Pacific Union “All God’s People,” February 1, 2019 Episode 304

This week’s episode of All God’s People highlights special events and celebrations in our Pacific Union! Learn about an addition to the NCC family, a new equine class impacting students’ lives, a birthday milestone, and more. Details in the bulletin below.

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First Official NCC Ukrainian
SDA Company Organizes

The Sacramento Ukrainian Seventh-day Adventist Company was officially organized recently. It’s the first official Ukrainian congregation in the Northern California Conference—the “daughter” of the Sacramento Slavic church. We are excited to welcome them to our Pacific Union family!

Watch a video highlight from NCC:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9aha…

Holbrook Indian School Launches
Equine Facilitated Learning Class

We love to talk about Holbrook Indian School, and the work they are doing. For the past eight and a half years, Holbrook has offered horsemanship classes, but this school year they introduced a class called Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL). This class goes beyond teaching students how to ride—and the results have been amazing. Our prayers are with each one of these wonderful young people that God has brought to our school—and we pray especially for the dedicated staff as they provide a healing place for the students to learn, grow, and thrive.

Learn more about HIS:
http://www.holbrookindianschool.org/

Anita Mackey Turns 105

Anita Mackey, a trailblazer, teacher, social worker extraordinaire, world traveler, and friend turned 105 on Jan. 1! An Adventist for over 80 years, Anita is an active member at the Vallejo Drive church in Glendale, California—and she loves her church! She resides at Scholl Canyon Estates and they threw her a big birthday party for her. Happy Birthday, Anita!

https://scc.adventist.org/stories/tea…

February—Black History Month

This weekend we begin the annual observance of Black History Month—a celebration of the history and achievements by African–Americans and a time for recognizing the important role of black men and women in U.S. history. Many of our churches will be celebrating Black History Month, and the Pacific Union Recorder—which should be reaching your mailbox this week, explores some of the great themes of Black History Month.

Read the February Recorder online at:

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“Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand.” -Nehemiah 1:10

2019-01-31T17:52:35-07:00January 31st, 2019|All Gods People|

To Be Filled With Peace

by Becky De Oliveira

A young woman in her 20s—a friend of the family—sent me a text message last week, asking what my “secret” is. “You’re the most peace-filled person I know,” she wrote. This made me smile—a quiet, enigmatic smile because that is the kind of person I am. I exude calm. People confuse this with peace. I’m reminded again of how prone human beings are to mistake affect for substance.

Because I’m not particularly calm, let alone peaceful, I don’t know what my secret is. If what people want to know is how toseemcalm, like I do, my best advice would be to follow these rules: 1) Always be a little tired, 2) Be middle-aged, 3) Constantly be preoccupied, thinking about, if possible, something complicated that you read earlier or one of the many unsolvable problems you face.

As for achieving an actualstate of peace, I’m not sure. Mine come and go. My default state is one of a mild panic over all the things that might go wrong—this hour, this day, this week, over the course of this complex and sometimes frightening lifespan. I worry about how much I weigh, about what will happen if one day I have to quit running, about whether I’ve made any mistakes in my work, about falling behind on the coursework I need to finish to earn my PhD. I worry that once I have the degree I’ll be unable to find a job in my field, that I’ll be too old, that I’ve already missed the boat, professionally, personally. I worry about my parents and their health and my husband’s parents and their health. I worry that I lack the personal mettle—let’s call it grit—to see my life through effectively. What if I manage to let everyone down? My kids have to get through college and find lives that they love. I have to help them do this. What if I can’t continue to come up with the money? People complain about my husband—a pastor—often enough that I worry about his job. Is he in the right place? Are we in the right place? Are we of any use at all or would everyone be better off without us?

I worry about where we would go if we left. What if people there complained even more? What if there is simply nowhere in the world for someone like me? I’ve stopped social media because I’m so tired of the constant arguing and posturing—other people’s, my own. I would like to be a person who actually has a life of substance, not just a life that looks OK in nicely cropped photographs. I’m tired of noise. I crave silence.

