Creation

Sunrise over the Grand Canyon, 2016. The Grand Canyon is one of the most beautiful displays of creation that I've ever seen. 

Sunrise over the Grand Canyon, 2016. The Grand Canyon is one of the most beautiful displays of creation that I've ever seen. 

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them…”

Genesis 1:27-28a

What was the purpose of creation? Why did God create this universe and us?  Notice in the account of the creation of man, the first thing God did was to bless man and converse with him. His first order of business with us upon our creation was not only to bless us, but also to start a dialogue with us. This should immediately tell us two things. The first is that God desires to bless us; His intentions toward us are good ones. He wants what’s best for us (Jeremiah 29:11). The second thing it tells us is that God has always intended for us to have a personal relationship with Him.  In Romans 1:20 it says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” God made creation in such a way so that we can understand it, and He did this in order to draw us to Himself. His creation stands as a testament to us, declaring His existence in order that we might enter a relationship with Him.

            As a surfer, I have often considered the source of my playground. For instance, if earth had no atmosphere the oceans would evaporate. Yet our planet has an atmosphere that allows for life to flourish as well as for our oceans to flourish. Or did you know that waves are actually a restoring force to calm the surface of the ocean when it has been disturbed? The very waves we ride, the activity that brings so much joy and peace to so many, is a result of God’s intricate handiwork designed to restore and calm the oceans. Is it any wonder that waves have a similar affect in a surfer’s life?

            Tides play an important role in my daily surfing life since each wave breaks differently depending upon the tide. Science has allowed for us to understand how tides work and thus predict them, so I monitor the tides and determine where I'm going to surf based on that information. But the very fact that we are created in a world that we can understand, the fact that the universe exists in a way so that we have the ability to understand it through reason and logic and natural laws is one of the most astonishing facts about creation. God made His creation in an intricate yet understandable way so as to draw us to Himself. It is as though He left us a road map to Himself, a road map that the human mind has the capacity to read and understand. 

The Fall

Castles in the sky, Ireland 2016

Castles in the sky, Ireland 2016

Fall in California is one of the best times to be a surfer. The coastline enjoys swells from both the northern and southern hemispheres and the wind has a tendency to shift offshore more than normal. I remember a few years ago on one particular day all these factors came together as they often do in fall and I decided to head to one of my favorite waves. The spot has a fairly grumpy crew of local surfers that are quite competitive when the wave turns on, so I always try to be extra polite when I surf there. The wave really only has one take off spot when it gets good, which makes proper line-up rotation vital in maintaining order.  

I paddled out with the intention of waiting my turn at the back of the line for a wave. But right as I got to the line-up a set approached. As the surfers scrambled around to get in position, I suddenly found myself sitting the deepest. I didn’t intend on catching the wave, but I heard one of the older locals yell, “GO!” and acting purely on instinct I turned and went. As I made my way off the bottom I could hear a surfer on the shoulder yell an obscenity at me. When I kicked out on the inside I could still hear this surfer yelling obscenities at me from all the way outside. I realized I had a couple choices. I could paddle in and call it a one wave session. Or I could paddle back out and take the verbal lashing this guy wanted to give me. Even though technically I was in priority position for the wave, I knew I had essentially cut to the front of the line and taken the angry surfers wave. I knew I had made a mistake.

So I paddled back out and took some heated words from the upset local. I apologized to him and told him what happened, while also explaining to him I knew I was in the wrong. Thankfully this settled the matter and the man was quite cordial after that.

The reality is that all of us have at some point in life made mistakes. We have all “snaked” someone, if you will.  Whether our intentions have always been good or not, the Bible tells us that we have all sinned and fallen short. So we are left with this issue of sin and what to do about it. It’s not a new dilemma; it’s been an issue since Adam and Eve.

Most of us know the story of Adam and Eve. They ate the fruit they were instructed not to and one of the results of this was that they realized they were naked, which made them ashamed to be seen by God. When they heard God walking through the Garden of Eden they hid from Him. It says in Genesis 3:8-9, “They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?””

Imagine this scene from God’s perspective. He is walking through His creation; a creation unmarred by the affects of sin at this point. It was creation at it’s most glorious, a world of incomparable beauty. But He is not concerned with any of it. His only concern is that He can’t find those for whom He made such a magnificent creation. And when He doesn’t find them He calls for them. His primary concern is that He gets to go for a walk in the cool of the day with the ones He loves. Imagine the one who created all of this, the one who walks in the recesses of the deep, the one who set the boundaries for the oceans, the one who set the stars in motion, the one who determined habitats and seasons, the one who made the mysteries of deep space and the one who holds all of it together with His word. All of it seems almost irrelevant to Him when He can’t find the ones He loves.

The story goes on to tell of the results of Adam and Eve’s sin and what it means for them, the world, and the fate of all creation. When Adam and Eve realized they were naked they became ashamed and tried to cover their shame themselves with leaves. Then in 3:21 we get a picture of God’s heart for us. It says, “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” This might not seem like much, but it speaks volumes of God’s love for us and His plan of redemption. At this point in time the Old Testament Law with it’s sacrifices for sin had not been given yet, so animal sacrifice had not been instituted yet either. So where did God get the material to make “garments of skin” for them? Even in this act of clothing Adam and Eve He is declaring to us that He is the one who covers our shame and provides the means by which we are forgiven. God had to perform the first sacrifice in order to get the skin that He used to make the clothing. The Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, The Sacrifice, performed the first sacrifice in order to cover our shame. He did this because He so deeply desires our presence. Imagine the eternal God, creator of everything, desiring our presence to such an extent that He goes to unimaginable lengths to secure it. His greatest pleasure was to walk through the garden in the cool of the day with the ones He loves. And He stops at nothing to provide a way for that to be possible.

