Archive for the ‘The Journey’ Category

Articles

14,245

In Keeping it Real,The Journey on September 25, 2013 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

ImageI’m 14,245.

Days.

Old.

I wake to that reality.

The baby has pooped- he won’t go to back to sleep.  Its not 6:30 yet.  The others will be awake soon.  I slept through my alarm and missed my morning routine of bible reading and jogging around the neighborhood.  I won’t be alone again till 9pm tonight.  This isn’t a pleasant thought.  The rain has continued through the night.  The front yard is muddy.  The bills are piling up.  There was a tough situation to deal with last night with a person in our community that left my wife and I feeling drained.

Thoreau once said, “Only that day dawns that we are truly awake” but that’s not really true, right?  Easy for Thoreau to say, in his one-man, man-cave of a cabin on the shores of Walden Pond.  He didn’t have to get 4 kids fed, lunches made, and out the door to do the morning carpool by 7:30.  No, this day is dawning, whether I’m ready or not.

And oh yeah, its my birthday.  And I’m 14,245 days old according to this link.

Birthdays don’t mean as much now as they did as a kid.  My 3 year old is ready for her birthday now-she’s planning the activity- thinking of the outfit- planning the cupcake down to the very color sprinkles she wants- and its 3 months away.  For those of us that consider ourselves as adults, we’re lucky if our birthday gets remembered with a dozen shout outs on Facebook and a birthday card hand drawn by the kids.

We were at the mall last week getting hair cuts from the brother in law and I saw a huge digital display in the front window of the Eddie Bauer store that screamed out: LIVE YOUR ADVENTURE!   In the photo the guy was skiing and it all looked so good.  I had a longing:  I need more adventure in my life.

Truth is: I love adventure.  I love standing on mountains.  I love getting away.  In what now feels like a past life, when I was younger I travelled to 6 different continents, spent a month living in Guatemala (alone), and drove around the United States and eastern Canadian provinces in a white van named Hope for 6 months.  Adventure was my middle name.  But mostly life now is about something else- living well the every day life that doesn’t feel too adventurous on most days.

The adventure is looking smaller these days.  Simpler.  Less exciting to the outside observer.  Some days I’m still plagued with my evil twin “Adventure Sund” who dares me to drive out of town and not stop, who says I should be doing more, going to more places, going crazy with activity.  But slowly, as day by day goes by in this full season of young family, growing church, youth soccer, etc., I’m slowly learning adventure isn’t as important right now.  Right now the big adventure is serving my wife lovingly and learning to listen to her and care for her as she really is.   Or training my son how to drive a boat and be a better leader with his friends.  Or teaching my daughter to believe in herself and have healthy friendships. Or patiently guiding my 3 year old and not lose it when tantrums erupt for the seemingly insignificant things that drive her nuts.   Or caring for my baby boy by putting down my phone and laying on the floor with him and play for extended periods of time.

These are good adventures- much, much smaller- but if I live the life well that God has given me in this specific time and specific place, I’ll better understand the man that God created me to be.  I’ll not dream about different adventures or bigger bank accounts or better vacations to more exotic locales.  I’ll be too busy living the adventure of the beautiful every day life God has given me right now.   Paul speaks of this good life in the letter to the Ephesians: “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”  These words were true for the church in Ephesus; and they are true today.  I want to live a life worthy of the calling I’ve received, the life I’m actually living now versus a false notion of a more adventurous life out there somewhere.  The grass isn’t greener, it needs watering everywhere.

I want to live that kind of life today, on my 14,245th day.  That’s the adventure I signed up for.  I want to live it well.

Articles

The story of the lost key

In God's great love,grateful,Jesus,The Journey on September 18, 2013 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

key

 

Monday’s was soccer practice on one of the muddiest, wettest, afternoons of the fall.  It was a tough practice trying to refocus nine 7 year olds from the preferred activity (making mud angels and throwing mud balls) to the ideal activity (practicing for soccer).  By the end of the hour I was wet, dirty, and most certainly a tad bit crabby.  The kids all got picked up, I gathered up muddy balls and practice jerseys, and went to grab the car key.  Normally we use a key ring with lots of other keys but in a hurry that afternoon I had grabbed the spare key.  One spare key.  Gone.  The zippered rain jacket pocket I had placed the single key had been unzipped.  The whole practice.  One single key, one entire soccer field, with no way to get home.

