Welcome to the PMF Workshop for the week of December 22, 2020. I’m your host, T. M. Moore. Each week we provide teaching, encouragement, and resources to help you in working your Personal Mission Field. By adopting the perspectives and practicing the disciplines we present in the Workshop, you can become more consistent and effective in realizing the presence, promise, and power of God’s Kingdom in your daily life.
Today’s Workshop is entitled, “Think Little.” Our texts are Psalm 37.23, 24 and Psalm 119.133:
The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD,
And He delights in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the LORD upholds him with His hand. Psalm 37.23, 24
Direct my steps by Your word,
And let no iniquity have dominion over me. Psalm 119.133
Your mission field begins here
It’s the time of the year when I submit myself to the scolding, cajoling, reprimanding, leading, example, and encouragement provided by the Kentucky agrarian, Wendell Berry.
If you don’t know Wendell Berry, you should. His writings on creation, farming, ethics, history, and what’s wrong with the American economy may seem eccentric and out of date, but they are in many respects right on target. We need to hear the voice of a serious writer and devoted farmer who calls us to set aside our material ambitions and our desire for more, and learn to love and care for the land under our feet, and the God over our head Who gives us such wonderful bounty.
I’m currently working through a collection of Wendell Berry’s essays entitled, The World-Ending Fire. In his essay, “Think Little,” Berry offers this advice: “…the citizen who is willing to Think Little, and, accepting the discipline of that, to go ahead on his own, is already solving the problem. A man who is trying to live as a neighbor to his neighbors will have a lively and practical understanding of the work of peace and brotherhood, and let there be no mistake about it – he is doing that work…” A bit further on he adds, “A man who is willing to undertake the discipline and the difficulty of mending his own ways is worth more to the conservation movement than a hundred who are insisting merely that the government and the industries mend their ways.”
Berry’s counsel is that, if we want to change the world for the better, we have to begin where we are, and do what we can with that patch of the world where God has placed us. He insists, “our only real freedom is to know and faithfully occupy our place – a much humbler place than we have been taught to think – in the order of creation.”
What Berry writes about conservation and farming is true about seeking the Kingdom and righteousness of God. We can’t rely on government or corporations or even our church to bring the Kingdom of God to light in our world. This is a task God has called each of us to pursue, beginning right where we are.
Our texts for today teach that it is helpful to think of our lives in small steps. Though the backdrop and framework of our lives is large and grand – the Kingdom of God – and we must ever strive to realize this glorious landscape with increasing fullness, yet our lives are lived a moment at a time, one small thing after another. We must see large but live small, trusting the Lord to guide our every next step, and counting on Him and His mercy to catch and right us when we stumble or fall.
Thinking this way encourages prayer without ceasing and gratitude for every small step of progress in the Lord. It also encourages us to seek the glory of the Lord in all the minutiae and details of life, so that His beauty, goodness, and truth illuminate our lives and come to expression through all our words and deeds.
Perhaps most importantly, thinking little leads us to keep a close watch over our own lives. We sow the seed of God’s Word into the garden of our soul, and we nurture and cultivate that seed through prayer, meditation, worship, and fellowship with other committed soul-gardeners. By guarding our affections, thinking with the mind of Christ, and harboring Kingdom values, we can expect to bring forth in our lives the fruit of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
How does your garden grow?
We’ll never be effective in working our Personal Mission Fields for Kingdom fruit unless we take care of our own garden first and always. Daily time with the Lord in His Word and prayer are the starting-point, looking to see Jesus and to learn Him for all the daily details and activities of our lives (Eph. 4.17-24). If we will continuously sow and nurture the garden of our soul, all the small steps and daily activities of our lives will drip with the fruit of Christlikeness, more and more.
Wendell Berry’s agrarian advice for home gardens applies equally well to the tending of our souls: “A person who undertakes to grow a garden at home, by practices that will preserve rather than exploit the economy of the soil, has set his mind decisively against what is wrong with us.” The same is true for our souls, and for everything and everyone in creation to whom God sends us each day.
Your every next step can see you making Kingdom progress in every area of your life – all the roles, relationships, and responsibilities of your Personal Mission Field. Keep a close watch on, and give continuous attention to the garden of your soul. Think little, and you’ll live bigger and bigger for Christ every day.
For the Fellowship of Ailbe, and for the Personal Mission Field Workshop, this has been T. M. Moore.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.