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Last week the Family Schwab went on a little vacation to Puerto Escondido, our favorite sea-side city.  There is a tiny cove we like to go to.  Normally the waves aren’t so big and Sally and Kelly can play in the water.  Last week was strangely different though.  The waves were huge, and it wasn’t safe for my little ones to go into the ocean, so they contented themselves playing in the sand on the beach.

 

playa carrizalillo

playa carrizalillo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was an elderly man that was not content to simply lie on the beach and just take things in.  He was in the water sitting  among some rocks.  One wave crashed into him and down he went.  I was concerned that he had whacked his head against a rock.  He looked a bit discombobulated for a few moments, and then returned to his original position among the rocks.  I settled into a comfortable position to read my book, occasionally looking up to see how the octogenarian was fairing.  He seemed to be enjoying himself immensely.

 

At one point, an unusually large wave hit the beach, and down went the old man, tumbling wildly, flailing away helplessly, as the surf did its best to pound the guy into submission.  His wife noticing what had happened, jumped from her beach chair and rushed, as fast as an old lady can rush on sand, toward her husband.  I wondered how she could possibly help him.  Then I realized she wasn’t going out to help him.  She was going out to laugh at him.  Making her way to the waters edge, she was busting a gut, she was laughing so hard.  Her spouse finally got to his feet, got stabalized once again, and then he too, started laughing.  It was a wonderful sight to behold.   An elderly couple, laughing like children, at the beach, thoroughly glorifying God by enjoying Him and His creation.

 

Later that evening, Anita, the kids and I were at our hotel, which has a large, common balcony overlooking Puerto Escondido and the bay.  I enjoy relaxing on the balcony, looking at all the night lights reflecting off the water.  One light was from a light house.  It was flashing and rotating, warning sea captains away from the jagged cliffs.  Another light that caught my attention was a great search light, moving back and forth in the night sky, probably inviting tourists and townsfolk alike to some kind of grand opening or special event.

faro de puerto escondido

faro de puerto escondido (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course there were thousands of normal lights fringing the bay, illuminating houses, and making the streets and walkways visible and safe.  The main highway through Puerto Escondido runs right in front of our hotel.  Looking out from the balcony, I can see a fairly constant flow of traffic.  Lots of taxi’s, trucks, buses and motorcycles.  At one point I saw a motor scooter coming down the way.  It carried a what seemed to be a family of three.  The driver stopped his scooter at a wide spot in the road, right in front of our hotel, under a street lamp.  The lady and child got off the bike, and then the man parked the motorcycle as far to the edge as he could.  The lady opened her backpack and proceeded to take out some food and something to drink.  It seemed they were having a little picnic, under the street light, on the edge of the road.  There was a small ledge there for them to sit on.  They seemed not to mind the traffic flowing by.  They had a light to see their food, to see each other, and the cars speeding by could see them.  What could be better?

 

Thinking about these different lights reminded me of Jesus.  He said he was the “Light of the world”.  I thought his light as a lighthouse, keeping people from making shipwreck of their souls on the rocky cliffs of sin, bad-gunky, and evil.  I thought of his light as a search light, spanning the world, inviting people into the kingdom of God, into a right relationship with him, into community.  I thought of His illuminating light that offers people a safe place to enjoy communion with him, to enjoy peace, while the mad world whirls by.  His light that shows me the truth of his love, mercy and grace.

 

I am so happy for His light in my life.  His protecting light.  His inviting light.  His illuminating light.  And I know that He wants me to reflect this light in a dark world.  He wants me to shine a protecting light, an inviting light, and an illuminating light.  God wants all of us to make this world a brighter place.  Let’s do it.

 

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“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:16

 

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Next blog – Participating in the Divine Nature

 

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One day God said, “You know, I think I’ll make a billion stars today.”  He didn’t have to, but he did,

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billion stars

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Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

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God didn’t have to give us sunrises and sunsets, but He did,

sunrise sunset

Because He loves us and wants us to be happy.

God didn’t have to make oceans and beaches, but He did,

ocean    beach

Because He loves us and wants us to be happy.

