Getting Started

The holidays are over; a new year has begun.  I’ve just returned from a short New Year’s trip, maybe you have as well.  In my case, Upper Management and I went to Orange, Virginia where we stayed a couple of nights in a very nice B & B and visited the homes of three founding fathers, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, and for a history geek like me, it was great fun.  I have been to the first two before, in 1977, and there have certainly been some changes since then…IMG_7641

Now, I’m back and there’s nothing to do except get back to the work that God has given me to do: How about you?

The slate for this new year is clean.  Maybe I should switch metaphors right now and say the canvas is empty and ready to be painted!  What will we paint?  I think the picture we paint this year should be one that shows us working to build the Body of Christ.  That will be a picture that shows God at work through us, one in which the lives of people around us are changed by God working in their lives, a picture in which relationships are repaired, new relationships are formed and in which God’s glory shines above and throughout the entire scene. In this great canvas there will be no selfishness, there will be no loneliness; only a community of faith with God working in and through all of His people.  This will be a scene that shows God’s people living with purpose, in unity and in that certain hope of eternal life.

So, grab your brush and let’s get started!  Let’s encourage one another, empower one another and be willing to step up and lead.  Let’s not be so concerned with the past, its failures and slip-ups.  Rather, let’s press on for the goal that our Lord has set before us, the goal for which we all strive, and that is that on the great day when we meet our Savior face to face, that we hear the words our souls long to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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31 Responses to Getting Started

  1. Got my brushes out and my sleeves rolled up. Let’s do this!!!! 🙂

    Happy New Year, Dear Friend. I am glad mine will contain your writings!

    Skye 🙂

  2. nrichmyleads says:

    Amen well said Don. I hope you have noticed that I have been working on my blog site to make it more user friendly and doing just as you have suggested above. I am glad you got to go on your trip, It sounds like one I could wish I had been able to join you on. Please feel free to provide me with some feed back on my efforts as well. I think we have a lot in common. If I were to add to your analogy above however I would say rather than a totally new canvas that we are opening a new area of a magnificent painting, one that God has prepared for us to make our splash of color, but that We can only build upon the rest of the painting because with out all the artists work that have gone before us to illustrate God’s Word to people we would not have an understanding foundation that we have to build on so that our brush strokes have a purpose and direction. Looking forward to a terrific year ahead, a fellow laborer in Christ . Selah.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Thanks for your kindness! I really like the analogy as amended; I guess we can both have another post using it! I look forward to seeing more great work on your blog my friend and fellow worker!

  3. Shelly says:

    What a beautiful reminder of the newness and hope that comes from a beginning. The start of a new year is the beginning of a fresh hope that we will be able to live the lives God created us to live. May we seek Him and have the strength and courage to follow where He leads and be obedient to what He calls us to do. Be blessed in 2014 and find ways to bless others!

  4. Little Monk says:

    Hi Don, I love everything you write, not just because I agree with so much of it, but because it prompts the Spirit in my heart so much.

    I read and hear your challenge and invitation to us as Believers, individually, to reach forward in creating Kingdom beauty of the future through our crafting of each present moment. Yes. But… and this may be wholly subjective based on my own challenges… I also hear a deep invitation to us as “The Body”… “The Bride”… to build a Church as beautiful as He calls us to be. The Corporate Task, executed through individual efforts.

    I have a passion for the “20% Church”, the brick-and-mortar, white steeple, church to which about 20% of Americans (let alone other parts of the world) come on a more or less weekly basis… to explore and discover new and effective media and means for lifting up Christ to the other 80% of our communities. (I imagine even any secular Business, finding that they reach only 20% of their marketplace with a product or service… what efforts would they make to present their brand to the other 80%? But, for the MOST part (there are notable exceptions), Church-folk, rather than exploring how do WE become more effective, what’s wrong with OUR Media for presenting the Gospel? … tend to “blame the victim”, and say, “well… when people don’t come to Church or know Christ, that’s on THEM, that’s THEIR fault, and they just need to “get right and be more like us”.) I’m not even saying that approach is wrong, or evil… I’m just saying it is not effective in presenting the Gospel, or reaching and healing broken lives.

