Who Turned Out The Light?

 

photo by Jack Robinson on Unsplash

If you’re on the east coast of Florida, by the ocean, a highlight is to watch the sun come up over the water.

That’s what my friend, Marc, says.

We were at a kick-off retreat this weekend by the ocean. A new group of folks transitioning into Orlando from all parts of the globe. An opportunity to introduce newbies to one of the finer points of Florida living in the summer.

Marc, our main speaker, waxed eloquently about the beauty of the sunrise he and his wife Patty witnessed from the beach. Patty’s more of a sunset person, not quite the early riser her husband is. But she loves to photograph sunrises, so they made it happen.

I was at my computer when the sun came up. Trying to catch up on what I’ve been ignoring. I saw the sun come through the curtain, but I didn’t think of going on the balcony to watch.

I’ve seen sunrises on the beach before, and they are spectacular. I waited outside the next morning for the glorious beauty of rays peeking over the horizon.

Didn’t happen.

Clouds had moved in and blocked the sun. I knew it was coming up because the light reflected off the top of the clouds.

Just couldn’t see it.

I was disappointed. Which happens when I want to experience something and the opportunity is taken from me.

Others had been inspired by Marc as well. Folks were sitting on the beach, watching the horizon. Waiting.

Nada.

Two hours after sunrise, the sun appeared for a few minutes. Then lost itself in the clouds once again.

To add insult to injury, Marc shared in his next talk how he and Patty had seen the sunset from the shores of the Intercoastal waterway.

I missed out completely.

I hear others share with me how Jesus has showed up in their lives in heart-healing ways, and my response is, “Why doesn’t He do that for me?” I’m waiting on the beach for the sun to rise–all I see are clouds.

As a follower of Jesus, I act as if I’m entitled to pain free living. That things will always work out as I want them to.

Walking with Jesus isn’t a life fix. It’s not a crutch for inadequacy or a bandage to protect my woundedness from oozing out and messing up the rest of me.

Walking with Jesus is a day-to-day relationship that connects me to the One who created life and offers me His strength to live it with hope and purpose.

Things will go wrong. On cloudy days, I don’t see the sun at all.

It’s still there.

Much of the world will watch the solar eclipse Monday afternoon and be in awe how the sun could be blotted out in the middle of the day.

The eclipse doesn’t do away with the sun. It covers it for awhile.

I have days of darkness, when things don’t go well. When loss and pain are my companions rather than joy. When it feels like everything is against me.

The Son is still there. Waiting for me to lean into Him. To trust Him with my hurt.

Nothing can stop the Son from shining.

 

 

If The Shoe Fits

Who knew shoes could be so definitive?

I began wearing soccer flops when my kids outgrew theirs, and I took over ownership. They were worn, but still comfortable.

When I began buying my own, I knew I was hooked. Not a fashion statement. Comfortable enough to walk miles in.

I was teased by my kids. Then by my co-workers. I’d never wear flops with a dress–but just about anything else.

The Kardashians began wearing flops. They made a fashion statement, and folks began picking up on how durable and cozy they were. If Khloe could put them on their feet, maybe they worked for more than soccer players.

I’m betting Khloe and the clan have pedicures before allowing their feet to be seen in them.

People actually comment now when I don’t wear them. As if I don’t own anything other than these flops.

I do have other shoes.

What’s funny is, while on family vacation, my son-in-law, Michael, showed up in soccer flops identical to mine.

It drove the grands crazy.

“Those are Nana’s flops.” Ryken not quite three, was convinced Michael was trying to make off with my shoes. Brooklyn, one and a half, kept pointing to Michael’s feet and saying, “Nana’s shoes.”

It’s concerning that the grands know me for my footwear.

We’ve been back for a couple of weeks, and these have been my footwear of choice. I’ve a flop tan on my feet from constant wear. Calloused toes and heels with dry skin that I pick at. All because of my shoes.

Not pretty.

My daughters groan when I show up in them. Isley informed me with sweet sincerity, “You should at least paint your toenails.”

Sydney’s new dog, Aspen, wants to eat them.

As easy and comfortable as they are to wear, I don’t want them to be what people focus on when they think of me.

I’m more than my shoes.

