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Oriented toward & outward

Long time, no blog.

My apologies on not regularly writing blogs on our website. Being a new parent and still navigating what it means/takes being pastor has proven to be a tough balance. With that being said, I hope to return to making reading and writing to be regular parts of my faith practice. I know reading always gives me inspiration and often helps put words to experiences I'm having both with the world and with God. I hope to return back to writing in an effort to possibly provide that same inspiration for you and your family.

These past few weeks I have been reflecting on the word "Orientation." I have been thinking about this word in two different ways.

1. How we are orienting ourselves with God

2. How we are oriented to others and to the world

Here is a photo of my daughter, Ellie, emulating the life I hope for all of us. That we are people oriented toward and outward. Let me explain.

Orientation with God

If you are like me, you constantly feel like there is something you should be doing. This feeling is never ending. Often this leads us to living very busy, distracted lives. It also means that for many of us we feel overworked and exhausted.

What I've found is that when I live this way, I approach life glass half empty rather than glass half full. Actually, much of the time, I approach life glass completely empty. I help, serve and love others but if it's from a place of emptiness, I have no joy in doing so. Rather than seeing God in others that I'm helping, serving or loving, I see people as tasks. I see people as one more thing God is putting on my plate.

Do you see the danger there? God never wanted us to serve, love or help from a place of emptiness. He wanted us to come from a place of fullness. God wanted us to approach life glass completely full. Throughout the Gospels, we read and hear Jesus talking about abundance-not emptiness.

Since becoming a pastor, I recognize that vital to my faith walk is my ability to stay connected to God. I want to expand upon that and assert that I believe vital to everyone's Christian life is being mindful and intentional about orienting our lives towards God.

In Scripture, Christ regularly found a secluded place and prayed. He made space and time to connect with His Father. Are we doing the same? Are we connecting with God? Are we carving out time in our days to talk, listen and look for God? If we are honest, most of us would answer: No.

I'll use my relationship with my wife, Kate, as an example. When we are healthy and feeling connected, it's because we are both making time to communicate and check in on how one another is doing. When we feel disconnected, it's when our communication has broken down.

The same is true with God. Prayer is our way to communicate with God. It's our way to connect our lives to the life of God. When we are oriented and connected with God, I believe we realize we are not alone. We realize God is with us. We realize the grace, love and forgiveness we have received. Full of that knowledge, love and grace, we then tackle whatever life throws at us.

With our lives oriented toward God, we help, serve, and love others from a place of fullness rather than emptiness.

Youth & Adults Oriented Outward

Orientation with the world & others

Filled with God's goodness and grace, we then are called and sent into the world. Notice I start with God and our relationship with God. Our relationship with Christ is the foundation and everything we do comes from there. First we receive love and then we share that love.

Once we realize we are claimed by God and that we are His beloved children, we then are called outward to share the Good News. In Scripture, Christ gives us the Great Commission to go therefore and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16-20). Jesus doesn't say make disciples to some nations; He says to make disciples of ALL nations. I take this call seriously and find that sometimes we, as the Church, forgets the word "ALL" in the Great Commission.

Today, we live in a very divided world and it seems to be especially true as we get closer to November's general election. There's a lot of taking sides and "us" versus "them" speak. This can become destructive and we, as Christians, have to be careful that we continue to see people as our brothers and sisters in Christ. I get nervous when we generalize a group of people together and start to view people as problems rather than other beloved children of God.

We also live in a very individualistic and "me, me, me" culture. It doesn't seem all that long ago I was yelling at my mom, "You don't understand! No one can understand what I am going through!" Ever said that? Ever heard that from your child? I'm sure. It's a reflection of the notion that each one of us are special and different.

Now, I believe all of us are unique and made in the image of God; however, I think we get stuck when we isolate ourselves away from God and others. When it's us against the world, that's when problems arise. We are unique but we are NEVER alone. That truth is revealed to us most clearly by Jesus on the cross.

Meister Eckhart was a Christian thinker and I want to paraphrase an insight he made about humanity that I think speaks well to how I believe we are to orient ourselves with the world and others.

Eckhart claimed, "None are like us, some are like us, and all are like us."

Yes, we are all unique and no one person is absolutely alike. Nevertheless, we recognize the fact that some people are like us. There are some out there as goofy and sporty as me. Not everyone is but some are. And the reality that I believe we forget is that all are like us. All of us are children of God. All of us are loved by God. All of us are brothers and sisters.

Applying Eckhart's insightful thought, we claim our unique gifts. We join those like us with a passion and energy to serve. And we serve ALL knowing ALL are like us.

Christian life starts by being oriented toward God but it always moves to being oriented outward to serve and share your gifts with others and the world.

Thank you for all you do in the name of our Risen Lord!


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