Our most productive Christian growth can come when we connect with God in the day-to-day moments of living.
In the late 1960s the band Creedance Clearwater Revival, a Rock and Roll band, had a surprising Country music hit. The song was the story of rising music star who — in between the interview with the “man from of the magazine” who said he would “go far” and reality — “ran out of songs to sing”. The chorus said it all: “O Lord, stuck in Lodi again.”
I am not sure if you have ever experienced Lodi, but I have. After experiencing Lodi, I can understand why so many people liked the song. The song captures the “in-between” of day-to-day life everyone experiences. Much of the time we feel like we are “stuck in Lodi again”.
When I was growing up Lodi was a small farming community in the San Joaquin Valley of California. The center attraction in those days was a large grape packing shed. It is safe to say that Lodi was only a destination for grapes freshly picked under the hot Kern County sun. Lodi was all about the functional daily grind. Get the perishable fruit there, get it safely packed and get ready for the next load. Lodi was not on anybody’s list as an ultimate destination, but most of us, like the character in the song, find it necessary to spend some time in Lodi-like places.
Paul Heibert, in a classic article called the “The Flaw of the Excluded Middle” (1) shows how the people of earth explain life, live life, and face the future at three levels. The bottom level deals with the things of life that we can experience with our senses. This is the “empirical” level that the sciences deal with. At this level people learn to plant a crop, build a house, learn to fish, fix a pump and a thousand other things.
The top level in Heibert’s analysis deals with the ultimate issues of life: The meaning of life, life after death, God, suffering, and why we are here. These sacred issues are the realm of religion, Christianity, and philosophy.
What about the “middle-level” issues of life? These are the questions of uncertainty of the near future, the crisis of the day-to-day life and the unknowns of the past. Issues such as the future of your job, your health, safety in getting from place to place are “middle-level” issues. I call them “Lodi issues”. For many people and cultures, this part of life is controlled by luck, superstitions, spells, and in some cultures magic, spirits, etc. In the technological world we live in, we explain why our computer crashed by chalking it up to “glitches”, bad luck or simply fate. In Santa Cruz, it might as easily be explained as Karma.
I remember when Nancy and President Ronald Reagan, known as devout Christians, surprised everyone when it was revealed that Nancy in particular, when faced with the uncertainties of her husband’s safety after an assassination attempt, regularly visited a psychic. Hillary Clinton allegedly had conversations with long ago deceased Eleanor Roosevelt when experiencing stress during her husband’s presidential administration. We often observe “split– level” Christianity in which people go to church so they can go to heaven, but look to an astrologer, a shaman, or Dr. Phil for help with their day-to-day lives. Christ is the Lord of the “middle”, as well as Lord over Creation and Heaven. He can meet us in Lodi as well as in Jerusalem. We have just experienced Christmas — a time when we examine the profound truth of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us. We are looking forward to Easter, when we will celebrate God;s victory through Jesus over all sin and darkness. In between these two monumental, top-level concepts, is January-March. This is the middle-level time. It is also a time in which we can grow. I propose that when we begin to relate to God with the day-to-day “Lodi issues” of life — we will truly experience what it means to us that the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” and that “death is swallowed up in victory.”
How do we do this? How do we experience God when we are “stuck in Lodi again”?
I propose these steps:
1. Seek an intimate relationship with God. Carry your day-to-day concerns to Him.
2. Pray about your daily tasks.
3. Look for God’s miracles in the ordinary things of life.
4. Most of all, share your day-to-day concerns with what the Celtic Christians called a “soul-friend”. When we experience intimacy and honesty with one another, we experience God in our midst.
We can grow a lot in places like Lodi because we can find our Savior there.
1. Paul G. Heibert, “The Flaw of the Excluded Middle,” in “Missiology: An International Review” 10:1 (January 1982): 35-47. Quotation excerpted from George G. Hunter III “The Celtic Way of Evangelism” 2000 Abingdon Press.