Trusting While Fear-filled

He tells them to get into the boat. To go on ahead. Go to the other side and He would dismiss the crowd.

He knows what he’s doing.

The crowd, little by little, disperses. Some continue to hang around and chat. Ponder collectively over what they have just heard. Words that have spoken to their heart. Changed their lives.

While some remain, pondering His words, He hikes up the side of the mountain alone. He is going to pray. The air begins to cool. The sun begins to set. And there He is. Sitting. Kneeling on that mountainside. Alone. He is praying to his Father.

In the meantime, the boat, now a good distance away from the shore, begins to rock back and forth. Those inside the vessel begin to grow fearful.

Meanwhile, up on the mountainside, He continues to pray as the cool breezes began to blow past Him.

He knows. He is God and, He knows.

He knows who is in that boat which is swaying more fervently with each sharp gust of wind. Wind that is biting at their flesh.

They are doused with ice cold water that washes over them, drenching their hopes for a safe return. It threatens to fill the hull that holds them in what little refuge they have. It mocks them. Its intent is to sink and drown them. To bury their hopes. Their faith. Their trust. Their belief for a better way. If it has its way, the storm’s crushing waves and chaotic winds will leave them for dead.

And He knows this.

It is the fourth watch of the night. Almost sunrise. They have battled through the night with a ship destined for destruction in the wake of disaster.

He has battled all night in prayer. Were His prayers for their faith to increase and their fears to subside?

There are boats by the shore. He could probably get a ride. But instead, He walks. Right onto the water. And the waves lap high around His ankles.

He walks.

On the water.

How many times have we read or heard stories from the Bible that they’ve seemed to become commonplace and bring nothing into our humdrum lives? Our response?

“Oh yes. I’ve read that one – Jesus brought a little girl back to life. Pretty cool.”

Cool? COOL? It’s miraculous! It’s incredible. Incredibly miraculous. And if I think about it for any length of time, at any depth, I realize – it isn’t cool, it’s unfathomable.

And so He walks. And fear rocks each disciple as the waves rock the boat. Then they spot Him. When that fear has clawed its razor sharp talons into the depths of their beings – they see Him. But through fear-tinted glasses they don’t really see Him.

They see a man.

They see a figure.

They see…

“Peter! It’s. a. ghost.!!!”

But He is not a ghost. He is the One who will save them. Now. At this moment. And three years later. And every day after that.

Immediately He calls out. “Guys – it’s okay. Don’t be afraid. It’s me – Jesus.”

Peter gathers his thoughts.

“Lord, if it’s really you then…”

Should he risk it? Should he sound and look foolish should the far-off man really be a ghost? Will his request make him look brave so that when he appears foolish in three years on that day of denial, his companions may overlook his shame?

He risks it.

“Lord, if it is you, then tell me to come out there to you on the water.”

Does Peter, at this point in time, have an inkling as to who Jesus really is?

There is no bravery here. There is no foolishness. But, there is relief. Relief that Help has come. But still the winds toss the boat about. And in the tossing and the rocking and the swaying, Jesus says, “Come.”

At this point, Peter may have wished it was a ghost he had seen for now he had to show by works what his faith meant to him. Could he walk over to Jesus, who had been coming to them but now waited for Peter to come to Him?

I don’t think Peter jumped. I think it was more like he wanted to jump ship as he slowly, cautiously, put one leg over the boat and then the next and then with both hands anchored tightly to the rim on the side the boat, with eyes closed, he lets loose. And he is standing.
I can imagine his surprise. He really is standing!

He probably smiles a sheepish grin to no one in particular and turns around and begins walking toward Jesus. You couldn’t wipe that grin off his face. You couldn’t squelch the pride coursing through his very being.

His shoulders are broad and he could have moved a mountain. If only the waves at his feet would settle. If only the wind would calm. As he looks at the waves and feels their sting against his legs, he looks to the horizon, watching the clouds rush toward him, while his faith flees and fear fills him once again and… he begins to sink.

