Disorientation and Value

When I was young, I wanted to be a fighter pilot. To be fair, there were also times I wanted to be a cowboy, a policeman, an NBA player or the person who hands out suckers to little kids at the bank. These are dreams to which most little boys aspire.

But since my dad was in the Air Force, I got to spend some time around large planes and I dreamed of what it’d be like to fly one of them. (OK, I also saw Top Gun around that time and thought about how cool it would be to wear aviator glasses, ride a motorcycle and play sand volleyball with my shirt off, but that is neither here nor there.)

The dream died when I realized that I was actually afraid of heights. And also when I discovered the effects that a jet ride can have on a person:

That is not a natural thing for a body to endure. I’m told a ride along in a fighter jet can cause sickness and disorientation for days. Yet pilots have experienced these effects and their bodies have adjusted. What used to be disorienting has now become their natural state. Although it took much time and training, it is a way of life for them now.

I often find myself returning to certain portions of Scripture. One of them is Matthew 5:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

These are the types of words in the Bible that we might see sewn onto a decorative pillow, as if they are cutesy and sweet. They have become fodder for greeting cards and posters.

And yet they are some of the most disorienting words I have ever read.

tilt-3Jesus was not simply describing ways for a person to find blessing. He was introducing a new kingdom, a new reality where life is often upside-down from our expectations. A place where mercy overcomes revenge, where generosity trumps selfishness, and where peace is more persuasive than war. This is not the way we expect the world to work.

Our culture works in certain ways. It is built on strength and aggression and the dogged pursuit of personal accomplishment. We hunger for achievement, not righteousness. We wear masks instead of mourning. Kingdoms are built on blood and violence and pushing others down.

What Jesus was describing was a horrible way to build a movement. In fact, many people stopped following him (both then and now) because of words like these. It doesn’t seem like the best way to get ahead in life. Yet centuries later, many of us are still trying to navigate life in this way.

And many times I feel like instead of enjoying the ride, I’m passing out from the disorientation.

My faith is anchored in these verses, however, for one simple reason: If truth does not exist in these words, then the Jesus movement would have failed a long time ago. If blessing did not come from following them, people would have stopped trying. If purity was not greater than lust, if mercy was not greater than revenge, if discipline were not greater than self-indulgence, then the name of Jesus would be a footnote in history.

I believe that following Jesus is about living my best life right now. I believe that his kingdom is better than any other.

In our readings this week, Jesus explained the value of his kingdom. He told stories of people discovering a treasure in a field or finding a valuable pearl. And they traded whatever else they had of value to get it.

Too often I can’t get past the disorientation, past the upside-down nature of Jesus’ words to see the value that is there. But every time I do, I experience blessing and good life.

So today, may we all be like fighter pilots. May we push past the disorientation and upside-down nature of Jesus’ words. May we find blessing and the good life on the other side.

And may the kingdom of God be real in your little corner of the world.

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Ordinary Days: The Kingdom of God

KOG1I grew up in a military family for my entire life up until college. We lived all over the place, namely in Germany during the first Gulf War. There is nothing like living on foreign soil during wartime. When your country is in conflict and you are in another country, there is no ceiling to your patriotism. I remember feeling a tremendous amount of national pride as I saw troops flying in and out of the base we lived on as well as knowing other kids whose parents were fighting in the gulf.

I am definitely proud to be an American citizen. To me there is no better place to live. Yet, so often I forget my true citizenship and who whom I truly owe my allegiance.

Being a Christian is not merely a ticket to the better side of the afterlife. To bear the name of Jesus carries the responsibility of the Kingdom he brings.

This will not be an easy conversation. We live in a polarized political climate. You are either red or blue. Liberal or conservative.

But as usual, Jesus offers another way. This is a way opposed to the powers and political talking points of the day. This kingdom brings sacrifice and humility over power and influence.

This is the Kingdom. Let’s talk about it this week.

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.”

Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.

“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!

“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of every kind. When the net was full, they dragged it up onto the shore, sat down, and sorted the good fish into crates, but threw the bad ones away. That is the way it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the wicked people from the righteous, throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Do you understand all these things?”

