Day 18 – March 14, The Storm
It is perhaps one of the best images I’ve ever seen that depicts the condition of our world today. It is a painting by renowned Dutch artist Rembrandt, who was born in 1606. This particular painting was done in 1633 and titled, “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.” It was stolen from a museum in Boston in 1990 and has never been found.
Pause your reading and take a moment to look for a moment at the image.
The setting for the painting comes from the Gospel of Mark:
35 On the evening of that same day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they left the crowd; the disciples got into the boat in which Jesus was already sitting, and they took him with them. Other boats were there too. 37 Suddenly a strong wind blew up, and the waves began to spill over into the boat, so that it was about to fill with water. 38 Jesus was in the back of the boat, sleeping with his head on a pillow. The disciples woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?”
39 Jesus stood up and commanded the wind, “Be quiet!” and he said to the waves, “Be still!” The wind died down, and there was a great calm. 40 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Why are you frightened? Do you still have no faith?”
41 But they were terribly afraid and began to say to one another, “Who is this man? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:35-41 GNT
Now would you indulge me and go look at the image again. Only this time, look for Jesus, who you’ll find second from the right, he appears to be just sitting up after sleeping. Then look to the left of Jesus. Near the bow of the boat you’ll see a man with a blue cloak on, with his hand plastered on his head in an act of desperation, he’s holding on to one of the guywires.
And perhaps you already know who the guy in blue is, it’s Rembrandt, he’s painted himself into the picture.
It’s a fitting image for our world today, because the coronavirus has in essence thrown us all into a boat and the wind and the storms rage around us as many begin to fear for their lives.
And yes, I don’t like the heat any more than you do, but Jesus looks at all of us who follow him and asks, “Why are you frightened? Do you still have no faith?”
During these days we must lean into our faith in order to keep from letting the panic around us draw us into the storm as well. The One we follow contains the power to restore order in the midst of chaos. May we together become a chorus of hope to the world, that Jesus is in the storm-calming business, today, tomorrow and forever.
Seeking to live in the eye of the storm,
Day 15 – March 11, Black Holes and Invisible Force
Have you thought about black holes recently? Think with me. A black hole is formed when a star, at the end of its life-cycle, collapses in on itself. Scientists don’t identify a black hole by seeing it, because they can’t. What scientists do observe is the impact of the black hole on the stars around it; using mathematics they can tell a great deal about the size and scope of a black hole. If you’ve ever played with a magnet and some iron filings, you have an idea about how something “invisible” (magnetic force) can move and shape the visible filings.
We have a voracious appetite for wanting to know why, or how. Like, Why: is the sky blue…do flamingos stand on one leg…do bad things happen? Or how: does electricity work…does gravity do its thing…or my personal favorite- how do they get just the perfect amount of filling between those two cookie halves in the Oreo?
Science does a great job of telling us why many things work as they do. And the unwritten rule is that, even though science can’t prove everything, we assume that science will be able to do so someday. Stay with me.
For people of faith, the challenge is that we have a society that increasingly discounts faith, because you can’t scientifically prove faith’s claims. And while there has been substantial academic effort spent on investigating the claims of the Bible and the person of Jesus, much of it quite good and scholarly, the end game is that people want proof of Jesus. Many people’s attitude is, ‘show me the evidence.’
In Daniel 3, there is a story about a man named Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, who was looking for proof that the God of the Jews was “The God”. Neb became furious that three Jewish men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had refused to bow down and worship Neb, because they worshipped The God. The king tells them that if they don’t recant, they will all be thrown into the furnace of fire and burned. Neb goads them by telling them that he’ll throw them in the flaming fire, and he asks, “then what god will save you?” In essence he says, ‘prove it!’
They respond by saying, “if our God- the one we serve- is able to rescue us from the furnace of fire and from your power…then let him rescue us. But if he doesn’t, know this for certain, we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you’ve set up.”
Is it faith you carry, or something else…perhaps religion? You and I have to be ready to tell people why we believe so that when someone asks, when someone wants to see our “proof”, we respond by telling them how Jesus has changed us…how he’s changed you? Isn’t that proof? What would you say?
