Living in the desert, we know a lot about dry places. How do we bring life to these dry places? Even in the desert there is rain. The question is whether the rain soaks into the soil or runs off. This is an issue J. David Bamberger faced.
David found success in the business world working with Church’s Fried Chicken. This business success provided the capital David needed for his next venture. He wanted to buy the worst piece of land he could find in the Texas hill country and bring it back to being environmentally healthy. David bought 5,500 acres in 1969 outside of Austin that became “Selah, Bamberger Ranch”. This was property no one wanted. It was dry and full of brush.
David had seven five hundred feet wells dug, and none of them hit water. They discovered, however, an empty limestone cavern. This subterranean aquifer was empty because water was running off the property. They cleared a big section of Cedars from the property and planted native grasses. The roots of the native grasses soaked rainwater into the soil. I can only imagine the excitement when the first spring started flowing on the ranch! There are now eleven springs, providing water for both the ranch, and beyond the ranch. The ranch was created into a preservation operated by a foundation so it will survive into the indefinite future. If you would like to see what the ranch looks like now, National Geographic produced a mini-documentary about the ranch for their Short Film Showcase. A quick search on the net will find it on YouTube.
Imagine something as simple as native grasses had the power to re-hydrate this dry land! What had become barren and desolate, returned to being filled with vegetation and wildlife. I’m grateful David had the vision and means to create this paradise!
As we look around our society and world, how would we describe its spiritual health? Words like “dry” and “barren” seem appropriate to use. We have dipped to a level of meanness I find to be shocking. I earnestly want to say this is only outside of the church, but that isn’t true. Even my beloved United Methodist Church has taken many opportunities to demonstrate what “mean” looks like. If only God would take our complicated problem and simplify it for us!
Gratefully, I think Jesus gave us the seeds to grow the answer. In Matthew 22:36 a lawyer asked Jesus: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” This was a test, since there were so many commandments to choose from. To say one was the greatest of all seemed like an impossible feat. Then Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40: “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and prophets.”
Jesus narrowed the field so we could see and understand the top two commandments. My thought is as Christians we need to focus on these two commandments every day. How would our days look different if we started each morning by focusing on these commandments, and finished each evening reviewing how we did?
As “church”, it makes sense to me to focus where Jesus focused. These two commandments are a critical part of Jesus’ focus. How would our churches look different if we emphasized these commandments every week? Testimonies are old fashioned, but maybe we could give people an opportunity to share how they loved God, neighbor, and self the past week. Then we could ask if there are any ways we could work together to love God, neighbors, and self in the upcoming week. Some projects are too big to do alone. I wonder what might come from these questions?
Our world needs to be spiritually re-hydrated. We have the means to do this. Do we have the vision and desire? Loving God, neighbor, and self might sound too simple, but look at the difference planting native grasses made. How many seeds of love can we plant this week?
Your brother on the journey, Mark