There is a special kind of place that does magic to my heart like no other place.
Whenever I am there, time freezes, my heart quiets down, my mind stops wandering, and my misty perspective seems to clear up.
This magical place is not Disneyland. It is not church either.
It is Hong Kong Cemetery in Happy Valley; Stanley Military Cemetery in Island South, and Forest Lawn in Glendale, California.
Sometimes I will walk and read the tombstones one by one. This person died in 1865 when he was 62 years old. This person died when he was 13 in 1992, the year I graduated from University. This baby did not even reach her first birthday! Here is a name of a famous man that makes history—but most are nothing more than a name.
Moses prays, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalms 90:12)
Reading these tombstones somehow clears up my clouded perspective. It helps me to let go of things that I held so tightly for so long. (Or, should I say things that my heart stubbornly holds on to and not willing to let go?) Are the things that I so insist upon really that important? Do I really want to continue holding grudges against that person? Am I really that “right”?
The other time when my perspective was exceptionally clear was when I was lying on the hospital bed, getting ready for surgery.
Reading these tombstones reminds me how brief my life will be. Somehow, facing our mortality gives us wisdom. We gain a certain “objective distance” to look at ourselves with more objectivity.
How am I doing? How am I really doing?
What is truly important to me?
What is my heart telling me?
When I go home, what will I do differently?
By tomorrow morning, I pray that I will not just be one day older. I pray that I will be a little bit wiser. I pray that I will be better in touch with my heart and with God’s heart—His father’s heart for me.
“Lord, teach me to number my days, that I may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Alex first got involved with Hope of the City through a care group and he has been working with the elderly in Shek Kip Mei since. In serving, he has encountered many moments that have touched his heart, especially where Alex and his fellow volunteers are able to make a difference in someone else’s life. He found that the elderly do not always have people looking after them; so when the group visits, they are treated like family. Alex and Hope of the City work together to provide and care for specific needs because they see each person as an individual rather than a project. Through these relationships, they are able to break down the barriers to knowing Christ for the elderly and their immediate families, and in that way fulfill their missional calling.
“I love the rain. It washes memories from the sidewalks of life!”
This is perhaps my favorite movie quote. It is from an old Woody Allen movie when he is trying to impress a date as they speed together down a New York street in the light rain. Neither his date nor I really got the actual meaning, but I, unlike his mystified date, have never forgotten the line and repeat it to my wife often when we walk through the rain together. Because …
I really like the rain.
I like adventuring out in light rainfall without an umbrella to feel the sprinkles on my face.
I like holding an umbrella as I walk on sidewalks dodging people and periodic downfalls from ledges.
I like sitting in my office or near any window view to watch the changing cadence of wind, clouds and rain.
I like being safe at home, listening to the pitter-patter of hard rain on the air-conditioner.
I like fantasizing trouncing into large street puddles or being soaked by downfalls as invited by Gene Kelly’s scene in the movie “Singing in the Rain.”
But, the primary reason I like the rain is that it reminds me of God’s presence and provision.
Psalm 68:7-9 states: When you, God, went out before your people … the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain, before God … you gave abundant showers, O God; you refreshed your weary inheritance.
I love this image of God going before us and shaking the earth with downpours from heaven to remind us of His active presence in this world and with His people.
I love this image of abundant, flowing, freely-given showers to provide nutrients and growth.
I really, really love the image of God refreshing those who belong to Him when they are weary.
I love the rain. It washes away my preoccupation with the past and problems, and refreshes my often weary journey.
Find ways this week to remind yourself of God’s presence and provision.
Every four years, a neglected love awakens in me.
Every four years I realise afresh a diminished affection.
Every four years, I remember that I love the Olympics.
I’m not sure if you are paying attention or not, but I certainly am. To all sports—even the most obscure. I never (repeat, NEVER) pay attention to sports like kayaking or rhythmic gymnastics. But every four years, I will watch every event possible, tear up at every backstory, and kindle a love and respect for mostly unknown athletes who devote their lives to representing their countries.
I find it amusing that the apostle Paul references the Olympics in the New Testament. (well, the predecessor of the Olympics, the Greek Games).
“Everyone who competes in the games exercise self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” 1 Corinthians 9.25
Paul uses the “Olympics” to inspire us in our Christian faith. As awesome as it is to receive a wreath (our modern day gold medal), how much greater is the promise that we will be rewarded for our Christian lives on earth.
As I hear the training regimens of these athletes and think about the dedication they have shown for so many years, I take Paul’s words to heart and apply it to my walk with God. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things.
So where might a little more self-control help you in your faith?
Could your faith benefit from a little more consistency?
Would your prayer life be better if you dedicated a daily measure of time
Have you memorized any scripture lately so you can carry God’s word with you?
Is there a Christian book that you’ve been meaning to read, but haven’t made the time?
There’s a phenomenal television ad by Under Armour that highlights the training of Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medal winner (so far) in men’s swimming. It shows him up before the sun, swimming alone in a dark pool. Then the closing caption comes up:
It’s what you do in the dark
That puts you in the light
It’s pretty inspiring. It makes me want to buy and support Under Armour brand, so it’s effective advertising. But an even better takeaway might be to apply it to our walk with God.
Good things are worth dedication and effort. If these athletes can give such attention and discipline for the Olympic glory, then certainly I can raise my game in my devotion to the glory of God. Seems reasonable, huh?
Maybe I’ll memorise a bible verse tonight while I watch the Men’s Archery finals.
Jane was unable to attend church at first because she had to work on Sundays, but on the third renewal of her contract she asked for leave on Sundays. She found Filipino the Ministry to attend and Kids Club to serve at Island ECC, and she has really bonded with the community since. A very important part of her walk was getting to know a prayer partner and accountability. She has grown a lot in her spiritual walk and takes her responsibility to fulfil the Great Commission (Mt 28:16-20) seriously. A large draw for Filipinos is the dedication of the 11th floor to their ministry, which gives them a special place to invite newcomers and to love them in a language they connect with. Jane continues to serve the Lord with her passion and heart for outreach.