Tuesday, August 28, 2007

sunrise in London

As I look out my window this morning, I see one of the miracles of life that I so often overlook: sunrise. It's coming up through the trees, poking in between the branches, providing light that is both simple but yet still incredibly beautiful. Even in a crowded and bustling city like London, which boasts an utterly amazing skyline, nothing can compete with this simple act of beauty. It gives my eyes the reality that I read in the Scriptures in 1 John 1:5 : "God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all". It's a good thing to see His creativity and character in action this morning.

It's hard to convey with words just how much I'm enjoying my time over here. I could tell you about all the amazing places and things I've done, but I don't really think that provides much of a picture of how amazing it is. See for me, it's not just about being in a cool city. Certainly this city has so much rich history and vibrant culture, but that's just one of the added bonuses. It's living here with people who have the same purpose as me, and who are fellow children of the living God. It's experiencing new things with different landscapes with people who love our unchanging and ever-faithful God.

With all that is going on around me, and with all the busyness of seeing a discovering a new city, it's so easy for me to leave the garden unattended, so to speak. My faith and my time with the Lord are so valuable to me, but it takes more effort to carve out that space for it. So much of me, I realize, is selfish and self-abosrbed. Like I read this morning from 1 John, "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (verses 8&9) That is the beauty of redemption through Christ, though, in that while I recognize how wrong I am, Christ cleanses me through the only true way of righteousness.

There is so much to learn, and so much to unlearn.

On to another day of exploring this new city, finding the hidden cool things, wondering with all the other people at the amazing big things, and finding those places which create a sense of belonging and which will allow me to call this place home if only for a few months.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Open skies and bigger waves

Tonight I am in a house in the relative calm of Dallas. The air conditioner hums tunes of cool air circulating in each room. It's the only sound I hear. My situation is far different tonight than the those residents all along the Yucatan peninsula. While the night sky outside rests peacefully suspended in the air, a meaner sky greets my neighbors to the south.

I was flipping through the channels, and a news broadcast came on announcing the imminent threat Hurricane Dean posed to the Yucatan peninsula, and alerted viewers that the hurricane had now risen to level 5 hurricane, the highest level they have to rate hurricanes. Gusts of nearly 200 miles per hour characterize level 5 hurricanes. This is no light event. Nothing to yawn about as my mind fades to thoughts of sleep.

It just amazes me how vast and varied our experiences are here on earth. I will soon go to sleep, and will probably awake to the sight of a normal sky laced with a normal, hot sun. Trees outside will still be rooted to the ground. Cars will be right side up, ready to drive. The lights will turn on and the shower will work. Tomorrow morning will be a far different story for those on the Yucatan.

And so goes life. We sometimes think that we can sympathize with others, but really, we can't. We can offer what limited condolences and small amounts of grief we can muster, but in the end, we are miles away from understanding each other. It's too easy to go to sleep tonight whispering prayers of safety and protection for the people of the peninsula, but I will wake up without the threat of a completely altered life.

For this reality to exist, though, magnifies the power of a far greater force, community. You see, each and every human being is placed within a circular realm of community, as crazy, unique, and intricate as each may be. Our webs of community each look as different as snowflakes under a microscope, but they are what bond us together. The experiences each community faces together reinforce and strengthen that common thread in the fabric of the community. It brings to life the vibrancy and texture of human relations.

As horrible and awful as things like hurricanes are, they are the yeast that gets in the dough to make it rise. Community is only as strong as it is in its weakest and most vulnerable moment. Maybe thats why the human spirit rallies when tragedies occur. For a few moments we put down our differences and decide to clothe ourselves with compassion, carefully tending the wounds that need healing. It's those memories that guide our communities forward, because we realize that in the end, while the world may not care, our community cares, and that is enough.

I can't understand what the people of the Yucatan are going through tonight, or how they will respond in the coming weeks. But I praise the Lord for providing us with communities that give that much needed support and comfort. I praise the Lord that many small groups of people will huddle together tomorrow, holding on to the most precious things in life, cherishing love, and realizing that life can move forward, as bleak as it may look. And I know that in some small way, the broader community surrounding the smaller webs can reach out and provide support in ways words cannot express. Simply caring, and acting on this compassion allows us to share in the piecing back of life for a broken community.