I grabbed two muddy seven year olds (mine and another) and my 9-year-old spectator daughter, and we began looking.  We walked here and there, carelessly, searching the muddy grass.  It dawned on me.  We’ll never find it.  At least not like this.  Searching has to be more intentional.  We have to have a better way to find the lost key.

I gathered the kids and hatched a plan.  We got in a line- 3 feet between us- and began traversing the field meticulously.  I still had my doubts we would find that key but at last now we had a chance.  Holding hands- crossing the muddy Francis Anderson field- looking for one lost silver key.  What are the odds- on 600 cubic yards that we would stumble over the one-yard that mattered: the one that held the key.  Back and forth, trying to maintain straight lines with military precision in the post soccer practice mess of two 7 year olds and a big sister waiting to go home.  “Its no use, we’ll never find it.”

“Nope we won’t,’ I told them, ‘if we stop looking.” As we continued to search, I began to realize a few things about lost things:

1) We can’t find what we’re not looking for.

Umm…yeah, got it.  Seemingly simply but so true.  I’ve had friends in recent days on social media who are poo-pooing the trapping of modern Christian faith and advocating instead an invitation “to the mystery, to the dance”.  I love that.  I love mystery.  I love dancing.  But if I’m left to my own initiative to pursue God, I’m going to be pretty lonely on the dance floor.  Because on most days I don’t feel like dancing.  I’m crabbing or shallow or simple or ignorant.  But establishing rituals of connection with the God who is always there to connect with us isn’t boring religion; it’s like intentionally looking for the key.  If you never look for things, you’ll never find it.  I realized some time ago I needed to spend more time looking for God, intentionally, in ritual acts of connection.  Setting my alarm to rise early, to run around the neighborhood looking for signs of the creator and praying for my loved ones, and returning to the pre-dawn quiet of the house and over a cup of coffee, reading the bible to remember just how big God is.  I’ve used different tools, different bibles, and different devotionals in different seasons to mix things up.  But I keep making time to search for God.

2)  If you don’t really need anything, you’ll soon tire of searching.

Looking for the key, we had made a few trips back and forth across the muddy pitch when I got frustrated- “forget it.”  I’ll call Heather, bring a spare key down, and just forget this stupid search.  But then I realized this was our only spare key.  There was no other option than finding the key.  No way to bail out.  No way to phone it in.  I NEED TO KEEP LOOKING BECAUSE THERE WEREN’T ANY OTHER OPTIONS.  It reminds me that often it is those furthest from God who have the best salvation stories.  Why?  Because they had no other option than to pursue the God of all redemption stories: Jesus Christ.  Sometimes I look around at the people around me and wonder- do you even need God or have we gotten so used to living without God we don’t really need him at all.  Someone recently challenged me: “are you merely spoon feeding the already full?”  Or are we reaching out to people still looking for a key to their lives.  I want to be more like that.
3)  Lost things get found when someone is searching.

It would have been convenient to stop searching- but I couldn’t -and so I didn’t stop.  How much more than does Jesus pursue us?  Desire us?  And search for us?  Jesus tells this story to encourage his friends looking for truth:
 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15: 8-10). 

Much like the woman’s quarter in the story, my own story was that I needed someone to find me.  I was 17, looking for purpose, and wondering whether God was true.  Lucky for me, Jesus inspired some YL friends to come looking for me.  And I began to hear about Jesus.  And then, in August of 1992, I was found.  I prayed and asked God into my heart, confessed my sin, and started a new path of following Him.  A path, trust me, that has had many failings.  And some dark spots.  But through it all, I knew I had been found by a God who loved me through His son Jesus Christ.  Even writing this, it feels good to remember my story of being found.  But I wonder how often we tell these stories to our friends outside the faith?  Or do we often spoon feed those already full?  Do we feel found by God on a daily basis?  And are we helping others seek for Him?  We worship a God who never stops searching for lost people.  I don’t want to forget about that part of God’s nature.

