By Mike Safford

I wanted to bring you a brief encouragement on what is now the four-month mark of being in this season that we’ve come to know as the COVID-19 season. Here is a truth you can take to the bank about yourself and about church families like the Tehachapi Mountain Vineyard. God is actively writing a story in your life. God is actively writing a story in our  lives. He does that individually, he does that in our families and he does that in communities of faith like ours, the Tehachapi Mountain Vineyard. One of the things that we need to keep in mind is that hard seasons are very much a part of writing that story. Maybe another way to put that is when you’re in a hard season it certainly does not mean that God has stopped writing that story. If you look at the narrative of Jesus all through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John what we see is that Jesus endured radical hardship and incredible suffering. Yet through it all, the Father was with him, continuing to write a beautiful story of redemption, of healing, of love. When we see Jesus suffer, we understand that his story was in midstream, it wasn’t done yet. The same is happening with you and I right now. In the sixth chapter of the letter that bears their name, Paul admonishes the church in Galatia to see hardship as an ongoing part of the story writing process and helps them understand how to navigate it. He says, “Do not be deceived friends God cannot be mocked. A man will reap what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature from that nature will reap destruction. And the one who sows to please the spirit, from the spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Paul is saying essentially as he moves toward wrapping up his pastoral letter to the church in Galatia, that there are seasons where it is hard to continue doing the right thing or the good thing. You’re going to feel compelled to kind of turn inward, to become insulated, to self satisfy. Paul simply says, I don’t want you to become weary in doing the right thing and the good thing. I want you to stay focused on doing it. So in this season of COVID-19, where we are four months into doing church either online or out in the parking lot and everything feels abnormal when it comes to the story of the Tehachapi Mountain Vineyard...I just have a brief encouragement for you that is very similar to the one I had at the very beginning of starting this whole COVID-19 season. In this season we need to continue together as a community, as a family, as those who belong one with another to Jesus in this story called the Tehachapi Mountain Vineyard. We need to continue to be focused, flexible, and faithful. None of us knows how long this season is going to continue to last. We don’t know if it’s going to be an abnormal experience of culture and doing church for months and months and months to come, for weeks to come, we just don’t know. But in the meantime we can together continue to be focused, flexible, and faithful.

What does it mean to be focused? Focused means something like this: every single day, regardless of  what’s happening, I wake up with a general sense of what God is doing in the narrative that I’m in right now. What is God doing in our church? What is God doing in your family? What is God doing in your own individual life? Focused means, like the author to the Hebrews, I fix my eyes on Jesus who is the author and perfecter of my faith and I have a sense of what he’s doing in the moment. Jesus started this church here in Tehachapi. The Tehachapi Mountain Vineyard has been alive now for almost 16 years and whether you’ve been part of it from the beginning or like Liz, myself, and our kids, for the last two years, God has seen fit to make you part of this story. He has you here for a reason. He’s doing something with you even if you have found the Tehachapi Mountain Vineyard in this COVID season and you have never actually been in the building before.  He has seen fit to envelope you into this story for a reason. He’s doing something with you. He’s saying something to you. He is writing your story and he has included us to all be a part of it at the same time for a reason. Focused means knowing what that is. Hearing the voice of Jesus each morning, each day, keeping my eyes fixed on what he’s saying and doing in any moment. Even though this is an awkward, abnormal, completely out of the blue season that none of us expected, Jesus is still actively writing your story, my story, and the story of the Tehachapi Mountain Vineyard. We need to remain focused on what that is.

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