It was a day like so many other days in the 40 years he’d been shepherding sheep. Everyday had to look really similar. The weather, the scenery, and the job… get the sheep up the mountain, get them fed, keep them safe… then take them to the next spot and do it all over again.
Forty years he had been doing this, and you have to figure that Moses had settled in; that he had to be thinking this is what life is going to be, and this is how things are going to play out. But then, on a day like so many other days, something radical happened and everything changed.
Coming down the mountain on this day, Moses noticed a burning bush, and turned aside to see the sight. When I was preparing a talk on this incredible story in Exodus 3, it struck me that perhaps the significant moment in this story happens in Verse 4: “When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called him from the midst of the bush…” You get this sense that maybe that bush was burning all along and that God was waiting for Moses, waiting for him to turn aside, to move away from the task at hand and listen to what God was going to say. That is pretty incredible when you think about it. Seemingly out of nowhere on what looked like a very ordinary day, Moses was given the mission of his life; the mission that made sense out of all the events, seasons and themes to his life at that point.
It makes me hope and ache for God to show up. I need that right now. It makes me wonder as well if there are some places in my life that I am missing it. Places, times, moments, where I need to slow down, get off the beaten path, turn aside and and just listen.
Can you think of a time in your life… a unique moment/place/conversation… a time when life seemed to slow down and God’s story intersected your story in such a way that maybe your thoughts/actions/perspective were different as a result? I have been reminded lately that there is power in remembering; that as we remember, it can give us the strength, courage, confidence and inspiration we need to face the moments ahead.
I am drawn back today to a particularly dark time in my life. I was in San Diego planning the next phase of Harbor Ministry and the launch of the RHYTHMinTWENTY events. I had nothing to offer. Life’s circumstances had put me in a very dark place and honestly I was ready to walk away and be done with this God stuff. But at a critical moment on the San Diego boardwalk, God met me in a unique way. It was in the quiet moments at sunrise that day that hope and a renewed sense of purpose began to come back.
Time and again I have gravitated to this passage in Lamentations 3:19-30 from The Message:
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:
God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.
God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times.When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear.
Today I have a renewed sense that I need some of this time of quiet. So I am going to do my best this week to again find some of that space that I need.
April Fools Day makes me a little reflective. I think it’s because my dad loved that day. In fact, if it was a holiday, you could make the case that it was his favorite. He was a notorious practical joker and he somehow always pulled something off on family and friends on an annual basis. Sometimes his ploys were simple moments, and other times they were very extravagant.
My dad had a passionate connection to his work. He loved the land and he loved working the land, but none of us questioned that he loved people the most. It was his ability to balance work, play, fun and relationships that set him apart from most of his peers. At his funeral I had five different men tell me that they lost their best friend the day my dad died. There were many reasons that this farmer had such a deep impact on so many people. He had depth, a strength, wisdom, and just a presence that drew people to him. He had an unwavering belief in me and was able to model an unconditional love that I have seen rarely in my life.
But he also knew how to laugh, how to enjoy life, how to create experiences… and how to play hard. I was recently traveled to our family farm and was flooded with memories of the many things he did that in some ways made no sense. He just created space that made life a great ride for many of his friends and family.
When I played baseball as a kid he had equipment that would smooth out the barnyard just to keep a great infield-like surface to practice on. He was one of the first guys in our area to buy a boat and he loved being on the water. He built a little cabin on a lake in 1971 as a place to create some memories. He got a pilot’s license just for fun, and he converted an equipment shed into an indoor basketball court, even though it made a lot more sense to use that space for work.
So when I think of spring and April and April Fool’s Day in particular, I think of a man who did it right.
He worked hard.
He laughed harder.
He played well.
He embraced the moments he was given on this earth.
And he made the journey a lot more fun for all of us.
It is hard for me to focus today. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I wanted to post this week. I had something in mind, but today I just can’t get by the fact that I feel frustrated and mad, SO why not write about that?
When I was little my parents gave me a “stomping mat” for Christmas. I think I must have had some issues with anger as a little guy, and so they bought me this mat, and told me as long as I was on that mat I could do whatever I wanted. I can vividly remember yelling, slamming stuffed animals against the wall… stuff like that. It was a brilliant parenting move. It taught me that anger isn’t a bad emotion, God created it after all, but I needed to find a way to control it and express it.
I know Jesus had some moments of anger. I think ransacking all that was going on in the temple that day was a pretty solid sign of righteous anger played out for everyone to see. Well today I feel like I need some time on the mat! Today I have gone from discouraged and somewhat disheartened to angry.
- I’m angry my son is going through yet another difficult journey physically. He has had four surgeries for athletic injuries over the last three years, then this last week even more tough news
- I’m angry that a kid who has tried to do things right, who had the gifts and was committed to use those gifts as a platform to impact others for God and has been an incredible influence on many others can’t seem to catch a break in this area.
- I’m angry that there may even be complications from an earlier surgery, and it all makes me question myself, and if I did the best I could have, and should have, at watching out for him through this season of life.
- I’m angry at the trash I saw along the trail as I was riding my bike this morning. It reminds me how badly we need to take care of this world God has given us. And it makes me want to do a better job of caring for this place.
- I’m angry that we have an enemy who wants to seek, steal from, kill and destroy the dreams and hopes that are in our hearts. And I wonder why the leadership journey seems so hard for so many spiritual leaders today.
- And I’m angry that ever since we started Harbor ministry, it feels like the leaders and our own families have been under assault. And I wonder why it has to be that way. This one is a post for another day.
Yes, I think I need to spend some time on the stomping mat… I guess I just did! So you know what? Part of me wants to shrink back… accept defeat… stay discouraged, settle, and take the easier road.. But the other part of me is just ticked off enough to engage this battle again. With seven RHYTHMinTWENTY and Rogue events coming up over the next few months, the battle is there to be fought.
I know it is time to turn the emotion to taking some positive steps and believing the truth. But sometimes before you can take those steps you need a little time on the mat.
What if the most risky and dangerous thing is not coming too close to the edge, but staying back where it is safe… staying in that place where things are known and more secure…
We have had some great family adventures over the years, but one of our favorites was a long road trip through Utah and Arizona several years ago. There were stops to see some awesome national parks, incredible hikes, and some jet skiing on Lake Powell (an absolute must if you have not been there!). But maybe the top spot was getting to the north rim of the Grand Canyon at sunset and taking a mule ride down the rim the next morning. Our kids were pretty young and one of the things I remember was how much time we spent reminding them to stay back from the edge of the canyon, to not get too close. With a risk-taking twelve-year old who often walked to the beat of his own drum,we were never all that comfortable. Our understandable instincts were to protect and insulate our kids from risk; to keep them safe.
As I thought about this lately, I began to wonder if these messages of safety, of pulling back, of not getting too close we heard as children, and this image of staying back from the edge and not taking a risk. have stuck with us as adults, especially in our spiritual journeys. I wonder if pulling back from the edge keeps us from experiencing the kind of life we were meant to live. I just wonder if there is a lot more to think about here.
What if the edge is actually the place we need to go? What if there is opportunity, adventure, risk, needed perspective, and life-giving mission and necessary vision that can only be seen from that vantage point?
What if it is actually more risky to settle in, stay safe, stay back in the places where we are familiar and comfortable? What if the most dangerous choice is actually staying a few feet back, settling in and allowing our view to be hindered?
I think it’s time for me to venture out, to get off the beaten path, and take a look at some things from a different vantage point…