January 2, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Psalm 84:3-4 (NIV)
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.
The new year is a time to think about the road ahead. As you step into 2021, consider what it would look like to truly dwell in the house of the Lord in 2021. And, consider how you might apply the dwelling muscles we were all forced to strengthen in 2020 toward the goal of dwelling in the house of the Lord in 2021.
My family and I spent last summer in Nebraska. With schools closed in California and work looming, we made our way cross-country with our two kids. While there, my mom and I developed a rhythm of walking around her neighborhood after the kids were in bed. As we walked, we began to notice just how many people were making modifications to their homes. From smaller projects like mending fences to larger ones like new roofs and driveways, it seemed nearly everyone was renovating their space. I guess it was all the extra time at home. The more we were forced to settle in, hang out, and get comfortable in our own homes, some of us started to notice ways we wanted to make our spaces more livable. Before we left California, my husband and I spent two weekends cleaning out our garage. When I took the boxes of items we no longer needed to the Goodwill, they had a sign that said they had too many donations. I drove to three more locations before I found one that could take our stuff.
I guess when we have more time at home, we start to notice things. We start to notice what we’d like to change, for sure. Perhaps it’s the things we want to change—paint that’s chipping or a door that squeaks. But we might also notice what we do like. Perhaps it’s how the light looks on your window in the morning or the smells from your neighbor’s house at dinner time.
Consider how last year helped you (or forced you) to notice things you hadn’t paid much attention to before: not only about your physical space, but also about your relationships, yourself, and your work. As with our houses, we probably noticed some things we liked and other things that we wanted to see transformed.
While I will be the first to celebrate when we get the green light to give big hugs to friends and fear less about traveling on an airplane, I also wonder if this season of forced dwelling has primed us in some way?
The new year is always a time to think about the road ahead. It’s a time of transition and new beginnings. A time to consider how to leverage all the experiences pain, and growth of the previous year for the next one. What if you spent 2021 truly dwelling in the house of the Lord? What if like the swallow you find a place in God where you can settle in and stay awhile? What if you applied the dwelling muscles we were all forced to strengthen in 2020 for good in 2021?
The Psalm teaches us to sing, “Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.”
This song makes me think of a line from another one—from the old hymn “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” The third part of the hymn goes like this:
Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee:
prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it;
seal it for thy courts above.
Dwelling is hard. We’re prone to wander. Prone to leave. Prone to fill our lives with busyness and stuff. And, though it might not be right away, at some point this year, many more of us will be able to go back to normal-ish type life. The question is will we be so glad for 2020 to be over that we discard even the things that were good?
And, so, at the start of this year, consider what it might mean for you to deepen your sense of dwelling in the house of the Lord this year even as the world eventually walks step-by-step out of the pandemic (which I know might still feel very far away!). Ask yourself: what would it look like for me to get so cozy in the house of the Lord that I know the nuances of God’s spiritual home—the proverbial smells from my neighbor’s house at dinner or morning light on the window? Consider how those nuances might be the good fruit of God’s grace that binds our hearts to the Lord and makes the invitation to dwell with God so sweet.
I want to close by telling you about an opportunity that might be especially right for you if you want some explicit space to make this kind of intention in 2021: The Road Ahead, a six-week program that’s especially suited for times of transition. If you’re feeling like you could use some explicit space to make spiritual sense of where you’re at and discern next steps on the road ahead, we invite you to sign up. We’re currently running groups for women professionals, folks entering or in the “third third” of life, creative professionals, and pastoral leaders.
Consider the ways in which you want to grow in your sense of dwelling with God this coming year. Think about areas of your life such as work, certain relationships, or at church.
Share the ways you hope to dwell with God with someone else. Ask them how they hope to dwell with God in the coming year.
Lord, it’s true that I’m prone to wander. So, let your goodness bind my wandering heart to thee. Help me to receive the grace you give so freely that enables me to dwell in your house this year ahead and always. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: One Day in God’s Courts Might Be Better Than Thousands Elsewhere: What Does This Really Mean?
Dr. Michaela O’Donnell is the Executive Director of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership where she oversees the center’s vision, strategy, program, and team, all with the goal of helping leaders like you respond faithfully to God in all seasons of your life and leadership.
Michaela’s first book, Make Work Matter: Your Guide to Meaningful Work in a Changing World is due out in October with Baker Books. It’s already getting rave reviews from folks such as Dave Evans, Mark Labberton, Missy Wallace, Luke Bobo, Dee Ann Tuner, Kara Powell, and more. This book is a reflection of Michaela’s heart as both an entrepreneur and a practical theologian. Drawn to the real life working out of big issues, it is a how to for anyone walking the road of calling in a changing world.