God didn’t have to make the Rocky Mountains,

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The Grand Tetons,

grand tetons grand tetons2

Or the Sierras, but he did,

sierra sierra2

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

He didn’t have to make pink roses,

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Purple bougainvilleas,

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Or birds of paradise, but he did,

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Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

He didn’t have to give us good scents, like star jasmine, citrus blossoms, and lavender, but he did,

star jasmine citrus blossum DSC08906

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

He didn’t have to give us pineapples, mangoes, and grapes, but he did,

pineapples mangoes grapes

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

God didn’t have to give us puppies, and kittens, and goldfish, but he did,

puppies kittens goldfish

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

God didn’t have to be born in a stable

jesus birth

And be crucified,

jesus death

And rise from the dead, but he did,

jesus resurrection

Because he loves us and wants us to be happy!

God gives us all good things,

So that we will glorify him by enjoying him forever.

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“Only wonder understands.”  Gregory of Nyssa

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Next blog – Waves and Lights

Life with Mikey

Life with Mikey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My ten year old daughter Tifani had broken the rules and needed to be punished.  I don’t remember what offense she had committed.  I just remember looking at her, shaking my head, letting her know that she had disappointed me by breaking the rules and that she was going to be punished.  She looked up at me with big, sad eyes and said, “I’m bad.  I know it.  Daddy,  I need help.”

When I heard her utter those words I burst out laughing, all my anger gone, knowing that my budding little actress had obviously picked up this line from some movie she had watched.  All thoughts of punishment had disappeared and I asked her where she had heard those words, “I’m bad.  I know it.  I need help.”

She had recently watched a movie called LIFE WITH MIKEY, and in this movie, a young girl about Tifani’s age was a pickpocket on the streets of New York.  She gets caught and an angry man accuses her of stealing his wallet.  A small crowd gathers around her.  Michael Chapman (Michael J. Fox) shows up.  He had just had his wallet stolen by this same girl.  He is the head of a child talent agency, and is always looking for new talent.  He sees the way that this girls is playing the crowd, and realizes that she is a natural.  He intervenes, telling everyone that she is his daughter.   Crocodile tears pour down her pretty little face and she exclaims, “I’m bad.  I know it.  Daddy, I need help.”

She made the confession, “I’m bad.  I know it.  I need help”, not out of any realization of her true nature, but in the hope that people would feel sorry for her, give her a break and let her go.

Her words, though, have great significance for those who want to enjoy God.  The life of enjoying God begins with the startling revelation that we are all bad.  That we really and truly Know that we are bad and that without help, we are doomed.

This thought, for many, is the hardest part of enjoying God.  In fact, it seems ridiculous!  When confronted with the possibility that we might be bad, we immediately present our first list of all the good things we do.  We give to charitable organizations and donate time to worthy causes and don’t beat our wives or children and work hard at the office and never cheat or steal.

Our second list is made up of truly bad people like murderers, rapists, thieves and those who cheat on their spouses and take advantage of the poor.  We can always point to those who are really bad and thus exonerate ourselves.

Everyone has their own categories of who is bad and what is bad and we certainly don’t fall into any  of those categories.  But, the category that matters most, is God’s category.  Since He is the one we want to enjoy, and it is He that gives the joy, it is His standard of Good and Bad that we need to take a look at.

In the Bible God reveals His character and ours.  He shows us His standard of goodness and also how far removed we are from that standard.  The Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that because we do not live up to His standard of Goodness that we are His enemies (Rom. 5:10). Indeed, we are dead in our badness.  Dead in our sins as Paul puts it Ephesians 2.  Sin is just another word for bad, a type of bad that utterly offends  a perfect God, and totally blocks our any chance of enjoying God.  In Romans 3:12, Paul quotes Ecclesiastes 7:20 saying, “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”  Even the good deeds we do, the random acts of kindness we perform, the rewards we receive for helping others, are all a stench in the nostrils of God, if done apart from being in right relationship with him.

Help Is Available

This is where the Good News comes in.  We can’t enjoy the God the Good News if we don’t first understand the bad news.  The bad news is that we are bad.  The Good News is that help is available!

