Follow by Email

Friday, May 27, 2011

On The Majesty of Change

The water rushed down the rocks with alarming force, creating a reverent atmosphere.

A waterfall? In New Jersey?

Though nothing in size compared to major waterfalls, this majestic sight was foreign to my experience. No landscape in my neck of New Jersey has the privilege of being adorned with a waterfall, but these scene-stealers frequently grace the ridges of the Northern region of the state.

My soul was filled with awe at such a tremendous sight, and my mind began to race with words describing that unreal visage. Such majesty, such dominion, such force...

Such change.

Change. That's the verbiage that best describes a waterfall. Change is a word that covers all aspects of a waterfall's nature: past, present, future. I wondered what the falls looked like when the Native Americans roamed freely through this beautiful area. I can't help but imagine the waterfall as a pristine, solid rockface, slowly starting to feel the changing presence of a small trickle of water

I wondered how the surroundings would appear fifty years into the future. What rocks would still be standing? Which stones would be ground to a fine, powdery mix?

No matter what the starting point for the waterfall, and no matter its ending place, the area would be in a constant state of change because of the powerful waterway that made the rocks its home. Status Quo means nothing when rushing waters take hold of an area; it will always know change.


To some, the idea of change is repugnant. The very notion of a shake-up in a well-ordered routine is enough to cause heart-failure for some people. "Why mess with perfection?", they reason, as their days rip away with an eerie sameness.

At one point in my life, I reasoned along those lines as well. I was the poster-child for invariability. I remained in this seemingly immutable state until I let the river of the Holy Spirit have its way in my life. Then the changes came with alarming frequency.

The idea of change has a huge place in the Bible. A Creator looks at His recently fallen creations, and waits for the day when he can change their hearts permanently, restoring their precious fellowship. An obedient family waits in an ark for the waters to recede, with no idea what they'll find once this new world is theirs. Frightened disciples wait in an upper room for the Holy Spirit, a gift that would change them from fearful followers to bold believers.

The idea of change in scripture is huge; to deny it is to to deny the Christian experience itself.

Change for a person without Christ can, and should, be frightening. Without the Rock of Ages as a firm foundation, life can seem nothing more than quicksand, ready to suck a person down with each new development.

But for the believer in Christ, change is an exciting and dynamic prospect. The Christian can lift his head up high, and march boldly into a changing situation, fully aware that the change is an outpouring of God's love.

In fact, change will give a Christian hope, because change affirms the constancy of God: "While the earth remains, Seedtime and Harvest, and Cold and Heat, and Summer and Winter, and Day and Night shall not cease;" "He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ." Whenever change is witnessed, whether in nature or in our personal lives, we know an unchanging God is still orchestrating each circumstance for His glory.

Staring at the waterfall, I couldn't help but be awed at the magnificent changes that water can produce. The Native Americans who once knew this land so well would be stunned to see the waterfall as it is today; in fifty years, the river may make this area unfamiliar to my eyes. As long as that river has its way, change will occur.

Looking inward, I saw a young man, ripe with trepidation at the big changes that loomed on the horizon. The fear of the unknown effects of each alteration struck chords of terror in those unknown regions of the heart. Everything said to run, run from the changes, run from the horizons.

However, those thoughts of escape were soon overtaken by thoughts of a loving Father; a spiritual guardian who knew the changes I would face before the foundation of the world. I thought about a Son; a Heavenly brother whose appearance I am changing into everyday. I thought of the Holy Spirit; a River of Living Water that saw me transformed into a new creation; an agent of change that will renew me daily.

The thought that this God-head was instituting each change was a comfort beyond words. Instead of running from the changes, I ran towards them, with arms wide open. Lifting my Spirit toward Heaven, I committed each change into the hands of an all-knowing God...

And let the River flow.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Into the Wild Gray Yonder...

Give up your selfish ambitions...Follow me

The fog grew thick and heavy; the waterway we were traversing became quickly inundated with a dense, gray shroud.

Our activity: kayaking.

Our location: Cape May, N.J.

Our surroundings: Well, we couldn't see them.

Heavy fogs around Cape May, common occurrences in spring and early summer, find their origins over the Atlantic Ocean. Despite the "SPRING" boldly displayed on the calendar, old man winter still has his icy grips on the ocean temperature, often keeping it around 50 degrees farenheit, even into early June.

When an East wind comes along, that icy chill comes off the ocean and onto the land. Once the cold air meets its warm, humid counterpart on shore, a heavy mist is produced, and the result can be simply awe-inspiring. But if you're up a certain creek when the fog rolls in, even the proverbial paddle won't help you much.

Fog has the effect of letting you only see what is immediately ahead of you. A person in fog finds themself in a bubble: an isolated area that only gives enough visibility to move forward.

