When I was in full-time pastoral ministry, I was always on the look out for good sermon illustrations and good resources for Adult Sunday school, mid-week studies, and other small groups. When I started working as the new editor of Purpose, I was immediately struck by this little magazine’s potential for both.
Each issue includes ten true, personal stories of everyday faith plus at least one poem, and any one of them could work well to introduce a sermon or to illustrate a point. And since the stories, columns, poem, and puzzle in each issue all relate to a common theme, the addition of an easy-to-use leader’s guide would mean that each issue could be used as a resource for group reflection and discussion on that theme.
As an example, I have permission to share with you my editorial from the January 2020 issue of Purpose that introduces the theme of “Presence,” followed by the leader’s guide. For a sample story from that issue, you may also see “Showing Up” by Sherah-Leigh Gerber. What’s more, from now until Christmas, my publisher is offering 40% off the subscription price for any new subscribers. In the U.S. that means a new subscription is just $18.00 USD, and you can subscribe online to Purpose here. In Canada a new subscription is just $23.94 CAD including the GST, and you can phone in your subscription toll free 1-800-245-7894.
If you’re not already a subscriber, this is a great opportunity to get a one-year trial at a reduced price. It makes a great gift for yourself or for someone you know, or to sign up for a church subscription if you don’t already have one. This is an encouraging and inspirational magazine to read on your own, use with a group, or have available in your church foyer or wherever there’s a waiting room. If you’re interested in writing for Purpose, you can find writer guidelines, upcoming themes, and deadlines on the Purpose website.
Editorial, January 2020
“April”—“Here.” “Luciano”—“Here.” “Jack”—“Here.” “Carol”—“Here.” In elementary school, my teachers did a roll call every morning, and we students would dutifully respond. Even during high school, my teachers would note any absences.
But once I entered university, the ritual of taking attendance was no more. In the huge lecture halls, professors scarcely knew my name, let alone whether I came to class or not. If I were to get sick or sleep in or decide to meet a friend for coffee, my professors would never know or seem to care.
Yet I still kept showing up for classes. For one thing, I loved to learn new things. For another, I liked to sit with my friends. Some of my courses required working together in groups, and I didn’t want to miss any marks for participation. I didn’t want to miss anything that might be on the final exam. So I kept showing up for class even though no one bothered to take attendance.
In the January 2020 issue of Purpose, our theme of “Presence” is all about showing up. It’s grounded in the faithfulness of God who keeps showing up for us again and again—on snow days, hard days, and every day. For those caring for elders or children, for those struggling with mental health, for all of us, God’s presence reassures and empowers us for daily living.
The stories this month also serve as windows allowing us glimpses of what it means to show up for others—younger and older, in family life and beyond, in times of laughter, during periods of questioning, and yes, even when relationships seem difficult. As God is with us, we can offer caring presence to those around us.
These stories also leave me wondering, What does it mean for us to show up for God? Does it even make sense to ask this question? I invite you to ponder this too as part of our “Presence” theme. For more on showing up for God, showing up for others, and having others show up for us, check out our new column, In Response. Please feel free to use this resource alone or with others, and let me know what you think of it.
In Response: Just Come
“O Lord, God of my salvation, when, at night, I cry out in your presence, let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry” (Psalm 88:1-2).
“Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing” (Psalm 100:2).
Come into God’s presence in lament or gladness, with crying or singing. Just come.
- In the January 2020 issue of Purpose, Jewell Johnson’s poem describes a sanctuary, a place where we can take time to be with God, to be quiet, to listen, to talk with God. A sanctuary can be a physical place like a church, or a non-physical space like the words of a song. It can be a community, a shady spot in your garden, an easy chair in your living room. What serves as your sanctuary where you can be in God’s presence? What helps you to become quiet and listen to God?
- Do you more readily turn to God in times of sorrow or joy? Give an example, then consider, How can I be more deliberate about turning to God at those times when it doesn’t come as naturally to me?
- In this issue, Rose McCormick Brandon showed up for work and helped a young boy get warm. Jeannine Brenner showed up for her husband as she cared for him after his stroke. How have you shown up for others?
- How have you allowed others to show up for you? Do you find it easier to give or to be on the receiving end? Why?
In her story, Eugenie Daniels describes spending 15 minutes in silence. Try this for yourself alone or with a group. Become aware of God’s presence. Share what’s on your heart. Journal if you wish. Read Psalm 37, Psalm 46, or some other Scripture. Allow time to share your experience with others, but don’t feel pressured to do so. This is your time in God’s presence.
We call. We cry. We sing. We celebrate. We wait for you. Amen.
For the editorial, discussion guide, and sample excerpt from Purpose December 2019,
For more encouragement and resources on doing ministry better,