Monday, May 23, 2011

"You Will Find Me" Andrew Ripp

     Whenever I start writing an update, I’m never entirely sure what I’m going to be writing. So much of what I am experiencing in New Zealand is God working in my own heart, uprooting weeds and planting new seeds. I feel like my heart is in a constant construction zone.
And for the most part, I love it.
But a lot of the construction is hard to communicate through words, so to make things easy, let me give you a several details about life at the moment.

1.The Pa’us and I are finishing off the last of the Easter candy my mom sent me a few weeks ago. We are all grateful for the delicious Knoxville chocolates!
2. I spent this past weekend at the beach with the Pa’us to celebrate mother’s day. Spending some time out of Naenae was very refreshing. I got to swim in the pacific ocean twice! (yes, it was cold)
3. Mary, Dave, Joe, and Marvie (my sister, her husband, my brother, his wife) are coming to visit me in 16 days. YAAAAAAAY!
4. I coached my first soccer game last week- 9 players showed up. It was ok though, because only 9 players showed up from the other team : ) We tied 0-0. Yesterday we had our second game. I had 11 players! We tied the best team in the league 0-0. I guess we’ll be working on some more shooting at practice…. I absolutely adore my team. I see how they are starting to respond to me, their coach. They haven’t had a coach that cared about teaching them soccer skills or cared about them as individuals in years. They are so hungry for someone to notice them, and I love noticing them and loving on them! Thank you God for this soccer team!
5. I am coordinating and leading a program (in New Zealand, program is spelled programme, just so you know) for a local middle school: Naenae Intermediate’s Venture Class. We met the students for the first time today- they were really attentive, mostly polite, and eager to participate in all our activities. In this course, we will be teaching the students a range of things: how to play badminton, first aid, coordination activities, Character vs. Reputation themes, how to kayak… Basically, it’s one of the coolest classes you can take as a middle school student.
6. Some of my favorite people in the whole world graduated from King College last weekend. I’m so proud of them and all of their accomplishments!
7. On Monday morning at the Ignite Sport Office we received an email from a teacher at Porirua College (the high school we worked with about a month ago). As a result of Ignite’s On-Track Program, teachers and coaches have reported an overall attendance increase in classrooms and practices from the 40 students who attended On-Track. Most of the students have reported that they have a better sense of purpose in their life, and that they are eager to keep working with Ignite Sport. One student in particular has given up cigarettes as a direct result of our lessons about health, nutrition, and commitment to sport.  The email also said that the 40 students we worked with have shown a desire to succeed in life and reach their full potential in and out of the classroom. We were celebrating this email at the Ignite Office this morning! Thank you Jesus!
8. I am growing closer to the Pa’u family and to my friends here. I love the community God has placed around me.
9. I am going to an Andrew Lloyd Webber Concert tomorrow (Saturday) with Gabrielle!
10. My 92-year-old grandmother had hip surgery on Wednesday after she accidentally fell down the stairs. Please pray for her recovery!
In the midst of heart issues, here is where you can find me:
Struggling in my prayer life.
     Sometimes it can be SO hard to spend time with God in prayer and reflection, while other times I feel like it is as natural and necessary as breathing. The last few weeks I’ve been walking in the “hard to stay focused, easily distracted, hesitant to enter into prayer and God’s presence” lane. Why does that lane even exist? Why is there this back-and-forth, harder-then-easier rhythm in our relationships with God? Shouldn’t I always want to spend time with Jesus, the lover of my soul, creator of my being, giver of life?
     God gave me an insight into this over the weekend on Saturday morning. Friday night I had sat outside on the back deck that overlooked the ocean. It was so cloudy that the night and ocean looked black- I couldn’t tell where one started and the other one ended. But I could hear the ocean, and the sound of its relentless waves called forth pictures and memories from past shoreline adventures. What is it about the beauty of the ocean that makes us content to gaze upon its surface, listen to the mighty chorus of galloping waves, and submerge ourselves in the cool, salty water for hours at a time?
     That’s when I made up my mind: I am going to go running on the beach tomorrow morning! I set my alarm for 7:10 AM that night, and when the alarm went off Saturday morning I sat upright, threw off my warm covers, skipped over to my running clothes, tied my sneakers and ran out the door to feel the ocean’s wind roll off my face and flirt with my hair!
…not exactly…
     When the alarm went off at 7:10 AM, I hit snooze. 7:20 AM: snooze. 7:30 AM: snooze. Finally at 7:40 AM I just turned my alarm off. It wasn’t until 7:50 AM when Gabrielle’s alarm went off that I actually thought about getting out of bed. At 7:55 I was tempted enough by the thought of food to get out of bed. I grabbed my Bible and journal (so it would look like I at least TRIED to have some early morning prayer time) and headed up the stairs. I sat down in a chair that faces the ocean, and then something strange happened.
     Gazing out at the ocean below I remembered what had tempted me to set my alarm for 7:10 AM. There is something about pure beauty that makes you want to enter into it, be near to it. The sun was rising to my right, and the waves were inviting me to join their beauty. This time I really did put my sneakers on and run out the door with delight.
     The fresh air! The sound of the constant waves! The beautiful shells and treasures along the sand! It was such a beautiful moment! As I was running down the shoreline, embracing all this beauty, my pace slowed to a walk as I realized something: encountering God is like running along the ocean.
     There is always the temptation to say, “I can’t be bothered right now” and to hit the snooze button. But hitting snooze means to willingly choose to ignore the beauty that is beckoning. The ocean did not have a schedule to keep, or a quota of early morning runners to meet. The ocean was simply offering her beauty for me to enjoy. Her beauty is constant and yet ever-changing. I could run on the shore every morning, but the landscape would always change: the color of the clouds, the warmth of the sun, the shade of blue in the water, the bits of shell and marine life washed up along the shore…
  And the same is true for our prayer life. No matter how many times we come to the Father, there is always new beauty, new lessons, and new discoveries awaiting us. The Father does not have a schedule to maintain or a quota of early morning prayers to meet. God unswervingly and boldly offers his beauty for us to experience, and spending time with him is simply accepting his invitation.
    Father, Son and Holy Spirit, give us the strength and desire to experience more of your beauty