Faith Lessons From The Ocean – Lesson #1 “The Trench Of Fear”

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” -Psalm 56:3

They say that you should never underestimate the power of the ocean.
It can be a dangerous place, and many a person has been lost beneath its currents and waves.

With that thought in mind, for the next few installments of Pastorsponderings.org, I want to explore what I want to call ‘Faith Lessons From The Ocean’, and how it might apply to our daily living:

Lesson #1 ‘The Trench of Fear’
I recall, on numerous occasions being a hapless victim of its tides.
I have never drowned, mind you, but I have faced some scary moments while within the ocean’s grasp. One such day occurred when I was a child. I remember it vividly. I was wading out into the surf, feeling the salty sting on my eyes and lips. I had not gone out very far when all of a sudden I found myself in deeper waters where I could not reach the bottom. The normal ocean floor shelf was further out, but I had stepped into a sand pit that was much deeper than the surrounding area. I momentarily panicked, I recall that my head went under the ebbing waves, and I choked on some of its spray.

For a brief moment, dread filled me and I was frozen in fear. This probably only lasted a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity had gone. I was a helpless victim and no matter how hard I tried, I was caught in the rip current of this small ocean trench.

When I came to my senses and pushed my panic down, I remembered the pull and push of the ebb and flow of the ocean waves and so on the next in coming wave, I stretched out my arms and paddled like I have never paddled before. I rode the wave out of my trench of fear…and I was finally free!

Our faith journey can be a lot like that trench of fear.
We will be cruising right along, enjoying life and riding the waves of success, then suddenly we find ourselves below the waves…and panic sets in.
In a sudden crisis, we might quickly forget God’s promises to us.
We might forget that He promised to never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)
We might forget that God always keeps His promises to us.

So we might be traveling in life, and all of a suddenly we come up against an obstacle that we feel has no bottom and we are drowning beneath its weight. Have you been there? Have you felt the powerful pull from the riptide? Have you lost your firm footing and have been forced to tread water? Perhaps you are at the point of sheer panic, because we do not know what will happen next when another large wave of life spills over you.
-Breathe.
You aren’t alone.
Don’t Panic.
This trench may seem to be your doom, but you will survive…you were made for more than this, and God is with you…trust Him!

Fear can be debilitating.
It can hold us captive and in chains.
Fear will lie to you, and reveal to you all of your weaknesses and insecurities. It will make you think that you can’t go on and that you are all alone in your struggles.
Fear is also tool of the Father of lies…and he loves it when we are held paralyzed in its awful grasp.

Fear is a Liar Music Video

Have you been to this place?
It’s a cold, desolate wasteland where hopelessness lives and is neighbor to unfulfilled dreams.

Don’t live there.
Don’t waste your time.
The trench of fear holds many souls captive…don’t let it hold you!

Where are the trenches located in your life?
What causes you dread and holds you captive?
Perhaps it is time to cry out to the Father.
He hears us, and He will not let your foot slip, even if you find yourself treading water from time to time amidst waves that seem determined to do you in. You will survive, and He will provide you the path by which you can thrive.

“When my anxieties multiply, your comforting calms me down.” -Psalm 94:19

Hello Again, It’s Me…(A Pondering on Silence In The Prayer Journey)

We all go through times while on the journey where the road is silent.
Other times our prayer life is full of answers and confirmations from God.  Dare I even say that within those silent miles upon the road, I would much rather hear a “No” from God.  By that I mean, my prayers of petition don’t always get answered the way I think that they should be answered.  Thus, in those times of deep silence, when all I want to hear is a word from God, I would even take the answer “no” than nothing at all.

Have you been to that place?
Please tell me that I’m not the only one who has experienced these times.
And within those moments, thoughts run through my head.
Thoughts like, “Is it me?”  “Is my faith too small?”  or, “What did I do to deserve this silence God?”  And then even sillier thoughts fill my mind.  Thoughts like, “God are you off doing something else, or solving somebody else’s problems?”  When all along I know God is present with me, He’s just not saying anything to me at that specific moment.

marriageI equate it to my marriage. 
My wife and I will have been married this year for 20 years (in the world around us, that’s like paleolithic ages for marriages).  I love my wife very deeply, and I know that she loves me the same way…and yes, we finish each other’s sandwiches. (We’ve watched Frozen WAY too many times)

Long story short, we talk a lot.  We share each others hopes, dream, aspirations and the hopes and dreams for our children.  We journey alongside each other through the good days and the not so good days.  That’s what marriage is, that’s what deep relational friendship demands.  We are there for each other.

