First of all, I have to say that one of my favorite things is when people stop me in the halls of our church or in a long line while shopping to share what God did in and through them during Chosen. I mean, that is what this is all about. So, thank you for sharing your stories of healing, baptism, and life change.
Now, I want to share a little about how God spoke to us about our theme for this year: Eden. Our goal is never to put God in some tidy box. When we start planning, I get a little nervous if I am being honest. I don’t want us to choose a word that feels small or a theme that feels contrived, just to sound unique or interesting.
So, I asked God for his direction and searched Pinterest for creative inspiration. I know that might sound strange, and some might say, “Didn’t you pick up your Bible and search for scripture?” Well. No, I didn’t. Don’t judge me. Maybe I am not as spiritual as some of you...LOL. Honestly, I find that method to be a little overwhelming. God speaks to everyone differently, and I feel most inspired by God through creation and creativity. Can anyone else relate?
On Pinterest, I was drawn to images of clay pots, stone walls, and soft, natural colors—and almost every image included an olive jar or an olive tree. I thought, Hmm, there is something here that is speaking to me.
When I was in Israel a few years ago and saw the ancient olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, I was drawn to their unique beauty, their small silvery leaves, and old, gnarled trunks. There was something special about them, but what exactly? I decided to do a little research.
I learned that an olive tree can be 1,000 years old and still produce fruit. It can handle drought, freezing temperatures, and even fire. It might be cut down, but its roots can still grow. Olive trees are extraordinarily resilient! I was speechless. I could totally relate to this tree, the way it came back and withstood so much. And it had so many uses: its oil was used for light, fuel, food, and for healing and anointing.
I shared this with our team, and in combination with what God had spoken to them about resilience, abundance, and the flourishing of creation, it led us to EDEN. We feel like God wants to remind us of the garden of our faith, to grow deeper roots so that whatever we face, even when we feel nearly destroyed, we, like the olive tree, can be resilient and flourish.