What is happening beneath the surface?

At a special showing of Chasing Coral at Mote Marine Aquarium, we chatted with a principal in the film via Skype, and afterwards with two of Mote’s researchers. I’d thought global warming was simply a normal weather cycle, like the time of the dinosaurs or the Ice Age. Time-lapse photography of coral reefs rapidly dying due to unprecedented heights in ocean temps, paralleled with the peaks on graphs of earth and ocean temps, changed all that for me.
(healthy coral reef)

If the world’s forest were dying as quickly as the corals (which provide an equally important segment of the oceanic environment) we would do everything necessary to reverse the process before it’s too late. For many corals, it already is.

Mote biologists are working to save specimens and as much genetic material as possible, in hopes of a time when the environment once again allows the corals to live. That will happen only if we change what is going into our atmosphere and dumping into the ocean. If the oceans did not absorb so much extra heat held in by greenhouse gases our atmospheric temperatures would rise to 110 degrees, right now! The ocean cannot keep absorbing more heat and pollution. Not without widespread death.

Why am I sharing this here?

Two reasons.

First of all, I believe we are charged by our Creator with the care and nurture of our environment.

I will get flack on this from both sides, but I have to say that I don’t understand how this issue became a political divide. Why are people working to protect the unborn child, but doing nothing to provide a safe environment for those children to grow up in? And why are others working to save any living thing, as long as it isn’t human, pre-born, disabled, sick, old, or “a burden to society”?

Either we nurture, or something dies.

Outside of us, and inside of us.

Secondly, though I usually share my glimpses of peace, I don’t want to be one who says, “Peace! Peace!” where there is no peace.

If we have our needs met and can take care of those in our purview, we may be lulled into thinking all is well. But, like lifeless reefs below the ocean’s surface, silent death can be at work within us, too.

The interesting thing about the corals is that the ocean temperatures aren’t directly killing them. In a symbiotic relationship, algae live inside the coral polyps and use photosynthesis to convert sunlight into food for the corals. Even a slight increase in temperature quickly kills the algae. When these organisms cease to provide for their needs, the corals expel them, leaving themselves with no food source. Without their little buddies inside to feed them, they soon die, as well. Almost overnight, they turn completely white.
( dead reef)

Similarly, the junk of daily life can kill the life within our hearts and spirits.

Then we lose the creative spark, whatever makes us different, and was meant to make us a difference-maker.

We like to say all is well, but, in truth, all cannot be well with us if a creeping darkness is blocking the light. Without the constant work of God’s Spirit filling us with new life, our souls will follow our bodies in the daily march toward death.

The good news is, our inner world can be revived and renewed.

Just like the beauty of a healthy coral reef, we were created to show God’s glory.

To stay in health, it is vital that we connect to Life, that we receive life-giving energy. If we are filled daily, our light-bearing receptors grow stronger. When we open our hearts to his saving, cleansing work initiated through the death and resurrection of Jesus, then the destructive power of darkness within is immobilized.

We all have as much of God as we really want. It’s a choice, and one we must make daily to nourish the holy work within us.

The health of our world depends on our choices every day, which determine how much greenhouse gas we release into the air.

The health of our soul depends on our daily choices, as well. If the Light of the World does not fill and refill us, we start to lose the spark within.

If that continues, we will eventually shrivel up and go dark. We will miss the life we were created to live, and the world will suffer the loss of the gifts we were meant to share.

It may seem gloomy to talk about this during a holiday season, but it is precisely at times like this that our choices stand out. How we spend our time, money, and energy determines what fills us, and what overflows to those around us.

Let this not be said about us. “Stand in shock, heavens, at what you see! Throw up your hands in disbelief—this can’t be!” God ’s Decree. “My people have committed a compound sin: they’ve walked out on me, the fountain of fresh flowing waters, and then dug cisterns— cisterns that leak, cisterns that are no better than sieves. Jeremiah 2:12‭-‬13 MSG

If you want to know more about the corals, click this. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6fHA9R2cKI)

For his PhD in Oceanography, my husband, Jack, studied the effects of drilling mud on coral reefs. I’ve watched his reels of little coral polyps shaking off drilling mud — until the burden was too great. The mud didn’t directly kill the coral, but when it blocked the sunlight, the algae within died. The death that he saw in his studies was minute compared to the scope of current coral bleaching (death). Like reefs around the world, the reefs he studied in the Florida Keys and the Texas Flower Gardens in the Gulf of Mexico were vibrant and thriving. Now, they are almost completely white. It is close to being too late for them.

Is that true for us, too?

Not exactly ringing in the new year

I have always enjoyed turning the page at the beginning of a new month, and putting up new calendars at the first of the year. This year, not so much. After my mother’s requiem, my older brother declared, “Well, now you’re the matriarch of the family.” Yikes! Besides feeling like a heavy mantel, it emphasized the reality — I was no longer a daughter. I’m a senior member of the oldest generation in our family. Those thoughts focused the limited time I have left, wiping away my childish view that life would keep going, would get better if I just waited long enough. Then recently I had to deal with Social Security’s life expectancy tables, which hit between the eyes. Even in the best of circumstances, my days on earth are very limited. All that makes “redeem the times” echo in my thoughts, like a jingle you can’t get out of your head.

