Look Up BLOG

Mar 1 3 Tips for Creating a Group Rec Game

-Andrew Cronic, Program Coordinator

I hate sitting still. I have to do something active in a day or I feel completely worthless. My wife usually ridicules that I’m like a golden retriever stuck in a kennel when I end up stuck inside for a day.

Because of that, one of my favorite parts of my job is creating and playing the group rec games! Here are 3 quick tips I follow when trying to create a game that your students will love. These probably apply to any games you can try at youth group or a lock-in as well!

1) Make sure that there’s something for everyone to do: I was always an athlete, so I loved running/jumping/etc. Your kid who loves drawing or graphic design and hates outside, may not want to join in on running/jumping/etc. If they don’t think they’ll be physically able to accomplish the task, they won’t participate. So make sure there are positions that are lighter on athleticism requirements so everyone in the group can participate and succeed.

2) Create something that they won’t have the opportunity to do every day: The game should be something that seems adventurous to the students. If they can pull off the same thing in their back yard on a given Saturday, they’ll be a lot less likely to play. So instead of a corn hole tournament every week, find a way to make “ultimate corn hole” where you shoot the bean bags out of water ballon launchers.

3) The simpler the better: No one wants to play a game that takes longer to explain than to actually play. Make sure the game is fun with a few twists and turns, but if only 10 kids out of 50 know how to play, then it’s a surefire bust! My advice: if there’s more than 3 major rules to follow, then scale it back down to make it simpler. You don’t want it to be so easy that it’s not fun, but err on the side of easy to understand rather than overly complicated.

Thanks for reading and I hope you guys have many fun filled days ahead with your students!


Feb 17 Fruit Support

-Abby Friend, Guest Services Director

In January of 2006, as a part of the camp internship I was doing, I went with a team to help out at a camp in Chile. (For the record, January is a perfect time to head to summer camp in the southern hemisphere.) Our group arrived in time to help the owners, a Chilean couple, prepare the camp for the campers that would arrive the next week. We did some cleaning and small maintenance tasks and helped build a fence around the property. As it often goes with work projects though, there either weren’t enough tools or supervisors available, so my friend and I were left doing jobs that weren’t as high profile. That was somewhat disappointing, especially since the reason we were there was to help! We wanted to do something impactful! But instead, we picked up trash around the camp, and on one hot afternoon delivered fresh fruit from our hostesses to the guys working on the fence. They took a break when we arrived, and we all joked that instead of being simply moral support, my friend and I were their “fruit support,” to which I made a face that said “I’m way more important than that.”

But the reality is I’m not better than fruit support. In fact, the reason I wasn’t excited about it was because I wanted to the recognition of doing something tangible. I wanted to tell people that I helped build that fence, and I wanted them to thank me for it. I didn’t want to serve the others who were serving, because that is boring. But really I was just thinking about me, not about the people around me. I forgot that service is about doing what needs to be done, and not about feeling better about myself.

God has been reminding me recently about what it means to die to myself, to deny myself like He tells us we must in order to be His follower:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

Turning from my selfish ways is difficult, you know? It means that I don’t get to choose how I serve – which means I’m not often doing the glamorous, up-front jobs, but usually the behind the scenes tasks like delivering fruit. It’s picking up trash or staying late to turn off the lights. It’s plunging a toilet or helping someone else do their tasks when it would be easier to just walk away.

And, I’ve learned that denying myself isn’t always doing anything. It’s letting that person in line at Wal-Mart cut in front of me even though I was obviously there first. It’s being patient when I have every right to be frustrated. It’s listening to Philippians 2:3 which says, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.”

So next time I balk at serving in a boring way, I want to think of others before myself, put a smile on, and offer some fruit support.


Feb 9 Broken Mirror is BACK!

-Charity Blackwell

One of my favorite moments of the year comes during one specific weekend. Usually this weekend is during the fall, however this year it is coming up in March. I find myself in this moment when I am standing in the back of the chapel listening to a room full of girls and women worshiping. It really is such a beautiful time. The chapel is decorated in a lovely way and it’s a time for just us girls to worship our creator and Father. This moment comes during Broken Mirror, which is our retreat for seventh through twelfth grade girls . I wanted to take some time and express the heart behind this retreat and what the title is all about.

