Seizing Moments of Transition

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” — Col 3.23

Everyone experiences transitions from one thing to another. We put down the old (or have it wrenched from us) and pick up the things. No one can live a completely sedentary life (nor would that be good for us). Whether it involves our jobs, homes, cars, stages of life, churches, or geography, we all encounter moments of transition.

While many transitions result in joy, not all are. Some transitions are sad, uncomfortable, or even depressing. Changing jobs, for instance, could indicate a step forward in a person’s career; it could also represent a changing career field that is now fraught with uncertainty. Other transitions are bittersweet; you are excited to move forward with a new opportunity, but recognize that somethings (and perhaps some people) will be left behind.

In fact, even the best transitions are often accompanied by feelings of anxiety and loss. Right now, as we transition from life and work at Rooftop Church to life and work at our church plant, Arise, my wife and I are reflecting on the bittersweet-nature of this transition. We are extremely excited for what stands ahead of us; but we also see some coming changes and know that things will not ever be quite the same moving forward.

But even in their discomfort or bittersweet-ness, moments of transition can stretch us, helping us grow and learn. It’s critical, therefore, that we seize the opportunities afforded us by these transitions.

Carpe Diem

How do we make the most of every opportunity? How do we seize moments of transition and use them to help us grow into the people God has made us to be? I don’t have any hard and fast answers. But I do have five practices that I have used in times of transition that may be beneficial for you as you tackle the changes ahead of you.

Begin with Prayer. Begin each day—or each moment, if necessary—in prayer to God. He will bring you grounding and peace amidst what may be a tumultuous time. Consistently communing with the Almighty through prayer, Scripture, and devotional reflection will help you begin each day with the most important part of your journey in mind.

Keep a Journal. Write down what you are thinking and experiencing. Journaling functions both as a means of processing what is going on in the moment and as a way to remember those experiences later on. Personally, some of the most valuable time I spent in moments of transition have turned out to be the reflective journaling that I have undertaken. Journaling helps process and it helps you remember for the future the lessons you learn through the transition.

Form Positive Habits. Use the transition to foster positive habits. This can be general lifestyle changes—eating better, exercising more, not spending as much time on your phone—or changes specific to your  situation—for instance, beginning each week at your new job with an evaluation of your weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. One of the families at our church, for example, uses the new school year as a time to take a close look at their calendar and family goals, adjusting things as necessary. This is also the thinking behind New Year’s Resolutions (which might serve as a reminder that all of these suggestions only help if you put them into practice).

Push Yourself. Moments of change and new experiences may be hard. But they may also be the perfect opportunity to test your limits. Muscle only builds when you push it to the limit and stretch the bounds of what you can do. Do not use the newness of things as an excuse to take things easy—aim high and capitalize on the new as an opportunity to become even better. Transition is tough–but that toughness is accompanied by the chance to do things otherwise.

Learn What You Can. Not every transition is to something complete unknown; but most of the time, transitions involve something beyond the realm of our experience. It’s useful, then, to use times of transition to learn. If you are in a new city, go exploring. If you have a new job, see what new skills or competencies you can acquire. If you find yourself experiencing new (or long-dormant) emotions, devote some time to prayer and self-reflection. Do not simply try to conform your new to your old; rather, lean into the discomfort of your transition and learn what it has to teach you.

Transition can be hard. But as we adapt to our new environments and situations, do not forget all the good that can result. As Sons and Daughters of the King, after all, we belong to the one who will says that He will make “all things new” during the final transition of creation into its restored state (Rev 21:5). Whatever our anxieties and insecurities, we can celebrate new things in our life in the light of the One who made all things and will make all things new.

Why I’ve Been Absent

Longtime friends and readers of this blog will have noticed a general decline in the frequency of posts over the past several years. There are numerous reasons for this: grad school, work, kids, life in general, etc. But the primary reason has been that much of my time has been devoted to pastoral work. After launching Pursuing Veritas as a grad student, I’m now attempting to maintain it as an associate pastor at Rooftop Church in St. Louis. But I’m not only serving as a pastor at Rooftop–I’m also serving as lead planting pastor for Arise Church.

Arise is a church plant coming to the greater Fenton area (a southwest suburb of St. Louis) this September. For much of the past 18 months and steadily increasing over that time, I’ve been working with Rooftop, an advisory team, the Church Multiplication Network, and a launch team to prepare to launch Arise. As we move closer and closer to launch, my hope is to use this platform to share a bit of what we’re doing and experiencing. Obviously, the COVID-crisis looms large for all of us right now, but as of right now, we’re moving ahead with planting.

So check us out, follow us on social media (Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube at least), and if your stimulus check has you feeling extremely generous, consider donating to support our work.

O God Our Refuge

Some more prayers for this morning:

“O God, who has been the refuge of my fathers through many generations, be my refuge today in every time and circumstance of need. Be my guide through all that is dark and doubtful. Be my guard against all that threatens my spirit’s welfare. Be my strength in time of testing. Gladden my heart with your peace, through Jesus Christ my Lord.”

–Originally by John Baillie

 

“Blessed Lord, who was tempted in all things as we are, have mercy upon our frailty. Out of weakness give us strength. Grant to us your fear, that we may only fear you. Support us in our time of temptation. Embolden us in the time of danger. Help us to do your work with good courage, and to continue as your faithful soldiers and servants until our life’s end. We ask all these things in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

–Originally by Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott

“Give Us Grace to Hold You…”

Another prayer from The Oxford Book of Prayer, this time from Fr. Gilbert Shaw:

Lord, give us grace to hold you

when all is weariness and fear

and sin abounds within, without

when love itself is tested by the doubt…

that love is false, or dead within the soul,

when every act brings new confusion, new distress,

new opportunities, new misunderstandings,

and every thought new accusation.

