What do you think of when you hear the words “Indian Reservation”?
Most of the time, I find myself thinking about all the bad things first – racing from experiences to images, words people have spoken, hate and curses, racism, political ideas that were once considered good, people who I have listened to who defended the use of force, and stories from people of what that use of force looked like. A whole legacy of ideas and their consequences.
Mixed throughout all of them, however, are moments of beauty.
Laughter – sweet, rich, and joyous laughter.
Kind faces that show far more hospitality than I deserve.
Story on top of story that shares of God’s unrelenting desire to pursue His loved ones.
These are the memories mixed in with everything that I remember when I hear those words – Indian Reservation. Given the lessons and wisdom that many first nations people have taught me I am indebted to them for the life in Christ that I get to live.
One of the places close to my heart are the lands of the Shoshone-Paiute people. It is little place, set in the high desert of Idaho and Nevada. The hills are deceivingly tall and distant when coming from central Idaho, where the mountains are much more abrupt, as a friend and I discovered when we tried to go “just a little ways.” Though it is high desert it is also filled with water for irrigation. And yes, there are certainly a lot of ducks.
I have only been there twice – once eight years ago and the second time just a couple of weeks back.
Both were special and this last trip taught me several lessons that I’m taking to heart as we move forward in ministry.
The first was to trust God when He speaks.
I was so stressed out while trying to put things together. I didn’t have anything set up like I wanted to and it felt like I was going to run it all into the ground.
However, God worked in His ways and He led the outreach.
What does that look like?
Favor where you least expect it; divine appointments; relationships; hospitality; and sometimes just saying “yes”. Wherever there is openness to relationship there is an opportunity for God to move in and open doors.
The second was related to that – look for relationships.
Does this sound like common sense?
I mean, it probably should, but I find it so abstract at times.
God Himself relates to us relationally, we relate to others relationally, but as we step forward to move this kingdom of good relationships forward, it can seem tempting to rely on non-relational methods. I doubt that most of those methods are wrong. Though, when we employ a method in the place of relationship our testimony suffers.
An example of this came on the day I headed home from Duck Valley.
The night before, we were enjoying dinner at the local diner when one of the cooks introduced us to one of her relatives. It turns out that Duck Valley is also home to a lot of beef cattle and the annual branding is something to be invited to – and we were invited.
Now, I’ve never gone on an outreach where you could call a branding day a “method” to build relationships, but it certainly was a place of relationships, with lots of hard work, yelling, smiles, and laughter.
Jesus was also getting invited to all sorts of places.
The wedding in Cana was one such event where I’m sure there were a lot of relationships happening. He was often invited into the homes of others and when He showed up to a town it seems like his first place to stop was the home of a friend. We see Jesus focusing on places of relationship. Sometimes there is a method to open up the possibility of relationships (in our case it was baskets filled with supplies, food, and fun things for kids), but our focus needs to be on the relationships opening up – not the methods bringing an opportunity.
So what holds us back?
Is this all common sense or actually countercultural?
I know that in my life it is often countercultural to rely on others, to ask for help – to look at a very good relational moment during ministry and not weigh it in the scales of productivity.
How are we all doing at this?
Are we focussed on relationships or on the methods we are employing?
What is our first thought when we think about sharing Jesus with someone? Is it the amazing relationship that we get to introduce to another person? Is it the little relationship moment that is happening as you greet a person that has been created in the image of God?
Or is it a thought of productivity? Do we think of a system of verses, a certain way of doing it, figuring out the right angle, how long until I get to go home?
These questions might be rough, but both the good and the bad reflect my own heart – I can remember a time for each one of them.
Do we see the beauty that is right there in that person, created in God’s image; do we see the beauty that is there in that moment, a relationship that is humbling itself like Jesus humbled Himself to the point of death?
Relationship or method?
Beauty or an invitation to more beauty?
I know that my own heart will generally choose to shy away from those questions, but as God cares about us He will be the one to ask them eventually. In 2007, I attended the Discipleship Training School and God used that time to ask a lot of those questions.
If you are looking for a time to settle some of the questions I’ve included here or you have more of your own – I would like to invite you to consider that DTS. The next DTS starts on August 22nd.
I would also invite you to read more about my friends. They are a family committed to relationship and inviting others into relationship with our creator. They have taught me a lot about valuing relationships over methods.
Also, I am sure my friends at Cowboys With A Mission would like to share that working with cattle is a perfect time to build relationships and share the gospel.