1 Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
To me, Jesus is like a black hole, you can’t “see” Him, but he’s totally altered my universe…eternally. He, MOVES me.
Day 14 – March 10, Purpose
It has been said that living as a non-Christian is a much easier life than the Christian life. What do you think? I believe it to be true. Living as a Christian means that you are working at denying yourself, a non-Christian has perhaps little incentive for denying him or herself. A Christian seeks to follow God, specifically, to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Following God has got to be more difficult than following the Self. So if it’s more difficult, why would anyone want to follow God?
There are many reasons I believe, and one of them has to do with purpose. Purpose has to do with having a very real sense that the value of your life is greater than…you. At some point, if you’re just following your way, your way becomes empty and shallow. Yes it’s easier…but it’s cotton candy, you know, tastes really great but has little substance. You can’t live on cotton candy…or Oreo’s!
Very early in the Bible, we meet a man named Abram, and God asked Abram to move away from his land, his family, his friends, and go to a land that he did not know. God essentially told Abram, uproot your entire life, and go start a new life in a brand-new place. And oh, by the way, it says in Gen.12:4, that Abram was 75 years old.
Does that sound like something you’d like to do with your life…uproot and start new, because God convicted you to do so?
So why would Abram do this, why would he make this crazy move away from all he knew to something totally new? The answer is the same- purpose. Abram was willing to give it all up, because he knew that following God gave his life far more purpose than following himself. He chose to follow God, rather than follow Self, because He knew that it was the only way his life would not stay empty and shallow. God told Abram, “I will make of you a great nation and will bless you.”
Maybe you’re reading this and feel like your world has crumbled all around you, and you wonder how you can go on. Take heart my friend. God is in the business of reconstruction, God excels at taking our broken pieces, and giving us a whole new life and path. He did it for Abram who persevered through the trauma of being uprooted, He did it for me (he’s actually done it for me many times), and He will do it for you…again and again.
For me, it’s no-contest, follow Self, or God? It’s not easy, but it has purpose, meaning, that you can find nowhere else.
Follow Jesus…and find purpose.
Day 13 – March 9, The Pearl
You ever had anything bad happen to you? Perhaps you had less than ideal parents, maybe someone you really loved crushed your heart, or you didn’t get that promotion at work you were anticipating…you get it. Not one person reading this is immune from bad things.
Although a grain of sand is said to be the culprit, the truth is that the genesis of most pearls is actually some small organism or other particle that enters the oyster through its valves during respiration or feeding. To protect itself from harm, the mollusk coats and coats again the uninvited. And we pay big bucks for nice pearls, which are really just somebody else’s trouble. 😊
We are sometimes like the oyster. Something bad happens and we try to insulate ourselves from it. If we can’t get rid of it, we start coating it, so that it won’t harm us. What do we coat it with? Oh, anger, depression, you-name-it, and perhaps the biggest one- negativity.
With negative words we try to convince ourselves, and/or we try to convince someone else, about how bad someone is. In doing so, we draw ourselves away from our own pain while trying to smear someone else. But does this remove the pain? Of course not. If we could peel the layers away, it is still there.
Negativity is one coping mechanism we use to protect ourselves. How’s it working out for you? Would others who are close to you say that you are a negative person? Perhaps it’s time to peel the layers back and find out what’s caused all the rub?
As we continue our journey in Lent, reading God’s word is so important, listen to how Paul encourages us: “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” Colossians 3:8
Jesus came to get at the heart of the pearl, to deal with the invader. And He did so, once and for all. Let go of negativity…some people may wear it like a pearl, but it’s just a festering intruder that Jesus came to destroy.
Seeking to be rid of festering invaders,
Day 12 – March 8, Authority and Humility
Authentic…genuine. What do those words mean to you? If someone is genuine, if they seem authentic, we are likely to listen to their words, we may even be willing to follow their leadership. Someone with these qualities are our best friends; to us, they are authentic, genuine.
In this election year we recognize that elections are historically an exercise in listening to a person’s promises or platform, and voting for the person we believe will carry out the promises that align with our ideals. It’s much more difficult for us to determine if a candidate is authentic, if they are genuine. However, no matter who you are, talk is cheap. An authentic person, a genuine person, though imperfect, does their best to walk the talk.