A few minutes later, my friend sent another text, asking what I was like when I was her age—specifically, “How was your relationship with God?”

Easy. It was non-existent. I never thought about God. I went to church maybe a handful of times during any given year, usually late and only for the social benefits. I seemed calm then too. Probably peace-filled. That’s just my personality. It’s the way I look. Nothing to do with being spiritual.

“Wow,” she answered. “And you married a pastor.”

That is an accurate statement. That is what I did. And if anything has made me more spiritual over the years, it might be that. Not so much that people expect it of me, though they certainly do. It’s more that people talk to me about spiritual things more often, and so I end up thinking about them more than I might if left to my own devices.

I wish that the life of faith were easier, but I suspect there is a good reason it is not. Finding meaning, discovering how you can fulfill your purpose on earth, learning how to trust God to see you through endless worries about problems, is really the work of a lifetime. I use the word “work” quite intentionally. When I remember that, I also remember that perhaps I am not such a disaster after all. Maybe I am only progressing just as I am supposed to. That gives me a feeling that seems like it might be approaching peace.

Becky De Oliveira is a teacher, writer, and graphic designer working on special projects for the Pacific Union Conference from her home in Colorado.

2019-01-29T11:44:37-07:00January 29th, 2019|Living God's Love|

**Update** Pacific Union “All God’s People,” January 25, 2019 Episode 303

This week’s episode of All God’s People highlights Religious Liberty, the separation of church and state, and how to support this important ministry in the annual Liberty magazine & Religious Liberty offering. Other stories include how careful stewardship is generating funds for keeping our institutions and employees safe, and national recognition of two of our Volunteer Ministry Coordinators! Details in the bulletin below.

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**Pacific Union Fund Generates $1 Million for Institutional Safety

As a result of good stewardship and management in the Workers Compensation fund, the Pacific Union Conference is able to return $1 million back to the California conferences to be used for Institution and Employee Safety. Schools have installed video monitoring systems or fire alarms, gates have been fixed, and sidewalks and parking lots repaired. Slip/trip/and fall claims and ergonomics claims are down and savings are up as we continue to be proactive in putting employee safety concerns first! are down and savings are up as we continue to be proactive in putting employee safety concerns first!

Learn more about the Pacific Union: https://adventistfaith.com/

Volunteer Ministry Coordinators Honored at NAD Ministries Convention

At the North American Division Ministries Convention earlier this month, two of our Volunteer Ministry Coordinators at the Pacific Union were honored. Ron Pickell (pastor of the LIFE church of Berkeley, chaplain of the Adventist campus ministry group at UC Berkeley, and volunteer coordinator of the NAD Adventist Christian Fellowship) received an Excellence in Ministry award. In addition, Pacific Union Stewardship Coordinator, and Northern California Conference Community Services/Stewardship/Health Director Gordon Botting received a lifetime achievement award. Congratulations Ron and Gordon!

Read more about the convention: https://www.adventistministriesconven…

2019 Religious Liberty Sabbath

Religious Liberty Sabbath is Saturday, Jan. 26. In our congregations in the Union and around the world, our members will be participating in the 2019 Religious Liberty Sabbath campaign, “Protecting the Wall” — the wall of separation between Church and State. Learn more about the important work of this ministry via the links below.

Learn more about Church State Council http://www.churchstate.org/

Learn more about Religious Liberty Sabbath https://www.nadadventist.org/events/r…

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“It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows.” -Galatians 5:13

**This Story was updated to reflect a correction in the details 01-25-19**

2019-01-24T15:46:15-07:00January 24th, 2019|All Gods People|

Needing Space

by Faith Hoyt

Recently I got to meet up with a friend from college who I luckily manage to see several times a year. She is one of those rare friends who will hop in her car and drive a couple of hours just so we can spend a fraction of that time together. She’s fun company, and our visits are always an education for me. My friend has a good eye for design, a good ear for music, and good taste in plant-based restaurants. She’s also an avid follower on conversations about social justice issues, and I love to listen to her quick and energetic commentary on politics and pop culture.

