Surprise Birthday Discoveries

Yesterday was my birthday.   Bill and our daughter Molly, who is living with us this summer, made it unique and special;  surprising me all day long with their plans. We awoke to our alarms at 5:30 am because we had a date to go high in the sky!  Our mode of transportation wasn’t an airplane, but a hot air balloon.  It was great fun to climb into a giant basket with 6 other people and watch our balloon driver blast the hot air flames causing us to rise above the ground.  We ended up 2,500 feet in altitude, high enough to see the full landscape of Sonoma County.

Vinyards surrounded us on every side.  They filled the hillsides, the valleys, and very often the front yards of family homes.  It’s a beautiful site; especially since the grapevines are in their fullest form at this time of year. They await their harvest just weeks away.

I started to think about how the identity of Sonoma County has changed in recent years.

It was once a very rural place; filled with dairy cows and apple orchards.  Today it is filled with two different types of people:  the spiritual seekers and the sophisticated wine industry.  It often feels like a dichotomy to me: the interests and the pursuits are vastly different; but somehow the eclectic dynamic works to make Sonoma County an interesting place to live.

My identity is also changing as I enter into my new subculture.

I entered California as a one who is passionate about Jesus; and very intent on serving him with everything within me. However, the role in which I have served him has been as pastor; as one who serves him within ministry.  As you probably already realize, shortly after I arrived, the Lord invited and engineered a sabbatical for me, a big surprise!

As the quiet days rolled by, one after another, I sensed his invitation over and over to enjoy his good gifts.  In fact, at one point, he was quite insistent that if I needed to have “work,” it was to enjoy and acknowledge his good gifts.  Many of his gifts were a great surprise:  trees filled with bounties of fruit harvest, an abundant of lavender waving in the wind and bringing its wonderful aroma, a new puppy which can’t help but make me laugh, gifts of just laid eggs from a neighbor, a bottle of incredible wine shared with a new friend, leisurely weekend mornings to waste time with Bill; a luxury we haven’t had for too long.

The list is long….

As my radar for recognizing these good gifts increased, I began to appreciate even the little things:  the sound of birds chirping in the morning, butterflies skipping around our yard, a simple hello from a stranger, a phone call from a distant friend.

Here’s my point.  I made it a discipline to spend time listening to the Lord on my birthdays to hear his goals for the coming year.  It was all about “what I would do.”  But, as the days of my sabbatical come to a close, the difference in me is that this year, my only goal is to continue to recognize and enjoy his good gifts.

Knowing I have an invitation, a call even, to enjoy God and his good gifts, is changing me and it’s changing my understanding of my Heavenly Father’s character.  I am able to revel in his love in a greater way.  I am able to embrace living as his child, in a healthy family, where the children are expected to have fun.  I am able to experience his tender touch, his gentle ways through the breezes which rise up un-expectantly.  Most of all, I am learning to rest in the place of doing.  My “being” is increasing while my doing is coming down, so they are in much better balance.

Jesus speaks to this in John 15.  He even took his disciples to the vinyards in Galilee.  He showed them the vines and the branches.  He spoke to them about the rhythm grapes have in going dormant, even dying, and the beauty of coming to life, all the while attached to the vine.  Eventually, the grapes are ready to harvest new wine.

When the new wine flows, everyone celebrates.  I am celebrating the new wine of my life; an identity deepened by the depth of my Heavenly Father’s unconditional love for me, and a realization of his first and foremost “job” for me is to enjoy him and the good gifts he brings into my life.

I wonder now, how are you enjoying God?  What space are you making to enjoy his good gifts in your life?  Where do you want to make adjustments in your thoughts and time to prioritize “God’s good gifts” in your life?