Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day 4

Tuesday of this week (September 22, 2009) marked the Autumnal Equinox and the official start of fall.

One of the things I love the most about living in Virginia is that we truly get to experience the changes in the seasons (without facing extreme weather). Sure, it gets hot and it gets cold here … but we don’t typically experience REAL extremes.

Those who think that a 95 degree day in Virginia is extreme should try surviving a summer in Miami with a car that lacks air-conditioning. My beloved 74’ Camaro got me through college (that is, when it wasn’t sitting in my front yard for lack of parts or service). I bought it from my brother-in-law for a pittance one winter in Miami. Had he tried selling it to me during the summer, he might have had to pay me to take it. It got HOT in that car with all the humidity. I finally attempted ignoring the heat (hey, people walk on coals don’t they?) but that didn’t prevent the blisters on my rear that I’d get sitting on the vinyl seats after an afternoon parked in the South Florida sun. Virginia doesn’t get THAT hot.

Now, those that think it gets too cold in Virginia should spend a day atop Mount Washington in New Hampshire. The average temperature is 48 degrees with a wind speed of 25 mph … in August. If you really want to see bad weather, check them out on a January day where the average temperature is 5 degrees and the average wind speed is 46 mph! The worst weather in the world has been recorded atop that mountain (-47 degrees in January of 1934, and a wind gust of 231 mph on April 12th of that same year!).

We visited Mount Washington twice in my childhood (both in August) during camping expeditions in New Hampshire. There is a weather observatory on top that has an enormous flat roof (with rails) that you can walk around to see the amazing vistas. The times I’ve gone it was rather cold (or as my dad told a visitor on the way up “It is C-O-L-D, COLD.”). Not only was it cold, it was extremely windy, and visibility wasn’t that great either. The wind was so powerful, my cousins and I would take turns atop the roof with our jackets open (using them as sails), seeing how much faster we could run. Let’s just say that a 40 mph tail-wind will do wonders for your sprint speed. We would have to close our jackets by the end of the runs to avoid hitting the rail, flipping off the roof, and ending up somewhere in Ohio.

Getting back to the change in seasons, I love seeing the leaves changing in the fall. I love looking out my window and seeing a snowfield in my backyard during the winter (I reserve other feelings for when I look at my icy driveway …). The spring brings color and life (as well as allergies). And the lazy days of summer herald trees ready and able to offer shade.

Without seasons, life as we know it would not exist. The way our planet functions is through changes. Birth, growth, reproduction, death. Biology is about seasons. Life is about seasons.

On the fourth day of Genesis, we are introduced to the idea that there is a reason for why we have seasons.

To mark changes.

Life is about change.

Change happens to all of us. Even mighty granite mountains are changing. One day in the distant future, our current mountain majesties will be an eroded pile of dust. The oceans change. Temperature and salinity affect aquatic life from the smallest microbe to the largest whale. We are aware of the passage of time because it is something we can measure. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, seasons … and the cycle of seasons continues.

We can take comfort from this. From the fact that time and seasons exists. We take comfort that the present moment is not forever (unless you’re a teenager and you’re certain that the pimple you discovered this morning will doom you for the rest of your humiliated existence). The sun WILL rise tomorrow morning. And God will continue to provide for your needs. He is the Master of the seasons and He is in control of whatever season you find yourself in.

What season do you find yourself in today?

How has God provided for you?

How will you know that the sun has indeed risen again?

Related Verses
Genesis 1:14-19

Then God said, “Let great lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them mark off the seasons, days, and years. Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth.” And that is what happened. God made two great lights, the sun and the moon—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set these lights in the sky to light the earth, to govern the day and night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.
And evening passed and morning came, marking the fourth day.

Job 38:31-41“Can you direct the movement of the stars — binding the cluster of the Pleiades or loosening the cords of Orion? Can you direct the sequence of the seasons or guide the Bear with her cubs across the heavens? Do you know the laws of the universe? Can you use them to regulate the earth?
“Can you shout to the clouds and make it rain? Can you make lightning appear and cause it to strike as you direct?
Who gives intuition to the heart and instinct to the mind?
Who is wise enough to count all the clouds? Who can tilt the water jars of heaven when the parched ground is dry and the soil has hardened into clods?
“Can you stalk prey for a lioness and satisfy the young lions’ appetites as they lie in their dens or crouch in the thicket?
Who provides food for the ravens when their young cry out to God and wander about in hunger?

Psalm 104:19-24
You made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to set. You send the darkness, and it becomes night, when all the forest animals prowl about.
Then the young lions roar for their prey, stalking the food provided by God. At dawn they slink back into their dens to rest.
Then people go off to their work, where they labor until evening.
O LORD, what a variety of things you have made! In wisdom you have made them all.
The earth is full of your creatures.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Day 3

Have you ever tried to make something happen? Something that you are sure would revolutionize your existence? Something that would right all the wrongs you have endured so far on this journey we call life? I’ve tried LOTS of times.