“Yes,” they said, “we do.”

Then he added, “Every teacher of religious law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old.”

1 Kings 3:5-12

That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”

Solomon replied, “You showed great and faithful love to your servant my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued to show this great and faithful love to him today by giving him a son to sit on his throne.

“Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies— I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have!

Psalm 119:129-136

Your laws are wonderful.
No wonder I obey them!
The teaching of your word gives light,
so even the simple can understand.
I pant with expectation,
longing for your commands.
Come and show me your mercy,
as you do for all who love your name.
Guide my steps by your word,
so I will not be overcome by evil.
Ransom me from the oppression of evil people;
then I can obey your commandments.
Look upon me with love;
teach me your decrees.
Rivers of tears gush from my eyes
because people disobey your instructions.

Romans 8:26-39

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Prayer

Father,

Thank you for your Kingdom
Thank you for offering another way
We often grow myopic and assume the way we believe is the best
Yet, you show there is a way we have never considered.
A harder, but better way.
Thank you for a better way.

Amen.

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about the advice Allen gave me that made a difference

One of my fellow bloggers (Allen) gave me a piece of advice that has stuck with me ever since. This isn’t the exact quote, but it went something like this -

“To move forward in life you have to exchange one set of good things for another set of good things.”

barter2

 

At the time I was a few weeks away from getting married and I was really curious what marriage looked like. I had been single for almost 29 years and while I was thrilled to be getting married, I was really unsure of what changes it would bring to my life.

But this advice really stuck with me because of how true it was. Being single was awesome. I had freedom to do whatever I wanted, spend money how I wanted, and sleep in as late as my job would allow.

However, being married is awesome too. Living with someone you love is one of the most awesome things ever. And, doing so year after year gets better and better.

Yet to deploy a great piece of advice such as this, a choice had to be made with a sacrifice in tow. I would have to exchange the awesomeness of being single for the awesomeness of marriage.

In the Isaiah 44 reading this week, God challenges the people to find another God like him. Yes, there may be gods who are more fun to serve. Maybe in theory polytheism works better than monotheism. Or maybe even the people could create an idol much better and fulfilling than God. But, he wants to see it.

The longer I live, the less I see that compares with the God of the scriptures. I really have so many questions about God and why he chose to act certain ways in scripture, but in the meta-narrative of the bible, I see a God who really wants the best things for those who follow.

But, back to choice. As Allen’s apt advice states – you have to exchange one good for another good. It is really hard when the two try to coexist. I think this is one of the reasons God looks so angry in scriptures. When his people chose to live as they did before they were chosen (or chose Him), they were exchanging the great life God had given them for the very things they had originally given up to be his people. Scriptures seems to take us through the never-ending back and forth of God’s people as they tried to navigate what it really meant to live fully in his steps.

I have always identified with the sheer ignorance, forgetfulness, and hypocrisy of the Israelites in scripture. Those things mark so many parts of my life. When I think of my marriage, I think about the ways I have tried to live both as single and as a married man. You know what, that doesn’t work.

But this is where I think the meta-narrative of scripture helps us understand what God is after. Each day I make the choice to stick with my family and my marriage. It’s a daily choice. Some might disagree and say over time it becomes less of a choice. Maybe, but I could choose something else. But to do that, I would have to exchange all the good things I have in that relationship for things I have already given up.

Really, it is the same thing in scripture. We find over and over the people of God having to re-choose the Lord. It is a constant struggle, but in the end the choice of sticking with God always seems to be the best one.

So, let this encourage you today. Yes, the big choice to follow God is an important one. But more important are the many choices we make to stay with him and help others to do so.

Because, we have already exchanged so much to live with God. Let’s not take all of those things back.

Great advice, Allen.

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Three Steps to Better Decisions

I have always found it fascinating to watch college students as they begin the process of graduating and moving on to real life.

