I’m Headed to the Land of my Father!

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I’ll be headed to New Zealand after visiting Sydney, Australia for a few days. It’s been seven years since I’ve seen the country I was born in, so I’m looking forward to seeing family and some beautiful scenery.

Here are some “did you know’s” about my home away from home!

Keep checking in here to see some sights and hear some stories that I’ll be sharing along the way!

Don’t Build Your House on a Sinkhole

I always loved playing in the sand box as a kid, making tiny rivers and mud holes in the backyard with a hose, and playing with those percolation experiments where you pour water into a box filled with different types of soils and gravel to test how long it takes the water to soak into and then pass through the material.

As we grow up, though, we may no longer enjoy playing in the sand, but if our house begins slowly sinking, we may suddenly again be interested in what is in the ground beneath us.

There are layers and layers of materials below our feet right now, such as in the “Soil Layers” picture at left. Depending on where you live on earth, if you begin digging a hole in your yard you will find a unique variety of soils, clay, sand, and rock. There may be a thick layer of limestone formed from dead shellfish and crustaceans. There may be volcanic rocks and hardened ash from a history of volcanic activity. There may be ancient civilizations buried beneath you, complete with ruins of old structures and fossils of extinct animal species. All of these layers can degrade and get weaker and collapse depending on what is above them.

This interests me as a civil engineer. If you want to build anything on a piece of land or find a source of water for a well, it is essential to know what is beneath you. If you start digging immediately, you may strike a pipe or electric cable. Or if you build your house on top of a sinkhole, it may begin sinking gradually or collapse unexpectedly such as in the picture above.

It may seem obvious, but whatever is underneath a structure is going to affect its stability. Said differently, a foundation is incredibly important and determines the success and durability of whatever is built on top of it.

Perhaps you’ve never thought of the foundation on which your house or school is built. This could have major consequences. Similarly, this thinking process has had a big impact on me as I’ve thought about what beliefs and ideas my LIFE is built on. Who am I? What should I be doing with my life? What brings me joy and how should I live. How do I deal with this and that? I really want this to change, but how? All these questions are based on a foundation of some sort.

As a Jesus-follower, my whole life has been changed by the hope of a do-over, a new life and purpose and meaning in being obedient to Jesus and the joy and forgiveness that he offers, so I’ll share something he said since it impacts me:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

What does it mean to be “poor in spirit?” I have found that it is a NEED, a DESPERATION and a “this-is-not-going-to-work-unless-you-come-through” attitude toward him. And He loves showing Himself to us in those times because that’s when we’re actually ABLE to see and notice what He is doing in and around us. I need Jesus to be more than just a teacher in my life. He is not just a teacher. He is the Son of God. And if I think I can just learn from some of the things that he said and not let Him be the foundation of my life, it will be as if I built my life on a sinkhole that is bound to collapse beneath me.

Instead, by surrendering myself to God’s will I want the foundation of everything that my life is built on to be a poverty of spirit – a need for God and a hunger to be satisfied in Him and bring Him praise in everything I do. I’m so thankful for the daily help He offers to give and for the second chances and power He gives in our weakness and need so that we can stand strong in Him.

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from “My Utmost for His Highest,” a daily devotional reading by Oswald Chambers. This one is from July 21st:

“Beware of thinking of our Lord as only a teacher. If Jesus Christ is only a teacher, then all He can do is frustrate me by setting a standard before me I cannot attain… But when I am born again by the Spirit of God, I know that Jesus Christ did not come only to teachHe came to make me what He teaches I should be. The redemption means that Jesus Christ can place within anyone the same nature that ruled His own life, and all the standards God gives us are based on that nature.

…The underlying foundation of Jesus Christ’s kingdom is poverty, not possessions; not making decisions for Jesus, but having such a sense of absolute futility that we finally admit, “Lord, I cannot even begin to do it.” Then Jesus says, “Blessed are you . . .” (Matthew 5:11). This is the doorway to the kingdom, and yet it takes us so long to believe that we are actually poor! The knowledge of our own poverty is what brings us to the proper place where Jesus Christ accomplishes His work.”

A Star you won’t find in the tabloids…

Hubble picture of nebula NGC 5189

We interact with stars by watching their movies, listening to their music, or watching them lead their team to victory. The papers and news channels tell us about their personal lives and we may even get their tweets sent to our phones. We all to some extent have a “hero” or two that we follow because their lives and what they live for amaze us.

The last few months, however, I’ve been growing in amazement at a different group of stars. Walking into the house when I get home at night gives me a chance to just look up into the inky blackness above me and see the glimmering dots of light hanging in the sky. These stars are huge and very far away. Their light takes years to get to us. And many of these stars are much bigger than our own Sun.

