on cows and contentment

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My husband’s intern lives on a farm in what you could reasonably call the middle of nowhere. It’s a good 20-minute drive down windy county roads, some of which aren’t even paved, from the nearest grocery store. It’s the kind of place where you can stop and listen and hear nothing. Nothing human, anyway — just the wind rustling the trees and a duck call here and there.

Among their menagerie of farm animals is a small herd of beef cows — big, burly mamas and tiny, fuzzy babies in varying shades of chestnut with long, luxurious eyelashes.

The weird thing about being in a field of cattle is the overwhelming sense of contentment that washes over you. These cows are perfectly happy to munch on grass and wander wide-open fields and snuggle their young day in and day out. If they get a few extra alfalfa cubes, they’re pleased as punch. But they never moan and groan about what they might be missing. They’re just cows, doing their cow thing.

I think we could learn a thing or two from cows.

As I write this, my Bible is open to Numbers 11. So here are the Israelites, getting ready to go on a journey to the promised land. Not just anywhere. The promised land. They need food along the way, so God provides them with manna — which is reportedly both delicious and nutritious.

But after a few days, the Israelites get unbearably bored. And they start whining about not having the exact kind of food they want as they are on their way to the special place that God set aside just for them.

Typical.

It’s easy to laugh at the Israelites and to think that, if we were in their position, we would be so much more grateful to God for all the help he provided us. But would we?

I don’t know about you, but even as a routine-oriented person who enjoys a quiet and largely predictable life, I too get bored. I see the sparkly, impressive parts of other people’s lives selectively shared on the Internet and itch to have what they have. I frequently daydream about throwing my responsibilities off onto someone else.

As humans, we crave adventure. We yearn for excitement. It seems our biggest fear is monotony.

But it’s in the day-to-day of life that real joy and contentment can be found. In embracing our role and our place and finding contentment in every moment.

Maybe your place is in an office cubicle or at home with a gaggle of children around you. Maybe it’s in a field of beef cattle.

Wherever you are, remember:

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Romans 12:4-8

May we each embrace our place today and every day — a place we’ve been set in for a purpose unlike any other’s — and may we do it cheerfully.

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holding tight to permanent

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Part memoir and part biblical wisdom, She Reads Truth: Holding Tight to Permanent in a World That’s Passing Away is a powerful commentary on change, loss, and learning to depend on God. And oh man, y’all, this book hit me right in the feels. It’s touching and powerful and occasionally funny (there’s a great line in there about God waiting for his creations to figure out how to make sushi).

SRT provided gentle answers to a question I’ve been wrestling with lately: How do I reconcile loving my life in this world when Christians are called to not be of the world?

It’s not a question the book addresses head-on, but it’s critical in my current stage of life.

Because I do love it. I love my family, I love my job, I love my friends, I love snuggling with my pups, I love writing, I love sitting outside in the sunshine with a glass of Topo Chico. Heaven sounds nice and all, but I’m not quite ready to give it all up. Does that make me a bad Christian?

No, Amanda and Raechel write. It just means we need to put the things we enjoy — things God intended for us to enjoy — in a greater perspective.

Contentment is having hope that is not dependent on our circumstances. It’s living with everything we ever wanted or none of the things we really needed, and being joyful either way because we are dwelling on the good things that has already done. I was learning, maybe for the first time or maybe all over again, that God was good because of who He was, not because of what He could do for me…

Contentment was going to be a lifelong exercise in fixing my gaze on the Lord both in plenty and in want.

I have plenty right now. I know, unfortunately, that in the future I’ll be in a stage of wanting. But the message this book shares is applicable to both: The things in this life that we love are anything but permanent, but that’s OK, because their value doesn’t come from their permanency. Their value comes from their creation by God and their role in our lives as his plan unfolds. It’s a subtle but important shift in perspective. And it’s one I think we could all benefit from.

My rating? A solid four stars out of five.

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P.S. I received a copy of this book through a giveaway by Lifeway and Eric Geiger, who blogs about ministry and leadership. Check him out!

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