Reflections to start the week
Monday, March 31, 2014
Lessons from the coast
It’s only a temporary housing solution for us, but for a season, my wife and I (accompanied by the blessed dogs) are enjoying living about two blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. Not a bad interim solution. A great privilege, in fact. As long as this arrangement lasts, I’ve committed to checking out the beach each day I’m in town. Sometimes it’s a long walk. Sometimes it’s a glance, just to make sure it’s still there. It can be an experience with spiritual implications (perhaps an occupational hazard). I’m not becoming one of those spiritual-not-religious folks who replaces church with worship of God in nature. But I can see how that happens, especially when I read about the failures of the church, and from time to time, see those failures in the mirror (NB: material for another Monday message.) Let’s just say that having the beach in the neighborhood for a few months is a gift and it’s teaching me lessons about the life of the spirit.
Lesson One: It’s great.
Annie Lamott recently wrote a book that said prayer can be boiled down to three words: Thanks, help and wow. I confess that on a daily basis there is a wow factor for me as I make my way up the dunes and discover, again, the Atlantic Ocean unfolding before me. It’s so big, so mysterious, so beautiful, and new every morning. On many days, as I catch the first view of that expanse, I find myself by myself audibly saying “Thank you”, an expression which is probably more praise than gratitude (There is a difference). I almost can’t help doing it, which is probably the way praise is meant to happen. On some days, the water is peaceful and calming. On some days, the power of the waves is awesome (in the true sense of the word) and every now and then fearsome. I’m wondering where you find the wow factor as you look around you. Take a moment today for praise. See how it shifts your day.
Lesson Two: It’s always there.
On days that are full, I often walk to the end of the street after I pull into the driveway, to see what I can see of the sea after the sun has set. On nights when the moon doesn’t shine, it can be really dark. Not much to look at. Then it’s a matter of just listening. Interestingly enough, the waves break all night, whether I’m paying attention or not. That movement is constant, as it has been for thousands upon thousands of years. That constancy reveals something to me about the nature of God, always there, whether I acknowledge that holy presence and power or not. The life of the spirit is not contingent on my attentiveness to it. (Thank goodness for that, because I’m spiritually ADD.) Maybe that’s what the trinity is about, the idea that community, that relationship, that love is always there. We are graciously invited into that relationship. Take a moment today to consider the abiding divine presence, there whether you pay attention to it, that wherever you are and whatever you go through, you have not been left alone.
Lesson Three: It’s a mystery.
There is so much about the ocean that has to do with not knowing. (That’s probably what made “Jaws” so scary.) What’s just under the surface? There’s a depth beyond our understanding. One seminary professor taught about the doctrines, the dogmas of the church, the ways we put the mystery of God into words and concepts and images. He said they are like buoys that float on the surface of the water. They are not the reality themselves, but they point us, they mark for us the depths beyond our vision or understanding. As such pointers, they tell us how to move forward. And the affirmation of our faith, perhaps the greatest mystery of all, is that at the heart of the mystery, there is relationship. There is community. There is love. Take a moment today to recognize the holy mystery in which we live, and the ways that love has been revealed, especially in the person of Jesus, the one we follow in this season of Lent, the one who shows us what the mystery looks like in real life.
For what it’s worth, those are lessons I’m learning from where I’m living. As you move through final weeks of Lent, as we move to Holy Week, take a moment today to the lessons the world is teaching you. Praise God for those lessons.
– Jay Sidebotham
|O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
Yonder is the great and wide sea with its living things too many to number, creatures both great and small.
There move the ships, and there is that Leviathan, which you have made for the sport of it.
All of them look to you to give them their food in due season.
You give it to them; they gather it; you open your hand, and they are filled with good things.
You hide your face, and they are terrified; you take away their breath, and they die and return to the dust.
You send forth your Spirit, and they are created, and so you renew the face of the earth.
May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in all his works.
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.