This period of time can be a real faith struggle as they make big decisions on careers, who they will marry, where they will live, etc. The most common frustration has to do with “the will of God.”

event_126924822I have seen so many college students who sincerely want to do what God wants them to do. They want to marry who God has picked out for them. They want to choose the job God intended for them and the job they can best serve God. And yet they are frustrated because God hasn’t “shown” them what choice to make. It is as if they are waiting for a Harry Potter owl to deliver their letter from God saying: Marry this person. Take this job. Pursue this graduate degree.

And while we more mature and sophisticated adults look at this and say, “Awww, that’s cute” I wonder if we have ever really grown out of this.

Exiting college comes with a whole lot of big life decisions, so the experience is exaggerated. But how many of us pursue “God’s will” waiting for God to tell us exactly what to do when we face a big decision.

Early in my spiritual walk, one of the people I read a lot advocated “conversational intimacy” with God. It was his contention that in every single decision we make, small or large, we should be asking God and waiting for God’s answer.

This drove me crazy because I never experienced this. It left me feeling like an inferior Christian because I didn’t know God’s exact opinion over every single aspect of my life.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of “conversational intimacy.” I think we hear from God, just in many different ways. I try my best to pay attention to God in my every day activity.

But it has never been my experience that God speaks to every single decision in my life. God is often “silent.” And I think this is the experience of most people, and assuming God speaks directly to every decision leaves us feeling spiritually inferior.

There is a fear underlying this perspective. It is a well-meaning, good intentioned fear, but it is a fear none the less.

It is the fear of making the wrong decision, the fear of “not getting it right.”

We worry God has some sort of master plan which we will miss out on if we make the wrong choice. Or we worry God has a preference between our options and will be upset if we choose the wrong one.

But look through the story of the Bible. How many of our “faith heroes” made solid choices all the time? In fact, most of the stories of these heroes is God redeeming their bad choices.

This may sound like heresy at first, but I don’t think God is as concerned with our individual decisions as we think.

We are human, we make bad choices. We choose the wrong thing all the time.

Perhaps God is more concerned with the TRAJECTORY of our life than each and every decision.

Because when we make decisions, we are moving forward. And God is concerned much more with our growth than with our “getting it right.”

God gives us reason and intuition and community to help us make sense of our world and make informed decisions.

But here is the thing: If we are searching and praying and discussing our decisions, we are doing so because we want to live into the life God wants for us. By pursuing God in the big decisions, the trajectory of our life is moving toward God, even if we make the “wrong” decision. We are orienting ourselves towards God, and that is what matters in the long run.

Based on this, I think there are three things we can do to make better decisions:

1. Rely on the Spirit. When we face a big decision, we need to leave room for thought, reason, and discussion. We need people speaking into our lives, and we need space to pause, contemplate, and maybe even try out new ways of thinking, living, or being.

2. Make a decision. While the first step is crucial, we can be tempted to let it cripple us. We have to eventually take the leap of faith and make the decision. Even if it is the wrong decision, we step forward and we trust. Which leads us to the third step.

3. Rely on the Spirit. Once we make the decision, we then turn back to trust and reliance on God. We trust God will act when we move forward. We learn to adapt. We learn to be ok if we fail. We allow God to work in the decision we have made and trust that he will mature and grow us because of our desire to move forward.

Making decisions this way does not guarantee we will always make the right choice. But making decisions this way teaches us to trust. It orients us towards God, and helps us be more aware of the trajectory our lives are heading.

There is no way to ensure we make the perfect choice every time. And God does not expect this of us. What God wants is our trust. When we begin to learn the balance of trust and action, we begin to head in the ways of Jesus.

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Ordinary Days: The Comparison

A few weeks ago, Trevor pointed out a phrase Jesus used in Matthew 11: Wisdom is vindicated by her deeds. The basic idea is that the wisdom of Jesus is vindicated by the results of doing things his way.

comparison-580Our readings this week lead us to comparisons — weeds and wheat, God and idols, the pain of today and the joy of tomorrow. This is the what our lives are made of: comparisons and choices.

Scripture seems to imply that these comparisons should make our choices obvious. So why do I have difficulty with the choices I make in life? It doesn’t always feel easy.

As we read and pray this week, the comparison becomes even more evident to us. And may the choices we make every day benefit from that clarity.

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.

“The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’

“‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.

“‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.

“‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’”

Then, leaving the crowds outside, Jesus went into the house. His disciples said, “Please explain to us the story of the weeds in the field.”

Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels.

“Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!

Isaiah 44:6-8

This is what the Lord says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies:

“I am the First and the Last;
    there is no other God.
Who is like me?
    Let him step forward and prove to you his power.
Let him do as I have done since ancient times
    when I established a people and explained its future.
Do not tremble; do not be afraid.
    Did I not proclaim my purposes for you long ago?
You are my witnesses—is there any other God?
    No! There is no other Rock—not one!”

How foolish are those who manufacture idols.
    These prized objects are really worthless.
The people who worship idols don’t know this,
    so they are all put to shame.

Psalm 86:11-17

Teach me your ways, O Lord,
    that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart,
    so that I may honor you.
With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God.
    I will give glory to your name forever,
for your love for me is very great.
    You have rescued me from the depths of death.

O God, insolent people rise up against me;
    a violent gang is trying to kill me.
    You mean nothing to them.
But you, O Lord,
    are a God of compassion and mercy,
slow to get angry
    and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
Look down and have mercy on me.
    Give your strength to your servant;
    save me, the son of your servant.
Send me a sign of your favor.
    Then those who hate me will be put to shame,
    for you, O Lord, help and comfort me.

Romans 8:12-25

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)

Prayer

O God,
Give me clear eyes to see,
ears to hear,
and a mind that can discern what is right;
so that I may choose well each day
and follow you like I desire.
Amen

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The Slow, Steady Process of Growth

ScarfI was shocked over the last month to see how the sport of soccer caught on in this country. Perhaps you were too as you witnessed the large crowds that gathered in places like Chicago, New York and Seattle to watch each American match. To see the banners waving and to hear their chants. To see passion and intensity.

I mean, did you see the reactions people had when the Americans scored? It was amazing.

I’ve been quietly becoming a fan of soccer for years. Since the World Cup in 1994, I have been captivated by the way it is so global, so beautiful when played at a high level. But I say quietly because in the past it has been almost taboo to be an American who enjoys soccer. No one wants to be painted with the big scarlet “S”, because doggone it, we’re Americans. And there’s no shortage of people who aren’t shy to explain why soccer has struggled to catch on in this country. From the typical to the flat-out ignorant and bigoted.

But the reasons always boil down to this: it’s boring.

At least that’s the way people see it. And you know what? I get it. People have a hard time sitting for 2 hours hoping for those few moments when you can really explode with excitement. Baseball suffers in our modern age for the same reason. We want to be titillated with excitement almost constantly. We need action and scoring. The majority of a soccer match is a slow-building tension that makes every goal a huge moment. The game just struggles to survive our ever-shrinking attention spans.

Which leads me to these agrarian metaphors we see throughout the Bible. I can imagine that these comparisons resonated in the ears of the original audience much more than they do in most of ours. Plants and seeds and dirt was their daily world; mine is filled with cars and cell phones and fast food.

But even though they spring from a world different from my own, they speak to me. They speak a truth that I need to hear: That spiritual growth is slow, steady and gradual.

In an age that demands instant results, this can be an unpopular message. We are used to almost instant gratification for most of our desires, but the process of becoming a new creation in Christ can seem torturously slow.

I am the person I want to be today.
I will not be the person I want to be tomorrow. 

Many give up for this reason. Because even when I do the hard work of cultivating “good soil” in my heart, I rarely see large leaps. Instead I see small changes, hints and whispers of spiritual progress.

But this is the way of all growth. You ever have one of those moments where you suddenly look at your kid or relative in a different light and you suddenly realize how big they are? All at once you realize how much they have grown. There they are, growing right in front of your eyes. Yet you are mostly unaware of what is happening in each moment, all the time.

This is why these biblical metaphors are so important. It’s the same thing I love about the slow burn of soccer and those moments when I realize my kids are growing. In between the “aha” moments of life are all of the ones where momentum is slowly building, when growth is steadily taking root and moving forward. And it’s all those moments in between that make those big ones so special.

small-plants-growing-1Our kids don’t grow 3 inches at a time. We don’t make huge spiritual leaps daily like we may desire. Yet the Spirit is still at work, through sunshine and rain, light and darkness, taking root in our hearts.

It is this slow, steady process of growth that makes the big moments of spiritual realization possible.

The work you are doing to make your heart the “good soil” Jesus describes is worth the effort. Even when you don’t see the immediate results — when you read and pray and give of yourself and share your money and listen to others — it’s all worth it.

Because even when you don’t realize it, through both joy and pain, good times and bad, successes and failures, the Spirit is at work to transform your heart. And one day you can open your eyes to realize that you look more like Jesus than you realized.

That is the slow, steady process of growth.

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about what we bring to the dry places

This past week I had the opportunity to travel with our church’s youth group to Nashville, TN on a mission trip. After years and years of leading these kinds of trips, this was the first one I wasn’t in charge of, and thus had some more time on my hands to simply observe and enjoy. We worked with an organization called Y.E.S. (Youth Encouragment Services) which has three different locations spread throughout the poorer areas of Nashville. The closest thing I could compare it to is a Boys and Girls club, but I think the comparison might do injustice.

YES

Y.E.S. serves kids from ages 4 to seniors in high school. All in the same gym. Now, everything I have ever been taught about working with kids told me a step like this would never work. How on God’s green earth would a four year old be able to effectively interface with a senior in high school? Wouldn’t the senior think playing with a four year old as something stupid and not worth the time?

Well, as you might think – I was wrong. I am a lot, actually. Immediately, we were struck by the simplicity and beauty of this organization. The main leader, David simply had to blow his whistle once and all of the kids lined up and got quiet to hear him share what they were going to do today. Really. 80 kids got quiet at the sound of one whistle. And, it isn’t what you think. This guy wasn’t a drill sergeant or an intimidator. Those kids simply respected and trusted him.

This was a top-down thing, actually. I believe the reason these little kids trusted and respected the leader so much was because the oldest kids in the room trusted him first. The high school students stopped and listened when he blew the whistle. So, the little kids did too. Really, I had never seen anything like it.

Many of these kids had complete crap for a home life. Outside of this place, there was chaos. But here, they had someone to trust and respect. At Y.E.S. there was food, shelter, safety, fun, relationships. Inside those walls, the chaos from the outside had no place.

When reading through the passages for this week (which by the way have been my favorite in a while), the last section of Psalms 65 got me thinking about my Nashville experience:

You take care of the earth and water it,
making it rich and fertile.
The river of God has plenty of water;
it provides a bountiful harvest of grain,
for you have ordered it so.
You drench the plowed ground with rain,
melting the clods and leveling the ridges.
You soften the earth with showers
and bless its abundant crops.
You crown the year with a bountiful harvest;
even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture,
and the hillsides blossom with joy.
The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep,
and the valleys are carpeted with grain.
They all shout and sing for joy!

My hometown is Wichita Falls, TX – which has made national news due to an extended drought which has all but drained their water supply. It is a barren and thirsty place that is screaming for what is written in these scriptures. So, naturally when I read this I think about my hometown.

cracked land

But, I also think about places like Y.E.S. and their impact on communities. My question is, what if Y.E.S. was not in that neighborhood? Would it survive? Probably. But, think about what life would look like for that community if there were not places actively seeking ways to bring the light of Jesus in? I think about places like Y.E.S. bringing the kind of life that is talked about in this passage.

This is what Jesus brings to the dry and barren places of our world. When followers of Jesus gather and serve in His name, it is like a hard rain on a parched land. Where there was once cracked earth comes a lush pasture. Hardened earth becomes soft and yields a bountiful harvest.

5194905-a-view-of-the-river-derwent-passing-through-lush-green-countryside-near-rosthwaite-england

So, the question is – are you part of something like this? Is your community bringing these things into the barren areas in your scope of influence? Is your community trustworthy, known as people to respect, or even a place of refuge from hardship? From the top-down, can people see the fingerprints of Christ?

Let’s talk, folks. I want to hear what you think about this. Comment responsibly below!

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