When worlds collide, what happens?
Things can get ugly, even deadly, quickly.
Then again . . .
When worlds collide, what happens?
God’s kingdom can expand.
Last week, black met white as we marked our 8th annual Nature Camp here on our 44 acres of country.
Long before we moved to this farm, we drove our kids to the “hood” of Milwaukee, to the most dangerous, impoverished part of the city where drugs and guns too often rule. Where horses and fields are nowhere in sight.
We made and brought meals. We read books and helped with homework. We played basketball and board games. And a boy named Jonathan tried to teach me to dance. He laughed. They all did.
So why do we dare go into a war zone with kids and too few cops? With too many willing to pull a trigger instead of flashing a smile?
And why do we bring all these kids from the “hood” up here to the farm?
Because Jesus went everywhere, sharing his good news of salvation with everyone. He didn’t stay in his comfort zone.
So we figured we shouldn’t either.
Last week, we played, rode, sang, ate, ran, listened, danced, laughed. And we wrapped arms ‘round each other—black & white—children & adults.
We meandered on trails, treasure hunting for God’s fingerprints in cat tail ponds, wildflower prairies, alfalfa-filled pastures, and even composted manure.
We learned from the monarch about transformation—the feeding, growing, waiting, pushing beyond constraints, finally flying free, offering new life to another—the miraculous grace of it all.
I told true stories about our horses as they grazed on the lawn next to us. I told about their invisible broken. You know—those inside wounds we all carry—those histories we’d rather forget—the stuff in our “closets” we try and hide but that creeps out through the cracks and causes us grief? Yes. Those stories. Even horses have them.
I told them how sometimes you can’t tell by looking what something or someone has gone through, is going through. Because we all have these coverings that might look content. We all have these posturings we think keep us safe and strong. But beneath . . .
Well, there are some wounds that haven’t healed, some fears that haven’t faded.
Even with time.
Yet, even those wounds can have holy purpose.
What if our wounds draw out the love of another? What if our broken shows someone they can care for something or someone other than themselves? There’s healing in the act of self-forgetfulness—when we set our sights on serving rather than in just licking our own wounds.
We all need to know we matter—to someone—don’t we? And we all can give something, can’t we?
We all heal as we help others heal.
So I told them about all four of our horses, how they were all neglected or starved or yelled at or hit by humans or bit and kicked by bully horses. I told them about how some humans just don’t know how to care for horses—or humans—for that matter.
They all looked over at the horses.
“You’d never know, would you? You’d never know their story—where they came from—how they were treated—what they’ve been through—unless I told you, would you?”
“How many of you can relate to one of these horses?”
Hands raised. Every single one. Mine too.
I love the honesty—the daring to declare what’s real is when we start to heal.
Daring to admit we need God—that we’ve come to the end of our self-sufficiency. That’s the beginning of new life.
Are new beginnings really possible?
After hearing about those horses and how they were loved back to life, we sat by the honey locust tree on old quilts that used to cover our kids beds years ago. I asked for a volunteer to help me teach about admitting our need and receiving a gift free.
Up he walked—my adorable volunteer.
I began . . .
“So, what if you did something really, really horrible—something where you’d go to prison for the rest of your life unless you paid a gazillion dollars which you don’t have and can’t get—and the judge comes down from his bench and says he will pay the price to set you free, all by himself—what would you say?”
“I’d say ‘NO’ because I WANT to go to prison!”
(Ummmm. Ok. THAT’S not on my script! So now what do I say?)
“So, you WANT to go to prison and be separated forever from all your family—from all who love you—from God even?”
(Head with big hair searching fast for words here.)
“OK. Well, that’s your choice. God would never make you choose him. So now you have to go over there and stay away from all of us who love you and want you to be with us.”
“FINE! I don’t like you anyway!”
(Exactly WHY did I pick THIS child?)
So he walked over and stood by the honey locust tree, behind the bench with the wood slatted “bars”.
I carried on with the lesson.
Then . . .
After a few minutes . . .
He returned. Stood right in front of me. Right in front of ALL the kids and adults.
(Good! He’s ready to cooperate!)
“So, are you ready to let Jesus pay for your freedom?”
“NOPE! I got money. I’m going to pay myself outa here!”
“Oh! Well there’s a slight problem. You don’t have enough money.”
“WHAT? I have a gazillion dollars! You HAVE to let me go!”
“NOPE! You don’t have nearly enough to pay for all you’ve done wrong, even with a gazillion dollars. The only way you can go free is to accept Jesus’ free gift—his dying for you so you can live, so you can go free. Ready yet?”
(You’ve got to be kidding me?)
“OK. Well, I can’t force you and I’m not even going to try. Because Jesus never forces anyone. If you want to be separated from all who love you, from Jesus, then that’s your choice.”
He smirked and walked away—behind the bench with “bars” again—and sat his proud little self down, staring at me, hard-faced . . .
And then . . .
After a few more minutes . . .
He came back.
While I was still talking with the other kids, he tapped my shoulder politely.
I turned to him.
“Ready for what?”
“I’m ready to accept the payment so I can go free.”
The kids erupted in “YAY” and one boy blurted, “It’s about time! What took you so long?”
I laughed, scooped the obstinate one up in my arms, sat him on my lap and told him how much I loved him—how much God loves him. He smiled and let me hold him—right there in my chair.
While still sitting, a little girl in the back wanted to share something she had picked on our treasure hunt. A small yellow flower. I asked why it was special to her.
“This small yellow flower represents how small AND special we all are.”
We ALL are.
Right here on the farm. Right there in the city.
Everywhere God walks and works. Where ever we learn to love our differences. Whenever we learn to see we’re ALL loved by the same God.
On our last day, during our last hour, skies held back no longer. Rain poured hard.
All is grace. All is lesson.
Nothing can spoil your camp when you camp with Christ.
So we gathered in the garage, turned on some music and we danced joy in a circle, singing and spelling the name above all names—the one who binds us all together in love—the one who gives us life—even in the midst of our storms and our differences . . .
For more information about New Beginnings Are Possible, please click here.