habit of mine when on vacation. I love how calm the beach and lake are in early morning, and the light is incredible as the sun climbs. Early morning walks in the city just don't have the same feeling of peace.

The clouds last night looked like they had been painted.

I photograph this old dock every time. I just love it!

I also enjoy creative time while on vacation. Creating with limited supplies tends to stretch me creatively. I have found that I have been in a bit of a creative rut since I did the Colossians Words challenge, which isn't unusual for me when I lead a challenge. It requires a lot of attention and energy writing the devotional Bible studies, making the art, posting daily, and managing the Facebook group. So I usually will find myself struggling with what to create for a few weeks following a challenge. To help stir those creative juices I started looking for something with some prompts for journaling. In that search I stumbled on The Reset Girl and her Faithful Life Club which offers a monthly Scripture journaling challenge. The theme for September is A Fresh Start and the weekly Scripture passages tie into that theme. I came upon the group mid-month but started with week one anyway. I've done one page so far. I also picked up the journal I made for Roben-Marie Smith's Salvaged Journal class this Spring and brought it along to make some nature themed pages. 

Week One Faithful Life Challenge

Everyday Journals Group

Nature Journal
I hope you are enjoying your last week of summer and are finding time to be creative. :)

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Bernice Hopper, Valerie Sjodin and I are using one journal to record events, experiences and relationships and  to explore our word’s meaning in visual and fun ways. We are each blogging about our experiences and our art. If you would like to connect with others about creatively organizing your word, your ideas, thoughts, prayers, events, or your projects all in one journal, you are invited to join our Facebook group: Everyday Journals – Living Your Word of the Year.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Colossians Words Signature Journal Flip-through

My completed journal made from my Signature Journal class for the Colossians Words Challenge.

I had a few empty pages left after the twenty words from the challenge were used, so I used a few passages that stood out and a few words that were not in the challenge to fill them up.



Old self/new self

Theme verse tip-in page


Monday, September 3, 2018

A Time for Seasons to Change

A Time for......

I love the start of new seasons, both on the calendar and in life. I'm not one who fears change. Change is good. Change helps us grow. Without change life would become stagnant. I also don't advocate change simply for the sake of change, but if nothing ever changed, neither would we. And this is not God's plan for us. He desires that life in Him be marked by transformation - continuously. Why? Because transformation - change, growth, maturing - is a process. A life-long process. A process that we need to welcome and embrace, good and bad, joy and pain.

Leaving the season of Summer is bittersweet for me. School starts here in mid-August and the slower pace I experienced in July and early August is waning. I like the slower pace of Summer. The renewal of energy as the busyness of my job and ministry slows down for a time. At the same time, I am (or will be) overjoyed to leave the heat of Summer behind. I look forward to the warm days and cool nights of Fall - if the heat waves ever end!

I love the change of the seasons, especially Fall and Spring, when the change is vivid and visual. The change of season often stirs within a desire to reflect on where you are at in life, what you are leaving and where you are going. 

My summer was busy this year in different ways than it is in the school year. I launched my first online class in July, so June and early July held lots of prep and learning curves. We remodeled our offices at work, which meant lots of planning, packing, moving boxes and furniture - and the fun part - picking out paint and carpet and lobby furniture! I started exploring the possibility of writing a book about spiritual formation with a friend. We even took a writing retreat in July to brainstorm ideas. We'll see how that goes in future months. I held a Words challenge in August, the first that was not tied to a season on the church calendar, as Advent and Lent Words were. Using key words to go through the book of Colossians was at first a challenge, a different way to go through a book of the Bible. But as we went I really began to enjoy seeing how the words were woven through the book and often interacted with teach other. I think the Words challenges connect my passions of art and Bible study together in significant and creative ways and I will be exploring more challenge ideas in the future. In addition, the Words Challenge group is a vital, active and encouraging community and I have really enjoyed watching it develop and become a place of significance for so many people. I'm so grateful to everyone who participates there.

