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Dancing in the Waves

beach-2A storm had blown up the coast a few days before and the ocean was still reeling from the power of that wind. The surf was rough and the waves could knock a grown man down. From my sand chair, I watched a little girl of about 5 or 6 as she jumped in delight as the water came close to her toes. Her mom was keeping a close watch on her as she danced at the water’s edge. She reminded me of the sandpipers who scratch about as the tail end of a wave thins out on the sand. They follow the wave as it retreats. Then, just as the water p1020687regroups and slams another wave upon the sand, the little birds scatter before the water only to follow the waves retreat in an endless cycle. I find myself chasing down memories of my own children playing in the surf. I can reach back even further to my own childhood spent on a New Jersey beach. It was a little game of “You Can’t Catch Me!” that we played with the waves, running in just enough to get our toes wet and then scampering back to the safety of dry sand. What we really wanted was to ride those waves but we were too small to risk it, especially if the waves were rougher than normal. So this little girl flung her arms above her head and spun her feet into the sand and jumped high just as the edge of the wave crept close.

beachAs we get older and learn the art of keeping our balance and diving through the waves, we forget about that childhood dance that had kept us entertained for hours. But I was watching this child and remembering how it felt, a curious thought struck me. We still love to tempt fate. We still get a thrill out of leaning into risky behavior just enough to get our feet wet and pull out just in time. Why else would we gather round to watch a schoolyard fight before stepping in to stop it? Even something as innocent as window shopping takes us dangerously close to coveting. Most of us consider speed limits to be suggestions rather than a law and have no trouble driving just fast enough to still be under the radar.

Why, O Lord, do you put up with us? Why do you continue to love us when we are so reckless? You offer shelter and we turn our back, wanting to feel the exhilaration of the storm right up to the moment that the lighting gets too close and we are forced to run for cover. And still you will hold your arms out to gather your wayward children in. As we dance before the waves, You love us. As we grow into other, more dangerous thrills, You still love us. You provided us with questioning minds that always wonder, “What if I do that? What would happen?” And in this way scientists have invented, artists have dreamed and explorers have crashed forth into adventures that expanded the boundaries of our knowledge. Guide us, O Lord, as we continue to dance at the water’s edge and never let a wave go by unchallenged.

Dance on, little one! Your time will come.

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That Day

windy-day-dog

Windy Days

 

Yesterday the weather was dangerously hot. One of those late summer days that make you long for a cool fall breeze. The weather report was forecasting a change overnight. We could expect the temperatures to drop nearly 20 degrees with a brisk wind. Sure enough, when I awoke this morning, I could feel the difference. We quickly opened the windows to let the coolness inside. I stood in my backyard buffeted by a wind that sent leaves and small branches skittering across the grass and blew my hair all over my face.

Today is September 11th. A day of sadness for the loss our country endured fifteen years ago. A day to remember the courage of those who rushed in to help. A day to pray for those who have carried on without loved ones. The images and emotions of 9/11/2001 are permanently etched in my mind. Our nation pauses on this day each year to remember, to reflect and to look forward. But, this morning, because of that crazy weather front and its wind coming on the heels of such a hot day, I found myself remembering not 15 years ago but 14 years ago on the one year anniversary of the worst terror attack in our nation’s history. Here’s a bit of what I wrote that day:

I’m not a meteorologist, but if I understand it correctly, it was a combination of a hurricane named pooh-windy-dayGustav and a high-pressure front that set up an unusual weather pattern over the New York area that day. It had been oppressively hot and humid for two days prior, like something was coming, something big. On the third day the wind started to pick up. I wondered if God, who like to show His glory on third days, was up to something. My daughter commented that it seemed a little chilly that morning with the slight wind playing around her ankles as we waited for her 8am school bus. By noontime, as my son and I waited for his afternoon kindergarten bus, the wind was so strong that windy-day-snoopywe had to move from the open driveway to the protective cover of the east side of the house. By this time, the wind was whipping in from the west and knocking over anything and everything in its path, there would be stories the next day of trees and power line down, even a tragic fatality caused by a falling branch. That day the wind was the fiercest and strongest wind that I had ever seen come howling out of a clear, bright, blue sky. That day there was no rain or even a dark cloud on the horizon. That day the sky was an incredible turquoise color with puffy white clouds racing across it.

The powerful wind reminded me of God’s power and I imagined that He was protectively wrappingwindy-day-leaves Himself around the entire tristate area, letting His children know that He was still there. From the beginning, when God breathed life into Adam, He has used the illustration of either wind or breath to describe life in the Holy Spirit. Job talked of the breath of God as not only life-giving, but as life sustaining (Job 34:14-15). The resurrected Christ breathed His spirit into his apostles as He sent them out (John 20:22). Paul describes the very breath of Jesus as defeating enemies (2 Thessalonians2:8). The word used in these verses is either “neshamah” or “ruwach” in Hebrew and “pneuma” in the Greek. All three words mean literally a breath or wind, sometimes even a “violent exhalation or wind”. Jesus, Himself, used the term translated as wind in the third chapter of John.

blue-sky-w-rainbowPerhaps God was making a visible show of his constant presence that day fourteen years ago. Perhaps he was doing that again this morning. Maybe God just wanted us to know that He was with us then and He is still here now. We need only to look up to His impossibly blue skies to feel the breath of His Spirit in the wind and know that our God is with us – always and forever.