Free from Worry

If you’ve followed Enjoying the Surface for any amount of time, you’ve read enough of the posts here to see that there are strong themes on worry, anxiety, fear and the like.  These are struggles familiar to me, as well as those that I find are familiar to my fellow man.  To be human requires struggling with issues of control, or the lack of it, and that is sure to bring upon a healthy dose of worry.  To be human also requires recognizing that our worries can only be met in Jesus as we abide in Him (John 15).

Leave it to Pastor Jon at Restoration Church to pack a 1-2 punch on worry from this Sunday’s sermon, where He urges us to push into Jesus as worries come our way.

Good Odds Going On?

citycouncilIt’s warm today.  And dry.  In February.  And the next week of weather forecast appears to bring more of the same.  So it came as no big surprise—a little, for sure—to find seagulls flying overhead this morning, even though I live about an hour from the Pacific Ocean.

Yes, friends, the drought that has hit me and my southern California neighbors is taking its toll.  For once, we’re thinking of ways to not use as much water as we usually do.  Do we mellow if it’s yellow (yes, I said it)?  Perhaps not wash down our driveways everyday?  A whole new sense of responsibility is hitting us (do sense my sarcasm here).

Seriously, though, the oddness of the weather is just one factor in my own life of the oddities of life.  And as I look at these places within me, I notice that there is a strong drive to make things easy.  To make them right.  To make them…controllable.  The activities of my life must have some aspect of control, lest I get jumpy, anxious, grumpy, out of sorts.

You’ll remember in the movie Horton Hears a Who that Mr. Mayor’s city council was quite determined to the same thing.  When the mayor announced that he had noticed tremors, clouds swirling in the sky, and that sort of thing—“odd goings on”—the council was determined to make sure that they were indeed good odd goings on, all for the sake of maintaining a face of calm and control even when the evidences showed otherwise.

So, whether seagulls fly over your Omaha skies or clouds swirling in the skies show up outside your window, may each of us be willing not to hide ourselves from the truth that is at the end of our noses.

The Polar Vortex

Few of us made it through this past week without hearing of the “polar vortex” that brought a drop in thermometers to the northern part of the United States and Canada.  For some, it froze soap bubbles.  Others reported never seeing their town in such a blanket of white before.  Still, others were glad that school wasn’t cancelled, a testimony to the hardy stock of their neighbors. 

What impressed me the most with this year’s first big icy storm were some Niagara Falls photos, where our mild winters of recent years haven’t allowed something so stark and frozen for a long time.  And the photos of a white wonderland where the Falls appear nearly frozen are a reminder of our journey of faith, where rarely does the Christian walk go in a linear fashion.  Instead, like the polar vortices of the soul, the process of following Jesus requires a continual submitting to the unknown and uncontrolled.

As we journey forward in 2014 with hopes renewed—maybe this year I will lose those extra pounds, or go on this trip, or have that conversation with that certain someone…you know where you fit—may we remember that our journeys at times look like the Falls this past week.  Having visited there in a balmy August some years back, I never would have imagined the area to look as desolate—and scary—as it did this past week.  But it is still the same Niagara Falls.  The same place where people have descended in a bucket, the same place where tightrope walker Nik Wallenda recently crossed on a highwire like many others before him, the same place where our jaws drop to the floor in awe.

The author of Hebrews reminds us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (13:8).  Like the frozen falls of this past week, may we remember that the hiccups of life that come our way and cause us to question what is going on are not places for doubt.  Instead, they are places for faith.  It’s this faith that C.S. Lewis described as “the art of holding on to things your reason once accepted in spite of your changing moods.”  Neither mood nor Polar Vortex can change who Jesus is, and that is a great outlook at the beginning of any year.

Wishbones, Wisdom and Words on the Thanksgiving Holiday


woodstock-thanksgiving-pumpkins-pilgrimN.B: It’s not often that I have written about my passion for food, but in “chewing” on this amazing holiday and in recently studying Proverbs 9, I could not resist such a mouth-watering post (ok, I’ll stop).

Over the last few days, it’s has begun.

Turkeys have begun their yearly thaw.  Brined.  Prepped for the big oven.  The fryer.  The Weber grill.  You name it, it’s happening. 

Yellowed copies of recipes from yesteryear for Aunt Sue’s stuffing, Grandma Margarett’s cranberry relish, and Mama Jennifer’s apple pie have made their annual trek from the file to the kitchen counter, preparing those in possession of them to cook. 

Countless ingredients have been purchased, pantry items restocked, all shouting… 

It’s here. 

Yes, that’s right.  The time when all of America dons on the apron and becomes a master chef.  Thanksgiving is that time of year when our inner gourmet, whether galloping or frugal, awakens and we prepare a rich feast for a holiday that echoes the proverbial call of Solomon, where Lady Wisdom personified calls:

Confused about life, don’t know what’s going on?
   Come with me, oh come, have dinner with me!
I’ve prepared a wonderful spread—fresh-baked bread,
roast lamb, carefully selected wines
(Proverbs 9:4-6).

This is no Taco Bell holiday.

This is a holiday that rings of rich preparation.  Of rich understanding.  And as we sup tomorrow on turkeys—brined, fried or smoked—and mashed potatoes—with blue cheese, cheddar cheese or no cheese, Wisdom still calls:  

Leave your impoverished confusion and live!
    Walk up the street to a life with meaning.

This wisdom, that is more precious than rubies, better than the finest gold, is available to all who seek.  As we celebrate the Thanksgiving feast this weekend, may each of us remember the wisdom with which God so limitlessly gives to those who ask of it.     