For years I have been burdened for girls growing up in the world today. It’s hard. Girls are created with certain needs and desires that the world tries to meet in many corrupted ways. I so badly wanted a way to help girls see their true identity, value and beauty. I so badly wanted to communicate to girls that they do not have to measure themselves based on the scale our society presents. There is so much more to being a girl and becoming a Godly woman.

The average teenager is exposed to around three thousand images a day. This includes commercials, magazines, billboards, internet, flyers and other forms of advertisements. Unfortunately, the messages being communicated to teenagers are not pointing them to see the truth of who they are created by and who they are created to be. Girls find themselves in a cycle of looking to the culture to define them – to tell them what they should strive to be – and then feeling defeated when they don’t feel they measure up. The “mirror” of the world does not give a true reflection of who they are. This mirror is broken and can only show us broken images that are not whole. When we look in this mirror we cannot see the truth of who we are.

If we as girls and women can step outside of what seems to be the norm and look to our Heavenly Father and Creator, and let Him define who we are, we will see truth. Looking into the “mirror” of the Bible and God’s plan in creation gives us a completed and perfect image. No, we are not perfect, but we see His purpose for us and His heart in His creation. We begin to understand His plans for us and the love He has for each of us. And we desire these things. We desire the plans, the life, the purpose He has for us.

And really, one of the best parts of all of this, is the freedom that comes. When we realize that we do not have to fit the mold that the world tells us to, we find freedom. When we realize we do not have to look, dress or act the way society teaches, we find freedom. When we realize that we do not have to strive for the things many women seem to be striving for, we find freedom. When we realize where our true identity comes from we find freedom, peace and hope. We find life. When we know whose we are, we know who we are.

Without all the stress and pressure the world dumps on us, we can be free to enjoy the way God created girls! It really can be so much fun. We can still enjoy princesses, dressing up, playing sports, being artistic, and all the great stuff girls enjoy. We can strive for success in all we do. We can, one day, enjoy healthy marriages and families. We can work hard to have meaningful careers. But, none of that defines us. It’s all just a part of who we get to be. God’s design of women is a beautiful thing. It breaks my heart, as I’m sure it does His, to see the brokenness and corruption that tries to take over this wonderful creation.

I’m excited about Broken Mirror coming in March. I’m excited to once again have the chance to share with girls what the Lord has taught me about all of this, in hopes that He will work in each life represented. I’m excited for a weekend where we can all be challenged to embrace our true identities. I’m excited to stand in the back of the chapel listening to a room full of girls and women worshiping. And I’m excited about a good ‘ol girls’ weekend of FUN! Because let me tell you…we have fun!


Jan 25 What’s It Like To Be A Summer Staffer

Hear from three of our former Summer Staffers on their experiences at Look Up Lodge!
Jonathan Scott (2014, 2015, 2016)

When I look back on the last few years of my life, my three summers as a Lookup Lodge Summer Staffer stand out as one of the most impactful and formidable times of my life. From the days spent working “free time” to the nights spent teaching applications, every moment taught me how to better serve others and, more importantly, The Lord. In addition to this, the opportunity to teach and care for hundreds of students and kids every summer was a wonderfully unique experience that challenged me and fulfilled me in ways I had never been before. I am truly a different person thanks to my three summers spent at Lookup.

All this would be enough, but on top of this the Lord provided an amazing group of people to work with. The staff is an extraordinary group of people that provided some of the most laugh-filled tears I have ever. Working with them was truly so much fun and I now have life-long friends that I know will always be there to provide me with a good laugh, while still pointing me back towards Christ. Overall, I am so glad I spent three summers at such a wonderful camp.

 
Emaleigh Fouche (2015, 2016)
 
I came to camp for the first time in 6th grade and from then on I knew I wanted to work at Look Up when I got older. I’ve had the opportunity to work at camp for two summers and both were very challenging but, at the same time, some of the best times of my life. One of my favorite parts about camp is free time at the end of each day. It’s a chance to have great conversations and just hangout with everyone. The relationships I built with campers, leaders, and fellow staff members are bonds that I feel are impossible to break because of those moments we were given. I’ve had the chance to connect with campers who were going through things in their life similar to what I’ve experienced myself. There were conversations I had where God spoke through me in a way that campers would understand. The camp experience will open your eyes to things you would have never expected, both good and challenging, but its worth every second. Over the past two summers, God had taught me confidence, patience, how to be open and honest, and how to face my fear of failure along with many other things. None of these are perfected, but God still continues to work with me in each of these areas. 
 