The last phrase the girl pickpocket declared when confronted by the angry victim was, “I need help.”  She was insincere in her claim of needing help.  If we truly believe from the bottom of our hearts, that we re bad and desperately need help, God is more than willing to come to our aid and rescue us.

I lived in Sonoma County, California, for a number of years.  There were a few years that we experienced terrible flooding.  I lived close to the RussianRiver and during a particularly bad flood many of the residents were surrounded by high water and had to be helicoptered to safety.  Those residents recognized they were in a bad way and were glad to be helped.

I remember one especially dramatic photograph that appeared in the local paper.  A man was being rescued from the raging river by a fireman who was in the river with him.  The fireman was roped to other firemen standing on the bank.  The drowning man was rescued and the photographer went on to win a Pulitzer prize for the photo.

When we come to a point where we realize that we are drowning spiritually, when we realize that joy, peace and contentment are not the hallmarks of our lives, and that the turbulent waters of depression, disappointment, frustration, anger and disillusion threaten to overwhelm us, and we call out to a merciful, compassionate and gracious God (Daddy), He will rescue us!

In a way, God is like the fireman who jumped into the river to save the drowning man.  God jumped into our hopeless, helpless situation, into our badness, in the person of Jesus Christ.  And all those who became aware of their badness, and followed this God/Man Jesus were rescued, and are still being rescued and given new lives.  Lives filled with joy in God and delight at being delivered from the turbulent flood called existence, and brought onto the safe shore called Life.  Life enjoying God.

Some, like many of the religious leaders of Jesus day, didn’t realize how dire their plight was, and chose to cling to the slippery and perilous branches called self-righteousness and good works. They perished without ever experiencing the joy of knowing God.

Bad Gunky

Unfortunately, that isn’t the end of doing bad things.  While we celebrate and rejoice that our Bad Existence was put to death by Jesus, we still struggle with doing bad things.  Martin Luther said we are at the same time righteous and sinners and that we continue to wrestle daily with the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.  I call these things Bad Gunky.  In Stephen King’s novel LISEYS STORY, one of the main characters explains to his wife, Lisey, all about bad gunky.  As a child he lived with his father and older brother.  At various times they were attacked by what his father called “bad gunky”.  This was an evil presence that would, without warning, fill either the father or one of his sons with a violent anger that would cause them to want to kill.  The only cure that normally worked to rid the family member of bad gunky, was the shedding of blood. One of the family members that was not being attacked by the bad gunky would have to inflict a large, deep cut on his own body, to set the other family member free of the evil known  as bad gunky.

This is a wonderful picture of what our Brother, Jesus, did for us, giving himself up freely to be crucified, to let his blood pour down the cross, so that we could be free from bad gunky, the power of sin, of badness, that caused our spiritual death.  Bad Gunky, with a capital B and a capital G is no longer a threat to our eternal relationship with God, to our eternal life.  However, bad gunky, small b, small g, still nips at our heels and barks in our ears on a daily basis.  This bad gunky tempts us to do bad things.  Tempts us to leave the Lord we love.  We fall victim daily to bad gunky.  Jesus tells us we are to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength. He tells us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  We fail at this everyday.  In fact it is an impossible task.  So what sets followers of Christ apart from the rest of humanity that fails everyday?  It is the fact that as followers of Christ we have as our life goal to love God with all our being, and to love our  neighbor as we love ourselves.  We know this is the surest way to a life full of joy with God and with each other.  We begin the day in prayer, asking God’s Spirit to come along side us to help us love as He wants us to love.  And, if we are to be honest, end the day in prayer, noticing the ways we have failed to love, and confess to God that we have not loved Him with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength.  That we have not loved our neighbor as our self.  And we rest assured, knowing that God is faithful to forgive us our sins, our bad actions, our lack of love.  We sleep peacefully, knowing that our merciful, compassionate, patient God has washed away the bad gunky of the day.  We look forward to the morning when God’s mercies are new and we can experience afresh the joy of God.

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The great power of God appears in bringing a sinner from his low state, from the depths of sin and misery, to an exalted state of holiness and happiness.  Jonathan Edwards  (1703-1758) from his sermon God Glorified in Man’s Dependence

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Next blog – God Didn’t Have To, But He Did