Like my shoes, habits and attitudes can define me. I tend to laugh a lot, and I’m loud, so I’ve had folks say, “I knew you were in the building. I heard you laughing.” That’s positive.

But it’s easy for me to fall into a critical attitude, judging others on a standard I can’t sustain myself. I’ve friends (and a husband) who are willing to say, “You’re being a little hard on them, aren’t you?” Or “Can you believe the best here?”

We become known by how we show up. How we choose to live daily. We’ve ways of stepping out that reflect the real parts of us, those things that come naturally and show who we really are.

I don’t want a negative attitude or a critical spirit to be how people think of me.

Jesus lived a pure life. Never committed a wrongful act. Even those who arrested Him and helped in beating and killing Him couldn’t find any wrong in His actions.

I’d like to be known for doing good things. Helping others consistently. Even when it’s hard or costs me.

I can’t do that without Jesus.

I want my life defined by Him.

What choices are you allowing to define you?

 

 

 

This Little Light Of Mine

It was a weekend of family birthdays. Celebrating. Cakes. Presents.

Two nights of togetherness pushes the limit of what younger kids can tolerate. Nana’s home can only offer so much entertainment that connects with the heart of a child.

Especially when the adults choose to watch MLS soccer.

Orlando City was on (another disappointing game), and since we’re all die-hard fans, we watched in spite of the whining from the younger crowd.

“This is boring.”

I get boring. When there’s nothing really fun to do. When you know that, no matter what you suggest, the response will be, “I don’t wanna.”

John is brilliant in times of whininess. (He’s dealt with me all these years.) He had some tricks up his sleeve–and a few objects that light up–left over from the summer. He got them out and let the younger ones have at them.

We turned off all the lights (except for the soccer game), and the room became a war zone. A place where pretend light sabers could battle perceived enemies (siblings) with little or no injury.

I got whacked with one of those things, and it stung.

It changed the tenor of the evening. While we watched a dismal soccer game, the three youngest grands were running around the house, brandishing their swords and doing battle. Ryken, the youngest warrior, wanted more lights. More ways to glow. Teagan and Isley were content to attack each other.

It was a whole new perspective on Saturday night fights.

Boredom is a major nemesis of the young, But it can take out adults just as easily if we don’t think about the possibilities. If our focus is what we always default to when we lack imagination–binge watching TV, games on our phones, texting random people, stalking folks on Facebook or other adult ways of getting into trouble–we waste time and never move forward. Never grow or learn.

The kids had it right. There’s something about light that draws us in. When real life is exposed, we can actually understand what we’re choosing to involve ourselves with.

TV and movies know how to communicate when bad things happen. If something dreadful is taking place, it’s preceded by music that sets your nerves on edge.

It usually happens at night.

We live in a broken world full of darkness. Not everything is bad, but there’s enough tough stuff going on that all people are affected by things that hurt. Bad things do happen to good people. Try as we might, we can’t take away the wrong that continues to happen.

There’s a reason Jesus is called the Light of the world.

He came to shine the light on His truth–He is the answer to the problem of evil, the One who would bear the weight of the wrongs of the world so we could be in a right relationship with God.

Light in the darkness.

Like the grands, we’ve got to be willing to put on the Light. Make it a part of our lives by believing that He has forgiven us fully. That His grace is sufficient for the deep needs of our hearts.

That’s the kind of shine I want to have.

 

 

A Dog And His Girl

Growing up, I desperately wanted a dog.

I didn’t care what it looked like. If it had a pedigree. I wanted a dog I could love.

Mom, in her gracious way, put her foot down. Said no. When Dad tried to gift us with a beagle puppy one Christmas, she lasted a couple of months. She was more rambunctious than us kids, so we ended up giving her to some friends of Dad’s who owned a farm.

I understand what it’s like to want something desperately. To be disappointed when that desire goes unmet.

Sydney, at twelve, is me. She’s the animal whisperer–she had a knack for calming most any animal she’s around. (She’s managed to pick up pigeons in the park, much to her mother’s chagrin.) She’s wanted a dog for years. The family has made several attempts to own one. None have worked.

This summer, committed to convincing her dad she could take care of a dog, she saved all her money from babysitting to buy a Labrador puppy.

His name is Aspen.

