O LORD, you have searched me and known me. I come to the end—I am still with you. – Psalm 139:1, 18 (NRSV)
Today is my birthday, and I have spent most of the day travelling to Tampa for the Evangelism and Church Growth Conference. Waking up early, I went for a run in the cool and humid air. I’m running a half marathon this weekend, so the 4.5 miles I did today will probably be the only run I’ll have this week. I’ll settle for walking on the beach rather than running (which will be great, but it’s not a run…). My family was still sleeping when I returned home. I saw them for about 20 minutes as they hurried out the door for appointments.
In the quiet of my house, I finished packing and drove to the airport. My flights were on time and uneventful – except for a fairly turbulent landing in Tampa. I just started watching “Lost,” so it makes me think a little differently about turbulence. When I arrived at the hotel, I found they transferred my reservation to the other location (where the shuttle had just been). This will be more convenient, but I confess I was still annoyed. Couldn’t they have let me know before I arrived? After all, they sent me an email two days ago telling me all the things I could do while I was here. I waited another 30 minutes for the hotel van to come and get me.
I was looking forward to this conference – even though it meant I wouldn’t be home for my birthday. I love my birthday because I love having a special day and being able to celebrate that I am. Although I received a lot of birthday wishes via text, email and Facebook, it’s still not the same as being with people who know it’s your birthday. I kind of hoped the TSA agent would notice when I was passing through security.
But, alas, it was not to be.
When I arrived for dinner, late, the speaker was already going. I looked around to find a place to sit without causing too much of a disturbance. I spotted an empty seat, and shockingly it was next to someone I knew from seminary. How exciting to know one person here! (Especially since I’m rooming with someone I don’t know.) I settled in. Dinner was delicious. Opening worship was worshipful. The first plenary speaker was encouraging and challenging.
And my birthday is drawing to a close.
As I write this, I am sitting on the beach, listening to the ocean waves, and enjoying the sunset. A hot but sticky breeze blows through my hair. There are children tossing glow sticks up into the air. I see the silhouettes of people walking along the beach and the sound of children laughing. And someone has let a large paper lantern go over the water. I watch it float into the sky until it disappears.
What is it that makes a moment beautiful?
God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. – Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV)
The paper lanterns floated away over the water. Eventually the candle will become extinguished. The air that lifted it will become cold. Somewhere the lantern will come back to earth. But before it does, it will have taken flight and been beautiful. And so it is with the moments that make up our life. Thank you, Lord, for bringing hope to our lives and beauty to our moments.