The Beauty of Sea Glass

“I will go before you and make the rough places smooth.” Isaiah 45:2

Jon asked me the other day why I enjoyed looking for sea glass along the rocky coast of Montecito, California or in Rockport, Massachusetts. I tell him it is like looking for hidden treasure. 

I can get lost in it for hours, (just ask Jon), searching and collecting. I crawl in rocky caves, move large rocks, look between boulders and dig under the sand. It is exciting, as you never know what you are going to find… the stem of a wine glass, a rare blue piece, a marble, the bottom of a beer bottle or just lots and lots of white, green and brown pieces.

Sea glass starts as bottles and other glass items… junk, trash. It also comes from tragedies like shipwrecks. The glass is tossed on the shore, broken and then tumbled smooth by the waves and currents of the sea. It can take up to 10 years in a constant ocean environment for broken glass to become sea glass. A perfect piece of sea glass has no shiny spots, is well frosted and has smooth edges, edges all beautifully softened, smoothed and worn by the continuous tossing of the ocean's waves against the harshness of the rocks and sand. 

It takes years for the jagged, junk glass to become beautiful and cloudy. It is not a one-time toss or an instantaneous event. The ocean takes the garbage thrown into it by humans and turns it into something beautiful and worthy. 

And isn’t that what God’s love does to us? As we are tossed by the storms of life, His loving presence with us softens our hearts, smoothes away our jagged edges, and makes us beautiful in His sight. God turns our junk and our tragedy into beauty. And as we age our cloudiness becomes even more beautiful. 

This is why I love looking for sea glass.

Grace & Peace,
Brenda Golden

January 29, 2016

Lessons From the Stars

Just as the lights of the city keep me from seeing all of the stars that are actually there, the noise around me and in me keeps me from hearing God as he whispers His personal message to me continually.

I was in Buena Vista Colorado last week. Buena Vista is a town of around 2,000 people with only one stop light. When I first visited there 40 years ago that was the case and it is still the same today.  Actually I was a few miles above the town on the edge of a mountain where there were few houses and no bright lights. I was at over 8,000 feet in altitude and the air is thinner as well. The first night of the visit I was outside with our host and he suggested I look up. The only way to describe what I saw was that it was awe-inspiring. It almost took my breath away. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and being in the countryside away from the lights of civilization there were tens of thousands of stars visible. I could see the outline of the Milky Way. The sky was much brighter than usual and only due to the sheer number of the stars visible. The ground itself seemed to be lit by the light of the stars alone. My host made the comment that “you don’t see that in Atlanta” and he was right.

In Atlanta there are only a fraction of the stars I saw that night. As I leave the house in the morning I often look up at the sky and thank God for “showing off.” The magnitude of difference in the Colorado night is impossible to describe. This morning as I got into my truck at 5:30 and looked at the stars I realized that I was only seeing a fraction of reality. There are more stars there than I can see or even imagine. The difference is that the lights of my subdivision and the city of Gainesville and even distant Atlanta overpower the light of the distant stars. The reality is still the reality. The stars haven’t moved or gone away. I just can’t see them because of distraction created by other lights. I have to go to a different place to see clearly.

Hearing the voice of God is a lot like that. Just as the lights of the city keep me from seeing all of the stars that are actually there, the noise around me and in me keeps me from hearing God as he whispers His personal message to me continually. As moving into the sparsely populated area of Colorado enables me to see stars I didn’t realize existed, so moving into solitude (simply being by myself) and silence allows me to be in position to hear God speak. As I have to look up to see the stars, I have to look in to hear the voice of God. As the stars take my breath away, the Presence of the God Who created each one and calls them by name changes my life as I allow Him to whisper to me in solitude and silence. As the stars are seen best in the darkness of the less populated areas, so the witness of the saints is that God is often best heard in solitude and silence. Solitude was practiced by Jesus, who often left his disciples to go to be alone with His Father. It has been practiced and proven by His followers through the centuries.

Just as men and women have looked to the stars for a glimpse of the work of the Creator, I move to solitude to hear His gentle whisper to me.