And then, near the end of our search, pointed down in the grass was the one, single, key.  We found it.  Because after all, the bible tells us, lost things get found.

Articles

Slower

In Family and Marriage,Spiritual Practices,The Journey on January 5, 2013 by scottsund Tagged: ,

“We are facing an enormous problem in our lives today.
It’s so big we can hardly see it, and it’s right in front of our face all day, every day.
We’re all living too big lives, crammed form top to toe with activities, urgencies, and obligations that seem absolute.
There’s no time to take a breath, no time to look for the source of the problem.”
-Sarah Susanka, “The Not So Big Life”

ImageHappy New Year.  It’s been a season of silence on this blog.  Though things have been busy over the last month, mostly I needed some quiet for a while.  It’s convicting as a storyteller and a blogger at times when the question arises: do I have anything to say to the world?  Am I “living” these things out?

It seems December gets busier each year as a family.  Despite the best intentions, it’s just a busy, busy month.  There is all the kid stuff at school and performances and recitals and parties.  I was fortunate enough to travel to Mexico to perform the wedding of two beautiful people.  And every day we celebrated an advent activity or spiritual practice to fill the season with meaning.  And it was a great month…but just very, very full.

We hosted both of our families for Christmas meals and gift openings and that was a real treat and our month was supposed to culminate in a cabin rental in the mountains above Cle Elum for 4 days of rest, snow and sledding, and down time as a family.  But the evening before leaving for the cabin, Heather came down sick (her second significant throwing up experience in 10 days).  Over the course of the night she threw up over and over again.  And then my oldest son got it and the two of them puked threw the night.  And then my daughter noticed our dog was bleeding…bad.  She had an exploded anal gland (yep, you read that correctly).  In the next morning of chaos, I was running around cleaning up garbage cans of vomit and cleaning the carpet of blood stains and calling the vet and opening a few of the presents that my parents had brought for the kids and just full of so much anxiety.  It became clear as the sickness lingered all day and the dog needed more significant care, we were not going to make it to our cabin rental.  Luckily, the cabin owners allowed us to use the cabin later in the spring and all of a sudden, our plans were cancelled and we had the next few days to rest, recuperate, and stay home.  3 days with nothing planned.

Sadly, my mind started to instantly go towards: “okay what should we do.”  I texted friends, made plans with the kids to make up for the disappoint of not going to cabin, and started to plot day by day how to fill the next few days.

Luckily my wife, from the sick bed she hadn’t been able to rise from for a day, held up a metaphorical mirror.  “Scott why are you trying so hard to fill in the time with stuff?  Can’t we just slow down?”

Yeah Scott, can’t you just slow down?  The answer, unfortunately in that minute, was no.  No, it’s hard to slow down.  I become adept at going and doing and accomplishing and checking things off a list and so when I need to slow down I don’t know what to do.  But over the course of that day, and the days that followed , I’ve been hearing the words of my wife- can’t we just slow down?  And this has turned into a prayer: slow me down Lord.  Slow me down.

“Sometimes it takes a wake up call to realize

we are living the fast life,

not the good life.”

-Carl Honore

Recently Carl Honore wrote a book about slow parenting and gave this TED talk about the value of slowness.  There is much to like about this talk, and I’ve now got Honore’s book on my reading list for this year, but what stuck out the most is that we shouldn’t just race through your life- we should LIVE it.  And living life intentionally, as a parent or as just a person, happens when we slow down.  When we stop looking at time as linear and wanting to move quickly through it…but as a cycle that we get to enjoy the rhythm and ritual of each day.  For it was Aesop that wrote, “Slow and steady wins the race.”  We all know how the children’s fable of the Tortoise and the Hare ends, but then why do I often live like that crazy rabbit….running as fast as I can.

The pace of life becomes unbearable.  We need to slow down.