Because that’s what fear does. It pulls you down and makes you feel like you’re sinking. The storms in life pound down so hard upon you that you will drown and no one can save you.

But Jesus knew. He knew what was going on in that boat while he was in prayer up on that mountain. He knew what they were thinking while he was intervening. He knew their battle with fear while he was battling for souls. And He knew what Peter would do.

“Lord, save me,” Peter cried out as he began to sink.

Jesus knew.

He knew the very second Peter quit looking at Him, is the very second Peter would begin to sink.

Peter didn’t sink immediately, but instead, “when he saw the wind”, we’re told he began sinking and cried out for Jesus to save him. And what did Jesus do?

Immediately He reached out and caught him. Not down, not under the water, but out. It shows Jesus was ready for that moment. Because He knew – before he even sent those boys across the lake, before he spent the entire night in prayer – He knew what was going to happen. Peter didn’t have time to sink because Jesus was in the process of saving him before Peter knew he needed saving. Before he cried out, “Lord, save me,” Jesus was in the process of reaching out before Peter had time to go under.

And Jesus meets Peters fears and faltering faith with tenderness.

With an arm around Peter’s shoulder and steadying his weak knees, Jesus asks, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

What do you say to that?

What could Peter say? What could he do? He said nothing.

The story goes on…

‘When they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.’

The wind died. In the mere presence of Jesus, the wind died. Not a word was spoken.

And, as the wind died, the disciples were saved. As the wind died, their faith grew. As the wind died, they began to live. Really live. And in their living, they worshipped Him. Why? Because they realized who they were hanging around with. They knew this Jesus – their Jesus – wasn’t some mystical, magical being that appeared as a ghost upon stormy seas. They knew this was the Son of God. The One that had the power to change hearts and minds. To change lives. To turn fear into faith and worry into worship.

There are a hundred and one things I could list that could cause me to worry. And fear. And many things on my list I have granted permission to cause fear and worry. Health issues. Financial issues. Family issues. Failures. On and on.

But God doesn’t want us to live there. We can’t live there for Jesus showed us that to live in fear is to sink in the storm. And His way is much safer: keep my eyes on Him, reach for His hand, and trust Him.

Above all, trust Him.

Just One Rose

Just Peachy
Photo by Sherri Woodbridge

A  woman who wanted affirmation from God that He did, indeed, hear her desperate prayers. She had been raised to believe that laying a fleece before Him was taboo, but at this point in her life, she didn’t know what else to do. Her bitterness and sorrow were growing day by day.

She approached the throne of God and made her request known. She asked her heavenly Father that  if He was listening, to send her a red or a yellow rose.

She awoke the next morning, dressed, and headed off to work. All was usual. Even the co-worker that came into her office. And, this wasn’t just any co-worker, but the one that annoyed her due to his perky, joyful attitude. He was too happy and that annoyed her for one simple reason. She wasn’t.

As usual, he was his regular self – full of perk and joy. And full of the smiles she had come to nearly despise. This particular day he greeted her, hands behind his back. She wasn’t in the mood for smiling or merriment. Somehow he had sensed that from her lately and on this particular day he brought her a gift. “A little something,” he felt prompted to explain, “that I thought would cheer you up. The red one is to remind you that you are cherished by a big God and the yellow one is to remind you that He is in control and wants you to be at peace.”

Before he could finish, tears were streaming down her face. The years of sorrow and loss that had turned to bitterness and despair, washed away with the tears that ran down her face that day. God had been listening and answered not just with one rose, but two.

After reading her post, I sat at my computer, staring at the screen. Tears rolled down my cheeks. It was at that very moment that I, too, prayed for a rose. A fleece in the form of a scented bloom. I would not be so bold as to be specific as to color. Any rose would do. I wasn’t picky.

While in the process of moving, packing up our too many belongings, putting them in storage and heading who knows where, we are, I guess one might say – temporarily ‘homeless’. Unable to meet our financial demands in our current place of residence, we are seeking God’s will for the next placement, while not knowing what that looks like or where it is.