Imagine how sweet those days before “the fall” must have been to God. All those times of walking in the cool of the day with those He loved, knowing full well that at some point things would change and He would have to start a heart-wrenching process of redemption. In providing the clothing for Adam and Eve He declared that only He could provide the sacrifice that was sufficient to take away our shame. He was prophetically declaring how He would ultimately sacrifice Himself so that we could live. He willingly chose death in order to give us life.

Jesus is referred to as the First and the Last; it is much more than a reference to His eternal existence. He performed the first sacrifice knowing full well that He Himself would be the last sacrifice. He initiated our redemption and He finished it.

God knew where Adam and Eve were when He called, “Where are you?” in the garden. But He gives us the choice on how we want to respond to His calling.  

The Inertia

Photo: Jonathon Reis

Recently I had an article published on The Inertia about growing up surfing Pismo Beach. There's a link below if you'd like to read about it. Thanks to Jonathon Reis for providing the photos.

Pismo Link

Grace

Ireland, 2016.

Ireland, 2016.

Grace certainly is amazing, isn’t it? I’ve grown up in church so I’ve heard the word “grace” more times than I can count. I’ve always known I needed God’s grace, that thanks to His grace there is hope for my life and for mankind as a whole. But it’s only been in the last couple of years that I have found a much deeper and much more genuine appreciation for His grace. If I’m being totally transparent, I think it’s in large part due to the humbling realization of how far I fall short so often in life. It’s one thing to feign humility and say, “oh I know I need grace, I’m only human.” I’ve had that attitude most of my life. But it’s an entirely different thing altogether to come to terms with the reality of the corruption that, apart from God’s grace, would dwell within me. There dwells within even the best of us a level of selfish ambition and vain conceit that is unpardonable apart from God’s grace. And as humbling as it is to admit, I’ve been forced to come to terms with this reality in myself the last couple years. And even though it’s been a humbling and often times uncomfortable process, I’m forever grateful for it. It’s been one of the most freeing experiences of my life.

We often think of grace as an elementary principle. It’s often viewed as though it were a doctrine we learn and then move on from to deeper things. But grace is not something to be graduated from. Grace and the reality of what Jesus went through on the cross cannot become comfortable for us. It must never lose it’s wonder, awe, and value. Grace has to be consumed daily. It has to permeate every fiber of our being. We have to take up residence within the city limits of grace. We must become citizens of grace. We have to reside in grace. Life is not sustainable apart from it. We have to deal with each other with grace. Our relationships ought to leave a residue of grace in them.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

The original language of this verse in Ephesians makes it a definite article, meaning it actually says, “For by the grace you have been saved…” There is something unique and altogether different about God’s grace. It is the grace, the only grace that has the power to forgive sin, the only grace that has the ability to save, and the only grace that is capable of making us stand.

It’s recorded for us that a woman named Mary came to Jesus while He was dining one night. She took a pound of perfume and anointed Jesus with it, and the fragrance of the perfume filled the entire house. It’s estimated that the cost of that much perfume would have been roughly a years worth of wages. It might seem extravagant or wasteful to pour out a years worth of wages at Jesus’ feet. But the reality is that Mary had a profound understanding of the value of the grace she experienced in Jesus. How much is grace worth to us? Mary had experienced life apart from grace and when she finally experienced life in the reality of grace it changed everything for her. She understood that grace had an identity, and His name was Jesus. Mary’s adoration for Jesus, her desperation for grace caused a fragrance that permeated all those around her, it filled the house. 

God’s grace is an altogether different grace. It quite literally changes everything. It offers hope in a hopeless world, it offers redemption in seemingly unredeemable circumstances, and it offers purpose where there once was none. I hope and pray that I will value grace the way Mary did, that my life would have a fragrance of grace that permeates those around me. And I’m thankful that for all the times I fall short God’s grace is sufficient to cover it and lovingly draw me back to the source. It certainly is an amazing grace.

North Shore

North Shore line-up, 2017.

North Shore line-up, 2017.

Having just returned from the North Shore I was reminded of my first time visiting there. Years ago I wrote an article for a surf magazine about my first trip to the North Shore of Oahu. Hope you enjoy...

 

Getting the Poops Scared Out of Me

 

Ever since I started reading surf magazines I wanted to go to the North Shore. It began as simply a desire to see the waves that filled so many pages of those magazines. I wanted to watch Pipe, Sunset, and Rocky Point, to see first hand the spots that had gained international fame in the surf world. I didn’t really think about the reality of seeing those waves up close and personal. I didn’t take into consideration what it actually takes to paddle out and catch a wave on the North Shore.  But the lore of the most famous stretch of coastline in the world had taken a hold of me. And eventually I made my way across the Pacific to that seven-mile miracle.

As I waited for my boards in the baggage claim of the Honolulu International Airport, I remember thinking about all the legends of the sport that had done the very thing I was doing, and wondered if they were as nervous as I was their first time on the North Shore. I leaned against the wall, looked around at all the people coming and going, all the people who wore floral print shirts, all the tourist group coordinators who greeted their guests with a very insincere “Aloha” and proceeded to place lei’s around their necks. I also realized that a large number of those around the baggage claim were surfers, and apparently headed to the same seven-mile stretch of coastline I was headed to. I began to wonder if this relatively small stretch of coast could handle all these surfers. The reality of Oahu began to slowly sink in. 