Our recent visit was one of those trips where, because of schedules, we had about an hour to catch up. (This time I had returned the favor by doing the driving.) The moment we met up at the coffee shop in her town, we dove into conversation. By the time we sat down, drinks in hand, to officially start our visit, we were already halfway into a discussion about mental health. She told me about the anxiety she’s experiencing and that she’s considering finding a counselor. I told her I thought it was a good idea and that I wished I’d had one in college when I was still learning how to manage stress. We shared about our goals. It seemed like a fitting New Year’sconversation.

About halfway through our visit, my friend mentioned that she’d felt guilt about not going to church. I realized that, for perhaps the first time ever, she was candidly sharing with me about her faith experience. We don’t talk very often about religious things; though it’s something I enjoy discussing, I’d always had the impression that with her it was a topic best saved for later. I wanted to honor our friendship by respecting her decisions. I also wanted to understand where she was coming from. I decided to ask her a direct question: “Where are you at with God?”

I’m sure I could have phrased that question better. I’m grateful it came out of my mouth sounding open and sincere, as my heart intended. All I wanted in that moment was to understand the things I had sensed from her for a while.

My friend responded to my question with equal directness: “I’m taking a break from that.” As she answered my question, I suddenly pictured the cover of the book I had sent her for Christmas—a devotional book with a collection of Bible promises. “Good grief,” I thought, “I picked the last thing in the world she wants right now.”

It took me a second to find that neutral place in my heart that does the listening and not the judging. (Good practice for me.) I’ve only known my friend for a couple of years and can’t assume I know anything about the journey that led her to this point. I sat there for a time working to keep my focus on the things she was saying instead of the thoughts in my head that competed for attention. I kept thinking, “She is looking for peace in her life—and walking away from the only source of peace that I know.”

I asked her another direct question: “Where do you find your peace?” Suddenly conscious that I was sounding like a journalist, I decided it would be my last question. She thought about it for a second. Then she told me how music and colors gave her a sense of peace. I listened to her with my full attention. She elaborated a little more, and then the conversation shifted. Soon we were sharing animatedly on a different topic. We took a selfie and sent it to another friend of ours. We sipped our drinks. The hour passed by so quickly.

When we parted ways that evening, I replayed the conversation in my mind. Had I been careful to not make her feel judged? Had I shown her that I’m here as a supportive friend? Had I kept my foot out of my mouth? I’ve heard a lot of thoughtful criticism about Christians who poorly represent God’s love. The criticism reminds me that discussing religion doesn’t excuse us from the need to show tact and thoughtfulness—and love!

I’m grateful that our conversation helped me understand a little better where my friend is coming from and reminded me of the things I need to consider the next time she, or anyone, expresses where they are in their journey. Yes, I’m sad to know that my friend is stepping away from the One I’m wanting to run towards. But I need to remember it’s my privilege to love my friend and encourage her no matter her life’s direction. It’s my opportunity to pray for her as she continues to navigate this part of her journey. It’s my place to show her unconditional friendship, regardless of whether she and I will ever share devotional books.

Right now, where religion is concerned, my friend is needing space. If she’s ever ready to talk about God again, I’m here for that too.

 

Faith Hoyt is communication intern for the Pacific Union Conference. She lives in Carson City, Nevada, and attends the Heavenly Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church in South Lake Tahoe.

2019-01-22T11:18:32-07:00January 23rd, 2019|Living God's Love|

The Best Therapy

by Shelley Leonor

“You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives” (James 4:2-3, NIV).

After giving birth to my firstborn, I struggled. I loved my baby girl. I loved my life. But I struggled. I no longer had the freedom to hang out with friends until late into the night or run off on trips at a moment’s notice. I was frustrated and sad despite how amazing my life was. I used one of those little coupons my husband’s employer provided—Anonymous Counseling—because of course I didn’t want anyone to know I wasn’t perfect. As a pastor’s wife I didn’t want anyone to think less of me. I was always afraid of running into someone I knew—or that the counselor might even know my husband. I had only six coupons, each worth 50 minutes of time. I went about once a week, always hating the thought of being “discovered.” Always wondering whether the counseling was even helping. But I went.

