I find myself thinking a lot this week about a couple of friends in our spiritual community. One, my friend Gene, recently turned 92 and the other, sweet Mrs. Christine, will soon turn 96. I appreciate so much about them and their character, but perhaps most of all, I love how each of them display a sense of ongoing discovery about life. When so many people today, of any age, fall into a kind of cynicism and bitterness that drains hope from all around, these two fill every room they enter with joy.
I confess, there is a personal reason for looking for life in those who have lived longer: I have learned in recent years that losing my father to a heart attack when I was 10 implanted in me a subconscious doubt that real life continues beyond the middle-aged years. Of course, this is a lie, one that can be perpetrated by our culture’s fascination with the novel and the new. Still, for me, I needed the actual lives of these two friends—and, thankfully, many others besides—to perform a kind of healing of the wounds of loss and to rebuke the voices inside that say not to trust in the idea of enduring joy.
Their lives shed light on a simple, mighty promise of Jesus. The night before he died, Jesus said to his followers: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last…” (John 15:16). Jesus promises anyone who would listen that a life lived with purpose, passion, wisdom and surrender to the Source of all of these, will actually produce enduring life in the world around us.
In addition to my friends Gene and Christine, recently I have seen this promise played out in several places in our work and ministry. Last week I got to share sacred space with nearly half a dozen people at Holy Family Catholic Church in Brentwood as part of our New Design for Living program. Each week we gather I am reminded that it simply does not matter that each of us come from vastly different backgrounds, spiritually or otherwise. We share a common vision: to share experience, strength, hope and faith together to help others have a sense of peace and growth in the face of everyday life. In that small group of people, I see God’s promise each week: there is enduring fruit in the lives of people who practice surrender to God’s vision over their own. Their very lives display an honesty and resilience that helps me hold on to hope week in and week out.
I think also of one of the officers we serve, who took the time to look me in the eye and apologize for what he believed was less than his people’s best in a conversation I heard one day (I certainly did not need or expect such amends; but it inspired me to see his character in the desire to speak it to me). It was not enough for this man to rest on daily, sacrificial service, he wanted more for himself and those around him in the days ahead.
I also reflect on the testimony a man gave this week about the ongoing “conversions” or spiritual awakenings that God has demonstrated from his childhood into his now seventh decade. It is not enough for him to say that God did powerful things in his life in the past, he continues to look out for what fresh grace God has to display in and through him.
Each of these lives and encounters declare one powerful truth I choose to believe today: in the hands of our God, there is always more life to discover. God always has another gift, another lesson, another taste of the enduring fruit of purpose and passion.
So join with me in celebrating this grace and asking God to keep our eyes open to whatever he has to reveal next.
And speaking of next steps, I want to take the final part of this blog entry to share where God has led me, Melanie and our family: we will continue to serve COM as a chaplain for our officers (although in a much more limited way) and will carry on the New Design for Living program we have launched, but as of this month I will be shifting to full-time in our pastoral work as Spiritual Life and Outreach Minister for the Fourth Avenue Church of Christ, a grace-filled, community-loving church in downtown Franklin. Two messages I’d like to share about that: first, I will never stop thanking God for Corky and the board for allowing me to serve in this incredible ministry and second, although the relationship will change some, we will continue to be connected to COM and serve this ministry here and through my Outreach work at Fourth. This is not an ending, just a new beginning.
God always is revealing more!
Finally, on behalf of Community Outreach Ministries, thank you for the gift of seeing God’s promise of life break out among our work with officers, athletes and leaders. Each of you make this ministry happen day in and day out.
-Dean Barham, Community Chaplain
Community Outreach Ministries is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization that shows up in the critical moments of people’s lives. Please help us hit our goal this year of 1000 people joining Club 60—with a simple $5 donation each month you will enable us to provide a consistent presence with those who need it throughout the year. Click here to join.