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 the mission organization Surfing The Nations (STN) 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 STN (lead by it’s founder Tom Bauer) saw an opportunity for God to change a community. STN bought that pornography shop, gutted it, and rebuilt in its place their mission headquarters. They opened a coffee shop, vintage shop, and are highly involved in the community. 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 with STN this weekend during their church service. To be honest, it’s a humbling opportunity. I’m inspired by STN and their steadfast commitment to Jesus. I’ve found much inspiration from Tom and the team at STN over the years. One thing I know STN 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.   

Water

Part of Ireland's charm.

Part of Ireland's charm.

There is something indescribable about water. I’ve often wondered at the role it has played in my life. I grew up about 20 minutes inland in a small farming town called Orcutt, and as a result I didn’t start surfing until I was in my late teens. As a kid my folks would take our family on trips to the mountains where I would spend most of my time around the water: be it lakes, rivers, or ponds. As long as I can remember water has always fascinated me. Even today I can spend hours by a river just listening to the sound of it, watching its flow.

            When I started surfing my focus turned to the sea. I quit organized sports and spent the majority of my free time in search of waves. Camping trips to the mountains were replaced by surf trips up and down the coast. My love for nature found a fresh outlet in surfing. The first time I caught a wave and rode down the line it was a stormy and miserable day. Just when I was about to go in out of frustration, I caught the wave that cemented my love for the sea and for surfing. As most first rides go it was nothing too extraordinary, but in that instant I felt an overwhelming excitement and sense of accomplishment. I knew from then on I was a surfer.

            Sometimes I find it strange that I ended up loving the ocean so much. It almost took my life when I was about five. Whether I was too young to remember or because my mind instinctively blocked the incident, I can’t quite recollect what happened. But as the story goes by those who were there, my family and I were enjoying a sunny day at the beach when a surge of water caught me and began to sweep me out to sea. Thankfully my brother saw what happened and was able to rescue me before I drowned. Perhaps the incident helped to foster the fascination with water that has been with me as long as I can recall. Perhaps the incident instilled in me the respect and awe I still feel toward the ocean. Perhaps I’m making too much of the incident altogether.

            What I know for certain though is the importance water plays in all of our lives. It’s essential to our existence. When I immerse myself in the ocean there is something in me that is renewed. I feel at ease and yet alert simultaneously. The affect the sea has on me is tough to sum up with words. I don’t want to romanticize it too much; after all it is simply but one aspect of creation in a world full of all kinds of beautiful and powerfully moving nature. But if I may take some liberty here, I will make a conjecture as to why the sea speaks to my soul so profoundly at times. For me the reason can be found in a simple Scripture verse in the book of Genesis. Chapter 1 verse 2 says, “…the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.”

            Again, I don’t want to over romanticize anything here. I’m not saying water is God; I’m not saying the ocean is God; and I’m not saying nature is God. I guess all I’m saying is that perhaps in nature, in the sea, I feel or experience some sort of characteristic of the Divine and that is why it speaks so wonderfully to me. That is why I can sit along a riverbank or at the ocean’s edge to simply watch and listen, and be content. I’m sure many will disagree with me, and that’s fine; I’m not trying to persuade anyone. I’m just grateful that I get to enjoy something as special as surfing and hopefully the sea will continue to speak to me for many years to come.     

(Originally published in DEEP Magazine)

Supernatural

Ireland 2016.

Ireland 2016.

Years ago a surf magazine asked me to write an article about the supernatural and surfing. This is what I had to say on the subject:

 

I remember sitting in the back of the cave with my head throbbing as the cave filled up with water. The tidal surge had caught me with my head down as I walked along the edge of the cliff-lined shore. By the time I realized what was happening it was too late. The wall of water had thrust me to the back of a cave that formed in the cliff’s side. The only thing I could think of to do before the impending impact was call out to God for help. And that’s exactly what I did, “God, help me!” I exclaimed. The next thing I remember after slamming my head against the back of the cave was looking out through a 12 inch gap of air between the cave’s ceiling and the water’s surface. As panic started to grip me, I felt myself being rushed toward the opening of the cave as the tidal surge retreated. Acting purely on instinct I swam as fast as I could with the current, and just as fast as I had been swept into the cave I was swept out of the cave. 

They say there is no such thing as an atheist in the impact zone. I’m not here to argue theology with anyone, but I think it’s safe to say that as surfers we’ve all experienced a power greater than us. Whether it’s getting slammed into a cave or getting pounded on a day we shouldn’t have paddled out on, we’ve probably all felt at the mercy of the ocean and it’s Maker at some point in our surfing lives. Waves, winds, tides: all that is nature. But the force that sets it all in motion, that shows us how mortal we are, now that is supernatural. I think it’s astounding that we get to experience as much as we do as surfers that most of society doesn’t get to experience.  I’m definitely not one to sit here and make a case for how religious or spiritual surfing is; I’m not really in that camp. I surf because it’s fun, you get to experience the beauty of nature, and quite simply I love it. But I will say that as a result of constantly being immersed in nature, I feel like I’ve had some supernatural experiences. Or maybe I should say I’ve had certain experiences in nature that have felt like they were a glimpse into the supernatural. Sort of like looking at something through binoculars; the object that seems so far off suddenly becomes much more visible. 

I guess it’s easy to find the supernatural in an experience like the one I had in the cave, when life in the natural is so close to being over. But what takes true grace is to be able to see the supernatural in something like a sunset, or a moonrise, or a dolphin surfing, or a kid stoked. 

 So does the supernatural and surfing go together? I don’t know, but it seems to me if we just look a little closer we can see glimpses of the supernatural all around us. I’m sure a lot of people will say I’m crazy; that’s alright with me, I won’t argue that. But I will end with this quote from Amelia Barr, one of the 19th Century’s most prolific female authors. Barr states, “Whatever the scientists may say, if we take the supernatural out of life, we leave only the unnatural.” 

Steadfast Companionship

An unforgettable session in Central America. Thankful for the companionship of Jesus in my life. Photo: Daniel Looman

An unforgettable session in Central America. Thankful for the companionship of Jesus in my life. Photo: Daniel Looman

“for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”  II Timothy 1: 12b

In my opinion, this verse is one of the most telling verses in all of the New Testament. It's one of Paul’s last earthly writings and in it he discloses to us the root of his steadfastness. He didn’t just believe in Jesus, he knew Him. It was this close relationship with Jesus that would sustain Paul in one of the loneliest times of his life. He goes on to say in his second letter to Timothy that when he was put on trial for the sake of the gospel, not one person stood by his side but all deserted him. It’s sad to think that after all Paul had done, all the people he served and ministered to, not one of them stood by him in support. But it did not affect Paul in the least, he says, “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me” (II Timothy 4:17). Paul’s steadfast faith was a result of his intimate relationship with Christ. All his needs were met in the person of Jesus, whether they were companionship, support, strength or whatever else he faced in life. He looked only to Jesus.  And we can have the same type of relationship with Christ as Paul did. Jesus is eager to reveal Himself to those who desire to know Him. 

 

When Oceans Rise

The northwestern-most point of land in the continental US. 

The northwestern-most point of land in the continental US. 

Religion can’t speak to a person’s heart, or remove a person’s guilt, or cleanse a person’s conscience, or bless a person’s life. But a relationship with Jesus does. When I found myself trapped in that cave it wasn’t religion or piety that saved me, it was God. When I sat in that prayer chapel hopeless and lonely, it wasn’t a code of ethics or a list of good deeds that comforted my soul and lifted me out of the depression of loneliness, it was God. And when I finally found peace and fulfillment in this life, it wasn’t from following a set of regulations or from achieving a desired social status; it was from finally starting a real and heartfelt relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus is offering something that no religion or person in this world can offer, He is offering hope; and His hope will not disappoint. --excerpt from When Oceans Rise

 

Nature

One of my favorite stretches of coastline. Photo: Chris Burkard

One of my favorite stretches of coastline. Photo: Chris Burkard

After our surf, as I was changing I began contemplating the pull this stretch of coastline has on me when I caught a whiff of some sage blowing through the air. It’s funny the way smells can trigger memories, and suddenly I remembered past trips along this coastline. I pulled my beanie down and headed back to the car. We checked probably a dozen spots before we ended up here, at this ordinary beach break, only to surf for about an hour. We’d end up spending more time in the car than in the water that day. But it didn't matter. 

For all the peace and comfort I feel in nature’s embrace it can never truly satisfy the longing deep inside of me. Nature gives utterance to the longing, but she doesn’t satisfy it; only One can do that. To truly know nature is to see fingerprints and to hear whispers; it’s to receive a testimony.

As we loaded our gear in the car and began to drive away I rolled down my window for a second. That’s when I smelled it again, crisp and invigorating. It was nature, and I was content. 

Think Differently

A Welsh line-up with no one out to enjoy it. 

A Welsh line-up with no one out to enjoy it. 

I find it interesting that one of the first things Jesus began to teach when He started His ministry was in order to understand the way God works and in order to live a life of peace we have to change the way we think. We can’t think the way the world thinks. God’s kingdom and the kingdoms of this world are contrary to each other. This has been extremely apparent to me lately as I watch what is unfolding on the global stage. It is easy to get upset. There are times I’d rather have a bowling ball dropped on my foot than listen to some of the nonsense social media and the news feeds us. We are inundated with information, much of it twisted to advance an agenda. It is downright discouraging at times. Why can’t people with opposing views maintain a level of civility toward each other? With so many voices shouting as loud as they can to be heard, getting angry and aggressive when disagreed with, it almost feels too overwhelming to deal with.

But then the Lord reminds me I have to think differently. For all the violence and hopelessness that gets highlighted around the globe, there are countless acts of love and kindness taking place every second. It’s these I need to promote and foster, it’s these that deserve my attention. As I said in my last post, I’m not trying to feign naivety or neglect the pursuit of justice; I just don’t want my life to be consumed by the wrong things. I want to think differently from the way this world does.  

Disappointment

Photo by: Chris Burkard

Photo by: Chris Burkard

Disappointment can be hard to deal with. It often strikes us at our core. The thing we’ve hoped for, longed for, even prayed for doesn’t come to fruition and suddenly we are struck with the pains of disappointment. We wonder where God was in it all, we question if we heard Him correctly, and we struggle with what to do next in light of the disappointment. If you are human then you will most assuredly experience disappointment. But it doesn’t have to consume us; it doesn’t have to spiral us into despair.

Lately I’ve felt the Lord challenge me to be thankful in all circumstances, to be a glass half-full kind of guy. It’s not easy, that’s for sure. But the reality is that even in the direst circumstances I have something to be thankful for. This isn’t to minimize or trivialize anyone’s hardships, and I’m not trying to feign naivety at the reality of the pain that is out there. It’s more an attempt at living in the reality of the hope that is found in Jesus; that even on my worst day realizing God loves me and is with me in the midst of the trial. He is our comforter. Greater still is the fact that He is a good God with only good intentions and even though it might not seem like it in our present reality His purpose will be accomplished. We can trust His purpose is good because He is a good God. And when I’m tempted to doubt that fact I need only remember the cross.