Today is the last day of my three week vacation. I'm sitting in Starbucks in Fort Bragg, CA, sipping a strong Italian Roast, enhanced with liberal quantities of half-and-half and Splenda, looking out the window, not at the ocean but at a small patch of green grass bordering Highway 1, which runs in front of the coffee shop. The air outside is crisp and clean, with the distinct scent of the ocean coast wafting through the doors, mixing with the stronger and more distinct aroma of brewing coffee.
People say that they love that ocean air, or ocean smell. I have to admit, the distinct aroma of vaporized salt mixed with decaying ocean debris does stir my spirit in a way other aroma's just don't approach.
I don't want to go back to work tomorrow. Oh, I know I know I have to go, for a variety of reasons, a paycheck being the leader among them, but I have to admit, I'm enjoying this life of leisure I've been pretending at these past few weeks. Not that I haven't been busy, but I've been busy with things more of my own choosing, rather than "reporting for duty".
I can almost understand why some people would choose to live a life of meager means, and yet enjoy the freedom that comes with directing each day as you desire. Almost. I find I prefer the security of steady work to be a more attractive lifestyle, but that's just me.
But I babble.
I'm in Fort Bragg visiting Larry, a co-worker, and his wife Sharon, who drove their motorhome on its maiden
voyage to Caspar Beach, just south of Fort Bragg. Larry had initially invited both Alene and I to come up, but Alene, being busy with work, couldn't make it. So I drove up and had a wonderful evening visiting with Larry and his family. They graciously fed me dinner, and I became the inaugural dinner guest in their new palace on wheels.
I'll stop by again in a bit, after I leave the coffee shop, and say goodbye before I leave. They have been wonderful hosts, and Larry is a man that I've enjoyed getting to know better. We seem to be kindred spirits, of sorts, and although he is Catholic and I am Protestant, we both agree and make a connection over the wonderful truth that is Jesus and what God has done in our lives. We can both admit that we are grateful that Christ is the Lord of our lives, no matter which particular church door we prefer to walk through.
So, as I prepare to return to work tomorrow, I take away from my vacation a few truths, and a few lessons learned, and a few things to apply to the future.
First, for me, life has to be, and must be, all about Jesus. I've not yet grasped full dependence on God , and as Paul says in the Bible, it's a race to run, which means I may never be "all the way" there until God takes me home, but I've come to the conclusion that, for me, the answers are all there. Hope, joy, a release of fears and hurts, the ability to love fully without reservation, all of it - comes from the Hope that I have in Jesus.
Secondly, living a life for Jesus doesn't mean running around proselytizing or evangelizing everyone I know to turn and repent, or to accept Jesus as your savior and be born again. These things are found in the Bible, and it covers the topics just fine. Living a life for Jesus means a life that looks like his - loving people, caring for people, sacrificing and bleeding for people without judgement or anger or attempts at controlling them.
Living a life for Jesus means meeting needs when I see them, not waiting for someone else, or praying that someone else will come along. It means cultivating a life of "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Gal 5:22-23). It means loving even those who make me mad, and praying for those even who would harm me, being compassionate and not judgemental (Luke 6:27-35), all the time, without regard for where I am or what's going on.
It means being a radical for Jesus. Not crazy, mind you. Clearly not crazy. But radical. This kind of life should look different, and people should look askance and wonder what kind of weirdo are you? This is exactly why Jesus said people will persecute Christians and say all kinds of evil things against them, because Christians are supposed to look different!
I come to the conclusion that I haven't looked much different, and I know it's because I haven't been living the kind of life I want to live, in Jesus. The change has to begin with me if I expect others to come along on the journey. Or it may be a solitary journey! I don't know, but I do know I need to make some changes.
Third, prayer is important. Very important. It's the engine that drives, the fuel that feeds, and the line that connects us to God. God is searching and scouring the Earth for people who will pray and intercede on the behalf of others, and who will pray to join God in His plan for His people. God wants to hear my heart, my soul, and my mind's cries to Him about whatever is worrying me. He wants to shoulder my burdens with me, so that I can go and do good for His kingdom, and make a difference in this world.
Fourth, The Kingdom of God looks nothing like the kingdoms of this world, and never will. The kingdoms of this world, be it Iraq, France, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Canada, or even the good ol' USA, are just various versions of the kingdoms of the world, that are ruled and run by the current prince of this world, Satan. Some are better than others, and God uses all of them to keep order and a semblance of security in this world, but none of them, not one, even resembles in the remotest way the coming Kingdom of God that Jesus spoke of.
My first allegiance must always be to God's Kingdom. I must always do what I can to promote justice and care in this world, but where the kingdom of earth rules contrast with Kingdom of God rules, the Kingdom of God must reign in my heart, and I must learn not to violate that. Peter and John confessed exactly such to the Pharisees, and I can do no less.
Lastly, I need to learn to apply all these things I've talked about to every single aspect of my life. God isn't the God of sometimes or just on Sundays and Wednesday nights. He's God every single second of every single day, everywhere in the Universe. Every breath I take, every time my heart beats, every step I walk must begin to be "conformed to Christ". I want to walk as a "child of the light", as Paul says, getting rid of "all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior" (Eph 4:31). I want to be "done with deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech" (1 Peter 2:1)
And I want to challenge other brothers and sisters in Christ to do that same. I know many who have begun walking this road many years ago, and their lives shine as bright beacons of hope in my eyes. But many, as I, have lagged behind, and I pray that my brothers and sisters in Christ who see themselves sharing my plight, would pray and begin this journey as well.
I know by writing this I set myself up for judgment and ridicule when I inevitably don't live up to the standards I am aiming for, and that's alright. No one is perfect, as they say, except Jesus. But I will still strive and work to walk toward His example in everything I do.
So.... back to work tomorrow and back to the daily grind, but hopefully I take a little bit more hope back with me than I left with.