Thursday, October 30, 2014

Never Too Old to Learn

It's been nearly 3 months since I last updated this blog.  A lot has happened in the meantime.  Some dear friends and family from the States have been over to see us.  My cousin Brent popped over in September, Juli's mom, Donna, was over in early October, and just last weekend, our friends Steve and Margie McVey and Scott and Renae Click came over for a visit.  I've always been amazed that having our friends and family with us in Ireland has felt so natural.  I guess it means that this place really feels like home. Still, I'm aware that I'm a stranger and alien here, but I can't think of a better place to be strange or alien!

A group of 7 or 8 of us are consistently meeting on Thursday evenings to read and discuss John's apocalypse (Revelation).  With all of the craziness that's happening in the Near East, this is a timely book to be studying.  Thankfully, we're all coming to the conclusion that far from being a road map to the end of the world, Revelation is actually a powerful exhortation to Christians living in the eastern part of the Roman Empire in the late 1st century.  As they struggled with living out their faith in a society that was increasingly putting pressure on them to compromise their beliefs, they had to decide who was the Lord of the world - Caesar or Christ.  Although our immediate circumstances are very different, there are a lot of points of intersection in our lives of faith.  In any and every generation, as the world around us puts pressure on us to compromise, we must live out the reality of Jesus' reign and rule.

I also continue to meet with some other good friends on Monday afternoons and evenings to study scripture, pray, reflect, and discuss the big issues in life.  We may not have the academic pedigrees of the Inklings (CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, & other big figures of yesteryear), but I believe our discussions must be as relevant and engaging.  Speaking of engaging, a few of us are joining a friend of mine for a course titled "Engaging Islam" this evening after our Bible study.  This friend was forced to leave his Islamic country after he converted to Christianity and began to share the message of Jesus with others.  As our world is becoming increasingly pluralized, it's important that we not only be aware of our own religious beliefs and convictions, but that we also learn to listen to others, see their perspective, and engage with them in genuine dialogue.  Because I believe that Jesus is Lord and because I believe that ultimately God desires everyone to come to a knowledge of this truth, I hope to learn how to better love and understand my Muslim neighbors so that if invited, I might be able to share the saving message of Jesus with them.

Here in a few moments I'll be off to teach a conversational English class.  I loved discussing literature in school, but I hated grammar.  It's ironic that now I get to teach a little grammar, as well as basic conversational skills.  Sometimes my students correct me!  We're never to old to learn...- Shay 



Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Better Way: Religion and Politics

People say you shouldn't talk about religion.  I say that talking about religion is extremely healthy and is a whole lot better than fighting over it physically (I have no problem with people discussing their faith or lack-there-of with conviction and passion, so long as they remain respectful).  People say you shouldn't talk about politics.  I personally don't enjoy political conversations very much, but what does it say about people when we eliminate a very real and important aspect of life from our conversational options?  Are we incapable of disagreeing with someone in principle, while still remaining civil?  Can we maintain a loving and healthy relationship with someone with whom we vehemently disagree?  Do our differences not make life much more interesting?  Do not our own views become stronger, maybe more nuanced and a bit healthier by being challenged, gracefully, by those who may see things differently?

I've had a few conversations with people recently where my comparison of Christian faith with other world views and religions made some present uncomfortable. Some of the conversations dealt simply with historical facts.  Other parts of the conversations dealt with core convictions.  In either case, I made it clear that my faith in Jesus leads me to believe that ultimately he will be the final judge in the end.  I stressed that in simply comparing the different belief systems, I was not taking my place on the judgment seat.  However, I didn't shy away from sharing what the Christian faith teaches, based on Jesus' own words as recorded in the gospels and what the later New Testament writers had to say.  I fully recognize that my understanding of my own faith continues to grow and mature as I get older and that many in the world would have vastly different views to my own.  However, if we're not free to clearly express our views, what's the point in having them to begin with?  We may as well live in a dictatorship without freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech.