There was a girl called … well, I can’t remember her name so we’ll call her Carla. There was a girl called Carla back in the ninth grade who I was sure would be a great pick for me because she was pretty and somewhat intelligent. I believed she’d be a great complement to me because I was NOT pretty and I had barely escaped Algebra with a D the year before. Mr. Vredenburg (my Algebra teacher) called me aside at the end of eighth grade and declared that he was allowing me to pass WITH RESERVATIONS; he was certain I’d have trouble facing Geometry the following year.


I distinctly remember running into him in the office the next January and letting him know that I aced my first two semesters of Geometry. Later on in high school, however, I decided against letting him know that I flunked Algebra 2. I took it over in the summer with a Pakistani named Dr. Zakkour who called us meatheads and communists. Dr. Zakkour, incidentally, became one of my most beloved professors.

But I digress … let’s rewind back to middle school.

Carla wanted to be a marine biologist when she grew up. She was very preppy. You could picture her stepping off a tennis court with a pastel colored sweater loosely tied around her neck. Why was it that all the pretty girls I met growing up wanted to be marine biologists (my wife included)?

Carla and I shared several classes with her on again off again boyfriend Robin who had blue eyes, blond hair, and a dad who was a Navy Pilot. But that didn’t deter me; I plotted my strategy and decided to make her something that would make her mine. I sculpted a dolphin for her out of clay to demonstrate to her that I knew her heart, and gave it to her one morning when I thought she and Robin were at odds.

I was quite the crafty fellow in more ways than one.

Well, later on that day, she returned the dolphin to me. She had a series of conferences with her girl friends who voted unanimously that her accepting my gift would mean that we were more than friends; something she was not interested in. I tossed my crumbled dreams into the trash can. It took many years, many prayers, and many failed attempts to guide cupid’s arrows before I discovered my true love.

On the third day, God set apart the land from the sea. Then He created life. He created order out of chaos. Stuff began to grow, and it was good.
So often we try to force the issue only to see more harm done than good.

God takes His time to grow stuff. And what He grows, grows well. Really well. Much better than what we can grow. So does this mean we just kick back and relax since God’s got this growing thing covered? Nope. We still have a few days until the Sabbath, and He expects us to work. We should always have our eyes open to what God is doing around us. To stand in amazement at what His hands can (and will) do. It is THEN that we jump in and work alongside Him. When we try to pull off our own stuff, it sooner or later falls flat. God knows what He’s doing in your life. And He is at work in your circumstances.

How have you tried to force your will on something only to see it backfire?

When have you let go of something that you have no control over, only to see something beautiful unfold as a result?


Related Verses
Genesis 1:9-13

Then God said, “Let the waters beneath the sky flow together into one place, so dry ground may appear.” And that is what happened. God called the dry ground “land” and the waters “seas.” And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the land sprout with vegetation—every sort of seed-bearing plant, and trees that grow seed-bearing fruit. These seeds will then produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.” And that is what happened. The land produced vegetation—all sorts of seed-bearing plants, and trees with seed-bearing fruit. Their seeds produced plants and trees of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.
And evening passed and morning came, marking the third day.

Proverbs 14:12
There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.

Ephesians 3:14-21
When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

The River Community Church. A Community of Connections!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Day 2

I have always loved overcast days. You know, those flat grey days where a thick blanket of clouds hides the sun. The light ends up being so diffused that shadows hide. The best overcast days in my opinion are in autumn. Those days remind me the most of my childhood in the suburbs of Miami.

Playing with my brother and sisters in our backyard. Fishing out a plastic Star Wars light saber that a friend down the block decided to toss in the trash. Walking out of Perrine Elementary in fourth grade (a one hour bus ride away from my home) clutching a book on how to make model rockets. Feeling the first cold front of the year sweep in as I played street football with my friends.

Those were simpler days; life without politics. I’ll actually get goose bumps when I walk outside on a flat day; a thrill that comes as quickly as it leaves. It’s not so much that I yearn for what was past as I am thrilled to the core to be reminded of what will be.

God is still at work.

As we continue walking through the days of creation, we hit the second day which sounds kinda boring at first glance. God separates the waters from the waters and creates sky in between. The first overcast day :).

What I love the most about Genesis is that God doesn’t just snap His fingers and everything magically appears. The Universe, the galaxies, solar systems, planets, geology, life, ecosystems, etc.

God is in the process of creation. He takes His time.

Have you ever seen potters at work? They slowly squeeze and form a lump of clay as it spins on the pottery wheel. They’ll put “slip” (watery clay) on their hands to help fight friction as they gently guide the clay into what it is meant to be. It is VERY dirty work, but the potter loves it. Potters know that they are in the process of creation.

My neighbor Ben loves to garden. His lawn and backyard are the envy of the neighborhood. I watch him as he pulls weeds or aerates his lawn. He rakes in new seed and trims his bushes. It is very dirty work, but Ben loves it. Ben knows he is in the process of creation.