Jesus and the Marriage: 
Jesus used this illustration of the Bride and Bridegroom in the bible.  He told of the virgins who waited for the bridegroom to arrive…some were wise and some were foolish.  Later on in the Bible, Paul uses this same topic of the bide and bridegroom to illustrated how husbands are to care for their wives to the point of laying down their lives for them, just as Christ did for us.  The bible is full of wedding illustrations and the necessity to not only love each other deeply, but to anticipate and long for Christ’s return.

Back to my Marriage: 
There are times when we talk a lot…but there are also times when we enjoy each other’s company in silence.  Nothing more needs to be said…because we know each other deeply, and we, at times, know what we are thinking.

That’s how I like to view those silent times with our Father in Heaven.
We are still very much in His presence, but no words are needed.  He knows our thoughts, and our hearts…and so He simply journeys alongside us.

It is in these sacred moments of silence that I feel we begin to know and feel the very heart of God.  No words can describe it.  No ceremony can contain it.  We simply join together in His presence.  There is no greater joy than this.  Nothing more holy.
walk2
So the next time you freak out when God doesn’t speak…just be silent.
The next time you fear He isn’t listening…pray for discernment to know He is journeying right next to you.  We don’t always need words, or to hear Him speak.  We walk in faith, knowing the Creator of the Universe journeys right beside you.  Revel in His presence.  Embrace His holiness.  Recognize that sometimes even in the silence, God is saying “Hello, It’s me, I’m still here…and I will never leave you or forsake you!”
-Amen and amen.

Walking at Midnight on the path of restlessness.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

I have another confession to make – I am restless…like pit of my stomach-aching restlessness.  Some days I can put my finger on it, while other days it is as elusive as an honest thief.  I am usually successful at pushing it back down, repacking that box that it lives in and stowing it away in that shadowy corner that I seldom travel to.  Still, I know it’s there…and it weighs on me as if an elephant had decided to perch its rotund bottom on my chest.

I wonder if you feel this way sometimes?
Do you have to push it back down as well?
Do you have to re-tape that worn-out box and pretend that dark corner doesn’t even exist?  Does it keep you up at night – blinking at the ceiling fan, counting the rotation of its blades as shadows dance off reflections of streetlights lit only for 3rd shift workers and insomniacs out for a stroll?  I repress the urge to join them, to open the front door and walk barefooted down the now cooled, uneven sidewalks as I imagine myself trying to avoid the spiny round pods that fall haphazardly from the large gum tree in our front yard.   I have stepped on these awful spiky seeds a time or two while walking barefoot down our path and even in the cool darkness of the night thoughts of the surprise pain causes me to recoil my feet from the lower spaces of my bed.

I wonder if David ever felt this way?  The pre-murder and adulterous David…the one that tended sheep and slew predators to the flock.  I wonder if he ever felt restless in his heart?  I am sure he did when, later he was being pursued by jealous King Saul and his men.  As David hid from cave to cave and village to village, I imagine him laying down on an uncomfortable uneven floor hoping to rest his weary head.  I can picture his deep sadness as he yearned for his best friend Jonathan.  Yet David trusted in God…but I would venture a guess that there were moments in which he was restless and he too had to push it back down and re-tape his box.

It is said that there is a season for everything…and yet Jesus told the people of his day not to worry about anything, yet I can’t help but find myself in the season of worry from time to time.  Doe that mean that I am not heeding His words?  That, despite my best efforts, I am not trusting in Him?  Perhaps you have thought this also> I worry, but Jesus said not to, and here I am still worrying.<  What do we do with these seasons?  How do we find the glimmers and glints of hope in the mess of our minds?  Sometimes we do believe the lie.  What lie you ask?  The lie that Jesus wasn’t really talking to us when He said those things, that it was just for the disciples and people around Him right then and there… The lie that we are broken people beyond fixing, and that the restlessness that we feel in the pits of our stomachs and the weight of our hearts is what we deserve for being fallen, sinful people.