With each box that is taped and labeled, the question remains in the back of my mind as to when these boxes of mementoes, memories and more will be opened. The bigger question that haunts me is whether or not we are doing the right thing. Believing we are and at the same time, feeling like we’ve gone absolutely crazy.

So, sitting there before the computer, I laid a fleece before the throne of God. I asked for affirmation that we were making the right choices and doing the right thing. I didn’t need to know where He was taking us or when or how. I just wanted to know we were being obedient and not on some crazy path made of our own accord.

The next day my son was visiting and I was in the other room when the doorbell rang. He answered it and I could hear him talking to someone. By the time I got upstairs, the visitor had left. I asked him who was at the door and he said it was one of my friends. She had brought something for me and he had put it on the kitchen counter. I turned around and looking into the kitchen, there on the counter stood six perfect, as beautiful as I’ve ever seen, red roses from her garden.

I am overwhelmed at the goodness of God. He doesn’t just answer our prayers, but goes beyond what we could have imagined, assuring us that he is indeed listening and answering in abundance.

Enthusiasm… Get Yourself Some

imageFinn is my youngest grandson. Finn is nine months – okay, almost ten months old. Finn is a very happy baby.

In fact, my “Little Monkey” is happy (no exaggeration) 95% of the time. The only time I have seen him unhappy is when he’s been teething or has tummy problems and even then you can get him to smile – at the least.

The other day I was thinking about Finn and his vivacious attitude toward life. We are all different. Some of us are naturally skeptical toward life. Some are cautious. Some are fearful. Some have abundant joy and overflow with happiness. Are we born like that – skeptical, cautious, full of fear, joyful or otherwise – or do we learn it according to our life experiences? Maybe a little of both?

Jesus said, “Unless you become like a child, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” If I take that to mean that I must have unwavering trust, then I believe that a child is born into this world free of worry, fearless, trusting. They have the ability to smile because they trust someone greater, though they may not understand it.  It is the circumstances and experiences of life that changes us.

When I was thinking about what a happy baby Finn is, it made me wonder why it is so difficult for so many of us to have that same kind of joy. That same happiness.

It’s funny how often you hear “What are you so happy about?” when you’re smiling or laughing or acting silly. Finn smiles. Finn laughs and giggles. Finn acts silly. Finn doesn’t have a care in the world. Because Finn, without knowing it, trusts. But no one asks him, “What are you so happy about?” because you would most likely expect a baby to be naturally happy.

We know the benefit of trust and still we choose to fear, to be skeptical, to worry. Wouldn’t it be great if we learned to trust like Finn, even while knowing there is always going to be something vying for our joy and seeking to bring us down, someone wanting us to take a nap? Wouldn’t it be great if we could go back to being little and trusting “like a child”, having an enthusiasm for life?

Enthusiasm comes from the Latin word, enthusiasmus, which comes from the Greek word enthusiasmos, which comes from the word entheos. In Greek, the word theos means “God“. To make a long lecture short, the word enthusiasm generates from the word entheos.

If, then, theos means “God” and en, the first part of the word enthusiasm, means in or within, then like doing math, God plus en equals God in us, God within us – God with us. Sound familiar?

God with us. In Matthew 1:23, we are told that the Christ-child that Mary carries shall be called “Immanuel“, meaning God with us.

God with us brings us hope. Peace. Comfort. Healing. But it takes trust – faith as a little child – to believe it. If you have that faith, then enthusiasm for life – no matter what the circumstances – is yours for the taking.

Want some?

Why I Wear A Cross


I went into the Fast-Fix jewelry store and had the chain for my gold cross necklace fixed the other day. It’s only taken me a mere 25 years to do it but alas, it is finished. Those were Christ’s words as he hung from the cross, giving up mortality for immortality, death for life, a sin scarred body for the sins of man. Before they tested the color of his blood by the piercing of his flesh, he uttered, “It is finished.”

