Reframing New Year’s Resolutions with Step+

How many New Year’s resolutions have you made in your lifetime? Have you met someone who’s made only one resolution in their lifetime and met it perfectly? Nor have I. At least, I haven’t met such a person face to face. The apostles and other Jesus followers we read about in the Bible, however, got to interact with the one and only person ever to have met his resolution-of-a-lifetime perfectly: Jesus!  

We know that Jesus was without sin, however he was also human and tempted to sin countless times. Rather than framing our lives as only ever striving toward, rather than accomplishing, the perfect, unconditional love Jesus’ showed to his brothers and sisters, we can look at the small, but significant, steps Jesus took to love people and change their lives, and model our day-to-day conversations and activities after those steps.  


It’s typical to approach a New Year’s resolution - for example, “In 2017 I will eat healthier and exercise more” - from the perspective of big-picture changes that we want to see in our lives. Having this picture of change in mind is important, however the big-picture perspective sometimes makes reaching the end goal seem pretty overwhelming. For me, it’s difficult to imagine giving up sweets altogether when they’re a part of my daily diet and I really enjoy eating them. And every time I contemplate “getting back into running again,” or “working out 3 times a week,” I get disheartened because I don’t know how to get to those “states” of being healthier.  


What would happen if we let go of reaching an ideal state, and let go of viewing a goal only through the big-picture perspective, and instead think about taking small steps toward those ends? Let’s look at that same resolution to eat healthier and exercise more through the lens of one of our church’s values, Step+, which tells us that “simple steps guided by Jesus accelerate the impact of new life.” Jesus modeled this many times, including asking a woman for a drink of water and then having a conversation with her that changed her life (John 4:1-40), and simply making room in his “busy schedule” to spend time with children, whose parents knew that contact with Jesus would affect them greatly (Matthew 19:13-15).


It may not be immediately clear how some of our New Year’s Resolutions can be comparable to the steps Jesus took, but bear with me. Instead of assuming I could/should give up sweets entirely, I’ve tried cutting out sugar from my diet for one month. It’s long enough that it feels significant (and that I feel physical changes), but not so long that I feel deprived or as though I can never enjoy eating a baked treat again. Even doing something like that for one week produces results. And those positive physical changes? That’s God telling me that taking care of my body - his temple - is worth prioritizing. When I’m feeding my body nourishing foods and don’t feel sluggish, I have more energy and a greater desire to enjoy and love my family, neighbors, and those I meet on a given day. Instead of “working out 3 times a week” every week, I’ve tried saying, “This week I’ll go to yoga class at 7pm on Wednesday and 10am on Saturday.” These classes enable to me to worship God with my mind and body, and I always come home with a bit more patience and love in my heart, ready to share.


It’s taken me YEARS to land on some eating habits and physical/emotional fitness routines that I enjoy maintaining and that equip me to better serve others, and I still mess up way more frequently than I succeed. But I’m learning to take it one Step+ at a time, because, guess what?  It took YEARS for Jesus to carry out his mission, too, and he’s with me every step, every day, even (especially!) when I trip and fall along the way.


I’d love it if you’d share your 2017 resolutions and steps with me!


Policy Based Governance and the Role of the Board

Members of the board look forward to talking with you at our first “Coffee with the Board” on January 22nd at 9:15am. This won't be a meeting but rather a time for brothers and sisters in Christ to sit down over coffee and talk about our shared ministry.  We hope you can either stay after first service or come early to second service so that we can have some time together. As we prepare for this time together, the Board wanted to help give some clarity to what their specific role is within the Church.


The Church adheres to a policy-based governance model. The purpose of the Leadership Board is to develop policy, supervise the Lead Pastor, and uphold fiscal responsibility.


Policy development focuses on four categories: 1) Desired Outcomes, 2) Board Self-Governance, 3) Lead Pastor Limitations, and 4) Board and Lead Pastor Relationships.


Desired outcomes describe the ends, or purposes of our church. Desired outcomes policies describe what results we are here to achieve, who the recipients will be, and the cost of those results. These policies do not address means, methods, activities, or specific programs.


Governance process policies describe the standards of behavior for individual Board members and the Board as a group. These policies describe the way the Board operates.


Lead Pastor Limitations policies address staff means --what the Lead Pastor and staff may and may not do. They define the out-of-bounds lines. These policies communicate what behaviors, methods, and practices are acceptable and not acceptable. Unless restricted by the policies, all other reasonable actions are considered acceptable. This approach empowers the staff from needing to delay action until the Board can approve each new initiative. It also allows the Board to responsibly minimize involvement in the details of day-to-day operations. These policies are addressed to the Lead Pastor rather than the entire staff. The Lead Pastor is held accountable that all staff actions fall within the boundaries established by these policies.


Board-Lead Pastor Relationship policies address how the Board and Lead Pastor relate to each other.  In general, the Board speaks with one voice and all Board authority is delegated through the Lead Pastor. This means the Lead Pastor reports to the Board as a whole, not to individual Board members, officers of the congregation, or Board committees. This also means the Board works only with the Lead Pastor and does not direct the work of staff or volunteers.


The Leadership Board for the Church is honored to serve our ministry in this way. Members of the board include Peter Hueber, Chad Koch, Dannie Jaeger, Laura Potter, Eldon McLaury, Joan Dawson and myself. We would love to talk with you if you have questions or concerns, and look forward to our time together on January 22nd.


Read a good book today!

