alone with "abba"
I sat at my favorite place in the world this morning. The beach . . . And I cried. I sat there staring at the waves crash. The sun was peeking through the clouds. I saw a pelican dive just beyond the breakers in front of me. I then saw him come up from the water, adjusting his catch in his mouth and then turning his head up as he opened his throat and I saw the tail of a fish disappear as he swallowed. Then I felt a rumbling noise that was a bit distracting. I looked up and saw the glow of the rocket that had just launched from Cape Canaveral. Oh, how I love the beach and where I live in Florida.
Seeing that rocket, seeing the pelican, hearing the waves crash and looking out at the endless horizon, I cried. I was overwhelmed, in awe and alone with God. No music, no TV, and no scrolling mindlessly through a cell phone. Just me and God and his creation (except for the Elon Musk financed rocket launch . . . actually; Elon was created by God in His image . . . So, I know God must be a smart God since he created someone as smart as Elon . . . anyway; I digress) I had just finished my own personal counseling session with an amazing former pastor. We had just discussed my stresses, anxieties, insecurities, fears, and confusion that different difficult seasons of life can bring to us all.
In this case these feelings had resulted in some health problems for me. (See last week’s devotional on Stress and the Saving Game). We looked at how Mosaic Law required the Levite priests to take a full year off, every 7 years. Also known as a sabbatical. Our ministry has just celebrated our 7th anniversary . . . how convenient is that?? My Pastor said he thought I was on the edge of burnout. Those words were powerful as I contemplated how that could happen.
He then asked me how often Jesus isolated himself during his ministry; to pray. To just be alone and pray. This question stumped me. Giving this some thought and looking into scripture, it is hard to come up with the number of times that Jesus walked away from performing miracles, away from teaching the apostles and the crowds, away from all the hubbub surrounding him everywhere he went, to just be alone with God and pray. Think about it, Jesus was God incarnate. He WAS God. Do you ever think about what God and Jesus, Jesus and God could be talking about when they were alone? Yes, Jesus needed to be alone many times. He even told followers on the hillside of the Sea of Galilee, “When you pray, go into your room, and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” -Matthew 6:6. My Pastor said he thought I was on the edge of burnout. Those words were powerful as I contemplated how that could happen.
As I sat there on the beach reflecting on the 7 years of our ministry it occurred to me how busy with ministry I am. I spend so much time studying, writing, creating Christian based social media memes, updating the web site, creating content, recording podcasts, making videos, keeping the daily books of donations and expenses, leading meetings, planning events, preparing messages, speaking, counseling other men in our office or at local coffee shops and answering every phone call or text. Then I thought of the amount of time I spend worrying about keeping up with all the above, not to mention the worry over family issues and other daily life challenges. Man, this ministry thing is a LOAD! (In Texas we say, it’s like trying to stuff 10 pounds of cow manure into a 5-pound bag).
Then it occurred to me, “How much time do I truly spend ALONE with the Holy Spirit?” I mean truly ALONE! Yes, I wept on the beach realizing all my recent health problems were mostly induced by stress because I live in a world that I have allowed to be just too loud and way too distracting. How often do I just get in a quiet place and enjoy the presence of God. How often do I do exactly what Jesus did and stop what I am doing and just disappear to be alone with God with nothing or no one else? (See Matthew 14:13) You know, it is crazy how I recommend to people all the time to just dive into the word, just start reading the bible, and God will speak to you. Yet sometimes while reading my own bible I do not feel alone with God at all. So many things can run through my mind while reading as I have made a habit of setting my bible study time as a task in my day, instead of a reward where His Spirit can move me.
Yeah, our ministry is 7 years old. I left the spoils of corporate America to pursue a calling that I know came from my creator. Yet my corporate America training, that prepared me for so many aspects of the ministry, had a lingering negative effect on me. The quiet and alone times were few and far between then. With my new calling, they sometimes are even fewer. I have let the loudness and clutter of being busy in ministry distract me from the very thing Jesus always looked for . . . ALONE TIME WITH MY FATHER.
As I watched the glow of the rocket disappear into the sky, I sensed peace. I felt joy just sitting there on Satellite Beach alone with my Father. I cried out to Him for more times like this. 30 minutes here or an hour there. He convinced me to start taking my own advice from now on. Turn off the damn phone, the text, the email, Neflix, the ball game, the chores and activities . . . and just BE! . . . with HIM. I began to feel my mind and heart clear. The weight lightened on my shoulders. My head felt a little more cleared as I felt Him smile. He loves me so much . . . and He absolutely loves when I am alone with Him. I now know this time is the best part of my day . . . AND HIS.