Fishers UMC Blog

Showing items filed under “Kevin McKinney”

Making a Difference – One Starfish At A Time

I’m a Hoosier boy, born and bred.  I love the hills and fields; the creeks and rivers; even the fickle weather – most of the time.   But when I get a chance to go on vacation, if I have my choice, I head for the ocean.  Maybe it is looking out from sandy beaches to an endless sea instead of the fields or wooded hills of home; maybe it is hearing the power of the pounding surf and seeing the waves crest as they crash toward shore; or tasting the salt on the breeze coming off the water; or feeling the sand between my toes and the spray as the breakers rush across my ankles at the water’s edge – I don’t know, but it is almost as if I am drawn there.  At the ocean, more than anywhere else, I get lost in the majestic power of God’s creation.  I wonder at the untamed vastness of all that God is and has created.  And in the face of that I begin to wonder what difference I, one puny person, can make in the grand scheme of things.

Last time we were there we walked the beach as we always do.  My wife, Joyce, put us to work picking up shells and rocks for grandsons back home.  Going about our task looking for perfect specimens in the sand I saw things differently.  For a moment the majesty of the ocean was forgotten.  As I scoured the sand for shells I realized I was sifting through millions of broken shells in my search for whole ones – the remains of sea life that had not survived the terrible power of the ocean that was the “world” in which they lived.  As the tide rolled in Joyce saw something unusual in the water being pushed toward shore.    The waves carried it as if to present it to us at our feet, and the receding tide left it there.  It was a fish unlike any I had ever seen - brightly colored with spikes on it body – and although not strong - still alive!  I watched uncomfortably as it gasped for air and flipped its fins in a vain attempt to dislodge itself from the beach to find life giving water.  I didn’t know how to help it.  I had no tools with me – no net to scoop it up and cast it back or even driftwood to flip it into the water in hopes that it could catch the next wave and allow the undertow to carry it out to swimming depth.  I was afraid and unwilling to touch it with my hands.  I could not bear to watch it struggle.  So I turned and walked away – leaving it to live or die on its own.  I felt like a coward and a heel.  I didn’t care enough to fight the anxiety of the unfamiliar in order to touch it; I wasn’t willing to risk being “stung,” cut, or bitten to save it.  I walked away and rationalized my action by thinking, “It is the way of the universe – the cycle of life.  Fish live and die and the tide rolls on.”  I returned to our grandparental duties: gathering shells for little boys’ collections but my thoughts stayed on that fish gulping for air with eyes that seemed to look right at me begging for help….

That fish, pleading for help, “visited” me in the dark of my bedroom that night and early the next morning.  My thoughts turned to who I am, who we are, as the church of Jesus Christ.  We go through our days walking along the “shores” among the tragic remains of others like us struggling to live.  The jagged shards of their lives tell of the pain they have experienced.  And if we have eyes to see, we find people who are struggling, gasping for the breath of life and for someone to help them find it.  The problems are many:  1] we focus on other things and fail to see them; 2] we do not possess the tools to help them in their need; 3] we are unwilling or afraid to risk pain in order to enter their struggle and help them find that life giving breath for which they are gasping.  We comfort ourselves by rationalizing the dilemma away – “it is the way of the universe – the cycle of life….”  But the fact remains that if we don’t act those who struggle almost certainly will flounder in their pain until they are starved for hope and their lives ebb away.

There is a story of an old man walking the beach, [I’m beginning to fit that description more with each passing year].  As he walks along the shore he sees a boy ahead of him stooping down again and again at the water’s edge, picking something up and tossing it into the ocean.  After watching this ritual repeated over and over again the old man finally overtakes the youth.  He sees now what the boy is doing.  He watches as the boy bends down in the foam, picks up a starfish that the tide has washed in, and flings it as far as he can into the sea.  The old man interrupts the ritual as he calls to the boy and asks, “What are you doing?”  The boy replies “I’m finding starfish that have washed up on shore and I’m throwing them back before they die.”  “Don’t be silly,” the old man said.  “There are millions of starfish washed up on this beach.  That’s the way the ocean is.  It’s useless!  No matter how many times you walk this beach – no matter how many starfish you throw back you can’t make any difference! Give it up!”  The boy stoops down to pick up another that the breaking surf just deposited at his feet.  He rears back and hurls it as far as he can into the tide, turning to the man he answers, “I made a difference to that one.”

My pilgrimage to the shore ended – as it always must.  But I come back chastened by the image of the gasping fish pleading to me at some primal level for assistance:  He can’t tell me what he needs – he, himself, probably doesn’t even fully know, but his eyes beg me to reach out to somehow save him.  I return to my beloved Indiana and the life God has placed before me with a renewed awareness that all around us there are people who have been pushed along by the overwhelming tides of life.  Too many of them get “stranded on the shore.”  I know there are so many that I/we can’t save them all.  But with the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ “we can make a difference to that one…..”  God, give us your eyes to see and Your heart to love those gasping for hope.  We offer ourselves to You to be Your hands to make a difference, even if it is only to one or two or three…….

