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Friday, April 23, 2021

Did you fall off the face of the earth??

 It's been a full year since I posted anything new on this blog. That wasn't something I planned. During the past year it's been hard to know what to say in so many areas, and maybe I've just kept my silence. Was it Lincoln that said it's better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, rather than to open it and remove all doubt?

Things change. We've experienced wave after wave of Covid, racial and social unrest, and massive societal challenges. I haven't quite known what to say about those things. Just recently, with the murder conviction of Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd almost a year ago, there are so many voices speaking into the chaos. I applaud them. It is necessary for people to speak into the face of the challenges we've faced as a society.

I've had my own challenges these past months. Almost a year ago as I was in prayer one spring morning, I heard God say, "Get ready to get out of the boat." Beyond the allusion to Peter stepping out on the water to meet Jesus in Matthew's gospel I wasn't sure what that meant. It was such a clear word, and I pondered it for weeks and months. In spite of all the unrest in the world, my own life seemed pretty solid at that time. I had a large social network and a position in which I was able to preach and teach in what seemed like a thriving church setting. In my teaching, I was able to develop themes I'd taught in the past and lead people more deeply into God's Word and the life of following Jesus through the power of his Spirit. It was good work, and it was bearing good fruit.

Because so much in my life seemed so good and stable, I wanted to invest more deeply in the local community where I lived, so I bought 40 acres of land a few miles away. It included an old farmstead with an aging metal barn, a little pasture, and some cropland. I explained to my friends that it was a way to double down in this specific part of the world. I wasn't going anywhere. I expected that the land would provide a place to reconnect to the land and my roots. Last November I bought a small tractor, and I started spending some of my spare time playing with projects out on "the farm." Far in the back of my mind, I toyed with someday putting a home on the property, though it was far from livable. 

Over a period of a few months, God's word to me about stepping out of the boat began to be fulfilled. My position in the church (and with it my living situation, since I was living on church property as a site manager and security presence) became unstable. Over my objections God spoke clearly through my circumstances that it was time to move on. During the winter I resigned my position and made arrangements to move to my land. At the end of March I purchased a good-sized camper. I felt like something between a pioneer and a refugee.

I'm sitting in that camper as I write this. Most of my belongings are packed away in the barn a few feet away. Little by little, investment by investment, I'm figuring out how to make my life here. With a lot of help, the barn is being transformed into usable space. What looked like a sea of weeds when I first saw this property has been mowed and might someday become a garden, an orchard, a pasture, a front yard. The buckthorn and burdock is giving way to miraculous amounts of green grass and beauty. I'm working on things like a well and electricity and a septic system. My views these days are of the sunrises and the sunsets, of the deer and pheasants that inhabit my few trees and lowland pasture. 

Work and church have both changed. I'm very much enjoying my job these days, which is in a light manufacturing company that supplies taxidermists with fish replicas. I've learned a ton about so many things, from fish to leadership to shipping to economics to my own strengths and weaknesses. And while it is odd not to be employed by the church, to be honest it's a joy not to draw my salary from people's donations. It has been a crazy adjustment to have discretion over my evenings and weekends, and to be paid overtime wages when I work more than 40 hours in a week. 

At the same time I'm rediscovering what church means. A few of us meet together weekly to share food and worship and scripture and prayer. "Home church" as we've taken to calling it might last anywhere from a couple hours to most of a day. Each of us who participates brings something of value into the gatherings, and it is such a joy to be together. I have better relationships surrounding me than I have ever known. 

There are deep wells of meaning in this life, along with challenges that make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. In the coming days I'd like to write about redemption: how God takes things of no value and gives them great worth. I'd like to write about this land, and how in the specific details of loving it, it is coming back to life, and so am I. I'd like to write about where I see God moving these days in his church and what that means. By God's grace, I will do so. Like so much in my life it will no doubt be sporadic, so I apologize in advance. But any of you who are still in touch with this blog have endured seasons when it's disappeared altogether, so I trust you'll be patient. 

I'll close this one up with thanks to Stephen who reached out via email a while back to check in, and who told me in no uncertain terms that I should be writing my blog again. The Spirit used that nudge. Thanks!