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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What I Learned at the Beach

We spent a week on the Gulf Coast. It was supposed to be cloudy with possibility of rain each day, according to the forecast before we left. Instead, it ended up being very pleasant with highs in the low 90's and minimal cloud cover much of the time. A couple days were cooler than the temperatures in Memphis, I think. I learned (again) that bad things do not always happen and so it is a waste of time worrying and fretting.

We were on the 12th floor so we had a remarkable view. There were two days when I took the little guy and let mom and the big kids have a break. My beach needs are pretty limited, a bucket and shovels are about all it takes to keep my occupied. One of the interesting features of the trip was the difference in water qualities. The first two days the water was very warm and clear. The third day it was quite cool and full of debris (so you could not see your feet). While it cleared up the following day, it remained chillier than when we first arrived. The last day, however, there were lots of fish swimming near shore. While this seems pretty uninteresting, I actually found it fascinating. We basically stood at the same spot each day and looked out at the same scene, but the water was different. It reminds me of the ever changing nature of things. I have found myself thinking about "the way God works" and more and more asking different kinds of questions than the ones which consumed me as a young man. I am trying to look beyond the "religious" answers which seem, at times, to overlook important details.

Creation is very much a work in progress. There is a "fixed-ness" to be sure, the beach and water, for example. Yet, God has made a world of billions times billions of moving parts. The hundreds and hundreds of seashells on the shore spoke to me of the past. Little creatures who had come and gone and left behind their shell. Why so many? So much abundance. What is God up to with all of this. And looking up and down the beach there were people, mostly families, as far as the eye could see. Little ones with parents and grandparents, some in the prime of life strutting their physical superiority, others willing to display their imperfections. Each one a story, a life history. Each one with a collection of memories, hopes and dreams. One lady was a special ed teacher. Her seven year old would wave to me repeatedly as she entered or left the beach (a man with a three year old seems less dangerous). I kept thinking about all those biographies and each person destined, some day, to stand before the Judgment Seat. The Final Sorting process (in Jesus' words) similar to me scooping up shells and keeping the good ones and tossing out the broken and useless. I could imagine Jesus on that shore, and I am sure many of these folks (I was in south Alabama after all) were no doubt very sure of their relationship with the Lord Jesus. Just looking at the crowds, though, you couldn't tell which ones were which.

Another experience which weighed heavy was the terror of walking that high off the ground with a squirimy baby boy. I was literally a few feet from death at any moment. The railing provided a safety barrier, but one couldn't help but look and think of how quickly solid floor turned into thin air and a long, long drop. As I was up there I recalled reading about the impact heights have on people. There is a phenomenon where people actually feel drawn to the edge (or so I recall). And I am reminded of the definition of faith that  it is a blind leap into the unknown. Maybe that is the pull (or push) we feel. Yet why is life that way? What does it say about God that faith is compared to jumping off a 12 story building and trusting confidently that it will all work out?

Lastly (for today) I watched some TV shows. I was struck by how dark they were, and decadent in many ways. What was most disturbing is the echoes in the news. A man beats another an to death after saying, "I feel like killing someone." Interviews in Chicago and New York with citizens commenting on the huge increase in murders and shooting. It is hard to know it things are really getting worse (few of us lived in the middle ages or ancient world). Violence and cruelty seem to be one (unattractive) feature of the human condition. The horror of real and imagined culture was a reminder of the theological maxim, "we need to be saved."

A week on the beach. It was a nice time. It was a time to think and relax (and not think!). What I walked away with was a sense of the fragility of it all. How things change. How danger is so close. How good people can be, and how mean some people are. And that need for Someone to set it all right. Someone Who saves His creation. As the beach breezes blew I thought of the ruah Yahweh and asked the wind/breath/Spirit of the Lord to fill me, and all of us. And I prayed for that rescue operation from Heaven to save us all. And I listened to the pounding surf and wondered when...

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