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.

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.

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.  

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.

I have greatly desired to share this Passover meal with you

We just came home from our church’s Passover Seder.  Wow–what a treat to celebrate the Passover meal this evening with our friends and church family, the same meal that has been celebrated now for many millenia to usher in the Holy Week!

A few weeks ago, Ellie and I were off to Disneyland for a quick morning trip in the park.  As passholders, it’s a privilege to go to the park for just a quick trip and then back out before naptime.  We set off for Fantasyland, that part of the Magic Kingdom where height restrictions don’t exist and where we can easily find a ride or two for my little two-year-old.  During our last few visits, the Peter Pan ride had either been closed for repairs, had an extremely long line, or as it was one time we waited, the ride malfunctioned just as we were about to get on it.

This ride is one of my favorites.  You’re in a suspended-from-the-ceiling pirate ship that appears to be floating, just as in the movie, allowing you to see the sights below—a miniature London complete with Big Ben, Neverland and a few scenes from Barrie’s story Peter and Wendy.

Needless to say, I was excited to share this ride with my baby girl when we visited.  And so we waited.  As I explained what we would see on the ride, I could see my own excitement and desire in sharing these things with her, in passing on the fun of what awaited us.  There was a fleeting thought of Jesus’ words to His disciples at the Passover meal celebrated tonight:  “I have greatly desired to share this Passover meal with you” (Luke 22).  I have greatly desired to share with you, this.  And this is the picture I had as I waited for the line to go forward, thinking thoughts of “Dear one, it’s almost here.  This ride that I’ve wanted us to go on for some time now.”  So it was similarly for Jesus with His disciples.

Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible says that these words of Jesus best translate as “with desire I have desired.” He writes that it is as if “our Lord’s meaning seems to be, that, having purposed to redeem a lost world by his blood, he ardently longed for the time in which he was to offer himself up. Such love did the holy Jesus bear to the human race.”

And so as we love and yearn and desire great things for others, may we have this perspective in mind.  As we enter this Easter season, may we remember that our Lord Jesus willingly—no, longingly—went to the Cross so that He could convey to us something we couldn’t have otherwise.  That is a “wonderful thought” that would lift anyone off the ground.

He is risen!

He is risen indeed!

Merry Christmas!

manger

As each of us celebrates the birth of the Christ Child today with family and friends, I want to wish you a merry Christmas!  I’m so grateful that this newborn Jesus, who was to become our Savior-King, sympathizes with us as well.  Nineteenth-century musician Cecil Alexander said it this way in his song Once in David’s Royal City: 

For He is our childhood’s pattern;
Day by day, like us He grew;
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.

Jesus is not simply God come to earth, but He came wrapped in our own humble flesh, making His arrival like no other birth beforehand or afterward. In this Christmas season, I pray that you remember the wonder, joy and hope that Jesus brings, made all the more amazing because of His incarnation—His ability to compassionately recognize our struggles, feeling and sharing in the human condition.  And may this knowledge bring you great joy and confidence in the year ahead.  Peace to you and yours!

And the Government Shall Be Upon His Shoulders: A Blog for Advent

In recent weeks, conversation in our home has included words and phrases like “second term,” “fiscal cliff” and “unrepresented.”  And as we’ve entered this time of Advent, it’s been wonderful to focus on something more stable and less unsound than the raising of a debt ceiling, party lines that are supposed to be crossed instead of bickered over, and that uneasy feeling inside that Washington and Sacramento just don’t nor probably can figure it out.

Lest I make my first politically motivated blogpost on Enjoying the Surface, let me share with you this past Sunday’s church service, where the familiar passage in Isaiah 9 was read.  This is the prophet’s passage about the Messiah that would one day come to Israel and save it from evil attacks and raise up a new era of hope and restoration where “the government shall be upon His shoulders.”

What a minute. . . .  Did that passage say “the government?”  Referring to those same ones that can’t ever seem to figure it out in their own wisdom (my southern friends would say insert a “bless their hearts” here)?  “Shall be upon His shoulders”?  What did Isaiah mean here?  Would the coming-soon Messiah be a political leader that would finally end Israel’s political restlessness and restore it to what had been under King David, and then some?  Whoever this Messiah was to be, they were to be radically different than anything Israel, or the nations of the day—or the nations of our day—had ever seen.

There is new life in these words.  Words of hope.  Of longing.  Of a desire for settledness within.  Of a conviction that the desire for wholeness that each of us hold so dear was to be brought to Israel by that long-awaited Messiah.

I find as well that these words of Isaiah are also words of caution—caution about not looking to my fellow man to fix the issues of the day.  For Isaiah, the words were a call to a recently liberated people to not look to their surroundings for their long-term hope.  For us some millennia later, the message is the same.  One’s fellow man cannot provide any sense of security for the long-haul.  Rather, that security can only come from the One for Whom this Advent is all about.

And this is what is so amazing about Advent, about that first Coming of the Messiah.  For that long-term security and hope is found in that helpless Babe born in a manger.  So profound and paradoxical of a birth—the hopes and fears of all the years were met in Him that one night, says the Christmas carol.  Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the “Light of the World” and it is in Him whom we can find a hope that doesn’t go away.  May each of us seek Him in this season.