Archive for God

Footprints in the Soot

Pyrocumulous clouds. I’d never even heard of them until now. In all my Colorado years I never dreamed I’d drive under an enormous column of fiery smoke, watching noon turn to twilight through eyes that watered in the heat. No one in their right minds would drive toward the fire but those who are called to save, or whose children lay in the path of danger, or a couple of in-laws-to-be like Kevin and me. We trusted the heroes battling the flames to keep this only road open; that their knowledge, hard work, and sacrifice would keep us safe.

To my relief the smoke thinned, the sun came back out, and we drove into the high mountain town of Creede. We will have new family here. Their Brooke and our Jesse are marrying in August, and we came to celebrate and get acquainted. The men took off to watch trees explode while we women threw a shower for Brooke. From their lovely garden amid flowers and lace, she opened presents against a backdrop of smoke billowing from fires to the south and west. These women are tough. They laughed when I asked them about shopping at the closest mall; the nearest city is just too far away. Summer here is about two hours long. They take care of each other, and the ones I’ve met trust God to take care of them.

As each shared a moment of marriage advice, I could almost smell the smoke of the fiery trials they’ve lived through. I was a stranger among them. But I know women; women of faith, who have watched as noon turned to twilight when darkness fell on their lives. They are like these women. They show up for each other no matter what. The smoke may be choking them while tears run from their eyes, but they gather and nurture and protect one another. Danger drops them to their knees where they storm the gates of Heaven on their sisters’ behalf. They’ve learned to trust the Hero. His children once lay in the path of danger, and only His sacrifice could make a way to safety. To paraphrase the great hymn: Because He lives, we can face tomorrow. Soot may cling to our skin and smoke to our hair, but we can walk through the flames by stepping in the footprints He left behind. He always leads us into the light.

Monday we drove out of Creede. The fire keeps growing and threatens the town. I am storming the gates of Heaven for a soaking Colorado rain, and for God’s hand of protection and provision to cover these people. I pray for this young couple, my son and daughter-to-be, who are so excited to walk the fiery pathways of marriage together. From where I can see there is no rain in the forecast and no exemption from the hardships life will bring. But I know my greatest triumphs left me covered in soot. I emerged from the fire by stepping into the footprints Jesus left behind. I trust the Hero who keeps me safe.

When you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set your ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Isaiah 43:2b-3a

©2013 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Hiking In Winter

Lugging our suitcases and weighed down by winter, Kevin and I high-tailed it out of the house a couple of weeks ago, down to the flatlands of Colorado Springs. Cabin fever had me by the throat, and I was itching to hike in the great outdoors. Surely warmer weather had come to our lower altitudes! Arriving late in the day, we hustled our bags into the room, drew back the drapes, and drew in our breath. Even for jaded mountain-dwellers, the view was spectacular. We had come to the Garden of the Gods.

Here, camels and castles of red sandstone rock rise sharply from the valley below. This desert-like fantasy stands directly in front of massive Pike’s Peak, her icy-white summit scraping open the sky. Her purple mountain’s majesty may have been covered with snow, but the park at her base offered hiking year-round. The next day called for breezy sunshine, highs in the forties, no forecast of snow. Obviously, a great day for a hike!

As I slept, I heard the wind rise. It started like a quiet hug, a welcoming embrace blowing down from the hills. By morning it was like an elephant on the loose, shaking the windows and buffeting the walls as it rampaged across the valley. But, we were here. The sun was out so we packed our bags and set off to walk among the red sandstone giants. I had forgotten what it’s like to hike in the winter.

It was cold. And dry. So dry my fingertips cracked and my lips shriveled into a couple of prunes. My hair whipped my face and grit coated the rest. We toughed it out for a couple of hours, bracing ourselves when gusts turned to gales. It didn’t take long to figure out why our fancy resort was practically giving rooms away. Everyone else was smart enough to know that March is still winter in Colorado, no matter what part of the state you are in. There’s just no rushing spring.

There’s just no rushing God, either.

The weeks and months and sometimes years I’ve waited for an answer to prayer can feel like the winter that never ends. One day, impatience sneaks up behind me. It grabs me by the throat, drags my backpack out of storage, and hands me a list of things to do. I gear up, watch the forecast, and strike out on my own. Going somewhere is better than going nowhere, right?

Probably not.

Waiting for spring is like waiting for God. They will both show up in their appointed time. Hiking in winter has its share of adventure, but there’s snow in the shadows and ice on the rocks. When the breezes blow warm and winter has passed, camels and castles of red sandstone rock will welcome us back to the great outdoors. God will call me outside and I’ll follow His lead. It is His garden, after all.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the LordPsalm 27:14 NIV

©2012 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at http://www.friendshipshipwithjesus.com

Learning to Swim by Trusting the Lifeguard

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.– Psalm 32:8 NIV

Despite the miserable heat of Florida in July, a cold panic gripped my gut as I balanced over the deep end of the pool. Below me, golden sunlight danced in the depths. The undulating blue would have seemed inviting were it not for my terror of heights. Twelve feet of vertical air stood between me and my Intermediate Swimmer’s pin. Weeks of lessons and tests of endurance culminated in this one last obstacle: stepping off the high dive and into thin air.

