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October 2008

Ebb and Flow

2926130961_fbee56152e_b We are free to change. The process of that change is always a good story, but it is never a neat formula. 
                 — Eugene Peterson

The other day a friend of mine stopped by my office and in the midst of our visiting we ended up talking about spiritual things.  My friend was discouraged because his spiritual life was a bit stale.  He hadn’t been spending any time with God and his best intentions to maintain a vibrant relationship with Jesus had come up empty.  His inconsistency with the Lord left him discouraged and he was looking to me for an answer.

I had no answer except to say that “real life is no day at the beach”…or maybe it is.

I never tire of spending time on an ocean beach. I have spent many treasured hours on the beaches of the Oregon Coast and on the Eastern and Western coastal beaches of South Korea. Each ocean beach holds its own unique beauty; however, I find that there is one thing that the beaches of the Pacific Ocean, the Yellow Sea and the East Sea of Japan all have in common—the ebb and flow of the waves.

Within the realm of my physical, emotional, and spiritual life I experience something much like the back and forth movement of the waves. On some days I feel, live and do better than other days. At times my life surges with disciplined productivity and at other times I cannot muster the strength to stave off the demon of sloth.  My life pattern and story is any thing but coherent.2926131223_f3da1df032_b

I live in a culture that has little patience for a life walk that is characterized by “three steps forward and two steps back.” The world tells me that the equation for success in life is realized in a line graph that is ever climbing upwards. If I am not significantly achieving, I am failing. If I am not moving ahead, I am falling behind.  If I’m not winning, I’m a loser.

I am so inconsistent in my journey with Jesus. At times I am green and growing—praying always, reading the Word regularly and living an obedient, disciplined life of love and service, yet at other times there is nothing in my life but self-focused, undisciplined, dried out stubble. I don’t understand this—but God does.  I don’t have patience or tolerance for this—but fortunately, God does.

God is much more patient and understanding with us, than we are of ourselves.  God knows that change is always happening and He knows that change is messy.  We look at the irregular line graph of our life and we see failure.  God looks at our life chart and He sees story. 

Posted on the bulletin board, just above the computer screen in my office, is this verse:

“God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.”               1 Corinthians 1:9 (MSG)

In other words, “God is faithful, even when we aren’t.”  The God who created the oceans, beaches and the waves of the sea, understands the ebb and flow of our hearts, minds, our spirits and our lives. God understands that change is immanent and necessary in this spiritual adventure that we are living.  He knows that life is messy.

2926983892_81a0141c6b_b If you have ever spent any time on an ocean beach you know that it is a place of constant movement and change.  Sometimes the waves toss a sand dollar at your feet and sometimes the waves wash away your sand castle.  You never know when you might happen upon a poisonous jellyfish quivering in the sand, or find the “perfect” seashell.  Like our lives, the ocean beaches are always changing with the ebb and flow of the waves.  At high tide our lives pulsate with power and productivity.  At low tide the mess of our lives is laid bare for all to see.

We find it hard to live in these conditions, but God doesn’t.  He made the world’s oceans and the world’s beaches and he made you and me.  God understands the ebb and flow of our lives and in the midst of constant change he is present—right in the middle of the story.

Hang in there.  Life is no day at the beach…or maybe it is.


Ironic

When I visit people's homes I love to look at the books on their bookshelves.  You can learn a lot about a person by looking at the books on their bookshelves.

This is a picture of a bookshelf that I encountered the other day.  I found it a bit ironic.  These books look so peaceful as they sit on the shelf next to each other.  They are not criticizing or heckling one another.  I wish the authors of these books could do the same.

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Thankful for Work

DSCF5918This is the view from the front door of our house in South Korea.  As the morning sun peeks over the hill it is eclipsed by the figure of a Korean Azuma pulling her recycling cart.  She is looking for cardboard, plastic bottles and cans that she can turn in for money.  For many of the elderly people in this country, collecting and redeeming recyclable materials is a way of life…and survival.

As the sun rises and the land of the morning calm transforms into a day of activity, challenge, responsibility and struggle, I walk to work.  And I am thankful.


Running Reflection

The Christian life is the simplest, the gayest, the most regardless-of-consequences life, lived as it is taught by Jesus. The plan of our life comes through the haphazard moments, but behind it is the order of God.

                       --Oswald Chambers, Run Today's Race, January 10


Path What is the order of God?  Is it a life where things are predetermined?  Where every action, thought and decision is planned out and scripted—just waiting to be performed? 

I don’t know. 

But what I do know is that if I allow myself to get hung up on a depiction of God that doesn’t fit the form of the God that I want to believe in, I will miss the incredible message that Oswald Chambers endeavors to communicate in the above quote.

Life in God is a life of freedom.  The form and order of the God of the universe is realized in the haphazard, minute by minute moments of life.  God is not outside of, at the end of, or beyond the activities of daily life, but rather God is in the very midst of the seemingly random and insignificant moments of life.  God’s order in life is realized in God’s very presence in life.

In John 17 Jesus prays to the Father, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me.” (NIV)

A life of freedom is realized in a life that is bound tightly to God.  Just as Jesus lived with, and in, and through the presence of the Father, so are we to live in Christ via the Holy Spirit.  In John 3, Jesus likens the Holy Spirit to the “wind,” blowing freely and haphazardly wherever it pleases.  It is at this place of freedom that simplicity, joy, hope and ultimately God, resides in our lives.

That’s a plan I can live with.