 
Christian Brook (2016)

Look Up Lodge honestly is the summer of a lifetime, but for reasons you might not expect. Yes, there is always so much to learn and many laughs to be had; however, being a camper when I was younger, I went into working as a summer staffer in a dream like state where I expected everything to be fun and games the whole time. To my surprise, that was not the case. It was a summer of great challenge and many days of exhaustion. I was away from my family and my closest friends for three months and little opportunity to communicate with them.

I say all of this, not to look back in regret and frustration, but to say that it was worth it. It was worth all of the sacrifices I made because the challenges I faced gave me the chance to pour into hundreds of kids daily, grow in a tight knit community of believers for three months, and learn more than I ever thought I would. I came out on the other side closer to Jesus and when that is the outcome to anything, it is always worth it. So if you are thinking about working for Look Up Lodge, go for it. But never forget that it is not an opportunity to entertain your college summer, but an incredible chance to grow with the Lord and to love on kids who need people in their lives to look up to. And for that purpose, it is the summer of a lifetime.


Jan 13 Remember…Remember Not

-Leanne Boone, Head Administrator Vox Bivium Gap Year School

Having recently walked through a season of thanksgiving and celebration of the birth of our Savior, we now find ourselves just days into a brand new year. While spending time reflecting on the past year personally, as a couple with Greg and then as a family, a phrase that repeatedly came to mind and led to some exploration is “Remember…remember not”.

Remember. As we look to Scripture, we see God instructing the Israelites over and over to remember. So many tangible reminders were put into place to help them remember…the Passover, Festivals, the jar of Manna and Aaron’s rod placed in the Ark of the Covenant, Ebenezers, all to help God’s people be intentional to remember the incredible things He had done for them. We are instructed by Jesus to participate in the Lord’s Supper “in remembrance of me”. I believe God gives these reminders and directives to His people of old, His people of now…me, you, because 1) it is important and 2) we aren’t very good at it.

But what is remembering…really? Is it just to recall memories or events and think pleasantly about them? I think the answer lies in the results produced when we actively make the choice to remember. This is, by far, not an exhaustive list, but remembering tends to build our faith, guide us to obedience and away from grumbling and complaining, and lead to the place of gratitude, thankfulness and ultimately, humility, as we gain greater dependence on the one who PROVIDES all these things we are remembering.

I like the image of driving down the road, looking in the rearview mirror and remembering all the pieces of the journey…the beautiful scenery, safety from accidents, a car that is working properly, bridges crossed that withheld the weight of your vehicle, the sun setting behind you….all of those good things that made up your trip. Sometimes that is not so hard at all. BUT what about the trip where we drive a non-descript piece of interstate with bumper to bumper traffic, exhaust fumes, and the dashboard clock mocking us as our ETA ticks later and later? Do we tend to remember, on that trip…that we had a working heater to combat the cold of the winter’s day, a radio or play list to pass the time, a full tank of gas to make it, even though stuck for a long period of time? In Ps. 105:5, David says to the people of Israel to, “Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered.” To truly remember is to see both the good gifts in our lives and the ways God provided even in difficulties.

Remember not. If we drive down the road constantly looking in the rearview mirror, obviously bad things are going to happen. The same is true in our lives. There are times when we should “remember not”. When Isaiah is prophesying God’s words to the Israelites in Is. 43:18-19, he says, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing.” This was a part of God’s forgiveness and restoration to His people. He wanted them to forget the failures of the past and look ahead to the promises of the future when he would lead them out of Babylon. Paul says to the Philippians that he is, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead….” Phil. 3:13. We need to look ahead to plans, and goals and dreams that will follow God’s will and lead us to obedience. “Remembering not” can prevent some things from becoming the albatross around our neck, and therefore, preventing us from forward.