I was reading in the book of 1 Samuel an amazing story of slowing down.  As you may remember, Samuel was a boy who worked in the temple in Israel and had been dedicated for a life of service to the Lord.  But though he served the priest Eli, he didn’t know the Lord personally yet.  God spoke to Samuel in a dream by calling his name “Samuel, Samuel!” three times and each time Samuel ran to the priest Eli and thought he was paging him.  Finally Eli realized Samuel was hearing from the Lord and Eli gave Samuel these instructions:  “Go lie down and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say,  “Speak Lord for your servant is listening.”  True enough, Samuel heard from God again, and this time instead of running, Samuel said: “Here am I Lord.  Here am I.”  And God spoke to Samuel personally for the first time in his life.  How do we hear from God when we never slow down?

Lately I’ve been hearing of people choosing 1 word “slogans” for the year ahead.  The idea is that this word is both a goal and an anchor for the year, a thought to pray and meditate on. Though I’m not ready to commit that this is the singular word I will dwell on this year, I think the word I’m stuck with right now for 2013 is SLOWER.   Slower.  Slower.  In a frenzied world of pace and progress, slow me down O Lord, slow me down.  How else do we get formed than waiting at the workbench- showing up with the Maker?  How else do we form our families than slowly being together?Please know, this is a hope, and not a finished product. Slow me down Lord.  Slow me down.

Here’s a verse for you: “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, the person who seeks Him.
It is good that he waits silently.
For the salvation of the Lord….
“Let us examine our ways
And let us return to the Lord,
We lift up our hearts and hands
Toward God in heaven.”
-Lamentations 3: 25-26,40

Here’s a theme song for you on this new journey of slowing down:

Slow me down, O Lord, slow me down
Help my heart to hear Your sound
Speak into my life, Lord speak now
Slow me down O Lord, slow me down
Clear my mind, O Lord, clear my mind
Bring me peace that I cannot find
Take my worried thoughts break my pride
Clear my mind, O Lord, clear my mind
Wake my soul, O Lord, wake my soul
With this mess I’ve made make me whole
Of this life called mine, take control
Wake my soul, O Lord, wake my soul
Slow me down, O Lord, slow me down
Help my heart to hear Your sound
Speak into my life, Lord, speak now
Slow me down Lord.

Yes Lord, this year, S L O W   M E  D O W N.

Articles

Who am I?

In grateful,The Journey on October 31, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , , , ,

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said:
“Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family,
that you have brought me this far?”
-2 Samuel 7:18

When I was in college I played football.  Specifically I played for Whitworth College in the years that playing football at Whitworth wasn’t something to brag about.  We were smaller and less skilled than almost every team we came across.  In addition, it probably should be noted that I played receiver, a position reserved for people taller and faster than I was.  But there I was, a little guy with a big heart, playing football in college for a team that at best, was hoping to win a few games each season.

During my sophomore season, I proudly started the season as 3rd string.  Maybe 4th string…but definitely not any higher than 3rd string.  There were some awesome athletes and guys way more skilled than I was ahead on me on the depth chart.  Faster.  Stronger.  Just plain better.  But I continued to practice and have fun with my buddies that were on the team and hope for the best.  Our coach quit literally a few weeks before the first game and so we were coached by an interim coach that was pretty hands off and let most of the duties fall on his graduate assistants, guys just a few years older than I was who had recently graduated.  We had a few victories that season but a ton of losses- and we got POUNDED on some games.  But the strangest thing happened as the season progressed- I kept moving up the depth chart as guys in front of me got hurt.  One of our senior receivers broke his hand or his wrist in the first or second game.  Then another star hurt his leg (ankle?) during a game at Central Washington University where we pulled off one of the biggest upsets that we had ever accomplished (it was our first victory over Central in over 2 decades!).  The season progressed, guys kept getting hurt, I kept showing up, and before you knew it I was starting at receiver for the mighty Whitworth Pirates.  Keep in mind- I wasn’t the best guy out there- not by a long shot.  But I worked hard and kept showing up and an opportunity presented itself.

