Saturday, October 25, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I don't know. I don't understand. Why are you showing me this Lord? What does this picture mean? A small voice in my head replies, "How did they get this way?". . .It comes to me. This state that they are in, is not from missing one meal. It isn't from having too little to eat for a month or even for a year. . .These boys have been chronically underfed their entire lives. . . even before their birth there was never enough to eat. Undoubtedly their mother was starving before they were born. . .Forget prenatal vitamins, it was an exceptional day when her belly was full once. Starvation does not happen from any single event. Their state is the result of a process.
We tend to not like processes. We want to ignore the journey and focus only upon the destination. We do not want to go on a diet and exercise more, change our lifestyle to lose weight. We want liposuction. We do not want to sacrifice for months and years to save up for the down payment on a house. We want instant credit, no money down. We fret that the microwave takes too long to heat our instant dinners. We want our bread sliced and packaged. We do not like processes. We want things quick. . . no waiting required. . .
Monday, October 6, 2008
A couple of weeks ago I closed the season of street ministry. I created a final message flier for the neighborhoods explaining that the daylight is growing too short in the evenings and soon the weather will turn cold and wet making it difficult to minister on the streets of our city. In planning on how this street ministry would work, I had considered this interval between September and March as a season of rest, and rebuilding. . . a time or preparation for the next year, but it has been gnawing at me that this is not right. . .
I read in Genesis:
While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
It's not said that God told Noah this. . . (v22) the LORD said in his heart. . .This was a thought directly from God's heart. The Lord divided time on the earth into cycles and these cycles will not end as long as the earth exists. That is His promise. He has given us two positions, two alternating states. It is not described as some kind of selector switch with lots of options. There are not multiple possibilities, but only two alternating positions. . . Seedtime and harvest are the first mentioned. As the first mentioned, significantly they apparently form the basis of everything else. . .The sowing, the exuberant, the prolific setting out of seed upon the earth in the hopes that some will find good ground and then the subsequent taking in of the fruit of the crop are the only two seasons mentioned.
And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; (27) And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. (28) For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. (29) But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.
It is my responsibility to cast the seed in the season of sowing. I am to cast it on all types of ground. The sower sowed it on rocky ground and in thorny places. He threw it in places where he surely could have predicted that it wouldn't do well, but the sower was never criticized for sowing in difficult places. It isn't said that our job is to judge the soil. It is our job to sow where we find soil. Likewise, I have nothing to do with the germination or the pushing forth of the leaves or the flowering of the plant. . . he (I) knoweth not how. . .but our seed, the Word of God is viable. It is fertile and potent. It will bear fruit. It will not return void, without accomplishing God's purposes.
I have been casting seed into the ground, but what about the harvest?
Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest.
I have tended to use this verse to signify that I can pray to God for more workers to assist in the work of His kingdom. I focused on the praying for more workers. I only looked at the asking for more laborers, but see what this verse does not say. It certainly does not say that it is the Lord of the harvest who does the harvesting. I believe the point Jesus is making is that the crop is bounteous and that we will surely need help in getting the crop into the storehouses, but it does not in any way absolve me (us) from the work of the harvest.
What farmer casts his seed upon his fields and then goes on vacation at harvest time? That would be worse than just foolishness, it would be criminally wasteful of resources and stupidity itself to have put all the work required into the planting and cultivation of the fields and then to leave the grain to rot right where it stands in the ill conceived hope that some one else would come along and do his gathering work for him. Now if his yield is so great that it is beyond his means to bring it in by himself then that is another scenario. We can only do what we can do. . .
Now in this season of harvest Mark 4:29 says that when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come. It is not a question of the calender. The only criteria is, "Is fruit brought forth?" After the seed is planted, is now fruit being produced on the plant? If there is fruit, then immediately is the time for the crop to be cut away from its attachment to the soil. It must be taken from its place of planting in the dirt and brought into the storehouse. It must be taken away from the open fields, away from the predators, away from the elements that would knock it down, trample it, devour it. . .destroy it.
Lots of wonderful metaphors here. All in all though, I have been only focusing on the sowing, and have given little thought to the reaping. . .I must change that.
