Saturday, October 28, 2023


I think I first heard this beautiful word from the great C. S. Lewis. Somewhere he wrote that we worship a serendipitous God. By that he meant that we are often "surprised by joy" as God serendipitously grants us the desires of our hearts. That's just the nature of God, said Lewis. Our heavenly Father delights in giving good gifts to his children. Take this weekend, for example. God blessed me with not one, not two, not three, but four serendipities! Care to know what they were? 

Serendipity #1. I surfed. 

Rumor had it that Virginia Beach was breaking this weekend with excellent conditions, including a light offshore breeze. For surfers, it don't get much better than that, folks. So yesterday morning I tossed my board in the car and drove three hours to the beach. When I arrived, I mixed things up. I usually surf at 71st street, but today, based on what somebody at a local surf shop told me, I decided to try 50th street. Here's the beach access from Pacific Blvd. 

I set up my beach chair and towel, waxed up my board, then took a few selfies to send to the kids to make them jealous of me.

Dear kids: I realize that your father entertains the illusion that he's still a 15-year old surfing the Ala Moana Bowl, but he'll get over it one day. In the meantime, if you would continue to overlook his idiosyncrasies, he would be very grateful. 

The surf report said the swell was 2-4 feet, and it wasn't far off. As you can see here, there was both a small shorebreak as well as a larger wave that broke on a sandbar about 100 yards offshore. 

Most waves were, I'd say, about waist high, but from time to time there'd be a wave that broke about chest high. (Another serendipity!) A few minutes after I got to the beach, a couple of surfers joined me at this spot, which made me feel good because wherever the locals are is usually where you want to be. We surfed to our heart's content, and when I got back to shore I guess you could say that I was one happy camper. What is it about salt water that makes you feel so relaxed and rejuvenated? 

Serendipity #2. I had Korean food. After surfing for a couple of hours, I went to a restaurant in Norfolk called 757 Korean BBQ, which serves as authentic Korean cuisine as you can get around here. I know this place well. When we moved here 25 years ago, the seminary had extension campuses in both Richmond and Norfolk (next to Virginia Beach). Since I lived the closest to these campuses, I was often given classes in both places every semester. This would involve spending all day Friday and Saturday teaching New Testament introduction. Whenever I was in Norfolk, I spoiled myself on dishes like bulgogi and kaegi gogi. Yesterday's bulgogi was the tenderest I have EVER tasted. Chosumnida!!! 

Serendipity #3. Running the Capital Trail 10-Miler. After my Korean meal, I drove to my Airbnb located about 30 minutes east of Richmond. I was there to get some rest before running this 10-mile race on the famous Virginia Capital Trail. The VCT is a bike/running trail (all asphalt) that connects Jamestown with Richmond. I've biked its entire 52-mile length three times. I LOVE this trail. Last night I checked into my private room at around 6:00 pm, having earlier stopped to grab some pics of the historic church where George and Martha Washington were married. Don't you love its architecture? 

After that I spent a very peaceful and quiet evening before getting 8 solid hours of sleep, so that I arrived at the race this morning fresh and raring to go. 

There were probably several hundred racers out there today, all of them as eager as I was to enjoy the summer-like weather we've been having. 

After a couple of miles a guy in a yellow shirt passes me. (See previous picture.) 

It was just what I needed. My body took over, and I became a spectator. I tried to match his pace with the hopes of maybe passing him before the finish line. Now there are times when I run entirely for fun, and there are other times when I say to myself, "Hey, let's turn this into a bit of a competition." I felt myself do just that as my body subconsciously settled on a relaxed and efficient stride length. Alas, Mr. Yellowshirt eventually outpaced me. I did, however, storm across the finish with one of my best times at this event. 

Serendipity #4. Whenever I'm in Richmond and it's lunch time, you'll find me at the Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant which is run by my friend Bitew. 

Today, in memory of Becky, I delighted in kai wat, or beef stew. It was sooooo good. I mean, both Korean and Ethiopian food in the same weekend? Serendipitous! 

Throughout the weekend, my body thanked me. "Thank you for taking good care of me. Thank you for knowing when to act the child and when to play the elderly sage. Thank you for realizing that effective stress management is effective self management. Thank you for pushing me but not pushing me too hard. (You're getting better at this.) Thank you for getting outdoors and roughhousing with God's wonderful creation as often as you do. When you surf, it's like you're using the ocean as a dancer uses a stage. Thank you for the amount of time and effort put into your health and fitness. It's been fun watching you as you've grown older. Every person can be a hero. But none is more heroic than the man deep in the flow of the struggle against time. I think you're doing pretty good at this, old boy. Hang in there."

This was no weekend to be at my desk. The surf was up. There was a race to be run. In the surf and on the roads, it was time to give the Creator (and our serendipitous God) a standing ovation.