By Peter Lundell –
I surf kayak at Newport Beach in Orange County. The blast of water when I face the waves, and the adrenaline-rush of riding waves to shore is worth the scare of danger or wiping out. If I can get beyond where the waves crash—they’re often four to six feet—I can hang out with dolphins, pelicans, seagulls, and occasionally sea otters. Just paddling on the open sea is exhilarating.
The sea to me is like the heart and voice of God. The whole time I sense Him near, hear His voice and tell Him my heart. I’m able to think clearly about my life and often find personal direction out there. Most of all I feel more alive when I surf kayak (or ski in the winter) than any other time.
But what does that have to do with you who are kindly reading?
It has to do with what’s life-giving.
What is life-giving to you? I don’t mean merely relaxing. Something beyond that. Something that when you do it, you feel more alive than at any other time.
It doesn’t have to be a crazy sport. It could be something calm and safe. It could be serving others, praying, or walking in the woods. But something more than watching TV.
Too many people go through life without doing things that are life-giving to them. Some people don’t even know what that would be in their lives.
I hope you take time out to do whatever is life-giving to you. And if you don’t know what that would be, I hope you try things out. God did not create us to merely exist. He created us to live. And the more you fully live, the more joy you’ll have and the more joy you’ll share with others.
Prayer: God my Creator, You have given me this wonderful world to live in. I want to fully experience it and fully live as you designed me. Show me how I can more fully engage with You and experience that which is life-giving to me.
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17 NIV).
By Peter Lundell –
I’m sitting in a Panera and hear a guy behind me making odd sounds as if he’s a strange person talking on the phone, sporadically reacting to the one on the other end.
I turn around. It’s two guys talking with their hands. Their conversation is intense, thoughtful, and passionate.
They glance at me, and I smile.
I go back to the days I did Bible studies in Japanese Sign Language with our deaf congregation at the Osaka International Church. But those days are long past, and I never learned American Sign Language. As I watch these two guys talk with their hands and show full emotion with their faces, I feel ignorant.
And in their world I would indeed be ignorant. I can’t even “talk.”
Outside, looking in, I wonder what the two are saying in their silent world. One leans intently toward the other, whose hands dance in the air, fingers swirling, now fixed together, now spread. They gasp and laugh at the thought I cannot fathom.
I want to know their thoughts, their hearts. I want to feel, as I did in Osaka, what it’s like to not be able to hear, yet express complex thoughts with my hands and whole body. But I am only a spectator.
As I walk to my car, I see the two guys through the window, their hands and hearts still impassioned.
How many people do we see each day, who may be a lot like us but are closed off in their emotions or are somehow separated from us?
To most people, we are mere spectators. And they are spectators to us. But God knows every heart.
And of those with whom we interact, do we really connect? Do we really know them—or try? Or are we not terribly interested, just doing our tasks and moving on?
“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You, Lord, know it completely” (Psalm 139:1–4 NIV).
Prayer: Lord, lead me to care about others the way You do. Lead me to understand with my heart the way you do. Lead me to connect with them and to be a blessing….
By Peter Lundell –
I got a message that a long-ago church member had died a month previously. After a protracted battle with cancer, he finally gave out. I hadn’t seen him for six years, and I had talked with him perhaps three years earlier. His name and phone number were still on my cell phone contact list, just as I had once called it.
It seemed so strange to have a contact number and an email address for someone who was no longer on earth.
If I called his number, who would answer? So I called: Three screechy tones, then, “We’re sorry. You have reached a number that has been disconnected or is no longer in service. If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please check the area code and the number and try your call again.” Beep, beep, beep, beep . . .
I wondered what it would be like if the phone company had a message like, “We’re sorry. The person at this number has left the rat race on earth and entered eternity. We hope you can make contact when you go there too.” I doubt I’ll ever hear that.
Anyone with a cell phone has added and deleted names and numbers from the contact list. But when I went to do it this time, I stopped and could only stare at the name. Erasing his name seemed like something only God should do.
When I finally erased it, I did so with reverence—and sadness that a life had slipped away in obscurity. Others who had known him well hadn’t heard about his death either.
But God knew him—and I’m sure welcomed him as he checked into heaven. No matter how obscure we are, whether in life or in death, the important thing is being known by God.
“Father, You know my name. You know who I am. I’m not very well known on earth, but I don’t need to be. You know me. I am Yours and You are mine. And I am in the palm of Your hand….”
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants. Truly I am your servant, Lord; I serve you just as my mother did; you have freed me from my chains” (Psalm 116:15-16 NIV).
By Peter Lundell –
The world we live in is good at caring for the disabled, and they get lots of government benefits. But rarely do I see anyone learning from them.
I was invited for supper, where I met a young man named Justin. He has Downs Syndrome. Such people used to be called mentally retarded. Now they’re referred to as developmentally disabled. But no one ever calls them character advanced.
Justin was positive and enthusiastic about everything he did and said. When I smiled at him, he beamed. And he’d give a thumbs up. He took it upon himself to clear two large tables covered with serving trays, dishes, cups, and utensils. It took a long time, and while the family members chatted, he carried every last thing with joy, never once asking anyone to help. When I passed him a plate, he thanked me as if I had done him a great favor. When I thanked him, he thanked me back more. When I simply picked up my wife’s purse, he wanted to help. That’s enough, Justin. Thank you.
It didn’t seem to occur to Justin that a person should act any other way. His family says he’s always cheerful and helpful. He never stops.
And I thought of how many “smart” people don’t come close to Justin’s character. I wondered how many could even hope to approach it. I want to be one.
Justin helped me to see more clearly than ever: While the world may consider him the least of these, Jesus would consider him among the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Justin loves Jesus very much. And I have no doubt of how much Jesus loves him.
Thank you, Justin, for helping me see, helping me love, and helping me serve.
What a wise young man you are.
“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV).
Father, open my eyes to see as you see, to know the heart as you do, and to grow in character as Christ enables me.
By Peter Lundell –
February 19, 2014. 2:30 p.m.
57 Freeway northbound, right lane. 65 mph.
Siren behind me but nothing in the rear-view mirror.
Out of nowhere—a white four-door sedan careens across four lanes right at me. About to collide, I slam the brakes. The madman clears my front bumper by inches. He barrels up Pathfinder exit and looks back.
Flashing lights in the mirror. The siren. A highway patrol car veers across the lanes right behind me, misses the exit and tears up the embankment beside the exit, bounces over the curbs, and keeps charging after the lawbreaker—who apparently thought no pursuing cop would dare make such a move.
I’m now passing under the bridge. My hands are shaking. What just happened? And what didn’t happen is more terrifying. I could have been killed or grievously maimed for life if that sucker had hit me. If I had flipped. If I had been crushed by cars behind me. If I had not been paying attention as I drove. All in an instant.
The cars on the merging freeway drive along in their normal day. And we all live the same way, as if nothing will happen to us. Until it does. Or almost does. And it certainly does happen to someone every day. Like the four kids in our church who died on a nearby freeway when things didn’t go so well.
How our lives hang in a precarious balance. How the veil between earth and eternity can be so porous. How we must always be ready. We’re wise to put ourselves in God’s hands.
If you can grasp this as it relates to your own life, I’m sure you will appreciate the precious gift of life in the face of eternity. Live every day God gives you as a gift back to Him.
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. . . For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:1–2, 11 NIV).
“Lord God, my Protector and Shield, I know my days are numbered, yet as I live each day I do so by Your grace and protection. My life is in Your hands.”