Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. – Luke 9:23-24
Sometimes it’s a challenge to explain just how beautiful this part of North Carolina is in the springtime. This is our fourth April in Wake Forest, and Rebekah and I still pinch ourselves once in a while – sitting on the deck drinking coffee after breakfast – wondering just how it is that we ended up here.
It’s not that life is easy – far from it – but that this journey we are on together is wonderful. Ministry is always demanding, frequently difficult, and often overwhelming; but the challenge is exactly what makes the experience so meaningful and rewarding. It’s just extra… dressing… gravy… to be doing it in such a beautiful place as North Carolina.
STORY: I tell a story in one of my books (I think it was “The Unmaking of a Part-Time Christian”) of hiking out of a valley on the Appalachian Trail. Our path cut through the parking area at a scenic overlook a few hundred feet up, and I watched two carloads of people drive in, edge their vehicles as close as they could to the view, and peer out of their windows. One person jumped out for maybe thirty seconds to grab a quick photo on her phone, the rest stayed put.
The view was lovely.
Several hours later – having climbed a long, steep incline, forded a couple of rapid streams, stopped at a few more scenic outlooks, negotiated some recently toppled trees, detoured around a nest of copperheads, readjusted our heavy backpacks numerous times, and lost a couple of extra pounds in sweat – we cut through a seldom travelled side trail, emerging onto a rock outcrop where we found a ledge offering a spectacular panoramic view that would have been unimaginable from the comforts of the car back in the parking area.
We unpacked our lunches and took in the wonder of it all, resting and recharging before laying down another five miles or so before supper.
It struck me that this story illustrates the difference between showing up at church a couple of Sundays a month, and actually making the decision to follow Jesus as a disciple.
This is the journey that has brought us to Wake Forest, North Carolina. Sometimes we can sit out on the deck and breathe it all in, reenergized and grateful. But reenergized for what? Certainly not so we can coast our way in from here.
No, life is too wonderful, and too messy for that. Regardless, we are grateful… and challenged… and full… and journeying… and covered in goodness, mercy, grace, peace, and unquenchable love.
May God challenge each one of us, day by day, to see Jesus more clearly, love Jesus more dearly, and follow Jesus more nearly, day by day.
Day by day, oh, dear Lord, three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly, day by day
(a few random photos from this week)