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Acts of the Apostles: Up, In, Out

Rev. Dr. Valerie Miller-Coleman introduces a new Worship Series beginning Sunday, May 1.

Up. In. Out.

I doodle those three words in the corners of legal pads, on the margins of worship bulletins, and surrounded by little squiggly lines and arrows on meeting agendas.

May I encourage you to do the same?

“Up. In. Out.” is shorthand for checking up on the health of my faith life. It’s a good way to think about our shared life too. Here’s how it works:

First, I focus on how I’ve connected with God recently. How often do I have transcendent experiences that open my spirit to something higher than myself? Soaring choir anthems, early morning sunlight through the trees, a wander through an art gallery, quiet time with scripture and prayer – all of these consistently put me in the way of transcendence. If I’m in balance, I regularly make sure those experiences are on my calendar. However, if I’m feeling dry or maybe a little bit overwhelmed by minutia (it happens), there’s a good chance I’m hungry for the transcendent. That’s “Up.”

Next, “In.” In this step, I’m checking on connecting with myself and those closest to me. Our close relationships are some of the places God does the most critical work. Believe it or not, even with a busy intergenerational family life and three children at home, it can be tricky to stay connected with the most important people to me. It’s also very easy to lose track of myself in all that swirl. That’s why it’s so crucial for me to notice how often I’m fully present at family dinner, on walks to school, and Saturday morning adventures. Getting a good night’s sleep, eating well, and getting enough exercise all fit into the “In” check-up.

Last but not least, “Out.” I observe how my life connects with people beyond my inner circle in this step. God moves through us, opening channels for love to pour out into our workplaces, schools, neighborhoods, and natural habitats. How am I offering grace and hope to my neighbors? Does our family budget reflect our values of peace-making and justice-seeking? Have I made a difference for someone I don’t know well recently? If I can answer those questions in the affirmative, chances are pretty good my public faith life is healthy. If not, there may be some growth opportunities.

Up. In. Out. It’s a great way to notice how we’re doing in our life with God. If any one of those elements is underdeveloped or out of synch, we can feel itchy, dissatisfied, or disconnected. That’s our spirit’s way of nudging us into action. If you give it a try, you might find more going on in your faith life. Maybe there’s a new adventure waiting for you as you enter a season of growth in one or more areas. I’d love to hear what you find.

Over the next several weeks, we’ll be applying the “Up. In. Out” lens to our life together as a congregation. It’s a worship series focused on the Acts of the Apostles. The early church had to figure out what it meant to follow the risen Christ with absolutely no roadmap. We’ll tell the stories of how they found their way and brought their shared life into spiritual balance. I have a feeling we’ll pick up some excellent tips along the way. You don’t want to miss this. See you in church!


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