His work on earth accomplished.

His body removed from the cross and laid to rest.

The sins of man soon to be silenced by his descent into darkness.

His ressurection made known by the glory His return.

Finished.

Everything’s completed. All we had to do was praise Him for his promise kept and to come and yet, instead, we left Him on the cross.

Looking at my necklace as the clerk ran my debit card, I smiled at how it sparkled. Even others, within the first couple days of wearing it again after 25 years, made comments about how pretty and shiny it was. Within days I was back to rubbing it between my fingers every now and again. Not out of habit or unintentionally, as you see some women do, but with intention. Because every now and again throughout the day, I am reminded of the sacrifice Jesus made for me by hanging on a cross. A rugged, splintery, dirty cross that didn’t sparkle and no one called it pretty.

But it was a cross. And as he prepared to hang there, he suffered more than we can ever comprehend…

He suffered the betrayal from those who called him friend and found healing through his hands no less than 24 hours before.

He suffered mocking from those who were serving Rome by persecuting him.

He suffered embarrassment and shame when asked to disrobe prior to his ill-imposed punishment.

He suffered bullying when the soldiers made a crown out of thorns and abrasively shoved it onto his head, causing stinging pain when that crown pierced through his flesh, their laughter echoing up to the halls of heaven.

He suffered searing pain being flogged — struck on his flesh with a whip that tore and peeled his flesh by the sharp metal or bone pieces inserted  into its leather strap — at least forty times.

He suffered exhaustion carrying his cross.

He suffered an agony known of throughout history but suffered by few, as nails were pounded through the dusty and bloodstained flesh of his hands and feet.

He suffered traumatic discomfort as his body, lying upon two weighty lengths of timber, was raised from the ground and with a jolt, causing every scratch, every scrape, every open wound to throb anew.

As the sun beat upon him, He suffered a ‘chronic’ pain as the clothes given back to him, (which would later be gambled upon for ownership), rubbed against his backside.

He suffered abandonment as he cried out, “God, why have you forsaken me?

He suffered ridicule when the guards taunted him with vinegar for water.

He suffered the heat of the day as he took one last breath and uttered, “It is finished.”
It is finished.

No more pain. No more suffering. Then taken down from the cross off suffering, he was laid in a tomb.

It is finished.

Some have argued that Jesus is no longer on the cross so why not “take that cross off from around your neck.” “It’s an idol.'” “It’s superstitious.”

I don’t agree. Yes, He’s gone. To the grave and back and beyond.  But, I don’t idolize the cross and  I’m not superstitious. But I will wear it. Proudly.  I will take it in my hand throughout the day and remember…

He suffered for me.  It was an ill-imposed  punishment because it should have been me on that cross. He was sinless. I am not. He made a way to bring me back into fellowhsip with my heavenly Father. And I wear a gold cross to remind me of just that.

All You Need

 

 Oh soul,
why do you weep?
why do you want,
when everything you need is right here?
right here in front of you – 
always has been,
always will be.
Oh soul,
why do you despair?
why do you fret 
when everything that can calm you is right here?
right here before you – 
always has been,
always will be.
Oh soul,
why do you fear?
why do you anxiously await what may never be,
when peace awaits you – 
right here,
right now.
I, 
the Lord your God –  
I am all you need.
And I am here, 
before you –
now.

Catching the Attention of Heaven

 He closes the car door and she  waves one last goodbye and he slowly pulls away from the curb. He is in no hurry to leave her. She is no hurry to wave goodbye. His car inches down the road and with her back, now to him, she walks toward the front door. And I can see her wipe a tear that involuntarily runs toward her cheek. As his car gets  further down the road, I imagine a tear finding its way down his cheek.

A mother of almost 65 years. A son for 55. 

Good-byes are always hard. Made harder by age and ill health. And I sit here, I watch real life drama as I rock a precious  baby boy who is just starting his journey.  Will tears form when, one day, he will find himself having to say good-bye to someone he dearly loves? 