Proverbs states that as iron sharpens iron, so two people sharpen one another.  Real differences exist in this increasingly pluralistic and globalized world.  There's a real opportunity for people from different faiths, world views, and political persuasions to actually come together and dialogue about their very real differences.  There's nothing wrong with this, in fact, it's extremely healthy.  However, when I look around the world, whether through the lens of the newspaper headlines or in some of my own conversations, it seems that the culture is increasingly forcing people to extremes.  Either we allow our differences to divide so deeply that we become uncivil in our interactions (or worse when we look at the trouble spots of violence scattered across the globe) or we refuse to even engage in dialogue, preferring to "keep the peace" and our opinions to ourselves.  Both of these extremes diminish our humanity and prevent us from growing individually and collectively.  A better way begins with each and every one of us. - Shay     

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Vintage Time of Life?

Like most things in life, age is relative.  When we're really young, we think the young, but older than us crowd is sooo old.  When I was a teen, the mid 30s seemed like a time when people were really old and mature - fully grownup, fully adult.  I turned 37 yesterday and to misquote Garth Brooks, I'm much too old to feel this...young.  I do feel grown up, but I've come to realize that maturity is a relative, fluctuating, and multi-layered concept. 

One of the things we all discover over the years is that time flies and flies fast.  High School and even Middle School doesn't seem like that long ago.  College was practically yesterday.  Everything after has simply been a blur.  But overall, life, at least for me personally has continued to get better with age, not worse.  I'm not afraid of growing older, but I have come to accept the limitations that increased mileage has placed on my body.  I know, I know...just wait until I'm 50...60...70.

According to a 2013 British survey, age 37 seems to be the happiest time of life for a large percentage of men.  I can't think of too many ages that I would prefer to the past few years, so maybe I am peaking.  Is this the vintage time of life?  I don't think so.  I don't see any reason why life can't just keep getting better with age.  Either way, we only have today and I plan on making the most of it. - Shay   

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Simple Gospel

I often engage in Bible discussions with various people from a variety of different backgrounds.  Later today I will be meeting with some friends and co-workers for a meeting and part of our time will be spent in sharing some reflections from scripture.  A few hours later I'll be meeting some other friends for a chat and biblical discussion in the city centre.  Sometimes we write out our reflections through a technique called "Discovery Bible Study".  The idea is to write out a text word for word, paraphrase it, and then jot down some reflections.  Though the two studies I'll be involved in today are based out of different passages, I believe that they are simply two different angles on the simple gospel.  Here goes...

John 16:20-22 - Text: "Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.  When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come.  But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world.  So you have pain now; but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you."

Paraphrase: Jesus knew that his disciples would not; could not understand his impending death.  How could they?  A crucified messiah was an oxymoron.  Jesus knew that the Sabbath to come would be a black one, even if those in opposition to him would rejoice.  But just as the pain felt by a woman in labor ultimately leads to the celebration of new life, so would Jesus' death ultimately lead to resurrection life and the birth of the new creation resulting in an everlasting joy.

Reflections: Pain isn't eternal.  It's only temporary, though in its moment it can seem unbearable.  Mourning may last longer than a morning, but it too will one day cease to be.  Tears of sorrow are nothing to scoff at.  They can be as real and raw as any expression of human emotion we ever face.  But those tears will one day be wiped dry from every eye and every cheek.  Suffering is a reality.  We may grin and bear it, but that doesn't make it any less real.  But it is only one very small part of reality and it too will eventually be banished forever.  Death is not the final word.  It's a loud word punctuated with an exclamation mark, but it isn't the final word.  I have faith that all of this is true because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the new creation that was birthed on that Sunday 2,000 years ago.  O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 - Text: "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see everything has become new!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us this message of reconciliation; that is in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.  So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

Paraphrase: If anyone has been incorporated into the Messiah - new creation!  Not just them, but for them every single thing has become new and is in the process of being renewed.  This is a gift from God who through the Messiah brought us back into relationship with him and has brought us into a partnership in the ministry of reconciliation.  God was in the Messiah, the man Jesus, reconciling the whole world to himself, not counting sins against humanity and trusting those of us in the Messiah Jesus with the message.  We represent the Messiah to those not yet in the Messiah - God uses us as his spokespersons.  We try to persuade others on behalf of the Messiah to be reconciled to God.  God in the Messiah Jesus took on the full force of sin, though he knew not sin within himself, so that all of those in the Messiah might share in Jesus' righteousness.