So, as we change from one season to another, we also begin a new theme in the Everyday Journals group. Our theme for September is "A Time for..." We want to take some time this month and examine our word for the year as well as look at seasons and change using Ecclesiastes 3 as our guide. In the weeks ahead we'll have some questions to help you reflect on where you are at in your journey with your word for the year. Watch for further blog posts from Bernice, Valerie and I surrounding this theme. Join us! Information about the group and links to our blogs is at the end of this post.

Join Our Inspirational Facebook Group
Bernice Hopper, Valerie Sjodin and I are using one journal to record events, experiences and relationships and  to explore our word’s meaning in visual and fun ways. We are each blogging about our experiences and our art. If you would like to connect with others about creatively organizing your word, your ideas, thoughts, prayers, events, or your projects all in one journal, you are invited to join our Facebook group: Everyday Journals – Living Your Word of the Year.

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Monday, August 20, 2018

Colossians Words Day 20: Perfect/Complete

Day 20 ~ Perfect/Complete

We now come to our last word for our Colossians Words challenge. This word serves as a set of bookends for the whole book and is found in 1:28 and 4:12. The Greek word for the word perfect means that something is brought to its end; it is finished, complete, mature, fully grown.

"He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ." Colossians 1:28

"Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured." Colossians 4:12

In these two verses Paul describes not only his purpose (and that of his disciples), but the purpose of the gospel of Christ. The gospel is not simply a prayer to be uttered for eternal security, although it includes that. The gospel is the call of God to people to become His holy people through faith in Christ Jesus, and to become fully complete in Him as we live out a life of faith while here in this life, in preparation for eternity.

This is a theme in much of Paul's writing:
"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledgethat you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."Ephesians 3:16-19

"So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." Ephesians 4:11-13

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.Only let us live up to what we have already attained." Philippians 3:12-16
Pastor and commentator, Bob Utley, says, "God's goal for the church is that every believer be mature in Christ."
So we see this message in some of the other words we focused on in this letter:
"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives" Colossians 1:9
"..and in Christ you have been brought to fullness." Colossians 2:10
"But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—" Colossians 1:22
"Christ is all, and is in all." Colossians 3:11
To be filled and have the fullness of Christ has the sense of completeness, having completely all that we need to be God's holy (perfect and without fault) people, who are reconciled (have complete peace restored) with Him through Christ, who is all and is in all. He is perfect and complete and we are called to be like Him.

Look again at how Paul declares this complete message in 1:28:
"He is the one (He is all, complete) we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone (all people) with all wisdom, so that we may present (as holy) everyone (all God's people) fully (abundantly complete)  mature (complete, perfect, whole) in Christ." Colossians 1:28

You are complete in Christ!

I have studied Colossians many times over the past 20 years and each time it amazes me that I continue to see new things in it about God, about our identity in Christ, and about the gospel. This book holds such deep truths about Christ, not truths to be known simply in an intellectual manner, but truths to be known - Ginosko known, experiencially through our relationship with Christ - that results in changed lives that express who Christ is in the world around them. I continue to grow in my amazement over all that Paul fit in this small letter to the Colossians, and pray that we are each profoundly changed by the knowledge of the mystery of God, Christ in you the hope of glory!

Please do not feel that you have to be finished in this words challenge or in your creative responses to it simply because this is the last word presented. Please take your time in the Word and in connecting with it creatively. My motto in every study is not that you get through the book completely, but, rather, that the book gets completely through you. 
The complete list of words with their Bible study devotion is found here, which is also found under "Words Challenges" on the top menu. Continue to share your creative works in the Facebook group and on Instagram - #colossianswords. The Facebook group will remain open for sharing, conversation, and will be where I will continue conversations about future Words challenges. I also welcome any questions and dialog about the words and Bible passages we have gone through. I'm so happy we have gone through this journey together and look forward to staying connected with you through social media.
You can also join the other group I co-lead with Bernice Hopper and Valerie Sjodin, Everyday Journals - Living Your Word of the Year. Our theme for September will be " A Time For...". We will explore seasons and where we are at with our word for the year, as well as get into Ecclesiastes 3.