I had the chance to sneak out of town last week. Cherie, Zoe and I took a little trip to NW Arkansas. On our last day in Arkansas we went to Beaver Lake and enjoyed some time on a hiking trail. It was a very pretty hike, even in the winter. I found myself wondering what the scene would look like in the summer with leaves on the trees and vegetation growing off the trail. As we walked the trail we stopped occasionally to take pictures. Zoe enjoyed the opportunity to practice photography and I enjoyed teasing her that you can make any photo “artsy” by getting real close to whatever you’re photographing!

As we begin 2022 here at Wallula Christian Church I was thinking about that hike. This hiking trail was a big circle and as we stood at the trail head we were discussing which direction to go. We thought because the trail was a circle it couldn’t matter much and so we headed out. Soon after starting we realized we were heading downhill which was great but it also meant that at the end of the hike we would be climbing uphill. In the middle of the trail there was a little outlet trail that led us right to the shore of the lake. We spent a few minutes skipping rocks over the water and just enjoying the beauty of creation. And then began the journey up the trail. As I began to weary toward the end of the hike I was encouraged by the passing of a couple of families with little kids. I noticed that every, single, one of these children were smiling and filled with joy, which could only mean one thing - we were close! Not one kid was upset or on their dad’s shoulders and so they had to just be starting out, which meant our hike was nearly complete! I was reminded by this hike that every step along a journey matters.

Last Sunday we talked about getting the year off on the right foot. I talked to you about spending time daily in God’s Word and just how important this is to our relationship with Jesus. You can get 2022 off on the right foot by joining me in the New Year Bible Reading Plan at Wallula. We will read a chapter or two of scripture daily over the next 40 days and I believe God will use this time to shape each one of us in His image. Of course it matters just as much what steps we take in the middle of the year as it does the first few steps. And over the course of any year or hike or challenge we need encouragement. Small Groups are a great place for us to receive encouragement to continue in our walk with Jesus. New groups are forming right now at Wallula. You can register for a group that fits your schedule at wallula.org or on the church center app. There are groups that meet on Sunday mornings, nearly every night of the week and a few that meet during the day. There are groups for couples and for men and women. There are groups that will study a book of the Bible and that are focused on a particular topic. My favorite groups are sermon based. These groups help us to unpack what we learn every Sunday morning at Wallula and to dive deeper into the passage we studied. Be a part of a group today. It also matters how we end a hike. We want to finish strong. Find a way to encourage others in their walk this year. Maybe that means you take the leap to lead a small group this year, or maybe you’ve thought about being involved in our Kid’s Ministry but you’ve just been putting it off, or maybe you’ve been praying about inviting your neighbor to church with you, but you just weren’t sure if you should. Go ahead! Get started on the right foot, keep walking with Him and finish strong in 2022!

- Lance

Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

                  - 1 John 2:6