FEB 1, 2017 Devotional: Beach Bottle Intoxication

Today’s workout was affectionately called “High School Crushes“.  I wonder how many of your who either did the workout this morning with us or who might be reading this now, were taken back to a time long ago….you know, “back in the days….”.  High school crush….

Before I go any further in this dialog, let me be fully transparent in saying that my wife is very aware that I had one or two high school sweethearts….and I am fully aware that she had the same.  We are grown adults and I believe I’ve gotten the green light to share a story about one such high school crush with you all this morning.  And if I go home after discussing the devotional after this morning’s run to find my personal belongings scattered on the front lawn, well then I guess that wasn’t a green light after all!

Kidding aside, I really only had one high school crush.  Her name was Courtney and we were separated by a year, me being a year older than her and also a year ahead in school.  Courtney had a sister named Michelle who was actually in the same grade as me and we were very good friends.  Perhaps that friendship led to the eventual introductions between her younger sister and me.

The connections to Courtney didn’t stop with her sister.  The two girls had a brother just a year younger than Courtney whose name was Mike.  He became somewhat of a little brother to me…and I think he would tell you that I was much like a big brother to him.

The final sibling of the family was young Patrick who, well, was a good 8 to 10 years younger than Mike.  I remember Patrick as the baby of the clan, but always included in everything they did together.  Years later, I would come to learn that young Patrick had done very well for himself after “growing up” and is currently a lobbyist in DC for some medical company.

Courtney’s dad was an Army doctor but more important to me…..Mike, Sr., was a graduate of West Point.  In more ways than I can recall, Doctor Mike was very influential in my decisions to attend West Point, much like my own father’s influence, however the doctor’s seemed more powerful for a few reasons:  first, he was a graduate and had fond memories of the experience; second, he didn’t seem to have aged at all…still looked like he probably did in his younger years as a lieutenant; and three, there actually was a published story of him having been part of a successful kidnapping of the Navy goat in 1965…..and that made him a true hero to me.

And last but certainly not least, was Courtney’s mom, Helen, who was a kind soul….always very sweet to me, and was even my sponsor when I decided to go through the Catholic sacrament of Confirmation.

These days, as a parent myself, I would point out that this family, especially the kids, were the kind of people you’d want your kids to be around.  Were they perfect and were my siblings and me perfect too….?  Not even close.  But collectively, we stayed out of trouble and looked out for one another.  The relationship with Courtney eventually fizzled…but the impact of the family remained for many years.  How many of you can recall your high school crushes and, more importantly, can recall the heartache that come from those relationships?  Did anything good and lasting come as a result of those crushes in the grander scheme of life?

For me, the answer is always….yes!

When I think about one good thing that happened was a high school Bible study class I used to attend with Courtney’s older sister, Michelle.  The class would meet fairly regularly and the home of the teacher, “Rob”, and occasionally we’d take trips to unplug from all the distractions.  On one such trip, we traveled to the coast of North Carolina for a winter weekend at the beach.  On the first night, I remember Rob telling us to walk out to the beach, find some space to ourselves and find something that represented our faith.  Most of the kids found shells, pieces of driftwood, and maybe an occasional, sand dollar or two.  My “find” was none of the above.  I picked up an old whiskey bottle that had washed up on the shore, but still relatively intact from any brokenness.  The former contents of the bottle were gone, but the cap to it remained.  For me, this was a perfect representation of my faith.

That evening, the group gathered around a campfire on the beach.  One by one, each person shared their “beach-find” with the group and told how it represented his or her faith.

My faith is like this piece of drift wood,” said one classmate.  “I feel like I’ve been wandering around aimlessly, but am now finally on dry land.”

Or another revealed, “My faith is like this sand dollar.  It may not have monetary value to anyone else, but to me it is priceless.”

Then came my turn to talk about my item.  I slowly pulled the bottle out from beneath my sweatshirt.  “My faith is like this whiskey bottle”, I said…much to the giggles of several.  Then I added, “You see, this bottle is useless to me while it’s closed up.  Much like my faith is useless as long as I’m bottled up from God.  But when I take the lid off, and when I open myself up to my heavenly father, the affects can be intoxicating….”.

My prayer this week is that we all find something intoxicating about our relationship with God.  Not in a drunken stupor kind of way.  Find that personal relationship with your heavenly father that allows you to open up, weather the storms, and remain unbroken.

Drink it up!