And 18 years later, I found myself thinking about going again, even though I wasn’t too sure it would help. And then there’s the co-pay of $15 (I am SO cheap!), which I just can’t justify spending on myself. So, I waited and I prayed.

And recently, my prayer was answered in an unexpected way. I happened to pick up a booklet last month that taught me something I had somehow missed in life. I’m now reading it for the sixth time. I’d like to share it with you in the form of the metaphor of a counseling office/coffee shop (just a parable that got stuck in my mind). Imagine with me:

I wake up feeling refreshed one morning and find a “magic” tunnel has opened up in my house. Instead of freaking out, I find myself drawn to it. It seems peaceful and lovely. I decide to check it out. At the end of the tunnel is a private waiting room with no other customers. No risk of being discovered and no fear. No need for a voucher—this place is free and I’m the only customer. The proprietors somehow know me and understand me. There’s no time limit. I can sit there and talk as long as I like. The counselor knows me more than I know myself. He (she?) even knows my favorite beverage and ushers me into a trendy coffee shop-type room and we sit in my favorite type of seating, which changes from hammock to fluffy beanbag to massage chair and back again—heaven! The counselor orders my favorite drink (chai). It turns out this particular chai has been proven by every independent researcher to be super healthy. And no calories. Zero guilt! The mug is beautiful—and good for free refills for the rest of my life (as many times as I’d like each day). As I leave the office the receptionist tells me to please come again in the morning. They are open 24/7. I return to my room feeling refreshed and ready to face anything.

The next morning I wake up late and only have a few minutes to enjoy my favorite beverage in such a perfect environment. I’m sad, thinking I would love to stay much longer. My counselor offers to wake me up in the morning so I’ll have enough time to relax at the coffee shop. I agree to this on the condition that I awake feeling rested (vs. shocked awake by a horrible alarm). The next morning I wake up feeling like I’m coming to after an hour-long massage. I really want my chai and quickly walk through the tunnel, knowing my counselor will be thrilled to see me again.

I learn this coffee shop was built during the 9 months I was in my mother’s womb. Its grand opening just happened to be the day I was born. The day I was baptized, the mug was created especially for me. I drank from it that one time, said thanks, and left—feeling grateful as a new teenager for the cool opportunity. But somehow I missed the most important thing about my new mug—that it was refillable. I thought it was just a one-time offer. After all these years, I’ve discovered something that has been available to me (free of charge) all along. What a waste! How could I have missed that message?

And not only is it free and unlimited, but I can always access my coffee shop no matter where I am! Apparently, mine is not the only shop on the planet. There are custom-built shops all over the world—one for each human. Most sit empty just waiting for their customer to arrive and take advantage of all they have to offer. Knowing this makes me realize I don’t want to hide anymore. When someone asks me to pray for them I agree, but I also tell them about their own coffee shop with their own favorite beverage. Some believe me and check it out. Others think I’m crazy. I’m sad, but I keep praying that they will check it out sometime (sooner rather than later). I know the struggles they’re facing—and I know the “power” that comes from having my mug filled each and every morning. That mug is something I need more than food. How could I have thought that drinking this beverage just once when I turned 13 was enough? How did I not realize it was refillable?

So, if it isn’t obvious enough, I’ll make it more explicit: This coffee shop with the amazing chai? It’s the Holy Spirit. He’s available 24/7 for each of us any time we need Him. I hope you’ll take advantage of the opportunity He offers every day.

 Please note this is in no way saying there isn’t a time or a place for God’s “earthly counselors.” And if you’d like the nuts and bolts of how to approach engaging with the Holy Spirit, here they are:

1. Praying daily asking God to prepare your heart to receive the Spirit.

2. Praying using promises from the Bible to make believing easy (e.g., Luke 11:13).

 

Shelley Leonor lives in Riverside, California. She’s a member of La Sierra University church and is a graduate from the occupational therapy department at Loma Linda University. She has two amazing children and is a recent chai addict!

