In the Dark of the Morning

the dark of the night
in the valley of the shadows
of this disease
i will fear

nothing

though it surrounds me
invisible
relentless
from every side

still

i will fear nothing

in the dark of the night
though my body trembles
and my heart shakes
still

i will fear nothing

in the dark of night
when my mind dances
as a winter storm
loosed from its chains
and playing the game of what-ifs

still

i will fear nothing

when the dark of the night
threatens to consume my soul
to lay me outstretched
emotionally naked before the world

still

i will fear nothing

for the dark of the night
will turn its ugly face
to the Light of the morning
and there

there

i will feel no more
i will see no more
i will fear no more

for there will be
no more
shadows

there will be no more disease

in the Light of that morning

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.

Light In The Darkest Hours

imageThe other morning I got up early to go with a friend to the hospital. She was nervous. That’s normal.

On the way to the hospital, we prayed that everything would go well. We prayed for peace and and for wisdom for the staff that would be involoved with the surgery. For trust in a God who is faithful and true.

Shortly after we prayed, we passed a rose garden that I frequent when I go out to take pictures. It was still dark outside but as we passed by, something caught my eye. Little white balls seemed to be floating amongst the roses.  I looked more intently, only to realize that what I was seeing was the pure white roses illuminating the dark.

I smiled.

Even in our darkest hours, God shines light for our path. It may come through words of a faithful friend. It may come through seeing a rainbow and being reminded that we can trust what God says. It can come when we read His word and take to heart what He’s written for us there. Or, it  may come when we are driving to a hospital, repeating to ourselves the what-ifs of something going wrong as we pass a garden in the dark.

The ‘normal’ person may not realize what those round, glowing white ‘lights’ are as they pass by, but I knew exactly what they were because I’ve spent so much time there. I can tell you where the pink roses are, the Sterling Silvers, my favorites and the Killdeer nests I have found  when visiting with my grandkids. The more time spent there, the more familiar it becomes. The more familiar it becomes, the more intimately I get to know it.

I thought about how my relationship with my heavenly Father is like that garden. He draws me in on some pretty dark days to show me the Light has overcome the darkness. The more time I spend with Him, the more I want to be with Him. With each encounter, the familiarity brings a deeper intimacy. Even in the darkest hours. I just need to keep following the Light.

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?

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.