On the final game, we played Simon Fraser University, another overmatched and under skilled team that we actually had a shot against.  We had won 2 games that season, lost another 6 or 7, and were hoping to end the year on an upswing.  The weather in Spokane that week had been bonkers- we had a foot of snow the day before the game but by game time it had turned to rain. We were playing in 6 inches of mud in places.  I had a few catches (also dropped a wide open 40 or 50 yard touchdown grab…but that is a different story) and as the game finished I caught a touchdown that put us ahead to win the game.  When it was all over, the team had won its 3rd game.  And I had caught 10 or 12 passes for over 200 yards.  In fact, I was just a few yards off the single game record (but that is also another blog post).  It was an amazing end to the most improbable seasons I could have never suspected.  After the game, the team said some tearful goodbyes and I connected with family and friends in the stands before riding my bike back to the dorm room where I lived.  It’s not a very far bike ride from Whitworth’s Pine Bowl back to Stewart Hall where I lived, but I rode slow.  I had to ride slow, because I couldn’t stop crying.  Not just the odd tear in the corner of my eyes, but literally bawling my eyes out.  “Who am I, God?” I asked over and over and over again.

The reality that hit me on that bike ride home was that God had taken my very average athletic abilities and allowed me to do great things on the football field.  It was like an inside joke between God and myself, because we both knew I wasn’t very talented, but yet God was able to use me in such a surprising and incredible way.  I just slowly peddled and thanked God and asked over and over, “who am I that you would use me like this?”  It was a lot of fun.  I was humble, and very, very grateful.  It’s like King David in the passage at the top. I love this image, him going into the most sacred spot in the tent of worship and sitting before God and just smiling and asking, “why have you been so good to me God?”

When God uses your little bits of talent and does something huge with them, you can’t help but be grateful and thankful.  It becomes an inside joke when you see how God is using ways you never quite expected.  God delights in using us in unsuspecting ways, and He also delights in us being grateful.  And though football was fun, I’m grateful for much bigger things now.  Things like my kids, food, friends, God’s provision.  Its not all touchdowns and big wins; learning to be grateful is also being thankful when things get hard.  But this journey of gratitude is a necessary one to give us postures of thankfulness.  Because the very best people I know in my life are people marked by profound gratitude.  Gratitude that keeps people grounded and humble and reminds them that all good gifts are signs of an even better Giver. Psalm 92 says:

“What a beautiful thing, God, to give thanks,
to sing an anthem to you, the High God!
To announce your love each daybreak,
sing your faithful presence all through the night.

 Yes, we are supposed to be full of gratitude for all that we’ve been given.  I’m reminded of this now writing from a warm house with forced heat and a fridge full of food.  Our friends and families on the east coast are in darkness as the hurricane has ravaged much of the eastern seaboard.  A team from my church is getting back tomorrow from Rwanda where they’ve been ministering to people who have so little.  The children of our church are collecting quarters and dimes and nickels to buy simple meals for children in Zambia.  Friends- don’t forget this- we have been given so much.  We have so much to be grateful for.  Personally, I’m reminded every day in the utter and joyful chaos of a family of now 6…God has been so good.  Though there are problems and things causing big challenges and lots of work on my horizon, I’m choosing to be grateful and keep myself grounded in the truth that God is the great giver of all gifts.  Who am I, God?  Who am I, to deserve all these good things?  Today is a good day to practice the fine art of gratitude.  Will you join me?  What are you thankful for today?

Articles

The 38th Year

In grateful,The Journey on October 2, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

Tuesday was my birthday and sadly, I’ve reached the age where birthdays feel like less of a celebration and more of a memory test: how old am I again?  This actually happened to me earlier in the year when Heather had to correct me…I had actually forgot if I was 37 or 38.  Is it too early for dementia?

But birthdays, though at my age not marked with huge celebrations or landmark coming of age movements, are still incredible moments to stop, pause, look around, and do an inventory on how life is being lived.  It seems when I talk to people, there is often a notion that “back then was the good ol’ days.”  I don’t really think this is true anymore.  Don’t get me wrong, I have great memories from the past.  But I don’t want to live in the past; I want to cling to the belief that life continues to get better.  Yes, these are good days.  Perhaps the best is yet to come.  Our head pastor Richard preached about this on Sunday: “Sentimentalism about the past leads me to disengage in the present.”  I’ve seen this happen again and again.  I often meet people who want to go back in time to be in high school again, or college, or before they had kids.  But this kind of thinking causes bitterness and aloofness for the present, and hopelessness for the future.  No, there is  a better way to live, living in the glorious present.  We only have today, tomorrow, and that which lies ahead; we can’t go back.