If I were alone in my kayaking venture, I would not be ashamed of the fearful, anxious thoughts that would occupy my mind. Terror would be a natural, and appropriate, response to such inexperience. Going solo would infuse each turn with a sense of dread; every step of the journey would naturally be a source of restlessness.

But these feelings did not concern me on that gray morning. In fact no thoughts were further from my mind than those of anxiety and dread.

For I had a guide. A friend who had kayaked that creek many times before; a kayaking "brother" who was familiar with all the ins and outs of the way we were going.

And I had an extra reason to be confident in my mentor: he lived on the creek. In fact, from his house, he could observe the area from every perspective. My trust in him was founded in the unmatched knowledge he possesed.

Because of my leader, I could paddle freely, peacebly enjoying every moment. Every stroke; every ripple in the creek; every drop of water that fell from my paddle, all of these things were mine to cherish, for a guide had come along side me, and was seeing me safely to my destination.

The paralells between my trip up the creek and my pilgrimage through life sprang to mind with an unearthly vibrancy. I thought back to those moments when I wanted control over where I was going. I remembered those times when I thought I was the master of my destiny, when I thought my plans would lead me on..

Only to find those plans lead to dead-ends.

Through a biblical re-education, I found that moments of self-confidence are redeemed through trust in the Lord. However, it would be a deception to put forth trusting in the Lord as a simple, easy task. To do so would be an insult against the fight of faith; a slur against the lives led by the heroes of the faith.

In an era when humans seem to run everything "on-demand", belief in an invisible Deity seems ludicrous, especially believing in his control of the future. An idea like "Trusting in the Lord" is nonsense in a culture abundant with independent, self-made, and strong-willed individuals.

And so, the fight begins for the Christian; the struggle to live counter-culturaly. Each morning, we must take up the shield of faith. Every evening, we must remind ourselves that God is on his Eternal Throne. Every moment, we must fight to lose control.

This is not optional, as those who come to God "must believe that He exists, and that He rewards those diligently seek Him." As we build our faith in God, we gradually lose our trust in our own plans. And as control slowly slips from our hands, we find a Friend who has the best perspective on life: past, present, and future. We encounter a Shepherd who finds great happiness in giving us the Kingdom. We find a Guide who takes us through this foggy world, step by step, precept by precept, until His plans are fulfilled...

Believe it, or not.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ham, Caviar, and The Cure for Despair

"O, God, my rock..."

The sign stopped me in my tracks, taking my breath away in surprise.

"Our last day of operation will be June 18th." So read that cardboard obituary for my favorite deli on the face of the planet. Yes, America's Grim Reaper of an economy had stopped by for a visit in Greenwich, NJ, and was taking my favorite source of sustenance back to the great beyond.

Walking into the deli was like stepping into a mausoleum; the air of death and despondency was palpable. The walls, which once held hundreds of pictures of happy people, were stripped bare, sending their cold, unfeeling aura throughout my being. My mind began to grieve, and wonder: "Where will I get my sandwich after those long, fatiguing bike rides? Where will I be able to get coffee on those cold winter mornings spent searching for eagles? What will I lean on?"

A glimmer of life peaked through the bleak atmosphere as the owner stepped up to the counter.

"That's a real bummer about your deli closing," was the mournful commentary my mind spat out in despair.

"You've gotta do what you've gotta do." Despite the casual air of defeat in her voice, her eyes asked a desperate question. "What is there to lean on?" they silently inquired.

I took my Ham and Cheese and bicycled out to a favorite spot along the bayshore. This particular place is a location that has heard my joys and my sorrows; a local landscape that has absorbed my joyful shouts and my mournful cries. A place I could depend on. Or could I...?

To the uninitiated, this precious place of mine is just a dirt road cutting through marshland. But a careful scrutiny of the wind that blows, the dust that flies, and the grass that waves will tell you all you need to know about the area's past.

This locale was known as Caviar, and was a huge area for the exportation of, you guessed it, Caviar. The eggs of the Atlantic Sturgeon were shipped all over the world, and a good percentage of that supply came from this very spot.

Caviar was a hot spot for industry, and closing your eyes, you can imagine the hustle and bustle of a booming town. Listen to wagons roll past on their way to fortunes; hear the fishermen groan and curse as the ply their wares; sense the immense amounts of money exchanging hands.

But open your eyes, and witness a change. Gone are the industrious fishermen; gone are the sturgeon; gone is the windfall of money. Instead of a prosperous community, you'll find a marsh that stretches for miles, and a bay that seems to have no end...

"I remember when you could walk to Delaware on the backs of sturgeons," intoned a voice from behind me, interrupting my thoughts about the instability of life. Turning, I found an old sea-dog, with all of his expected apparel. He sported the classic overalls over a tan shirt; his eyes were deep and windburned; his pipe hung from his mouth, blending in with his bleach-blonde beard.