Lord, give us grace that we may know

that in the darkness pressing round

it is the mist of sin that hides your face,

that you are there

and you do know we love you still

and our dependence and endurance in your will

is still our gift of love.

Bede Prays for Rescue

I’m reading through the “deliverance” section of The Oxford Book of Prayer this week and came across this prayer by the Venerable Bede. Join Bede and I in praying this for our world:

O God that art the only hope of the world,

The only refuge for unhappy men,

Abiding in the faithfulness of heaven.

Give me strong succor in this testing place.

O King, project thy man from utter ruin

Lest the weak faith surrender to the tyranny,

Facing innumerable blow alone.

Remember I am dust, and wind, and shadow,

And life as fleeting as the flower of grass.

But may the enteral mercy which hath shone

From time of old

Rescue they servant from the jaws of the lion.

Thou who didst come from on high in the cloak of flesh,

Strike down the dragon with that two-edged sword,

Whereby our mortal flesh can war with the winds

And beat down strongholds, with our Captain God.

~Venerable Bede

Six Quick Suggestions for Surviving Social Distancing

As more and more of our world is shutting down and embracing social distancing, some of us are wondering how we’re going to make it through the next several weeks with our sanity intact. I don’t have the answers, but I do have six suggestions that I hope are helpful.

1. Limit your time on social media. There’s only so much good that constantly scrolling your social media accounts is going to do you. More likely than not, what people are saying is going to make you depressed, anxious, angry, sad, or some combination of those emotions. Avoid that by limiting your time on social media. Relatedly… Continue reading

Job Opening: Pastor of Connections and Outreach

Our current church, Rooftop in St. Louis, is getting ready to hire a new pastor. Check out the job description below and learn more here!

Rooftop Church

Rooftop is an inter-denominational, energetic, growing, medium-sized, 20-year-old Christian church reaching a diversity of people in an inner suburb of St. Louis. More than your typical post-modern church, Rooftop maintains a commitment to big-tent Biblical orthodoxy while also embracing authenticity, humor and even a bit of irreverence for the sake of reaching all kinds of people with the love and truth of Jesus. After moving into a larger, renovated building in November 2016 and getting ready to successfully launch a daughter-church in the summer of 2020, we are ready to consider our next steps as a congregation. These next steps include hiring an associate-level pastor to lead our outreach efforts (which include building an online presence), oversee connections ministries, and also assist with the general teaching and pastoral responsibilities. (Check us out at http://www.rooftop.org.)

A Prayer for Guidance

I’m currently praying through the Oxford Book of Prayer (edited by George Appleton) and came across this prayer for guidance this morning:

“In times of doubts and questionings, when our belief is perplexed by new learning, new teaching, new thought, when our faith is strained by creeds, by doctrines, by mysteries beyond our understanding, give us the faithfulness of learners and the courage of believers in you; give us boldness to examine and faith to trust all truth; patience and insight to master difficulties; stability to hold fast our tradition with enlightened interpretation to admit all fresh truth made known to us, and in times of trouble, to grasp new knowledge readily and to combine it loyally and honestly with the old; alike from stubborn rejection of new revelations, and from hasty assurance that we are wiser than our fathers. Save us and help us, we humbly ask you, O Lord.”

–Bishop George Ridding (1828-1904)

What I Read in 2019

I know that I’m a couple weeks late to the party with my list of what I read in 2019, but my reading list from this past year is below.  Before that, however, couple of notes.

First, you’ll see that there are many churchworld books included in this list, be they instructional-type books or commentaries. This is one benefit of my work in vocational ministry: I get to read deeply and widely on theological and scriptural topics.

Second, one of my goals for 2019 was to read more fiction, so I categorized those reading separately. In recent years, I had found myself reading only a couple works of fiction a year, so my 2019 reading in this area stands as a significant improvement, one that I hope to continue in 2020.

Third, note a couple of special categories: books followed by a [re-read] designation are books that I’d read before but re-read for whatever reason. Additionally, books followed by an * (and also hyperlinked) are what I view as the best-of-the-best, reading that really stood out. I won’t choose a “top book” or anything like that, but if I did, I would come from these selections.

Finally, as a big proponent of holding oneself accountable for goals, I note that I aimed to read 150 books in 2019. This list contains 165. And so, without further ado, what I read in 2019 (presented in chronological order by category): Continue reading

A Lament (Psalm 48)

I am depressed, O God.

I see no end to this cycle of sadness.

People tell me: “Everything will be all right,”

but it isn’t and it won’t be.

The quote Paul to me:

“All things work together for good for those who love God.”

Don’t I love you?

Wasn’t I brought up in your holy house,

O God?

Didn’t I remember your words and sing hymns to you?

Don’t I bow down to you?

Isn’t that what I’m doing now?

No one can tell me any good can come from this moment!

Let them have their say if it makes them feel better!

But I don’t want to hear it!

I know what I’ve been through.

I know that it is to have death walk the halls of my home.

What has happened cannot be prettied up.

But you, O God, can stop the aftershocks.

O God, tear through the night

to rescue the one you have left too long.

Help me, O Holy God,

out of this tomb of pain.

 

–Ann Weems