Reflections: What does it mean to be in Christ?  To be in the Messiah?  He is our representative before God the Father.  By virtue of our incorporation in him, literally being in his body, what's true of him is true of us.  We share in his righteousness - his faithfulness - so that we are reconciled to God.  We are back in the relationship for which we were always created.  And this means that just as Jesus gave birth to the new creation through his resurrection, for us, new creation has already begun to arrive and is in the process of continually coming until it is finally realized in the renewed heavens and the renewed earth.  In the meantime, as we partner with the Messiah Jesus, we serve as his mouthpiece, his representative here and now.  The universal appeal for reconciliation sounds out from Christ's body, the church, as it engages in worship of Jesus, love of neighbor, and in articulating the hope and forgiveness found in the one who was given for the whole world.

Some things seem too good to be true.  Others things, like this, are too good not to be true.  Simple, but true. - Shay  

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Relational God

Of all the gospels, John's (although I don't think the apostle John actually wrote it, but that's another story) is probably the most developed theologically.  It was written late in the 1st century and was very much rooted in the historical context of John's audience.  There had been ample time for followers of Jesus to consider deeply the significance of his teaching and actions during his ministry and with greater time and reflection came greater understanding.  So with  that in mind, it's appropriate to hear Jesus' teaching and discourses throughout John's gospel as being as much directed to those disciples of the late 1st century as to the original hearers within the story.  And of course, there's a message for ourselves in the 21st century too.  With this in the background, here are some reflections I take from John 15:12-15 (these verses come from Jesus' "farewell" discourse to his disciples in John 14-17).

Text:"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.  I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my father."

My Paraphrase: Jesus invited his disciples to love one another just as he loved them.  He explained that the greatest love in life is the willingness to surrender one's life for the sake of one's friends.  Friendship with Jesus carries with it the responsibility to obey his commands, chiefly the command to love others.  Though Jesus' disciples are his servants, he welcomes them into grater intimacy as he honors them as friends.

Reflections: From Genesis to the maps, the story of God is also the story of God and his people.  From the very beginning, God has been and continues to be a relational God.  In fact, the crown of his creation, humanity, he made in his very own image.  God took it even further when in the person of his Son, he emptied himself, in-fleshing himself in the man Jesus.  Jesus did not exploit his divinity, but rather related to humanity as a fully human person with all of the natural limitations that we all endure.  Relationally speaking, this man Jesus embraced his disciples as friends and showed us all what humanity was always supposed to be, but had failed to be.  After laying down his life for his friends, through the Spirit, Jesus was raised and then exalted to the right hand of the Father.  In Jesus' exaltation, God has actually taken humanity into himself, thus taking his relationship with us that much further.

So that brings us to our response to the amazing love of this relational God.  Essentially, we are asked to follow in Jesus' footsteps - the footsteps of the one true human who bridged the gap to the one true God.  Just as Jesus put his complete trust in his Father, so we put our trust in both the Father and the Son.  As Jesus submitted to the Father in baptism and received the Holy Spirit, so too we are born again of the water and the Spirit.  And just as Jesus loved his disciples and not only his disciples, but the entire world, by laying down his life, so too are we to love others by putting our own wishes, agendas, and personal preferences to the side for the sake of others and for the sake of Christ.  It wasn't easy for Jesus and it's certainly not easy for us.  But a life lived in this Spirit is the kind of life that Jesus described in John 10:10 - life abundant. - Shay

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Days Like Yesterday

Yesterday, Juli, Ashlyn, and I welcomed over 50 friends for a BBQ.  The weather wasn't the best, but it could have been a lot worse.  I think the food was good and the conversations were even better.  As  I reflect back on our first four years here in Ireland I am so thankful for all of the good friends we've made.  When lots of people come together in community you're reminded of how important relationships really are.  Sure, we miss our family and friends back home and we're looking forward to seeing many of them soon, but we have made a home away from home in Ireland.  I imagine in the new creation in the age to come, the time and spaces and people and places that our separated now will somehow come together in ways that we can't even fathom.  But days like yesterday give us a glimpse of what that renewed world will be like. - Shay     

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Free to Sin No More

One of the most powerful stories in John's gospel isn't found in the earliest known manuscripts of the text.  It comes from the first 11 verses of chapter 8 and is the account of Jesus' compassion on an adulteress woman.  I doubt this story was a part of John's original work, but it must have been a well known story in the early Christian communities and I have very little doubt that the event actually took place.  Yesterday, some friends and I discussed some of the implications from the story.  Here's my paraphrase of the text and my particular angle.