2019-01-20T14:00:34-07:00January 16th, 2019|Living God's Love|

Pacific Union “All God’s People,” January 11, 2019 Episode 301

This episode marks the beginning of our third season of All God’s People! In this episode, learn about Pacific Sunrise, flip through highlights of the January Recorder, and hear some great tips on resolution-keeping from Adventist Health Castle! Links to all these stories below.

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Pacific Sunrise Launches

We’re bringing you something new this year, and it’s called “Pacific Sunrise.” This twice-weekly source of news and inspiration represents our church family all across the Pacific Southwest. We promise two things: it won’t take long to read, and it will always include an opportunity to learn about what’s happening in our faith community! Click here to learn more: https://adventistfaith.com/engage/

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January Recorder Shares Stories of #ParadiseStrong

The January Recorder is in your homes and available online now. You’ll find a wealth of wonderful articles, news stories from all our conferences, Adventist Health, Loma Linda Univ. Health, Pacific Union College, La Sierra University, Holbrook Indian School, as well as a special 12 page Northern Calif. Conference report of courageous stories from Paradise. #ParadiseStrong – testimonies of survival and faith. Special thanks to the NCC team for providing this special report! Click the link below to read your copy online:

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Adventist Health Castle Shares Resolution-keeping Tips

Tracie Ann Tjapkes, Wellness Director at Adventist Health Castle, recently offered some great tips on how to make and keep resolutions on KHON2 in Hawaii. Watch the segment via the link below!
https://www.khon2.com/news/local-news/wake-up-2day/tips-on-sticking-to-new-year-s-health-resolutions-1/1681238290

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Malachi 3:16: ” Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another.”

2019-01-10T03:36:43-07:00January 10th, 2019|All Gods People|

La Sierra University President Wisbey announces plans to step down

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – (http://www.lasierra.edu) Randal R. Wisbey, president of La Sierra University since 2007, announced today that he will step down from the presidency on June 30 of this year.

In a letter to the university community, President Wisbey shared that the decision was a difficult one. “However,” he said, “due to the continuing challenges with my eyes following four eye surgeries within the last 18 months, and after much reflection, prayer, and counsel with my family, I have come to the conviction that this is the appropriate decision for me personally, as well as for the university.”

 

Ricardo Graham, chair of the university Board of Trustees, said, “During the years that Randal Wisbey has served as president of La Sierra University, his leadership has been outstanding. He has led the university in difficult times, providing stability and focus as the leader of this world- class institution of higher learning. His courage, compassion, and educational leadership experience has been a blessing to La Sierra and the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. We wish him all the best.”

 

Faculty Senate Chair Leslie Martin noted that President Wisbey “has led our campus through some challenging waters, always tenaciously advocating for La Sierra University–and always with grace and diplomacy. He leaves us at a time of relative peace and stability, and although he will be sorely missed, we are grateful to have had him as a true partner in shared governance here at La Sierra. We wish many good things for him as he moves into this new phase of life.”

 

During Dr. Wisbey’s tenure as La Sierra University’s third president, the institution has grown and developed in significant ways:

 

  • Total enrollment has expanded from 1,675 in 2007-08 to 2,356 in 2018-19.
  • The financial health of the university grew, as did its endowment, which rose 63%, from $56.77 million in 2007 to $92.6 million in 2018. Net assets also increased by 49%.
  • The 60,000-square-foot Tom & Vi Zapara School of Business building opened in 2013, not only increasing classroom and office space, but adding much-needed event space in the Troesh Conference Center. In addition, facilities across campus have undergone major renovation, including Gladwyn Hall, Humanities Hall, South Hall, Hole Memorial Auditorium, and the Center for Near Eastern Archaeology.
  • The university was recognized by the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education as number one in the nation for diversity. And, recognized by the federal government as a Hispanic-serving institution, La Sierra in 2015 received a $2.6 million Title V grant to support innovative learning programs.
  • Among the new academic programs launched was criminal justice, now the university’s largest major. Other new programs included film and television, neuroscience, archaeology, and the Ph.D. in Leadership, housed in the School of Education. It is La Sierra’s first doctoral program.
  • The School of Religion became the HMS Richards Divinity School and achieved accreditation from the Association of Theological Schools, one of only two Adventist theological programs to attain this recognition.
  • The School of Business became the Tom & Vi Zapara School of Business. It is the largest business school in the Adventist system of higher education. Its Enactus team won the World Cup in 2007 and the national championship in 2007 and 2016.
  • University governance, both through the Board of Trustees and the Faculty Senate, were strengthened through careful stewardship and cooperative leadership.