In the 23rd chapter of Matthew, Jesus turns on a proverbial blast furnace, aimed at the religious authorities. He tells the people who are listening that you have to obey them (religious authorities) because they are in authority over you. But he also says, “do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”
Jesus goes on to say that these religious leaders place heavy burdens on the people, that they themselves are not willing to carry. Jesus’ fire gets stronger still when he says, “Everything they do, they do to be noticed by others.”
Jesus makes the case that we need to be wary of those in authority over us who make it their habit to be sure we know how great they are, and who are motivated by what someone sounds like, or looks like, on the outside.
Then Jesus turns our attention to what’s inside. He says, “But the one who is greatest among you will be your servant. All who lift themselves up will be brought low. But all who make themselves low will be lifted up.” In these three sentences, Jesus points to that little quality that makes all the difference- humility. I would argue that a strong sense of humility is what makes a person able to be identified as both authentic and genuine.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t have a healthy sense of self-worth. But there is a big difference between being self-assured, and arrogant.
Think about the greatest people that you have ever known. That’s ever. Really, take a moment to think about them. My sense is that part of the reason you consider them great, is because you can see their humility.
During Lent, ask yourself the question, ‘can other people see humility in me?’ If people can’t, they are less likely to believe what we say, about anything…including Jesus.
Is your humility showing?
Day 11 – March 7, The Stream
There once was a town high in the Alps that straddled the banks of a beautiful stream. The stream was fed by springs that were old as the earth and deep as the sea.
The water was clear like crystal. Children laughed and played beside it; swans and geese swam on it. You could see the rocks and the sand and the rainbow trout that swarmed at the bottom of the stream.
High in the hills, far beyond anyone’s sight, lived an old man who served as Keeper of the Springs. He had been hired so long ago that now no one could remember a time when he wasn’t there. He would travel from one spring to another in the hills, removing branches or fallen leaves or debris that might pollute the water. But his work was unseen.
One year the town council decided they had better things to do with their money. No one supervised the old man anyway. They had roads to repair and taxes to collect and services to offer, and giving money to an unseen stream-cleaner had become a luxury they could no longer afford.
So the old man left his post. High in the mountains, the springs went untended; twigs and branches and worse muddied the liquid flow. Mud and silt compacted the creek bed; farm wastes turned parts of the stream into stagnant bogs.
For a time no one in the village noticed. But after a while, the water was not the same. It began to look brackish. The swans flew away to live elsewhere. The water no longer had a crisp scent that drew children to play by it. Some people in the town began to grow ill. All noticed the loss of sparkling beauty that used to flow between the banks of the streams that fed the town. The life of the village depended on the stream, and the life of the stream depended on the keeper.
The city council reconvened, the money was found, the old man was rehired.
After yet another time, the springs were cleaned, the stream was pure, children played again on its banks, illness was replaced by health, the swans came home, and the village came back to life.
The life of a village depended on the health of the stream.
The stream is your soul. And you are the keeper.
And Jesus said, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” Matt. 16:26 NLT
Lent is about developing good stream-cleaning habits. How is your stream?
Day 10 – March 6, The Saguaro
Tucson, where I grew up, is in the Sonoran Desert. Sometimes it’s just really HOT. In the summers, it’s not unusual when the asphalt has heated up all day, that the roads start getting tacky. When driving on such a road, it sounds like you’re driving on a rain-soaked road. That’s hot!
The desert is filled with plants and animals who have adapted to this hostile environment…God designed them to survive. The saguaro (pronounced sa-wa-ro) is the sentinel of the desert, it’s quite majestic, and a great survivor.
You can appreciate the desert a little more if you think about rainfall amounts. In our area in Texas, we average about 38 inches of rainfall a year. The Sonoran Desert is one of the wettest deserts in the world, with an annual rainfall of between 3 and 16 inches, a year. Does that sound wet to you?
When it rains in the desert, the saguaro, to protect itself from drought, has the ability to drink in literally gallons of water. Then, it rations the water to itself ever so slowly, so that it can survive periods of great drought. Quite amazing, God’s design.
