Habits

I began this new year wanting to feel the love of God deep in my bones. 2018 was a sprint and I was tired. I was tired of over working – not just in my job, but in my marriage, my friendships, my relationship with God. I have always been the epitome of a try-hard. I used to praise myself for it, saying that I was just dedicated or a hard worker, but as the years have gone on, I’ve found that I’m just really trying to prove myself. I just want to show that I’m enough, that I’m capable, that I’m competent. I want others to think I have everything and can do everything. 

 

So of course, I love new year’s resolutions. I love challenging myself and reaching for the unattainable goal of perfection. I love bragging that I’m going to take up running this year. But when January came around, I couldn’t muster up the energy. I caught myself thinking “I’m just so tired of doing things,”. Yikes. When you don’t want to engage with life, you know you need to slow down and take a breather. So, I decided not to do anything new, and not to make any goals. I just wanted to learn how to be and how to live loved - how to live content and secure in the path laid out for me. Not searching for the next big thing to accomplish, but letting my life feel a little simpler and quieter. I wanted to value connection to others and to God more than performance. 

 

I don’t think the church often promotes this way of living. I wondered if I was growing passive, or if my choice to slow down was sinful. Life should be hard, I thought. Following Christ means to carry your cross, to buckle down, to be God’s soldier. I take orders and I follow through; I put my head down and obey. But Jesus also calls us to rest, right? He calls us to stillness and to enjoy Him and worship Him, but I was so tired. I was realizing that the way my life was structured was stopping me from loving God and others well, and I knew that was the opposite of what He wanted for me. 

 

So instead of resolutions, I decided to adopt some new habits. I needed less duty, and more joy. I decided to spend more time doing things I actually like (I know, revolutionary). I never thought much about how I wanted to spend my time, but instead just filled it with things I should do. I wasn’t even sure I liked doing anything. I’ve never been much of a hobbies person. So I asked myself, “What did I enjoy doing as a kid?” 

I decided to read more and spend more time at the library – my favorite place when I was little. I get nostalgic and curious and playful every time I walk in. I created things. I colored and practiced pretty handwriting. I took long walks with my dog just because it was really pretty outside. Sometimes I’d leave my phone at home so I wouldn’t feel pressured by time or the amount of steps I was taking. I decided to learn a new skill that I’ve wanted to develop for a long time because I miss gaining knowledge in school. These were simple times that I already spent sometime doing, so I just devoted more time to them, and less time to things that made me push.

 

I even started to do things that would intentionally slow me down – I wanted to get over my hurry-and-get-it-done complex. I started intentionally driving in the slow lane. Seriously. If I felt rushed, I would make myself take a minute and think about what I was afraid of missing. And you know what started falling away? The unhealthy stuff I probably would’ve made resolutions about – watching too much tv, skipping my quiet time, sleeping too much, eating because I’m bored, and the stress and tension I felt on a daily basis. 

 

It’s the end of January now, and I am actually sticking to my habits. My resolutions didn’t die on January 2 like they usually do. I think a big reason for this is that my habits are reforming my life. The small things are becoming bigger things. I’m fighting the lies I believe about myself with my new habits. Every time I sit down to read a book, I consider it a practice of just being. It’s a way to whisper to myself, “You are not what you do. Just sit. God would keep loving you if this is all you did your whole life.” So I lean back into the love that’s been there all along, and I enjoy God’s beauty in the author’s words. I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. 

- Savannah Becknell

Leaning in to creativity

The idea of being creative has always been difficult for me. I feel the pressure that things need to be perfect or look a certain way which really limits creativity. Recently I have been learning to let creativity live outside of the box I have placed it in for so long.
After looking at other people create beautiful things I decided to try hand lettering - with a little (or big) push from my husband. Not only have I loved learning about it but I started to create things I was proud of and things that looked great!
Adding this into my weekly routine has done more than just give me a hobby. The ability to lean into creativity as a place of rest and stress relief has been huge. I have been given clarity around this beautiful gift that is God inspired. Did you know God was the first person to use his creativity? It’s the first verse we read when we open the Bible but I think it is so commonly overlooked. “God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). God had a gift of creativity and used it to make everything. He didn’t stop at just creating our world but he gave us the gift of creativity as well!
For years I brushed off creativity as a skill I didn’t have and something that wasn’t for me. In doing that I was neglecting something God blessed us with. If you struggle with being creative don’t be discourage! Creativity shouldn’t live in a box.

Kim Blaylock

Take the time to evaluate

Often times, leaders are the worst at looking back and celebrating something. Personally, I believe its because we’re future minded and focused on a bigger goal but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the time to reflect and celebrate. I get that you may be 2 years into a 5 year goal but pause for a few minutes as we start a new year and reflect.

