Sometimes, you need to step outside, get some fresh air, and remind yourself of who you are and who you want to be.Unknown
Are you familiar with The Princess Bride? It’s a movie that I memorized I watched it so often. And of course, “As You Wish” was Westley’s way of saying “I love you.”
I think we all have those particular ways in which God communicates to us saying, “I love you.” For me there are many. One of them is starfish.
Ever since I was a kid I’ve been fascinated with starfish: their textured feel, the way they suck onto a rock (or your hand), their colors. I always scanned the tidal pools of the Pacific for them.
But, they are much fewer and farther between here on the Welsh coast, so they seem especially significant when I come across one.
A couple of weeks ago I took a day of solitude with the Lord and I heard him say, “Come to the beach with me.” To be honest I wasn’t feeling much like prying myself off the couch and I sensed the beach that he was inviting me to was one that’s a bit of a drive from here. But I couldn’t bring myself to refuse the invitation and so I went.
As I walked on the beach I was talking with the Lord and I remember looking down the beach and praying, “I know there are no tide pools here, but even without the starfish I’m really aware of how you show your love for me.”
About two miles down the beach I was focusing on where I was stepping, as there were a lot of jelly fish on the beach that day, and at a curve where the tide was just going out, I saw my first brittle star. So, they might not technically be starfish, but they are starfish in every way that matters to me. And as I walked along I saw not one, but literally hundreds of them. I just wanted to laugh. I’d done it again. I’d boxed God in. As if he couldn’t say “I love you” with a starfish unless there were tide pools.
And to up the ante, I ended up going home on a different route and the wild ponies were right there on the side of the road for me to enjoy.
It was a sweet day and a sweet reminder of the God who has time and again moved heaven and earth to show me his love: in Jesus, in a starfish, in a sunny day on the beach, though a herd of ponies, in the midst of pain, on the days when I don’t want to pry myself off the couch.
I am loved.
You are loved.
Keep your ears open.
You might hear “As You Wish.”
Keep your eyes open.
You might be surprised by a starfish.
Thanksgiving Day Prayer
by Walter Rauschenbusch (1861â€“1918)
For the wide sky and the blessed sun,
For the salt sea
and the running water,
For the everlasting hills
And the never-resting winds,
and the common grass underfoot.
We thank you for our senses
By which we hear the songs of birds,
And see the splendor of the summer fields,
And taste of the autumn fruits,
And rejoice in the feel of the snow,
And smell the breath of the spring.
Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;
And save our souls from being so blind
That we pass unseeing
When even the common thornbush
Is aflame with your glory,
O God our creator,
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
A reflection for Lent.Â A poem for dark nights and valleys of shadows.Â A prayer for us all.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always,
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
This isn’t a carefully written post.Â It’s more of a “directly from my heart to the screen” post.
I havenâ€™t blogged for weeks now, because Iâ€™ve been driving.Â I set out from Florida on November first and Iâ€™ll reach California tomorrow.
When I first thought about this home assignment and the supporters that I wanted to visit I had a strong sense that I was to drive rather than fly this time around.Â But to be honest, I wasnâ€™t entirely sure that it was what I wanted to do.Â I spent a lot of time wrestling over the decision.Â Itâ€™s a lot of miles to coverâ€¦alone.Â Flying would be moreâ€¦convenient.
Yet, the more I prayed about it, the more certain I became that God was telling me two things.
First, I was to trust Him in this.
Second, that this trip was His gift to me.
Nearly two weeks, three thousand miles and more than fifty road hours later I understand just a bit of the gift that He has given me.
Iâ€™ve had hours and days of just me and Jesus time.Â Oh, Iâ€™m not always focused on His presence, but Iâ€™ve had the opportunity to be with Him in a special way.Â Iâ€™ve had hours in which to pray and converse with my Lord.Â Further, Iâ€™ve never been alone or lonely for Heâ€™s been my constant companion.
Iâ€™ve gotten to see people that I wouldnâ€™t have seen if Iâ€™d had to buy a plane ticket to get to them.Â And Iâ€™ve met people along the way that I never would have met if I’d hopped on a plane.Â Just a couple of days ago I went for a meal in a place that was fairly full.Â A couple asked if they could join me at my table and we got to talking.Â What a joy it was to share with them about God’s work around the world!Â It was also an answer to my prayer that I have the opportunity to represent the Lord to the people I meet.Â Only God can arrange that kind of divine appointment, but I had to be willing to trust Him and follow His lead when driving seemed an unconventional choice.
But most of all, this gift to me has been about seeing His beauty scattered abroad.Â The earth is filled with the glory of the Lord and Iâ€™ve gotten to feast on it for weeks now.Â Every changing landscape is unique in its beauty and each Jesus follower that I have met along the journey bears His radiant image in their own distinctly fashioned way.
Today the lyric by Rich Mullins kept running through my mindâ€¦â€So much beauty for just two eyes to see, but everywhere I go, Iâ€™m looking.â€
So as I embark on my final leg toward California, where I will stay awhile before the long drive back to Florida in January, I want to lift up His name with thanksgiving.
Iâ€™m grateful that He called me to this journey and gave me this gift.
He is so good to me.
I enjoy gardening.Â I admit that I have a deep aversion to dirt underneath my fingernails, but armed with a pair of garden gloves I find myself quite happy to dig in the earth.
Itâ€™s not the soil that appeals to me, but the combination of beauty and hope. Â I have a hopeless attraction to beauty hardwired into my soul.Â Every shade of green leaf, every delicate petal unfurling, every uniquely shaped and vibrantly colored flower speaks to me of the Creator who loves the diversity that joins together in unity to sing His praises.