In Jeremiah 17 we are warned that people who depend on human strength and turn away from God, “will be like a desert shrub that doesn’t know when relief comes.” If the saguaro doesn’t store the water, because it doesn’t know when relief comes, it will die.
Jeremiah goes on, he says, “Happy are those who trust in the Lord, who rely on the Lord. They will be like trees planted by the streams, whose roots reach down to the water. They won’t fear drought when it comes; their leaves will remain green.”
The season of Lent is about learning to drink deeply, so that we don’t dry up. Be the saguaro…live like God designed you…soak up Jesus every day.
Seeking to stay hydrated by the Stream,
Day 9 – March 5, Walking Power
In the 11th chapter of John we are told that those who led the Jews had a big meeting that was all about Jesus. They said that Jesus was doing “many miraculous signs! If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him.” The next sentence makes it clear why this was so problematic for them, “Then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our people.”
Does it sound as incredulous to you as it does to me? ‘We can’t let this guy go on because he is doing so many miraculous things’. Really?… Anybody ever fussed at you for doing too many good things? ‘Hey, come-on, you need to quit doing all this good stuff that you’re doing…enough is enough.’ Yea, I know, sounds crazy when you read it.
The reason Jesus’ miracles were such a big deal was that they threatened the power, the lives, of the Jewish leaders. Now lest we make out those attending this meeting as some really bad guys, it’s hard to blame them; after all, what they were talking about was the fact that if Rome came and took away the temple and their people, they’d all have to find new jobs. The Jewish leaders saw this threat as one to their families and their livelihoods; might you and I protest too?
Sometimes we choose to be blind to the truth because of what we think the consequences will be for us. For instance, when I was awaiting my test results to see whether or not I would have to get radiation for my prostate cancer that I thought was gone, a part of my reaction was denial, ‘no, this is NOT happening to me.’ But it was, and it did. It threatened my very life, my livelihood, my future, and I had no control over it. Or did I?
There have been several, what I would call “big” life events that have threatened me and my identity to the core, that shook me at my foundation. The radiation therapy I received was not that big a deal, until I developed complications that resulted in the need for surgery, and oh, how I felt like I was going to die. I had to make a choice; would I trust Jesus to walk me through this, or would I cower in the corner, too afraid to face my reality?
It’s a choice we all have to face, regularly, walk in the hand of Jesus, or let what we’re facing define our reality?
The spiritual life is about learning to walk with God, to let God define our reality, in part, so that when the really hard times come, we know whose hand to hold.
Learning to walk,
Day 8 – March 4, Soul Thinking
What makes you…you? Well you’d say, your dynamic personality, your good looks, you great wit, your amazing intellect. And you could go on…couldn’t you?
I would argue that what makes you…you, is your soul?
Not sure you have a soul? By example, have you ever stood on the beach and watched the sun go down? And in those moments have you ever felt strangely warmed, and it felt like you were experiencing something beyond yourself? That is your soul, trying to tell you that there is a God, and that this God gave you life. It’s the soul, trying to reconnect with its Creator by telling you that this scene in front of you is not just an accident.
The Hebrews explained Creation in the first few chapters of the Bible. We are told that God formed the first man, Adam, out of the dust, and breathed into him the breath of life and he became a living being (Gen 1:7). God breathed Adam’s soul into him, just like he did yours and mine when we were conceived.
And later in the same chapter, it says that you and I are created in the image of God. What do you think it means that you are created in the image of God? Just as your kids are a reflection of you, the Bible says we are a reflection of God. Do we look like God? Well, no. Do we sound like God, what do you think?
We are like God because of the soul that God placed in us. It is the soul that gives us the ability to be self-aware, to think about ourselves in the context of the world in which we live. It is in this way that we are made in God’s image.
Your soul is so important that Jesus said, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” Matt 16:26. Would you like to own the entire world? Jesus said YOUR soul is worth more than the entire world.
And earlier in the same book Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matt 19:28.
Lent is intended to help remind us to give our soul attention, by inviting us to walk more closely with Jesus through spiritual disciplines like fasting, Bible reading and prayer.
