Monday, July 9, 2018

The Ebb and Flow

I've been contemplating the ebb and flow of life lately and relating it to the ebb and flow of the tide as we sit on a beach. Sometimes the tide is low and we're able to wade out and see so many treasures that the ocean holds. In a matter of hours, though, we can witness the tide rise and the waves wash over anything in its path, engulfing the shore in water and washing its contents out to sea. That's how the final week in June felt to me this year.

Tim and I had the privilege of spending a week in Estes Park, CO and further up at a site adjacent to the Rocky Mountain National Park called Wind River Ranch. We were there with our friends, Mac and Aimee, and a multitude of new friends that we had the privilege of making. It was truly one of the most peaceful places I have ever been and the mountains were jaw-dropping evidence of the Lord's power and majesty in every direction we turned.

I was able to fulfill a bucket list item and attend a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater. What made it extra special was that it wasn't just any concert. It was Third Day's final concert ever. It was the end of a 20+ year journey with Mac and the band as well as a launching point for a new dream and a new direction. The memories rolled like a highlight (and occasional lowlight) film and the tears flowed as I reminisced, with their familiar music as a soundtrack playing while the images flashed.

It was a week that provided a much needed time of rest and reconnection for Tim and me. We felt ourselves being refreshed and encouraged and able to let our minds quiet themselves. We rocked and talked, breathed fresh mountain air, ate meals I didn't have to prepare and enjoyed temperatures that were gloriously low and dry compared to what our normal Junes felt like. As we finished the week and started to wind down the mountain, we were filled with thankful hearts for the respite from our daily demands. All was well in our world until we got the call...the call that alerted us to the fact that our friend, Bruce, had walked into eternity just moments before.

We have spent our 28 married years in ministry and throughout those years there have been so many mountaintop moments we've been able to experience with people as they surrender their lives and their wills to the Lord and begin to walk out their new-found faith. We have also spent many hours wading into grief with precious people who have just experienced devastating loss. This would prove to be one of the more difficult times. Our hearts were crushed as we waited to board the plane home and I discovered an airport can be a very vulnerable place for tears of sorrow to fall as you're surrounded by a captive audience.

We landed in Atlanta and headed to Bruce and Shelley's house to wait for her to arrive. Bruce had died at home and sweet Shelley had witnessed a rather horrific scene. While he had battled cancer for much of their 4 years of marriage, his death still came as a shock and Shelley and their children were reeling. As the car pulled up with Shelley, her son and 2 other family members in it, I cried out to the Lord and asked Him to help us minister to them in ways that far exceeded what would otherwise be our own mere feeble attempts. We embraced Shelley as our tears washed together and we slowly ascended the steps into their home where just hours before she and Bruce had been having coffee together.

As we sat with Shelley in relative silence I was overcome with the feeling that we had entered onto holy ground. There were really no words that could mend her broken-heartedness and so I resisted the urge to fill the quiet moments with meaningless chatter. We simply let her tears flow as the grief pooled around her. We had literally descended from the mountaintop into the depths of pain and mourning and I thanked the Lord for the divine and sacred privilege of entering into another's grief.

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and He saves those who are crushed in spirit."

The next few days were spent helping Shelley and her family attend to details and make decisions that we all wish we would never have to, but know inevitably we eventually will. These moments stood in stark contrast to the peaceful ones we had experienced just days before and I was reminded yet again...

"The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord."

I read today in 66 Love Letters by Larry Crabb that "small obedience is great work". So often we can, if we're not careful, find ourselves missing the daily opportunities to perform a great work because they don't seem grand enough and we forget that walking intimately with Jesus doesn't always look like we expect it to in our own finite minds. Just as the ebb and flow of an ocean demands that we contemplate His power and providence, so must we see those ordinary moments as extraordinary because they require us to obediently enter into His divine work. Sometimes those moments may seem mundane and other times they can feel overwhelming. How comforting to know, though, that He has promised to never send us where He is unwilling or unable to journey with us.

"Carrying out this relief work involves far more than helping meet the needs of poor Christians. It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God. This relief offering is a prod to live at your very best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the message of Christ. You show your gratitude through your generous offerings to your needy brothers and sisters, and really toward everyone. Meanwhile, moved by the extravagance of God in your lives, they'll respond by praying for you in passionate intercession for whatever you need. Thank God for this gift, His gift. No language can praise it enough."
2 Corinthians 9:15 ~ The Message

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