Learning Together

dog_on_computerfeature“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” is a saying that most of us have probably heard.  But, we are not dogs!  We are followers of Jesus.  We are people who continue to grow and learn until our lives are over.  The cartilage in our bodies continues to grow, including our noses and ears.  We also can continue to grow in wisdom and knowledge of God.

This spiritual discipline is an act of piety.  It allows us to reflect upon our lives and God.  These acts of reflection prepare us to receive God’s grace more fully.  Study allows our minds to grow.  When we study with a group of other people, we are able to grow even more because we have the benefit of their knowledge.  We can learn more when we study together.

We also have the chance to grow our relationships with others which is an added benefit growing-in-christ-300x200to becoming involved in a study or small group.  Church membership is not required to get involved.  Below are some of the types of classes and groups:

Bible Study:  God has given us the Bible so that we may learn about God.  There are many ways to study the Bible.  Some of these studies occur during a morning class such as Sunday school.  Some of these are long term studies.  Others focus on a specific biblical theme.

Virtual Classes: These on-line classes offer a digital class experience.  Some of the course are at a specific time and offer interaction with the group while others are done at your own pace and in your own time.  Many of these are offered through the United Methodist Church.

Workshops: These are usually one or two days and focus on a specific topic.  We often have workshops with outside trainers and teachers to gain new knowledge.

Book Study: The number of times these groups gather can vary.  Some will meet once to discuss a specific book while other groups will meet over a course of weeks to glean insight from a book.  These are great opportunities for those who like to have time to process information before sharing thoughts about the information presented.

Thematic Study: Sometimes we want to delve into a topic or theme.  These studies can vary in length, but they are usually focused around a specific topic.  Our church is focusing on spiritual disciplines, so we will have a study on prayer as well as Sabbath.

There are many types of classes and ways to get involved.  The important thing is that we never stop growing.  In order to grow, we must find time for growth, study, and fellowship.

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Tattered

Recently we had a  lot of wind at my house.  We had a decorative flag hanging out front.  The wind was whipping the flag all around, and I didn’t give it much thought.  Then, after much blowing and whipping around, the wind stopped for a moment.  I realized in that moment that the flag was damaged.  The flag had become frayed at the outermost corner.  It was overwhelmed by the circumstances.  The twisting and turning was too much for the flag to handle.   The fraying is a small issue now, but without proper attention , the flag will soon be in tatters.  If I left the flag to twist and turn in the wind, the flag would have quickly been shredded into pieces.  A lot more repair work would have been needed, and it would never be the same.

 We are, in many ways, like the flag at my house.  There are times when we feel whipped about by our lives and circumstances.  We are constantly dealing with people and issues. It can come to a point, when we start to fray a bit at our edges.  We become stressed or frustrated.  We start using a clipped tone with the people around us.  We are worn down and tired.  We become so overwhelmed that we forget what we need to do next and why.  This is when we need to stop, to withdraw from the storms that assail us.  Jesus invites us to come away to a quiet place.   Before our lives are ripped apart, God wants to restore and heal us.    For many of us the healing quiet place is worship.  Many of us feel renewed from being in worship.  We sing hymns and spiritual songs.  We are with brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are connected to the body of believers.  We are in the presence of God.  We hear the Word of God proclaimed.  We confess.  We are forgiven.  We are transformed.   This is what happens when we worship.  The frayed points of our lives are knitted together.  Each one of us needs this experience on a regular basis.  We need to be in worship for ourselves and for others.  Be in worship on a regular basis so that you may find renewal, as well as help others experience God’s healing.
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Moving Forward

This fall has been full of the unexpected.  Most of the unexpected things were painful things.  While there were many positive moments, the reality is that things have changed this fall.  Family members now have medical conditions that will never go away.  Another family member died.  In all the difficulties of this fall, I have realized that I have a choice.  We all have a choice.  We can stay where we are, wishing for what once was, recalling the better days of the past, and playing the “if only” game, or we can move forward.  This does not mean that we should not take the time we need to grieve, regain health, or accept our new situation, but it does mean that there is a point when we need to choose our next steps.

 

I am choosing to move forward.  I am preparing for Christmas.  I am not just buying presents, baking, and decorating, but I am preparing my heart.  Each year we are given this season of preparation prior to our celebration of Jesus birth.  It is not just a celebration of what happened in the past, but it is a next step.  It is an opportunity for Jesus to be birthed in our lives in a new and powerful way.  It is a next step in our lives as we grow in God’s grace.

