Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sometimes You Just Have to Shovel the Manure

My daily Bible reading this morning came out of Psalms.  Psalm 93 in The Message Paraphrase starts off with this:
"God is King, robed and ruling.  God is robed and surging with strength.  And yes, the world is firm, immovable, Your throne ever firm-you're Eternal!"
My first thought was "this is exactly what I've been talking about the last few days!"  Then that little voice piped in and said "yes, and sometimes you have to dig through all the crap to get to that firm foundation."  My response was "Lord, you don't want me to write about manure do you???  Seriously????"  Well, folks, guess what the answer was to that question!  Yeah, today we're going to talk about the unglamorous world of shoveling manure!  This should be a doozey!

For those of you who did not grow up on a farm, you need to understand two things.  First, farm animals produce waste which comes out of the back side nether regions of their anatomy.  Second, farm animals do not clean up after themselves.  So, if you want your farm animals to stay healthy you have to clean up after them!  The responsible owner grabs their trusty pitchfork and shovel and starts scooping up the mixture of manure, straw, sawdust and hay and usually puts it in a wheelbarrow to cart it out to a pile outside of the barn.  And this mixture is not solid, it's kind of spongy and squishy so you have to make sure that you get down to the solid floor before you put down new bedding, otherwise you're just leaving the old stuff there to fester which isn't good for the animals.  It's a smelly job.  It's a lot of hard work.  But you know that if you are going to raise animals this comes with the territory!

So what about the pile itself.  Isn't it useful for something?  Eventually, yes, but it takes some time.  A gardener knows that you can't put fresh manure on a garden with fledgling plants because the nitrogen content is too high and it will literally burn the plants and kill them.  Manure is only good to a garden after it has rotted down or composted for awhile.  Well rotted manure provides helpful nutrients to plants when it is worked in to the garden soil.  Composting doesn't happen over night, it takes time to get it to just the right consistency to make it useful!

So what does manure have to do with theology and life?  Information overload.  Processes and procedures.  Sometimes so much is thrown at us at one time that we're not sure where the foundation lies!  We're simply walking on the spongy manure that covers the firm foundation!  If you let it lay there long enough it festers and then it becomes unhealthy for you!  In order to find that nugget of truth, that firm foundation, sometimes you just have to pick up a shovel and start digging!  You have to dig through all the crap in order to discern the truth, the firm foundation laid bare underneath all of the hype and spin!  You have to remove the manure!

Media outlets like to sensationalize lots of things-making mountains out of molehills at times.  One pundit says one thing, another pundit says the opposite-who is telling the truth?  Or, perhaps there are elements of truth in both positions?  In order to get to that truth you have to think critically and dig for the facts.  You must act to seek the source, the foundation upon which these opposing views are built.  If you want the truth, you have to do the digging!  Churches are not immune to this phenomenon either.  Lots of "new" ideas are being proposed and some of them can be helpful and some of them probably should be discarded.  But you'll never know which is which unless you are willing to do some shoveling to get down to the basics!

The same thing applies to your faith walk as well.  If you want to know the heart of God you have to do some digging and seek the foundation.  Scripture reading, prayer, worship and discernment are all critical tools to use!  They are your pitchfork and shovel and if you use them carefully you can dig down to the truth.  There may be things in your personal life that you just need to get rid of!  There may be things that eventually will bear fruit but they need to compost for awhile.  Spiritual discernment is the act of digging for the truth.  It's a journey that others can help you with but the work is something that you have do do for yourself.  It forces you to ask the question-do these things point to the source?  If not, then you have to do some digging and discard some of these things on to the pile outside the barn door!  And some of them may be like fresh manure-they are just too hot to use right now and they need to be allowed the time to compost down so they can be really useful.  Others just need to be removed in order to get to the truth!

Some of you will probably notice that I didn't mention mission and outreach in this list.  There's a reason for that-mission and outreach are outward signs of change that occurs within you.  You can't transform the world around you until you transform the world within you.  When inner transformation happens your vision and your mission have true meaning to you and clear purpose.  You're not going through the motions simply to go through the motions.  You're doing the work because you know that the work matters!  And John Wesley's sermons will back me up on this point!  Change comes from within!  Change is spirit driven!

Understand this though-underneath all the hype and hoopla God is still there!  He has always been there as the firm and solid foundation just like the Psalm says.  He can be found if you choose to go looking.  The job may be messy but you have the tools.  Sometimes in order to get to the truth you just have to decide to start shoveling the manure in your life.  Finding the foundation is worth the work and it is part of the journey.  Anyone up for a little dig?  I sincerely hope so! 

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