Friday, March 23, 2018
When I was doing the work of a pastor and preacher, it was easy to see myself as one who was in a partnership with God. When retirement came and life on a farm became the norm, everything seemed different. While the call to ministry was not just for a certain number of years to be turned off at a certain point, it took some time to learn to see myself as one who was still a partner. The other day when the last cow came out of the chute after her meeting with the local cow guru who did the A-I work (Artificial Insemination), I had an unexpected moment of affirmation as one still in that partnership which has been a part of my life for all these years.
What I have experienced here on the farm is a different kind of partnership. As the cow left the chute, I somehow felt like one who had a hand in God's work of creating new life. There have been other times when a crop of pecans was gathered, or a field of hay was baled and I sensed that I was a partner with God in caring for the earth. What I have learned is that a farm is a great place for sensing that what I do is partnership work with the One who called me to such a life way back when I was too young to understand what was ahead.
All of who trust in God and seek to live according to His plan for us are partners with Him. We partner in doing such things as feeding the hungry, offering care to the sick, being responsible for the physical stuff entrusted to us, and even the nitty gritty work of family life. None of us, no matter what our station and position, are outside the realm of living as a partner with God entrusted with doing some stuff which is important to Him.
Thursday, March 22, 2018
I remember well looking down the back fence line of the pasture as I was leaving the farm. It is a habit developed over the years. I came back on the farm about ten minutes later and across that same fence line was the top of a tree which had fallen in some gust of wind. Around the tree top which had pushed down the fence were all the cows in the pasture. All ten of them had gathered there to see if there was not some way for them to get to the other side of the fence. Now, their side of the fence had the hay, the beginnings of grass, water, mineral block, and dust bag. Everything they needed was on their side of the fence, but all they wanted was to be on the other side.
Sometimes I see too much of humanity mirrored in these bovine creatures that inhabit the pasture down in front of the house. It would seem they would be content with life as they had it, but give them a glimpse of something on the other side of the fence and they are ready to go. Many of our problems are bred by our own inability to be content with what is on our side of the fence. The Apostle Paul points us to a way of life that is difficult for many of us as he wrote to the Philippian Christians, "I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty...." (Philippians 4:11-12)
Too much of our life is about striving. Too much is about wanting more when we have enough. Too much of life is spent in seeking something which will surely give us happiness. Too much of life is spent in pursuing the illusion that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. God has put us where we are. The reason we cannot be content with where we are and what we have has to do with our trust in Him. We look to the other side of the fence because we do not trust Him to provide what we need on our side of the fence.
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
It should surprise no one that the disciples were overwhelmed by the prayer life they saw modeled through the life of Jesus. What we see in the pages of the gospel is surely more like the tip of the iceberg. The disciples found him gone in the morning before the sun came so that He could pray. They knew it spent large chunks of time with the Father in heaven. They heard His prayers. They were embarrassed with themselves by sleeping when told to pray for their own good. Steeped in a religious tradition that placed a high value on prayer, they no doubt felt like novices.
It is no wonder there came that moment when they said to Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples." (Luke 11:1) Some of them had been disciples of John before coming to Jesus and they knew what they had learned, though good, was not enough. There was still more to learn. It is a place that most of us have come in our own spiritual journey. Like many others, I have prayed much. Perhaps, not nearly enough, but it has always been a part of my spiritual lifestyle. And like many, I have read more than my share of books on prayers and have learned much from them.
However, it does not take much to realize I am a long way from graduation. Today while reading there was a brief word about prayer which caused me to painfully realize that I have such a long way to go. I keep coming to those moments of feeling that my prayer life needs a personal revival. My prayers today seem to be too much like the ones offered yesterday and last week. It is so easy to let the routine part of my prayer life become like a wagon which only goes forward in the ruts made from yesterday. There are moments when I just feel a need to cry out toward heaven, "Lord, forgive me and, please, keep teaching me to pray. Amen."
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
If some of those folks who went with Moses from Egypt to Canaan had been United Methodists, there never would have been a need for God to tell Moses to make a bronze serpent in the wilderness. The story of those slithery snakes who came at the call of God to punish the Hebrews for their sins is told in the 21st chapter of Numbers. Had their been some United Methodists around, they would have created a committee to figure out what to do and then sent out a "mission team" like group with big sticks to beat those snakes back into the bushes. Ah, but God did not have any United Methodists. He had something else in mind.
