Breathe

10 05 2008

[Thoughts from Waterlemon Cay]

 

Sometimes God floods your minds with so many thoughts, ideas, stories and memories that you feel like you could sit down and write novel-length books for days on end.  But today was not one of those days.  Today it was one word:

 

Breathe.

 

Here’s the back story: Scott, John and I visited the ruins of the Annaberg Sugar Mill today on the north side of the island and then hiked in to Leinster Bay where we decided to snorkel around a tiny island called Waterlemon Cay.  The water was crystal clear, the temperature perfect, and the setting breathtaking.  What I wasn’t prepared for was the strength of the current as we came around the backside of the island.  I’m an okay swimmer and up to this point I had been confident of my ability to make this swim.  But for a moment, I panicked.  I occurred to me we were at least 500 yards away from shore.  It was about forty feet down.  Scott and John were far ahead of me, chasing sea turtles.  My goggles fogged up, the current was pushing me out fast than I could make my flippers work, and my muscles tensed up.  My brain went into overdrive playing out the “what if” scenarios.  And did I mention that I had spotted a wicked looking barracuda about 20 yards in front of me?  Like the shipwrecks that are scattered on the ocean floor between those islands, I thought – for just a split second – I’m going down.  I’m barracuda meat.  Tell my wife and my girls I love them. 

 

And then the simplest thought flooded my mind: “Jay, breathe.” 

 

Now I know that might not seem like a profound thought, since breathing is what we call an “involuntary” action – there’s this place at the base of our brain that controls these things so the rest of our brain is free to think about more important things: like what out-of-fashion put-downs we want to bring back (Scott and I cast our vote for “dill weed” – the little used and underappreciated cooking spice –  this week) or why grown men STILL find passing gas funny, or why our politicians want to be rock stars and our rock stars want to be politicians.  But I digress.  So for these moments in time, the frontal lobe of my brain was overpowering the base of my brain, and it had occurred to me that I as I was stressing I was also not breathing.  My cheeks looked like a puffer fish on steroids and the CO2 was building up in my airway.  My head started to pound.  “Just breathe” was a pretty important message for my brain to send to the rest of me right about then.

 

Once I just relaxed and focused on taking long, deep, full breaths everything came into perspective again: the incredible beauty of the coral reefs and the kaleidoscope of fish darting in and out of this forest on the ocean floor; the warm breeze and hot sun toasting my back.  I don’t think they give out medals of heroism for saving yourself from drowning, but I felt strangely more alive anyway, enjoying the moment.

 

Bottom line: stress less, breathe more.  Breathe in the little moments I am given in a day.  Slow down and breathe when I am frustrated, overwhelmed or burdened.  Breathe deep in the wonder and mystery of this life.  After all, breathing apparently has its place in God’s world…

 

“Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being…”

 

“Let everything that breathes praise the Lord…”

 

“After saying this, He [Jesus] breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit…’”

 

So when you feel all alone, caught in the current and going down: remember to just breathe.

 

[Unless your like my friend Flat Stanley, who is trapped in that little diving bag; in which case, you’re just out of luck.]

 





Thoughts from the Front Porch

5 05 2008

Maho Bay, St. John USVI

Yes, this is the view from Scott Drennen’s front porch.

Yes, this is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been on earth.

And yes, you can dispense with the “suffering for Jesus” jokes already. 

I’m in St. John this week with our college ministry team leader John Cook.  But today it isn’t the white beaches or the crystal blue water or the gorgeous sunset (see the header above) I witnessed today that left an impression on me, it was the conversations with people today that I won’t forget.  The governer’s assistant who was blown away by the offer of our students serving the community – no strings attached.  A secretary whose son was baptized in Hawksnest Bay by John last summer.  The pastor who was skeptical at first who after six summers trusts our team to lead the only Vacation Bible School on the island all summer…and told John (the “Mr. Ask me what I do for a living John Cook”) that he was always welcome to preach and say “whatever God lays on your heart.”  The community center worker who our group tried to reach out to for the first five years who finally gave us a shot last year for one day, and is now bringing 50 kids to Vacation Bible School.  And there were several more moments today when I could tell that the consistent, hard-working, loving example of six years of our college students investing in this community had earned them a respect and a hearing for the truth of the gospel that doesn’t come any other way.

It was a beautiful day…and I’m not talking about the weather, but from seeing the hearts of the people of this island open to our students, our church, and our hope.





