Sunday, September 29, 2013

Storms and their Domestic Rivers

I got caught in a storm this week. That day, I had gotten a good grade on a test and had a coffee-esque beverage to celebrate. (I say coffee-esque because it was mostly ice, milk, sugar, and caramel. Girly, I know. Don't judge me.) I had all of this extra energy that needed some gross-motor movement to release, so I went longboarding in an empty-ish parking lot on my school's campus.

Well, after a few minutes of realizing that the sun was blinding me, I was sorely out of shape, it was a bakajillion degrees, (yeah, that many) and that it just wasn't my day for longboarding, I headed over back towards the intracoastal to spend some time with my Maker. When I got settled in, sitting down on the wall that butts up against the waters, I noticed some disturbance upon the glassy surface. It looked like abnormally miniscule rain drops, but I couldn't feel them, so I wondered if they were just bubbles coming up from underneath. Besides, it was too sunny to rain.

And then, the flood.

As I realized the clouds were about to unload their contents upon my fleshy bod, I walked over to an awning next to an abandoned building, hoping that it would protect me from what I was thinking might be a timidly short shower. I was wrong on both counts. The awning was only about a 2 foot by 4 foot jut out of the wall, and the rain soon fell hard enough to drench my lower body, and I was stuck there, with nowhere to go for close to an hour. So I took off my soon-to-be inundated Vans and socks, guarded my Bible and notebook by sticking it between my back and the wall, and watched. I decided to "soak in" the moment. (C'mon, that was good.) Those crossing over the nearby bridge in their dry "Lexus cages" must have looked at this barefoot boy caught in the rain thinking that he was the one trapped.

But perhaps I was. The awning above me, not wanting to miss out on the sky's fun, also dripped rain down around it's edges, forming a cage around me, with bars made of a very simple molecular structure. What began as dry ground soon garnered a sheen of slickness across its surface, which then began to peel off the ground, tumbling and rolling to a lower valley, soon becoming a domestic river.

This building I was standing next to was only a few feet away from the water's edge, and I was able to see something I'd never remembered witnessing before: the water poured in waves, and I was able to see the pattern of the rain fall in what almost looked like currents. It was as if the planes of ocean and sky were connected by puppet strings filling in the gap, all under the command of the Great Puppeteer.
"What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!" (Matthew 8)
And what manner of man are we, that we disobey when all of creation can do nothing but bow in humble submission. Who are we hat we run up against this God, before Whom the mountains tremble and the seas part, and, with our finger in his face say, "No. I will not." Who are we, that we think we are anything but dust before his feet as He treads on the foot-rest that is His earth?

Who are we?

We are the ones this God paid everything for. So that the mountains of hate in our heart would crumble. So that our stormy seas of wretchedness would be calmed. So that we would submit.

And finally find joy.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Beekeeping and the Mystery of God

My grandfather was a beekeeper. Now that may seem like an interesting occupation, but it wasn't just that for him. He had a passion for bees. For many reasons, he was enamored with this teddy-bear insect and chose to spend his life tending them. He loved them so much that he didn't wear a bee-suit to protect himself against stings, believing that getting stung was good for the health. I suppose I can't doubt that, since he lived to the ripe, old age of 83 in a life filled with preaching the gospel (he was also a pastor in Communist Romania) and leaving a godly legacy that has impacted, to this date, four generations of Christians.

When asked what he wanted on his grave, he told them to put a bee on it. Recently, I had the honor of visiting, for the first time, his gravesite. As I sat back and thought on his life, I saw engraved into his headstone:
Because he cleaves to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name. (Psalm 91)
As I sat down to write this post, I looked for that verse once again. The only version that had what I was looking for in this verse was the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, a translation I had never read. So whether or not this is truly accurate to the original manuscript, I cannot say. What I can say is that the word that is used here is very interesting, and captured my thought.

"Cleave." It's kind of an old word that means, "stick fast to, or adhere strongly to (a particular pursuit or belief)." It's the word that Genesis 2 uses when commanding that a man "leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." Pretty simple, right? Yeah, I didn't think so either. Check this definition out. "Cleave: split or sever (something), esp. along a natural line or grain, make a way through (something) forcefully, as if by splitting it apart."

One word. Two exactly opposite meanings. Defined by context.

One God. King of opposites. Experienced in context.

God is love, yet His wrath is just as furious. Christ was king over all of existence, but was born in a feeding trough. He is the God of peace, but is soon to annihilate Satan by the word of His mouth.

Contradictions? No, I don't think so. It think this is one of those things that was told to the prophet Isaiah:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55)
This is a God of mystery, too wonderful to understand. The human heart which longs for the unknown and hidden things of this life, finds its rest in God, where every desire to see something bigger, and more inexplicable is satisfied.

After all, as my pastor once said, "If I could fully understand God, He wouldn't be God."

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Un-Made Beds and Messy Hearts

I didn't make my bed today. This may not mean a lot to you, but this is a pretty big honkin' deal for me. Why? I'm a big fan of organization. Now, most people would say, "Yeah, so am I!"

You don't understand.

If my bed isn't made, I feel like I can't continue the rest of the work I have to do that day. It's somewhat akin to trying to work in my PJs. I can't do it because it makes me feel like the morning isn't over. At least, if I'm staying around the house, that is. Just the simple fact of knowing that two rooms over, there is an un-made, messy bed makes me think, "What are you doing?! Don't you know there's a pile of disheveled linen in the same house as you? It's like you just woke up! Slob!"

Ok, I might not be that self-deprecating, and this phenomenon may have impacted me more in the past, but the idea still remains. It still irks me a little when I try to pray or read the Bible in the same room as my messed-up bed.

This past week, I went to a student-organized worship night at my school. It was a great time of singing to the Lord and lifting Him up in song. There isn't much of a message at these things because of the nature of the event, but there are short sermon-readings and quick thoughts spoken from the microphone. At one point, one of the students was saying something about how God accepts us no matter where we're at, and no matter what sin we've committed. In this line of thinking about approaching God wherever your sin has found you, he said this often-heard line, "You don't have to be perfect."

See, growing up in the church, I knew what he was trying to say, but whenever someone says that, I feel like it begs a larger implication. It's as if they might be trying to say, "You don't have to be perfect, just not that bad," or, "You don't have to be perfect, but almost." Whoever's reading this, I want you to read this next part very carefully:

God takes you even if your bed's messy.

God has a history of bringing salvation to fools, liars, murderers, racists, the arrogant, the downcast of society, the sexually abused, the ones no one wanted, the religious hypocrite, the prodigal son, and the greedy. I challenge you to find a character in the Bible that God hadn't received because they were too messed up. My bet is that you won't find him. And there's some pretty twisted dudes in there, with murderers and adulterers making up some pretty prominent men in the Bible.

God takes you even if your bed's messy. But He won't let you keep it that way.

So stop trying to fix something you know you'll never be able to, and let God buy you some new sheets.

As for me, I gotta go make my bed.