And though the days are sunny right now, with a new son and so much to be grateful for, I’m also mindful that others are struggling.  The reality is that yes, life is hard.  I have a friend who recently reminded me of this as we drove to the funeral of one of our closest friend’s father (who died much too young).   We drove south on I-5 and as he discussed the challenges of his workplace, of being the light of Christ in the midst of a very dark place, he said, “You know, life is hard.  And if you don’t see this, you’re either living with your eyes closed or you’re not paying attention.”  Yes, life is hard.

I was thinking of this as we sat through the funeral. The funeral was a very touching celebration of my friend’s father, a good man who had a big impact on those closest to him.  Midway through the funeral, a young woman stood up to play a song of tribute on her flute to her deceased grandfather.  The song was a religious song of some sort, I’m now forgetting the title.  But as she played, the emotion of the moment caught up to her and she began to cry.  But with both hands on the flute she couldn’t wipe the tears away, they merely rolled down her cheeks and puddled on the instrument.  And as she tried to keep her now sobbing breaths measured to exhale the notes into her flute, she would pause between notes and take a deep, sobbing, tearful breath, and play again.  This continued for the duration of the song, beautiful notes punctuated by deep breaths of tearful inhales.  Each crying inhale filled the church with her emotion.  I realized, with tears standing in my own eyes, these sobbing breaths were the real song, not the notes from the flute.  And don’t get me wrong, the flute playing was flawless, but the raw wordless emotion from this young woman conveyed more than words could convey, more than musical notes could convey.  For her crying breaths told the real story of her heartache, but also of her love, and of her hope in Christ to hold her in this difficult time.

For this man who passed, though his life had ended too soon, had lived a good life.  His life hadn’t merely unfolded; it had been sculpted.  In the program of the memorial they printed out a page from his bible that had all his favorite verses written down.  And then they read this verse, Isaiah 40:31, his favorite: “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” I’m thinking of this today as I think of my 38th year.  Lord how will I sculpt a beautiful life out of the clay of my existence?  How will I allow God to help me build?  What greatness awaits?  Time will expire on us all…will I be ready?

In the book of Jeremiah, God sends the prophet Jeremiah to a potter’s house.  After watching a potter fashion a vessel, throw it away, and refashion another vessel the Lord asks: “as the potter molds the clay, can’t I do the same with the nation of Israel?”  The question is rhetorical; Jeremiah knows the answer.  Yes Lord.  You form our lives, collectively and individually, like a master artist forming mud into something useful, something beautiful.  The ability to be great rests not in the inner superiority of “my dirt”, rather, my value comes when I let God move over me, through me, within me to make me into something better than I could be on my own.  It’s not up to me.  My life rests in God’s hands.   This is good news for this means the pressure is off and I can live boldly into the future knowing as I follow God, He’ll be remaking me and forming me to do things for the Kingdom.

In the new Avett Brothers song “The Once and Future Carpenter”, there are lyrics that have been rattling around my brain all week:

“Forever I will move like the world that turns beneath me,
and when I lose my direction I’ll look up to the sky
and when the black cloak drags upon the ground
I’ll be ready to surrender, and remember
well we’re all in this together
If I live the life I’m given, I won’t be scared to die.”

Yes, in this 38th year, I’ll live the life I’m given.  I’ll seek to live a life of integrity and purpose and rest and joy.  I’ll give thanks for all the good that surrounds.  I’ll rage against the darkness that I see destroying the joy and hope of those around me.  And I’ll cling to God.  And I won’t be scared to die.  I’ll be more scared of not really living.  That’s the danger facing many of us these days.

Articles

Tidepools

In Jesus,The Church,The Journey on September 12, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

“This isn’t the real life, this isn’t the real current.
No the tide went out and left us here, encircled, oxygen slowly running out,
hoping to God this isn’t the end.”