While Jesus was teaching in the temple, some of his opponents brought a woman straight from the bed of her adulterous lover and presented her before the crowd.  "The Law requires a stoning, what's your verdict?", they asked Jesus.  But the entire episode was just a setup to trap Jesus.  Not indulging them, Jesus knelt down and doodled in the dust.  They kept badgering Jesus, so finally he stood up and said, "Whoever is sinless, pick up a stone and you can be the first one to give it a go."  Jesus knelt back down and began to draw.  From the oldest to the youngest, they all began to to shuffle off until only Jesus and the woman were left.  Jesus stood up and asked, "Where did they all go?  No one's condemned you?"  "No one.", she said.  "Nor do I," said Jesus, "You're free to go - you're free to sin no more."

People aren't objects to be manipulated; they're not pawns in some life-sized chess match.  Every single person - every individual is important.  All are created in the image of God - all are to be treated with dignity and respect.  When the Jewish religious leaders trapped this sinful woman, they were willing to use, abuse, and sacrifice her for their own perverted sense of self-righteousness and their own selfish, political power-plays.  They trapped her so they could trap Jesus.  They were willing to sacrifice her so they could sacrifice him.  But Jesus was having none of it.  He saw through their scheming, but more importantly he saw the woman, not as an adulteress, though that's what she was, but he saw her for who she could be - who she would be.  Jesus refused to utter a word of condemnation, rather he offered a liberating word of grace.  To quote the verse after that most famous verse, "Indeed, God didn't send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.", John 3:17 - Shay 


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Living Water

Yesterday afternoon I joined a couple of Irish friends and a new friend from New Zealand for a Bible study in a local coffee shop.  We were studying John chapter 7 and I shared some ideas from verses 37-39.  Here's the text and my paraphrase of these verses with a few observations.

"On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, 'Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.  As the scripture has said, 'Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.''  Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit because Jesus was not yet glorified."

As the Jewish people celebrated the festival of Booths - remembering their ancestors who had lived in tents in the wilderness - Jesus stood up and turned their minds from remembering to renewal.  As he had done with the Samaritan woman by the well, Jesus offered the crowd living, flowing, life-giving water - he offered them life fueled by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus claimed he was the source of this God inspired power, this God transformed life.  After Jesus' death, resurrection, and exaltation, Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit to any who put their trust in him.

There's a hunger and thirst in our world for spirituality.  The Enlightenment and Modernism have left people searching for transcendence; for the deeper things in life that can't be found in a mathematical equation, a scientific theory, a purely philosophical speculation, or an ever increasing or decreasing bank balance.  Many people recognize that there's more to life than the what's readily available on the surface, but many people don't know where to look to find it.  I'm convinced that though it's an old, old story, the answer's still to be found in none other than Jesus of Nazareth.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  He is the life-giving source of the life-giving Spirit.  Our search for deeper meaning and purpose, our desire for a fulfilled and spiritually relevant life can only truly be satisfied through Jesus.  He offers living water to any and all who will believe.  - Shay

Friday, April 4, 2014


For the 8 years that Juli and I were members at Brentwood Oaks, one of the things that we grew to love was the annual family retreat out in Leakey.  Over the past 35 or 40 years, the BOCC family has traveled 2 and 1/2 hours west of Austin into the beautiful Texas Hill Country by the hundreds for rest, recreation, and relaxation.  It was a spiritual boost as well as a time to get to know your brothers and sisters better.  We've missed the past few, but I'm sure one day we'll have the chance to return.

