Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Learning about The Good and Beautiful Life

Gulf Shores at sunset. Laura Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
I've been looking for landmarks.

Let me back up a little. I spent last week on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, soaking up sunshine and salt air and more than a little bit of fried seafood. We had a vacation week routine of sleeping in, lingering over breakfast, then putting on swimsuits, slicking up in sunscreen and trekking for the beach. With sand buckets and boogie boards in tow, we were good for a few hours of sticky sand, searing sun and crashing surf.

Taking my seven year old into the chilly Gulf waters with her boogie board, I remembered a story that Andy Stanley (now at his own church, Northpoint, but at that time at his father's church, First Baptist of Atlanta) told, and I'm sure he's not the first, but I remember his version from one Sunday morning sermon probably 25 years ago, about being a kid and playing in the ocean and losing sight of landmarks on the beach. Swimming and playing in the water, then looking to shore and realizing you're a bit farther out than you thought and you don't recognize the people or objects that are near. And it's true, wading in the surf, trying to keep up with my child and not lose my footing, we worked our way down the beach, farther and farther away from our belongings.

Gulf Shores at sunset. Laura Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
In order not to be completely disoriented, and because I'm the mama, I needed to look up every once in awhile and readjust my position, so I could see where we were and get a handle on my surroundings. And that's what I need in a spiritual sense, too.

Maybe it's my birthday coming up, maybe it's the daily turbulence of dealing with young children, teenagers, aging parents, a job, a house. These are all blessings, to be sure, but sometimes blessings can be overwhelming. I'm in need of a fresh spiritual breath. Put another way, I'm getting lost in the surf and my eyes are searching for a landmark on shore.

 Last fall, I joined a small group Bible study in my church, what the pastors like to call a "connecting community." It's just six of us, but what we lack in size we make up in enjoying each others' company. Our study from the first year was "The Good and Beautiful God" by James Bryan Smith. It's a very practical guidebook for getting to know God. This fall, we will take up the next in the series, "The Good and Beautiful Life." Here's a passage from the first chapter:

"The aim is to help Christians understand and implement the teachings of Jesus about things like anger, lust, lying, worrying pride and judging others. What Jesus teaches about these things is simply the truth. Living according to his teachings leads to a good life, a life that can withstand the storms and trials we all face.

"...Jesus is not making life more difficult, but is revealing that the way to the good and beautiful life is to obey his teachings. There is no other way. Either our lives conform to his teachings, or we fail to live a good and beautiful life." ~ ("The Good and Beautiful Life," by James Bryan Smith, InterVarsity Press, 2009).

Laura Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
James Bryan Smith will come to my church August 16 and 17 and present a TED-style conference based on the tenets set forth in the Apprentice series. If you’re in the Atlanta area, check out the conference at First Presbyterian Church of Douglasville.

James Bryan Smith, author of "The Good and Beautiful Life."

Registration is open and the best price will be available until July 15. After that, it goes up slightly. If you’ve read the books and want to hear more, join us. If you’re looking for a warm church home, please visit First Pres ~ I'd love to see you there.

Laura Mercer/A Cook and Her Books


Terry said...

As an Alabama girl born and bred but living in GA, I love the Gulf coast! I especially have a soft spot for Orange Beach AL! Lovely photos! Hope you enjoyed your vacation!

Lucy Mercer said...

Thanks for reading, Terry! I love Orange Beach, too!

linda @spiceboxtravels said...

Lucy, those are amazing photos! Glad you enjoyed a relaxing trip.