Lorna Doone in Old Sow (Little Boat in Perilous Whirlpool)

Last year on the Fourth of July, after the sun had set but while evening light still lingered, I stepped from the docks of Lubec onto a little boat that headed out into Johnson’s Bay. I was delighted and eager; our plan was to watch the fireworks displays from three towns and two countries while bobbing on the waters of the bay between Canada and the US.

What I did not know was that we were also going to sail through Old Sow. With still an hour or so of daylight, our captain took us on a little tour while we waited for the fireworks show. The salmon pens, a little whale-watching, a few dolphins playing, the Canadian Island of Campobello. Then through Old Sow, the largest whirlpool in the northern hemisphere, second largest in the world.

Deep water scares me. I’ve lived all my life in the Midwest, far from any deep water. I can swim…but only in a calm swimming pool. While the ocean fascinates and awes me, I’m wary and respectful of its power.

 Now here we were, in the little six-passenger Lorna Doone, puttering through Old Sow. Strong currents flowing from many directions around the islands, from Passamaquoddy Bay to the Atlantic and back again, create a tidal churning, a watery vortex that at times can capsize and swallow ships. To safely pass through the roiling waters, a captain has to correctly judge the tides and the winds. Our captain took us through. I was… ummm…nervous. And very glad to come through on the other side.

But the captain of our boat has spent his life on these waters. Even though the Lorna Doone was the smallest craft out that night, her captain knew the bay, he knew the tides, he knew his boat. His wife told me, “Don’t worry. He knows what he’s doing. He won’t take us through if he’s not absolutely certain we will make it.”

(I thought to myself, Yup, that’s probably what most of the people who disappeared here, along with their boats, also thought …)

Ever since, when I think about sailing through Old Sow, I think about the confidence that woman had in her captain. She sat back and relaxed, did not watch the waves anxiously, as I did; she had no concern that we were headed toward waters where we might disappear forever.

I want to have that faith! I have spent too much of my time worrying about rough waters ahead. I want to have a trust that knows, even when the whirlpool’s waters grab at my little boat, that my captain is in total control, he knows the waters, he knows exactly where I am, and his power holds me.

How often have we cried, “Lord, do you see what’s happening? Do you care? Help! I am not going to make it…”

The story, first told about Jesus’ disciples on the Sea of Galilee, repeats itself in every generation of disciples, repeats itself in every disciple’s life, repeats in my life. Again and again, I find myself in a storm that threatens to overwhelm my boat; again and again, I cry, I’m drowning, Lord!

And I hear the same answer, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

The storms are real. Our peril is real. The enemy would love to grab my boat in the swirling deep and swallow it, never to surface again. Without faith in my captain, I would have plenty of reasons to be terrified of the waters and storms ahead.

The old hymn, “Peace Be Still,” has been humming in my head, especially these two lines:

        “No water can swallow the ship where lies
         the Master of ocean and earth and skies;”

The story in Scriptures tells us that at Jesus’ words, “Be still!” there was suddenly a great calm. It’s referring to the wind and the waves, but I want this to be descriptive of me, too!

I want my little faith to grow to big faith. I am learning. He brings me through the Old Sows in my life, he calms me in the storms, I am in His hands. I want to look ahead and relax, trusting, having faith in Him no matter what waters I see boiling ahead.

 

Scripture: Mark 4:40

NEXT: Lifelines to grab when you’re drowning.

Walking by Faith, or Living like a Fool?

In my childhood home, it was a frowned-upon, four-letter word. It was in the same category as the word hate: an awful and terrible word to say, an utterance that carried seeds of grave consequences. The King James Version of Scripture, which was the only version we used at one time, is plain: Call someone a fool, and you’re in danger of hell fire. (See Matthew 5:22)

But Scriptures have much to say about what makes a man or woman a fool. Proverbs, known as the book on wisdom, also paints a vivid picture of the opposite, the ways of a fool. So I think we’d better pay attention.