This afternoon over 20 of us from North Dublin Christian Community will travel 1 and 1/2 hours west of Dublin to the midlands of Ireland near Athlone for our first ever family retreat.  We hope to worship, relax, recreate, and dream about the future.  It won't be nearly as organized as the BOCC retreat (really doesn't need to be with 20 or so people) and the weather won't be as warm, but I definitely pray that it will be a spiritual boost for us and I hope that we all come back to Dublin knowing each other and our Lord just a little bit better.  I don't remember all of the retreats I attended with Brentwood (they all blur together), but I doubt I'll forget this first one with NDCC. - Shay  

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hope and Possibility

I have a friend - we'll call him Larry.  Larry's not his real name, but I think people are probably over-exposed enough online, so I won't add to "Larry's" online profile.  But I do want to share some of Larry's story.

I met Larry 2 and 1/2 years ago.  He had just checked himself out of an addiction treatment center and moved back to Dublin to begin a new life.  We had placed an ad in the "Northside People" newspaper promoting Bible studies for those interested.  Through God's providence, the ad actually ran in the "Southside People" one week and Larry saw the ad and contacted us.  We met up and planned on meeting weekly for Bible study and conversation.  I also got Larry in touch with some Christians we know on the South side of Dublin. 

Larry and I met up from time to time and he occasionally joined some other Christians for study and prayer.  However, Larry's previous life of addiction still had a powerful hold on him.  One Sunday morning I was to meet him to take him to a local church service.  He never showed up.  I called his cell-phone and a friend of his answered and told me that Larry was off his head on drink and drugs.  I spoke with Larry, but he didn't remember the conversation later.  Another Sunday I went to pick up Larry for church, and once again, he was a no-show.  I tried to contact him again, but he never returned my calls.  It was months before I heard from him again.

Out of the blue, on a day in late May, I received a call from Larry and he mentioned that he had got sucked back into drug and alcohol abuse.  But, this time he was serious.  He really wanted to give sobriety and God another chance.  I was due to travel to the States for a month, but I put him in touch with some other Christian friends in the meantime.  When I returned from my trip back home I didn't hear from Larry.  But a week after returning, I was up in Northern Ireland helping set up Camp Shamrock when I received another call from Larry.  He was stoned and talking all kinds of rubbish.  He was threatening to kill himself.  I let him know that I was a couple of hours away from Dublin, but that if he would just hold on, I'd come down and see him.  Once I got to Dublin, I called Larry and because he was sounding violent and out of control, I decided not to see him that night.  The following day I spoke with him over the phone and then I went and gave him a lift to the bus station so that he could meet a friend down in Waterford who he felt could help keep him off the booze and drugs.

A month or so later, Larry contacted me again.  He had again fallen into substance abuse and needed a place to stay before he could check himself into rehab.  We would have put him up in our home, but with a young daughter and wife, I didn't feel like I could risk their safety if he wound up relapsing.  So I booked him into a hotel room and the following day I gave him a lift to a treatment center an hour outside of Dublin.  Larry stayed in treatment for a few weeks and many of us from Dublin popped down to visit him from time to time.  But as before, he left treatment early and found himself back in the grip of addiction.

So, when Larry contacted me yet again, I was sad and disappointed, but hopeful that one of these days he would snap out of his addiction and seriously turn his life over to Christ.  Larry needed a lift down to a different treatment center even farther away from Dublin.  Since he had left the treatment center early last time, they would not admit him back.  However, there was another place across the country that had a bed available.  So I picked him up and we drove to county Limerick and checked him into the center.

In early December of 2012 I received a phone call from a lady at the treatment center.  She informed me that Larry was planning on leaving the center, but this time he had actually completed the entire program.  A few weeks later it was exciting to receive a phone call from him - it was a cry for help, yet not one of desperation, but one seeking salvation and reconciliation.  Larry asked me if I would baptize him.  A couple days later Larry, me, and some others from our Christian community met in a coffee shop and talked about what it meant to surrender to Jesus.  The following Sunday, Larry was immersed into Christ in the Irish Sea.