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Lessons From Moving: Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

ImageAs I posted some months ago, this year has been a year of transition for my family and I.  We’ve recently moved from being in the center of suburbia to the edge of it.  And while my proximity to the woods and mountains of southern California is a definite plus (why, yes, that is an AWESOME view out of my bedroom window–thanks for noticing), I don’t think I completely realized all that a move entailed.  Sure, there was the reservation for our U-Haul, collecting boxes to start packing, getting rid of old stuff in our old place, change of address forms with the Postal Service and then getting amazing friends to help us move on the big day (you know who you are and how rockstarish you really are!).   

But the settling in afterwards has been a bit more of a surprise.  Boxes are all gone now.  The new routine is basically set.  But what I’m realizing is how much to a town one learns over time.  In our previous home, we’d lived in the area for about fourteen years.  The nuances of our town and the surrounding towns—known.  The time it takes to go from home to a certain place—known (more or less given southern California traffic).  In this new place, all of these things—and others—are still being learned, and will continue to be so.  And my Type A is showing in that now that we have been here for six weeks, I should have it altogether and figured out, and tied nicely with a bow.  No, friends, the reality of it is that I’m still learning, and even though the surroundings in the previous home were more known, I was in that state of learning even there.

It’s been a reminder to me that all of us are on a journey—one that provides things to see and learn and adapt to along the way.  God’s desire for us is to press into these places of learning, not cower in fear, utilizing all He gives us to our fullest potential. 

The Apostle Paul put it this way to Timothy: “God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible” (2 Timothy 1:7, The Message).  Boldness that helps us push forward with bravery into the unknown, love that brings patience and margin, and sensibility that gives us reason in making the right decisions. 

Rome wasn’t built in a day.  It took eons, reliance on one’s fellow man and courage.  And moves don’t have to be either.  Wherever your journey has you in transition as of late, take heart, be malleable in your learning and rely on all God provides in the process.  

Parenting in the Digital Age

Readers! It’s been a long time.  Sorry for the absence.  In the midst of this summer, there’s been a lot on my mind.  Here’s the latest….

Not so long ago, I was in elementary school, where watching TV in the summer was a luxury.  My parents were cautious enough to limit our television watching to 5 hours per week (this is today’s equivalent of 1 day of television consumption, while I do realize there is much more internet consumption today as well).  TV was limited even further with a little monetary incentive.  Ten “TV coupons” were issued each week, each good for one-half hour of television watching, which could be redeemed at the end of the week for 50 cents (you could buy a lot more in the late 80s and early 90s for 50 cents than you can now).  Given that an extra $3 per week could be added to my wallet by rationing my television to two Gilligan’s Island reruns and a wonderful episode of The Price is Right with Bob Barker, I was quite frugal in my use of TV coupons, using the extra funds for an ice cream at the lake, a pack of gum, whatever.

Fast forward twenty to twenty five years and I am now raising a little munchkin myself.  My two-and-a-half year old watches streaming video on our computers, will never understand that her parents had to watch a show the afternoon or night it was on or miss it for years to come.  Yes, there was a time that Costco, Amazon or Hulu did not sell multiple series of episodes of Friends, Madmen, or Grey’s Anatomy to name some shows for adults, or Curious George or Dora the Explorer, for more age-appropriate shows related to this blog post.

No, Ellie will not understand those things because the world she is growing up in has multimedia at our fingertips, either wired to the TV or wireless through her parents’ laptops or cell phones.  Recently, as I’ve pondered this topic, I’ve observed kids with their own iPads or Kindles and they are absorbed in them, playing games or drawing virtual pictures.  While I don’t consider myself a techie, I know a thing or two about technology and still I wonder what the long-lasting effect, if any, is on our culture where we readily turn on the boob tube, fire up the laptop to check up with our “friends” on Facebook or watch hours on the television.

And still, the information available to us is amazing in what it lets us see.  Wikipedia is my constant friend for learning about things that would have taken much more effort to learn previously.  Youtube brings about humor like sneezing pandas, and recordings of Mister Rogers and vintage Sesame Street.

I think that as a parent, finding the balance for my child is what is needed.  She needs active, live play with others.  She needs rest from a busy day.  This with learning via the occasional TV program, while learning about the available technology that will be so much more common in her life than mine, is a way to do that alongside other things that stimulate her brain.

In closing, I would love to hear your comments on this topic, dear reader.  How do you see the access to nearly everything via our digital fingertips to be a positive influence in your family?  A negative influence?  And, mostly, how do they impact our ability to connect with one another and with God?  I’d be grateful for your insight.

A Life Well Lived

After announcing a quiet and private battle with cancer just earlier this week, it was announced today that philosopher-theologian Dallas Willard passed away today at 77.  Having heard Dallas a few times in my own studies of Christian spiritual formation, I’m appreciative to have rubbed shoulders with one who is so humble regarding his impact on the lives of so many and who has so fervently longed for each of us to walk hand in hand with Jesus as Savior.

Yesterday, Willard’s son-in-law Bill Heatley posted on Facebook an excerpt from The Divine Conspiracy:

“Those who live in reliance upon the word and person of Jesus, and know by experience the reality of his kingdom, are always better off ’dead,’ from the personal point of view … we live in the knowledge that, as Paul elsewhere says, ’Jesus the Anointed has abolished death and has, through the gospel, made life and immortality obvious.’ (2 Tim 1:10).”

Today, Willard brings this quote to life and does so wholeheartedly.  May we, too, long to be better off dead.