Our church library offers a cozy space with comfortable seating to pray or catch your breath or peruse a book.  Pick out several to take home to read to or with your child.  Or select from the many topics represented for yourself.  There are some oldies-but-goodies that may surprise you with their relevance to our lives today.   Remember to check the bookcases outside the Fellowship Hall and Sanctuary for newer titles by current authors.  One such author is Timothy Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.   He currently continues to lead the urban flock that has grown to more than 5,000 regular Sunday worshippers at several locations in the City.   

One of Keller’s titles, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, especially caught my interest for several reasons.   For over thirty years I worked in the secular world of government and public libraries and didn’t truly serve as though God was my boss.  During this period of time, I often visited a lifelong friend who worked as Executive Director of Redeemer’s Center for Faith and Work, leading thousands of people to live out their faith in the marketplace where they were employed.  I benefitted from many of Dr. Keller’s sermons and highly recommend his books, as he is one of the rare people who writes as well as he speaks.

Throughout Every Good Endeavor, Keller utilizes Scripture to emphasize his points that God created us to work and because of our feelings of fruitlessness and pointlessness, we tend to make work our idol. The third section of his book presents a Gospel worldview that will help us gain perspective on how we understand and embrace the work God has given us to do. 

Whether it be this excellent resource by Dr. Keller or another book by one of your favorite authors, the church library has the resources you need to explore a number of topics pertinent to your growth in faith. 

Other titles available in our librrary by Timothy Keller are Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, Counterfeit: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters.  Enjoy!

Beth Ziegler Roberts—Wife of Gary Roberts for 23 years, parent to Sarah & Noah, grandmother to Anna, Lisa & Jedd, retired librarian who enjoyed over 30 years of service to communities through work in public libraries in New Jersey, California & Minnesota.


Pass It On – Part 4: Share It

Do you remember choose-your-own-adventure books?  You’ll figure it out.  Here we go!

If the habit you learned is not yet your habit and you want it to be, GO TO Share It – “Help”

If the habit you learned is your habit, GO TO Share It – For Fun

If you haven’t learned a habit, or want a new one, RETURN TO Pass It On – Part 2: Learn It

Share It – “Help”

It takes some time to form a new habit, and sometimes it’s helpful to share with someone what you are trying to do and ask them to help keep you accountable.  Try this: ask a friend to check in with you every week and just ask if you did what you say you want to do. 

For an accountability tool, check out our Disciples’ Utility Kit under the Resources tab at

Other times no matter how hard you try you seem to have some personal resistance.  A coach can help you discover and overcome your personal resistance.  You can find a coach to share with under the resources tab at  Or you could share with a trusted friend and ask them to help you with your personal resistanceYou can find a Personal Resistance tool in our Disciples’ Utility Kit, under the Resources tab at


RETURN TO THE TOP of Pass It On – Part 4: Share It


Share It – For Fun

No pressure, just have fun with it.  As you learned in Part 3: Live It, simply share with people what you’re excited about, and what God is doing with you.  Have fun experimenting with this whole process.  Share your excitement with friends and if they ask, then tell them about your journey to learn something you saw in someone else.  Just like it was easier for you to ask someone else to share a habit with you in Part 2: Learn It, it’s easiest to teach, and for someone else to learn, if they ask you to share it with them.  So, just relax and have fun!


I hope the Pass It On series has been helpful to you.  If you have a story or feedback, please Share It with me in the comments or via email:


Intimacy as Service

I recently read an article about how to handle stressful holiday gatherings with family, which emphasized the importance of achieving intimacy with those to whom we’re inseparably connected.* The article focused on strained family relationships, particularly those that were difficult to maintain due to a family member’s addiction to drugs. This perspective was convicting for me, as I tend to resist intimacy when faced with difficult situations within a relationship. My hunch is I’m not alone in this tendency - do you also pull away when a relationship feels tense, unpleasant, confrontational?  This reaction reminds me of the passers-by in the story of the Good Samaritan.

It’s hard for me to admit, but I unfortunately relate to the travelers in the story who walked past the injured man, who refused to enter into a painful, messy situation. I’ve known for a while now that holding space with someone, making an effort to grow more intimate with them, listening to and sharing not only their joy but also their pain, does not come naturally or easily to me. However instead of remaining stuck in feelings of guilt or inadequacy (as I’m wont to do), I’m asking God to soften my heart and give me discernment and discipline as I set up routines in my life (regular time in God’s Word, practices of self care, and conversations with trusted friends about “deep life stuff”) that better allow me to serve and be served. I know achieving true intimacy with God, and with those in my life God has blessed me with, is a pie-in-the-sky vision I’ll never perfect, toward which I’ll spend my lifetime striving, but the routines are things that I can work on now and that, when I manage to stick with them, produce fruit.

The idea of achieving intimacy with those to whom we’re inseparably connected also brings to mind Pastor Josh Miller’s message from Scripture in his sermon “Who Is My Neighbor?” (November 20, 2016). Pastor Josh reminded us that Jesus came down from heaven and made his home with us; he found all of us in need, separated from God and from one another by our sins, and he truly saw us. He did not distance himself from us but instead had compassion on us. He was “moved to the core,” saw things from our perspective, and connected with us in the midst of our hurting. Who in your life comes to mind when you think of someone hurting, who you’re connected to by virtue of your life circumstances, but perhaps not truly connected to in the sense of reaching out to them and having compassion? I pray that God’s intimate love for you empowers you to step into that person’s life and to share even in the messy, painful parts.

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:7 NLT).


*Grenny, Joseph. ”Feasting with Unruly Relatives,” Crucial Conversations Q&A Blog (November 22, 2016). Ask Elsa if you’d like a link to this article.