Our Hearts Thirst

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All thy waves and billows
Have gone over me.
~Psalm 42:7

…Into the deep where ocean spray
Is recollected in the great
   Salt, billow-making womb.

Effortless elegance!
   Holy wildness!

We walked nine miles of ocean beach
   Yesterday and let the ocean
Rhythms–pulse-setting waves and tide-making
   Moon–get inside us. Slowed
By this ancient pacemaker
   Our hearts thirsted. We drank God.
~Eugene Peterson from “Assateague Island”

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photo by Nate Gibson

…when he looked at the ocean,
he caught a glimpse of the One he was praying to.

Maybe what made him weep was
how vast and overwhelming it was

and yet at the same time as near
as the breath of it in his nostrils,
as salty as his own tears.

~Frederick Buechner writing about Paul Tillich in Beyond Words

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The least movement is of importance to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble.
~Blaise Pascal

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Most days I’m rocked by the most minute ripples and tiniest pebbles.  The building waves created by forces beyond my control feel tsunami-like though they started out infinitesimally small.  I can do nothing but let them flow over, around and beneath me, riding them up and down, trying not to get submerged for long and not get sea-sick.

Lately it feels like a barrage: instead of letting up, the billows roll larger and mightier, at times relentlessly powerful, changing everything in their path, including me.

Instead of being overcome by ripples, I hope some time to become the thrown pebble in a way that can move oceans or mountains or most amazing of all, another soul, just once.  In some tiny way, I hope I can say or do or write something that makes a positive difference in someone’s life, and that person forwards the ripple, spreading the wave a little further, a little broader, a little deeper to affect others.  Traveling far beyond the original thrown pebble, it can never to be pulled back once it is let loose.

I know what it is like for a blog post to go viral, becoming an ocean in churning turmoil, not a mere pebble starting with a least movement.  Instead, I hope to be the most insignificant of change agents, serene and barely there, just moving enough of another heart and soul to start something that will grow and spread by itself, wild and wonderful.

I don’t know what it might be or how I might do it.  Perhaps it is as simple as skipping rocks, choosing the best flattest pebble, rubbing the smooth sides between my fingers, and with a momentary regret at giving it up to the ocean, I’ll haul back and just let it go.  It will skip once, twice, three four five even six times and then disappear below. The surface of the water will never be the same again.

Nor will I.

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Known Before We Know

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Before Jeremiah knew God, God knew Jeremiah:
“Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you.”
This turns everything we ever thought about God around.
We think that God is an object about which we have questions.
We are curious about God.
We make inquiries about God.
We read books about God.
We get into late-night bull sessions about God.
We drop into church from time to time to see what is going on with God.
We indulge in an occasional sunset or symphony
to cultivate a feeling of reverence about God.

But that is not the reality of our lives with God.
Long before we ever got around to asking questions about God,
God had been questioning us.
Long before we got interested in the subject of God,
God subjected us to the most intensive and searching knowledge.
Before it ever crossed our minds that God might be important,
God singled us out as important.
Before we were formed in the womb,
God knew us.
We are known before we know.

This realization has a practical result:
no longer do we run here and there,
panicked and anxious,
searching for the answers to life.
Our lives are not puzzles to be figured out.
Rather, we come to God,
who knows us and reveals to us the truth of our lives.
The fundamental mistake
is to begin with ourselves
and not God.
God is the center from which all life develops.

~Eugene Peterson from Run With the Horses

My clinic days are full of people panicked and anxious,
too unsure to know themselves,
too unsure to know those around them,
too unsure of knowing which road to choose,
too unsure of whether to take a next breath.

I want to say:
this isn’t about you.
This isn’t about what you know
and what you don’t know or
whether you are sure of where you are headed
or hopelessly lost.
This is about being known
far before you came to be.

This is all you have to know:
You are known.
And the road to choose
is the one that leads
straight to Him who knows you
and the next breath you take
has come straight from Him.

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