The Ocean, Outer Space, and The Overwhelmingness of God

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There are some things we love that are too big for us.

The sea and the sky, the waves and the stars, the pearls below and the planets above–these two have always been my loves. They’re close and familiar to me; they feel of warm soles slapping against grey boardwalk planks, and of neck upstretched to see it all spread out at night. Yet they’re far and distant too, both ever stretching out of reach, out of sight, with islands and planets and worlds far away to explore.

These two are my loves, and they have been since I was young. I’m a child of the sea and the sky, a Navy daughter and a pilot’s child, exploring the aquarium in my childhood mornings and soaking up NASA documentaries at night. These two, so close and so far away, each hold a strange attraction for the astronauts and the sea sailors and for every one they touch. They are vast, they are beautiful–there are waves dancing and stars twirling and we wonder. We turn our eyes out far to sea, we turn our lenses out far to space, ever curious, ever looking, ever surprised and in awe.

Because it’s glorious what we glimpse. Continue reading

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Christian, Stop Dehydrating Yourself

The worst place to die of thirst must be the ocean.

“Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink,” says the old poem, and it’s an apt description of the situation. Stranded in a small boat, with not canteen of fresh water, you’re surrounded by miles and miles of water–but none of it does you any good.

Ocean water isn’t fit for drinking. The salt in it dehydrates you, drying you out from the inside out. Drinking it won’t hydrate you–it’ll do the opposite, and absorb your life away. The sea mixed with salt can’t help you. You can scoop it, splash in it, and even swim in it–but none of it will quench your thirst.

The worst place to be thirsty is in the middle of the ocean–and the worst place to be thirsty for God’s Word is in Bible class.

After all, you’re surrounded with Scripture. You can scoop up verses in class, splash about in it during discussions, and swim deeply in it for papers. But sometimes, none of that really does you any good. You’re still thirsty. Because you’re not really drinking fresh water. Because the water of the Word is mixed with the salt of second-hand. And if you’re not careful, it can dry your spiritual life out Continue reading

4 Things To Remember When Your Spiritual Life Stalls

4 things to remember when your spiritual life stalls

I’d love to travel on a sailboat. To hang out over the railing, the wind whipping the rigging, flying fast and free over the foamy blue. Sun, salt, and sea-spray lightening the red of my hair, utterly unbridled joy and excitement. This water-daughter has lived most her life by the sea, and would love to sail upon it, to reach glorious lands yet unknown (at least to me).

And in a way, that’s what I’d like my spiritual journey to be like too. To fly along blown by God’s Spirit, utter and complete joy in everything, each day bringing a new cresting wave of truth and knowledge.

But sometimes the wind stops. The sails droop. And you’re caught in the doldrums—the place feared by sailors of old, where the wind disappears for days, even weeks, and only oars can take you anywhere. It’s a stifling hot still, where everything is numb and the same. You can row and row, but each pull is agonizingly hard and there’s not a glimmer of change on the horizon.

And sometimes, we can get into spiritual doldrums too. Bible reading just doesn’t excite us as it did anymore. You don’t feel overwhelmed by God’s greatness in worship. Prayer seems like a chore, not a privilege. The wind of excitement seems to have completely disappeared, and you’re wondering what happened. You keep rowing, keep on going, but there seems to be no change, and you’re tempted to throw the oars overboard in defeat.

But there’s some things we need to remember when we get caught in the doldrums of life.

Continue reading

The Thunder of God’s Presence

The Thunder of God's Presence

I love storms. Hearing the rushing, rolling majesty flooding through; staring wide-eyed at the bright paths from the clouds flashing in and out of existence in a moment’s time; soaking in the jostling booms multiplying against the hills — I revel in it.

I mentioned this strange delight of mine at a friend’s house recently, and their dad suggested that perhaps it wasn’t that unusual. He pointed out that often the Bible uses thunder as an allegory for God’s voice, and we moved on to discussing the instances at Sinai and other places.

But that one thought stuck with me. Biblical allegories should be the best ones there are, for the Great Author of all has made both things being compared. So it can be enlightening to dig deeper into them, discovering the facets of Himself the Creator reveals in His creation.

Because thunder, scientifically speaking, is the noise created when air molecules rush in to fill the space emptied by the searing heat of lightning. The roaring crash is the sound of a vacuum being righted. Emptiness being filled. Continue reading

The Beauty of Paradox: Guest Post on the Rebelution

The BeautyofParadox

Slime and Beauty. Not two words we would usually associate together.

Because slime is gooey and sticky and messy and bleck. But you know what, I saw beauty in it. I caught a glimpse of the delight of paradoxes the other day.

The rain steadily drummed off the porch, constraining the energy of the kindergarteners inside. But taking such simple ingredients as cornstarch and water, a magical portal was opened from this grey world into a new one — one full of green and yellow and pink and blue slime.

Delighted, powdery-whitened arms and hands mixed and mixed until they made a new discovery. It was hard — and wet! When they forcibly dug it up, crushing it between their chubby fingers, it was solid, hard. But after a few moments of inactivity it would melt away, escaping through the cracks of their fingers. (The scientific name for this actually is oobleck, or a non-newtonian fluid.)

