I love the Charles Poole story about when he was a kid and his family had gone to town. They had gone to a market. Some of you will remember markets where the hams hung out back, and there were Nehi orange and grape drinks, along with Dr. Scholl’s foot care products on display. Charles begged his dad for a Milky Way candy bar.  His dad did not usually give in to such requests, but on this day he did.
As they left the market, Charles tore into the Milky Way and was holding in one hand, the scrumpdillisious candy bar and in the other hand was the cardboard strip that came with the candy bar. Well, in a literal fulfillment of the biblical phrase, the “right hand doesn’t know what the left hand doeth,” he mistakenly tossed the candy bar out of the car window and he was left holding the cardboard piece.  He turned around to see his Milky Way get scrunched under the wheels of a pulp wood truck. It has been some forty years since that happened, and he can still feel the emptiness knowing that he had thrown away the very thing he wanted, and he was left holding nothing.
We have a tendency to throw away the good stuff in pursuit of some pleasure that is “out there.” Someone called it the Adam and Eve sin, the sin of “restless discontent.” They became discontented with the good life they had and reached for what they could not have, and threw away the good life.  Sound familiar?
I want to let you in on a secret. The secret is this: life is only going to get so good.  The biggest obstacle to peace in your heart and in your home is to demand from human relationships and from institutions perfection.  You will forever be frustrated and restless if you seek a perfect job, a perfect family, marriage or church. There are no perfect husbands, wives or children or relationships, schools, jobs, or churches. As long as we look for the perfect spouse, perfect house, perfect church, we will forever be restless and frustrated.
Life is wonderful.  Life is here and now; God is with you now, and it is not to be lived out there somewhere. Yes, life is good.  But life still can only be so good.
That was the word from Jeremiah (ch.29) to the people of Israel in exile. They really wondered if God was with them in Babylon. Was God only in the past, you know, back in Israel? Or was God with them now?
Some false prophets (v. 8) were telling them that they would be going home soon. He said, “Garbage.” He said while you are in Babylon (think shelter in place), and it is going to be awhile, “plant gardens, build houses. God will deliver you a future and a hope (vs. 5-11).”
Jeremiah said to the exiles, God is with you wherever you go. Quit looking back and quit looking ahead to what might be; instead God is with you today. Plant some corn and some potatoes. Stay awhile. God is with you.
We preachers play the same game. Instead of taking Jeremiah’s advice and “building houses and planting gardens” where we are, we always want what we cannot have. It is the human condition to want what we cannot have. Those preachers with a church in the mountains, where the church is quaint and life is slow, want a church in the city, preferably in Buckhead, where life happens, where ministry happens outside the church’s front door. Those with the city church in Buckhead dream about a church in the mountains. Those with a church that has multiple staff members longs for the church where the pastor is the only full-time staffer and those in the small church long for the church with multiple staffers to help with the work load.
All of us, whether soon to be high school graduates, or business leaders, lawyers or doctors, have fantasies about the next place, the next job, the next degree. If only I could get that church. If only I could get that degree. If only I could live in Alabama (sorry, couldn’t resist).
Jeremiah says that wherever you are is where you should bloom. Shelter in place and bloom in place! Don’t put your life on hold waiting for the next big thing or waiting for life to get back to normal. God has a plan for you and will provide hope for you wherever you are. And that means now!
~Pastor Steve

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