 

Before entering university administration, President Wisbey spent most of his career in Adventist higher education, first as a campus chaplain at Washington Adventist University and later as an associate professor of youth ministry and the creator of the Center for Youth Evangelism at Andrews University. Thus, he was especially proud of the university’s first Spiritual Master Plan, developed and implemented during his tenure. He also oversaw the strengthening of the university chaplain’s office as a critical resource that helps inspire the spiritual care and development of La Sierra students.

 

Dr. Wisbey served in a presidential role for 21 years, first at Burman University in Alberta, Canada, and then at Washington Adventist University in Maryland, before coming to La Sierra University. “I have loved my work here,” he said. “Without a doubt, I could not have asked for a more invigorating place to conclude my 34 years in Adventist higher education.”

 

“La Sierra has not only been good to me professionally—it has been good to my family,” he added. President Wisbey and his wife, Deanna Clay Wisbey, were delighted that their son and daughter-in-law, Alexander and Leslie, both graduated from the La Sierra University Honors program in 2011.

 

As he looks toward his conclusion of service, President Wisbey says he has assured the board chair “that I will do whatever I can to be of assistance as the search for the next president begins.” President and Mrs. Wisbey plan to move to their home in the state of Washington in early July.

 

Letters from Dr. Wisbey to La Sierra University employees and students are available at this link, at the bottom of the news article: https://lasierra.edu/article/la-sierra-university-president-wisbey-announces-plans-to-step-down/

 

 

 

 

About La Sierra University

La Sierra University, a Seventh-day Adventist institution nationally acclaimed for its diverse campus and its service to others, offers a transformational experience that lasts a lifetime.

 

U.S. News & World Report for six years named La Sierra University the most racially diverse university in the western United States. In addition, in September 2016 and 2017, the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education top colleges ranking named La Sierra University the most diverse campus in the nation. Additionally, U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 Best Colleges guide listed La Sierra ninth in the 15-state western region for best value. This follows the July 2015, Money magazine list which ranked La Sierra University eighth in the nation for providing value-added education that helps students surpass expectations. Each year, from 2008 to 2014 the Corporation for National and Community Service included La Sierra in the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll awards. These awards include La Sierra’s receipt of the prestigious 2013 Presidential Award, the highest honor a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning, and civic engagement. The corporation’s awards recognize La Sierra’s students for providing thousands of hours of service including international economic development projects by La Sierra’s world cup-winning Enactus team, and community projects through La Sierra’s campus-wide, Service-Learning program.

 

In December 2008, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching included La Sierra on its 2008 Community Engagement Classification lists consisting of 119 colleges and universities around the United States. La Sierra University achieved re-classification status in 2015.

 

The Seventh-day Adventist denomination established La Sierra University in 1922 on acreage formerly part of the Rancho La Sierra Mexican land grant. Today the 150-acre campus provides more than 120 bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees for about 2,300 students. Programs are offered in the Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business, the School of Education, the H.M.S. Richards Divinity School, the College of Arts and Sciences and in the Evening Adult Degree Program.

 

“To Seek, To Know, and To Serve” is the key to the mission that drives La Sierra University, with all areas of campus encouraging students to develop a deeper relationship with God.

