Monday, January 17, 2011

Next Right Steps

The first time I heard the term “next right steps” I was in church. It was both liberating and challenging at the same time. I was learning that I didn’t have to be like everyone else, or follow someone else’s path for life or growing spiritually. It meant I just had to look at what was in front of me and take ONE next step, the next RIGHT step for ME in the direction of loving God and loving people.

This year we have had front row seats watching our baby take her next right steps. Every week and every month she is growing and changing and impressing us with all she knows and does. The first time she rolled over from her back to her tummy, and back again. The first time I found her sitting up in her crib in the morning. The first time she pulled herself up by the coffee table to stand. The first time she pushed a toy across the room to walk. The first time she fed herself finger foods. The first time she gave me something I asked for, or used the baby-sign for “please” when she wanted something. The first time she smiled at the camera when we said, “CHEESE!”

Claire says "CHEESE!" from Tony Peterson on Vimeo.

With each first (or 2nd or 3rd or 100th) we find ourselves looking at each other with huge proud smiles and saying, “Did you see that?! Can you believe it? She is so smart! She is so incredible! She is the best baby EVER!” … yes, even when all she did was drink from a sippy cup for the first time. We just can't help ourselves!

With Claire, I don’t think she is contemplating for very long before she goes from one “next step” to another. She is simply growing physically and developmentally and these changes and achievements are natural. We beam with pride, but the reality is that if she got to this point of being nearly a year old and never made any progress from the day she was born, we would be more than a little concerned. It would be unnatural. Something would be wrong. We would be concerned and so would our friends, family, and doctor. Her growing and maturing is a natural part of life, it is expected.

And yet, at some point we go from being babies to children to adults and the expectation that we would continue to grow and change sometimes falls by the wayside. We become content with who we are, or disappointed, but either way we fail to see that there are still next right steps in front of us. The Bible tells us that when we fail to act on what we know and purposefully grow, we are like babies...

You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.
– Hebrews 5:12-14

While nobody wants to be a "baby" for very long, none of us have arrived. We are all in process, unfinished works of art that God would like to take into His hand to continue to mold and refine until we reflect the image he originally intended.

Of course, not everyone stays stagnant. I was with a friend last night and she shared with me that she wanted to make some New Year’s resolutions, but unlike years past, she didn’t want to make it about some new weight or fitness goal. Instead, she shared that for 2011 she wanted to get straight A’s in her college classes, she wants to stop wasting food, and she wants to be a better wife. I thought it was incredible! She shared some of the things she is pursuing to accomplish what’s on her list, some of the practical next steps she is taking. They were small, simple, and doable and it’s clear that if she continues to think of these steps and does them, she will be the woman she intends to be.

The daydreamer that I am, I often look far out into the future. I spend a lot of time in “someday” and not enough time in right now. The simple things are easy to avoid, and I felt challenged by my friend to stop and take a look at what is right in front of me. I mean, often we already know the next thing we need to do. We don’t need more advice, or to listen to another message, or to read another book.
We know we should spend less.
We know we should forgive.
We know we should make that phone call.
We know we should eat less pizza and more green beans.
What if we obeyed what we already know we should do? What if we avoided the things we know we shouldn’t do? Would we grow? These next right steps are going to be different for each one of us. I have a feeling I know what some of mine are, and you might be thinking of some of yours right now.

This Sunday at Great Lakes Church we will begin a new five week series called Relationship Rehab.

Relationship Rehab Bumper from Tony Peterson on Vimeo.

We will also have a brand new Growth Group Catalog.

Don't you love Tony's work on this stuff? I do!

But, attending these services or browsing the catalog will not automatically cause any of us to grow. The challenge will be to take what we hear and what we learn in this series and do something about it. The challenge will be to choose a group that pertains to where we want to be in life, sign up for it and commit to attending.

Here are just a few of the groups I’m excited about:
Deuces Wild – A group for men to play some poker and discuss the book Wild at Heart.
Financial Restart – A group designed to help people manage debt and learn the Biblical principles of giving, saving, and spending.
Cocktails and Catan – A group for 21+ to get together and play the strategy game, Settlers of Catan, and maybe enjoy an adult beverage.
Believing God – A group for women that want to learn to, not just to believe in God, but to take him at his word.
New York Mission Trip – A group traveling to Brooklyn to serve kids in the inner city.
Breakfast of Heroes – Dads taking their kids out to breakfast at McDonalds on Saturday mornings!
Next Steps – A group for people who want to take Sunday’s message and talk through it with others who are trying to go from receiving information to practicing application – doing something about what they know.

And, as Tony and I think about our next right steps, we are watching our little girl continue to grow and change. She turns a whole year old on Saturday and we are looking back fondly at how quickly time has already passed.

This week we’ve been watching Claire take her first actual steps!

Little Walker from Tony Peterson on Vimeo.

What is YOUR next right step? Will you take it?

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