Ready for the weekend? We have two different endeavors for you.

The first part will be difficult to track, but it may be one of your most eye-opening experiences so far. This weekend, pay attention to the people around you. This doesn’t mean being nosy or staring. It means being aware of signals that someone might be having a rough day, is excited about something, needs a word of encouragement, etc.

It can be easy to plunge through our own days with our own agendas, unintentionally missing the needs of others around us. Try to see people. Notice them. And finally, be open to the Spirit’s leading to reach out. Sometime today, ask God to help you do this — to keep your eyes and heart open to being His hands and feet to anyone you may meet this weekend.

The second part is much more clear-cut: Go to church. While you are there, we’d like you to do two specific things:

1) Thank the pastor. If you know your pastor well, you may wish to do something ahead of time like bake him cookies or write him a card. But just thanking him in person after the service is great, too. Try to be specific, such as pointing out a part of his sermon that you liked or talking about something you know he’s doing for the congregation. It is easy to underestimate the difficulties of a pastor’s job or to acknowledge them but then forget. Words of encouragement will go a long way to help him persevere.

2) Talk to one new person at church. You can talk about anything for as long as you’d like. The goal is to become a little bit more connected with the body of Christ. If you are an introvert like me (Megan) and this sounds difficult or intimidating, take a look at Rachel Starr Thomson’s article, “An Introvert Goes to Church.”

This weekend, I had the opportunity to run several dutch oven cooking demonstrations for the Wild Trails Horse Expo in Redmond.  I had a blast, and I had the chance to work with and meet a lot of excellent people.  It actually made the first part of this challenge somewhat simple to accomplish.

I was around a lot of different people all weekend, but I saw several many times during the event.  It was interesting to watch how they interacted with one another, and I was definitely able to pick up on subtle cues of stress, anxiety, and even excitement from most of them.  It came from the way people talked to one another, whether or not they'd hold the door for the next person going in or out of the building, and even how they talked to the horses.

Actually, watching people interact with the horses showed me more about how a person was feeling than anything else.

Really listening to the way people were talking and what they were talking about also led to some interesting conversations.  Particularly about faith.  I ran into several Christians who are using their work with horses as a way to reach out to the community in ministry.  I'd heard of several ways to convey the message of Christ, but that was a new one to me.  It was fun and revealing to learn about, and I made a handful of really great connections before the weekend was through.

Unfortunately, the schedule of the weekend limited my ability to complete the second part of the challenge - I was 3.5 hours away from my home church, my first demonstration started at 9am, and the earliest service I could find at any of the local churches after hours of Google-ing was 10am.  So for the first time in a long time, I was unable to attend church today.

However, I will be completing the second part of this challenge next weekend so that I'll have completed everything on time.