Gardens are places of beauty, places where many unique creations come together to form a landscape of unified loveliness.
Flowers and butterflies
Birds and Squirrels
Rabbits and Frogs
Lizards and Leaves
Shade and Sun
All these things and many more come together in the garden.
Gardens are places of beauty.
Gardens are places of hope.
When I dig down and place the bulbs in the ground,
when I handle the barren bare root rose to make a home for it in the rich earth,
when I clear the grass and weeds to create a plot of ground,
I am planting hope.
Â As I plant, I hope for a harvest of beauty.Â I till the soil longing for the day when tulips and irises and roses and lavender spring from the ground and bring color and fragrance to my little patch of earth.
This morning I read Second Peter in the Message and I found a beautiful image for the gardener in me.
â€œSince everything here today might well be gone tomorrow, do you see how essential it is to live a holy life?Â Daily expect the Day of God, eager for its arrival.Â The galaxies will burn up and the elements melt down that day â€“ but weâ€™ll hardly notice.Â Weâ€™ll be looking the other way, ready for the promised new heavens and new earth, all landscaped with righteousness.â€
2 Pet. 3:11-13
God has plans for His garden and He has a message for us.
Weâ€™re called to plant our hope in Him through the act of Holy living and the focus of Holy attentiveness.Â We arenâ€™t to be about planting our hope in the soil of this world.Â Itâ€™s going away!Â There is no hope to be found here. Instead we are eagerly turning toward Him.Â Weâ€™re looking away from the world and toward the Kingdom.Â We look toward His beauty and are attentive, watching for Him every moment.Â We know that our hope is even now sprouting forth and that one day it will blossom in full.
Our Lord offers a future hope that we can hold onto, that we eagerly look forward to:
His garden will be landscaped in righteousness.
No more sin.Â No more shame.Â No more decay that seeks to extinguish the beauty.Â No more of those annoying pests that steal into the garden with intent to destroy the plants through their consumption.
A whole new world landscaped in righteousness.
I canâ€™t wait to see it.
Swan on frozen lake
Walking and biking on frozen Lake Bled, Slovenia
In a recent Facebook post I joked about walking on water in reference to walking across a frozen lake.Â Here I want to talk about a different kind of walking on water; the kind that comes through faith and a vision of Christ.Â Iâ€™d like to introduce my thoughts with a quote from Madeleine Lâ€™Engleâ€™s book â€œWalking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art.â€
â€¦there is no denying that the artist is someone who is full of questions, who cries them out with great angst, who discovers rainbow answers in the darkness, and then rushes to canvas or paper.Â An artist is someone who cannot rest, who can never rest as long as there is one suffering creature in this world.Â Along with Platoâ€™s divine madness there is also divine discontent, a longing to find the melody in the discords of chaos, the rhyme in the cacophony, the surprised smile in time of stress or strain.
It is not that what is is not enough, for it is; it is that what is had been disarranged, and is crying out to be put in place.Â Perhaps the artist longs to sleep well every night, to eat anything without indigestion; to feel no moral qualms; to turn off the television news and make a bologna sandwich after seeing the devastation and death caused by famine and drought and earthquake and flood.Â But the artist cannot manage this normalcy.Â Vision keeps breaking through and must find expression.
I donâ€™t completely resonate with every sentiment in this quote, because I believe that there is a rest in God that is always available even in middle of the darkest of nights and the most heart-wrenching of questions.Â I, perhaps, would say that the artist will never cease to wrestle with restlessness, but itâ€™s really just a matter of how I interpret the word rest.Â Still, even as it is written, Iâ€™d be hard pressed to come up with another quote that could so succinctly get to the heart of my lifeâ€™s journey.
From the time I could wonder why the sky was blue and the grass green my head has been filled with questions.Â Maybe it is intrinsic to childhood to wonder or maybe it is more particular to those of us born with the heart of an artist. Regardless, Iâ€™ve spent a great deal of my life trying to deny the questions, trying to make the world black and white and controllable, but I cannot.Â Vision keeps breaking through.
Even my earliest memories carry within them a sense that not all was as it should be.Â It was years later when the Spirit taught me about sin and the fall: creature and creation all distorted and damaged.Â And it was in Christ that I found the fullness of vision that had ever tapped at the door of my heart.
In salvation I embraced the mystery, but fallen and frail, my flesh has long battled to keep faith bound and vision constrained to the mundane that we call normalcy.Â Â But, Praise God, vision keeps breaking through.
It was vision that whispered and needled and coaxed me to see how I aimed too low and dreamed too small.Â As John Acuff recently wrote, â€œJourneys where the outcome is already known are not adventures, theyâ€™re errands.Â And you were created to do more than run errands.â€
It was vision that toppled my idols and led me to dream a greater dream, for my idols were woefully inadequate in light of the hope of glory.Â It was this vision that eventually led me overseas, for how could I â€œmake a bologna sandwichâ€ when so many have never heard the hope of Christ?Â And it was this vision that set me down the path I am currently on, for once confronted with the â€œdisarrangedâ€ reality that so many servants of Christ are fighting their battles all alone, how can I ever turn back?
So errands abandoned and questions embraced I press forward. Â Vision must find expression in the art and faith of my life. I must walk on water eyes fixed on Christ.Â Nothing else will do.
We’ve been having colder than normal temperatures and moderate snow here in Hungary, but the weather has been severe all across Europe.Â Today I’m reminded of the need to pray for those struggling with the cold, especially the homeless, those without heat and those cut off from supplies by the storms and heavy snowfalls.
May we, the church, take every opportunity to remember those who are in need.
The trees outside my window – Budafok, Hungary