Last weekend was our final weekend at the island place where we run a fishing lodge every summer. We closed down the fishing operations on Friday and on Saturday morning, the entire property began to be transformed into a wedding venue.  In 29 years of working at the fishing lodge, we had never hosted a wedding until this weekend.  Former employees met at the lodge, fell in love while working here, and spent seven summers working alongside each other.  When they set their wedding date they asked if they could be married right out front with the ocean in view- and they asked me to marry them.  It was a magical weekend, a time to blend some of my different roles I play in the summer:  fisherman, father, pastor, friend.  It was an honor to perform a Christian wedding ceremony on an island that has almost 800 residents, and only a few dozen go to church.  In many ways this island is a non-religious environment, so it was a privilege to perform a wedding ceremony and preach about how Christ’s spirit empowers our relationships and takes 2 individual lives and transforms them into a 3-stranded cord.

On Saturday night the wedding party and 150 of their closest friends met for a salmon bar-b-que on the rugged north shore of Malcolm Island at Bere Point.  There was a huge beach fire and a bunch of outdoor games set out and beer and wine and 6 different bar-b-ques, cooking nearly 20 salmon, each almost 20 pounds and flavored in a variety of flavors.  The sun hung in the late afternoon sky over the still snow capped Coastal Mountain range, the air was warm with early September temps, and the tide was falling.  On the beach a huge tide pool had collected midway down the sloping shore and the kids and I headed down to check it out.

We waded into the pool and as we slowed down and looked, the vitality of the tide pool became evident.  “Papa!” my oldest screamed, “A sea anemone!”  And she was right, down close to the rocks was an anemone, a bunch of them.  Then there were starfish, hermit crabs, eels, and clams.  And if we were really still, small fish started to dart around the water.  The tide pool was teeming with life.  All housed in a natural fish tank no larger than 20’ across.  It looked so healthy.  As the kids continued to discover and play, I stood back and looked out at the ocean behind me and the recessing tide, just 20 feet away.  The water of Queen Charlotte Strait is huge, in places going down over 1000 feet.  I looked miles and miles across the Strait, from the island we were on, over to mainland British Columbia, to Wells Passage and Fife Sound.  I could see the huge Numas Islands, wild and undiscovered, which lie in the middle of QC Strait.  The water is powerful here, very powerful.  These are big waters, where Orcas travel back and forth and 4 other species of whales inhabit.  It is also the thoroughfare for millions and millions of salmon which travel down each summer, from their winter homes in the North Pacific to their eventual resting place in their river of origin somewhere south of us.  The currents in these waters can literally reshape land, as certain gravel points like Lizard Point get shaped each winter by the power of surging tides and powerful winds.  Some days we get almost 20 feet of changing tides, all of which makes the Inside Passage water flow at a ridiculously powerful rate.  This water has real power.  These are the same waters housed in this small tide pool at my feet, and though there is life in small measure in this tide pool, it simply cannot compare with the real water of the ocean.

There is such a difference between the water of this small tide pool and the mighty waters behind me.  I was thinking about this and reflecting why on an island of 800, just a few dozen people go to church.  At times I wonder if some of us in the Christian church have become pacified living in a tide pool of sorts.  We draw up big walls around us and tell most of the world they don’t fit into our brand or style of faith and then we make a home amidst the small pool.  We see a few fish or sea creatures and tell ourselves that life is healthy, that there are small victories to celebrate, and that the world just doesn’t understand how good we have it here in our tide pool.  All the while, the real power of the ocean’s currents has left us, receding further down the beach.  And the oxygen level in our water is literally expiring until the current comes back.

In the gospel accounts of Jesus, He often railed against institutions, in exchange for personal interactions with people.  And it was always His presence that brought real life.  Jesus wasn’t concerned with starting movements or revolutions, we wanted simply to indwell His followers.  “Come to ME,” Jesus said again and again, and I will give you rest…And I will give you living water…And I will give you life.”  The real current exists in and through a friendship with Jesus.  This is the real current we need to tap into day after day after day.  Jesus spent His 3 years of public ministry healing others, loving those on the margins, and espousing a different life than public and shallow religious services of His day.  “Follow me!  Come to me!  Seek me and find Me!”  These were His most important commands.