My first North Shore surf took place at the not so world famous wave of Pupukea. Pupukea (“Poops” for short) is a sand bar wave, and relatively soft by North Shore standards, so I figured it would be a good place to ease into my first North Shore experience. If you ever paddle out at Pupukea, you will probably notice a couple things. First, that there are a lot of girls in the line-up and it seems almost all of them surf better than the average surfer. And secondly, that even though Pupukea is a “soft wave” it can still ring your bell if it so desires. There is nothing more humbling to the male ego than getting worked on the inside of “Poops”, while watching a girl five years younger than you absolutely rip a wave to shore.  But male ego aside, everyone gets worked on the North Shore.

When the first real swell during my trip arrived, I went straight to Pipe…to watch. I thought about surfing; that is until I walked down onto the sand and saw the beastly wave up close. “Real Pipe” is quite a scene, but for good reason. Every wave out there is quite literally a life or death situation, and I realized very quickly that the shots I’d drooled over for years in the magazines looked a lot different when seen in real life. Those shots of perfect cathedral sized tubes that fill pages of magazines every year, usually require a 20-foot elevator drop to get into them, all while the trade wind sends plumes of spray up the face. So after realizing I wouldn’t be paddling out to get my cover shot, I semi-sheepishly decided to head toward the Haleiwa vicinity where I was able to find a much more user-friendly wave. 

My first trip to the North Shore eventually got cut short. I had paddled out to Gas Chambers one morning and was having one of the best surfs I’d had yet on the trip. Then, about an hour into the session, I fell on a wave and bounced off the reef with my foot. I paddled back out thinking the throbbing in my foot was nothing, but on my next wave, as I got to my feet, I realized I wouldn’t be surfing for the rest of my trip. The throbbing was from a nice, deep puncture wound which would require stitches. And that pretty much sums up my first North Shore surfing experience. If I could describe it in one word it would be “humbling.”

I’ve continued to go back to the North Shore for a number of years now. Along with all the punishment it has served me, I’ve also had some great moments there. But no matter how ready I think I am for what I’m going to encounter there, every year it continues to humble me. I continue to get pounded and held down, continue to come up gasping for air, and continue to have the ocean send me home with my tail between my legs. But one thing I’ve realized over the years is that it’s not just me, it humbles everybody that surfs there. I’ve seen the top guys on the WCT get washed in right next to your average blue-collar surfer. It may be for this very reason that the North Shore’s legend never seems to fade. It doesn’t matter if you’re a world champion, WQS warrior, big-wave charger, an average surfer, longboarder, shortboarder, or whatever else you may be; if you surf on the North Shore, eventually you will be humbled. The North Shore is just like that. But if you show respect, and stay within your limits, you just might get the wave of your life…at Pupukea. 

(Originally published in Planeta Surf Magazine)

Hiking Shoes

Good waves with good friends is about as good as it gets in surfing. Photo: Chris Burkard

Good waves with good friends is about as good as it gets in surfing. Photo: Chris Burkard

Below is an article I wrote for The Surfers Path about a trip I took with some friends and the benefits of a good pair of hiking shoes...            

The Road Less Travelled

A good pair of hiking shoes…I’ve come to realize they’re one of the most important pieces of surf gear that I own.  Board, wetsuit, wax, and fins are all essential but a good pair of hiking shoes will take you places they can’t.  Want to find your own secret wave?  Where I live that’s likely going to require a long trek on foot.  A good pair of hiking shoes is akin to the poor man’s Jet Ski, they allow you access to coastline that isn’t paved or well-trod. 

            I remember as a kid all I ever wanted to do was go to the mountains and hike.  I spent hours in school daydreaming about the great outdoors.  Then in my late teens I took to surfing and everything else seemed to take a back seat.  Hiking trips to the mountains were replaced by surfing trips along the coast.  But I eventually realized that the two didn’t have to be mutually exclusive; they actually worked together very symbiotically.  Suddenly I could have my cake and eat it too. 

            Not too long ago I was fortunate enough to take a trip with my good friend Chris Burkard to a remote stretch of coastline that requires a two-hour hike to access.  We loaded up our backpacks with food, sleeping bags, tents, water, wetsuits, and some warm clothes.  We strapped our boards to our packs and headed off, hoping to find some good waves to ourselves.  When we finally made camp I was exhausted.  It’s somewhat of a grueling hike due to the soft sand and hills you have to traverse on your way there.  But it’s all worth it.  Setting up camp overlooking a beautiful golden ocean, the horizon on fire from the sunset, stars beginning to flicker overhead, it all seemed to testify to the fact that we were in a very special place.  The kind of place that is hard to get to but is well worth the effort once you’re there; the kind of place you need a good pair of hiking shoes to reach. More importantly, the kind of place you hope is still around for generations after us. 

I was hoping to awake to surprisingly good waves, but what I found when I made my way out of the tent in the morning wasn’t the sort of surprise I was expecting. About 30 yards from our tents, making a complete circle around our campsite was a set of cougar tracks.  I had heard that there was a cougar spotted in the area not too long ago, but they generally stay up in the hills more, so I wasn’t really thinking about it.  In a way, the cougar tracks gave me perspective about why I wanted to take the trip in the first place.  It reminded me of why I loved to camp as a child.  To get out into the wild, where humans are a part of nature and not pseudo-masters of it is to experience a part of life as it was intended.  Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why I love surfing so much as well.  Nature tends to simplify things for me, and out here among miles of untouched beauty all the clutter that accumulates in my mind and blurs what’s important seems to just melt away.  We never saw the cougar, but in an odd and respectful way I appreciated its presence. 

