The Power of Image


We took a few short days to visit our daughter and her family in Panama City, FL, and we took a long (yet very cold) walk on the beach at Tyndall Air Force Base. As we walked along, I began to grow quiet as I remembered …

I had just turned 18 when my high school band took a trip to Lake Charles, LA. While there, I was fortunate enough to have a room that looked out over the Gulf of Mexico. I also had to finish my senior English thesis, which was based on Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, and which itself led me on a spiritual journey. As I sat there, looking out to the farthest horizon on the ocean, it suddenly dawned upon me as a young man that this was a powerful image of God for me.

I am drawn to the ocean’s edge, yet it is something that overwhelms me. The ocean brings life to the planet, yet it also is terrifying when its waves become tsunamis that destroy homes and lives. The ocean is both known and unknown; while it has revealed many of it’s secrets, there are still mysteries that remain unsolved. The waters of the ocean are more vast than any of us can imagine, yet we imagine that we have conquered it when we do nothing more than play in the shallowest of its waters.

Likewise, I am drawn to God, yet the power of God can be overwhelming. God is the source of all life, yet the power of God is something to be feared. God is both known and unknown. While we are capable of knowing God intimately, we can never claim to know all the secrets of God. Our God is the God of the universe, and there are times when, admittedly, I sometimes think I know everything about God when I have only dabbled at the water’s edge.

So today, as we walked along, I explained to Layne how the ocean is a powerful symbol of the God of the universe for me and how I can’t walk along its shores without pausing to consider what it is like to live in the presence of the God of all creation! As I look out over the water, I remember God … I remember this spiritual journey that defines my life … and I remember who I am. I am one who is drawn to the waters of our baptism … I am drawn by the very essence of God.

Remember who you are!

Dead of Winter and Life of Hope

I was getting ready for Christmas Eve services this morning, and as I was deciding what to wear, I decided at the last minute to put on my dress shirt with the French cuffs. After my dad died last April, I have sometimes worn his cuff links as a way of keeping him close to me. This just seemed the thing to do for my first Christmas without him. Then out of nowhere, it hit me. The overwhelming feeling of grief … the profound sense of loss … and the realization that I had failed to mourn. My friend and coach, Don Eisenhauer, has reinforced to me the need to understand those things separately. Grief is the feeling of loss within our soul, while mourning is the overt way of giving expression to our grief. With everything that has happened, I have not mourned … until today.

But today is Christmas Eve … this was simply NOT the time to start mourning. We have four services at Wellspring, and I simply do not have time for this. But I couldn’t stop crying or seeing only the darkness of that first Christmas without my dad. This just had to stop.

Then the realization began to set in. Perhaps this is the best time for me to mourn. As I refreshed myself on my sermon and began to put it into note form on the 1/2 sheet of paper that I will carry in my bible, I saw it as if for the very first time. Historically, we really don’t know the exact time of the birth of Jesus. The early church celebrated the birth of Jesus in various months until, in 350, Pope Julius I declared it to be December 25 to replace the pagan festival of Saturnalia honoring the Greek god, Saturn. And Saturn is the god, in Greek culture, that brings us melancholy and sadness. Why was it celebrated at this time? Because the winter solstice has just happened. The longest night of the year brings the greatest amount of darkness.

And the Christian proclamation is that Christ is the light that has come to conquer the darkness. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.” (John 1:5, CEB) So in some sense, the Greeks acknowledged the sadness and the darkness in our lives, but the tendency is to stop there. We are not trapped by the darkness, and the Christian proclamation is that the darkness will not last because the light of God shines for all eternity.

As I considered my own darkness, yes, it was time to mourn. As I went through the day, all I could think about Jesus saying that we are blessed when we mourn. I think Eugene Peterson had it right in his paraphrase known as The Message. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Peterson paraphrases Jesus this way: “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.” And that, friends, is the greatest message of Christmas for me.

So Dad, I am really missing you this Christmas. Yes, I am mourning as I should, but rest peacefully. I have awakened amidst the darkness to discover that I, like you, am held by the One most dear to us all. The darkest night of the year … the dead of winter … is now past, and the light of hope shines eternally.

It is a challenge sometimes, but I think I remember who I am! I am a child of hope!

Remember Who You Are

In January at Wellspring, we will begin a new sermon series known as Remember Who You Are.  This six-week series is about our DNA as children of God.  It is about our primal identity as creatures of the God of the universe.  It is about you!

When we look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “Who am I?” the Bible has an answer for that.  You are a beloved child of God … you are a brother or sister of the Risen Lord.  You are blessed to be a blessing!  You are given a unique set of gifts and strengths that together are like your fingerprint and make you the one-of-a-kind person God created you to be.  How is God glorified by the person that is uniquely you?  What do you do with those gifts that fulfill not only who you are but builds up the world around you and reclaims it for Christ?

Join us as we explore our own uniqueness and the unique gift that is our savior, Jesus Christ!

Remember Who You Are!