As believers, we need a healthy balance of these two. So how do we know when to remember and when to remember not? For me, it is the practice of recognizing those thoughts that lead me to thankfulness and obedience and life…and I remember. And then realizing the thoughts that lead to selfishness, pride, negativity, destruction and death…and I remember not.

As we walk through this new year of 2017, what tangible reminders can we create to enable us to remember? And how can we be diligent and intentional about those times when we need to choose to remember not?


Jan 4 Being Rich Has Nothing To Do With Money

Mark King
Owner – King Consulting

One of my favorite movies during the holiday season is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” In fact, when Laurie and I worked fulltime at Look Up in the 90’s, summer staff would come back on their Christmas break just to watch it with us. It is full of great quotes, but the one that “gets” me every time is Harry Bailey toasting his brother George, “the richest man in town!” If you’ve seen the movie, you know how he became so rich, and it has nothing to do with money. However, at the start of a new year, money is one of the things most of us think about to some degree. The overused and under-accomplished New Year’s resolution is “I’m going to get my finances in order.” It still is a great goal to have, but many go about it the wrong way. Let me share with you some quotes to live by that have helped me keep my finances in order. And they don’t deal with the accumulation of money.

The first is another quote from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but it is not spoken. It is in a frame under the picture of George’s father, Peter Bailey. It simply states, “All you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.” Scripture puts it this way. “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” –Matthew 6:20-21 We all need to plan for emergencies, retirement and kids’ college expenses. However, as far as collecting treasures, you would do better to give it away. Try it and see how happy it makes you.

Another quote I live by is from financial guru, Dave Ramsey. “You can’t borrow your way into God’s will.” Some people have borrowed their way out of God’s will. They are so deep in debt, they can’t give what God wants them to give, they can’t go where God wants them to go, and they can’t do what God wants them to do. They are slaves to their creditors. God will have to wait until they get out of debt. There are others who will use God as an excuse to go into debt. “God wants me to have a safe car, so I need this new one!” “God wants me to enjoy the life He’s given me, so I need to take this trip.” “I will be better able to minister to other men with a boat; besides, Jesus needed a boat.” Even if you convince me any of that is really God’s will, you will never convince me that He wants you to go into debt for it.

The last one comes from my father-in-law. “You can’t out-give God!” And I saw him live this out. As God would bless him financially, he would give more away. And God would give more. It’s a financial equation that doesn’t make sense in any economics class, but in real life, it’s proven every time. In fact, it is the one thing God says we can test Him on. Malachi 3 tells us that we won’t have enough room to store all His blessings.

I hope these quotes will help you get your finances in order. There’s a great deal more to managing the money we have, but if you get these things down, the rest will be much easier. And as a business partner with Look Up, let me encourage you to give to the ministry there. The staff at Look Up are doing a phenomenal job, but there is much more to be done. You can help by partnering with them financially. If you have been blessed by their ministry, why not be a blessing to them? And if not to Look Up, then find another ministry where you feel God is leading you to give. Remember, you can’t out-give God!

I hope you will be successful in all your New Year’s Resolutions, but remember, “No man is a failure who has friends!”


Nov 23 Do Work Son.

-Matt Ambrose, Director of Project Management

I enjoy work and have had an opportunity to experience quite a few different types of it in my short 28 years.  In each, I find moments of success and accomplishment.  On the other hand, I’ve also felt like hours of my life were useless and mismanaged.  After a few years of working, and conversation with men much wiser than I, here is what I have discovered – Work is dynamic.

Work was here before the fall.  Genesis 2:15 tells us that God put Adam in the garden of Eden to work, and take care of it.  A few verses later we see that God has added to Adams workload when he is given the task of naming all the animals.  All of this happens prior to the fall.  I think it is extremely important that we stop to think about that, because it shows that work isn’t a consequence of the fall, yet something that God has created us to do.  We have been given energy to exercise dominion on the world around us and God’s image is shown when we do that.

Work changed with the fall.  With man’s sin, the work became cursed.  Thorns and thistles come into play, and we are told that we will eat by the sweat of our brow until the day we return to the ground.  So, we do.  We wake up early when we wish we could sleep in.  We blister our hands digging holes just to fill them back in, and my favorite of all, we spend hours finding the perfect words while composing an email that, in the end, no one will read.

