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back to school

My university classes start again tonight and I already had the first conference call for my online course yesterday. Part of what I have to do in two of the classes is blog or journal about my weekly readings, so I hope you don't mind being part of my education, because I will be posting some of those musings here. I also teach/moderate a Wednesday night group where we explore finding God in our everyday lives, so I might occasionally post the thoughts I prepared for that group on here as well. Don't worry, it won't get stuffy and boring and I won't turn into a droning, dry professor (though rest assured, none of my teachers are anywhere near boring). It will still be personal and real, but perhaps on a few more varied topics and issues. As I am inspired in my journey of learning, my hope and prayer is that you may find something that will benefit or encourage or challenge you as well.

So, here are some thoughts from yesterday's Wednesday night group.
The topic was "Welcome to Your Life 2009."

First, I asked three people to make paper airplanes. To one person I gave a square of ordinary green paper. To another, I gave a piece of stiff corrugated cardboard, and to the last person, I gave a facial tissue. The green piece of paper, folded into a sleek flying machine with crisp lines, flew straight and fast. The piece of cardboard, roughly manhandled to bend sort-of in half, landed like a chunk of beef a few feet away. The tissue, carefully folded into a limp shape, flew and floated and fluttered to the ground, beautiful but not very easy to direct. The point I made was that if we want to get somewhere in life, to be directed by God in this journey, we must not be too inflexible and stubborn, not too soft and sensitive and wishy-washy, but have a strength and availability which provides the least resistance to what God is doing, yet easily accepts and holds the shape that his hands mold us into.

Then I asked everyone to make a quick one-year plan using the following six areas:
1. Spiritual -how do you want to mature spiritually this year?
2. Physical - the most popular ones are usually join the gym and lose weight
3. Professional - perhaps you want to get a promotion or change jobs or get A's in your classes.
4. Financial - get out of debt? win the lottery?
5. Relational - call your mom more often, develop deeper friendships, find a mate
6. Missional - how do you want to change and better the world around you?

After this, I had everyone turn over the piece of paper and answer these questions:
1. what have I been thinking about lately?
2. what have I been reading in my Bible (or other inspiring book) lately that stood out?
3. what are patterns in my life right now? things that keep happening that are out of the ordinary?
4. where are things not working out? where do I seem stuck?
5. what things are working really well? where do I find lots of opportunity?
6. what things annoy me and frustrate me right now? what type of people or actions get on my nerves?
7. what are things that people say to me a lot?
8. what are my challenges right now that seem a bit daunting?
9. what lessons have I learned lately?
10. what lessons do I think I still need to learn?
11. what makes me want to escape so that I can forget about it for awhile? what am I avoiding?
12. what makes me uncomfortable or causes me pain?
13. what do I find hard to hear? what don't I want to talk about?
14. what are the questions I want answered right now?
15. are there any memorable dreams I have had lately?

From my experience, these last 15 questions can give us clues as to where God is already active in our lives. These are things that are coming up because he wants to teach us something through them, wants to bring our attention to them and show us a better way. It is his way of communicating in our lives.

The one-year plan (the first six categories) can reveal our idea of how to direct our lives so that we become better people, more comfortable and happy with who we are. I have learned that if we set our own goals, wonderful and good as they may be, we will have an awful lot of hard work ahead of us for minimal return if God is not active in them.

The second set of 15 questions are meant to reveal what God is already working on in our lives, where he wants to bend us and adjust us and mold us into the people he intended us to be, to show us how to fly. If we look for what God is already doing in our lives, what areas he is already active in and bringing to our attention, the positive changes and rapid progress we can see in these areas will be truly incredible if we cooperate with him, because our small efforts go a long way when we attach ourselves to his incredible transforming energy and get on board with his timing.

I ended by stating that my goal for 2009 is to be blessed by God. And inspired by the first part of Matthew 5 in The Message, here is what that looks like:

1. I will not be afraid to get to the end of my rope and find God there.
2. I will let go of the things that I hold dear if I find my value in them instead of finding my value in being dear to God.
3. I will be content and thankful with who God made me (in person, time, and place).
4. I will cultivate a healthy spiritual appetite including diet, exercise, and elimination.
5. I will give something of myself to the people God brings across my life without needing a return to think it was worthwhile.
6. I will build others up instead of comparing myself to them.
7. I will not be afraid to be offended or to offend, as long as truth is held in high regard.

This is a picture of a painting that I did years ago inspired by Exodus 39.

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