            In a country where cars seem to outnumber people it’s comforting to know that the only way to get to this spot is with a trusty pair of hiking shoes. I find myself more and more grateful for places like this- places that haven’t been “improved” with paved roads and storefronts, places that remain raw and natural, places that evoke inspiration for those who make the effort to experience them. And we quickly learned that we weren’t the first ones to make such an effort. Along our hike Chris found an area full of old Native American chippings that we stopped to take a look at.  I suddenly realized that our little secret spot wasn’t really a secret. People have known about it for centuries.  The fact that it still remains basically the same after all these years is a testament to the rugged and raw beauty of the area.  Hopefully each new generation that “discovers” it appreciates what they’ve found and keeps it as it is. 

            I suppose surfers take trips like this for many different reasons, the foremost of which is likely waves. But regardless of our motivating factors in such endeavors, excursions like this one wouldn’t be possible without a trusty pair of hiking shoes.  I try to keep a pair in my car at all times, just in case.  As the late, great Robert Frost stated,

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

            Who would’ve thought all it takes is a good pair of hiking shoes?

(Originally Published in The Surfers Path)

Prayer

I definitely would have gone left. 

I definitely would have gone left. 

I had the privilege of getting to share at a ministry on Oahu called Surfers Church for my last stop. Surfers Church is inspiring to say the least. They have planted themselves in the heart of what used to be one of the worst areas for drugs and prostitution in all of Hawaii. Their campus is in the buildings of what used to be a strip club and porn shop but now consists of the church's office buildings, staff housing, coffee shop, and antique store. Among the many outreaches that the staff at Surfers Church participates in is their feeding the hungry program. They essentially went into the heart of one of the darkest areas in Hawaii and reclaimed it for the Light. The church is located in an old strip club, and I can honestly say it was one of my highlights and a great privilege to get to share Jesus in a church that takes place in what used to be a strip club. It’s one of the greatest pictures of God’s redemption that I have seen in a ministry. Tom Bauer, one of the leaders in Surfers Church shared with me an incredible story of the power of prayer and the reality that God’s plan transcends even our own life spans. Tom shared how an elderly lady came by the church campus one day and began to weep when she saw what the Lord has done in that neighborhood and how He had reclaimed that block from the sex and drug industries. She told Tom how she and her now deceased husband had prayed for roughly 60 years for a church to be planted in the exact spot that Surfers Church now sits. She and her husband had walked around that very block praying for the Lord to plant a church there, laying hands on the very buildings that Surfers Church now owns and runs ministry out of. It was a testament to the fact that prayer transcends time and boundaries. What we pray for today can impact lives throughout generations.

The story of the couple praying for years for the Lord to change that neighborhood definitely inspires me to pray more. But not just to pray more, it inspires me to pray for specific change, to pray for the light to invade the darkness. It’s been said that nothing significant happens spiritually without prayer, and I believe that’s true.

My time at Surfers Church was an amazing note to end the trip on and it definitely left me inspired.  

Prayer

Sunset over Kaena Point, Oahu.

Sunset over Kaena Point, Oahu.

It’s been ten years since the last time I visited the North Shore of Oahu. It’s great to be here again and be able to reconnect with old friends. Not much has changed, except there are more people and more food trucks…everywhere. One place where a lot has changed is the small town of Wahiawa, located just a few miles from the North Shore. Wahiawa is where Surfers Church is located. When I was here last, Wahiawa was known for its drugs, prostitution, and pornography. On the main street through town was a large pornography shop for all to see, and where most simply saw hopelessness and depravity the folks at Surfers Church saw an opportunity for God to change a community. Surfers Church bought that strip club and pornography shop, gutted them, and rebuilt in its place their ministry headquarters. They feed the homeless, house missionaries, preach the gospel, and love people. God has used them to literally transform an entire community that many thought was beyond repair. It’s an inspiring story of what can be accomplished through hearts fully committed to Jesus.

I have the incredible privilege to get to share at Surfers Church this weekend. To be honest, it’s a humbling opportunity. I’m inspired by Surfers Church and their steadfast commitment to Jesus. I’ve found much inspiration from the team at Surfers Church over the years. One thing I know Surfers Church does is pray. And I believe with all my heart that nothing spiritually significant happens without prayer. I’ve become even more convinced of this during my time here on Oahu.

I’ve been reading this week in Luke 6 about Jesus choosing His twelve disciples. Prior to choosing them it says He went off to a mountain to spend the entire night in prayer. After praying for the whole night He then chose those who would become His closest companions, those through whom He would plant and build His church. Luke goes on to say that it was after this night of prayer on the mountain that Jesus would deliver the Sermon on the Mount, a sermon that is still changing lives today. Jesus also withdrew to a mountain to pray on the night that He would walk on water. On that occasion we are told by Mark that what followed was what can only be described as one of the greatest times of outpouring and revival the earth has ever seen. There were people being healed by merely touching the fringe of Jesus’ cloak, and an entire country was shook by the power of God.

And words don’t do justice to the significance of what took place after Jesus’ night of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.