So why did I choose to write about work in my first ever attempt at a blog post?  Because God has used work to show me a lot about myself in the last 6 months.  The struggle between fulfillment in what I spend most of my day doing, and despair when I feel unaccomplished has been a great reminder in where my identity truly lies.  While work has redeeming qualities, it is not what has redeemed me.  I want to work in a way that shows that.  Just a little thought for now…

 


Nov 11 Serve. Serving. Service.

-Charity Blackwell

Serve. Serving. Service.

Unfortunately I think those words have become misunderstood in our culture and have even gained a negative connotation. The mindset that I have observed in people and heard through conversation (when discussing coworkers) is, “I will not let them walk all over me.” Sadly, I think this is what many people think of when they think of serving others. I think part of the reason for this is that the first definition under the word serve is, “to act as a servant”. Many would read that and instantly think to themselves, “I will not do that. I will not be anyone’s servant.” I think even believers feel tension with this concept.

So, how do we handle the fact that the Bible tells us that Jesus himself came to earth to be a servant? Mark 10:45 says, ““For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” How do we handle the fact that we are told to serve others? Galatians 5:13 says, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

Jesus had more liberty than any person has had, yet he chose to use this liberty to serve. He did not exalt himself. He did not take the attitude mentioned in my first paragraph. He humbled himself. He came to the earth in a very lowly way. He washed the feet of his disciples. He died a horrific death, to serve. He served His father. And, he served us.

I find it ironic and sad that the very people that God created, and that Jesus ultimately served through his death, believe that we have the right to say we will not serve others because we view ourselves as more important than servants. How can we exalt ourselves above others when we are sinners and in need of a savior just as they are? Jesus humbled himself, yes, like a servant. He loved us. He served us. He died for us. He gave us all of himself. Now, we are to follow his example. We are to humble ourself. We are to love. We are to serve. We are to do all of this with the goal of pointing others back to Jesus. If we are viewed as “nothing but a servant” then so be it. This life is not about us. It is about showing others the love that we have been shown through Jesus’ ultimate service.

Will this always be fun and easy? No. Was it fun and easy for Jesus to serve? No.

Explaining the heart behind this can be challenging. In a sermon I heard at church a few months ago, I heard good words to explain this. Instead of trying to come up with better words, I will share these with you.

“This kind of life, that has trusted in Christ so much so that we feel compelled to serve others, because He has served us…That life empties you. That life will empty you. It will make you tired. It is not all joy and ease. It is work. There is some suffering that goes with it.

The thing that motivates us is that when we came to Jesus saying, ‘I don’t have any clothes. I don’t have a house. I’m hungry. I’m tired. I can’t deal with my sin on my own. I can’t get into heaven on my own.’ He did not turn us away. We were more desperate than anybody we will meet. He did not just give us some of what He had. He gave us ALL of Himself.

That is the gospel. We were more desperate than anybody we will ever meet and He met us with all of Himself. Since He has so filled us. He asks us to meet others in need with part of ourselves. This should be viewed as an incredible opportunity for us.”

“Through love serve one another.” Practically, what does that look like? I think it takes on many different appearances. It looks like assisting your coworkers in tasks at work, even if it makes your day longer. It looks like sacrificing for your children and pointing them back to Christ. It looks like loving your spouse well and fighting for your marriage, even when you don’t feel like it. It looks like loving foster children who come into your home, even though it makes your life harder. It looks like volunteering your time at church, when really, you just want Sunday to be an “easy” day. These are only a few faces of serving. And when people look at you and ask, “why do you do that” you point them to Jesus and say, “because Jesus loved and served me, I love and serve”.

At Look Up, this is a passion of ours. It has been as long as I have been a part of this family. I remember my first summer as a summer staffer working with a girl who was a true picture of service. I saw her serve others so well, and so selflessly that her face still pops into my mind instantly whenever this topic comes up. She was a picture of Jesus for me. For her, she had a good grasp on this topic. It wasn’t about her. It was about Jesus. He loved her, served her and sacrificed. Therefore, she loved. She served. She sacrificed. She never expected or wanted any credit. She was simply being obedient and pointing others back to Jesus. As believers, this should be our goal.