The response will be so deep, with so many layers, that it is hard to understand how healing occurs. But this I do know. The core of that healing is found in the community, where common experience paves the way for love, compassion, and help to take place. And surrounding that central core comes the healing found through external means, from other communities. And that, I realize, is what ultimately bonds us together as one giant community.

As different as we all are, as varied as our communities are, and as numerous as they may be, we all live on the same planet and breathe the same air. We all share the same need for love, community, and acceptance. And tonight I go to sleep marveling at the creativity of a God who orchestrated the design of community, knowing that we humans, as strong as we like to think we are, ultimately need each other more than we will ever know.

ho Kuriov mou kai ho Theos


Saturday, August 11, 2007

A little consistency

Well after a little more than two months in the sweltering heat of phoenix, i'm back at the home where I grew up in, back in Texas. I made the long, 16 hour drive in two days, and am grateful to not have to drive anywhere of significance for the next 4 months or so. That's right, London is coming up really soon. Spending all semester over in London is something I have been looking forward to for a long time, and it's quickly approaching. So the next week and half will be filled with resting, reading, some good old fashioned exercise, and packing/planning. Good times....here's a little thing I wrote about a week ago while I was in phoenix. I wanted to share it, so here it is....

Do we get it? Do we actually get that we are children of the Living God? I so often find myself glazed by the sway of monotony, that I do not realize the astounding fact that I am bought with the precious blood of Christ. The blood. Real, flowing, deep red blood, that gushed from His hands, His head, His side, His feet, staining real wood cut by real people. I buy the lie, every day, that says that I am merely living for myself. I lose the perspective of eternity and the bright glow of truth that command nothing less than my full attention.

I love being out on the water. Especially out on the mighty ocean. Sailing through the ancient waters that have carried men and women on journeys since the dawning of time has a sort of expansive effect on your thinking. Some would call it freeing, I like to call it awakening. Like all those things in life that stir up distant rumblings in your soul, like a distant thundercloud bellowing deeply into the ever darkening sky, certain experiences wake us up to the novelty of life. We begin to sense that life in its most renewed form follows us like a shadow that is never noticed, but always there.

The few times I've been out into the great unknown I always had an epiphany-like thought that flew through my mind. A thought with wings that would perch upon a branch in my mind, if but for a few seconds, allowing me to take deeper breaths of living truth. I would get the image in my mind of me, standing on deck of a small sailboat, riding the rhythmic waves as a golden sun stealed away silently into the far horizon. I would put myself there, wondering why on earth I was imagining such a thing.

I think it's because this. In our world, we refuse to be small. We object to the slightest hint that we are not strong, empowered people. It is a degradation to be called weak or frail. These aren't things prized in our world. But deep inside us, there is a distant voice that sometimes catches our attention, and we realize with great certainty how small we indeed are. Like being caught in a heavy thunderstorm, with deep purple clouds swirling, wind howling, and rain throwing itself sideways. Or when you stand in a valley surrounded by tall, jagged peaks. I would imagine that people living through the World Wars would have felt this way constantly, especially those enduring heavy bombing of their cities, like Britain. The feeling that you have very little control over your life makes you feel small and frail.

It's something that we just do not realize very often in our lives, sometimes, sadly, until we stand at the brink of the end of human breath and see the vast canyon looming ahead, swallowing us up into its never ending abyss. This would be eternity, and so often we fail to live with it in mind. We get glimpses every once in a while, but we quickly busy ourselves again with the pestilence of life, not wanting to face the reality that haunts us to the core. That death is real, and will happen to every one of us.

But death calls a different song for those who find their identity solidified in Christ. It is not a moaning, gasping sound, but instead an enchanting melody of an eternal life with the Giver of Life and the Lover of Good. With that in mind, our existence here is precious, for we are not condemned in our living, but are instead freed to experience the richness of the Kingdom of God, right here on earth, through the Holy Spirit residing in each believer. Where, then, oh death, is your sting? The great resounding voice of Paul, echoed in the Scriptures rings true today:

But when this perishable will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your Victory? O Death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15: 54-56)