And in Jesus’ final days alive in Jerusalem, He didn’t climb on top of the Wailing Wall or the Temple to make speeches to the masses, He wanted to make sure His 12 best friends understood His message perfectly.  So He washed their feet so they would remember to serve others.  He served them bread and wine so they would remember that He would always sustain them.  And then He died for them, so they would always know they were forgiven.  This was Jesus final message in all 4 gospel accounts before He died: serve others, remember Me, for you are forgiven.

A poem fragment from the beach:

“This isn’t the real life, this isn’t the real current.
No the tide went out and left us here,
encircled,
oxygen slowly running out,
hoping to God this isn’t the end.”

This is a tide pool- and time will run out.
Time will run out.

When will the current come back Lord?
When will you return?

It feels so normal here and yet not at all….

So and we wait…
So we wait.”

May you feel the real current of Jesus encircling you.  May you have the courage to seek Him.  May you find Him.  And may you never confuse the warm and oxygen deprived water of the tide pool with the transformative and energized water of a relationship alive with Christ.  He is the real current.  In Him is real life.

“Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the King.”
-1 Peter 2:17

Articles

On a tree like this

In God's great love,Jesus,Practicing Solitude,Spiritual Practices,The Journey on August 23, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: ,

At the end of my self-sufficiency is the place where Christ can finally begin.  When I can stop, Christ begins.  How often do I fail to live into this?  Many of us claim that in Christ alone is our strength, to quote the worship song.  But do others fail at remembering this as often as I do?

Failure and frustration and worries abound.  Between fears of balancing work and play and the fatigue of an entire summer spent working 2 jobs and not doing enough rest.  It’s easy for me to feel “not enough.”  I’m “not enough” as a businessman, as a pastor, as a husband, as a father.  I’ve been struggling with anxiety and fear, self doubt and frustration.  Why does it feel like I’m not doing “good enough” in any one sphere of my life?  Am I alone in these self doubts and fears?

This has been a theme in past weeks- until words of a friend come back to me.  It’s Thursday at a coffee shop and he shares with me the same words from 1 John I had shared with him a few months back: 1 John 3:19-22:  “We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.  Beloved, if your heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.”  Did you catch it?  “God is greater than our heart.”  God is greater than my worries.  God is greater than my fears.  God is greater than what I try to do on my own.  This same scripture I offered up a few months back to a friend in need of more confidence, was repeated back to me at just the right time.

I’m back at the fishing Lodge now and yesterday was another “not enough” day.  Needing a reminder, I head off for a walk for peace and restoration.  I end up in the back of our 40 acres- in an empty patch of the forest off the beaten track of the nature trail. I follow the path under fallen spruce trees and through native grasses and I enter a stand of new growth alder.  And then it hits me; I have entered a sanctuary.  Away from all else that distracts, it’s just me and my Maker.

The sun streams down in ribbons between the stand of coastal alder trees.  The smell of dew and fog hangs in the air like a sweet perfume.  I stand here for a minute and blink- ‘how am I the only one to receive this gift?’  I feel myself letting go of that which is plaguing me as I pray to God.  “God,” I pray, “You are greater.”

Amidst all the trees is one particularly of interest.  ‘On a tree like this,’ the Spirit whispers in my ear, ‘is what I died for you on.  So you don’t have to strive and worry and try to do it on your own.  When you stop, I can finally begin.’

On a tree like this- the world changed.  Because of the gift of Christ, we don’t have to pretend that we are strong enough and wise enough and perfect.  Christ’s perfection, refined in His sacrifice and death and resurrection, is enough for me to hope on.  I stay for a few minutes and feel myself becoming more centered.

The truth is, these are brief moments.  We don’t live back there amidst the alder.  We live in the real world of real worries and real obligations that are constantly pulling at us and telling us to be more, do more, accomplish more.  And if you are anything like me, you might lose your bearings from time to time as you try to be “enough”.

As a reminder today, Christ taught me again that His worth is enough.  On a tree like this…my life changed.  I’m confident He did that for you too.