I moved to Redding, California last summer to pursue deep community in a spiritual environment that had blessed me for years from a distance. I came here to be in the midst of the Bethel Church family because what you get out of being in the heart of a ministry can be very different from what you get thousands of miles away. Both experiences have been life giving, but today I thought I would share what it is that I love about living in Redding and going to Bethel Church so far.
- Redding is beautiful! – This place mesmerizes me with its beauty. It’s an entirely different landscape than any I’ve ever seen. The ring of volcanoes and mountains captured at sunset surrounding the Sacramento Valley that Redding is perfectly nestled in the midst of give an entirely new meaning to the lyrics “purple mountains majesty”. The cotton candy sky at dusk and dramatically spilled out sunsets…Oh, Jesus. It is also oddly eclectic. Snow capped volcanoes, palm trees, flat plains, rolling hills, crystal clear lakes, evergreen studded mountains, sea gulls, bears, massive rivers full of fresh salmon. It’s like the tropical Mediterranean coast of Spain with dry heat but no ocean and the wet and lush winters you’d imagine in Oregon. It never ceases to keep me scratching my head asking the question, “Where am I again??”
- The people are kind. – Make no mistake, California culture is very different than the South I grew up in and not everyone tastes of the southern sweetness I’m accustomed to, BUT the average Californian I’ve met is genuinely kind. People have gone out of their way to help me. Strangers will strike up conversations in parking lots as I walk in a store. People are quick to smile. I don’t know what I was expecting coming here but I have been pleasantly surprised by how welcomed and well received I’ve been by the locals as a sojourner in this strange new land.
- Bethel is everything I had hoped and so much more. – I will soon write a blog about this idea in far greater detail but suffice it to say that the church is rewriting EVERYTHING I’ve ever know about God, community, family, identity, and love. It is healing and nourishing parts of my spirit and soul that I thought were long lost to me or totally unreachable. The leadership is rock solid. The church family is tight knit and full of love. The average attendee is more intimate with God than anything I’ve ever seen. The church is full of fellow sojourners on a similar journey so bonding is natural and effortless. The house is full of every walk of life from the homeless, to multi-millionaires and celebrities but you see and feel no sign of division. Worship is fire. Shame is the enemy. Holy Spirit hovers tangibly. It is heaven on earth.
- I’m fully seen and fully loved here. – I’ve never felt more accepted anywhere in my life. Never felt more like I belong. Bethel is my Tribe. When you find your Tribe; your place of belonging, you are free to be yourself and when you’re set free in safety you begin to believe for the impossible like never before. You pursue dreams with fervency. You love without restraint. They may not be everyone’s tribe, but if you need a good dose of love and connection, I highly recommend a pilgrimage.
- Darkness still remains. – There are homeless people everywhere in Redding. Crime is quite high. Drug addiction is rampant. It almost seems that the more Bethel and other churches in the city grow as a force for good, the enemy is trying to counteract their efforts by doubling up its assault on the vulnerable. People who have lived here for decades tell me that they’ve never seen so much crime and homelessness as what’s emerged over the last couple of years. There are many reasons why this could be happening, but we all agree that is has to be stopped. Jails are full. Police are spread thin. We refuse not to sit by and watch the enemy lay siege to Redding. This city will experience the glory of God. Still, we take it as a backhanded compliment. We must be doing something right for satan to be giving it such attention, but we intend to see the captives set free. Redding will be a shining city on a hill; and example for the world. But first, we must re-capture it with power and love.
- There is a clear cultural divide. – In the same way that the landscape appears confused and contradictory in Redding, in many ways there seems to be a clear difference between Bethel’s culture and the rest of the cities culture. When I am around people from church, it’s like I can breathe again; like I am in an entirely different dimension. When I am walking alone through the city or running errands around town I feel differently. When I walk down the aisles of Target I can literally spot at a distance a person who burns for Jesus verses a person who doesn’t. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never lived somewhere where I can so clearly see a divide between people not based on skin color, ethnicity or any outward appearance. It’s not a difference spotted with natural eyes, it’s a spiritual difference. To me it feels like a risen standard salted throughout the city calling it higher in love. It’s not a bad divide, it’s just a divide. We don’t blend in to the culture, we stand out; not to separate but to unify within a standard of love, joy, and excellence. I like it.
- Life is good. – On a practical level, northern California is much less expensive to live in than I ever expected. It’s cost of living is relative to my old home in Tennessee. Gas prices have stayed reasonable. Trader Joes has the best prices and organic grocery options around. People always seem to have rooms to rent for short term and long terms stays for those looking to visit or move. You just have to know where to look. The most expensive time of year is the summer when temperatures hit 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit and the A/C is required!! But don’t worry, it’s dry heat so it feels like what 95 degrees with 80 percent humidity would feel in the South. Not ideal, but very manageable. The city is a bit dated architecturally but it has everything you need to enjoy life; good shops and big box stores, nice restaurants, friendly people, and exquisite beauty. Plus, you’re only 3 hours from the Pacific ocean, 2 hours from Sacramento, 3.5 hours from San Francisco and nestled in one of the most spiritually alive places on earth. GLORY, I’M THANKFUL. And even if it had none of these extra bonuses and nothing but Bethel to enjoy, I would indeed still say, GLORY, I’M THANKFUL. It has been so worth the move.