My husband and I had the opportunity to join a group of people for a weekend on a farm in Iowa. Now to some of you that may not sound too exciting but this was a genuinely fun weekend of meeting people, enjoying God’s creation, studying Nehemiah and just being away from our “normal” day to day activities.
This was a unique gathering of people. The host shares life through a daily e-mail with what is now literally hundreds of people. Three years ago he hosted the first “Weekend On the Farm” inviting everyone on the “morning list.” The tradition was started. This year there were people there from Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Washington, Southern California, Texas, Hawaii and of course, Iowa. I used the word unique for this group but that’s not entirely true. All through scriptures people gathered together to hear the reading of the word in the Old Testament, see Jesus in the New Testament, or as in Acts to figure out what to do next. That Acts group was a lot like us this weekend.
In Acts 1 the apostles had been told that they would receive power and to wait for God for further instruction because they were to be God’s witnesses to the people. That is true of us as believers today. Weekend On the Farm was like the gathering of the apostles. We were there because we all sensed that God had something to teach us. Like them, we prayed, we talked, and we looked into God’s word. While it’s true a couple of Pastors were in amongst our group, the teaching was done by a different person every session. Most of these people were “lay people”, not highly educated Bible scholars. Interspersed throughout the weekend a variety of people told their “story” of life. It’s my opinion we learned just as much from hearing each others “stories” and talking one on one as we did from the corporate times of actual Bible teaching. Which to me means it was the right mix. We were focused on the Word, away from our every day distractions, open to all God had for us in each moment.
We studied leadership from the book of Nehemiah, great life lessons for all of us. I intend to take the next several days to review, reflect and let soak in the lessons God has for me. Starting right off today with Nehemiah 1 which finds us in the summer palace of King Artaxerxes. Nehemiah was cup bearer to the King. He lived in the palace but when his brother and some other men came he asked about his people,the surviving Jewish remnant and Jerusalem. He cared about them even though his life was separated from them at that time. When he heard they were in trouble it says he sat down and wept, then fasted and prayed. Obviously he wasn’t “politely” interested in them – just asking because it’s the right thing to do. He cared. He cared enough to allow himself to feel grief and to take time to fast and pray. When he prayed he talked to God about what he knew. He knew they had sinned – “acted very wickedly toward you”. But then he recalled God’s words to Moses, “…I (God) will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.” Nehemiah 1:9 (NIV)
Today as I reviewed all of this it strikes me that we can know, truly know, the God of the universe. Why would we not take the time to get to know Him? What could possibly be more important? If we know Him, then, when we are presented with the days concerns we know that we can go to Him. Be truthful with Him in our failures and our celebrations, then call on Him to fulfill His promises in our lives. When I read Nehemiah 1:9 today it jumped out at me that it says God has chosen a dwelling place for HIS name. God has a plan. We are a part of His plan. As people told their stories over the weekend a theme emerged. We were telling “our stories” which are really just a chapter in God’s story. But sometimes we think “our story” is the whole thing. Life is a lot more fulfilling, with a whole lot less anxiety when we realize that we are a “part” of God’s story. He is gathering us to the place He has chosen for us as a dwelling of His name. It’s amazing how that takes the pressure off of me today and yet makes me want to “do life better.” Hmmm, much to ponder from lessons learned during a Weekend On the Farm.