There once was a foolish farmer who loved his wheat field so much that he refused to harvest it. Months after carefully planting, watering, tending, and praying, his wheat was golden, ready to bring into the barns and be put to good use. The farmer walked his field, discussing the upcoming harvest. “After I gather you, I must thresh you.” The field gasped. “Does threshing hurt?” After a moment of hesitation, the farmer answered, “To loosen the grain involves beating and crushing and stomping on your stalks. I admit it doesn’t sound pleasant.” The field cried out sharply, wind rippling terror through the waving stems. It begged the farmer to relent, clutching at the ragged edges of his humanity. “Please no! That sounds unbearable!” Sobs and whimpers turned to stillness. “But the threshing is necessary,” the farmer replied. “If I can’t harvest you, you’ll be no good—just a lovely but wasted field. This process of harvesting is what you were created for. The pain will give way to joy, I promise.” The wheat implored him desperately until he finally decided that a lovely but wasted field was not the end of the world.
Three months later, the field froze to death under four feet of snow.
“Say what you wanna say / And let the words fall out / Honestly I wanna see you be brave.”
(Sara Bareilles, ‘Brave’)
You get a text asking if you’re interested in taking on a big assignment. Or your old nemesis from high school (totally a thing) sends you a friend request. Or God confronts you about how you’ve deeply hurt a family member. All of these require responses, and goodness knows, your flesh has a way it wants to answer.
(This post was originally published on the new LifeWay blog, Facts and Trends, on August 21, 2018. You can find it here.)
Whoever wrote the song “Easy Like Sunday Morning” has never been a pastor. The struggle is real.
My husband has been in ministry much too long for me to carry an ounce of naivety about the toll it takes. Brothers, you bear quite the load, but there are strong, sure, everlasting arms underneath yours. As heavy as your ministerial calling is, Jesus has another calling for you: rest.
She glanced in his direction, but her eyes slid easily over his form and moved away to someone else. Through the course of the evening, she conversed with every single person… except him. She laughed at their jokes, offered warm encouragement, and posed thoughtful questions to all the guests but one.
Have you ever been given the cold shoulder, punished with wordlessness? It’s not a happy feeling. I used to think God was silent. Now I know better. He has a voice, and He loves using it.
He’s not good. He’s not kind. He’s not present. Justice and mercy are far from his ways.
This is a god I created, and he’s a god worth hating.
Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t set out to form my own version of God intentionally. It just sort of happened. A subtle lie swallowed here (“Work harder”), a bit of unbelief there (“He won’t love you now, and who could blame Him?”), a tad of unchecked directional shift toward shame, and I had concocted myself a good old-fashioned idol—a not-God—worthy of the Israelites.
And He said unto them, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
Analyzing the speech of most believers, you’ll find a strange device on our tongues: Christianese. We sound like we’re stuck in the King James version of reality, trying to make the world around us understand how good God is by employing the verbal equivalent of an 8-track. It’s old, it’s tired, and it’s too stinking familiar to be of much use.
Aquariums creep me out. You go look at a bunch of water animals as they either stare back all glassy-eyed or hide nervously, one curious toddler away from an aquatic psychotic breakdown. The plaques are cool, though. You can take your time and learn more about what lurks in your local lakes than you ever, ever, ever wanted to know. Check out the lovable turtles as you stroll along. Study living sharks from the security of the other side of the glass. The vast array of sea creatures neatly lined up and ready to be beheld is incredible.
August is the best. It’s the perfect reason to splurge on a final beach trip, the double scoop of ice cream with sprinkles, and an evening chasing fireflies. August smells like sunscreen and stargazing. As we squeeze the last sweet drops out of this glory-stuffed summer, may the God who delights in our delight open your eyes to the joy He’s planted all around you.
(This post was originally published on the LifeWay Pastors’ blog on July 18, 2018. You can find it here.)
The days leading up to our church planting journey are a golden haze in my memory. As soon as we experienced the first missional pull six years ago, my husband and I consumed absurd quantities of Dr. Pepper and scrambled for every pertinent book, article, and podcast in Christendom. Despite the caffeine-induced fog, one sentiment jumped out from the masses of content and wrapped itself tightly around my heart. It hasn’t budged since. In a session on marriage and missions, the trainer asked a group of hopeful church planters, “Men, who’s your pastor?” He waited. Crickets. His answer knocked the wind out of me.