In the summer of ’63 I was seven years old, a child of Miami with a perpetual tan. I never could stand the heat down there. No one had air conditioning in their houses back then, so we kids lived outdoors year-round. Watery dangers lurked everywhere. Sandwiched between the sea and the swamp, we lived on land coaxed out of the Everglades. A network of dangerous canals crisscrossed our neighborhoods to keep our houses from floating away. Learning to swim was not optional. That was fine with me ’til I faced the dreaded drop to the deep.

With kids lined up behind me, I turned and climbed back down the ladder. Shame burned my face as the panic subsided. One by one they leapt from the board, swam to the side, and collected their prize. Their moms met them and hugged them and pinned the awards to their suits. Finally all had jumped, and all had left, save for one patient mom, a petrified child, and the kindest lifeguard who ever lived: Robert.

To me, he was a grown man: tall, strong, unafraid. He was probably all of eighteen. No doubt working his way through his summer vacation, he had spent the morning administering tests with rigid Red Cross requirements. His lunch was waiting, the pool was just about to open to the public, and his job was to flunk me for refusing to leap off the board. Instead, he climbed the ladder with me. Standing together above the abyss, he held my hand and encouraged me to jump with him. He promised me two things: he wouldn’t make me, and he wouldn’t let anything happen to me.

We stood there a long, long time. He never threatened to leave me, or send me back to Advanced Beginners. He just waited.

Finally, we jumped. And I had been right- it was a long way to the water. Plunging deeply into the heart of the blue, the feeling of panic gave way to relief when I realized my hand was still firmly in his. We kicked our way skyward, came up to the surface, and swam to the side of the pool.

To this day, I remember feeling safe with him, trusting him, and the wave of gratitude that washed over my heart. Almost fifty years later I remember him vividly; I think because he was so like the Savior I eventually came to know. As I stand on the brink of a new year with its possibilities and pitfalls, I stand unafraid because Jesus holds my hand, my heart, and my life. Into the depths of 2012 we plunge!

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul– Deuteronomy 4:29 NIV

© 2012 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com.

Thanks for the Pardon

They’ve probably arrived in Washington by now, sequestered from the media in a hush-hush location. Born and raised to be the rock stars of their generation, every detail of their lives has come together for this moment. Even their names have been kept secret. These two made the cut from the cream of the crop, but only one will carry on the proud tradition. Only one will strut into the Rose Garden. Only one will come face-to-face with the President.

The other serves as an alternate in case of disaster most fowl. Just for riding along and waiting in the wings (sorry!) he enjoys an all-expense-paid trip to DC. Oh, and his life is spared. He, too, is pardoned. While millions of their feathered friends make the ultimate sacrifice, these two birds grew fat enough and preened well enough to receive this year’s presidential pardon. Nice work if you can get it. A pardon is a gift beyond measure.

Kind indulgence or forgiveness of a serious offense? Both fall under the definition of pardon. Of course, the annual National Thanksgiving Turkey Celebration, a White House event since 1947, is little more than an American anecdote. Last year President Obama joked that this tradition is “one of the most important duties I carry out as President.” We Americans love to root for the underdog, until it’s time to eat him. Pardon schmardon, pass the drumsticks, please.

Compared to the God of the Universe, we’re probably not much smarter than turkeys; however, He made us in His own image. He gave us the ability to understand our need for a reprieve from the selfishness we are born with. Unlike one or two special birds, chosen from a flock and the rest be damned, each of us is loved by God with a passion that flows through His very heart. In the apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he says “This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved, and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4 NIV) The truth is that our pardon is no kind indulgence, no American anecdote, no warm, fuzzy feeling dressed up for the holidays. Our pardon is forgiveness for all our offenses; a ransom for the redemption of our souls through the blood of Jesus Christ. It just doesn’t get any better than this.

Last year’s turkey duo, Apple and Cider, are living out their retirement at the historically preserved Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, former home of George Washington. This year’s winners will join them in gobbling around the Virginia countryside. Prior birds presided as Grand Marshals of the Disneyland Thanksgiving Parade. Again, nice work if you can get it. But we who have accepted the pardon granted by God Himself look forward to our everlasting home, safe in the arms of the One who loves us most. No special privilege required; just believe, ask, and receive. Nice work, done on our behalf. Indeed.