 

No matter what your fall or year has been like, I hope you will join me in moving forward.  I hope you will join in preparing yourself for the birth of Jesus, celebrating the new life that is offered to all of us.  We are moving forward.

 

 

 

Relationships

 

English: Boston, MA, September 16, 2008 -- Bee...

English: Boston, MA, September 16, 2008 — Beethoven Elementary School Class prepares for emergencies with the STEP program. Students learn how to build an emergency kit and form a family communication plan with their teacher and principal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

As many head back to school, they are thinking about relationships.  There is the relationship with the teacher.  How much homework?  Will I like my teacher?  Will my teacher like me?  What does he or she expect?  There are also peer relationships that many are considering.  Who will I sit beside at lunch?  Do we have assigned seats in home room?  Who will I play with?  Will I have friends?  Will I be lonely? Will they like me?   In the midst of all of the learning that happens in school, relationships are often a key part of our school experience.  We want good relationships.  We want others to like us, to care about us, and to respect us.

 

 

 

This human desire for good relationships does not change as we get older.  We may couch our wants and needs in different ways, but we are all still yearning for relationships in which we are accepted.  We want others to care about us.  We want to be loved.  We want good relationships even if we do not know how to express our feelings.  Remember that the boy who is teasing the girl probably likes her, but he doesn’t know how to deal with the fact that he likes her.

 

 

 

Instead of teasing and pulling pigtails, let’s find a way to share our feelings with those around us.  Let us build up others by building relationships.  Let us find a way to show that others are accepted and loved.  Let us look the stranger in the eye.  Let us smile at others we pass in the grocery store.  Let us remember the insecurity we all felt at the beginning of the school year.  Let us love others as Christ has loved us.

 

A New Place

School.

School. (Photo credit: zoovroo)

New places and spaces offer us an opportunity.  The new classroom offers us a chance to re-define ourselves as a student.  We can be more studious, pay better attention, or participate more.  We also have the opportunity to form new relationships.  Vacations allow us to relax and be more fully ourselves.  We are not defined by our everyday roles, but we are just who we are.  We don’t have to consider the day-to-day responsibilities of our lives back home.  We are able to be more fully ourselves.  Sometimes the new place is a more significant change like a new neighborhood, school, or work location.  These allow us even greater freedom in re-defining ourselves.

 

The re-defining is an opportunity to mold ourselves more in the image of God and less in the image of us, society, or family.  We are ale to be more completely the person God wants us to be.  We can live more deeply as we give of ourselves.  We can laugh more and worry less.  We can work smarter.  The possibilities are endless.

 

Many of us are still in the same physical place, but we can choose to be in a new place in or head.  As school starts, let’s give ourselves permission to be more fully the people  God has created us to be.  Maybe we can purchase a new writing implement or notebook to remind us of the change we are making in  us.  As we  start to occupy a new place in our lives, the new school supply can be an instrument of encouragement.  God is making us into a new creation, but we have to allow ourselves to be moved to a new place.

What are you not saying?

 

A wink is a type of gesture.

A wink is a type of gesture. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

We spend a lot of time not saying what we are thinking or feeling.  We exert energy in the repeated eye-rolls.  We tap our foot in restlessness.  We smirk.  We twirl our hair.  We bite our finger nails.  We cross our arms and tense our shoulders.  We also spend a lot of time not saying what we are thinking or feeling in other ways.  We smile.  We look directly into another person’s eyes.  We lean forward when someone is speaking.  We touch an arm or shoulder.  We allow the unshed tears to be visible in our eyes.  We cry.  We hug.  We wave.

 

 

 

While we may not be saying any words, we are definitely communicating.  Peter Drucker says, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”  What are you communicating as you go through your daily life?  Are you communicating your aggravation with your current situation, your desire to be anywhere else?  Are you showing up mentally as well as physically?  Do you ignore the other customers as you shop, or do you acknowledge their existence and value?

 

 

 

As disciples of Christ, what message are we sending?  Are we sending a message that we love other people?  Are we sending a message that we value other people?  Take the time to consider  your non-verbal communication this week because other people are listening to what you aren’t saying.