I'm excited to tell you that Larry is going from strength to strength.  Oh, he's had a few slip ups (so have I - so have we all), but he's on a path of discipleship and sobriety.  I would estimate that 19 1/2 of his past 20 months have been spent in complete sobriety.  He recently moved down to Waterford and I was thrilled to receive a phone call on his behalf.  It was a charity organization asking for a character reference.  Larry had decided to volunteer - to help others, because others have helped him so much!  He's active in his church community and he's very involved with AA - once again, giving back to others because he's been given so much.  Sometimes other people's lives seem hopeless.  Sometimes our lives seem hopeless.  But they are not; our stories always have the possibility of a happy ending.  Since Jesus defeated death on that Sunday morning 2,000 years ago, the hope and possibility of new life is always just around the corner.  As it is for Larry, may it be for all of us. - Shay          

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring Is On Its Way

I love this time of year.  Who doesn't?  The weather here in Ireland, slowly, but surely, begins to get better.  The days begin to lengthen.  People begin to crawl out from under the dark heaviness of winter.  The trees begin to bud and the flowers begin to bloom.  Hope springs eternal.

But winter still likes to throw its weight around too.  I was doing some study in a coffee shop the other morning when the following words came to me.

Spring Is On Its Way

It's a damp day in Dublin - 
A nice little cry from the eyes in the sky;
Drops falling finely, not fiercely.
It's a wet and windy day,
Though spring is on its way,
The winter wonders, "Can't I just stay?"
And then sun again, well, that's Dublin!

I shared these words with Ashlyn this morning and she then made up a poem that I quickly jotted down.  We had celebrated a friend's birthday on Friday evening and then Ashlyn attended a little girl's birthday party yesterday.  I think these experiences inspired her words.

Look After

The mommies look after the children,
The daddies look after the mommies,
And then they say, "Surprise!" to the birthday.

Not bad for a 4 year old (even if I say so myself)! - Shay and Ashlyn 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Crossing the Plains

I've been going through, not a rough spell, but a frustrating spell recently.  It's nothing in particular, but everything in general.  And compared to people who are genuinely suffering around the world through no fault of their own, I really don't have anything to complain about.  But nevertheless, I've just kind of been waking up, getting on with stuff, and surviving, rather than thriving.  Going through the motions might be the way some would describe it.  I'm not proud of this.  It's not what I would consider ideal, but the reality is, sometimes we go through moments like these, particularly if we are seeking to live lives of faith.

For new believers who might have been "on fire" when they first came to Christ, a lull in their spiritual life might cause them to question whether they ever believed in the first place.  But for those of us who have been at this for a while, we realize that these moments, or seasons, are part and parcel to living lives in the kingdom.  For every peak, there's a valley, with a good few plains in between.  And it's the plains that might be the most difficult to understand.  When we are in a valley, when we are going through desperate times, it often forces us to hit our knees, lift up our eyes to our Father and focus on what's really important.  We might suffer greatly during these periods as we long to get out of the valley.  And even though we might struggle with belief, once we begin the journey back up, our faith often feels as if it's never been stronger.  When we experience those mountain top highs, it's easy to do the right thing, to feel the right way, and to be the kind of people we believe God created us to be.  It feels so natural, as if our spirituality was encoded in our DNA.

But what about the moments in life when we are neither on the top of a mountain nor walking through the valley of death?  What about those moments when we're out on the plains?  When we're struggling to see anything on the horizon?  Life isn't bad and the walk isn't painful, it's just flat - like a soda without carbonation.  Maybe the worst we can say is that's it's a little bit boring.  What do we do when we find ourselves crossing the plains?  To quote Matthew McConaughey, we "just keep livin'".  We fake it 'till we make it.  We keep putting one foot in front of the other, knowing that though there's seemingly nothing on the other side of the horizon, we will eventually get back to more enjoyable, though not necessarily easier terrain.  To quote the apostle Paul, we "press on".

I've been crossing the plains for a while now.  I'm not even sure when I left the mountains and the valleys.  I can't remember when I journeyed out of the forest and left the hill country behind.  But for some time now, I've been walking through a barren and flat landscape.  But like traveling through Eastern New Mexico when the flatlands of the Llano Estacado begin to dip and buckle and you can see the outline of the Rocky Mountains on the horizon, I feel as though I'm beginning to move into interesting landscapes.  But even if what I see out in the distance is merely a mirage, I'll just keep livin'.  Besides, there's a lot to be learned out on the plains if we're willing to take the time to notice. - Shay