Tag Archives: City

Raised in Flyover Country

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
Isaiah 9:1-2 (NIV)

When I visited Israel just over ten years ago, the first days of our journey were in and around Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a big city, and it has all the hustle and bustle of a big city. When you layer the never-ending religious tension between Christians, Jews, and Muslims on top of the din of activity, it is a fascinating experience. If found that my guard was always up in Jerusalem. I felt that I always had to be aware of my surroundings. I don’t know that I ever felt relaxed.

Several days later we headed north, to the region of Galilee. There was something in the transition from Jerusalem to Galilee that felt very natural. It was like leaving downtown Chicago and finding yourself in the farms and fields of Illinois and Iowa. I stood on Mt. Arbel and looked out over the fields sprawled around the Sea of Galilee (see featured image). Small towns and villages dot the landscape. Farming and fishing are the livelihoods in what Jerusalem residents surely consider the “backwater” area of the nation. Israel’s version of “flyover country.” And, I felt right at home.

Even nominal church attenders who make an annual pilgrimage on Christmas would recognize a couple of the verses the prophet Isaiah penned in today’s chapter. One is pasted at the top of this post. The other is:

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

What I had never connected before, is that Isaiah calls out that this Light that will shine, the child that is born, will honor Galilee. It wasn’t going to be in the hubbub of Jerusalem and the center of the region’s worldly power. The Messiah would bless the simple folks scratching out a living from the land and the water far from the pomp and prestige of civic and religious authority. It was of Nazareth, in Galilee, that Jesus’ own disciple sarcastically asked, “Does anything good come from there?

There’s a sentiment that every child of Iowa knows.

This morning I’m thinking about life in flyover country. I’m thinking about my small town, filled with good people who live in concert with the land and the seasons. I live in a place that generally brings up vague, usually incorrect, notions from the people you talk to on the streets of New York or Los Angeles.

“Iowa? Oh yeah. With all the potatoes.” [No, that’s Idaho.]
“Iowa? I heard of it.” [Nice. You still remember 2nd grade geography!]
“Iowa? I had a great Aunt that was from there.” [But, you still couldn’t find it on a map, could you?]

This morning I’m taking solace in the fact that the Messiah came from a place like Iowa. He grew up working with his hands in the trades. He knew small town people scratching out a living from the land, living in concert with the seasons of planting and harvesting. It was here in flyover country where God wanted Jesus to be raised. I get it. We grow good kids here, as well as crops.

Living in Community

If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. Deuteronomy 15:7 (NRSV)

Last week our daughter, Taylor, and I were having lunch together. Taylor returned from Graduate school in Scotland this past summer and has been living with us as she applies for jobs around the country. We talked about our move to the small town of Pella from the suburbs over a decade ago and how that move changed our lives.

Growing up in the midwest there is a spirit of community that still exists, even in the cities. When you live in Pella, however, the idea of community is taken to a whole different level. Neighbors look out for one other. Neighbors lend freely and return favors. Almost everyone is involved in volunteering in the community in some way. It’s a wonderful town. “There’s no town quite like it,” I said to Taylor as we ate our lunch, and she agreed.

I was struck this morning by the number of times the word “community” was used in the chapter. The rules and commands were really geared toward the concepts of how to live together in community. The overarching principles that come out of the chapter is goodwill, generosity and forgiveness. As I read, I thought of numerous examples of how I’ve experienced these principle with my neighbors and examples of how I’ve attempted to live out the same.

Today, I’m thankful for community. No community is perfect. We live in a fallen world and even the Hebrews who received the commands through Moses would find that reality always falls short of God’s ideal in this fallen world. Nevertheless, there are places where you find the spirit of community more than others. I live in one of those places, and I’m very grateful.

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Featured photo: Dutch Dancers (all volunteers) entertain crowds and teach traditional Dutch dances on the streets of Pella Iowa during that annual “Tulip Time” festival.

Complacency

When you have had children and children’s children, and become complacent in the land….
Deuteronomy 4:25 (NRSV)

It has been fascinating for me to live in a small town. Growing up in the city, I never had much of a sense of community heritage and generational patterns, but you see these things more clearly in a small town. Families stick closer together. Lives are more intertwined. Businesses and farms are generational. Faith is part of the fabric of both family and community. Traditions bind generations.

I have also observed that there is a subtle sense of complacency that sets in across generations, especially as it relates to faith. Rather than being the personal, intimate relationship Jesus talked about and called us to it seems to me that, for some, faith slowly becomes just another communal tradition. Go through the motions. Keep up the tradition. It’s simply what we do; It’s what we have always done.

The older I get the more I realize that it takes effort not to experience complacency in our spiritual journey. Moses warned the people about it in today’s chapter as they prepared to enter the promised land.  Along the way the patterns become habits, habits become traditions, and traditions are mindlessly acted out as they have always been done for generations. But, there’s no real investment of heart or mind in it. It’s Life-less. And then, bad things can happen.

This week I’m taking up the task of thinking about the things I continually do from work to faith to recreation and relationships. I want to be aware of areas in which complacency is setting in and try to understand how it affects me and those around me. Perhaps there are some changes I need to make to consciously re-engage my heart and mind.

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