Friday, June 13, 2008


We are recently returned from Hawaii. It is a place I told my wife I would never want to go. Living on an island, as we do, it was not my idea of vacation to visit another island. Oh, but what an island! I was wrong, very wrong. We chose the Big Island for our first vacation trip to Hawaii. I hope it will not be our last. It was delightful: the warm weather, the fruit, the flowers, the smells, the Kona coffee, the vast black fields of old lava flows, the aloha spirit, etc. If relaxing is what vacations are all about, it was the best ever. We stayed at a nice resort on the water, right on the water. Even though we were five stories up we could hear the waves pounding the lava rock coast. It was loud! I had trouble sleeping. I was mesmerized watching the surf during the day but I wished for a switch to turn it off at night. During my morning Bible reading I was reminded of those places in the Psalms that use images of pounding surf. Let the sea roar! Psalm 98 says. It is praising God! It was roaring, indeed. Psalm 29 states that the voice of God is over the waters and in them the God of Glory thunders! Though the waters roar, Psalm 46 counsels, we will not fear. I confess that waking up to pounding surf when you are not used to it produces momentary panic. And then there is Psalm 42 which I pondered for a few days. Deep calls to deep in the thunder of your waterfalls, all your waves and breakers have gone over me, is the way the Psalmist puts it. Looking out at these waves which were breaking at least ten feet high or greater and considering the force contained in them, I was sure I did not want them breaking over me! The Psalmist was reflecting on a particularly difficult time of his life. He felt crushed by the waves of life. Yet, he was not without faith, for he says that the breakers are God's breakers: Your waves and breakers go over me. Now, I never saw that before either. These breakers that threaten my life are from God? How so?

I doubt that the Psalmist knew how to surf but within eyesight of our lanai were many surfers. I have never surfed, either, so I was amazed at the way the surfers rode the waves to the safety of the coastline. It was obvious no one was going to go against the flow of the ocean. These surfers had learned to go with the flow and avoid being crushed by the force of the waves and have a thrilling ride at the same time. I wondered if this was what the Psalmist was telling us. You can either go with the flow or be crushed. We cannot control life. Right now, life seems out of control. We are being battered by high energy prices that seem to have no end in sight, increasing inflation, falling stocks, and and ongoing banking crisis - to name a few of the waves rolling over us. For some of us, those are not even the most important waves we are battling right now. The hope we have is what the Psalmist offers to us. These primeval forces are not chaotic. God is in control. Those waves are HIS waves! The God of the Bible who cares for us. Therefore, we will not fear. But what we have to do is learn to ride the waves. You see hope is not enough; we need to learn the art of surfing. The Psalmist gives us a few basic moves. He reminds us that these are God's breakers. They have a name and God knows we are in the midst of them. He sees the end to them even if we don't. They are breakers of love -verse 8- powerful, loud, scary but they come out of the loving heart of God. He will not let them harm us in the permanent and eternal sense. So, sing while you surf. Don't neglect worship as we tend to do when we are going through hard times. When we feel least like praising is when we need to do it the most. When the crashing surf keeps you up at night sing or listen to songs of praise. And pray, pray to the God of your life, who is over your life and who you have given your life to. When you are in the pounding surf, don't worry a bit about what someone else might say to you or about you. You might feel foolish, or out of your depth, or not exactly like a good Christian role model for the moment .... and people tend to criticize or judge from a distance ... but you are in the waves and riding the surf and to take your eyes off God will make it so much harder to surf. Learn how to go with the flow and avoid being crushed by the waves of life.

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