And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
Mark 4:37-38 ESV
It is interesting that in generations past no one thought much about what to call a particular storm. But in 1953, the National Hurricane Center figured out that naming a storm got people’s attention. Since the point of their forecasting was to help folks prepare, they decided that naming was a pretty important thing! The same is true for our spiritual storms. One thing I have learned as I have gotten older is that we rarely face the same storm twice. Circumstances I faced as a twenty-five-year-old with toddlers running around our apartment were certainly different from waiting up late nights waiting for them to come home when they were teenagers. Today our children have children of their own who are teenagers and we lay awake some nights praying for them. Someone once said, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” But the real truth of the matter is that our storms really do change both in kind as well as ferocity and the only thing that remains the same is Jesus. Even though it may seem that He is asleep while we are going through life threatening circumstances, the truth is that He knows what we are going through and He is ready to come and help when we cry out to Him. No matter what our storm is named today, we are never forgotten, or abandoned. Jesus gave His life on the cross as the sky darkened and the earth shook beneath His feet. But as the blood flowed down the timbers, from the nails that pierced His hands and feet, Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” The cross has finished everything we need to deliver us from our storm, to still our seas and to calm the trouble around us. No matter what our storm’s name we can know that He loves us, He cares about our problems He is showing us new ways to trust Him, no matter what name of the hurricane that lies ahead!
As some of you know who follow this blog, I served most of my ministry as a lay pastor (as in didn’t get paid). But far from being a problem, the lay pastor situation gave me opportunity to serve as an associate at a small Brazilian church for 14 years, and a volunteer chaplain at a large nursing home. Some days, it was like the Clark Kent/Superman scenario, where I rushed home to shower and change clothes, then hurried out to hold the Wednesday afternoon services at Allied Skilled Nursing. I loved serving both at church and nursing home, but it was at my secular job, that God taught me the best lessons. So, let’s rewind 30 years to a day when I was mowing lawns. My home state Connecticut could be named after a Native American word meaning, “Land full of rocks!” Practically every lawn we mowed had at least one large granite boulder to mow around. One very nice property in particular, was blessed with an abundance of enough stones to build one of our famous New England stone walls. My friend Noel, who just started working with us, was not familiar with our properties and so he accidently grazed over one unseen stony protrusion after another. Finally, He stopped, said a few choice words and stated, “You guys have the worst lawns I have ever seen!”
“Come on Noel.” I said trying to keep a calm tone. “These are the ones Jesus gave us.”
“Well then, Jesus must not like you very much!” Noel retorted, then restarted his machine and began mowing the back half of the property.
Now, I know Noel’s opinion isn’t proper theologically, but I have often felt a lot like him! Some days it feels like other folks have nice easy lawns to mow. They don’t have rocks to mow around or hidden outcroppings lurking just beneath the tops of the long grass. Sure, I know that Jesus Loves Me Because the Bible Tells Me So, but there are some days I wonder how much He likes me! The answer I have discovered after whacking a number of rocks in my 71 years, is that God allows rocks to mow around because He does care. He loves us so much that He has given us the chance to go back time and again to difficult people, hard places and sticky situations until we remember where the rocks are. Then we can give Him thanks, in every situation as we learn to mow around them!
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 ESV
In light of the despair many of us are feeling from the two recent senseless mass shootings, I simply share this familiar verse. Though we have heard it thousands of times, the amazing thing is that God’s Word always has something fresh for our daily lives. The first time I came upon this verse I loved the idea of soaring like an eagle. I had spent half my life packing boxes and moving to another new neighborhood where I had to make friends and register for another school, but rather than feeling free, it felt more like life in a glass cage. Everyone knew who I was – the new kid- But I had no idea if they would like me, ignore me or pick a fight. Soaring like an eagle in my newly found faith in Jesus seemed wonderful. With Him I could leave behind the old reality of never belonging anywhere and fly with Him to a new life.
But something strange happened with my flight plan. One day as I was soaring nicely along, out of the blue a lightning bolt struck and burned off all my feathers and I fell to the ground. But once the shock of the crash wore off, I discovered that even though that I couldn’t fly any more, Jesus was still with me! Instead of a flight plan, I found myself on a racetrack where I began to run the race of faith. Up hills and down through steep dark valleys, I found that running wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
Then one day, I woke to find that my knees ached, my hips hurt, and I could only manage a slow walk. As discouragement began to set in, the Lord came, inviting me to lean on His shoulders, and reminding me that He also struggled up the path that the Father had chosen for Him. Then as we walked along together, I remembered that He also was often the new kid in town, He too had wept at the grave of a friend and understood better than I what it meant to be alone. Today I am not flying well, nor even running my race quickly, but through all that has happened I am more than ever walking slowly but surely with my Lord!
If you have had a crash and burn landing or two in your life don’t give in to despair. If you do not have the strength to run another mile, be encouraged, Jesus will walk the second mile with you. May the Lord strengthen and bless you today and keep you today as you lean on His shoulder and walk another day with Him!
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