I’m realizing if prayer was such a vital and pivotal role in Jesus’ life and ministry, then it ought to have the same significance in my life. If prayer was the precursor to Jesus performing the greatest acts of God the earth has ever seen, then I’m foolish not to hold prayer with the same reverence and importance that He did. But unfortunately I too often do. I too often run off to the beach, or to work, or to sleep without spending time in prayer. And even as I write this I’m reminded there is something I need to go do, Someone I need to go talk to.

Politics

A politics free zone. New Zealand, 2017. 

A politics free zone. New Zealand, 2017. 

It’s an interesting time we live in, a time of prophetic fulfillment, but a time of uncertainty as well. There is any number of events happening in our world today that are nothing short of tragic. It’s heartbreaking to watch and infuriating to see people use them to advocate their particular political viewpoint. What ought to be events that bring humanity together in solidarity for those suffering are manipulated to advance a political agenda. If I’m not careful I’m quick to react with my own political views. Everything seems to be political these days. When did it become a crime against humanity to hold a differing political view than someone else? It’s dumbfounding at times.

But then I’m reminded of Jesus. He came to earth at a time of significant political activity, a time of uncertainty and turmoil. Yet He never played politics. He loved unconditionally, spoke truth unwaveringly, and committed to being a living example of truth, grace, and humility. He didn’t take sides, except for the side of righteousness and justice. And for all the preaching and teaching He did, one thing many people forget is that He was someone who listened. He listened to God, and He listened to others. He still listens today.

When I’m tempted to fall into the trap of feeling frustrated because it seems like nobody is listening, I have to remind myself that Jesus is still listening. And He is the only one who has the power to cause lasting change in someone’s life. He still hears our cries, He still advocates for us, and He still executes justice. He is still God.

But I also need to remind myself in these times of heated political climates that Jesus is no respecter of political parties, His concern lies in the salvation and redemption of the entire human race, regardless of what political view one may hold.

Peace II

Turned off a side road and stumbled onto this serene lake during a gentle rainfall on the South Island of New Zealand.

Turned off a side road and stumbled onto this serene lake during a gentle rainfall on the South Island of New Zealand.

Is peace circumstantial? Is it possible to have complete chaos around you and still be at peace? I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of peace lately and what it means to have it. In my own experience I’ve had times when everything around me has been in complete peace and harmony and yet on the inside I’ve felt anything but peaceful. Then there have been times when the world around me seems to be in chaotic turmoil and yet I feel totally at peace. So I’m inclined to believe that peace cannot be circumstantial. True peace in our soul has to come from an outside source. As humans our emotions change hourly so we’d be foolish to try to find our peace from ourselves. We might be successful at obtaining peace for a little while but inevitably our mood will change and with it our sense of peace. Circumstances are an unstable source of peace as well because they are dependent on an infinite number of variables outside of our control.

I find the apostle Paul’s life fascinating because for someone who experienced so much turmoil, so many hardships, so much persecution and so many false accusations, he maintained a level of peace that inspires me. At one point when he was being transported as a prisoner on a boat and the boat was hit by a storm that eventually shipwrecked everyone, it was Paul who stood up in the midst of the storm to encourage the people and provide direction. You don’t do that sort thing unless you have a source of peace that is not shaken by feelings or circumstances.

At the end of Paul’s life while he was in prison he wrote a letter to his good friend Timothy. Paul had mentored Timothy and the two had formed a family-like bond. In one of his last earthly writings Paul discloses to Timothy what I’m convinced was the source of the profound peace he displayed in life. He says to Timothy, “for I know Him whom I have believed, and I am confident He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him…” Paul knew Jesus, and that made all the difference. He didn’t just know about Jesus, He didn’t just believe in the idea of Jesus, he knew Jesus personally and intimately. As a result of this Paul had no doubt about where he placed his confidence, so his peace couldn’t be shaken because it’s source was true. It’s why he could remain confident even while being falsely imprisoned; it’s why he could remain joyful even in the most horrendous circumstances.

Whether I die young or old, I want Paul’s words to echo in the life I lived—“for I know Him whom I have believed, and I am confident in Him…” 

Waves

Restoring the calm. Raglan, New Zealand.

Restoring the calm. Raglan, New Zealand.

I was researching this week some facts about waves for a project I’m working on. One of the most fascinating facts I came across is that waves are actually a restoring force to calm the surface of the ocean when it has been disturbed. I find this extremely fascinating for a couple reasons. The first is obviously a result of my love (or obsession) for surfing. The activity of riding waves has always provided a certain level of peace for me so it makes sense to me that God created waves in order to bring peace to His oceans.

But more intriguing is the parallel to our spiritual lives we can draw from this. Anyone who has been near the ocean during a storm knows that the waves created during storms seem anything but peaceful. Winds wreak havoc on the oceans surface creating a chaotic mess of waves that appear out of control and often terrifying. But underneath the surface these waves are actually designed to restore calm and peace to the ocean. So many times in my life when I am in the midst of a trial (or storm if you will) I am tempted to believe that God is not in control, that the storm’s chaos is destined to rule in my life. But in reality God is at work beneath the surface, restoring calm and peace to my heart in the midst of the storm. Even though storms hit our lives and threaten to terrify us, the reality is that God is greater and is always at work beneath the surface in order to restore peace in our life. And to me that is a God worthy of my worship.   

Peace

New Zealand. Shortly before we scrambled into our wetsuits to paddle out. 

New Zealand. Shortly before we scrambled into our wetsuits to paddle out. 

