Writing is an act that assists in the efforts toward balance. And it’s beginning to look a lot like August!
A few church members are finding out about my blog, and I welcome them — and more — to these pages. I don’t say much here about my work. Sometimes I mention it, but the general absence is intentional. This is a personal journal of some items and events that help me stay focused on what is really important…or what makes me wonder. It is not a blog by Rev. Patterson, but a blog by Steve, a Jesus-follower guy who loves life and real people. I hope my new readers will find something here that touches real places within them, and that they will add their commentary when it feels right.
Come in. Have a seat. Let’s immerse ourselves in something profound, or funny, or silently, incomprehensibly Christlike between us.
It is primarily nature-based and originates from someplace in the Carolinas. The author goes by the name of Cedrorum, and his educational insights about natural events and entities are worth reading. I think you’ll enjoy Mutual Causality.
I would like to bring you in on an underscored necessity of my life as a follower of Christ. About six years ago I wrote a sermon entitled Achieve New Balance and have been blessed to present it for several different churches. I won’t repeat the whole sermon here, but the primary thrust of it comes in the form of a visual illustration. It is so much more difficult to describe a sermon than it is to preach one, but I’ll try, because the truth of it continues to show itself crucial. And I’ve come to realize that there may be some who misunderstand what balance is.
Imagine or perform this task: Take an umbrella and hold it horizontally. Place a finger or the edge of your hand under the middle of it, and try to balance it. It’s difficult. Imagine that at one end are the interests of Christ, and at the other end are the interests of the world or self, and this is what you’re tring to balance. Good luck! The two ends moving in opposite directions with your finger as the pivot are hard to control. Even if you do get the two sides to behave and stay horizontal, a slight movement will upset the arrangement and it starts to topple again.
The problem is that we forget a mighty-but-quiet truth that John (the Baptizer) taught anyone who happened to be listening. John 3:30 — “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Go back to that umbrella that you were trying to balance. Pick it up and hold it horizontally again. Imagine again that the issues and interests of Christ are at the handle end and the issues of self interest are at the opposite tip end. Now, physically apply John’s declaration to it. Raise (increase) the handle end up, while lowering (decreasing) the tip end. The umbrella remains increasingly unstable UNTIL the instrument is completely vertical. Place your finger under the tip end, and you can hold the umbrella in balance like that all day long! A pictoral of a Christian’s life in balance would look like this umbrella — the character of Christ taking full precedence above the values of this world and interests of self.
Now, take your eyes away from Christ at the top and watch the bottom end of the umbrella where your own stuff is. What happens? The umbrella keeps moving but you can’t see the movement until the fall is too far to stop. Only when the eyes remain on the top can the finger holding the bottom react to the movement and keep the device in balance. But the bottom must move with the top, staying underneath, submitted, or the thing comes crashing down.
The way we are built, we cannot look two places at one time (and similarly the heart cannot love/serve two masters). While the umbrella is horizontal, we can only occupy ourselves with the interests of Christ or with the interests of the world; it can’t be both. And even if balance could be achieved in this position, the visual message it gives is that Christ and self/world are on the same level of importance — not a pleasing statement to a God who wants no competitors! When the umbrella goes vertical, our attention to Christ at the top takes care of the entire outfit. Balance is achieved when we watch the promises of Christ rather than the insecurities of self.
That’s what balance is. It’s about the top and Who occupies it. It’s not about right or left. It’s not remotely related to political correctness. I like the fact that my particular denomination has been referred to as occupying the “extreme center.” (Not that it’s always true, but it sure sounds good.) Nothing is more extreme than balance, and balance can only be known if Christ is at the center of one’s vision, trust, aspiration, passion, ethics, action.
This is balance, not some tippy equalibrium that is obliterated by movement…but an upright, eye-locking dance that thrives in movement. It is kinetic and cathartic, holy and devastating, astringently disallowing the greasy grip of religion any hold that would choke away the Spirit’s breath. He must increase, but I must decrease. Anything else is not balance for a Christian. And anything not balanced is a faith too off-center and scary for me.
No, it’s not a perfect illustration, but that’s good, because then it might be an idol. And too many of those already hound gentle souls who are just trying to follow.
Thank you for reading. Allow me to clarify further if I’ve raised additional questions.
Something happened yesterday that had not happened in a long time: I did not write in my journal. For 935 consecutive days, I wrote in my black Moleskine notebook, filling several along the way. But yesterday, I did not.
What began as an attempt to journal something every day of the year stretched to more than two-and-a-half years. During previous attempts, a calendar year would go by with two or three or just one day unrepresented by something written.
Usually when I have missed a day like that, it happens because of something good distracting me from the pattern of the pen. And I notice it with a small jolt soon after midnight. That’s the way it was on December 25, 2005, the last time I missed. I became aware of the lost entry at 12:12 AM on Dec. 26. And I noticed yesterday’s miss at 12:14 AM today.
So what was the good thing that distracted me from the habit? It was a day full of diverse activity — church work and personal errands. Lunch at home rather than on the road cost me a usual writing moment. During the evening — another time when journaling gets its chance — I decided to watch episode 3 of Lonesome Dove, borrowed from a friend church member who declares it the best western ever made. As I watched, I paused for a phone call from my sister, Jill, and that fun conversation lasted a long while. Later, a little deeper into the movie, Victor called, and we hunkered around our usual subjects of disc golf, computers, non-standard music, and people encounters. All of that still left me plenty of time to write, as I remarked to him that it was 11:00 before saying goodnight. But the movie came back on, and I was back in the dust and spirit of Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana.
So I missed. And I laughed about it. Because I was full enough to not notice the time.
It was Oak Island, North Carolina, July 4, and the tide was low.
Popular place + holiday people + less water = heavy wave action.
Having to keep close to shore to stay out of the motorboat lanes, our paddles were often scraping the bottom. Also, because we were in such shallow water, when someone may or may not have flipped over while trying to splash the other paddler, getting back in was not too difficult for her.
I’m still enjoying the Q700X. The rudder cable (cord) is wearing and may have to be replaced soon. If you have any questions about my kayak or the QCC experience, write and ask, or just click on the QCC link in the right sidebar.