And in the words of our Executive Director, Greg Boone, here’s a “little Freebie”…This life, though it may be hard and tiring, though it may bring extra work and responsibility, it brings joy. It brings true joy and fulfillment.


Nov 4 We Love Sports

-Program Coordinator, Andrew Cronic

“Life’s about people, not rings. Rings collect dust.” – former UGA Head Coach Mark Richt

I love sports. A lot. I’ve heard a lot of people tell me that my love for sports was detrimental to myself, the people around me, and even my faith over the years. At certain times in life, they were absolutely right. Braves baseball combined with playing baseball and talking to coaches and family members about baseball… I never would have come out and admitted it, but how I spent my time told the story for me: I could’t have cared less about my faith and the people around me. Just give me sports.

Thankfully, the Lord has redeemed me and taught me something invaluable about my love for sports: keep your time in perspective. If all we ever do in life is watch sports, the people who value our time are going to suffer. I have no idea how much time you should be “allowed” to watch sports. I honestly think it’s circumstantial: some days you have things you should do instead of sports, and some days you don’t. With that being said, a simple goal is to make sure I’ve spent time with the Lord, with someone I love (phone call or face to face), and to do something for my health (exercise, cook a healthy dinner) to make sure I haven’t wasted Saturday in front of the TV. If I do those things, I know I haven’t sacrificed my well being (in any manner) to watch sports.

I can’t just worry about my well being with sports, but also the people around me. The quickest way I can show my wife I don’t care about her at all: she gets home from work and wants to talk, all I do is watch sports on TV. Turn the game off, show your wife you care about her. It’ll take a max of 20 minutes to talk with her most days, and then you can turn your game back on. If you missed the home run or the touchdown: there’s 6 major networks I can name off the top of my head and probably 1,000 different apps you can get on your phone that will show you the highlights. In 10 years, I’m not going to remember or care if Texas A&M beat Tennessee. I am going to remember and care if my wife feels loved and cared for in our marriage. Spend your time on what matters. People (and not just your spouse) matter a lot more in the Kingdom than sports.

My one rule is this: never pursue my love of sports at the expense of other people. My wife, my family, and my friends are a lot more important to me, and they’re certainly more important to My Father in Heaven. You can even use sports for the Kingdom. People love to hang out together: if there’s buffalo chicken dip, people relax and build friendships no matter if you care who’s playing. You can even invite your neighbor who you aren’t sure knows the Lord to watch the game with you. You never know when and how the Lord will move.

Your time is crucial, but you can find ways to spend it on who matters most and sports.

Just remember:

Life’s about people, not rings. Rings collect dust.

None of us are playing for championships, but we can still waste all our time, energy, and resources (how much of your budget is spent on tailgates and tickets?) on sports if we aren’t careful.

Life’s about people, not sports. Sports are forgotten.


Oct 26 Green Pastures – Do We Get It?

-Walter Howard, Staff Director

Thanks to Facebook’s Memories on this Date, during the last two weeks, I have been periodically reminded that four years ago, I was traveling through Israel with coworkers and friends.  It was a life changing trip at the time, exploring Biblical lands and learning from Ray Vanderlaan, a teacher whose works had impacted me since before I even knew who he was.  His “Faith Study” trips, and teachings in general, serve to help Americans (or “Westerners”, as he liked to call us) understand the culture and “Eastern” customs that the authors and heroes of the Bible lived and breathed.  This insight allowed us to “step into the story”, and to understand the stories in a deeper and fuller way than I had known from just reading them.

So for two weeks, we hiked through the desert, and climbed mountains, and waded in the Jordan, and stood overlooking the valley where David probably faced Goliath.  And throughout the day, RVL would call us together and have us read or recite a familiar passage from Scripture, and then say, “Look around you.  This is what it would’ve looked like, or felt like.  Can you see it?  Can you picture it?  Does the text come alive?”