Something most people don’t know about me is that for most of my life I’ve dealt with anxiety; from the time I was a young boy when I didn’t even know what it was, and still to this day. Every so often it will creep up on me and catch me off my guard. It isn’t severe but it is real enough. It’s a rather sickening feeling, something I’d wish on no one. I’m not sharing this information to get people to feel sorry for me or to try to sound as though I’ve had (or have) a tough life. I am extremely grateful for the life I have and the grace I’ve been shown, and I’m very aware of how fortunate I am.

             But to put it bluntly, anxiety sucks. Anyone who has dealt with it knows this. I used to be a little apprehensive about admitting I deal with it. It tends to be one of those topics that are fairly misunderstood. Half the time it feels as though people look at me like I am crazy and wonder if I’m allowed to be outside, the other half it feels like they’re thinking that if my faith were stronger I wouldn’t be dealing with it; that I should just let God heal me of it. I’m sure most of the time it’s simply my own insecurities coming to the surface. And just to be clear I believe medicine works, and I also believe God heals. I’m well aware of the role brain chemistry plays and the help that medicine can provide. I benefit from modern medicine everyday. But I’m also fully convinced God is capable of healing in an instant that which medicine can only treat.

            So where does that leave me and why do I divulge this information now? Well for starters I felt Him remind me recently of something He spoke to me when I was 18 while on my first international trip without my parents. I was in Mexico with Christian Surfers on the roof of our house looking at the stars in the night sky. As I stared up at the heavens I began to talk to the Lord. I had been feeling a little alone and anxious on that trip. As I spoke to Him that night I heard Him respond to me. I felt Him say to me, “If I am God, then that means I am God everywhere; not just God when your in the comfort of your own home and land. I am God in Mexico and God everywhere else. I am with you wherever you are and will protect you in foreign lands as well as at home.” It was a moment I won’t forget. In that dialogue the Lord broadened my horizons, He expanded my borders, He taught me the importance of His authority throughout creation, and my necessity to rely on Him. He brought peace to an anxious teenagers heart not because I deserved it or had earned it, but for no other reason than the simple fact that He loves us.

           He is the God of peace and He continues to be the source of peace in my life. Whenever anxiety makes its un-welcomed presence felt the only thing that has ever truly brought peace to my soul has been the Lord.

            Lately I’ve been feeling like He’s taking me back to that rooftop experience. I’ve felt the need and longing to be closer to Him. To be ever aware of His presence in each moment, to realize no matter what land I am in or if I’m feeling anxious or alone that He is with me and He still sits on the throne. His creation still must heed His word, regardless of what nation or land He speaks it in. 

Value

Photo: Gabby Domingues

Photo: Gabby Domingues

What is Christ’s presence worth to me? That’s what I’ve felt the Lord asking me lately. How much do I value the presence of the Lord in my life? I’ve become convinced that our success in life, our ability to love, and our purpose are all directly related to how much we value God’s presence. I think one could say that our lives are a reflection of what we value most, and I feel the Lord challenging me to evaluate how much His presence is worth in my life. When I first started surfing I dreamed of someday making it into the surf magazines. I thought if I could do that it would somehow validate my surfing and bring some fulfillment to my life. I pursued it with passion. I still remember the first time I saw myself in a major surf publication. I was ecstatic. I thought I had accomplished something significant. It lasted for about two days. I was ultimately left feeling unfulfilled and un-validated.

On the contrary, Jesus has proved to be the source of ultimate fulfillment and continual peace in my life. His presence literally changed everything for me. His presence is worthy of pursuing passionately.  

The Art of Being a Kook

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The following is an article I wrote a number of years ago regarding some of my life's less than finer moments. Hope you enjoy...

 

Don’t Act Like Your Not Impressed

            I’m a kook. It’s taken me a while to admit it, but to be honest, now that I have, it’s quite liberating. I’m not talking about skill level here; I’m talking about being an honest to goodness kook. I’m done pretending, and I’m done trying to hide it, I’ve just come to accept that I will never be very cool. I’m okay with that. It’s not a surprise to anyone who knows me. I have a resume listing my credentials as a kook that is quite impressive. I will divulge a few of them for you here.  Now just for the record, all of the following instances are true; I didn’t fabricate any of them.  Some are associated with surfing, some aren’t. I do not condone or condemn the following behaviors, just in case some readers may happen to practice them.

            To start with, when I first started surfing I used to wear a tank-top and swim-trunks under my wetsuit. I also used to walk to the water with my wetsuit half way down, wearing said attire, trying to impress the ladies. When I first started reading surf magazines I used to think Occy was pronounced the same as Aussie; I thought it was a sort of double meaning since he’s Australian. I also used to think that the Beach Boys were core surf music. I’d cruise to the beach listening to “Surfin’ Surfari” thinking about ‘catching a wave and sitting on top of the world.’ A few winters ago on the North Shore I took a BZ longboard out at Chuns Reef to goof around on and proceeded to get sucked over the falls with it, completely burning Bonga Perkins in the process. Luckily I think he was more amused than upset. I went in shortly after that. Further more, I once tried to “shoot” a couple pilings at my local pier, only to wuss out at the last second which resulted in bear-hugging a piling and dinging my board. Luckily a bruised ego was the only injury I incurred. 

            These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. I’ll continue. I once took a vegetarian on a date to a steakhouse. Another time on a surf trip with some friends, we stayed at my buddies’ parents’ house. Well I don’t know if it was because I was exhausted from all the surf we were scoring, but one night I peed in my pants while sleeping. Did I mention I was 23 years old when that happened? Okay, that one is a little embarrassing.

