...running the course God sets before us, no matter the cost, no matter the task, to the end, for His glory

Monday, October 29, 2012

Riding Out the Storm~ Part Two

There is an African proverb that states, "A calm sea does not make a skillful sailor."

Could that be one facet to why Jesus allows storms in our lives?  Or why sometimes He directs us directly into the heart of them?

Last time I looked at Jesus and His act of sending us STRAIGHT into storms. He didn't do that to His disciples just once. He did it twice.

The first time He was sleeping in the bottom of the boat.
Bad news- He was asleep.
Good news- He was with them!

But the next time, in Matthew 14, Jesus stays on shore and sends His disciples on ahead.
Across the sea.
Straight into the storm.
Bad news- There is a storm.
More bad news- Jesus is NOT in the bottom of the boat- asleep or otherwise.

But hold the presses. There is a back story to this story.

Immediately before this jaunty cruise occurred was the miracle of the feeding of the 5000. Jesus had just taken 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and had FED 5000 PEOPLE!

And the disciples were right in the middle of that one. They were the ones who had worried about the insurmountable problem of there not being food for the people in the first place. (Mark 6:35-36) Their solution was to send the people away.

Jesus' solution was to give them something to eat.

Disciples + 5 loaves + 2 fish = IMPOSSIBLE
Jesus + 5 loaves + 2 fish = LEFTOVERS!

But once the collection of the leftovers had been taken care of, Matthew 14:22 says, "Jesus immediately made the disciples get into the boat."

And that is how the disciples got in this storm.

Once again the disciples are in a boat and the winds howl, the waves rise, and the boat begins to get swamped.

It was the second "impossible" situation in the same day! Would the disciples remember their lesson? (Let me give you a hint- NO! They would not!)

Jesus, imposing a third impossible element into the day, and once again showing that He is master of creation and it's laws, not the other way around, WALKS ON WATER! Amazing.

Peter decides (possibly emboldened by the previous events of the day?) to walk out to Jesus. He asks Jesus to call him out of the boat. Pete does okay for a moment...that is until he takes a look at the waves up close and personal, gets scared, and starts to sink.

Peter grew afraid. Jesus reprimanded his lack of faith.
Maybe fear is just lack of faith?

But Jesus saves him and gets him back to the boat. Only then does the storm cease.

Oh, there are SO many lessons here. But I will try and contain myself to the ones that have to do with "riding out the storms" in our lives:
  • Sometimes, like Peter, I might get emboldened to ask Jesus to command me to do something that is “impossible.” But when I get right in the middle of the thing it is MUCH harder than I expected. At that moment will I have fear or faith?
  • I must NEVER take my eyes off Jesus. My circumstances will always be frightening and could also be IMPOSSIBLE.  It is only by looking Straight. Into. The. Eyes. Of. Jesus.... That is how the impossible becomes possible.
  • Like Peter, I need to take a leap of faith in the midst of the storms. Unlike Peter, I need to keep my eyes and faith on Jesus. 
  • It is in the heart of my storms that my most important lessons are learned and my most intimate encounters with my Savior will occur!

What looks impossible to you right now?
What wind is blowing unrelentingly against you?
What wave threatens to over take you?

Look straight into Jesus' eyes. Nothing is impossible with Him!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Riding Out the Storm~ Part One

Sometimes life has fuzzy edges around the picture, a soft-focus, birds singing, a cool breeze blowing, a satisfied feeling, and no mosquitoes.

Anyway, I think it does. It does in the movies at least.

But not around here. Not lately. It seems we have been through a long, slow march through sharp reality, drought and flood, a harsh wind, and most definitely mosquitoes. It is tempting in seasons like this to think, "What are we doing wrong, Lord?"

But think about 1 Peter 4:12 which says, 

“Dear friends, do not be astonished that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

I can never quite decide if I find this verse comforting or irritating! On the one hand it reassures me that just because something is difficult it does not follow this difficulty is some sort of divine punishment. But on the other hand this verse assures me that sometimes things are going to test me to my very limits.  This verse actual informs me that difficult is normal. Sigh.

Just think about how Jesus trained His disciples. He had no problem at all sending them straight into storms. In Mark 4:36,37, He gets in a boat with His disciples and tells them to row for the other side. And then He lays down and falls asleep.

The winds howl, the waves rise, the boat begins to get swamped, and still Jesus sleeps. He sleeps through the storm that He had His disciples row straight into.

"Jesus Sleeping During the Tempest" by James Tissot
Think about how it felt for the disciples. Think about their panic and their fear.

I love this piece of art by James Tissot, a French painter in the late 1800's. It perfectly captures both the extremity of the disciples and the serenity of Jesus.

Look at how HARD the disciples are working!
Look at how panicked they are!
And desperate, and striving, and fearful.

And look at Jesus.
How peaceful, and confident, and trusting.

What a contrast.

Of course, you remember the rest of the story- the disciples freak out, they wake Jesus up, and He calms the storms. But He also rebukes them for not having enough faith! Could they have truly feared for their life when He was right there with them?

As I thought about this I realized that I have been reacting to my storms in the same way.

My prayers lately have been more like the disciples' when they woke Him saying, "Do You not care that we are perishing?" (Mk. 4:38)

It is true that Jesus stopped the storms for the disciples, but He did not praise them for all their hard work up until then. He rebuked them for their lack of faith!

So as I ride my boat through the storms of my life that Jesus is allowing I have two options:
  1. I can strain at the ropes with fear and desperation in my heart while I try to shake Jesus awake, or...
  2. I can crawl down in the bottom of the boat with Jesus, and hold on to Him, and TRUST Him to bring me through.

I. Choose. Jesus.

More thoughts on Jesus and storms next time.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Make a Joyful Noise!

