August 2014

You Had to Be There

The second week of July, a group of guys (including me) have gone to Palm Springs to play golf. This has become a tradition for 24 years in a row. Now, you may ask, “Why would a perfectly normal person think about playing golf in the 100+ degree temperatures of Palm Spring in July? At first, it was the price-you get a great hotel and unlimited golf for a fraction of the cost you would pay in October to May (Ok, I am a little cheap). But then it became much more. Yes, there was the unlimited golf and nice hotel, but there was also re-living Palm Springs traditions; catching up on the lives of men you haven’t seen in a while; telling life stories; stopping at the hole where I tipped over a golf cart (because I didn’t make the corner); re-living famous shots and sights; and relaxing with fellow heat martyrs. After 24 years, you can’t describe all that goes on; the resort, the travel, the stories, the laughs, the good shots, the shots that skipped over water, the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat. Like so many things in life, you had to be there to really appreciate the experience. 

The amazing thing about people is the experience of “being there.” We all have certain events, people, places, sights, sounds, smells, etc… sketched in our mind and memory banks. You can’t explain so many things you have experienced or witnessed by mere words- words just don’t do it justice. I can tell you about standing by the Sea of Galilee or the Black Sea in Ukraine; looking at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem or the amphitheater in Ephesus; sitting on the porch at Lopez Island or Shaver Lake; or watching the sunset in Morro Bay or Texas, but you miss so much by not being there. How do you describe these events to another person-the context, the smell, the colors, the history, the memories-you cannot describe adequately by words... it is simply- “you had to be there.” 

The words "being there" mean a variety of things, but usually they bring out warm smiles, happy memories, and sometimes gentle tears. They are memories that make us pause for just a moment and relive a certain event in our life. These recollections are shared events where we learned the meaning of love, kindness, compassion, togetherness, and humor. They are memories that our mind never forgets, because they are too near and dear to us. It might be thinking about the walk with your grandfather. It might be reliving Christmas morning. It might be the family gathering together for Thanksgiving dinner. It might be that ball game where you saw your sports idol play or the concert of your favorite musician. It might be how the house smelt after the freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. It might be the antics of your brother or sister. It might those stories of the campout. It might be the laugh of your favorite uncle or the consistent phrase of your aunt (mine said, “I care not”). Our minds have collected a selection of "being there" to give us warmth, security, and togetherness. They are great healers to our spirit and provide security for our hearts. They keep loved ones alive and give us hope for a better tomorrow. Take a minute and reflect on one of those “you had to be there” moments in your life…and watch the smile grow on your face. It feels good!

You would have had to "be there" to truly experience what took place on a cool spring morning in Jerusalem. The hopes of a nation were crushed when Jesus, the Son of God, died on a Roman cross. But think about what it would be like to have "been there" when: the earth shook and an angel rolled away the stone from Christ's tomb; when Mary saw that the tomb was empty; when Jesus' mother found out that her son was alive; when doubting Thomas touched Jesus' hand; or when the disciples ate breakfast with Jesus on the seashore. These memories are sketched in the pages of history so that we too can experience the security and hope of a living God. 

Today, take the time to recall a moment when “you were there,” and smile. Also, recall a moment when “you were there” with a personal and powerful God, and thank Him for His grace, mercy, and love that touched you.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                            -Pastor Mike Kotrla