            I could go on and on; the examples seem endless. Like the time I asked a girl on a date to the city “recycling center,” aka the trash dump; or the time I made a joke about losing my job in a room full of teachers who had actually lost their jobs. But I digress. I’ve presented here only a handful of my life’s less than finest moments, so what’s my point? Well, I guess that I’m saying we’ve all been kooks at some point in our lives, for me at many points in life. So if you’re a kook, don’t be embarrassed, you are not alone. For every glamorous poster child out there in the line-up, there are a dozen kooks like me listening to the Beach Boys, talking about how much Mark “Aussielupo” rips. I may not be the coolest guy in the parking lot, but I sure have fun surfing. And some of the most magical days of surfing I’ve ever experienced were those in the beginning, before I knew any better, when I used to walk to the water’s edge with my wetsuit half down and my tank-top on. And all those embarrassing kook moments make for some good stories and better laughs down life’s road. I guess all I’m really saying is let’s not take ourselves too seriously; we all need a little grace.     

(Originally published on www.theinertia.com)         

Yoke

I trusted the sign and took the long way around.

I trusted the sign and took the long way around.

“My yoke is easy and My burden is light”—Jesus, Matthew 11:30

These days everyone seems to be in frenzy, dissatisfied, searching for something of substance. There’s unrest everywhere. So what are we to do about it? Believe it or not, the current problems facing humanity are not unique to our times. And the truths that Jesus spoke two thousand years ago still remain and prove just as essential to our reality as they did to His listeners back then.

The concept of a yoke was quite significant in Jesus’ day. A yoke was not only an agricultural tool, but when it came to religious matters a yoke was a Rabbi’s interpretation of the Scriptures. Israel had various Rabbis’ and they usually came out of two schools of thought. The Rabbi’s of the day burdened the people with laws and regulations and condemnation. What Jesus was telling His listeners was that if they believed in Him they would actually find rest for their souls instead of more weight because His yoke was easy and His burden light. Jesus interpreted Scripture through the nature of God; we will get a different perspective and find out that peace and rest are actually attainable if we will follow Jesus. Scripture was intended to lift the burden and bring life and rest to the soul. 

Imagination

Places like this one often speak much louder to me than words do.

Places like this one often speak much louder to me than words do.

Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these things…Isaiah 40:26

 

Oswald Chambers says in regard to Isaiah’s command to lift our eyes to the heavens, “The people of God in Isaiah’s time had blinded their minds’ ability to see God by looking on the face of idols. But Isaiah made them look up at the heavens; that is, he made them begin to use their power to think and to visualize correctly. If we are children of God, we have a tremendous treasure in nature and will realize that it is holy and sacred. We will see God reaching out to us in every wind that blows, every sunrise and sunset, every cloud in the sky, every flower that blooms, and every leaf that fades…The real test of spiritual focus is being able to bring your mind and thoughts under control. Is your mind focused on the face of an idol? Is the idol yourself? Is it your work? Is it your idea of what a servant should be, or maybe your experience of salvation and sanctification? If so, then your ability to see God is blinded….If your power to see has been blinded, don’t look back on your own experiences, but look to God”

 

Chambers calls this ability to see God’s fingerprints in His creation “sanctifying our imagination.” Recently I’ve felt the Lord remind me not to let my vision dwindle. But if we want to maintain longevity in vision, it will require sanctifying our imagination. Chambers doesn’t mean we pretend to see God, he means we respond to the countless number of ways God reveals Himself on a daily basis. His creation provides a timeless testimony of His love and existence for those who are willing to look.

Astrophysicist and author Ethan Siegel, said this, “When you put it all together, it means the most astounding fact about the Universe is this: that it exists in such a way that it can be understood at all.” Ethan Siegel, as far as I know, is not a Christian. But he brings up an excellent point. The fact that creation exists in an understandable way (that it has laws of nature and mathematical equations that bring a uniformity to it and keep it from being utterly chaotic) testifies to the fact that God has designed His creation in such a way so as to lead us to Himself. His creation declares Him to us. We can receive His testimony or we can reject it, but it would be a tragedy to ignore it; at the very least it deserves a response. 

In His Presence Devotional

My second book, In His Presence: Thirty Contemplations From Walking With Jesus, is a thirty-day devotional that is now available! Order a copy here in the store section or head over to Amazon.

My second book, In His Presence: Thirty Contemplations From Walking With Jesus, is a thirty-day devotional that is now available! Order a copy here in the store section or head over to Amazon.

In His Presence: Thirty Contemplations From Walking With Jesus is my second book release. It is a thirty-day devotional and is now available. Below is an excerpt from it. Get a copy in the store section or head to Amazon/Amazon Kindle to order a copy. I hope it is encouraging. I can't thank everyone enough for the continued support that allows me to do what I do. 

 

Excerpt from In His Presence:

When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land. Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them. But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.”

Mark 6:47-50

When God calls us to something, it doesn’t necessarily mean smooth sailing. When the disciples arrived on the other side of the sea, there was a tremendous amount of ministry that took place. One could even call it a revival (Mark 6:54-56). But before that could take place, the disciples had to weather the storm that lay between them and that time of breakthrough. When we purpose in our heart to follow the Lord, we can expect to be met with storms along the way. But it is key to remember that we cannot accomplish in the flesh what God has called us to; we must rely on His Spirit to accomplish it. To try to accomplish His purposes in our own power is akin to trying to row a boat through a storm—you will get nowhere and eventually become exhausted. The other mistake the disciples made was forgetting to look for Jesus in the midst of their storm. We often pray and plead for the storm to pass, but we forget to look for Jesus’s comforting presence in the midst of the storm. It’s His presence that enables us to walk upon the waves of the storm, and it’s His presence that is capable of silencing the storm altogether. 