We sit up front at church.
Second row.
That way we can see. And we are not distracted.
And since very few people will ever sit on the front row, there is no one in front of us.

There is another advantage to sitting in the front row with no one in front of me that I never knew until this weekend.

This last week we decided to shake things up a bit and sit in an entirely different different place in church than we usually do. You ever noticed how families always sit in the same place week after week? (We are the up front, second row, on the right people.)

In fact, one week we walked up and another family was sitting in OUR row. We stood there for just a moment, staring at them, looked at each other, and then turned and walked back down the row to find another seat. IN THE BACK! We could barely concentrate on the sermon!

But this week, we sat toward the back on purpose. We just didn't want to get in too much of a rut. It was all going fine until something unexpected happened. Good friends sat immediately in front of me right at the beginning of our singing section of the service (and we sing for quite a long time!).

Now let me back up a bit.
I LOVE to sing. Really, really love to sing.
If there is any one gift that I would pay a lot of money to have it would be the ability to sing incredibly well. Like stick a microphone in my hand, shine a spotlight on me, and I belt out a tune that brings a tear to the eye.

As it is, if someone stuck a microphone in my hand and I sang, it sure would bring a tear to the eye. But for a totally different reason!

So back to church. When my friends sat DIRECTLY in front of me I was faced with a moral dilemma.
Do I sing loud? When people I know can hear me?

Now, I don't sing loud for loud's sake. I sing loud because I love praising God with a joyful noise! And when no one is front of me I don't have to think about it. But now someone was in front of me. And it was someone I knew! And I was thinking about it!

What to do? What to do?
I decided my biggest fear really boiled down to my own reputation. I didn't want someone I know well to know how "well" I sing.
So did I fear man or fear God?

It was tough, but I swallowed my pride, closed my eyes and SANG.
And soon my mind was off myself. And my friends.
And it was on the only place where it needed to be. On Jesus.

Where am I going to sit this next Sunday? Hopefully in our "regular" seats! But no matter where we sit, or who sits in front of us, I know one thing.

I will make a JOYFUL NOISE!

What is God calling you to today? Will it be uncomfortable? Could it embarrass you? Is it outside your comfort zone?

But is it to His glory? If it is, do it LOUD!

O sing unto the Lord a new song...
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth; make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.
Psalm 98: 1, 4

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

All My Boys Are Grown Up

It is such a strange thing- getting older.

One minute you are a child.
Then you turn around and you are an adult.
And getting married.
And having children of your own.
How did that happen?

When those children are all small the days seem long. The runny noses unrelenting. The dirty diapers never ceasing. The skinned knees unending. The hungry stomachs unsatisfiable. The dirty clothes mountainness.

And then you turn around again.

My favorite picture! Two and a half years old.
And they are grown.

And now my baby boy is turning 21 tomorrow.
Three sons.
And now three adult men.
How did that happen?

Yes, my Aaron is turning 21.

And yet I have crystal clear memories of snuggling his baby-soap scented cuddliness and reading him "The Big Red Barn"....just one more time.

And I remember with perfect clarity him smiling his toothy smile at me, melting my heart, and causing me to forget why I was scolding him.

And then I turned around.
And he was taller than me.
And he had that same toothy grin (although it was no longer only my heart he could melt.)

And now he is his own man and thankfully he is God's man too.
He is funny, and messy, and a goof ball, and in love with his Savior, and in love with his girl.
He tells puns and harmonizes when he sings. And when he sings to Jesus it is with his whole heart and being.
And when he can tell I need a hug he hugs me with love and warmth that melt me still.

Happy birthday my son. You are a true joy and a delight.
21. How did that happen?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Wait For It......

In spite of not having cable or any other kind of TV hook-up, we are still able to watch more than we need of TV shows. DVDs. Netflix. Who needs cable? This set up has the added advantage that we have more control of what comes into our house and NO advertisements.

(And, as a side note, may I just say that when I am somewhere with TV, and I do see advertisements, I am shocked. They are worse than many TV shows! And that is saying something.)

Shawn and Gus
Anyway, back on track....one of our favorites is "Psych". Now, I am not saying it is a perfect show, or even recommending it. I am just being transparent and honest. Hello, my name is Susan. I watch Psych. It has been one week since my last episode.

Ok. Where was I? Oh yes, being transparent and talking about "Psych." One of our favorite lines is when the characters Shawn and Gus are about to make the big reveal of the mystery and they say....

"wait for iiiiiit........"

Maybe I am easily entertained, but that always cracks me up.

That brings me to this morning. We have had a school break this week and I have fully participated in the idea of the work BREAK. Which is not even to say that I didn't do any work. But I did allow myself to sleep in and at least relax a little.

This morning I was feeling tired and uninspired and slightly guilty that after a week of sleeping in I was still feeling tired and uninspired. Then I began to think about Isaiah 40.  I knew there was something in there about how to get more strength from the Lord, but I couldn't remember, in my fuzzy morning state, what I was supposed to do. What was I supposed to do so I could soar like an eagle? I couldn't remember. So I looked it up.
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, does not become weary or tired. He understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with winds like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.  -Isaiah 40:28-31
Did you see that?
I wasn't supposed to fast and pray.
I wasn't supposed to give alms.
I wasn't supposed to get busy at church.
I wasn't supposed to spend time examining my heart and confessing my sins.

And none of those things are bad, by the way. In fact they all have their place. But in the end they have no more value than filthy rags because they are MY actions. Not God's.

No, I wasn't suppose to do those.
I was suppose to........(imagine a drum roll and Sean saying in the background, "Wait for iiiiiiiit......"

Wait. For. The. Lord.

If I want to soar with the eagles, I need to sit down, get still, shut up, and wait for the LORD.

Waiting. Never easy. But really simple.