They now live in our hearts.
When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, I worked summers on the staff of a youth leadership camp in eastern Michigan, 360 acres chosen almost a century ago for their incredible beauty. Surrounded on three sides by water — Lake Michigan, Stony Lake, and Stony Creek — the grounds were named Miniwanca, or “many waters.” To this day I cannot name just one favorite spot in this place of wonder … towering wooded sand dunes running along the shore of the great lake, glorious sunsets looking west across the water, and a star-blanketed night sky that still takes my breath away. There, with my toes in the sand, I discovered new constellations, saw the Northern Lights, made lifelong friends, and felt my soul connect deeply to God’s creation. For me, the majestic dunes and woodland trails of Miniwanca are sacred ground.
And praise God, that’s exactly what has happened! Following the July tragedies came a thousand-year natural disaster, so they say — and an opportunity to reach out and begin to rebuild, not just physical structures but the relationships that define true community. We’ve seen neighbor helping neighbor, church helping church, and people from other states and countries taking up temporary residence in Louisiana to become the extra hands and energy we need. And yes, we watched with pride as our own unofficial volunteer branch of the military, the Cajun Navy, rescued hundreds from rapidly rising water.
In this unique season, God gave us — and continues to give us — the grit and grace, the heart and hope to move forward from a place of trial to a place of testimony. Every family now has a story of help and heroism to pass down through its generations — stories of God’s love in action. We bear witness to this portrait of community and must remember it, hold onto it tightly. It is a picture of how God calls us to live EVERY day, not just in times of crisis — to be His hands and feet and a reflection of His mercy — to aspire nobly and serve with Christ-like humility.
Last week I was re-reading Ken Gire’s Windows of the Soul. It is a beautifully written book that especially speaks to my “visual” perspective. Each time I read it, I uncover new insight into my relationship with God, usually something I need to work on, and I’m inspired once again to seek my best self in that area. Gire encourages us to be aware of God’s voice speaking in those moments (windows) when our lives unexpectedly intersect the world around us. He describes two of his own encounters with people in need, one in which he physically intervenes and the other which he only observes at a distance. Then he offers this inspiring and relevant passage and scripture:
“There is more to windows of the soul than what WE receive there. Something is also required. Sometimes it is a very small thing. Sometimes it is our very life. What is it God expects from us at those intersecting moments …?”
Is not this what I require of you as a fast:
to loose the fetters of injustice,
to untie the knots of the yoke,
to snap every yoke?
and set free those who have been crushed?
Is it not sharing your food with the hungry,
taking the homeless poor into your house,
clothing the naked when you meet them,
and never evading a duty to your kinfolk?
(Isaiah 58:6-7 NEB)
“It is how the Word of God dwelt among us. And how He dwells among us still.
Except now, it is our flesh He slips into.
What else could it mean to be called the Body of Christ,
if it is not His feet we are becoming. His hands?
If it is not going where His feet went and doing what His hands did, what is it?
“…the very least we should do is look. …And why? Why should we look? Why should we enter the picture?
Because it is what Jesus did. And what He would do if He were here. It is to those people He came.
And to those people He wants to come again. But He is in heaven.
And if He is to come to them at all, it must be through us.”
August and September are often the hottest months in south Louisiana, a time of year when we are more likely than not to retreat to the cool indoors. But this summer, we “entered the picture.” We stood as one community along Airline Highway as funeral processions passed. And either because of floodwater or the desire to help those who flooded, we came out of our houses and into encounters with friends and strangers. What meaningful and God-ordained steps forward in restoring our communities!
Like so many in south Louisiana right now, I continue to ask God to direct me — to use my gifts, my hands, and my words to comfort, help, and rebuild. Many days I fall short, feel helpless, and wish my 61-year-old body could do the things it once did. But God reminds me every day that I am able to do something, and all of us doing something in His name can and will make the difference.
Back in June in anticipation of the Olympics, an old friend and fellow sports enthusiast loaned me Daniel Brown’s book The Boys in the Boat. No, it’s not about the Cajun Navy, but its real-life characters reflect the same self-sacrifice, determination and devotion to team/community. These “boys in the boat” were blue-collar University of Washington students who, against tremendous odds, beat out all the elite crews from our East Coast colleges and then won gold for the U.S. in the 8-oar crew at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Their success was found not in each man rowing as hard as he could individually, but in how well each man’s efforts harmonized with those of the other seven. We might call it “being in the zone,” but oarsmen refer to that high level of team harmony as “finding your swing.” I love that expression!
But getting there, describes the author, requires more than strength, technique, or endurance: “A man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them. He had to care about his crew. It wasn’t just the rowing, but also his crewmates that he had to give himself up to…” Each man had to humble himself and become dependent upon his teammates —his community — to help him row.
One of the crew members, whose life had been filled with rejection, is understandably struggling to make that commitment. In a key moment, a UW staff mentor explains, “Joe, when you really start trusting those other boys, you will feel a power at work within you that is far beyond anything you’ve ever imagined. Sometimes, you will feel as if you have rowed right off the planet and are rowing among the stars.”
Remind us that our best selves develop only through knowing you intimately.
Enable us to hear Your voice more clearly so that we might enter the pictures around us
and become Your hands and feet. Give us strength and wisdom to live as Christ did,
aspiring nobly and serving humbly, so that we become leaders
in restoring our communities and building Your kingdom.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
We are the Bride of Christ, pursued by our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Come take a journey with us through God's Word as we discover the beauty and power of genuine bridal devotion.
Join Restore Ministries for a day away at Solomon Conference Center, November 12
as we explore the position, Divine passion and purpose we celebrate as His beloved.
This “Feast for your Soul” Event includes lunch, prayer on the beautiful grounds and Chapel,
Biblical teaching and glorious worship of Jesus, our Bridegroom.
“....Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb!...”
May we draw near and bow in worship as we wait in the hope of His coming!
Registration expires November 1st.