Old family clock w Eph 5 16_17

That’s just darn depressing.

At first, it was as if a shadow had passed over me.

Then I heard a snippet of a sermon on the radio. Tony Evans said, “We are either walking from life into death. Or we’re walking from death into life.”

Reality burned the fog off as I remembered I am follower of Jesus, so this world isn’t my home.

Given the shape it’s in right now, what a relief!

Like my mother and brother before me, when I leave this world I will really begin to live for the first time. This life is just a preamble, a preparation, barely a glimpse, at its very best, of all to come.

But another cloud hovered, an anxiety-filled urgency about all the things undone or unfinished: the books I’ve written and am editing and preparing for publication, the one not completed, and all the others waiting a turn in the wings of my mind, all sorts of projects I’d like to accomplish, and I want to enjoy way more time with my family. I love watching my children grow, seeing their personalities mature and flourish. I want to see my grandchildren, all nine of them, grow up, to dance at their weddings, and even hold a few great-grand-babies. Most important, I’d like to see them all secure in their eternal future. Walking from death into life.

And I’d love more dinners, lunches, reunions, games or hugs with other family members spread all over the world.

And more chats with friends, sharing in Bible studies, more songs to sing, not to mention beaches to walk and waves to ride . . .

I better stop here. You have the idea.

This goes way beyond seizing the day, and making the most of every moment. Like the lavender essential oil I diffuse into the air around me, I want to infuse every waking moment with eternal meaning.

Since my desk faces the opening into the kitchen, my first question after typing that was: eternal meaning when I burn the roast, or clean doggie footprints from the freshly mopped floor? Eternity in peeling squash or running the blender? Moving wet clothes from washer to dryer?

Yes. I think it calls for a combination of two mindsets.

Intentionalality — being completely present with whatever I am doing (which is rare for me, especially when doing mundane tasks)

Gratitude — giving thanks as I take this breath. For being able to move my fingers. Stand on legs that can support me and allow me to walk. Eyes to see the reddened almond leaves flutter in today’s cold sunlight, knowing they will be gone after almost-freezing temperatures tonight. (Yes, that’s severe winter weather here on the Florida Gulf coast.)

Some may have stopped reading by now, or you shake your head, wondering how I arrived this far in life without figuring that out. Some of you actually live that way. You inspire me.

Others, those who have grown up shape-shifting or mind-shifting to avoid dysfunction, pain, fear or chaos, understand what a challenge present-living can be.

I’ve hit on gratitude and more purposeful living before, but this is another layer deeper. This lap around Mt Sinai is closer to the top, higher, and the view is clearer, further.

I don’t feel like I’ve expressed what I’m experiencing well, but I am hoping to live it well.

So teach us to number our days, That we may cultivate and bring to You a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Tell me, what comes into focus for you when you number your days?

We need to remember

I still cannot watch videos or look at pictures of that horrible day on the eleventh of September, 2001, without churning emotion. Many chose not to look, say it’s too depressing. But I believe, no matter how painful, we need to remember.

WTC, NYC
One World Trade Center

With granddaughter at WTC memorial reflection pond
With granddaughter at WTC memorial reflection pond
Steel girders on display at memorial
Steel girders on display at memorial

Remember what?

Remember how real evil is.

When we see and feel the evil on 9/11 we know that evil is not just a matter of someone getting up on the wrong side of the bed, or having suffered a bad childhood. Evil is real, and active, deceiving many into believing they are securing eternal happiness by killing as many others as possible.

Sadly, evil is not the solely the province of terrorists.

In the last fifteen years I’ve seen a huge shift in our collective awareness of evil, of right and wrong. From video games, TV shows, movies and social media it seems that many in our culture have a growing fascination with darkness, violence and death. Some seek it as power, others as escape.

It is neither.

Evil is ultimately only about destruction. Others first, then our own.

Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for — will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. John 10:6-10 MSG

We also need to remember the good. The first responders who rushed in and gave their lives. The private citizens who ferried thousands who were trapped off Manhattan Island that day. The passengers and crew on Flight 93 who sacrificed their lives to protect the Washington target. Volunteers who arrived in NYC and the Pentagon, day after day to help in any way they could, and people across the country who donated food and supplies.

Whenever evil strikes, it lights a fire it cannot snuff out, a fire of courage and determination, of light and love.

In the end, we are faced with daily choices, light or darkness, though very rarely so clearly defined.

Will we pause and reflect, then go on with life as usual?

Or will we decide to make a difference, be the bearers of light? Truth? Love?

Can we do our part?

Only if we remember the stakes.

What do you recall from that day? Has it changed your life?


I’m not very familiar with country music, but this song expresses it.