I often tell the story of a vision in which Jesus sets me – and about seventy others – free from confinement in a root cellar. Over several joy-filled hours, we play with each other and with Him on a manicured lawn. This playtime is climaxed when He teaches each of us to fly.
The catch comes when Jesus gathers us at the edge of the lawn and directs us to fly down to a horribly polluted city on the plane below and share His plans to liberate its citizens just as He set us free. I balk at the assignment. I tell Him I want to obey Him in all things, but – I complain – going into that polluted city is no different from returning to confinement in the root cellar. I beg – and then demand – He assign me some other task. He explains that obedience means doing whatever He wants – not whatever I want. When I return to my “That’s no different than back to the cellar” defense, He assures me it is actually quite different. “Because,” He points out, “Now you can fly.”
California has been uncommonly blessed by God. We are home to the finest and most abundant land in the world; our agriculture is worth many multiples of the gold we ripped from the ground. We house tremendous reserves of energy – from oil and natural gas to the intellectual and creative energies that grew the worldwide entertainment industry and Silicon Valley. California’s civilization is rooted in faith – from that of the First Nations who worshipped the Father they knew as Yah to the missionaries of Padre Serra who introduced them to the Son. God has birthed more faith eruptions in California than any other state. We are the go-spot for movements from the Azusa Street outburst of the early twentieth century to the Charismatic Renewal of the sixties to the Jesus People (which spread worldwide) to the upwellings that dotted California cities of all sizes beginning in the nineties. Of course, opportunities straight from God – now we can fly – are always intended to foster obedience and accountability that leads to joy. We Californians have all too often refused that accountability, and the fruit is evident.
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We lead the nation in the shed blood of First Nations Peoples over two centuries. (We pretend that some of this – like the 1851 Etna massacre in which three thousand Shastans were murdered at a barbecue in their honor – did not really happen.) We lead the nation in elective suicide and abortion on demand; this too is blood on our hands. Pornography and divorce are epi-centered in our state, not to mention human trafficking and the idolatry of our own innovation. We currently host the worst drought in our history, and our governor’s creative solution is to build more storage for the water we do not have. Meanwhile, our legislature considers bills to permit assisted suicide without meaningful safeguards against abuse and multiple efforts to curtail free speech and free exercise in mental health professionals and pregnancy care workers. (I refer to SB 72 – now law – and SB 128 and 775.) Government officials re-write or ignore laws limiting their power; but it is We-The-People – and especially the Church – that places and perpetuates these atrocities in power, whether by voting for them or by declining to become involved in civic life. The blood is on our hands.
There is an alternative.
The Lord Yahweh calls on His people – His people – to humble themselves, pray, and seek His face and – yes – turn from our wicked ways in 2 Chronicles 7:14. What He demands is re-focus on Him and leaving behind our commitment to worshiping our own inadequacies – which is the meaning of the Hebrew we translate as “wicked ways.” The next National Day of Repentance is Thursday, April 30, in cooperation with the National Day of Prayer – May 7 – to co-sponsor a week of prayer, fasting, and simple honesty about who we are, what we have become, and how we might turn and be healed. Australia has committed to a week of prayer for the United States; surely we can commit to a week of prayer for ourselves – especially in California.
Information is available at www.dayofrepentance1.org. Readers thinking of prayer as too esoteric an address to practical problems can support the efforts to store water we do not have. People who recognize – from faith or not – that a high pressure ridge denying rain to our state for four years is meteorologically unnatural can seek God for His answers to our perplexity. Personally, I have always found God more reliable, innovative, and compassionate than government. With Him, we can fly.
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