Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Final Debrief: Reflection, Encouragement, and Prayer

“Actions are mere convulsions until they become informed by thought and intent. Then they not only touch the world, but also gently caress it (Losey).” -Bear

“We had the experience but missed the meaning (Losey).” -T.S. Eliot

“Of what avail is an open eye, if the heart is blind (Gookin)?”
-Solomon Ibn-Gabirol

How are we doing? Have you ever had someone ask you this question? It is almost as potent as a cup of coffee in the morning. It wakes you up and causes you to think and process life and what you are working towards. This reflection is something that many of us fail to do naturally. When we do slow down long enough to ask this question, and wait for an answer, from ourselves or others, we are surprised by what we discover. Nothing is more satisfying and helpful in this situation than to have someone support and encourage you in your answer to, “How are we doing?” Prayer and encouragement go a long way in our reflection as we think to the future and as we move forward in our lives and goals in this wilderness expedition of life.

In executing an expedition in the wilderness, there are regular debriefs to keep one another informed and to take the “temperature” of a group to see how everyone is doing physically and emotionally. These debriefs are an important check up for us so that we can serve one another and accomplish group goals. In the National Outdoor Leadership Notebook, judgment and decision making are important and rely on the concept of reflection and debriefs. We learn good judgment through our experience by reflecting and making informed predictions about outcomes. The cycle looks like this: “experience, reflect on recent experience and look for lessons learned (debrief), and predict how to improve the next experience,” then repeat the cycle (Leach).

It is important in the expedition of the Christian life as well to encourage one another, pray for one another, and to keep one another informed of how we are doing and where we are headed. Paul speaks about encouragement and prayer support in his final salutations to the church of the Colossians. In Colossians 4: 7-18, Paul tells the Colossian church of his good friends that he is sending to them to inform them of what is going on and so they can be encouraged and served in their faith and prayed for. Paul also sends words of encouragement and support from others who are serving God and His church and Paul gives the Colossians his final instructions. Here is how Paul ends his letter to the Colossians:

“My good friend Tychicus will tell you all about me. He’s a trusted minister and companion in the service of the Master. I’ve sent him to you so that you would know how things are with us, and so he could encourage you in your faith. And I’ve sent Onesimus with him. Onesimus is one of you, and has become such a trusted and dear brother! Together they’ll bring you up-to-date on everything that has been going on here.

Aristarchus, who is in jail here with me, sends greetings; also Mark, cousin of Barnabas (you received a letter regarding him; if he shows up, welcome him); and also Jesus, the one they call Justus. These are the only ones left from the old crowd who have stuck with me in working for God’s kingdom. Don’t think they haven’t been a big help!

Epaphras, who is one of you, says hello. What a trooper he has been! He’s been tireless in his prayers for you, praying that you’ll stand firm, mature and confident in everything God wants you to do. I’ve watched him closely, and can report on how hard he has worked for you and for those in Laodicea and Hierapolis.

Luke, good friend and physician, and Demas both send greetings.

Say hello to our friends in Laodicea; also to Nympha and the church that meets in her house.

After this letter has been read to you, make sure it gets read also in Laodicea. And get the letter that went to Laodicea and have it read to you.
And, oh, yes, tell Archippus, “Do your best in the job you received from the Master. Do your very best.”

I’m signing off in my own handwriting—Paul. Remember to pray for me in this jail. Grace be with you (Peterson).”

It is clear that Paul has reflected on his experience of sharing the gospel, of being in the ministry along side of others, and of being in jail. Paul is also spurring the Colossian church on to reflection and consideration of where they are and where they are headed. Paul recognizes that reflection, encouragement, and prayer are essential for the success of the Colossian church and the church as a whole. Paul essentially asks and answers the question, “How are we doing?” for the Colossian church and himself. Paul invites them into this debrief to reflect, learn, and propel himself and the church forward into its mission.

Just as we are to debrief and reflect to have good judgment and decision making skills in wilderness expeditions, this is also our call as Christians traveling this expedition of the Christian life. We are to reflect, encourage, pray, learn, grow, and build on each other’s experiences to propel us forward to Jesus’ high calling for His church and our lives. We should always seek the answer to “How are we doing?” Like the poet Carl Sandburg said, “every now and then, a person should go off by himself and reflect, asking, ‘who am I, where am I going, and where have I been (Service).’” We are to reflect. We are to encourage, support, and pray for one another as we look forward to His glorious expedition, life in and through Jesus.

Becoming a reflection of Jesus, through reflection on Him,


Gookin, John. Wilderness Wisdom. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2003.

Leach, John Gookin and Shari. The Nols Leadership Educator Notebook: A Toolbox for Leadership Educators. Lander, WY: The National Outdoor Leadership School, 2004.

Losey, John. Experiential Youth Ministry Handbook: How Intentional Activity Can Make the Spiritual Stuff Stick. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004.

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo: NavPress, 2002.

Service, The National Park. "Carl Sandburg Home." 2008.

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