- Dick Baxter

 

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.”

(Psalm 19:1-4a NIV - Italics added)

A Shelf of Spiral Notebooks

“What are the things that you and God enjoy doing together?”

I was recently talking with a friend who didn’t feel close to God at the time and I felt led to ask that question. After our time was over I asked myself the same question, “When do I feel closest to God?” For me, the immediate answer was "solitude and silence."

As I look back over my life, I have been gently drawn to being alone with my thoughts and prayers. I have particularly enjoyed the thoughts that being in the mountains or at the ocean seemed to bring forth. Everyone, however, is different, and what is special for one is not special for others. For some the feeling is in church, others when helping the homeless, others when having a “quiet time,” others when reading and meditating on scripture, praying, or being in a small group. I know people who are most sensitive to God when fasting. I have a friend who meets God in biographies of those who have gone before.

For each of us there are valuable avenues of communication that God utilizes in His unique relationship with us. The first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism is: “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” The enjoyment of being with God is what we tragically often miss. We talk about a personal relationship with Christ, but if we are honest, the personal is often missing. Our communication can be very mechanical and rigid. We don’t look forward to spending time with God. We do it because we have been told it is important, or we don’t do it at all. Often our excuse is that we are just too busy, sometimes even doing God’s work!

That was my situation when I was on the Young Life staff some 40 years ago. I was in ministry working with high school kids, loved it and felt God’s presence as I ministered. Personally, though, I had a very unrewarding devotional life and that made it hard for me to maintain my “quiet time” with God. Knowing that I should be doing more would activate my guilt response and I would buy a new spiral notebook for my prayer list (I have a whole stack of partially filled notebooks in my closet today). I would begin reading 5 chapters in the Bible, praying daily for others and myself, while I kept a list of what I had asked God to bring about. After a few weeks or maybe even a month of being faithful to the process, I would quit. Once I had missed a day or two, it became hard to get started again. The pile of notebooks with empty pages grew, but my devotional life did not. It was like a dance of drawing closer and withdrawing. While there were moments of enjoyment, they were not frequent enough to keep me engaged on a regular basis. While I believed intellectually that God was present, that somehow was not enough. The belief was in my head, but it wasn’t confirmed by my experience or felt in my heart. 

Later in life, God, in His grace, drew me from my monologue to a dialogue. God used writings by some of the devotional masters to gently provide a vision that was more available. God used that new vision to open new doors. I discovered that solitude and silence could be a time of enjoyment with God and I began to look forward to those times. In silence, I moved from my head to my heart. I found that as I spent time simply alone and quiet that small clarifications would appear into my mind that gave me greater understanding of God and His action in my life. I came to recognize the Presence and action of God in small things in my day. As a Young Life motor coach driver, I had enjoyed driving all night while the kids slept. Looking at the stars through that big windshield brought a sense of gratitude. Now I knew why. Growing up, I always enjoyed a time of silent prayer during the evening service at my church. God had been drawing me to solitude for years.

The reality I experienced, as I began to carve space for solitude, was that God wanted to communicate with me, not just listen to my requests. He wanted more than my monologue. Scripture took on new depth and became a means of His communication as I moved from scripture reading to scripture meditation. It became a place where I listened to God speak into my heart. For me, solitude has become the place where I can hear God’s whispers in my life as I turn away from the external and internal noise that often drowns Him out. In addition, it changes the pace of my life as I spend unhurried time with God and sense His calm, slow Presence. 

So, what is it that you enjoy doing with God? If you don’t know, maybe you should try solitude! Dallas Willard has defined joy as a “a pervasive and constant sense of well-being.” That is why joy and suffering can exist at the same time. Solitude may be the road to experience that joy. I pray that you may find that joy in your walk with God in whatever path He leads you.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” 

 I Corinthians 2:9b

“The eye cannot see, nor the tongue tell, nor can the heart imagine how many paths and methods I have, solely for love to lead them back to grace so that my truth may be realized in them.”   

Catherine of Siena