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Saturday, September 5, 2015

Today’s Reading | Exodus 13:17–22

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was nearer; for God thought, “If the people face war, they may change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people by the roundabout way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of the land of Egypt prepared for battle. And Moses took with him the bones of Joseph who had required a solemn oath of the Israelites, saying, “God will surely take notice of you, and then you must carry my bones with you from here.” They set out from Succoth, and camped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. (NRSV)

I have the honor of coordinating the visits of youth groups who come to Chicago to do mission trips. The youth stay at Fourth Church and work all over the city doing various volunteer work. Because they come from all over the country, for many of them it is their first time in a big city or using public transit. I really value these youth getting the opportunity to experience Chicago, and I try to take them all over the city, to as many different neighborhoods as possible.

For these youth (and their leaders), there is a lot of apprehension about traveling to certain areas of Chicago. They hear stories on the news about the neighborhoods and fear going to certain ones, even with someone who knows the area.

It is a fine balance to walk, knowing how far to push a group’s comfort zone. While I know that they will be safe, if a group doesn’t trust me, things can go wrong. But if I don’t nudge a group out of their comfort zone, they don’t learn and grow.

This passage reminds me of that balance. God knows just the right amount to push the Israelites—not through the land of the Philistines and war, but the long way round. No matter where the Israelites travel, they take God with them, but they travel where they can grow and learn without losing faith.

I pray that I have the courage to step outside of my comfort zone, God, to take whatever path on which you lead me. May I keep an open heart and an open mind so that I can see your purpose for me each day. Amen.

Written by Katie Patterson, Junior High and Youth Mission Coordinator

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