Riding Waves

Several years ago Cherry and I had the opportunity to go to Hawaii. We spent a week in Maui enjoying as much of the beautiful island as 7 days would allow. One day we drove to the north side of the island because we were told we could see some huge waves. We were not disappointed.

I grew up in Alabama where the most common vacation destinations are beaches along the Gulf Coast (Destin, Panama City, Orange Beach and Gulf Shores). I’m no stranger to waves. One of our favorite things to do as a family to this day is to play in the ocean. However, the waves on the beaches of Alabama and Florida are nothing like the waves I saw in Maui. Gulf Coast waves reach a height of about 3 feet…and that’s when there is a storm brewing. The Maui waves were 15-20 feet high. They were massive. They intimidated me. I had no desire to enter that water.

Not all people were afraid of the waves that day. Several surfers were thrilled. As I watched them I was amazed at their skill. Sure, some of them fell, but they returned to their boards with grins (and sometimes a grimace) on their faces. If they were scared, I couldn’t see it. In fact, what I saw was determination mixed with joy. They were determined to ride the waves for the thrill of speeding down the mountain of water.

Waves in life (and I’m talking about real waves…not Gulf Coast vacation waves) are things we try to avoid. The Apostle Paul called out some “20 footers” in chapter 8 of Romans. Waves like trouble (the stress of a no win situation), hardship (when we have few options and none of them are pleasant), persecution (being hated or taken advantage of…just because), famine (when basic needs not being met), nakedness (forced vulnerability), danger (staring at a scary, uncertain future) and sword (experiencing a violent crime, act of terrorism, or war). Waves of this nature are not survived with pool noodles and floats. No one can touch bottom and just jump as wave rolls under their chin. When someone is forced into vulnerability and/or taken advantage of, it can drown them. When we lose a home or become a victim of a vicious crime, it can push us to ocean floor.

In this same chapter Paul, filled with the Spirit and inspired by God, makes some outrageous claims about the limitations of these waves and our ability to overcome them. It starts with this promise in verse 28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Remember, Paul had endured many of the waves mentioned above. His inspiration when penning these words did not stem from his stay in a Holiday Inn. He wrote these words while under arrest. He wasn’t claiming hope for something he had not yet received. He was speaking of a hope that he was living off of…a hope he had already tasted.

He then says in verse 37, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Paul had been pounded with the big waves and he didn’t just conquer them. Through Christ, he had “more than” conquered them. To me, that is what I saw at Maui. The surfers that day were not just riding water. They were “more than” conquering water mountains. They displayed determination as they swam into the waves; failure when they lost their balance, excitement when they stood on their boards and smiles as they rode the wave until it’s power had subsided. They had more than conquered it.

Life is going to have its waves. Some of them will be huge. We can’t just run from the water. Following Jesus, living for him and representing him means we face the waves with determination and the hope of joy. No wave has the power to be our demise. No wave can separate us from God’s love and care. No wave is too big to conquered. Yes, we will be intimidated sometimes. Yes, there will be days we lose our balance. We will all try to avoid these waves and no one wants to play in the water when they roll in. However, the same wave that scares us can also thrill us. With Christ, we are more than conquerors.

Fences, Horses and Peppermints

My family recently moved into a new neighborhood. We now live at the end of a cul-de-sac, which butts up to a horse pen. Inside the horse pen are six beautiful horses. I talked to their owner and she shared with me that all of her horses are rescued animals. The magnificent creatures all used to be show horses or racehorses.

The previous owners of the horses lost interest in these animals because they could no longer perform at a high level. So…she takes them, cares for them and uses them to teach people how to ride. They are truly beautiful creatures and I must admit that I enjoy seeing them each day as I leave and come home.

Their owner told me that I could stand at the fence, call out to them and give them treats. She said they love peppermints. On several occasions I have loaded my pockets with mints, stood at the fence and called out to the horses. Honestly, I haven’t had much success in getting them to come to me. I know they hear me calling because they all stand there and look at me. But for some reason, they will not come to me. Maybe it’s because they don’t know me. Maybe it’s because another human hurt them. Maybe it’s because I’m not using a call they understand. I don’t know. All I know is that if they came to me I would be good to them. I would give them the mints they enjoy.

