For me, the start of a new year brings about excitement, hope, and possibilities. It is also a time of reflection on what I achieved last year and my trajectory based on the last few years. The new year serves as a touchstone to gather my thoughts, dreams, and set goals for the upcoming year. While some of these goals are school and work specific, others are more personal and focused on how I want to be, the process of becoming, and strengthening relationships with others (and creation). I also acknowledge that where I am, my thoughts, attitudes, and ministries are shaped by my current mental state. This was definitely true for the Young Adult Mid-Winter Retreat held at Slumber Falls Camp a couple of weeks ago.
This year’s theme was “Catfishing God.” For those of you not familiar with the term “catfishing” as it is used in social media, catfishing is when a person assumes an alter identity online to engage others, forge relationships, or learn more about a person. Picture an individual not happy with their current life, their job, social status, body image, gender, and so forth. They take photos from other peoples’ websites and create a new profile where they create a fictitious character in order to engage people that may not give them the time of day if they were to be authentic in who they are. Catfishing can also be used for nefarious activities, and be quite dangerous for their targets – so caution is always required when chatting with people you have never met.
For our retreat, we focused on churchy things. I challenged the young adults with creating profiles in which they thought God would be attracted to them. From the selection of their profile pictures to describing hobbies and interests, and even their work, profiles were being generated that were radically different from many of their lives. Some reflected personal aspiration not yet achieved while others described an ideal image of what they thought someone should look like to engender a strong relationship with God. All of them wanted stronger relationships with God personally, but it was interesting to see and listen to why the lives they created were more appealing than the lives they are currently living. As the discussions went on, some themes emerged from not knowing what to do or how to go about becoming the person they want to be, concern for time or altering schedules or patterns of behavior, not having a community that encourages personal or spiritual growth and little distractions that add up over time.
Having a better understanding of how they felt, I realized some of the challenges that they faced, the failures of the church or ministries to empower and equip them in this area, and lack of resources or rubrics that can help someone measure improvement. For example, it is great to hear that Slumber Falls Camp is very important to their spiritual foundation and that they want to be more generous with Slumber Falls Camp, but how would they measure it? Increasing volunteer time? Automatic monthly giving, even in smaller amounts? Promoting the camp to others (is there a set number to strive for this year)? Seeking out physical donations? These are a few of the areas that they could think through but were not limited to these areas.
I am a proponent for setting goals. If it is important, then it needs to be identified. Writing them down also is a good exercise because it allows to physically see all the goals in one location. If there are too many, then it becomes clear why there is constant stress, feelings of failure, or the inability to achieve any of them in a satisfactory fashion. Once the goals are identified, they can be prioritized and further reflected upon if some need to be re-envisioned, modified, or eliminated for the time being. For smaller goals or goals that take time to achieve, the Pomodoro method has been effective in achieving them. Pomodoro is Italian for tomato. The method was named after the timer used to measure time increments to achieve goals and tasks. The method is simple. Work for 25 minutes and take a 5-minute break. This is one Pomodoro. After four Pomodoros, take a 15-20-minute break to replenish energies. Because a Pomodoro is shorter, it can help people focus on accomplishing more and keep them focused. This method is great for generating physical outcomes, assignments, or tasks. While it is probably not the best for spiritual maturity, it could help in reading through the Bible or other books for growth, writing letters of gratitude, journaling, Lectio Divina, etc. It can also create a set time frame to allocate for spiritual activity, even if you choose to only do one Pomodoro. Having a system and envisioning how it will fit into a daily routine increases the likelihood of success.
My hope and prayer this year is that we all explore who we feel God is calling us to be and devise ways that are achievable and realistic so that we can measure improvement. As a touchstone for this year, perhaps let frogs be that reminder. Why frogs??? Mark Twain said that “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” Twain was referring to how we tackle the goals in our life. Don’t procrastinate, focus on the biggest priorities first so the little ones don’t distract you. God calls all of us into a relationship and there is not one image or model that we should try to achieve. We are called to listen, discern, and grow which brings out the beauty and the myriad of ways that God works, is seen, and transforms the world. We don’t need to be someone we are not, nor be jealous of another person’s life or perceived life. Allow 2020 to get a clearer vision of where you want to go.
Slumber Falls Camp is here to help you grow through our programs, opportunities for outreach and mission, a site to host your event, and most importantly to be in a relationship with you. I look forward to this year and reconnecting with the Slumber Falls Camp family and seeing how it will grow with new faces, stories, and passions.