A challenge completed…now what?

Published 9:50 am Saturday, April 11, 2015

by Andrew Book

With Easter Sunday last week the church ended the season of Lent. Throughout Lent, we have been talking in this column about the different seasons of life and the ways that the Biblical Psalms help us to pray and seek God in the midst of all of life’s challenges. As part of our discussion on the Psalms, many of you have joined the people of Courtland United Methodist Church in “The Psalms Challenge” where we read and prayed through the Psalms during Lent. That challenge ended on Sunday, so the question is: What now?

Research indicates that the time it takes to form a new habit averages around two months but varies widely from person to person (see http://goo.gl/QeKpAs). Some of you may have found yourselves having developed a new habit during this period, while others of you were still struggling to include the daily readings in your schedule. Either way, take some time to consider whether this is a daily practice that you want to continue. The longer you continue a practice, the more likely it is to become a habit. If you choose to continue daily scripture reading, you are welcome to continue with us at Courtland UMC — we will be looking at the book of Acts for our next series “Relying on God in a Do-It-Yourself World.” Another option is to read a chapter a day from the book of Proverbs (which comes after Psalms in the Bible). Proverbs has 31 chapters — one for each day of the month. If neither of those options sounds good to you check out the resources at Bible.com (which has a lot of different Bible reading plans).

In addition to considering whether you want to continue the habit you have been developing, another important practice is reflecting back on what you have done, what you have learned, and how you can be changed through your experiences. The practice of reflection is a powerful tool for learning from our experiences in life (whether they were good experiences or bad experiences). If you are an introverted person (meaning you get recharged when you spend time alone), taking a walk while thinking about the events of the previous day may give you a good chance to reflect. Another option would be to join me in my favorite reflection practice — journaling. Simply turn to a clean page and begin writing with the event you are reflecting on and let the words flow (“The Psalms Challenge…” or “Yesterday…” or “When my in-laws came over…”).

For those of you who are more extroverted (you get recharged by time spent with other people), you will probably find that conversation with other people is the best way for you to reflect. I hope that you have people in your life who are good listeners who allow you to share what you have experienced, ask good questions to help you process how you are feeling and give you the opportunity to consider how those events are shaping you.

Regardless of how you reflect, take some time to reflect on what you have learned and how it has changed you as you have gone through the last few months. If you have been a part of “The Psalms Challenge,” I hope you will focus your reflections on the psalms. However, regardless of what has been going on in your life, take some time today to reflect on what you have learned over the last two months and how it might change you.

As I look back on the time I have spent in the Psalms throughout Lent, I have been challenged to consider how fully I rely on God in my day-to-day life. The psalmists clearly need God to be very present in their lives. They expect God to be at work and they have no qualms with complaining when God is not present in the ways they were expecting. As I have reflected on these psalms, they have challenged me to be more intentional about living in ways where I need God to be working in my day-to-day experiences and have pushed me to bring everyday struggles to God in prayer.

What about you? What have you learned? How have you grown?

If you, like me, are trying to grow in the ways you are relying on God, we would love to have you join us at Courtland United Methodist Church for our new worship series, “Relying on God in a Do-It-Yourself World” this Sunday at 11 a.m. Whatever you have learned and however you have grown, I hope you will live a reflective life where your past changes and challenges you to live more fully in the future!

 ANDREW BOOK is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or andrew@courtlandumcva.org.