What is it about the ocean, the sky, and the heart of children that so quickly transports us to another place? Each of them pries open portals of reflection that move us beyond the moment to that delicate balance of past, present, and future. Staring at the ocean each morning of our vacation during my five mile slog gave me occasion to reflect on life at another level. Gazing at the stars and the expanse of the heavens each evening were a blessed distraction from the loud arcade down the block and the spooky thrills of amusement rides that go round and round and up and down. Time with John Lewis and Laura Carpenter, our grandchildren, were in-my-face truth about the complexities of contemporary life and the sweet innocence so visible in children. The three---ocean, sky, and children---invited me to something more essential than rest. They ushered me into the sacred halls of personal reflection.
It's not just another whimsical spin of the geezer retro stuff about the the good old days, this personal reflection thing. More than anything else it is fast-forward reflection about life with firm biblical precedence.
1. Reflecting on the sea draws me deeper---
Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have
gone over me.
Psalm 42:7, ESV
My early morning five mile slog every day of vacation placed me in the company of a few scattered fellow geezers out for their morning walk and dozens of canine creatures walking their people. So, the Atlantic Ocean is companion one. And, reflection on the sea is about it's vastness, it's stretch beyond the horizon, the creatures who inhabit it, and the unknown secrets hidden in it's depths. They're thoughts beyond my limited comprehension, far above my wading in the shallows. Contemplating the ocean each morning welcomed me to the deeper mysteries of God, my trust in him, and faith in the one who created this world and all that is in it. They were moments of awe. i was reminded of what a friend posted on FaceBook one morning. He wrote, "When Isaiah saw God (Isaiah 6), he didn't say WOW. HE SAID, WOE!" The ocean each morning were "woe" moments.
2. Reflecting on the sky draws me upward, and inward---
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which
you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that
you care for him?
Psalm 8: 3-4, ESV
That God loves this one human and 7.6 billion others is such a miraculous truth. The expanse of the heavens reminds me how small I am. But, the one who guides the sun and moon and millions of stars also governs my life and the intricate details that define it. Every once in a while I need the reminder of how small I am and how the God of the universe loves and blesses my life by the moment, day by day, hour by hour, nano-second by nano-second. "WOE" is truly the word of those star gazing moments.
3. Reflecting on the children draws me to simplicity---
How profound is the teaching of Jesus about our place in the Kingdom. When he wanted to provide a visual for his followers about greatness in the Kingdom he stood a child in front of them. Matthew wrote---
And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you,
unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 19: 2-4, ESV
Something about the hearts and minds of children beckon me to deeper moments of personal reflection. Let me illustrate. One night we were staring at the stars. Our son-in-law Scott pointed us to a bright glow in the heavens. He told us it was the planet Mars. "Woe" again. When I asked the grandchildren if they knew what Mars was they gave me wonderful answers.
Laura, age 7 said---"It's where candy bars are made".
John Lewis, age 11 replied---"It's where men are made". You know, as in , women
are from Venus and men are from Mars.
No, they haven't studied the wonders of the universe or the heavens. But, they launched a whole new layer of reflection about life complexity that stirred me deeply.
So, vacation for me isn't about rest. My engines don't rev at another speed just because I'm at the beach or away from the routines that define this new chapter of life. No, it's about refreshment. And, reflection. The ocean, the sky, and these beautiful children invited me to go deeper in my thought life. They remind me of a truth that should guide every moment---
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts.
Psalm 139: 23, ESV
Vacation gives me the blessing of reflection, and getting acquainted with my thoughts.