August 26, 2005

Stopping For The Dolphins

Yesterday, Steph, Hannah, and I spent our second day at Virginia Beach. We are on vacation this week, seeing my sister and her family in Williamsburg, VA. They are close enough to the beach that we get to stay with them and drive to the beach each day.

Virginia Beach is an oddity to me. It is a long beach that has been encroached on by everything imaginable. Hotels line Atlantic Avenue from one end of the beach to the other. One can choose from low budget to the middle of the road, to full blown expensive. Around the hotels are various little shops, restaurants, ice cream shops, and what not to help ease you out of more money. If it is not food or trinkets that you are interested in, then venture into one of the three haunted house style establishments or pause at a temporary tattoo shop and get your sweetheart's name inked on to your skin.

Out on the beach, it is not much better. Umbrella and lounge chair renters work to make your time on the beach a little more enjoyable. I did not ask to see how much either were. I came prepared with my sister's Budweiser umbrella (an umbrella they got while my brother-in-law was working for Busch Gardens). Fitting, I know--commenting on the commercial aspects of the beach while at the same time inadvertently advertising for a beer company.

The first day on the beach it was very busy, even on a red flag day. Thousands of people played in the first 20 feet of water. Thousands more either basked in the sun or hid, like myself, under an umbrella to get away from it. Everyone was in their own little world on the beach. The second day was not much different, though the crowds on the beach were much smaller than the previous day. There was still the usual array of beach freaks and all. Everyone again was in their own little world. I again was huddled as best I could under my Bud umbrella digging in the sand with my daughter.

Things quickly changed as the people around us began to notice some dolphins playing in the waves a hundred yards or so from the shore. I would guess that there were two groups of them. They were jumping, frolicking, and doing what dolphins do. A couple of times, we could see them surfing underneath the water in the waves as they came in. It was quite a remarkable sight.

As we stood and watched, I happened to notice that most everyone on the beach was watching the dolphins. Some were pointing and chatting with one another. Others, like my wife, were desperately trying to catch the playful beasts with cameras. The guy on his wake board who was in the water in front of us had stopped and was staring out into the water with his board tucked under his arm. There was almost a silence amidst the crashing waves.

Here we were, in the center of all that commercialism, enjoying and relaxing for ourselves on a beach that had been overtaken by places and stuff. God's beach was really not his own, for the beauty of the place was covered and veiled with all that was around it. And yet, less than 100 yards out from everything, a different part of God's creation once again caught the attention of the created. Everyone on that beach recognized the wonder that we were seeing and took a moment to pause. Some only paused for moments and returned to what they were doing. Others, like Steph and I, strained and watched, hoping that the dolphins would continue to play and do what God created them to do in our presence.

August 18, 2005

Wide Awake

It's 4:00am. I'm wide awake and already in the office.--I've been here for a half an hour already. I slept some. Steph woke me up when she came to bed at 2am. I couldn't fall back to sleep after that. It's not the first restless night I've had this week. There have been many.

It all began Monday night. Actually, it started way before that, but the restless nights began Monday night. On Monday night, the elders of the church I serve were very critical of me for things that have happened and not happened in the last few months. Some of their critiques were fair and warranted. Some were off base. I will be the first to admit that not is all as it should be in the ministries I oversee here. Some of it is my fault, some of it is not. Though, I don't think they totally see what I see. I tried to explain so they might understand, but I believe I came off whiny and confused.

There are so many more layers of this situation that I could go into, but this is not the right place to do so. I can say that I have struggled with feelings of worthlessness and being unloved very hard since Monday. The night before last I was almost completely numb to my ministry, God, and everything else around me. Thoughts of bailing out of ministry were constantly running through my mind, along with the conversations that happened during the elders meeting. I was playing them over and over trying to understand where the criticism was coming from--trying to figure out how I could fix it. I've cried more in the last couple of days because of all of this than I can remember. When people close to me have tried to give me encouragement, I have struggled to hold back the tears. I was on the verge.

Luckily, yesterday was much different. I began to realize that I still have worth. I know that God finds worth in my ministry. I believe there is still much to do here at South. I believe I can accomplish what the elders have set before me, even though I don't believe it is totally fair. So I sit here wide awake, ready to watch the sunrise and live a new day with new hope. Wide awake for the life and work that is still left to do.

Dean Trune, a member here at South and the leader of Impact Ministries International, continually talks about God waking him up in the middle of the night. He'll wake up on a regular basis in these pre-dawn hours and find himself sitting with God's Word and his journal, listening, seeking, and wanting. God has given him some amazing things in those times. I believe God wouldn't let me sleep tonight so I would get these thoughts out of my head and continue the realizations that began yesterday.

I'm here Lord, wide awake and ready to go.