What makes you… you?
Day 7 – March 3, Pruning
This is a pic of some of the beautiful aspen trees behind our someday retirement home in New Mexico. The colors tell us these trees are about to lose their leaves. The technical term for this is abscission, it’s a process that a deciduous tree goes through in order to shed its leaves, and is triggered by shorter periods of light that tells the tree that colder days are ahead. If the tree is submitted to a freeze with its leaves still on, it weakens the tree to disease and if a heavy snow were to come, the weight of the snow on the leaves can cause massive destruction because the branches break under the accumulated weight.
The tree knows, by design, that it must rid itself of these leaves, or risk death. Neal Sperry would call this process abscission, but in simpler terms it’s self-pruning. And without this pruning, a deciduous tree won’t survive in the long-term.
Pruning is a natural process; something has to die, in order for new life come. Sounds a lot like Romans 8:13 which says, “If you live on the basis of selfishness, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the actions of the body, you will live.” Paul says, we must pursue the death of habits, thoughts, actions that destroy; he says we must self-select pruning.
However, if we don’t self-select the pruning, not to worry, Jesus will prune us. In John 15, Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit.” The thing is, when Jesus prunes me, so I can produce more fruit, it usually hurts, and it’s usually not a fun process. And yet, in every case, I can look back and see that the pruning was necessary, and important.
If you’ve been grafted into the family of God by inviting Jesus to lead your life, a part of your life now involves pruning, abscission by the Master. But the point of abscission, of pruning, is not punishment, but instead new growth, better health, needed strength…Jesus calls it “fruit.”
It may sound crazy to you, but I believe one of the important aspects of a person’s spiritual life, is to ask for the pruning, because we know that without it, we are not as effective at bearing fruit for God. Lent is about drawing ourselves closer to God…go ahead, it’s ok…ask Him for the pruning, it will produce great fruit, which will flow out of your life into others.
After the cold days we’ve recently had, it’s good to know Spring is almost here, new life bursting forth as a result of the natural pruning. Trust the Master Gardener who knows exactly what needs to be pruned, and who will be cheering the loudest when the fruit comes. Be the tree, a part of the vine, and trust the pruning, its fruit is the most savory of all.
Praying for a good harvest,
Day 6 – March 2, Seeing and Believing
Seeing is believing. You’ve heard this phrase many times…if we see something, even if it seems incredible, that we saw it with our own eyes, tells us we believe it. Magicians make a living because of their ability to make us see things that our brains don’t believe are possible. On Facebook, someone posts that “you gotta watch this”, or “one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen”, and we watch, and are often amazed at what we see.
Lent is about growing your spiritual life, and the spiritual life is about learning how to see, without seeing.
In John 20, Jesus appears to his friends after he has risen from the dead and Thomas, who we have labeled, “doubting Thomas”, didn’t believe, he wanted a closer look. Baroque artist Giovanni Serodine’s depiction of this moment is attached for your reflection. Jesus instructed him to touch Jesus’ hands and his side, to see for himself the evidence of what he endured. And Jesus told him, “stop doubting and believe.” And by the way, aren’t all of us like Thomas?
Then Jesus went on to say to his friends, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
It’s like learning to walk. When you were a baby, you were unsteady at first, but over time you began to master your body and were proud to walk like all the adults around you.
Jesus wants us to see the deeper things of life, the spiritual things, that can only be seen when we nurture our spiritual life, only when we develop our spiritual eyes.
Use your time in Lent and beyond, to walk more closely with Jesus, so that you can see more clearly.
How is your sight? Stop doubting, and believe.
Believing is seeing,
Day 5 – March 1, Measurement
Things that we measure: Lumber, weight, stars, football fields, height, bank accounts, blood pressure, time, days-months-years, mileage, pain, cows, karats (not carrots), gas, light, birthdays, litters and liters, sugar, shoe sizes, waists, land, weddings, baseball diamonds, flights of stairs…
Do you know the measurement of how far heaven is from the earth?
In Psalm 103, King David said that this measurement, the distance between heaven and earth, is one way we can measure how large God’s love is for us. Do you know how large that is?