To be honest, some times the text didn’t come alive and I was hot and sweaty and my feet hurt and I couldn’t remember the name of where we were standing and therefore didn’t understand why it was important that something happened to the right of us as opposed to the left of us. But fortunately, many times, the text did come alive in a very powerful way.  When overlooking the Sea of Galilee and imagining Jesus and the disciples walking along the shore, I was struck with how close everything was and how it made sense that they could hop in a boat and row from one city to the next.  Or visiting a wine press that would’ve been similar to where Jesus was probably staying before His crucifixion, knowing that the weight of what lay before Him would cause Him to sweat drops of blood the same way the grapes would be pressed to make wine, I was overwhelmed with the reminder that Scripture is historically accurate and these things really did happen.

Another simpler lesson, but just as profound, was something we learned while walking through the desert.  First of all, the deserts in Israel are not sandy dunes, like I had always pictured.  They are rocky and mountainous and dusty.  There are occasional shrubs and trees, but it is mainly rocks and boulders, and you’re just as likely to twist your ankle as you are anything else.

So in this desert of rocks and shrubs, we considered God’s promises to His people that He would be their source of provision.  As the psalmist wrote in Psalm 23, God, as the Good Shepherd, wants to lead his people, symbolized as sheep, to green pastures.

 

Now pause right there.

 

When you hear the phrase, “green pastures”, what comes to mind?  If you picture prairies with waist high grass or horses grazing on green hillsides as far as the eye can see, you’re not alone.  Or at least, that’s what I always thought because that’s what I’d seen in America.  However, standing in the middle of the desert, looking for as far as the eye could see, there was nothing of the sort.  So is that passage metaphorical?  Or did the desert used to not be the desert?  Or was God talking about a magical place that we need to accept with blind faith?

No.  None of the above.  What we learned is that, to the shepherd, small tufts of grass (we’d probably think they were weeds if we saw them growing up between cracks in the sidewalk) scattered every five to ten feet, maybe a single mouthful to a hungry sheep, is what the Biblical people would’ve considered “green pastures”.  Now this threw a temporary wrench in my understanding of God’s goodness and ability to provide.  I thought, “the more grass the better.  Why not lead them to fields where they could just roll around in grass for days?”

While that option would’ve probably been what the sheep would’ve voted for, it misses the point that God is trying to make, and is lost on us if we don’t understand the cultural implications.  With little bits of grass scattered about the desert, the sheep are continually dependent on a wise and loving shepherd to guide them to the next bit of grass.  It’s not a one time event, but an ongoing relationship.  In my non-biblical interpretation, the good shepherd could just drop the sheep off at the pasture, and they wouldn’t need him anymore, at least not for daily provision.

So the takeaway for me was twofold: one, understanding what the desert was really like gives me a better understanding of how dependent God’s people were on Him to provide food and water and shade and direction.  And two, that God was trying to use those things to teach them the deeper principle that life is found solely in Him.  He is the Good Shepherd who wants to have an ongoing relationship with His people, whom He wants to continue to look to Him for His provision in the right amount and right time.  Just like the little bits of grass were just enough for the sheep as they journeyed through the desert, God’s provision is often just enough for what we need in the moment, for that moment.

So for me, being reminded of many of those lessons from four years ago, I’ve also been reminded of how much I’ve forgotten since then.  I am “sheepishly” reminded by Facebook, “Oh yeah, I spent two weeks walking in Biblical lands, studying the text, being encouraged by the validity and richness of Scripture, and being challenged to live out my faith in light of that.”  I told you it was a life changing trip, and it was at the time, but just like a sheep that’s forgotten how he came to “discover” all these green pastures, I am reminded how easy it is to forget the second part of the example: that God wants to be my continual Good Shepherd and my daily source of provision, in His perfect timing.

So for you, I would hope that you would pause for a few minutes and be reminded of what God has been up to in your life over the last few years.  What are the lessons He has taught you and the ways He has opened your eyes to the richness of His Word?  And secondly, how has He provided in little, daily, hourly, moment by moment, step by step ways, to lead you to your own green pastures?  Maybe not the “everything you’ve ever wanted and could ever hope to imagine pastures”.  But the pastures where you see His loving hand, guiding and providing for you, while continually reminding you that He will never leave you, and never lead you astray.

I hope you’ll take a few moments and be reminded.