My wife is an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher at an elementary school. She helps children who speak another language at home to better grasp the English language. She teaches everything from science to vocabulary and phonics to grammar (for the record, I just misspelled grammar. Thank you spell-check!). It is very hard work, but she loves it. She knows she is in the process of creation.

God is still in the process of creation.

He is still at it.

The religious leaders got angry with Jesus one time because He healed a man on a day of rest. “But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” (John 5:17)

God is working on your situation. While we are so often focused on the past, or concerned about the future, God is outside of time. He was there before you were around, and He’ll continue to be there to see His plan through.

Life is not about our insignificance. It is about God’s belief in our significance. A belief so strong that it sent Jesus to the cross.

God is still in the process of creation.

With us in mind, He’s separating the waters. With us in mind, He’s forming the clay. With us in mind, He’s tending His gardens. With us in mind, He’s placing knowledge in our minds. With us in mind, He’s building His Kingdom.

Where do you see God still at work?

Related Verses
Genesis 1:6-8

Then God said, “Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.” And that is what happened. God made this space to separate the waters of the earth from the waters of the heavens. God called the space “sky.”

And evening passed and morning came, marking the second day.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The First Day

What is it about first days? First day of your life (from then on celebrated as your birthday). First day in kindergarten. First day of a new school year. First day of summer. First day of college. First day at a job. First day of marriage. First day of an empty nest. First day of retirement.

First days are marked, because, well, they’re first. They’re fresh and new. A whole new world of possibilities open up on these days.

Of all my first days of school, the one that always stands out is ninth grade.

I was fortunate in many respects as a ninth grader. I was still attending South Miami Middle School, so I was at the top of my class (not that it made any difference in my social ranking) as opposed to being a frightened, persecuted freshman in high school.

In the waning days of August, I became upset with my mother over some trivial matter and decided that I would prefer to live with my father (a few miles away). So, I packed my bags, and moved out the SUNDAY before classes started. This led to my restless night on a pin pan pun.

I’ll let someone else describe what it’s like to sleep on one of these monstrosities.

“A pin pan pun is a folding cot that is stored in a closet or "garaje". A trundle bed is what Westin hotels might call "heavenly" next to a pin pan pun. A pin pan pun has a bar that one feels through the 1 inch mattress. Nobody has ever actually "slept" on a pin pan pun. Fitfull intermittent unconsciousness is the best that can be hoped for.” (anonymous web poster)

Imagine a sleeper sofa that’s narrower than an air mattress.

People ask me how it is possible for families such as mine that are so large to get along so well with each other. ESPECIALLY when visiting.

“El pin pan pun” is the answer.

Guests get so little sleep that they don’t have the strength to remember old grudges, let alone bring them up. When you go through our old photos, you can tell who the guests are (hint: they’re unconscious on the couch). The included picture is deceiving because a “real” pin pan pun has a chain link fence as opposed to the wooden slats supporting the flimsy mattress.

So I spend the night staring at the flip clock. Listening to its mechanism crank away even failed to lull me to sleep. When the dawn appeared at last, I had breakfast with my dad, and he drove me to school in his old, rusty, work van.

We arrived at school.

Coral Gables High School.

The WRONG school.

He knew I was planning to attend Gables, he just didn’t realize that I had to finish a year at South Miami first. It was just as well. I arrived at South Miami Middle just in time and moved back home that afternoon.

I think there’s a reason why the first verse of the first chapter of the first book of the Bible begins with, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

God is in the business of creation. Every day is a new day to Him. Each sunrise heralds a day filled with His glory. He somehow is able to take that which is mundane and make it sparkle. God has often been described as possessing infinite knowledge and power, but it took a professor of mine in seminary to awaken me to the realization that God also possesses infinite creativity.

He loves to create.

And He loves for us to create with Him.

Light is also mentioned in these verses; dispelling the darkness. Jesus often referred to Himself as light for similar reasons. With light comes hope, and hope … hope gives us the strength to keep on going.

One scene in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ that never fails to raise goose bumps on me is when Jesus, traversing the Via Dolorosa, stumbles and falls. His mother Mary rushes to offer comfort, but he simply says, “See, mother, I make all things new.”

The light dispels the darkness and creates new life.

• What does your new day look like?
• What darkness exists in your day that needs to be dispelled?
• How is Jesus re-creating your life and relationships with Him and those around you?

Related Verses

Genesis 1:1-5

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”

And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day.

Lamentations 3:18-26
I cry out, “My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the LORD is lost!”

The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:

The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD.

Matthew 4:12-17
When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he left Judea and returned to Galilee. He went first to Nazareth, then left there and moved to Capernaum, beside the Sea of Galilee, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This fulfilled what God said through the prophet Isaiah:
“In the land of Zebulun and of Naphtali, beside the sea, beyond the Jordan River, in Galilee where so many Gentiles live, the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined.”

From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

John 8:12
Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

Revelations 21:5
And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.