It might as well be Tigger because he’s bouncy, flouncy and fun.

Aspen is a friendly, happy little guy. He reminds me a lot of Ryken, who’s almost three. Ryken is playful and fun. He’s got a lot of opinions on what he should and shouldn’t do. If he’s told to do something he’s not interested in doing, he takes off.

Aspen’s at the age where curiosity competes with listening.

They’ve gotten him doggie training treats. The plan is for Sydney to take him to obedience classes so he can learn to behave.

Training treats for Ryken. There’s a thought.

(Ask him what he thinks about potty training.)

I romanticized owning a dog when I was a kid. Having a pet who would love me and be with me when I was feeling lonely was very appealing. Playing together and seeing unconditional love in the eyes of a dog were huge draws.

But puppies, like children, have to grow and learn. Aspen is in a chewing stage that puts every pair of sandals at risk in their home. He doesn’t have total control over his needs so he occasionally pees in the house. His energy level is that of the Energizer Bunny on steroids–batteries fully on or fully off.

But he loves Sydney. He gets excited and even bouncier when she comes downstairs in the morning. He’s waited for her in his kennel and can barely contain himself when he knows she’s there. He enjoys the whole family, but he’s attached to Sydney.

Some of the things we want most in this life don’t turn out like we’d hoped. Most things that appear desirable have  a downside we’re often unwilling to see.

It’s why Jesus told us to store our treasures in heaven. Make time to know Him and care for people. Grow in His truth.

Much of what we choose to invest in here will disappoint. There are limited returns on anything that’s finite.

Taking the time to get to know Jesus, who He is and how He loves us, has eternal value.

No training treats required.

 

 

What Can Stand The Test Of Time?

 

A break. A chance to pause before..well, before it all begins again.

John needed to do a site inspection for a future conference. I could go with him–all the way to Jacksonville, Florida.

So it wasn’t exotic or out-of-the-ordinary.

But it was the two of us. And I was grateful.

We talked to wonderful representatives from the hotel we stayed at. We needed to explore what was available for places where people could go for meals and opportunities for connecting.

We’ve been to Jacksonville before. Debbie attended Jacksonville University her first year of college.

Hadn’t seen what we needed to see.

One of the most surprising places was where a two-hundred-year-old tree had been protected for posterity.

It was a massive southern live oak named the Treaty Oak. The name was given by a journalist who claimed a treaty had been signed by local tribes and early settlers. It was his effort to save the tree from developers.

He wasn’t truthful; no treaty had ever been forged there.

A great effort to save a great tree.

Though the fictional account kept it safe for awhile, it was the generosity of people in Jacksonville that has kept it protected. In 1964, Jessie Ball duPont, working alongside others, kept the developers at bay.

Permanently.

Over seventy feet tall with a trunk measuring 25 feet in circumference, it’s massive with huge branches that spread out like the arms of a mythical creature. Embracing everything around it.

It felt like a home I’ve never seen. A place of belonging for so many creatures.

Age has taken its toll. Branches that hung low were supported by structures so they wouldn’t break. Some drag on the ground with heaviness and possibly a little fatigue.

Signs are posted that ask folks not to climb on the tree.

Like most of life, those signs were mostly ignored as adults tried walking up the thick limbs.

But it survives. Thrives.

Things that are tried and tested are useful. Reliable. No matter how old the item–or person–may be.

When Jesus came on the scene, He didn’t get rid of what had come before. The Law, which God gave to Moses, had great value. Jesus didn’t come to abolish any of it.

He came to fulfill it.

The Law spoke of living righteously by doing things in a manner that valued people. Being perfect not just in actions, but in words and attitudes as well.

A holy God requires people in relationship with Him to be holy.

We can’t do that. We’re all broken and prone to hearts that want to do their own thing.

Jesus fulfilled the Law by being the perfect, once-and-for-all sacrifice for the wrongs done by people. All people. No matter what the wrong.

The value of the Law was how it pointed people to live in harmony with others and God.

The value of Jesus was He satisfied the Law completely. Permanently.

What He did can’t be improved. Added to. Subtracted from.

Like that old tree, the reliability of Jesus’ gift to us is His lasting presence.

Which will survive much longer than that old tree.