"Look, I'm sorry, I came up here to be alone." I tried to be as firm as I could, but my desire for solitude obviously bypassed his salty ears, as he came and stood alongside of me.

"Quite a few self-made millionaires came out of here," he said, not to anyone in particular. "I bet they thought those sturgeon would be choking up this bay forever."

"But we know better, right?" My feeble attempt at conversation, but my friend didn't seem to care.

"I would even wager that they thought this town would be here forever. In their mind's eye, they could see their deep pockets stretching for eternity. They probably thought that this industry would be the rock to lean on."

After giving this soliloquy, he sat, and contemplated for several minutes, before adding:

"But I knew..." he caught himself, "know better. Ain't nothing worse than depending on the wrong thing. That'll make you sick, every time."

We again shared a moment of silence. It was a deafening silence, too, as all the things I had leaned on came roaring to the forefront of my mind. Girlfriends, best friends, educational plans, you name it, I had probably put my trust in it at some point. Only after a short period of false security did I find out those things were false foundations; they were not and are not to be leaned on. Just like the industry that boomed and faded on the very spot my comrade and I found ourselves...

"Make you sick, every time," my friend mused, seemingly to the wind. "But, I know there's more to this world than what meets the eye; I know where to build my foundation. And it ain't in no stinkin' money," he put this forth with a violence I don't think I've ever witnessed; then, as if to alleviate my fear, he began to chuckle. His chuckle soon evolved into a laugh, and then morphed into paroxysms of hysterical laughter.

This tidal wave of jocularity lasted for about two minutes, and then died down as quickly as it had come. "Nope," he said "you can't see my foundation, but it's the truest one ever."

I was struggling to catch his drift; perhaps he sensed this, as he got up and began to walk away.

"Will the bay ever know sturgeon populations it did two-hundred years ago?," I asked out of abundant curiosity.

"Not likely," was the response; a response given with his back facing me.

"Will my favorite deli ever open again?"

"If it does, it'll be run by a bunch of Sturgeon," he quipped, beginning to laugh again.

"Then what is there to lean on?," came the question that sprung forth out my sheer despair.

He turned and glanced at me, and in his stoic eyes I found the only acceptable answer to such a vital question...


The Rock that stands throughout Eternity.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bridges of Pine Cones

Overcast; chance of rain. The one condition that keeps normal people inside, watching T.V., or talking on the phone. The combination of grey sky and precipitation normally produces antagonistic feelings toward the outdoors..

Unless you’re signed up to help run a booth at an Eco-Fair. Then the color of the sky and those pesky raindrops are moot points. Whether drought or monsoon; snowstorm or hurricane you press on, knowing you’re fulfilling a higher purpose.

At this particular Eco-Fair, that higher purpose was simply assisting kids make Pine Cone bird feeders. It’s a simple concept: just dip the Pine Cone in Peanut butter and roll it in birdseed and there you have the perfect bird magnet. It’s a simple trick that really connects kids with the natural world. And you’ve just made the world a better place for a lot of undernourished Squirrels, too.

All through that gloomy, damp day, kids came like an assembly line. Spread; roll; smile; repeat. This went on for a good hour or so before the assembly line broke down. Something got caught in a gear and the whole thing malfunctioned. There, right in front of our table was a gentle elderly lady, probably in her late seventies, early eighties.

Status Quo flew through the window. The average age of the participants shot through the roof.

“I’ll make a feeder, if you don’t mind,” intoned the thin vestiges of a whisper. I carefully selected a prime cone, handing it gently to this new volunteer.

Then all time froze. Those fragile, gossamer hands holding the pine cone suddenly became as they were fifty years earlier. The wedding bells rang loud and clear, scaring all the pigeons out of the bell tower. Her ears once again heard the songs of the birds that sang solely for her as she held the hand of her newly betrothed.

Then the hands aged a little, and she heard the cooing of the Mourning Doves that cried out as she threw dirt on a casket that contained her true love.

The senses of this world overwhelmed her with comfort and peace through her joyous times, her traumatic times, and those times when words would not express what was happening inside her soul. All of these things came back as soon she held that pine cone. A bridge spanning over half a century was built in a matter of moments.

However, the present burst rudely upon the scene, as it always does, and suddenly her hands were aged and withered, her hearing had dramatically diminished, and the sky was overcast again.

“Thank you,” she quietly said as she walked away with her feeder and her ancient memories in tow.

For an instant, that woman built a bridge of pinecones to the past, across which flooded all those wonderful memories that nature gave her. And as she walked away, she was ready to cross a new bridge, one that would provide the most enriching memories that would ever grace her aging mind.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...