Why am I wishing you a sweet new year in September? Because it is Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year. If ever there was a time for all of us to celebrate this Jewish tradition it would be 2020. Why? Because it is a time of prayer, self-reflection & new beginnings. Most of us can’t wait for this year to be over & start a new one. So don’t…wait that is.
I actually know very little about Jewish traditions. But what I do know is that they are jammed packed with beautiful symbolism, reminders & hope. I can’t come close to touching on the full depth that Rosh Hashanah holds here in a short blog so let me simply offer up these 3 suggestions we all can do to mark the Jewish New Year.
Pray – don’t over complicate it – just talk to God. Act like you are on the phone with a friend. It’s not about impressing God with the ‘right’ words. It is about spending time communicating with a beloved friend. Sharing your gratitude, fears & heartbreak with the one who loves you more than anyone. Listen for His advice through the movement of the Spirit in your heart & in your mind. Allow His word to speak to you by cracking open your Bible (or opening your app). Set some time aside to break away from the world & just let God love on you by being present with Him.
Reflect – we need to periodically stop to consider where we are & how we got here before we can move forward. As you spend time with God ask Him to remind you of who He is & reflect on how He has guided and directed you in the past when you let Him. Remember who you are in God’s eyes. Consider the gifts that He has given specifically to you. Are you fully utilizing those gifts? Have you strayed from your first love? Have you allowed the clatter of this world to distract you from the things God has called you to do? Where has sin crept in and put a wall up in your relationship with God?
Repent, Recommit, Restart – God has promised us new mercies every morning. After prayer & reflection it is time to lay down the hurts, the sins & the distractions at the foot of the cross and start again with a renewed commitment to who God is calling you to be.
If you are serious about wanting a fresh start, I offer you 2 suggestions to make it more ‘real’.
There is a Jewish tradition of going to a place with moving water & tossing in bread to symbolize the release & cleansing of our sins. Sometimes physically going through the motions of letting go & watching those things float away can recharge our exhausted mind & bodies and give us a fresh energy to sustain our commitments. Try it & take someone with you when you go.
Share your reflections & recommitment with someone who loves you. Not only does it help cleanse the soul to speak it externally. It will also give you an accountability partner that will help keep you on track in the days to come. OR if you are struggling with the process, the self-reflection, seeing the past clearly or just feel too overwhelmed to find your way forward, reach out to someone you trust. It can be a friend, a counselor, a coach, or a pastor. God never intended for us to navigating this world on our own. That is why he gave us a body of believers to be a part of.
Even if you have never celebrated Rosh Hashanah before, let 2020 be the year you start.
Shelter at home orders have forced us to slow down our busy lives or at least cleared our calendars. I wonder how many of us have have simply exchanged one type of activity for another. Are we learning what it means to be still?
“Be still, and know that I am God;…” (Psalm 46:10) is a very familiar & often quoted verse. But it is also something most of us struggle with. You may not be running between meetings, practices or events right now but how are you with getting your mind to be still? Are you worried about exposure, finances, or wonder what the future is going to look like?
I believe that learning to be still to know God & to know who we are in Him is an essential spiritual discipline. But I don’t believe there is one ‘right’ way to do this. I think there are many. The discipline comes in finding what works for you and continuing to make it a priority. The video below is an awesome post that was shared by Amy Grant that explains & demonstrates one such practice that helps us.
I would love to hear what you do to be still & connect with God. Post your favorite ways below in the comments.
If you are looking ways to refresh your spiritual life & spiritual practices join us for a “Refresh Your Soul” workshop.
Easter feels very different this year but the reality of the season is just as powerful today as it has been for approximately 2000 years. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. It is our understanding and perspective that changes. May this Easter Sunday be a chance for all of us to refocus in the midst of overwhelming days.
I pray you will find this holiday:
a little quieter so you can hear His voice louder and
a little slower so you have time to be more reflective on the reality of an empty tomb.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” -1 Peter 1:3
Jesus offered up prayers with “loud cries and tears.” (Heb. 5:7)
Have you given yourself permission to do this yet? I’ve learned over the years that stuffing the hard emotions & fears actually allows them to grow and fester. They eventually ooze out in not so nice ways. But, if our God is who He says He is, He can handle your hard feelings. And amazingly, He wants us to bring them to Him. When you finally let go and allow yourself to feel the hard stuff and verbalize those thoughts & feelings to God, He can start to heal you by loving on you & encourage you & reminding you He’s got this!
Listen to Max Lucado speak on granting yourself a good meltdown:
As our world continues to rapidly change around us it is easy to start to feel overwhelmed. It is important for us to be self aware enough to have systems in place that help us to snap out of the spiral of anxiety and growing fears.
In the study guide for “The Road Back To You” authors Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile introduce the concept of SNAP. It is a quick and simple way to redirect our thinking and become more aware of God’s presence in the here & now.
Stop – for a few minutes to consciously come home to yourself and to God. Take four or five deep, prayerful breaths to ground yourself in your body and return to the present moment.
Notice – what is going on around you & in you. Are things around you calm or chaotic? How are you relating to what is going on? How are other people responding to you? Are you in a good space or using reactive behaviors? Observe what you are feeling. At this point don’t label, or analyze, simply notice.
Ask – now that you are awake to the present moment & what is happening, ask yourself a few questions that will help get you back on track if you need it.
What am I believing right now?
How does it make me feel?
Is it true?
Who would I be if I let go of that belief?
Pivot – now that you’ve become more self-aware you are freed up to make different, healthier, more spiritual choices that line up with your true self rather than defaulting to your autopilot responses.
What SNAP does is help us to interrupt our self-limiting thoughts, feelings and actions associated with our personality. It helps us to wake up to God’s presence and sovereignty in the moment. It can be done anywhere and anytime. You can devote a few quick minutes several times a day or a week long retreat to this process. It takes some practice, but it can tremendously increase your self-awareness while decreasing fear and anxiety.
Do you have a go to verse or quote for when you are feeling overwhelmed? What other actions help you overcome your fears? Share your thoughts in the comments below. I’ll continue to add your input to the following Pinterest Board. Watch the list grow & come back often for encouragement.
No matter if it is the Coronavirus, upset stomach, migraine or a bad hair day that is keeping you home on a Sunday morning it doesn’t mean you have to miss church. Actually it opens up an incredible number of possibilities. Today’s technology allows you to live stream services from all over the world. Most will allow you to rewind to catch that scripture verse you missed or even pause for bathroom breaks. And if you get there late, no one will know!
Streaming church services does not replace the connection we feel sitting next to, praying next to, or shaking hands with our church family. But it does provide us with a God connection. It can help us to maintain the discipline of setting time aside to prioritize our faith. Praising, renewing & growing our connection with The Savior. And who knows, it may make you miss & appreciate your home church a little more.
So if you are home on your couch this week, don’t just skip church. Try something different. Watch a friends church. Watch the church of a Christian author you enjoy. Or randomly pick one from the comments below.
If your church steams your services post the link below in the comments with your service times. Or maybe you already have a service or two that you like to watch on line for a mid week lift, please share them below.