I have made some wonderful friends over these months walking the streets. The week day evenings are not realistically available to me for ministry during this time of year, but my thought now is to concentrate upon the contacts I have made and to try to deepen and expand upon those who have shown signs of bearing fruit. I love to bake homemade bread. My idea right now is to spend Friday evenings making 5-10 loaves of bread and go into the neighborhoods and pass them out on Saturday mornings. Unlike the weekday evenings, I won't have any time pressure. I'm not trying to cast seed over blocks and blocks of the city. Realistically I only have maybe a dozen or so people in mind to focus upon. Maybe I can begin doing Bible Studies with some of them. . .I must do something to bring them in out of the fields. . .
I thank you God. . .
I love you my Lord. . .
Posted by David Stokely at 11:29 PM
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Turn the Page. . .
Another day passes. . . another month begins. . . tear off the old calendar sheet. Look at the fresh picture on the new month's page. . .To most the beginning of a new month means a new cycle of bills begin. . .possibly a monthly income check arrives, but not much else. For me though, the landscape of my year is not a plain, but rather two plateaus with two valleys of varying and unpredictable depth between them.
October and March are my months of depression. I've written past entries on my seasonal battle with darkness, but each year it seems to catch me unaware of its arrival. This year it has started early. It was maybe 10 days ago (only seen looking backward) that it began this year. Jackie could probably pinpoint the day better than I. My most noticeable symptom is increased irritability. I become very critical. Lots of things bother me that normally I would give no thought to. Life becomes very much less fun. I have trouble finding anything that I really want to do. I have trouble completing tasks. I just want to go home and crawl in bed. My sleep is disrupted. I want to eat and eat (preferably anything chocolate). I have little patience.
I think I may be becoming better at recognizing its onset, but still I am taken unawares by it. It was only maybe 20 years ago that I first recognized it at all. I spent the first 30 years of my life not understanding that I was beset by depression, which was pretty foolish in of itself. My Mother's life was ruled by her mood swings and I was intimately familiar with the great tides of her moods. Where I have two plateaus and two valleys, my Mom had two Himalayan peaks and two deep sea crevasses. In her 'up' times, she would go days on days and even weeks (on occasion) without sleeping and then when she crashed do little but sleep for weeks or even months on end.
Tonight at Goodwill, I bought a copy of Eugene Peterson's, The Message (wisdom literature only: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon). As I was waiting for Jackie to get off work, I began reading Mr. Peterson's introduction to Job. He talked about how Job speaks to all of us in that Job suffered without doing anything to deserve what was happening to him. We can understand and even expect to have bad things happen when we have committed some crime or some sin, but we are also all very familiar with having done nothing wrong and yet having bad things happen. This is the story of Job.
It got me to thinking. That is what my depression is like. There is no attributable cause for my depression, at least none that I can figure out. I've had no recent death in my family, no loss of job, no marital problems, no illness, no family troubles. It just comes on with the turning of the pages of the calendar. What did I do to deserve this? Job suffered for nothing he did to bring it on, others also Joseph as an example. You can argue that maybe he contributed to his brother's jealousy, but that surely was not just cause to be sold into slavery and his troubles continued and even multiplied from there.
Now I surely am no Job. In no way am I comparable to Joseph, but I can still surely relate to their questions as to why these things were happening to them. They couldn't understand. Above all in terms of suffering is our Messiah. While He did understand what was happening, those surrounding Him did not understand why He stood silently in front of His accusers. In all these cases though there actually was a reason for the troubles brought into these men's lives. They did not understand. When in the midst of it, it seemed invisible to them. They could not see, but there were reasons that made their seemingly pointless suffering necessary and in fact a great blessing to many.
Job's suffering, is first of all today a grand lesson and instructive for we all who read his life's story. What a jewel of the Bible the book of Job is. Secondly Job grew greatly due to his testing. Job was shown many things about himself, and gained a magnificent first hand encounter with God which would not have taken place without his tormenting and testing by Satan. There was a reason. Joseph lived to see firsthand many of the fruits of his awful suffering in the salvation of his family. His memory is revered and we still study his life and learn again and again great lessons from him, thousands of years after he lived.
Job and Joseph and to say nothing of Jesus. . .did not bring on themselves what happened to them in the physical, but huge spiritual victories were accomplished through their undeserved physical suffering. I can see a lesson for me in their lives. I do know, that if nothing else, I am growing through my depression. It does make me stronger. It is a battle. . .It is not fun, but if I can learn anything from Job, Joseph, and Jesus. . . there is a reason behind it all. . .
Thank you Lord. . .