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Inspire - Posted March 28, 2014 noon
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Faith, Flies and Messy Oxen

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I thrive on routine and order. And for me, it’s really important to kick-start my workweek with a focused, highly productive Monday morning.

This was not destined to be one of those mornings.

This past year in early November, I arrived at my church office unusually early, hoping to get some quiet, focused time at my desk. As I approached the office door, I saw hand prints covering the windows and what looked like several of those “blowfish” outlines that kids create by pressing their mouths against the glass. If you haven’t had the pleasure of being around sixth to eighth graders, then you probably haven’t been exposed to “window blowfish.” Although dirty windows are a pet peeve, I decided to look past it and get to work.

Upon entering, it was evident that the three dirty panels on the door were the least of my concerns. The offices were a wreck. Not just kind of messy; I’m talking a major league disaster.

I found a dozen empty candy boxes kicked into a corner, sound equipment from a Halloween event piled up under the front windows, a trail of doughnut crumbs leading from the door to the couch, and a very peculiar odor. Passing the first trashcan in the front reception area, I saw that it was overflowing and, upon deeper inspection, I found the source of the smell: a stack of mostly empty pizza boxes. Determined not to let all the disorder throw off a productive Monday morning, I took a slow, deep breath and kept walking.

I was almost safely into the sanctuary of my office when I stepped into something sticky. A fountain drink had been carelessly piled on top of a second overflowing trashcan, seeping out onto the floor and now, the bottom of my shoe. That’s when I noticed the flies … hundreds of them. I took two more deep breaths and went for the trash bags and a mop.

After I scoured everything, I was irritated. I didn’t want to start my Monday by deep-cleaning the office. I didn’t want to walk into rooms full of dirty windows, foul odors, overflowing trashcans, sticky wood floors, and hundreds of flies. As I took care of my morning appointments, the frustration clung to me, and after lunch it was obvious I needed an attitude adjustment. So I took a few minutes to stop and read a proverb.

I felt drawn to Proverbs 14, and then came to verse 4: “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” I was immediately intrigued. And as I began to meditate on the meaning of the verse, my perspective began to change.

“Who are the oxen?” I wondered. And then I knew: The oxen are the workers and volunteers in the congregation – the ones who do all the heavy lifting and bring people in to church events. They were the ones who organized and volunteered for a Halloween event that had reached more than 3,000 people just four days earlier. They lead a group of sixth and seventh graders that meet at the church offices each week, spend hours preparing, and spend their own money to buy the group doughnuts. These workers also give up a weekend evening to lead another small group, using their own money to order the right kind of pizza so that young college students feel welcome.

I realized that oxen are great – we need their strength – but they’re messy. They’ll be so busy reaching thousands of people at an outreach event that they might leave the office door open for six hours, letting in scores of flies. As they pour out their lives for someone else, they don’t think about taking out the trash. They touch perfectly cleaned glass, and forget to use coasters. They’re so caught up in their work that they don’t notice the doughnut crumb trail. They have so much fun playing games they aren’t bothered by the blow-fish designs on the front door.

As I continued to meditate and ponder, my heart suddenly changed. I became very thankful for the mess and the people who made it. The foul odor, sticky floors, and even flies ultimately are signs of lives being changed – something to rejoice over rather than getting frustrated.

I learned in that moment of stillness that if we want to bring in an abundant harvest, we’d better get used to the flies.

by Cameron Reeves

Cameron has served as the Canyon Campus Pastor for Hillside Christian Church since 2009. He is married to wife Jenn and they have two boys, Zach and Teel, who are 19 and 7, respectively. As the parent of both a teen and a first grader, Cameron’s go-to stress relievers are staying active, eating healthy, and CrossFit.
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