 

Timing

Thankful for moments of peace.

Thankful for moments of peace.

The Lord’s timing is perfect. I know that sentence is quoted so much it has become almost cliché. But I was reminded of the truth of it this past month as I visited my grandma. I had planned to visit her for a few days but on the day I arrived she was admitted to the ER for symptoms of a stroke. The doctors determined that although she would need assistance she would be ok, so they released her that evening. But since she lives alone she was in need of a lot of help while recovering. I was able to extend my stay to help her for a couple weeks. At 94-years-old I know she doesn’t have a whole lot of time left on this earth so I’m grateful for the extra time I got to spend with her.

One thing the incident did for me was it reminded me of how short life is and how real eternity is. The more I see what’s unfolding on the global stage the more I’m convinced that “today is the day of salvation.” I feel as though the Lord has been challenging me to keep my perspective eternal, to place proper value on that which is of eternal significance.

I’m extremely excited about my upcoming speaking tour through New Zealand in September. We live in a time when peace, purpose, and hope seem to be rare in people’s lives. I’m so grateful to get to share about Jesus and the peace, purpose, and hope that He brings in times such as these. 

The Mother Teresa of Surf Gear

The life of a board bag. Nicaragua 2011. Photo: Chris Burkard

The life of a board bag. Nicaragua 2011. Photo: Chris Burkard

I’ve found in life that it is often the things that go unnoticed and underappreciated that have the most impact. Whether it is kindness from a stranger or the leash string that attaches your board to your leash, it’s often the little things that count. Take for example my board bag. I never would have thought that such a forgettable piece of equipment could mean so much to me. When I first started surfing I didn’t even consider owning one. But as I got more involved in riding waves and realized how precious a good board is, I wanted to protect my prized surfing possession, so I invested in a board bag. I had no idea it would end up being much more than just a surfboard transporter.

It wasn’t until I sat down to write this that I realized what a significant part of my surfing life my board bags have played. They have literally been there with me on every surf trip I’ve ever taken. On my first trip to Costa Rica my friends and I found ourselves getting denied at just about every hotel we went to. We finally found one that had a room available for us, but the only problem was the room didn’t have enough beds. Not to worry, my board bag made a perfectly comfortable bed. This would be the first of many nights that my board bag would double as a mattress. In Panama, when my Panamanian friend told us we could stay with him at his “rancho” we thought he meant his house. It turned out by “rancho” he simply meant we could camp on his land. Without any camping gear, once again my board bag proved an invaluable piece of equipment.

            On another occasion, my friend and I were taking a road trip along the Oregon and California coasts. Somewhere in Mendocino County we decided to save some money and just sleep on the beach instead of getting a campsite or hotel room. It didn’t seem like a big deal as we had a truck full of camping supplies. We went to sleep under a sky of countless stars. At some point in the middle of the night I awoke to dew soaking through my sleeping bag. I lay there thinking how I was too tired to put up my tent when I saw my board lying next to me in the sand. And just like that, the problem was solved. My board came out of the board bag and my sleeping bag and I crawled into it, a perfectly water resistant cocoon to get me through the night.

            Board bags aren’t just useful as a sleeping bag/mattress/tent. They make great makeshift tarps in scorching tropical sun when shade proves elusive. They also make perfect changing mats, and can even be used in place of a forgotten towel in a crowded parking lot when changing “au natural” is not an option. With all these other uses, it’s easy to forget their original purpose—to protect your valuable surfboard. The surfboard is arguably the most important piece of surfing equipment there is and the board bag protects it. The whole purpose of the board bag is to protect it. It’s kind of like the Secret Service for the surfboard—protect the board at all costs without any thought for itself. I know without a trusty board bag, my boards would be a lot worse for the wear and I’d have a lot more sleepless nights on surf trips. The board bag does all this without any hoopla or demand for recognition; it puts the surfboard’s welfare before its own. Mother Teresa once said, “It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” Who would have thought my board bag could teach me such a lesson. 

(Originally published in DEEP Magazine)

Moments

I don't remember all the waves I've surfed in my life, but I certainly remember moments with cherished friends, moments like this one in Costa Rica, 2012. Photo: Josh Sparrow

I don't remember all the waves I've surfed in my life, but I certainly remember moments with cherished friends, moments like this one in Costa Rica, 2012. Photo: Josh Sparrow

Lately I’ve been constantly reminded of how fleeting life is. Blink and twenty years have passed. Things that we are programmed to think are important in reality don’t make a difference in this world. Nobody can rely on how much material wealth they’ve collected in life when it’s time to depart this world. Nobody can boast about his or her professional achievements from the grave. What I believe are of the utmost value in this life are the little moments, those seemingly insignificant moments that often go unnoticed but have the power to change someone’s life. Those moments when we connect with someone on a personal level, those moments when we forget about pretense and we just enjoy a conversation, those moments we stop and realize what an amazing creation we live amongst, those moments we realize the most important things in life are relationships. Relationship with God, relationship with each other, these are the only things that will still last beyond the grave. These are the things I need to cherish and prioritize in my life.