It changed, it didn’t stay the same, it was confusing, a paradox! And they were ecstatic. This was the most fun they had ever had. I tried to explain to them, in their terms of course, the science and reason why. But what good are words and explanations when you have hands, touch, and movement already assaulting all your senses with delight? They didn’t really care why. They were just amazed, just thrilled, just delighted that it does.

And I wonder sometimes if in wanting too hard to just know, to just completely understand, to analyze until there are no more paradoxes — we kill our joy. Perhaps not understanding can be the most wonderful beauty of all.

Finish reading here on the Reb.

Don’t Forget to Keep Your Sacred

Don't Forget to Keep Your Sacred

I grasped something beautiful the other day. But I lost it.

It had been one of those maddeningly-long days, full of never-screaming-but-also-never-ceasing frustrations, where you clench your eyes and your sanity just to keep from losing it all. Tensed, tired, and dusty, my only thoughts were water for my throat and shower, but on the way there I picked up my tablet. As the water whooshed and steam filled the air, I absent-mindedly turned on my music, hoping perhaps the notes could wash away the heaviness soap and water couldn’t reach.

Fortunately, the living Water is very skilled at doing just that.

Standing there, alone, open, bare; I was overcome. I worshiped. I was renewed. I rejoiced in Him, in praising His name. I returned to my room cleansed in more ways than one; and sat down to continue working on a post started long before, worship music still playing and working in my soul.

In a moment, overcome by Him, I stopped and wrote one of the deepest, most heartfelt, most vulnerable and overwhelmed bit to Him I have ever known.

“Have you felt it? This longing, overwhelming urge to know Him more, this rushing out of your heart to become closer to Him? You’ve had a taste of His love and want to become drunk on it, to know Him more, to have more of Him, just more of His word, just more of His presence, just more of His awesomeness, in the old sense of the word — that, that only is enough to satisfy and you crave it overwhelmingly.”

But — that’s not it.

The sad part is, that paragraph is not what I wrote. That’s only the gleanings, the faded colors of what I remember, the distant echoes of a powerful prayer. Because somehow, I lost it. Continue reading

Clean Hands in a Muddy World

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I should not have been working to dig holes in the mud this weekend.

Why? Let me explain.

Reason Number One: It was Sunday, my only day off after a very long week of child-wrangling, dumpling-folding, pan-scrubbing, house-decluttering, food-prepping, and word-working. As a family we had decided to do nothing all day besides church, with no other work going on.

Reason Number Dos: We had no plans for working outside in the yard. At all. All the fence-posts have been in for ages, nothing needs to be planted in the front yard, no one mows this time of year, there are no mesquite trees to evict, and it’s not even time for me to clear out my garden for next year! (Well, technically it probably is, but I’m going to pretend it’s not) Nothing involving shovels, gloves, or holes should have been going on.

And finally, Reason Number III, (which is truly and honestly the only real, actual reason on this list that isn’t just me being dramatic for the sake of story-telling): There shouldn’t have been any mud.

Literally, there should be no mud in our yard. Continue reading

What Christmas Was Meant to Do

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A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

There was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

You can recognize all these. Perhaps you barely even had to read them, they’re so familiar. They make us grin, they call forth memories, and they evoke emotions. Your heart is instantly swept away into another land, full of adventure, danger, and wonder. But very little of that is because of them. Just those sentences themselves aren’t much. There’s no elegant structure here. There’s no eloquent prose. In fact, they all consist almost entirely of single-syllable words! They’re not stories, they’re not chapters, and they’re barely even full sentences. Taken simply as words by themselves, they have little power.

No, we love them because they are beginnings. We love them because they herald what is coming next.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (Luke 2:1)

And I think this is how we should love Christmas as well. Of course, most people do enjoy Christmas. Ask most people on the street, and — unless they are the living incarnation of Scrooge or the Grinch himself — they’ll smile and agree that it’s one of the most wonderful times of the year.

His soft little hands stretched open, reaching for the warmth of His mother. Red and wrinkled, His small body was wrapped snugly, safe from the bitter winter air. Continue reading

Crisp Wind and Christ’s Return

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A cool breeze smells different.

I know that sounds rather strange, but it does. It smells more open, more alive, more fresh. Whispering in your ears of high mountain peaks, tousling your hair as the leaves of pine trees, tingling your skin with the chill of clear streams; it calls forth longings, it calls forth a sense of adventure for the unknown. The inside of you feels larger, more alive; eager to see places yet unknown, to face challenges yet unmet, to run violently, beautifully into the unexplored. Cold air smells of green, of cool browns, and of blue stretching ever across the sky.

But when such a cool breeze comes, nothing around you matches it. In fact, the sun is beating down on dry dirt, and it’ll be ninety degrees again in two days. But the summer is always the hottest right before it turns into Fall.

The cold breeze is a sign. It’s a hope. It’s a promise. Continue reading

Faithfulness Fridays: Prayer and the High Priest

We’re not alone.

Do you know that? We don’t call out to an empty sky. Our prayers don’t bounce off the ceiling. We have One Who hears when we call upon Him.

And He doesn’t just hear, He understands.

It’s hard for us fully empathize with other people in different situations. As Americans, we know others live in extreme poverty in other nations. But it often doesn’t register. We don’t really understand, don’t really empathize. Until we actually go, actually see. We haven’t seen the thousands of apartments sardined together in stifling streets; nor the eerily silent rows of orphans, babies who have stopped crying because no one answers. We don’t know because we haven’t been there. Continue reading