What is interesting about the story and something often missed is that even after the bronze serpent was made and set up on a pole for the snake bitten people to look for healing, the snakes still slithered around and in and out of the camp. They did not disappear. Verse 9 of that chapter says, "...when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze serpent they lived." The assumption is that even after the means for healing and wholeness was provided, people would still be bitten.
How true it is that trouble always seems to lurk around us. Some of it may not be much more than an inconvenience, but some of it is life threatening. We know God as the source of our healing and wholeness. We know Jesus as the One who delivers us from our sin. We know where to look for our Helper, Our Healer, Our Deliver. But, it is only when we make the final journey into the valley of death that we shall no longer see trouble and danger and difficulty around us. In the midst of our trouble, our Deliver can be seen, not on a bronze pole, but on a wooden cross.
Monday, March 19, 2018
It was one of those perfect afternoons. High above white clouds raced across the canopy of blue which covered the farm; yet, down among the pecan trees, hardly a breeze could be felt on a face warmed by the Spring sun. As I stood there aware of my small place in this moment of serendipity, the cows out in the pasture caught my attention. They had given up grazing and settled down on the earth to chew their cud. It was a picture of rest and peace. Suddenly, my mind went to a most familiar part of the Scripture which says, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Cows spend most their day working. Their work is eating grass and hay. But, they also know when to stop their grazing and settle down, get still, and bring up that food from one of their stomachs to chew on it some more. Watching made me think about myself and others who are like me. We do not always practice the wisdom of these bovine creatures. We forget that rest is a part of the order to which we were created. We rush and hurry, seldom stop, and call it living.
Maybe it is a kind of living, but it is not the living we were created to do. We were created for seasons of rest, times of quietness, moments when we realize who we really are, and Who it is that is providing for us. To replay the mantra for these days of my life, we were created to pay attention to where we are and who is with us. When we rush through our life forgetting to chew our cud, we miss out on something as necessary for our soul as air is to our body.
Sunday, March 18, 2018
When I finished High School in 1966, I went to the summer session at Young Harris College which put me a quarter ahead. Thus, instead of finishing at the end of Spring quarter 1968, I finished at the end of Winter quarter. Since YHC was a junior college, I had to make a decision about going to another college to get my degree. While it may sound strange to some, I felt strongly that God was leading me to Asbury College in Kentucky. So, I went to Georgia Southern College. I did not want to go to Asbury so my Georgia Southern quarter was my "Jonah in the belly of the big fish" experience. I had the best academic quarter of my college years, but was miserable so in the fall of 1968 I went kicking and complaining to Asbury College in Kentucky.
I cannot imagine how my life would have been had I not made the decision to choose obedience even though it was not what I wanted. I met the woman I would marry. I was present and transformed by the Asbury Revival of 1970. Those two things alone greatly shaped both my personal life as well as my spiritual life. Those two years at Asbury prepared me for the future in ways I am not sure would have happened in any other place. God knew what he was doing when He started pushing me in that direction.
I sometimes wonder how many times I have missed the leading of God. Some of those moments are rather obvious, but I suspect there are far many more that I just missed because my heart was bent on going in a different direction. God leads us throughout our life, but He never pushes to the point that we cannot choose to say "No." Always He respects our choices.
Saturday, March 17, 2018
History classrooms seemed like a waste to some, but not for me. History classrooms are filled with the names of important people, dates to be remembered, and a host of details. It is always interesting to read history with current day hindsight which illuminates the way certain events from the past gave direction to the future. It is also interesting to remember our own history through such a lens and realize the way certain moments were strategic in getting us where we are.
How did we get to where we are? How did we get from Point A to Point Whatever? Would life have been different had some of those moments been different? Would a different history have sent our life in a different direction? As we reflect with this looking glass which sees the past, we see the importance of our choices. A different choice in a particular moment would likely mean a different moment in our present.
But, another thing we surely see is the shaping and directing hand of God. He, too, had a plan for our life to which He has always been seeking to take us. His plan may, or may not be, as specific as the place we end up living as it is with the way we spend the energy of our lives. To look back is to see strategic moments when He began to take us in the direction of living in such a way that our lives count for the cause of the Kingdom. This look behind also makes us to see that even in the moment of wrong choices, He still persists in leading us to the place where our life becomes something other than a wasted trip. God does not give up on us.