It feels good to be back in Florida and it feels good to have a little sand in my shoes.
My first Florida memory is from 1981. Prior to my last year at Trinity Christian College, my folks moved from the family farm in Fulton, Illinois to Lake Worth, Florida to begin a new adventure. Little did I know that one year later, my bride Jackie and I would also move to Florida to begin our adventure of law school at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Yes, I’ve got a Florida fondness in my heart forged by lots of good stories over the nearly ten years Jackie and I lived there. These stories come to mind when we are back in Florida, this time connecting with friends of Calvin Seminary seeking the warmth of Florida sun and gladly welcoming some sand in their shoes instead of the slush of snow.
When you come to Florida from the North (even if you call it the Midwest), you make the necessary adjustments of learning to appreciate BBQ, sipping sweet tea, and seeing lots of shorts in church on Sunday morning. And you don’t mind a little sand in your shoes.
Over the last thirty-five years, I have also seen people struggle to make adjustments to living and even ministering in Florida. I have seen ministries not connect to their local context and community because they were not willing to get a little sand in their shoes.
Getting sand in your shoes means getting connected to the community and culture where God has placed you. In Denver or Calgary, ministries might need to adjust to the “mountain air” of mile high altitudes. In Iowa farmland communities, you may need to make the necessary adjustment to the “fertilizing fragrance” of liquid manure.
As I travel for Calvin Seminary, I am encouraged by the number of pastors and parishioners who seek day by day to connect to their local communities. Sometimes I have shared that the Christian Reformed Church has grown through the years by immigration, migration and procreation. The challenge and opportunity before us now is to grow by mission.
Sand in your shoes can be a metaphor to remind us that even though the shape or feel of the mission may change, the core mission remains the same. We are to follow the ways of Jesus—God with us—who sends us into this world that God so loves. Through the power of Holy Spirit, we are anointed with a ministry of reconciliation and hope.
So what about your place of ministry? Where is God sending you—or where has he planted you? What necessary adjustments is God calling you to make? Are you getting any sand in your shoes?