Praying for you
Every year in January, I take a few days away to pray and to listen. As I left town on Tuesday this week, I told our staff team, “This is probably the single most important thing that I do as the rector of our church. Thank you for helping me protect this time.”
Thank you for sending in your prayer longings. I received well over 130 of them! It was such a privilege to pray for you. I loved how you answered the questions: What brings you joy? What are you seeking? What makes you afraid? The gift to me was the opportunity to get a glimpse into your heart, to hear what God is doing, to join you in the things for which you are longing. I felt like I got to know each of you who shared a little bit more. Thank you. I am so grateful to be your pastor.
I made notes on themes and spent time each morning holding the different situations, struggles, and excitement before the Lord. I listened for His voice.
I hope that Restoration will be a place:
- that continues to offer the joy of encouraging relationship and deep friendship
- that provides resources for those who are seeking- resolution on doubts, more intimacy with Jesus, direction and calling, faithfulness, clarity on job and vocational direction
- that comes alongside those who are afraid- of losing family, losing friends, being lonely, feeling like a failure, being discovered as a fraud, of being overwhelmed by anxiety, of chronic and never-ceasing pain
Amen. Let it be, Lord. Joy. Intimacy. Hope.
I tend to bring about 35 books with me and end up reading 2 or 3. It’s hard to know what will connect with me while still in Arlington… so I bring everything that might pique my interest.
This time, I re-read Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald. Gordon first wrote this in the early 1980s. It is not earth-shattering in its insights, but I appreciate the connections between his life and mine. It’s like reading my journal but written by someone else. And at this stage in my life, my family, and our church, I needed to take some time to re-order and reflect and renew for the next season. God met me in it.
During this annual retreat, I ask God for a years worth of sermons. I read through parts of the Bible. I look through books. I pray through your prayer requests. I listen. I imagine where we will be at various points during the year. I wonder with God what would be good for our congregation to work on during those moments. I make tables and spreadsheets and sit with calendars.
During the season of Epiphany (now until March 3), I am going to offer a series called ‘The Rhythm of Spiritual Formation’. It was inspired by an excellent book I read last summer called, Spiritual Rhythm by Mark Buchanan. The premise of the book and my sermons is this: God is always working to form us to look like Jesus, but sometimes the growth and change is not obvious. We have seasons in our relationship with God just like the world experiences seasons of winter, spring, summer, and fall. Each week the preacher will describe a season and then follow up with activities that are available to us in that season. 8 weeks. 2 weeks on each season. I am praying that God uses it to give us understanding, patience, diligence, and trust in the process He is working in us.
The Matthew 25 Gathering
This year I had a unique and additional thing on my mind- the Matthew 25 Gathering that Restoration is hosting in 5 weeks. I spent an afternoon praying through the minute by minute schedule, praying for speakers, praying for people to register, and giving thanks for the dozens of Restoration volunteers who are making the Gathering happen. Thank you. This will be a gift to the wider church and I believe that God has a blessing for us in it as well. I can’t wait.
In a couple hours I will load up my car and drive to the RestoMen’s retreat at Meadowkirk. I have been alone for several days and I am excited to engage with these guys whom I love and enjoy so much. I hope to see a lot of you there and the rest of you on Sunday as I introduce us to the winter of our spiritual formation.
Grace and Peace to you, beloved church.