Of blogs and bottoms

22 04 2008
I apologize to all of you who have visited this blog in the past three months only to see nothing new.  I received the following Facebook message from the one and only Clint Alwahab the other day:
“wellington, i’m not sure if you’re aware of this… but you have a blog. updating one’s blog is typical of a blog owner. much like wiping one’s butt is typical of a butt owner. just don’t confuse the blog and the butt. that could get messy.”
Clint is right.  It’s lame to have a blog and never post.  New posts to come…soon.




Amateur Carpentry & Ancient Wisdom

18 01 2008

001.jpg
Behold, our new kitchen floor.  After two weekends of sweat and sawdust, I am proud to say that this home improvement project is in the books.  For most folks, this isn’t a big deal.  But for me, a guy who usually works more with his head than his hands, this is my best Tim-the-toolman-Taylor achievement to date.  Since so much of what I do can’t be easily quantified or defined or even explained in simple terms, it’s nice every now and then to do a project, look at it, and say “I finished that.”  Of course, I had some great help from my friend Jim-Bob Giers & Al “Tsuami Theologian” Alwahab, to whom I am forever grateful for giving up a Saturday of their life to help Mr. Barely Passed 7th Grade Shop Class.  So I was pondering the satisfaction of completing my humble wood-laminate masterpiece when I ran across the following bit of wisdom from the wisest man who ever lived: “I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.  That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift of God.” (Ecc. 3:12-13).





Stranger Than Fiction

31 12 2007

1553__stranger_than_fiction_l.jpg

“Sometimes, when we lose ourselves in fear and despair, in routine and constancy, in hopelessness and tragedy, we can thank God for Bavarian sugar cookies…we must remember that all these things – the nuances, the anomalies, the subtlies, which we assume only accessorize our days are, in fact, here for a much larger and nobler cause.”- a quote from my favorite movie of 2007 (OK, I think it actually came out in 2006, but I didn’t see it until this year…so indulge me.)





New Year’s Eve on the Oregon Trail

31 12 2007

bt-dysentery-gallery-845.jpg

images.jpg

No I have not decided to pack my family inside a wagon and “go west, young man.” The other night while consuming a “Happy Family” (pizza, not people) at Pie in the Sky with my entire extended family my brother spots a guy sporting a blue “You have died of dysentery” t-shirt.  We laughed for about 30 minutes about the 8-bit 2-D computer game that inspired that bit of fashion.  At our junior high, it didn’t matter what class you were in (algebra, science, shop), if you finished your work early, your “reward” was to go to the computer lab, where you had only ONE choice of game to play.  And that game was “Oregon Trail.”  You had to ford rivers, you had to hunt for food, and you had to get across the Continental Divide or face eating your Donner-Party-friends in order to survive.  And of course, the greatest threat to your cross-country land speed record for driving a team of oxen: that you would mysteriously acquire “dysentery”…and die.  Pretty morbid, I know.  But there’s something about an obscure reference to your past that takes you by surprise and keeps you laughing for hours.  It was good to have family here for the Holidays.

So the connection between New Year’s Eve and the Oregon Trail?  We had to cancel our plans because 3/5 of my clan has um, dysentery.  More than you needed to know.  But it’s not the kind that will kill anyone.  So for that and millions of other things, I am thankful for a good year that now has only 38 minutes left. 

Happy New Year, friends.  May 2008 find you more fully alive and awake to the adventure than ever before. 





Chuck Loves Huck

29 11 2007

chuckhuck.jpg 

First, Chuck Norris makes the list of “most influential conservative Americans,” ranking number 71.  (Of course, he would have been number 1, but felt 71 was more impressive since it prefaces #1 with the number 7, the biblical number for perfection and completeness.)

Then, Walker, Texas Ranger simulateously makes the greatest presidential campaign commercial in history and single-handedly propels Mike Huckabee to the forefront of the Republican primary race.  Watch that video here.

It’s ironic that I am very interested in politics but, up to this point, have been very uninterested in this entire presidential race.  I think I’ve just become a bit jaded over the past few years, that I feel like the political system has broken down to the point that candidates have to “sell their soul” to their respective parties in order to get elected.  If you’ve really got convictions, or fresh ideas, or any hint of being a person that is even somewhat human, you don’t fit “the mold.”  I read a brilliant article in a British newspaper (yes, they are more interested and informed about our politics than we are…) while in England this summer that explained why the candidates in both parties that were the most likely to get nominated were not electable and the candidates who were the most electable were not likely to get nominated.  But my cynicism weakened a bit this week.  I like Mike.  I like his intelligent answers to unintelligent CNN questions.  I think he’s got convictions but is smart and careful with how he uses his words.  The fact that he’s been a bit under the radar up to this point is probably a good thing, meaning people won’t be tired of him. 

And that when it comes to national security, he’s got two words: Chuck.  Norris.