** ** **

Two women approach a tomb, making ready to say their last good-byes to someone they dearly loved. They have brought their finest for the finest man they have ever known. The closer they get to the grave, the more anxious they become, for they fear something is amiss. The stone that sealed the grave is no longer in place, but has been rolled away and the body they came to prepare  is gone.

Gone!

Gone and no last goodbyes. By now a few of the disciples have also come and left but Mary, one of the two women who had arrived first, stays behind, standing outside of the tomb crying.

Tears are powerful. They say much when nothing else can be said. They communicate both sorrow and joy.

Mary stands, weeping and her tears of grief, sorrow, disappointment, emptiness, sadness catch the attention of the Almighty. He sends two angels to the tomb. They ask her, “Woman, why are you crying?” She answers. “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have taken Him.” She hears a noise behind her and turns around to see a man standing behing her and again she is asked the question by him, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”

Mary thinks she is speaking to the gardener and asks, “Sir, if you have taken him, tell me where and I’ll go get him.”

Goodbyes – last goodbyes – are important. They put a finality to life that is often difficult to do without them. We can often continue expecting to see that familiar face that is no more without an ‘official’ goodbye.

Mary is beside herself. She is empty. Grief-stricken. She is weeping. Not just crying – weeping. And her face is bent toward the ground and she is wiping tears as fast as they are falling.  Her tears get the attention of the man standing before her. The man who she seeks. The man she longs to say her final goodbyes to. The man she loved and who is now gone. And then something amazing happens. He says her name. 

“Mary.”

She knew that voice. She knew exactly who  it was that now  stood before her.
She lifted her head and cried out to him and obviously in her excitement, in her joy, she clings to him, for (an I can imagine a chuckle here from the Lord Almighty himself at her reaction) for he says to her, “Don’t hold onto me, for I have not returned to the Father yet…” 

Wait.

Did you catch that? Jesus hadn’t even returned heavenward yet and takes the time to meet with Mary in her grief. To show her there would not be a need for anymore tears. He was alive. She may have sought for him in her tears of sorrow, but he met her there in her pain and, speaking her name, turned her tears into tears of joy.
Are  you crying because of sorrow in you life? Weeping because of grief over  a lost loved one?  Listen. LIft your head. Your tears catch the attention of the Lord Almighty. And He is saying your name.

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. -Revelation 17:7

What Do Birds Know?

It is raining and I hear an unusual sound as the water streams down from the sky. The clouds above threaten more rain, but the sound around me continues as if unaware. The air grows colder, the clouds gather closer, turning their shades of gray to one of almost black and still the sound continues. I look out my window to see if this can really be happening and there, at my bird feeder, sits three goldfinches and one above in the limb of the fir tree is singing.  He is singing with all  his being. In the middle of a springtime storm. And I think to myself… amazing. Simply amazing.


I know birds cannot read. I know birds cannot understand when I speak to them. I just don’t have the capabilities of which Dr. Doolittle seemed to be gifted. But, somehow they are aware of a great truth that I have trouble with. The truth of Matthew 6:26, which states, “Look at the birds of the air;they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” 

Those were Jesus’ words. That truth came directly from the very lips of the King of Kings. Is it really true that if God says it, we believe it, and that settles it? 

Sometimes, huh? And sometimes it’s hard because you’re in the midst of the storm and it just doesn’t feel as if it’s ever going to let up.

But the birds still sing. They believe and they go on. They may get stuck in the storm falling around them but they don’t let it get inside of them. Why? Because they have learned that their heavenly Father has always taken care of them and he always will. They have learned that they are valuable and all the worry in the world has never and will never help. 

It is raining again. The sound of the goldfinch can still be heard and it makes me smile because they have gotten it – the truth. They believe it and it’s settled: they are cared for greatly. And that, dear friends, means they are loved by the One who loves them most.