For The Only Cause That Matters,
Kevin McKinney
Sr. Pastor
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Encouragement -- Perserverance -- Falling Down

 

Joyce and I had a chance to spend a couple of days with a dear friend we have known for more than 45 years – since we were kids in school.  I hadn’t seen her more than a dozen times since she got married over 30 years ago.  It was good to catch up on so much.  I had heard through family that she had been having a tough time in her personal life – because of failed promises, broken vows, and poor choices she and her husband finally divorced.  We talked at some length about her marriage and all that has happened over the years that has brought her to where she is now.  We talked about pain, fear, blame, guilt, disappointment, anxiety for the future, the need to forgive and be forgiven; about issues:  marital, personal, emotional, and her struggle to reclaim the relationship she has had with God for a lifetime and longs to have again.

Through all our conversations one of the primary recurring themes surrounded her sense of failing God and spiritual brokenness, despairing that she is not worthy of God’s love and forgiveness.  She has practiced her faith consistently throughout the years and has never lapsed but she admits that she has let slip her focus on the immediacy of her relationship with God.  Her sense of failure in the midst of her situation was so great she could not imagine God accepting her into his loving forgiving arms again.  She has been in counseling and worked hard on her issues.  She is gaining the courage to do what it takes to address her issues for herself, her marriage, her family, and her faith.

Life is filled with many complex issues – for ALL of us – to be sure.  I find it interesting yet troubling that so often we who live our lives in relationship with God having once received His gift of Grace even though we don’t deserve it, feel that once we find ourselves broken by disobedience or wandering or loss in our lives as disciples, we somehow think we are unlovable by the God who chose to love us in the first place.  Somehow we believe that the God who “first loved us when we were yet sinners” in His unconditional love [Apostle Paul in Romans 5: 6-8], will not now love us once again as we seek Him – even in our brokenness.  We tend to think that because we have failed, God will not accept us.  We know all the right words to say – the “Sunday School answers” – and we are quick to share them with others who feel the same way.  But when it comes to ourselves we just aren’t sure…

There is a village nestled into the foot of a mountain in Eastern Europe.  High up on the sheer face of the mountain – about half way up, an ancient monastery has been carved from the rock.  In that monastery live an order of Monks known for their lives of deep faith, great piety, and holiness.  They live totally unto themselves except when one of the brothers comes down into the village to sell their hand crafted wares to buy supplies.  On one such trek down the mountain into the village a peasant woman met one of the monks on the road.  She knew of their reputation for holiness and piety and she was acutely aware that her life, with its many imperfections, was so very different from his.  She was torn between her curiosity of what life was like “up there” and her own sense of guilt heightened by the coming presence of the holy man.  When they met on the road he greeted her.  In her sense of inadequacy she stammered and could not meet his eyes with hers.  Finally, haltingly, she asked the holy man, “Forgive me for asking, Brother.  I know you live on the mountain with the other monks and that you are so holy and so filled with faith.  What do you do up there on the face of the mountain?”  The monk looked steadily into her eyes with kindness & deep understanding and said, “Like you, we fall down, and we get up.  We fall down, and we get up.  We fall down, and we get up.”  And then he continued on his way.

What did he mean?  What was his message to the woman on the path?  Is there a message here for us?  It occurs to me that he was sharing the truth with the woman & with us that everyone – even the holiest, most faithful & mature – fail [fall]…& fail [fall]…& fail [fall]…& the hope that no matter how many times we fail/fall we can get up again.  And that God is always right here with us encouraging, supporting, protecting, and giving us strength & courage to get up again.  He stands there within our reach with outstretched arms just waiting for us to reach out for Him.  In that very moment He embraces us, dresses our wounds from the fall, holds us close & walks beside us as we go on together.

If you are reading this and your “knees are scratched from falling,” Know this - God is kneeling right in front of you longing for you to look up from where you have fallen.  You can almost hear Him saying, “Come on!  You can do it!  Reach out to Me, just stretch out your hand, give me an inviting look & I’ll take you into my arms & we’ll get up & go on together.”

Anyone else out there suffering from scraped knees & wounded spirits from falling?  God is right there with you – within reach right now, longing for you to give him permission to pick you up & hold you in his arms of unfailing love.  Why not reach out right now.  He is already waiting, arms outstretched to pick you up & hold you close.

For The Only Cause That Matters,
Kevin McKinney
Sr. Pastor
Posted by Kevin McKinney with

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