One day while going through my routine of trying to get the horses to come to me it dawned on me…I wonder if this is how God feels when He calls out to humanity. He stands at the fence (which represents our circumstances) and calls out to us. We hear Him calling, but maybe we don’t understand the call or His intentions. Maybe we’ve been disappointed or hurt in the past and we are a little shy about the whole “walk by faith” thing. So, we stand there and look dumb founded. Settling to eat hay when we could have a sweet mint. Satisfied to stand alone when we could have Someone touch us gently and speak kind words to us.

I don’t know for sure, but I think the reason the horses will not come to me is because they are not sure I will be kind to them. They just don’t know and they are afraid to trust. Funny, but I think that is one of the primary problems we have when God calls out to us. Will He really be kind to me? Can I really trust Him?

I must admit I am a fair weather horse caller. If it’s cold outside or raining, I don’t stand at the fence and call for the horses. I know God’s not like that. He lovingly and patiently stands on the edges of our circumstances and calls out to us–rain or shine. Why does He do that? I know I stand at the fence and call to the horses because I want to be kind to them, but God calls for a much deeper and significant reason. The Bible says, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (Romans 2:4, NLT)

Final Election Thoughts

Except for a couple of Twitter comments and several private conversations, I have remained mostly quiet about our current presidential election. Now that the dust has settled and people have absorbed the political shock of what actually happened, I would like to say something.

Once the presidential nominees were secured, I was personally disappointed with our presidential options. As I watched the campaigns unfold I became more and more certain that my hope was in God alone. I determined I would educate myself, pray, and vote. I was surprised by the outcome of the election much like the rest of the world. I do not know if President-elect Trump will be a good president or not. I only know that my commitment and service to the Lord Jesus Christ is not emboldened or diminished by who sits in the White House.

Here are some things I observed (and hopefully have learned):

  • If God’s people prayed for the Kingdom of God like they prayed for the kingdoms of men, the kingdoms of men would be different.
  • The political process is a broken system, but it is a system God can use. All through the Bible we find broken political systems, but God still used the political processes of men (many of them dictators) to accomplish His purposes. I am not saying that dictatorship is a good political system. I believe it to be one of the worst, but even in spite of that God moved, worked, and redeemed people. I do not think our current political process with all of its faults; weaknesses and corruption will stop God from moving, working, and redeeming people in the United States.
  • On a similar note, the Bible mentions several political leaders. Some of those leaders had character (like Joseph and Daniel) and some of them had serious character flaws (Agrippa and Herod come to mind). If you notice, God used both types of individuals to carry on His plan of redemption. I have been a bit shocked by the reluctance of God’s people to accept God’s sovereignty in who our presidential candidates where (myself included). God can use the flawed heart or change the heart of any current political leader. This does not mean that we should not care about who is running for office. However, our disagreement with a particular political candidate (or party) does not give us permission to promote fear or hatred if our desired candidate (or party) is not being accepted by society. When we engage in this type propaganda we make our God small and turn government into our god.
  • Without a doubt there is a divide in America. Those who hold to Judeo-Christian values are lining up against those who hold to post-Christian values. The divide has always existed, but it is growing and accelerating. God’s people must remain true to the very values that are helping create the divide (a divide that must exist). This past election was a moment of celebration for the conservative church. However, this is not a moment to gloat. Now is not the time to tell someone how they should feel or that they should not be afraid (those who lost in the vote are feeling what we in the conservative church would feel if the shoe was on the other foot). They are afraid their rights are in danger (by the way that is what I heard many of my conservative friends predicting for conservatives before the election). Patriotic posts with a hint of self-righteousness from the victory seat are not a welcome sight right now. If our words cannot be laced with humility, kindness, and encouragement then maybe we should be quiet for a while. Not out of fear, but out of respect for the common good. Just because we have the freedom to say something doesn’t mean we should.
  • Last, I believe the Church has an awesome opportunity to shine in this moment of history. What is ahead of us is two roads we can walk down. One road is the staunch path of victory. From that road the Church can sing songs and smugly smile burning any chance of building bridges with those whose values are different from ours. I hope we don’t walk down that road. The other path, a tougher but more productive way, begs us to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work of building a bridge so we can place ourselves in a position to be a witness for Christ. Our values implore us to love our enemies, to be good to those who are mean to us and to pray for those who don’t see the world the same way we see it. The very values that have called us to choose a side also call us to love all people no matter their race, social status, political views, or sexual orientation.
%d bloggers like this: