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Normal Life – Wk. 1

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In a culture that oversells, overvalues, and overplays the thrill-a-minute adventure, “normal” is just, well, . . . normal.  Bland. Ordinary.  And who wants a boring, normal, ordinary life?

I do.

After being in Spain for a month-long adventure and sabbatical of a lifetime, where I hiked over mountains, traversed through valleys and saw amazing sights of Romanesque and Baroque architecture, I was due for a little “normal.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I love adventure and excitement.  But I don’t want to live there . . . every day. . . nonstop.  We were not created to sustain a 100-mile pace and 120-heartbeats per minute.  We were created to live in balance, rhythm, and with a healthy pace.  In other words, we were created to live in the normal, accentuated with moments of adrenaline, not the other way around. 

I like my normal bed, my normal house, my normal job, and my normal, old, 2000 Toyota Sienna.  I like my daily routine of devotions and prayer and then getting to my normal office, grabbing a normal cup of coffee, and then easing into my normal work of study, meetings, planning, and “visioning.” 

Ned Campbell, my friend and Servant Leader of our Men’s Ministry, told me that when you climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Kenya, you can only stay at the top of the 19,341 peak for fifteen or twenty minutes, due to the lack of oxygen.  It’s exhilarating, I’m sure, to make it to the top, but you can’t live there.  Why not? Because that’s not normal. 

The mountain-top experience is meant to be just that, an experience.  But your day-to-day life is not lived on the mountain-top, and I venture to say, it shouldn’t be lived in the valley either.  Both are momentary stops, not everyday life.  Normal, day-to-day life is lived on the trail, the in-between, where sometimes you’re going up, and sometimes you’re going down. Sometimes you need to stop and rest. And sometimes you just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  But that’s normal.  And that’s okay.

The Psalms are full of reminders of how we are to live life and find joy in the day-to-day and not just in moments of grand adventure.  “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night” (Psalm 92:1-2).  “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1).

Why don’t you take a moment right now and give thanks to God that you don’t always have to pursue the next best thing, the greatest thrill, and the grandest adventure in order to satisfy your soul?  Thank Him that He shows up with you in the normal moments of your normal life.

“God does not always speak in the thunder and lightning.  God often speaks in the still and silence” (Eugene Cho, Overrated, 186).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Sabbaticalogue Wk. 13 - It is Finished, and Jesus is Lord

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There’s an old song we used to sing in a small country church where I preached years ago. The chorus goes,

“It is finished, the battle is over.
It is finished there’ll be no more war.
It is finished, the end of the conflict.
It is finished, and Jesus is Lord!”

As I walked the final 100 yards of the Camino and turned left onto the open plaza that sits in the shadow of the mighty Santiago Cathedral, I began to sing that song loudly and proudly.

It is finished, the Camino is over.
It is finished the pain will be gone.
It is finished, there’ll be no more walking.
It is finished, for Jesus has won!

Last week I wrote that I would most likely be emotional when I entered Santiago, but I wasn’t. I hurt too much, it was hot, and Santiago, like any busy city, was crowded. It wasn’t until the next day when I broke out of my routine—get up, repack, eat a quick breakfast, walk, walk, and then walk some more, check into the next hostel, clean up, eat, rest, sleep, repeat—that it started to sink in. Instead of walking to the next town, I walked through the old district of Santiago. When I stepped into a store and looked at all the souvenirs and Camino memorabilia, all of a sudden, a wave of emotion washed over me. Tears started to trickle down my cheeks, and I had to get out of the store. The clerk probably thought I had some sticker shock that hit me so hard I started to cry.

What made the last two days of rest in Santiago so special was not touring the city, visiting the impressive cathedral and its museum. What made these past two days so special was being reunited with friends when they turned the corner and entered the Cathedral Plaza. I ran into Maurizio, who helped me my first day of walking when I didn’t think I could go on.  He barely speaks any English, and I definitely don’t speak Italian, so we hadn’t said more than five words to each other the few times we walked together. We lost track of each other the last two weeks of the Camino, but when we saw each other in the Cathedral Plaza, you would have thought we were best friends since grade school.

I walked the last few days with a wonderful group of fellow pilgrims—one from Germany (our fearless leader), two Italians (who made sure we always stopped for “second-breakfast” each day), a Korean (who took pictures of every meal set in front of him to send to his sister back home), and an American from San Francisco (who rescued me by letting me borrow his walking sticks).

Monday night we had a farewell dinner, walked to a nearby park, and after sharing some final stories and laughs, we hugged each other goodbye.  I’m glad it was dark when I walked away because, for the man who doesn’t cry, I had two “moments” in two days.

What made the Camino special for me was not the Santiago Cathedral. I’ve seen a lot of massive cathedrals throughout Europe. It wasn’t the beautiful countryside I experienced as I journeyed across Spain. There are many breathtaking panoramas in every country I’ve visited. What made the Camino so special we’re two things: (1) having such long, uninterrupted periods of time with Jesus, and (2) having such long, uninterrupted periods of time with new friends. 

I bought a t-shirt in one of the souvenir shops (and I didn’t even cry) that says, “Never walk alone.” Sometimes I think we need to walk alone for reflection and contemplation, but I agree with the overall premise. I learned from personal experience that walking alone can be dangerous. Walking alone can be frightening—especially at 4:30 in the morning when it’s pitch black, and you wind up getting lost. And when you walk alone, you miss out on the joy of friendship. 

At the end of this long Camino called life, I picture arriving in heaven, and after being in awe of the true, eternal cathedral of God’s presence, we will look around through tears of jubilant celebration as we run to hug our fellow pilgrims and shout out, 

“It is finished, the battle is over!
It is finished, there’ll be no more war.
It is finished, the end of the conflict.
It is finished, and Jesus is Lord!”

Until then, let’s keep walking...together.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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