    For three decades and more, now, I’ve served what I call the “80% Church”… the sheep and the outcasts who, for whatever reason, have learned that they are not smart enough, good enough, clean enough, or otherwise welcome in the “20% Churches”. And my heart, reading your words this morning, went to this place… this place of hoping that this year, the Church, the Bride, will “get out a little more”, and “mingle” with the common-folk beyond the castle walls.

    I’ve mentioned before, some fabulous mentors I’ve known. One has a “pet peeve” about EVER quoting a “part of a verse”, or even worse… quoting “part of a SENTENCE” of scripture, which can lead us into imbalance incredibly quickly. I made this mistake last year in a piece (in a sermon, actually), and he was kind enough to point out some of the theological trap this can lead (and led me) into. I resolved never to do so again, and to be careful forevermore to READ with this awareness. (We tend to read the way we typically hear, and many scriptures are spoken or preached on in fragments.)

    Your post brought the following “sentence” to mind, along with the realization that other than myself, I’ve never EVER heard the “oft quoted fragment” here, taught in its complete contextual idea… This is Hebrews 10:23-25:

    23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

    NOW… this SENTENCE came as a bit of a shock to me, to be honest. I mean, how many hundreds of times do we hear the words, “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some…” in terms of: faithful church attendance, dressing up, tithing, Bible reading, prayer… etc. Almost always in the context of Worship and Church infrastructure? When is the last time you heard it quoted in light of the fact that its author made that an admonition with a SPECIFIC PURPOSE? The “encouraging one another”? The “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds”?

    About two years ago, God challenged me to look at the New Testament, and determine SCRIPTURALLY… “What is the Church supposed to be? ” “What is the Church supposed to do?”
    and “How is the Church supposed to run?”

    I don’t yet have all the answers to those questions, enough to feel that I’ve “got” whatever it is God is trying to teach me there, from the Holy Bible. But it has prompted a tremendous trek of exploration, often in directions vastly different from those I see trodden by the multitude of “20% Churches” I am surrounded by here in the Buckle of the Bible Belt.

    My own life is far too frail and flawed… my life far too filled with my own myopathies and failings… to sit here smugly and point fingers. But your post rang a bell deep in my heart, really issued a challenge to be moving forward in this year… and be part of a solution, rather than allow inertia to render me part of the problem. Whatever element of Christ’s Precious Bride we find ourselves in and with, let us focus on not just the “assembling” part of that sentence, but the “stimulating’ and the “encouraging” as well.

    Thanks for the reminder, Don. And please feel free, always, to edit this comment ANY way you choose! Blessings and grace to thee and thine. So glad you got to enjoy some holiday time!

    • Don Merritt says:

      My goodness gracious, I hardly know where to begin my brother! What a perfectly amazing statement you’ve made here, and oh how I wish everyone would see what you have shared. Maybe this strikes me more than usual because I have literally just returned home from a visit to the White House. A friend from church invited my wife and I and another couple to tour the West Wing. I’ve been there numerous times over the years as part of my former working life, but after working in three Administrations over more years than I like to count, I quit the business after ’04 and vowed, yet again to be done with that sort of thing, but I went on the tour to see what “they’ve done to place” over the last 10 years. (Yikes, it’s been ten years!)

      The other couple had never been there before, and when we were about to go in, the guy remarked that it looks “just like a regular building.” My reply was that that he will soon be remarking on how small it is… which he did about 30 minutes later. After our visit, he commented to me that he was surprised that the West Wing was nothing like he thought it was from TV; it’s much more plain that he expected. The people inside were just people and not some special species. In short, while he wasn’t exactly disappointed, it wasn’t all that great. my thought to that was that the surroundings of the West Wing are nice, but we don’t surround the president with great surroundings, and the only chance for greatness comes with great ideas and great deeds. Otherwise, all is really rather “normal.”

      Now, if we consider what we are talking about, both in the original post, and in your reply, the same is really true. Your 20% may try to put on the trappings of greatness, but there is no greatness in mere assembly, for that is much too easy! There is only greatness when we as a people, beginning with you and I as individuals will commit to an idea, in this case an idea from our Lord, and then take that to those who are out there in the 80% and make a difference. As I see it, this is our calling; it is certainly mine, to encourage, challenge and prod from time to time the 20% to take this great Idea that we call the Good News to those who for whatever reason have not yet received it or responded to it so that we can bring something that is more amazing than anything ever conceived by mere mortal: Eternal life in Christ Jesus.

