Confession time again…I’m a pretty hopelessly cheesy person! One way this “cheese” manifest itself occurs during birthday celebrations when I ask folks to reflect on the year past and to share the greatest blessings and greatest difficulties and to share their hopes for the upcoming year. When I ask people this question, most of the time they just roll their eyes at me…but when (if) they actually humor me and spend the time considering the past year they find the questions and the process of reflection both enjoyable and fruitful.
There’s real value in the discipline of reflection. We learn more about ourselves when we evaluate the things in life that have shaped us. We become stronger when we reflect on our struggles, difficulties, and moments of crisis and evaluate the ways we responded in those moments and how we have begun to heal or still remain in need of healing from those moments. When we’re intentional about reflecting on moments of blessing we become people who are shaped by gratitude and refuse to take blessings for granted.
This intentional reflection is actually an aspect of the spiritual discipline of Christian meditation. We are called to be people who take time to attend to the movement of God in our life, to acknowledge and give thanks to God for God’s goodness and blessing, and to be honest about our struggle and to be people who are willing to grieve, mourn, or sit in sorrow as our souls need. My “cheesy birthday questions” are actually derived from an ancient Christian meditative practice called the prayer of examen. This way of praying begun and cultivated by Ignatius of Loyola, asks followers of Christ to each day reflect on the presence of God in their lives by intentionally reviewing (as thoroughly as possible) the moments and happenings of each day past through the lens of gratitude by paying special attention to moments of joy, struggle, and our emotional response to these moments. The examen concludes by turning our attention to the next day with anticipation of God’s activity and presence.
In many ways, we as a congregation just recently practiced the prayer of examen as we collectively celebrated Gardens’ 20th anniversary as a congregation. Together we intentionally reflected on the many ways God has been present offering blessing and joy in our life together as a congregation over the past twenty years. We also spent some time reflecting on some of the profound struggles and difficulties of being planted as a new church and seeing it grow over the past 20 years. Finally, we casted our eyes forward into the future and wondered together what the next 20+ years of mission and ministry will be like.
It was no small or easy task planting Gardens Presbyterian Church some 20 years ago. As we shared together last Sunday, planting Gardens was full of risk, innovation, creativity, and a willingness to take a leap of faith. Part of our Spiritual DNA is this willingness to risk, to dream, to innovate, and to do something new! The legacy of the first 20 years of Gardens Presbyterian Church will be the innovation, the risk-taking, and the planting of new churches and new ministry initiatives over the next 20 years and beyond. I can’t wait to see into what future God will call Gardens Presbyterian next, I know it will feel risky and costly and there will be difficult moments, but I also know it will be something that will be beautiful and Kingdom-shaped.