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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


As a former farm kid, I have always had an abiding interest in barns. For the benefit of our city-raised readers, perhaps I should offer a brief explanation. I have warm and deep childhood memories of working with my dad and sisters in the barn. I can still hear the rustle of straw being spread as bedding for the cows and see the animals doing all the things animals do. I knew every cow by name and every cat, pig and chicken by personality. I knew every crevice of the hay mow, and every passage in the stable. The barn was a warm, safe, and magical part of my childhood world.

This morning I went for a walk in the country to breathe in some much needed fresh air and sunshine. As I did so, I passed several barns (about seven), and realized again how much farming has changed since my childhood, and how it is changing still. Without going into a lot of detail about those changes, the impact that struck me is that most of the barns I passed on my walk now stand empty.

A barn that is not used will not stand for long, and I noticed several in varying stages of disrepair. First the roof begins to sag, then a wall starts to bulge. One night a wind storm tears a section of the roof sheeting off, and within a few years the barn collapses. Indeed, one of the barns I passed on my walk that was in a deteriorating state only a couple of years ago is now completely gone except for its stone foundation.

But to focus only on the empty barns is to look for a way of life that is no longer there; a form of farming that no longer exists. It is true that farming has changed, is changing, and will change even more in the future. Yet it is worth noting that every house I passed is still lived in and every field I walked by is still producing crops. The snow covered soil that appears dormant now will shortly be alive and brimming with life and energy. Farmers, some of whom no longer even have barns, will soon be tilling that land and planting corn, beans, or grain. Earthworms and insects will once again work their magic. Hay fields will soon turn green in a rush to respond to the warmth of sun and soil. It is too easy to focus only on empty barns as a symbol of death, but if one looks past them, one sees life!

As I walked, I couldn’t help but see the parallel to many of our church buildings, some of which are now also empty, with others nearly so. Just as the barns are to farming, these empty churches are symbols of the changing nature of our religious and spiritual life. Thinking of those empty sanctuaries, it is so easy to feel discouraged or saddened by loss. And yet, when we look past the empty buildings, do we not see fields of people who are alive and spiritually vital? Can we not see new generations of people who give expression to their relationship with God in a new way? Is God not, once again, doing another new thing?

I went to the country discouraged. I came back realizing that God’s Spirit is still active in the fields of life, still planting seeds, and still nurturing new crops of people, even if their spiritual expressions are different than mine. Is it time we looked at the world with new eyes?

Posted by Carman


  1. Mel Mills says:

    I can visualize the next sentence in your bog. It is time for us not to just look at the world with new eyes, but to listen to that still small voice that calls us to mission and discipleship, to hear where God is calling us to be and what to do in this new world. We need to make the same adjustments as was made by those farmers who responded to the change in farming and abandoned their barns. However, they are still farmers doing farming. We need to realize the change happening to our world and respond to the change but continue to be disciples doing disciple work. To discern 'What Matters Most' to God in this new world that we now see.

    I think your post is a great analogy of what is happening to our world. The farmers changed and adapted as we must as well. However, I don't carry the barn analogy all the way to abandonment of our 'Barns', but change and adapt we must, and we need to spend as much energy trying to discern the proper response to that change as we do to routines and maintenance of our old ways.

    You can count on me to continue to help discover 'What matters most!'.

  2. Thank you Mel,
    There is much more I could have said about the barn analogy, but chose to keep my reflections to what I hope is a resonable length. I appreciate your comments and your commitment.


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