 

 

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2019-01-09T11:39:26-07:00January 9th, 2019|Blog, News|

A Clean Heart

by Becky De Oliveira

My family has a long-standing New Year’s Day tradition: We climb something. It used to be Mount Si, just outside the town of North Bend, Washington, near where both my parents grew up. When I lived in Michigan, we’d climb Tower Hill—the largest of the sand dunes at Warren Dunes State Park—and, if it happened to be a clear day, gaze at the faint skyline of Chicago on the other side of Lake Michigan. The last couple of years we’ve deviated from tradition somewhat and have simply walked rather than climbed. This New Year’s Day, my brother and I walked across Evergreen Point Bridge in Seattle (and back). It was a quiet morning punctuated occasionally by a single sports car revving its engine as it zoomed effortlessly across the empty bridge.

Climbing, hiking, walking, running—these all feel like wholesome ways to begin the year. They show intentionality, a commitment to exercise and fresh air, to the maintenance of the body. Given that I also ran my usual route in the morning, took a second walk with my oldest son later in the day, and puttered around grocery stores and a cinema, I managed to accumulate more than 45,000 steps over the course of the day. The tracking device I have recently taken to wearing on my arm tells me I travelled 23.1 miles. It gives me other information: my heart rate throughout the day, the number of calories I burned, the number of flights of stairs I climbed, and something called VO2 max, which measures cardiorespiratory fitness and is apparently a determinant of life expectancy.

My family and I are not the only people who tend to focus on the physical when it comes to approaching a new year. Gym memberships spike during the month of January. Many people join dieting programs like Weight Watchers. Resolutions often involve a commitment to changing the body in some way—taking up a new activity such as running, losing a certain amount of weight, vowing to drink more water or floss every day. Many people wear Fitbits or Apple watches or other devices, such as the one I wear, that give them tangible feedback regarding their success. Unless I’m faced with a particularly unusual day, such as one where I have to catch an early and long flight, there is no reason I can’t achieve my exercise goals; they are, after all, set by me in the first place. I decide what I’d like to do in a given day, considering all the other commitments I typically have, and choose a goal that is attainable, if slightly ambitious. The feeling of accomplishment is addictive; one of the main reasons I have gone running early every morning for most of the past 13 years is that I like feeling that I’ve achieved something tangible before 6:30 a.m. Whatever failures the rest of the day may hold, at least I have this one thing.

I’ve never been as careful or attentive to my spiritual well-being, and this year I’ve spent some time considering why that might be and how I might do better without becoming a spiritual Nazi of some kind. (I have in the past been a fitness Nazi and a food Nazi, so I am well aware of my own potential to go to extremes that are appreciated by no one and do little to enhance the quality of my own life.)

What if I had a device attached to my arm that tracked my prayer history or my record of good deeds? I’m not sure what I think about this. It reminds me of certain old-fashioned churches I used to attend in England where congregants were asked to report how many Bible studies they had given in the past week, how many leaflets they had delivered, etc. In my unscientific assessment, I have always had a hunch that there was an inverse correlation between outward expressions of spirituality or religiosity and human kindness. I don’t know that measuring my spirituality—i.e., counting the things I do—would make me a better Christian.

A few years ago, a colleague said, “We measure what we think is important.” I’m not sure this is true. Perhaps we merely measure what we canmeasure—that which is measurable. I suppose an observer, looking at my life, could conclude that what I most value is exercise. It is, after all, virtually the only thing I truly measure on a daily basis. But I absolutely do not consider it to be the most important thing in my life. It’s just an easy thing to measure. It might say something about my current fitness levels, but nothing of any great importance. Wearing it won’t necessarily add an hour to my life.

So I’m not going to measure my Christian growth this year. Instead, I’m vowing to begin each day with this prayer: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10, KJV). This also creates the intentionality that I hope makes me more aware of my choices, attitudes, and behaviors, and that will gradually—perhaps in ways I don’t even notice—make me a “better” Christian.

 

Becky De Oliveira is a doctoral student at the University of Northern Colorado, studying research methods. She also has several jobs in teaching, writing, editing, graphic design, consulting, and podcasting. She does special projects for the Pacific Union Conference. 

2019-01-09T10:13:59-07:00January 9th, 2019|Blog|