By Jocelyn Santos
In 2018 our corporate theme was “Rest Ready.” I recently was discussing this with a fellow believer who doesn’t attend StoryHeights and their immediate question was, “What does that mean?” Corporately, that meant that in 2018 StoryHeights enacted what the Lord outlined as the Sabbath Year in Leviticus 25. In verse four of that chapter, the Lord commands Israel not to sow their fields or prune their vineyards, continuing on to instruct them to live off of what their land yielded without tending.
I love that the Lord spoke to our leaders to honor this practice in His house thousands of years later. And if you have attended StoryHeights for any amount of time, you can imagine how hard this must have been for our ever-creative, productive, and fruitful leaders. Nevertheless, they obeyed the Lord in taking a year of rest in which they started no new ministries or new projects. StoryHeights entered and finished 2018 not only living off what the previous seven years of ministry in Boston naturally yielded, but truly thriving. It was beautiful to experience, first hand, how obeying the Lord in his perfect timing is always to our benefit.
Personally, 2018 was my year of “Beauty in the Making.” While I cannot tell you the process in which Pastors Tyler and Crystal came to receiving the theme words of 2018, I’d love to share how my process went. I had heard of believers praying for a word or phrase and/or a scripture to cling to for the upcoming year and I (an anxious planner in all realms of my life) desperately wanted some type of information on what my upcoming year would bring. So I prayed.
I prayed a very straightforward and zero-fluff prayer: “Lord, would you speak to me regarding this upcoming year ? A word, a scripture, something that can I can grasp onto.” And as he does, he answered. As I softened my heart in the weeks following he highlighted a phrase in a worship song. The lyric was “Will I begin to see beauty in the making?” and as I sang that, his soft and gentle voice answered with a strong and certain “Yes, you will see beauty in the making.” Shortly thereafter, He also solidified Joshua 1:9 as my scripture for the year. This came in the same way, as I read the book of Joshua the verse was highlighted to me. I’ll be honest, because it’s such a popular scripture, I hesitated in believing that was the scripture the Lord wanted me to pray over myself continually over 2018. But again, the Lord answers us in unique ways and, in this particular instance, the confirmation came from an unlikely friend who had sought the Lord in prayer on my behalf and that friend boldly shared that they felt the Lord speaking that scripture over me. (Honestly, feel free to stop reading right here because literally what more could you possibly need to know other than that the Lord hears our genuine prayers and he answers them. And if we aren’t certain we heard correctly, he confirms his own words!)
So, I entered 2018 with a fresh fire, y’all. I was PUMPED to leave a hard year in the dust. I was eager to start a new year with strength and courage, seeing beauty in the making. Oh man, my sweet naive heart thought that meant the Lord was going to give me rose colored glasses. In reality, what seeing beauty in the making with strength and courage looked like was painful. It was hard, and many times I wanted so badly to look away. My faith was very much “tried by fire” in that year, but in retrospect I am so eternally grateful for that season of personal pain and growth. Grateful because now I can see the beauty of how in my hardest season, StoryHeights’ sole focus as a church community was not building outward, but inward. It was a year so, so, so many of my now fundamental relationships with people in this community were built, because a corporate year of Resting Ready meant living off of spiritual fruit previously planted. (But don’t be discouraged if your 2020 is looking more like my 2018. Don’t feel as though you’ve missed a vital season in our community’s life, because I promise you there is nothing I am more confident in that the Lord’s timing. You’re here, in this season, for a reason!)
This year, our corporate theme is “Ready to Run.” There is so much excitement in that promise-filled phrase! What I love most about 2020 being our year of preparing to run is how 2019 was corporately our year to Breathe Deeply. As someone who is a true beginner runner, there is not a more important lesson than knowing how to properly breathe. And of course the creator of everything knew that when He called us to Breathe Deeply his written word, the bible, in 2019 He was preparing us for running into all the promises he has beyond just StoryHeights but for all of Boston.
Breathing in the Word of God doesn’t just stop after a year though. Just like when you learn to breathe while running, you don’t just stop breathing after the run. The continual practice of reading, studying, and praying the Word of God is instrumental to anything we do as followers of Christ.
I’m so often blown away by the Lord’s intentionality. Both the metaphorical and literal preparation that occurred during 2019 is what has allowed this year to be the year in which we are ready to run. It’s so important to note here though, that while we are ready does not mean we are currently running. Nor does it mean that StoryHeights is idle – it just means that we are continually training, preparing, and in position to run towards all the promises of God when he firmly tells our leaders “Go!”
Since my experience in 2018 I have been intentional about asking the Lord for a word or scripture, and this year my word was righteousness. It was accompanied with the scripture Malachi 3:3 which reads,
“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.”
In my personal life, being ready to run is a constant check in with my spiritual and physical well-being. See, in order for me, or any of us, to go where the Lord is leading us he requires us to be of pure heart.
The Lord speaks through the Old Testament prophet Malachi to the priests of Israel regarding their “defiled offerings” (Malachi 1:6-9). When I read this at the end of last year conviction filled my spirit as I realized I often times give the Lord not the first and best of my life, but the remnants. Spiritually, giving the Lord the remnants of my best looked like me not praying as intentionally or as purposefully as he has asked of me. It looked like not prioritizing the people and the things of his kingdom. Physically, oh man, physically the Lord was most displeased with the way I was increasingly becoming more dishonoring to my body by not eating well, not exercising, and things of the like. My life as a whole was the kind of offering the Lord looks at with pleasure, and more than I want to be pleasing before the Lord, he wants to honor my sacrificial living.
I want to encourage all of you reading this, ask the Lord how you can be prepared to run this year? What area in your life is he seeking to restore and redeem? Because I know the Lord is doing a new thing in our community, it’s so clear, but I don’t want to just see development in everyone and everything around me, I want to see it in my own life. I want to see it in all of your lives!
Take some time with the Lord and ask him how you can be ready to run, and then commit to getting ready.