Monthly Archives: February 2015

Sanctuary in the Wilderness

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God, You are my God; I eagerly seek You.
I thirst for You;
my body faints for You
in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water.
So I gaze on You in the sanctuary
to see Your strength and Your glory. (Psalm 63:1-2, HCSB)

These words from David convict me. My prayer is far more often, “I eagerly seek from You. …I thirst for what You can give me.” I wonder if I will ever be satisfied with God rather than constantly longing for what God offers.

I wonder, too, how David went from the wilderness of the first verse to the sanctuary of the second. This may be poetry, but the dry and desolate land is no mere metaphor for David; he was in an actual wilderness, most likely running from a blood-thirsty King Saul—and yet it is not water he craves, but God. He needs water; he thirsts for God. He needs food; he faints for God. I, on the other hand, need God; but I long for a job. I need God, but I crave security, stability, income.

So… A simple word that suggests the answer to a problem, the satisfaction of a need. David is thirsty, fainting for God, so he “gazes on God in the sanctuary.” But wait—David was in the wilderness, not the temple; he was in a cave, not a house of worship. Was the sanctuary a metaphor? Maybe both yes and no. David seems to have cultivated a life of worship, much of which was likely experienced in the temple (actually, probably the tabernacle at this point—sort of a mobile, portable tent-temple). So as a poet, David could probably simply close his eyes and imagine himself there, worshipping God in the company of the people and the presence of the priests.

But as a shepherd he had also spent countless hours and days outside, bearing the sun’s blazing heat, the bitter cold of wilderness nights, the bone-drenching winter rains. He had worshipped God there, too, alone in the company of his flocks, coming alone to his God without the benefit of a priest; looking up to God not through the cloth and skin ceiling of the tabernacle, but in the canopy of space and stars and clouds.

Here, alone again and fainting from thirst in the wilderness, David again looks to the sanctuary of space and finds God’s strength and glory. And he worships. And he is satisfied. And…

My lips will glorify You
because Your faithful love is better than life.
So I will praise You as long as I live;
at Your name, I will lift up my hands.
You satisfy me as with rich food;
my mouth will praise You with joyful lips.

When I think of You as I lie on my bed,
I meditate on You during the night watches
because You are my helper;
I will rejoice in the shadow of Your wings.
I follow close to You;
Your right hand holds on to me.

Praise. Glory. Meditate. Rejoice. In the wilderness sanctuary.

What Do You Do When God Says “Wait”?

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red light

Photo courtesy of freefoto.com. Used by permission.

One recent afternoon, road construction turned a ten-block drive in downtown San Diego into a thirty-minute adventure in impatient frustration. The following Sunday our pastor mentioned a smartphone app that not only guides drivers from point A to point B, but also suggests the best route given current traffic conditions. I readily downloaded the app. You see, I don’t much like waiting; anything that will keep me moving more and waiting less is worth trying because unless I am feeling particularly patient, I would rather keep moving then sit at a stop light. Obviously, any movement is progress, right?

The same rule tends to guide my life outside the car: movement equals progress; sitting still is bad. But sometimes—and probably more than I realize or would admit—moving forward merely gives the illusion of progress. Sometimes, in fact, it is impeding the progress. And that principle, too, applies to life outside the car as much as it does to navigating congested streets and highways.

For a while now I have been living at a stop light, waiting for it to change. I don’t like it. I have had a couple opportunities to turn but that didn’t seem the right thing to do so I just sat here, waiting. I have also tried to inch forward a bit—you know, like you do in the car when the light seems to be taking too long; you think if you move the car forward, it will be sort of like raising your hand to an inattentive waiter at the restaurant…you will catch the light’s attention and it will change. That works better with waiters than with red lights, by the way.

I tried mapping a different route, too; not much different, just a parallel street a block over. But the light stayed red and then I noticed the “no turn on red” sign. So I just sat here, waiting. If I only knew what God was up to, why he has me sitting at this red light, then all would be well, I could wait in patient peace. At least that’s what I tell myself.

God, in his grace, has given me with an uncharacteristic sense of peace at this light, but it’s being tested. He’s convinced me that he is trustworthy, but I still don’t want to be here anymore, I want to move forward. Or left or right. I just want to move. I want to move on. I’m tired of waiting. I am fairly certain I have learned everything I could possibly have learned from this recess! Yet a good friend and mentor—one who has been by my side over these months—reminds me: “The wisdom of the ‘wait’ often comes in the following season. But, the depth of the wisdom is earned IN the wait.”

And so I sit here, waiting.

Hanging Up The Skis

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My Dad sent out an email to the family a few days ago saying that he was hanging up his snow skis for the last time. I was sad to hear that; I’d hoped to ski with him again, even though I knew how hard I’d have to work just to keep up. My Dad took me skiing for the first time at Mount Baker in northwestern Washington when I was ten years old. It seems like forever ago. The next year we skied Whistler in British Columbia. When our family moved to Germany a few years later, I skied with my Dad in the Austrian Alps, and once in the Siebengebirge (Seven Hills) not far from our home. After my stint in the Air Force, our whole family got together for Christmas and went skiing at Mammoth Mountain, California. It was probably the best powder I’d ever skied—and the last time I was on skis for over twenty years.

Skiing with grandsons

Skiing with grandsons

But Dad kept skiing. Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and then Colorado. I remember him telling me about riding a chairlift with a 70-year-old man and thinking to himself, “I hope I can still ski like that when I’m 70.” Dad was 60 then. Nine years later, Breckenridge Ski Resort opened the highest chair lift in the U.S. The bottom of the lift is at 11,901 feet; the top is at 12,840 feet. Yup, Dad skied it. That was ten years ago…when Dad was 69. In 2010 he took his two grandsons skiing (I think the boys may have snowboarded.) Last year (2014), just a few months shy of his 78th birthday, Dad set a personal record: 28,899 vertical feet in one day, with runs on five mountains at Breckenridge. That’s nearly 5½ miles of skiing, by the way.

So Dad has hung up his skis…after a forty-year run that spanned at least four states and provinces in five countries on two continents; countless miles of downhill, hundreds (thousands?) of lifts, dozens of different runs; at least one taxi ride back to the hostel after ending the last run of the day on the wrong side of the mountain! I wonder how many men, women, and children my Dad regaled with his stories as they rode together up the chair lifts. (By midway through one day of skiing with my Dad at a resort with a triple chair, I could tell his stories for him because I’d heard them so many times!)

My Dad—my nearly-79-year-old father with a four-year-old pacemaker and a leaking heart valve—has finally hung up his skis. He’s pretty amazing. I’d love to be like him. And I’m pretty darn proud of him. Way to go, Dad. I love you.