Uphill

Everything worthwhile is uphill. Sadly, many people have uphill hopes and downhill habits. – John C Maxwell

Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I don’t know about you, but 2017 was a very long and often difficult year for me. 2017 coming to an end was life’s Christmas present to me. I welcomed 2018, but with with cautious reservations like drinking a steaming fresh cup of hot cocoa.

I am confident I was not alone in this feeling. Michael and the team at Journey are sensitive to this spirit of apprehension as well, choosing to kick off 2018 with a series titled ‘Uphill’, inspired by a quote from leadership coach, John Maxwell.

The first and most significant step in developing uphill habits is focusing on what you do. Where your feet take you (or where you allow them to go) determines who you are. One thing that life and humanity guarantees is that we will create habits in our life. Some good, some not so much. It is a mistake to consider habits lightly. Your habits are your responsibility. You define your habits, but then these same habits will define you.

You stand at the 2018 block of Another Way. You get to choose your road from here.

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The Parable of the Hole
I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t
my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again.
I can’t believe I’m in the same place, but it’s still not my fault. It still takes a long time getting out.

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there, but I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it. I walk down a
different street.
– Portia Nelson

 

Change what I do. Check. That’s really easy to say, but how do I actually do it when my habits are so deeply part of me? You must take control of your mind, be the master of your thoughts.

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Romans 12:2, 3:5-6
Ecclesiastes 10:2
Philippians 4:8-9

We are what we repeatedly do.
How we think determines how we feel.
You can’t change your behavior without changing the way you think.

Your thoughts determine your destiny

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My 11 year old son drew with me this week! His explanation of his drawing is the person is thinking of things he wants his life to be, while what is happening around him are habits he needs to change in order to make his thoughts a reality.

 

Well, ok. I am focusing on what I do and controlling my mind so it stays focused on uphill habits and not sliding comfortably back into old routines. Now what?

Keep your life aligned with your purpose.

Guardrails along the interstate are put in place to keep drivers safe. They don’t actively hold vehicles on the road, but they do prevent an accident from becoming something catastrophic. Using our actions and out thoughts, and leaning on God’s direction, we can put up guardrails that keep our lives aligned with the path we travel. That doesn’t mean accidents won’t happen, but it will ensure bumps in the road won’t change our direction.

Work of Art
εργασία
Ephesians 2:10

The Israelites marked each milestone on their journey to the Promised Land with a pile of stones, which inspired them to keep moving; at work of art to mark every accomplishment.

Out lives are God’s work of art, His workmanship. The word in today’s drawing is the original Greek, translated ‘workmanship’; or more literally, work of art.

God builds our lives as His work of art, we climb uphill, becoming our lives by living God’s work of art.

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The greatest asset to the trajectory of our lives are our relationships. The crowd we run with, the people we let into our circle. Psychology has studied social phenomenons of friendships and discovered many details about an individual can be determined simply by looking at who they hang out with. Political views, annual income, consumer habits, even the number of children you have and how healthy your most intimate relationship will be can be predicted with astounding accuracy by looking at your five closest friends in a lineup.

Relationships being our greatest asset, also makes us vulnerable to them becoming the most significant threat to our ability to grow. Choosing our relationships wisely, the ones to start, to keep and to change or end entirely, is critically important to defining our lives and holding to our path.

Uphill 4 – Choose My Relationships Carefully
Romans 12:2
1 Peter 4:7-8, Romans 12:17-18, 1 Corinthians 15:33, Proverbs 13:20, Proverbs 29:17

Nurture – Anything left on autopilot is destined to crash.
Restore – Forgiveness is not dependent on the other person’s response
Sever harmful relationships.
Initiate heathy relationships.

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We feed each other, but we also depend on each other. We are responsible for feeding each other well, and just as responsible to ensure we are being fed well.

Noah interpreted this message a little more literally than I

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O Come Let Us Adore Him

NR, 12-23-12, Carols 4, O Come Let Us Adore Him, Provision

 

For our last carol for the Christmas season we’ve selected the old staple, O Come All Ye Faithful; written in 1844 by John Francis Wade.  With much delicate grace given recent events in our nation, Matthew 2:13-23 is today’s focus passage. Jesus is now born and the wise men have visited and paid their tributes to the child king. Herod the Great reigns as king over Judea and has paid close attention to the presence of so many important figures travelling on his territory. He commanded the wise men to bring a detailed report back to him so that he too can go worship Jesus. Seeing through his plan, the men return to their homeland by a different route. Herod learns that the wise men disobeyed his command and acted as he often did during his reign, with rash violence. To protect his throne from a child who was prophesied to become king over the Jews, Herod commands his soldiers murder every boy, two years old or under, living in Bethlehem.  At days end, Herod’s regime murdered 15-20 children in his kingdom that day. Herod’s actions, though violent and terrible, fulfilled the prophecy made by Jeremiah.

In the midst of this beautiful season when Christians celebrate the birth of our savior, we find a horrible account of families being torn apart and lives being destroyed. The pain inflicted on these families is the result of a damaged world which Jesus was born to redeem.With the notion of God’s provision in mind, I used a hand as the basis of today’s image. I borrowed the style from many of Scott Erikson’s pieces, creating a geometrical stained glass appearance and inserting words into the shapes. At the center of the palm is a new born child, representing Jesus and placed in the center of the palm as an allusion to His crucifixion. Along the top of the palm is the word ‘presence’. The presence of God brings the attributes on each finger and the physical presence of God in Jesus is our reason to celebrate. The thumb holds the word ‘hope’ because the thumb is used to give a universal sign of positive approval. ‘Redemption’ is on the pointer finger because the arrival of the Messiah brought the opportunity of redemption to you. The middle finger contains the word ‘freedom’ because it is the finger used by medieval  archers to draw their bows; freedom does not come with out a fight. Whether internal or external, there will always be a struggle to obtain and keep freedom. On the ring finger you see the word ‘salvation’. Christ is the bride of the church and individual salvation is contingent upon our commitment to that relationship. Last, the little finger represents life. I have no deep symbolism for placing life in this finger, I wanted to include the word ‘life’ and chose the pinky finger by default!

This Christmas, despite the terrible events of the last few weeks that have impacted our nation and our communities, O come, let us adore Him. Christ the Lord.