Pictorial: Three weeks in January

A selection of pics from the first three weeks of January. 2012 has gotten off to quite a start!

2012: Two weeks in

2012 is not even two weeks old and God has already begun his work in and around me. About a week ago, as I prayed about what God had in store for me this year, my mind was drawn toward the word “intentionality”–a theme I talked about in my New Year’s sermon (“In the beginning … rest”) and also in a recent blog. I got the sense that this would be a year of big decisions and big choices, with big consequences. At the time, I had no idea what those would be, but even in the last week, I’m beginning to see what God might have in mind.

This weekend, The District Church’s Leadership Community will be heading on its yearly retreat, for a time of spiritual renewal and re-visioning for the coming year. Last year, we had about thirty people; this year, our church having grown now to a community of around 250, we have over 50 people coming–and several other leaders weren’t able to make it this weekend! Please hold us in your thoughts and prayers as we get involved in helping this toddler-aged church learn to walk and talk.

As for myself, I’m learning to fill out my role as Associate Pastor at the church, moving from a manager and task-completer to a vision-casting, proactively-investing leader, with the remit to create, to innovate, to make space for other people to grow into their God-given potential. It’s, in equal parts, exciting and challenging, and I can’t wait to see how God does his alchemical work with what I have to offer. Discerning where and how to invest my time and energy is definitely a matter of prayer, and I’d appreciate yours for my continuing development in the calling God has for me.

Finally, I’m so stoked to inform you that–through the generosity of many of you getting this email–I’m now at over 50% of my target support for this year, after only two months! That’s not even including those of you who’ve said you want to support my work at The District Church but haven’t yet given! What an amazing testimony to your love and support; I’m so humbled, and glad to have you along for the journey. I count you as part of the ministry team without whom my work wouldn’t be possible! And as a reminder of how I ended up where I am, here’s a video produced by Lindsay, one of the storytellers (she’s a writer and photographer) at our church, from an interview we did last summer:

What are you hoping for this year?

There’s a general sense among all the people I’ve talked to recently that 2012 is going to be a good year. There’s a tangible feeling of optimism and anticipation for this year.

And that applies to myself as well: as I alluded to yesterday, I’m stoked to be able to focus on the one thing that God has called me to–serving as Associate Pastor at The District Church. (And there’s definitely something satisfactory about approaching 30.) I’m looking forward to a couple trips to California, including one in June to celebrate the wedding of my dear friend Kristin to her awesome fiancé, Joey. I’m looking forward to seeing what God is going to do in and through this toddler-aged church these next twelve months–I have no doubt we’ll trip and fall on occasion, but I’m excited to see how we learn and grow and start walking. I’m looking forward to growing more as a pastor, a preacher, a worship leader, a small group leader, a communications director, a graphic designer, and of course, a son, a brother, a friend, and most of all, a follower of Christ.

Growing up, the most common refrain my parents would hear from my teachers at their parent-teacher conferences was, “Justin has a lot of potential; he just needs to apply himself. He just needs to focus.” And I was reminded of this because I realized that was true for most of 2011. I was severely lacking in focus, and leading a very reactionary life, running from one thing to the next without any understanding of the larger narrative I was inhabiting, and it led me to do everything I wanted to do (and, indeed, felt called to do) poorly.

So choose to be intentional in 2012. There are things over which we have no control. That’s what life is like; that’s reality. But there are things over which we do have control—our lives, our attitudes, our decisions—and as Paul writes to Timothy: “God did not give you a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7). Having within us the power of the Holy Spirit of the God for whom nothing is impossible, we are more than capable. So commit to living intentionally, to living healthily. Take the time to look at your life, to look at your schedule, to look at how you’re living, working, doing, being.

And hope for this year. Plan for this year.* Prepare for this year. Ask God to give you a vision for this year. Write it down–from the large scale, generic ideas that you want to see come to pass this year, all the way to the specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely goals that you set deadlines for.

And come back to the vision. Again, and again. In the inevitable peaks and troughs to come, come back to the vision. Remind yourself where you began, reflect on where you’ve traveled, look up to where you’re going.

Live intentionally.

* Some people don’t like making plans. They say that they’re never going to come to pass anyway, so what’s the point? They quote Proverbs 19:21 (“The human mind may devise many plans, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.”) as their supporting verse. But that doesn’t tell us not to make plans! My philosophy? Make plans, hold them lightly, trust that God is ultimately the Lord of the Universe and of our lives, and that he has things in hand.

Well, hello there, 2012

Here we are. Two days into 2012. The beginning of a new year. That time when everybody’s making decisions, choices, and resolutions that may last 365 days … or not. I’ve never been one for resolutions. They always seem so nebulous to me–but maybe that’s just the kind I’ve made.

I met someone yesterday who said she has “intentions” rather than resolutions. I like that. But I think I like better JR’s idea of setting SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) goals, and particularly of introducing the idea of accountability into the mix. If you actually want to see things happen, the best way is to submit yourself to the checking of community. If you try something on your own, you’re likely to give up at the first sign of trouble; if you have friends walking with you (and either holding you accountable or, even better, seeking similar goals), your chances of success are much higher. What’s the proverb? “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”

I haven’t come up with my goals for the year yet. But I have been planning my life.

Recently I committed full-time to the church, which essentially means that all of my time is now mine to schedule–one of the joys of working at a toddler-aged church plant. I haven’t had that sort of time or that sort of freedom (and the accompanying sense of responsibility) in … well, ever, actually. Which makes this year the start of something new, something exciting. The possibilities are endless.

I’ve spent time figuring out what I want and need to build into my life–from sabbath rhythms (I preached about this on New Year’s Day, and will post more on it later this week) to the admin aspects of my job to the time I want to set aside to be creative (writing, writing music, etc.) to trips that I want to schedule. Life is a blank slate, a luxury I realize I’m fortunate to have, and I fully intend to make the most of it.

One idea I’ve had–I suppose you could call it a goal–is to blog at least three times a week. I want and need to get back into the habit of writing, and to think that it’s just going to happen without structuring it into my life is pure folly (I can tell you that from experience).

Sometimes it’ll be a random assortment of links, or other people’s words. I’m hoping at least some of them will be original thoughts, articulately constructed and perspicacious. But let’s set the bar low, shall we?

P.S. This year I’ll turn 30. I think that’s pretty cool. Roll on, 2012.

P.P.S. I love this final thought from JR’s post:

Oh, one final thought. I heard great piece of practical wisdom a while ago, poignant especially for this first week of January when resolutions, goals, dreams, to-do lists, tasks and expectations have a tendency to be sky high:

Don’t try to boil the ocean. Just get a few things done by Thursday.