How was your 2018? Was it great? Celebrate! Was it disappointing? Figure out why. Did you make new friends? Cherish them! Did you lose someone? Mourn well. Were there things you wanted to accomplish but didn’t? Set goals and take small steps to get there.

Josh Turansky says “Good years are made up of deliberate plans and 1000 micro steps of obedience.”

Jesus said “[Satan] came to steal and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

If you hope this year is better than the last and want to see God do things you never thought possible, pray hard, set your goals, and take daily steps to get there. If you do, the end of 2019 will show your progress. Losing 30 lbs, reading the whole bible, or developing a relationship doesn’t happen in a day. They happen with daily steps over time so let today be a step towards your life to the full!

One last thing: enjoy the process! If your happiness is set on whether you accomplish your goal, it only lasts for a second. If you learn to enjoy the process and celebrate your daily steps of progress, you enjoy the whole year.

- Ryan Blaylock

The Bible isn't the basis of our faith

Let that sink in… seriously. I feel like most of my life I’ve been taught that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God and is meant to be followed, not questioned. Here’s the problem… the early church didn’t have the Bible for the first 400 years and they thrived. They weren’t weak in their faith or their evangelism. In fact, they were great at it. They had something better than a collection of 66 books by a variety of authors writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They had faith in a resurrected Jesus! That’s it. They actually believed that thousands of years of prophecy were fulfilled in one man who spent 33 years on earth, 3 years in ministry, and 3 days in the grave. They were convinced that he literally died and literally came back to life conquering death forever. I’m not saying you and I don’t believe that but I am saying that a resurrected Jesus is a much more solid foundation for our faith than the Bible being inarguable. I could write for days on this but I’d just suggest that you check out Andy Stanley’s book Irrestible because he’s done a lot more leg work than I have on the topic.

One last thing I do want to say on the topic is this: This is vital NOW more than ever. We live in a world where you no longer have to read the Bible to know what else the Bible says. You don’t even have to own a bible. You can just google “contradictions in the Bible” and you’re immediately introduced to reasons not to believe what it says. I’m not saying they’re right. I’m not saying I don’t believe the Bible is true. I’m saying that the reason the Bible matters and the reason its worth reading is because a man came to earth, predicted his death and resurrection, and then pulled it off and He said its worth knowing. He said that He didn’t come to get rid of the law and prophets. He came to fulfill it. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, our faith is useless and so is our book that we read from. If that makes you mad, read 1 Corinthians 15 and take up your frustrations with Paul.
- Ryan Blaylock

Handling conflict among followers of Christ

Dealing with conflict among people you work with or lead can be a really tough thing to do. Some of us want to avoid it at all costs. Others make it more than it is. And yet another group thinks about it far more than they have to. Maybe its optimism but I’m convinced that most people want to bring resolve to the issues and tensions of their lives so whatever we naturally do is ultimately an attempt at resolve. In 12 years of ministry and 33 years of life, I’ve learned that just desiring resolution doesn’t always get us there. As a result, I just spent an evening walking some of our leaders through a flowchart of how to respond to conflict based on Matthew 18:15-17 and how addressing issues Biblically leads to reconciliation and restoration. Hopefully it helps you out! I’m going to include some notes at the bottom for explanation…
- Ryan Blaylock

Flowchart.jpg

Couple things to know about the flowchart above.

First, listening to someone complain about another follower of Christ when they haven’t addressed it with that person is gossip and therefore sin. Don’t do it.

Second, if they have talked to the person about it, it’s helpful to know when they talked to them. Was this 2 years ago or 2 days ago? Also, if they have talked to them recently, you can listen to their frustration and you’re trying to determine if the issue is a sin issue based on the Bible or a preference issue based on conflicting personalities. If it’s sin, you should go with the concerned person to the person they’re concerned about and address the concerns again. That gives a witness to the whole thing. If it’s not a sin issue but simply a personal preference, Proverbs 17:9 and 19:11 encourage us to allow our love for that person to “overlook” their offense. It doesn’t mean we ignore it. It means we choose not to focus on it.

Third, if the person complaining to you hasn’t addressed with the other person, stop listening. Ask them when they’ll talk to them. For our context at Element, this should be within the next 2 weeks. Follow up with them afterward and see how it went. If they talked to them, go back to step 1. If not, you need to bring someone else in as a witness to your conversation and correct the person who refuses to address their conflict. People died and churches have split due to a lack of authenticity in the church and it will destroy our teams if we allow it to exist. Also, it’s not honoring to avoid conflict.

Lastly, if you’ve been part of a 2-on-1 conversation and the person hasn’t corrected their actions, you need to bring that to church leadership. For Element’s sake, you need to bring that to Ryan. Scripture instructs us to bring it to the Elders and that’s what needs to be done.

I said this before and I want to say it again, correcting a believer is meant to help them reconcile to God and one another. It is not meant to divide. Having the tough conversation is worth it for their relationship.