Jesus tells a story about a man whose crops did very, very well. This successful man builds on his success and then sits back and tells himself, “You have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”

(Does that sound familiar, fellow baby boomers?)

He thought he had it made. But God told him he was a fool. He died that night. 

Jesus ended the story with these words: “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

Remember that verse in Psalms, Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God” ?

For years, I thought that referred to unbelievers, to those who refuse to believe that God exists. But recently, I’ve wondered: Does it apply to us who say we believe but whose actions ignore God?

Jesus’ story of the rich man was not meant to condemn wealth. Instead, the key is in His ending statement that this man was foolish to pile up earthly wealth and ignore God. Are we ignoring God? Are we neglecting to find that rich relationship with Him that is more important than anything we accumulate or achieve on this earth?

Are we living as though we believe there is no God?

I live in an area blessed with beautiful hills and woods, serene landscapes and natural beauty. Tourists come by the millions each year to enjoy our area. Yet those of us who have lived here all of our lives often are blind to the beauty, to the blessings of this place. We miss a great gift when we do not stop to see what our visitors see.

And so it is for us when we do not know, we do not see, we do not even attempt to discover what God has for His children. He has promised us an inheritance of hope, riches, and power. Are we ignoring that? Are we living as though there is no God who loves His children, has promised to care for them, and keeps His promises?

Do we ignore the God who paid the price for our terrible sins so that we could have a relationship with Him?

Are we living as fools, when we disregard God’s promised provision and power and try to live by our own strengths and wits?

Are our actions telling the truth about what we believe? Do we say by our daily lives, “There is no God?”

As was the case for the very successful but foolish man, our own planning and thinking, our own strengths and abilities, our own striving, can never make us stand firm.

But our faith in God, being rich toward God, can.

***

Scripture: Luke 12:19,21; Psalm 14:1 (all NLT)

Season of Lilies, Stretching of Faith

 The season of lilies has begun here in our neck of the woods. And when I admire these elegant creations, the Spirit is always giving me a few nudges. 

I know you’ve read this hundreds of times. But read it today, and listen to what our Lord tells you.

Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear…

“Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you.

“Why do you have so little faith?

“And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t be concerned about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs.

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”

Ah, Father, what are you saying to us? Can it be so simple? Yet it is so hard for us to believe this.

Jesus says to his disciples and to us, Do not worry about your life. God will certainly provide for you because He cares so much about you.”

Can we believe him? It’s tough to answer that question honestly, isn’t it?

It raises all kinds of questions about how we live, what we should or should not do to provide for ourselves. At what point does relying on our own logic, practical sense, abilities, and planning become a lack of faith in the One who says He will supply all we need?

And what about those who are now suffering from lack of necessities needed for survival? What about those who have lost homes to this economy? What about those who have no job and have children to feed? How glib and church-y it sounds to say God will take care of them.

And yet… isn’t that exactly what Jesus said?

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. Do not worry.”

Could I say that, could I write that, if it were I who had no job, who could not buy food, who did not have enough money to pay my bills this month, who suddenly found herself homeless?

“Do not worry. Your Father knows what you need.”

This is an ongoing search for me, trying to discover exactly what this teaching of Jesus means to my life, how it will affect my decisions, my attitudes. I believe obeying God in this trusting business results in different actions for different people. What He is telling me to quit worrying about may not be the same thing He is asking you to trust Him for. For each one of us, at the right times, the Spirit comes and reminds us, “You don’t have to worry. Your Father knows what you need. Pay attention to and seek the things that matter more and last longer than anything on this earth. Don’t worry about this thing.”

He knows what worry does to us. He knows how obsessed we can be about trying to control our lives. He knows the attitudes that, unfortunately, have been drilled into us and hinder total faith in His love.

I do not yet know the answers to all these questions, but I hear God’s word to His children, those He chose, those He has adopted as sons and daughters:

… how much more valuable you are than the birds! … do not worry … your Father knows that you need these things … seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well … Do not be afraid, little flock …

I hear great tenderness in Jesus’ words, “Do not be afraid, little flock.”

