Unforced Rhythms of Grace

There's something deeply appealing about the last hour of the day at a Brisbane Theme Park. We spent six out of our eight days' family holiday on the Gold Coast at a number of these places and stored up some great memories of quality time with the five grandkids and their parents, their uncle, and three second cousins. Opening time, at least in spring, is ten o'clock and closing is usually about five. The hour between four and five was quite different from the busyness of the earlier hours of the day. Not only have the queues dwindled down to a trickle, but you have worked out what rides or activities you really enjoy and you can line up several times in a row. My favourite at Dreamworld was the River Rafts; it was mildly exciting and you did get a bit wet but I wasn't freaked out as I am on roller coasters, (even of the kiddie variety which is the most challenging you'll get me onto). On our last day at our last theme park - Seaworld - the kids discovered a gentle bouncy ride with a Big Bird Theme. Despite Nathan's initial reluctance, cousin Adam encouraged him to join him and the girls and they ended up having about six consecutive rides, by just running round to the beginning again. Even the Mums used that lazy time of the day to embark on some rides they hadn't summoned up the courage for when the crowds were around.

My God moment on that last day was realising how that mellow, relaxed mood of the end of the day connected with Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of Jesus' words in Matthew 11 about walking with him in the "unforced rhythms of grace". I spent time saying thanks for the kind of relationship into which Jesus invites those who want to walk with him:

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." (Matthew 11:28-30, MSG)

Then disaster struck. One day into Ric's and my five-day romantic break at Mission Beach in north Queensland, my laptop computer crashed and efforts to reboot it failed. I spent a tearful night worrying frantically about what this might mean and regretting my failure to do regular backups. But then my left brain kicked in and I started to talk myself into "living freely and lightly" like I had in those times in the late afternoon at Dreamworld. After all, there was nothing I could do about it from Australia, and why should I let this ruin my holiday? We had a lovely time sightseeing and dining out and reading and sleeping. Each time the black cloud of gloom and anxiety threatend to descend, I consciously turned my thoughts to those unforced rhythms of grace Jesus offers, and my feelings fell into line. Self administered cognitive therapy, which the Bible calls "the renewing of our mind" (Romans 12:2).

That turned out to be a good spiritual discipline to practise, because when I got back to Auckland I learned that the Hard Drive had failed, and that attempts at data recovery were expensive and by no means guaranteed of results. Still, we tried, and several weeks and two forensic computer companies later, the news is bleak. Completely fried - cause unknown. And even the most recent back-ups I had made some months ago turned out to be useless becasuse I had copied the wrong drive. The implications of losing 14 months of sermons and powerpoints, photos and music, emails and GST records were mindblowing. Losing data is a grief experience. But with the help of the Spirit of Jesus, I have (mostly) been able to remain in that zone of living freely and lightly. After all, I still have the brain that wrote those sermons. I still have the grandchildren whose pictures I have lost. And clearing out 14 months of emails tagged for followup is remarkably freeing!

Another of Eugene Peterson's insightful paraphrases has become a go-to place.
Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Phil 4: 6 - 7)

To Chew Over: Where do you "go to" when grief and bitterness threaten to engulf you?

Walk with me through the long and lonely night;
Walk with me, and my world is filled with light.
Here I stand, feeling lost and so alone.
Take my hand; don't desert me now,
Please don't hurt me now.
If you walk with me, though I know the road is long,
I'll get by, with your love to make me strong.
More by far than a guiding star above,
I long for you; walk with me, oh my love.
The Seekers.