Do you know how far the east is from the west? Kinda hard to ponder isn’t it?
David said that this measurement, the distance the east is from the west, is how far God has carried our brokenness from us.
David asks us these rhetorical questions to make us stop and think. We could never measure how far heaven is away from us, nor could we determine how far the east is from the west. And David says, neither can you measure how big God’s love is, or how far God has removed our sin from us. David wants us to think about the un-measurable…God.
Consider how un-measurable God’s love is, and then you can easily understand why David started Psalm 103 this way:
Let my whole being bless the Lord!
Let everything inside me bless his holy name!
Let my whole being bless the Lord
And never forget all his good deeds:
How God forgives all your sins,
Heals all your sickness,
Saves your life from the pit,
Crowns you with faithful love and compassion,
And satisfies you with plenty of good things
So that your youth is made fresh like an eagle’s.
I think I do know the distance between heaven and earth, it is the distance between the cross that Jesus died on…and my heart.
The season of Lent begs us to stop and ponder the health of our spiritual lives, and then to do something about it…the distance between our heart and the cross.
With the close of today’s reflection for Lent, how about taking a moment to slowly read Psalm 103. I find that when I reflect, I begin to forget about the many things the world tells me are important to measure, and I start instead to think about, my whole being, and the power of blessing the Lord.
Let my whole being bless the Lord,
Day 4 – Feb 29, See-ing
How well do you see?
I believe most people are aware that we all use filters when we talk; if someone speaks abruptly. or without tact, we often explain that their rude behavior is a result of the fact that they don’t use many, if any, filters. Just as filters are normally used when we speak, they are also used when we look.
Would you say you use filters for your eyes? Psychologists have long known that most people make at least some decisions about a person within the first few seconds of just seeing them, not hearing them, just looking at them. Decisions like: they look like a trouble-maker, or, this person has no values, or, they must be hiding something, or, this person is obsessed with their body (or the reverse), or, this person is a drug user, or this person is friendly, or not…you get the idea.
How does God look at us? In Jeremiah 31, God spoke through Jeremiah and reminded the Israelites how God saw them, ““I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” What does “everlasting love” and “unfailing kindness” look like? Well, it looks like the cross, with Jesus attached to it, dying. In Jesus’ death, God showed us what everlasting love and unfailing kindness, look like.
We must all learn to look at others, the way God does…this person, that person, and that one over there, are all people Jesus died for. If I look at them as God does, then my filters on my words, and in my eyes, will be different.
In his second letter to the church of Corinth, Paul was speaking about how we are changed when we allow Christ to live in and lead us. He says at one point, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.” How would you say you’re doing on his instruction?
Every person you and I will see today, and tomorrow, and the day after that, and so on, is someone for whom Jesus died. And so, whether it’s at the grocery store or the soccer practice, in our neighborhoods, at school, everywhere; we should all be looking at them with the eyes of Jesus, and letting Him put our filters in the right place. He changes our behavior. Do you see?
Day 3 – Feb 28, Tidal Pools
This is one I can’t help but repeat…in honor of Mom.
When was the last time you felt you were distant from God? When I went through one of the darkest times of my adult life, I was trying desperately to draw near to God. My prayers seemed empty, my quiet-times had little fruit, it felt to me as if God had distanced Himself from me, and I couldn’t understand. I knew God would never abandon me, and yet it really felt like God had stepped away. In my darkness, I felt despair, I was struggling in a mighty way.
My mom was small, demure, fair, tender…and a spiritual giant. I went to her in my darkness to ask about my position with God. After I’d explained myself to her and my distance from God, in her gentle voice she replied. She told me that she had learned that God’s love is sometimes like the ocean, that, like being in the ocean, we love to be in God’s love, to be surrounded by that love, to frolic in the waves and walk along the beach that is God’s love.
But sometimes, if God’s love is like the ocean, the tide goes out. We’ve been walking the beach and suddenly we look up and notice that the water is a long way out, and we are left with an emptiness because the water is so far away. And here’s the thing that we need to catch…Mom said that too often we focus on the fact that the water is so far out there…we get out our binoculars and long for the water’s return, when what God wants us to do instead, is to look for the wonderful discovery’s in the tidal pools, the things that we couldn’t see before…to look for the starfish that were there all along but that we couldn’t see.
