Monday, March 28, 2011

Simple, simple, focus!

This morning while I was reading a journal article on post-modern youth ministry, I read this statement:

“It is not unusual to have inspiration come from a rather mundane moment in life.”

How, true. How true! I’m constantly trying to see / hear / experience God in the everyday. I can’t imagine how many times I must miss God! But, this week-end was one such example for me of being challenged by the everyday! About 6 months ago, my husband’s children moved with their mom to Ohio from South Carolina. This week-end, I traveled with my hubby to Smithville, Ohio to pick up his children and bring them back to South Carolina for their spring break! We left Thursday night around 8:00pm and traveled about half of the 9 and ½ hour trip! On Friday, we made our way through Ohio …. the heart of Amish country, actually. Out of the 11.5 million residents of Ohio, about 58,500 of them are Amish (according to one website I saw). And, we were traveling through the heart of Amish country (the almost triangle shaped area between I-77, I-70, and I-71). Check out this google map of the area:

I was enamored by several things from the experience of making our way down Route 250through Wilmot and Mt. Eaton and over to Wooster. First of all, it was snowing (not sticking) for some of the trip which was exciting because I LOVE snow! Second, the amount of horse poop on the side of the road caught me off guard. I’m not being flip, it really did! The reason it was overwhelming was because, at first, I couldn’t figure out what it was. We were in the middle of now where …. literally – farm houses from time to time but no businesses or people! Then, out of nowhere, we passed a horse pulling a cart with a sweet Amish man inside. He was heading in the direction of the town we had just passed through. It turns out that on either side of the road, in this area, there is a special lane just for the horse and buggies. Hence the copious amounts of horse poop. I even read an article online that said there are more horses than people who live in Amish country … stunning!

And then we began to see these signs … you know like the deer crossing or warning signs we see here in South Carolina?! It seemed comical at the time. But looking on it now, I am impressed with how inclusive the local government is of the Amish people.

The deeper into Amish country we got, the more I was caught off guard. The next thing I knew there were tourist attraction signs … they looked similar to like a rest stop or Interstate exit kinds of signs. The sign would say at the top: “Tourist Attraction” and then below would list the miles and direction to everything Amish in the area - restaurant, gifts shops, cheese stores, or furniture businesses. I struggled with # 1 - why these people and their businesses are a tourist attraction and # 2 - with wondering how much money the Amish make from attracting tourists.

Finally, I feel like I was nudged by God at the simplicity of the Amish life in today’s society. Until I did some further reading online, I guess I didn’t realize their rich history. I do think that the boundaries they draw are a lesson for us all! Of course, most of us know the Amish for their simple living, plain dress, and reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology. I’ve, naturally, been thinking more about simplicity in my life because of the practice of silence I’ve included for my Lenten practices! So to learn the prohibitions or limitations on the use of power-line electricity, telephones and automobiles, as well as regulations on clothing of the Amish intrigues me! How less complicated this way of life seems!

As I think through this topic of simplicity, I think about Paul and his writing in 2 Corinthians 11:3 about the simplicity of our love for God … and how easily we are lured away from it (just as the serpent did with Eve). And, I challenge you to think about the Old Testament King – Jotham. In one sermon I heard, he was portrayed as the king of simplicity. In fact, in 2 Chronicles 27 - we read that his one, constant, uncomplicated focus was to please his God. It’s a VERY short chapter; I would encourage you to read it here.

Notice .... everything written about King Jotham in that 27th chapter is positive. The challenge from this Biblical example and from my example of the simplicity of Amish people becomes to consider our focus! Especially, this becomes important, I think, when we feel bogged down by life or stressed. Of course, the temptations of life lure us away, including stress and busy-ness!

So, just what is your focus? Only you can answer that! As teenagers, I’m guessing our youth would answer that their focus is school, friends, family. And I pray that God and serving others would fit in there somewhere for the teens I encounter in youth ministry weekly (after all, that is what I am trying to teach)! So the challenge then becomes our focus on God …. is it constant, like Jotham? If not, can it be? Your focus on your friends, your popularity status/struggles, your self-image, your athletic ability, your study habits, what others think of you – those are all constants in our lives! Remember, our lives bear the evidence of our focus!

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