Monday, May 13, 2013


   My family calls it the barefoot desert death march.  I took my wife and sons for an August visit to Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. Chaco is a difficult to find but spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site consisting of massive stone ruins, complex road systems and calibrated astronomy and observation tools – the heart of a thriving Chacoan culture which gave birth to modern Southwest Native Americans. Among the many petroglyphs at the sprawling Chaco site is the “1054 Supernova” that depicts the stellar phenomena which created today’s Crab Nebula.
   Hiking to this particular petroglyph requires an 8 mile jaunt in blazing heat across a closed trail. It was closed because a flash flood had cut through the trail, requiring any souls desiring to behold the ancient star chart to traverse a muddy, fast-moving desert river. To cross the river, the family de-shod, leaving shoes on the bank of entry.  We then dared to travel barefoot the ½ mile (1 mile round trip) from the river to the cave overhang housing the ancient Anasazi image.
   Avoiding scorpions and rattlesnakes was no problem, though we saw them. Tarantulas and lizards added to the desert charm. Scrambling together through the blazing sun was even fun, for a while. Admittedly, the kids (teens) did not seem to see the great significance of a long, hot hike just to see an old scrawl on the side of a cave wall created by the “Ancient Ones.”
   What the family remembers most is that dad failed to pack enough water. We had enough for half-way. 102 degrees and no shade after a barefoot crawl through desert wilderness is not everyone’s cup of tea. But walking four more miles (with shoes now) and no water did not win dad any “Father’s Day” points. We were thirsty. The hot, steamy, sun-baked water bottles in our truck awaited the family after the trek and under other circumstances would have been repugnant. We enthusiastically guzzled the steamy liquid!
   The barefoot desert death march… It made us thirsty.
   Sometimes in life we seek after laudable goals, and launch out on our trek to achieve them. Good goals. Providing for our families. Growing the church. Leading people to faith in Jesus. Being physically fit. The treks take different forms. But without preparing for the trek, good and remarkable as it may be, by bringing our supply of “Living Water” – we will run dry, we will burn out.
   Jesus said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (Jn.7.37,38).
   At Annual Conference 2012, the collected pastors and delegates agreed (voted unanimously) to make a top priority of developing the spiritual leadership within the NCC over the coming two to three years.  There’s no big secret of how to do this. There is only one source of Living Water who dwells within a willing heart and springs forth to bless the faithful, and from the abundance of that joy, bring new life and hope to a parched and weary land.
   We are focused on drinking from that well this year. Pastors and delegates, servants of God all, we want our churches to grow. There are patterns and systems and skills that can help every church do this more effectively. But there is never a substitute for a heart transformed by the Holy Spirit, passionately directed by love for God and neighbor. God will not lead new converts to dry wells from which to drink.
   Annual Conference 2013 is themed “Thirsty.” Let’s come thirsty for more of God. Let’s leave with rivers of living water flowing from within.

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