Mom went on to say that the starfish represent revelations that God wants us to find that will make us even stronger when the tide comes back in. After all, she said, God is in the starfish too, He’s in the starfish business. And, she concluded, “when you’re looking for starfish, suddenly you realize the tide is coming back in…and when it does, the water becomes that much more meaningful.”
So as we make our way to Easter, perhaps you’re feeling distant from God. Perhaps you need to start looking for starfish…because…before you know it, the tide will roll back in and you’ll find the water will be richer and more meaningful than before.
“So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird, each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:21
Look for the starfish when you’re feeling distant from God.
Looking for starfish with you,
Day 2 – Feb 27, Peace
How much peace is in your life? Look at the events of the world right now and it doesn’t take long to get unsettled, to lose…peace. With the continued fighting between political parties especially in this election year, news of a shooting in Milwaukee yesterday where five were killed, the potential epidemic from the coronavirus and the subsequent erosion of the stock market yesterday and today…peace can be hard to find.
Now let’s layer on that what’s going on in YOUR life. Challenges like those you have at work, or from trying to manage your kids, or getting the bills paid, or taking care of your aging parent, frustrations that life just isn’t going your way. The list is long.
You depressed yet?
My family lived in Brazil for a couple years when I was a boy. The image here is from a trip we took to Rio, where at the top of the Corcovado mountain, a 125 ft. statue of Jesus was completed in 1931, called in English, “Christ the Redeemer”.
What I remember from this excursion had to do with just how big Jesus was. There was much about Jesus I did not know then because I was just a little boy, but I do remember standing there and being in awe about the size of Jesus. And what I remember feeling as I stood there dumbfounded by this giant Jesus, was…peace. Can you see the little boy straining his neck up to see this enormous figure and just feeling…peace?
I wonder if perhaps the greatest problem of our society, and world for that matter, is that we just don’t get how big Jesus is.
One way to think about Lent, is that its purpose is to help us remember how big Jesus really is by engaging in some spiritual practice to help us get closer to Him.
In Matthew 16, Jesus asks his friends to tell him what people are saying about Him. They respond, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” Then he asks his friends to tell him who they think he is. And Peter says, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Surely it’s true that at least one of the reasons Peter became such an instrumental figure in the life of the early church, was because he had at least some understanding about how big Jesus was.
Too often we feel depressed or defeated because of circumstances in our lives, or in the world around us. They are not bigger than Jesus.
After all, Jesus himself said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” How’s that for big? Overcomer of the world?!!!
Maybe this Lenten season you should just gaze each day on big Jesus. He is Christ the Redeemer.
Gazing with you,
Day 1- Ash Wednesday
Do you like to eat? Animals do too. At the end of our mission trip to Kenya, we watched these three graze on the tree foliage barely in reach of them and quickly learned that two were at a disadvantage. I imagined that the other two were pondering their future because it became clear they would get little sustenance from this tree, the food was out of reach.
I asked our guide about this, and he said that as the dry season wore on, the scrub plants you see in the image would lose most of their foliage which meant that only those giraffe who had worked hard when the foliage was plentiful, causing them to grow in stature, would survive the harshest of dry seasons.
As I sat there then, and again now, it seems this image is an appropriate metaphor for the spiritual life. A steady diet of reading and reflecting on the scriptures, prayer, being in a group that studies God’s word, worship 24/7, service, among other spiritual practices, are all intended to stretch us. And because we are drawn to Him through these kinds of practices, will sustain us even in the harshest of times.
When Jesus’ friends asked him about how to find true sustenance he said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35
I am aware that too often I’m guilty of looking for the next easy meal, rather than the choice food I will need to sustain me.
Lent is about challenging ourselves to ask what kind of real feeding are we getting, feeding that provides the sustenance we need in times that are hard, and when there is plenty.
God is good…all the time…and all the time…God is good…it is His nature…WOW!
Working on my neck development,