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what am I looking for?

I just returned from our second annual Vineyard retreat in the Laurentians. There were 19 people sharing a 4 bedroom chalet (4 people were camping in the front yard), and I don't remember anyone really complaining about anything during the entire 43 hours we were together. No wait, the children rolled their eyes when it was bedtime and a few people sighed at the thought of going home. Amazing, when you think about it.

The weather was foggy and rainy and cold on Saturday, but we went out on the boat anyway, and others enjoyed books and walks and chats by the fire and everyone was content. We had a talent show on Saturday night which everyone was encouraged to participate in. A few people were reluctant, but that sentiment soon faded when I reassured them that it was by everyone for everyone, and we would love whatever they would do, no matter what it was. And every last person brought something for the rest of us to enjoy, wonder at, laugh with, or applaud.

The theme of the weekend (besides having lots of fun and eating good food, and enjoying the great outdoors and each other's company and the goodness of God in general) for the 2 gatherings that we had was, "What Am I Looking For, What Is God Looking For?" I had picked this theme rather quickly just over a week ago because I needed to nail down what we were doing. I arranged for people to speak on each part and didn't give it much thought until a few days before I left. I was the one giving the talk on the first half of the equation: "What Am I Looking For?" I asked God about it, and he was quick to point out that it was a bad question. Oh well, so much for my great ideas.

I read Matthew 6:24-34, something that puts my predominantly self-focused life in perspective, especially the last few verses. In The Message it reads: People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things (the cares of life, see preceding verses), but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Here is the more familiar version of verse 33 with a few added explanations from the Amplified Bible: But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom (His way of doing and being right) and His righteousness and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.

The picture that formed in my mind was that of a line-up, like you would be in at the bank. At the front, where the teller stands, is the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. This is the place where what God wants actually happens and it happens how he wants it to. And there is me, standing right in front of these two, looking towards them, keeping them as my focus because that is where I am going, that is where I am headed. Then, from behind, come all these other things that I spend time thinking about. Things like my health, projects, bills, homework, family, purpose in life, relationships, etc. They come up and butt into the line-up. They stand in front of me and demand my attention and my focus. They heckle me. They block my view of the Kingdom of God as they yell and scream and poke at me, demanding that I give them my time and energy.
What can I do? I tell them to get to the back of the line. They are not where I am headed and not what at I am looking at. They do not go first. They fall into line as I seek first, look at first, the kingdom according to God.

We enacted the line-up scenario at the retreat. There were a few interesting moments. When the person representing Bills and Finances came up and started hounding the person in the line-up, the line-up guy started to tickle the Bills lady and she succumbed with laughter, falling back in the line-up. Who knew you could tickle bills into submitting to the kingdom of God? Another time a particular troublesome relationship was not moving out of the way, despite repeated instructions to get to the back of the line. The person representing righteousness decided to lend a helping hand and gave Troublesome Relationships a friendly push from behind, firmly moving them back into place. It is true that His righteousness, his way of doing things, helps clear the way when our willpower and words are not enough.

So the question never was, "What am I looking for?" but instead it turned out to be: "God, what do you want me to be looking for?" and "What has to get to the back of the line?"

This is the view from the lake yesterday, beautiful even on a foggy day.

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