Don’t live there.
Don’t wallow in that muck and believe that damning lie.
The son who turned his back on his father and spent his entire inheritance on partying, prostitutes and comfort found himself feeding muddy, fetid pigs.  Day in and day out he was covered in mud and pig excrement.  He definitely smelled as bad as they did.  He had lost everything – squandered a small fortune on foolish, regrettable things, and the stink of his life went much deeper than clothes and skin.  He lived there.  He wallowed there.  That pen of stench became his home for a period of time, until he came to senses.  As Jesus told this story of prodigal son, I imagine some who were listening felt that he was telling their story.  The prodigal son came to his senses, got up and devised a plan to return to his father.  He formulated a plan in his mind, he believed he would be unwelcome to return as a son, but maybe, just maybe his father would let him return as a servant.  Can you imagine that restless journey home; The endless loop of things he would finally say to his father in order to stave off the reprisals and chastisements?  As each dusty step led him closer and closer to the home he once knew, thoughts of doubt and fear must have crept in.  “Master, just let me work for you.” (For surely he would never be worthy to call him father after what he did).

And when this beaten-by-life man, who had squandered everything and had hit absolute rock-bottom crested that last hill, and his home was in view…he saw someone running towards him.  Perhaps it was a servant instructed to chase him off.  Perhaps it was a warning not to come any closer…he would have deserved such a welcome.  Instead, it wasn’t any of those things…it was his father that he had wished were dead, running to embrace the son he thought he had lost.

Don’t live in the home of restlessness.
Don’t believe the lie of shame and guilt.
Be forgiven, let your Father embrace you and welcome you home…and when you are finally hope, re-tape that box and then throw it away.

The prodigal son is me.
The prodigal son is you.
But once we have been embraced,
once we have witness our Father running to us,
Once we have been forgiven and returned to our home (where we belong)
don’t even entertain the lie or the box any longer.

But sometimes…we still walk at midnight, say hello, I’ll be waving.

Something more to ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army, Where Are We Going?

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” -Michelangelo

This is more of a collective pondering today. We need your comments, thoughts and opinions in order to carefully and thoughtful answer the above question: Where Are We Going?

What is our vision?

What should our vision be?

How do we make that vision a reality?

What are some of the obstacles in our way of fully realizing that reality?

Who will it take (e.g. soldiers, officers, volunteers, donors)?

How important is accountability in such a large movement/organization?

How can we become more accountable to Christ within this Army? Where does Holiness belong in such a conversation?

I have disclosed numerous questions to ponder today…are you willing to take a chance at answering any or all of these questions? The larger scope question: Where Are We Going? In other words, if you were to envision where the Army SHOULD BE in 20 years, what would it look like? What would you want to see different, the same, the growth?

-If we have no plan or vision, then we will flounder and waver.

We look forward to your responses!

Something more for the Army to ponder today!

Vision without execution is hallucination.” – Thomas Edison

*Disclaimer: the thoughts and opinions represented here do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army and are that of the writer of this blog, reader discretion is advised.*

A Pondering On Injustice…

You know what I have trouble with?
injusticeInjustices.

Those moments in life when,
both big and small injustices take place.
It is mind boggling that there are people in our world who
truly do not care about other people at all.
It goes far beyond being inconsiderate.
It’s about self-preservation over anyone else’s needs.
These injustices are fueled by greed.
These injustices are fueled by selfishness, power, anger, covetousness…evilSometimes I get so angry at these injustices…
If I were truly honest
I get more angry at the people who perpetrate these injustices.  revenge
much so that I want to exact my own kind of justice.

So much so that I sometimes imagine watching them regret their decisions
fighting fire with fire
a tooth for a tooth.

Sometimes, in my mind
I take on this role of judge, jury and executioner.
sometimes, I let this fantasy taint how I see other people…
And within that lens
I am better than them.
I am the pious one.
I am the perfect one.
Then I realize that I am a
hypo

I have become a  ——pharisee

So busy looking for
the flaws in others
that I have neglected
to look at my own Heart.

How dare I do such a thing…and yet it’s done every day.
Am I the only one in this —-
boatAm I the only one?
I don’t think so.
Are there injustices in this world?  absolutely_whiteShould we fight against these?
Yes.
but then I am reminded of another verse:
sin

And I am reminded how lost some people are.
I am reminded that despite our hopeless situations
Christ STILL died for us.
Despite our evil ways.
Despite our ignorance and selfishness
He still died for us.

Then another thing strikes me
like being struck across the face.
I.  am. not. the judge.
I am. not. the. one. who. exacts. ultimate. justices.

Can I fight against injustices in this world?
Yes.
But first…I must contend with my own heart.
But first…I must pluck out the board in my own eye.
But first…I must practice sacrificial, Christ-like love for my enemies.

It is here at this cross roads that I continue my journey…journey

How about you?

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