I also hear Him saying, “According to your faith will it be done to you. Why do you have such little faith?”

 

Scripture from Luke 12:22-32 (both NIV and NLT) and Matthew 9:29 (NIV)

Thanks to Marcus Moan for today’s photograph.

According to your faith…

There’s a very interesting story in Isaiah 7. King Ahaz has heard rumors that neighboring countries are plotting against Jerusalem. So the hearts of the king and his people trembled with fear, like trees shaking in a storm.

God sent the prophet Isaiah to the king with this message: Don’t worry. The invasion will never happen. But, God warns, Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm. 

Your faith must be firm. Jesus’ miracles illustrated this again and again. Read the stories … He touches blind eyes, and they see. A child is released from the grip of demons. A woman who has been sick for years is healed by brushing against His clothing. A sinful outcast pours out her love and anoints Jesus with perfume, and He says her sins are forgiven.

And to each of them, Jesus then says, “Because you had faith, this has happened.” The NIV version is, “According to your faith will it be done to you.

I believe those are the Father’s words to us, today, too. Is that good news or bad news for you, my friend?

 

Scripture: Isaiah 7:2,7,9 (NLT); Matthew 9:29 (NIV)

What Guides Your Life?

Impossible, improbable, impractical, unreasonable, imperfect, inadequate, insufficient, ineffective.

All those words are a glimpse into the little secret that our proud, arrogant, and self-important race would rather gloss over and ignore: Mankind is limited.

No matter how brilliant, educated, or gifted with opportunity, earthly creatures still cannot cross certain boundaries in their thinking and their capabilities. We still have need of words like impossible and insufficient.

“For me, faith will always be a sounder guide than reason because reason can only go so far—faith has no limits.” Andy Andrews makes this statement in his book The Traveler’s Gift.

Man living by reason and logic alone still needs words like impossible, insufficient, mystery, unknowable, unexplainable… and the list goes on and on. Man’s logic, thinking, and reasoning still has its limits.

Andy Andrews’s statement has been floating around in my head for several weeks. I wondered what Jesus had to say about that, and so I went looking…

Interesting. Jesus doesn’t talk much about living sensibly, logically, practically, reasonably. He doesn’t say, “Be sensible. Be practical. Use your head.”

In fact, He asks His followers to do some pretty illogical things. “Love your enemies. When someone hurts you, give them another chance to do it again. Then forgive them, every time. Don’t seek revenge. Don’t worry about piling up money and goods. Give things away.”

Many things Jesus asks his followers to do seem pretty illogical and unreasonable…according to our “sound” logic.

What Jesus talks about, instead, is obeying God and having faith in God. And God’s logic is quite different from ours. That’s why the obeying is so important–we may not understand at all, but obeying keeps us on the right track, even if it doesn’t “make sense” to us. And sometimes, in our obeying, God teaches us to see things as he does.

How do we make our decisions? How are we living? Do we walk by faith or do we try to find our way with only the limited light of our own reason?

Walking by faith means I move ahead based on what I know of God, his character, his love, his plan. I do not make decisions based on my limited reason, energies, and strengths, or according to the logic and thinking of others.

Walking by faith means trusting in who God is and following the path his light illuminates, rather than wandering down paths laid out by limited mortals.

It almost sounds irresponsible, doesn’t it? We’ve signed on to the belief that learning to think for ourselves is commendable. We like to think we’re pretty smart. How often have you heard, “God gave us a brain; he intends for us to use it” ?

I’m not arguing against that, but I’m asking, What is your ultimate guide—your reason. or your faith in the Lord and Creator of the universe?

If I’m wrong, or if I’ve missed something Jesus said, then someone please help me out and speak up. But Jesus did not say, If you’re smart enough… Instead, he said, If you’ve got that mustard seed…