Most amazing to me was reading about how stars die. This is incredible because dying stars display some of the most beautiful images known to man. An article on the Hubble Space Telescope website describes the image above, which is an eruption of the dying star that is now nebula NGC 5189. If you give the post on the website a quick read, you’ll discover that the last amount of energy that fueled this star all its life is now used to create this stunning, color-filled explosion as it dies. It’s almost like the last bit of gas you have left in your tank as you’re trying to find the nearest gas station to refuel. Except, this last ounce of star-life is used to make a magnificent display for all the universe to see.

On a similar note, when I was reading the book “Indescribable” by Matt Redman and Louie Giglio, I discovered this eloquent explanation of star deaths, and how they can relate to our own lives:

…in the stars, we find beauty in dying. And in their Maker, we see the most glorious death of all. Christ [Jesus] made everything and owns everything, yet He chose to give Himself away as a peace offering for all humanity.

…those who cling to life with clenched fists, as though it is theirs to do with as they choose, will in the end have nothing but a brief and momentary existence. But those who get over themselves, shed their self-centeredness and self-absorption like the gas and dust shrugged off by a fading star, will find themselves on the doorstep of something more.

…In the end, dying is simply less of me and more of Jesus. Less trying. Less striving. Less strutting. And more trusting. More surrender. More of His power, doing in and through us what only He can do.

So, I hope you’ll join me in thinking about this.  The universe does not revolve around us. Yet we have a ringside seat to a universe filled with beauty and also emptiness and death that can lead us to asking some big questions. And though death seems like a scary black hole of uncertainly, this God that created the universe can apparently make something beautiful out of it. Let’s look UP a little more often.

A Life of Waiting Tables

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I have waited tables for a few years of my life now. I’ve heard the complaints, experienced the rude treatment from customers, received the requests for every type of drink and sauce and extra portion that has had me running in circles and often apologizing for the wait. But thankfully I’ve also gotten many compliments and even genuine interest from customers who have asked about my life and gotten to know me as a person.

However, as much as I have enjoyed many aspects of being a waiter, I cannot imagine spending the rest of my life waiting tables. Especially in our culture, it is usually a last-resort job to pay the bills; the kind of job that belongs to only college students and the older ladies at local diners. It is hard work submitting to every beck and call and having to put on a smile and give people what they ask for, even when you don’t feel like it. Serving means doing things for people that they don’t want to do for themselves. It is taking time out to do the “dirty work” for others.

Not only is it sacrificial, serving is even embarrassing. I remember times when I’ve had food on my shirt while serving a table, when I’ve spilled drinks on customers, or when a meal is taking a long time to come out of the kitchen and you are stuck having to keep the guests patient and explain why the food is taking so long.

Just recently I learned a new word for a waiter: the Greek word Diakonos. According to Biblestudytools.com, the English translation refers to “running errands,” “one who executes the commands of another,” and “a waiter, one who distributes food or drink.”

I found out that this word is the original Greek word used for “servant” in Mark 10:43. A couple of Jesus’ disciples figured that he had a lot of power and wanted to sit at his right hand when they got to heaven. This had the other disciples jealous and angry. This is how Jesus responded:

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)

When you get a glimpse of the life of service that Jesus calls his followers to, it can be very frustrating to understand how and why we must live this out. My own pride and bitterness says, “NO! I just want to do what I want. Other people do not deserve that I serve them 24/7. I can get by with serving the people that are nice to me and those that say ‘thank you,’ but even still I won’t go out of my way if it is too difficult.”

This is simply not how I should respond. Jesus wants to live through me (Gal. 2:20), for me to be in relationship with Him and to trust and reflect Him. He laid his life down for me. He became less so that I could be free from the slavery of my sin and shame and uncleanness before God. He humbled himself to put on human flesh and then be unjustly killed to become a “ransom for many” (Mark 10:45), even those who tortured and crucified Him!

If the one who calls Himself the “Son of God” (John 12) and the Savior of all peoples (John 4) can humble Himself  from his deserved high position to serve those beneath him, He truly has called us to do something that He has already done Himself. After being crucified, Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father. If we follow Him in his service, surely we will also follow Him toward being with Our Father in Heaven forever as well.

Surely us serving people is in itself telling a story to those we serve that God loves them and they are important to Him.

I will hopefully not be a waiter in a restaurant for the rest of my life. But with God’s help, I will take what he teaches me from my current job as a waiter so that I can best serve others for the rest of my life.

Please come along! Let’s go wait on people hand and foot with genuine love and selflessness. They often don’t deserve it. But they really need it.