Valley of Potential
I’ve been digging into local history lately. That research overflowed into a sermon series I finished preaching in February. (You can watch them here. Find the Journey2020 playlist). Learning more of the arc of history of our region has not only been interesting because of the story it reveals of the past, but because of the future it frames as well. I’ve always known great things exist in Central California, but exploring the narrative of our history has been lifting the lid of our capacity for me.
Have you heard about Lake Tulare? The Kaweah, Tule and Kings Rivers all flowed from the Sierra Nevadas into our valley to form Lake Tulare- the largest fresh water lake west of the Mississippi. It fluctuated in size year by year, but history records stories of boat trips from Hanford to San Francisco loaded with wares to be sold from Central California. As the fertile valley was settled and farmed in the mid 1800’s the need arose to utilize the water flowing through those rivers to irrigate crops. Our semi-arid climate meant rainfall alone couldn’t sustain many crops, but ingenuity and need led to levees and dams and canals that delivered the precious water to the growing crops. Our Central California forefathers harnessed the raw materials of our land and produced the 7th most productive region in the world. As a consequence Lake Tulare died. From the years of sediment deposit from those three rivers the soil had become rich and fertile. From the dead lakebed arose a region that now feeds the nations.
In the book of Ezekiel, there is a prophetic vision that Ezekiel has. God leads him to a valley filled with dry bones and instructs Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones. He speaks the words God gave him and the dry bones rattle about, connect together and stand as skeletons across the valley. Then Ezekiel sees muscle and skin form over the bones. Finally, Ezekiel is instructed by God to speak to the winds to fill the dead bodies with breath and life. The end result is that the valley that was once filled with dry bones—hopeless and dead— is now filled with an army— hopeful and alive.
God is in the resurrection business. The valley of dry bones becomes an army. The womb of a 90-year-old woman named Sarah carries a son of promise, Isaac; and the tomb Jesus was laid in is empty.
After rising from the dead, Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit to come. He said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be My witnesses, telling people about me everywhere— in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When the Holy Spirit came, the followers of Jesus were filled with power and told the stories of Jesus in their radiating spheres of influence. And a dead world found new life.
If we can work together across Central California to cultivate the seventh most productive region in the world, we can work together to ship leaders, pastors, teachers, missionaries, and world changes from Central California to the nations. Together, we can dream new dreams, putting Central California on the map in new ways. Together, we aren’t afraid of hard work, sweat, and callouses: Our ancestors have taught us to value those traits for the harvest that’s on the other side of the toil. It’s in our blood. It’s in the air around us. If we could creatively overcome the challenges in the past, we can certainly work together to overcome the challenges of the present. That’s who we are; who we’ve always been.
When you look across the valley, where do you see dry bones? Where do you see potential that is lying dormant? What lids do you see that need to be lifted for the future generations of this valley to flourish? What is God saying about those things? What is His heart for the valley? And what might you do about it?
Remember, we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon us. And we will be witnesses, telling people about Jesus everywhere— in Tulare County, throughout the San Joaquin Valley, in California, and to the ends of the earth.