      When I think think about that one concept, I find myself in the midst of one of those “WOW” moments!

      Thank you for your remarks, and the invitation to “edit.” Hmmm, an idea for another post!

      • Little Monk says:

        You are unspeakably gracious and kind to my humble keyboard and self! Grace!

      • paulfg says:

        The Lord has each of you in his hands. One in the left and one in the right. And your words above are him clapping.. The “amen brother” becoming a repeating rolling round – full orchestra full choir -uplifting “Hallelujah Chorus”. From the eighty percent … Thank you.

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  6. People Empowerment Project says:

    Beautiful symmetry of profound thoughts communicated in simplest form.

  7. paulfg says:

    Your words paint a pretty good canvas. I am visualising a massive canvas, impossible to see, so many with brushes dabbing, so much laughter, so much chatter, so much excitement. One purpose. One picture. So many brush-strokes. So much excitement. Drawing others to look. To stay awhile. To pick up a brush. To become part. More and more. None seeing the whole. None caring. All part of something amazing. All knowing. Without needing understanding. Without care. Mmmmmmmmmm…..

  8. Little Monk says:

    Rofl… Confession: I’ve been accused in my life, of “Spiritual Hyperactivity Disorder”, and I don’t deny it at all. But I have to love a God who can not only “keep up with it”, but is always ahead of me! Looking at your post again, and the comments on your “canvas” illustration, I was flashed back to a memory from my extremely young childhood…

    Before I could write or draw or even color, I used to love playing a game my father and I had.

    I would get a pencil or pen and a clean sheet of paper… and I would scribble. Just those large loops, and little squiggles that small children make when faced with a clean surface and a writing implement. I would then run my masterpiece to my father, crying… “Look what I drew, Daddy!”

    He would take the work, examine it carefully, and “edit” it… filling in some of the “mosaic tiles” that result from random scribbles, shading others, reinforcing some lines… and he would make an actual “Picture” out of it… A dog, a house, a plane, a tree, a fish, or an entire scene. It was like magic. (He was a scary-smart guy, and it had to do with how his brain worked that he could ALWAYS see patterns in what appeared utterly random!)

    But to my little ham-fisted self of the time, I could just go “Wow!” as I watched him bring forth order from my personal chaos.

    When he was done, he’d always just hand the picture back to me, saying, “You drew that. You just didn’t see it yet. You’ll learn, though. All you have to do is see it. And until you do, I can help. Well done, Little Monk.”

    I think God’s still doing that with me… maybe with all of us?

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  12. Thanks Don for stopping by my blog.

    Your blog post ‘getting started’ paints a beautiful picture of new beginnings. What an encouragement to know in Christ we can each and everyone of us make a fresh start, and what better time than with start of a new year to begin to touch the lives of those around us.

  13. Dr. J says:

    Thanks so much for the great exhortation at the beginning of the New Year. Your using the metaphor of the blank canvas brought to mind a poem that I composed a number of years ago when I taught a New Testament History course at a Bible College for the first time. It was a life-changing experience that drew me into teaching on the collegiate level. The passion still burns within.

    To open the class I brought in a mirror and a large empty canvas, as I went on to share this poem:

    The Living Gallery of the New Testament

    In the living gallery of the New Testament is reserved a special space:
    An empty canvas awaits each feature of your face.
    Each of us paints a self-portrait in minutest detail.
    To develop your life’s masterpiece, you can never fail
    When you follow Christ’s example, the Master of the Word,
    Beholding as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord.
    Each day abounds with potential for matchless artistry.
    Now is your golden moment—you are making “His Story.”

    Thanks for a most inspiring blog entry. By the way, thanks also for the recent “likes” of some of my blog entries. As they say in Spanish, “es mutual”–meaning the liking is mutual. I like your work as well.

    God bless

    Dr. J

  14. Messenger At The Crossroads says:

    Affirmative!

  15. Very good ideas; encouraging and inspirational. God bless you and thanks for your support!

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