Saturday, November 18, 2006

Cleaning Up After the Storms

When my family lived in the Cayman Islands we would often walk along a beach after major storms. We would see flotsam and Jetsam, boulders and beams tossed upon the beach – or even still bouncing on the waves. The power of the sea would amaze us once again. But all that stuff is debris, “the remains of anything broken down or destroyed; ruins; rubble.” When we have major storms in our lives; we usually have debris after the storm. WE have rubble in our lives. It may be relationships that need to be restored – or abandoned; it may be bills to be cleared up; a reputation to rebuild. Maybe all we need to do is get around to those things which didn’t get taken care of while we were riding out the storm. Here’s a post-storm action list:

First, we need to give thanks to God for His goodness. Last week we looked at a big storm at sea as related to us in the Gospels. When that storm was finally over, the sailors, recognizing what was happening, responded appropriately. In Matthew 14:32-33, it’s described this way: “And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God". They were rescued – and they worshipped the God of the universe. They recognized Him – and they worshipped.

At our church in Maine we’ve been talking in our evening services about worship. What does it mean to worship Jesus? It’s not just music; it’s not just tithes and offerings; not just showing up on Sundays. It’s being reverent toward Him; adoring Him; seeking to learn more about Him; wanting to follow Him. At this moment, those sailors worshiped and gave thanks – as we should do; not only after major storms, but at all times.

Second, we need to assess the damage. Only the most foolhardy will wipe their brow and say, phew; lucked out,” then forget it. The prudent will look around after a crisis – maybe with some professional help. He/she will attempt to prevent a recurrence.

Third, mend your nets. Repair your masts. Get prepared. Jesus cares for us. He reaches out to help us; but we still manage to get ourselves in more trouble. We need to be ready for the next storm; the next Katrina. How do you weather storms? By preparing for them before they happen. The time to buy the duct tape and the plywood is before the hurricane hits. A daily routine that includes prayer and reading of God’s Word won’t make all of the storms veer around you, but it can make the storms easier to ride out.

It’s Thanksgiving week. Let’s all strive to make every week Thanksgiving Week. Enjoy the floats, the food, the football, and the family. Don’t forget, however, The One who is responsible for all good things.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My Daughter, the Librarian

Sunnie, the younger of our two daughters, called me today to ask me a question. It went something like this: “Dad, when do you think somebody can call themselves a librarian, when they get the Master’s degree or when they get a job as a librarian.” I responded, “the latter.” She then announced, “Well, then I’m a librarian.”

Sunnie has been determined to be a librarian since, at the age of eight, she became the youngest volunteer at the library in the town we lived in at that time. Then she became the first paid “shelver” in the same library at age 13.

Now, nearing the end of her graduate studies for the degree of Master of Information and Library Sciences (MILS), she will be a Reference Librarian in the library system of a good-sized city.

We are very proud of her. You go, Sunnie, the librarian.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Walking on the Water

In the Gospel of John, chapter 6, we read about a storm out on the water (read verses 16-24 for the details). It was dark. The wind was strong. The waters were rough. And these men were in small wooden boats, not ocean liners. These boats were probably less than 30 feet in length and had no motors to outrun the storm. These experienced sailors headed out obviously not expecting a storm; but they got one. Sometimes our problems in life come on us in this way; like a sudden death; unexpected expenses (like a tree falling on your house or your car); auto accidents; illnesses.

There are other times, however, when we ignore the warning signs and head into stormy seas despite the consequences. We ignore the “small craft warnings” and end up with unwanted pregnancies; business or legal problems (or both); relationship difficulties. Whether we caused the problems or not, the effect is the same: the Storm can leave you feeling helpless.

Sometimes as a result of a storm a ship is left “dead in the water.” As an old sailor, who went to sea for four years, I can tell you that is not pleasant. You have no control. You can’t outrun a storm, you can’t maneuver into the waves. You just wallow. Sometimes our ship of life gets like this. We’re buffeted at work; at home; at school; then to top it all off we get knocked around at church, too. I won’t make you wait for the end of the blog to tell you that these are especially good time to turn to Jesus for help – just as these experienced sailors did. But let’s look at more here in this passage.

These guys were old salts. These weren’t people renting the boat for an afternoon sail. Yet, they were terrified. We can look at a little more complete account in Mark 6:45-50.

They get out in the boat, this horrendous storm comes up, then it dawns on them. Hey, He sent us out here. I wonder whether they felt betrayed or abandoned at that point. But they didn’t have a lot of time for a pity party, because they had stay afloat; not capsize; not throw up all over themselves. They had to keep straining at the oars.

Now, they see a ghost. Jesus is out there walking on the water! Who wouldn’t be terrified in these guys sandals. More than three miles from shore; in the dark; getting lashed by heavy winds and high seas. Now there's someone out there, going for a stroll! A man can only handle so much. But then we read this in Mark 6:52: “for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.”

Things are beginning to take shape here. These men were disciples of Jesus but they hadn’t really understood His power – His credentials. They somehow missed the fact (which they should have learned from the healing of the Royal Official’s son [Jn. 4:43-52]), that Jesus didn’t even have to be physically present to perform a miracle. Do you understand this? Are you aware that Jesus can care for you no matter where you are or what your situation? Do you live in the light of this awareness. In other words, do you live like someone who has entrusted his eternity to Jesus? Recent studies tell us that few people who label themselves “Evangelical Christians” actually live up to what they say they believe. This is a tendency for us to fight - in ourselves; not others. But, I digress. (or do I?).

In the account found in Matthew 14:28-32, we read about the special case of Peter. What is important about Peter beginning to sink? If we think that’s the important part, we’re really missing the boat (couldn’t resist). We sort of expect that if one is attempting to walk on water he will sink. But Peter, the great disciple, apostle, follower of Jesus lacked the faith in Jesus to remain afloat.

What’s truly important for us to note here is that Jesus did not allow peter to sink! A common, human, reaction might have been: “You don’t trust me, fine, sink;” or “Be my guest, swim the 3 to 3 ½ miles back to shore.” But Jesus picked Peter up, just as He was to do many times for Peter.

Jesus pardons our weaknesses – even our lapses in faith – and He stretches out His hand to His people - - so that the waters of this life won’t swallow us up.

Sometime in the near future I'll write about cleaning up after the storms of life. The important thing I want to communicate though, is this: Jesus doesn't give up on us; even when we give up on Him. If you are a believer that Jesus is the one and only Savior of His people, He will get you through. He will lift you up to eternity with Him and His Father. Can I get an "Amen!!"?
One Word on the Election