© 2011 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

For more information on the love of Jesus, please visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com

Waiting For the Sun to Come Out

When darkness veils His lovely face I rest on His unchanging grace…

Sometimes, when we least expect it, dark clouds roll in from the sea. Thunderheads form along the horizon and the rain sweeps ashore before lunch. We grab our stuff and run for cover, duck into the car, and watch the windows steam up.

Do we give up hope for a day at the beach, or wait for the sun to come out?

Sometimes in life, when we least expect it, troubles roll in on the wind. The forecast may have called for fair skies but the dark cloud of recession blew in, or our health gave out, or a child went astray. Fill in the blank with your own thunderhead. The question becomes: Do we give up hope, or wait for the sun to come out? And what shall we do while we wait?

Seven months have passed since my last rained-out beach day; at long last, I feel like the worst is over. At first I cowered in the car as lightning flashed and thunder roared. The windows fogged up, which was fine with me; I locked the doors and hid under my blanket. But when I finally had to decide whether to breathe or not to breathe, I rolled down the windows and let the tempest blow through. Unexpectedly, but just as He promised, God came in with the weather. He was all I could see at the height of the storm, but He brought all I needed to survive:

Some people to care for
His Word to sustain me
The love of my family
The support of my friends

Now that the downpour has slowed to a drizzle, I step out into air freshened by the rain. The wind is gentle, the sea calm. Down the coast, sunlight shines on a distant shore.

…In every high and stormy gale my anchor holds within the veil
On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand.*

© 2011 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com

*The Solid Rock/Composer William B. Bradbury, Author Edward Mote

God’s Waiting For Me in Customs

The Waiting Place

…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
   -Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! *

Customs! Dang it! I thought I had allowed plenty of time to change planes in Newark, but we left Grand Cayman two hours behind schedule. I figured we could still make our connection if we ran for the gate, but I forgot we had to collect our bags and go through Customs first. By the time we received the official okey-dokey, our flight to Denver had disappeared into the starry night. We learned a lot about waiting in the next couple of days. Rebooking over spring break is murder.

Delays are just part of the travel experience, so I pack for every contingency. I can live out of my carry-on bag for days. I never leave home without a credit card and a cell phone. Last on my list (but no less important) is my strategy for waiting in those long, long lines. I just tell myself, “I will not be here forever. I am probably not going to die standing in this line” which has worked up ’til now. As I pick up steam in life’s downhill descent, this rationale may fail. The only upside is this: should I pass away waiting to be rebooked, the airline really ought to ship me home for free.

I can tell a lot about people by watching them wait in line, the place no one wants to be. We plan our trips and our lives for maximum efficiency and minimal hassle. We stand secure as masters of our fate…until an obstacle arises. All it takes is one mechanical failure, a canceled flight, or a distant storm to throw our plans out the window and our nerves into a tizzy. The hassles of travel reflect the obstacles of life, and both raise the question:

How well do we wait?

The Bible has a lot to say about waiting. The Old Testament bears witness to one conflict after another. The wicked attacked, the righteous cried out, and God’s usual response was, “wait for Me to make things right.” In addition, the Lord frequently called average people to world-changing assignments, although He usually failed to mention that decades would pass before His purposes would be accomplished.

In the face of crushing obstacles- enemies at their backs, mountains in their paths- the faithful would groan (as I have also been known to do):

“How long, O Lord? How long?”

As our now-famous heroes of the faith (see Hebrews chapter 11) wandered in deserts and languished in prisons, surely they sometimes wondered: Did I hear God wrong? Has He forgotten about me? Should I have done something differently? What’s taking so long?  In reading their stories we learn of their pain. But these beloved accounts of God’s chosen people were left to encourage us, reminding us that God is always in control. He rescues His people in His way, in His time.

I never thought I’d miss the hassles of air travel until we slashed our vacation budget in favor of paying the mortgage. Now I do my waiting at home. It’s cheaper, cleaner, with better food and a comfy bed. I still bristle at injustice and stumble over obstacles as I travel the route He’s laid out for me. At times I wonder: Did I hear Him wrong? Should I have done something differently? But when all the planes are grounded, I just have to settle down. Instead of my carry-on bag I reach for my Bible. I never leave home without praying. And my strategy for standing in this long, long line? Well you know- I am going to die in this line, but that’s okay. God’s waiting for me in Customs.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. -Psalm 27:14 NIV

© 2011 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com

*Oh, the Places You’ll Go! TM & © by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P.

Rising to the Occasion and Going One Step Beyond

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”– Jesus Christ (John 15:12-13 NIV)

September 10, 2011

Ten years ago we were glued to our televisions as we watched the Twin Towers fall and the Pentagon burn. We recoiled in horror as we imagined the fight in the cockpit of United Flight 93 over Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Our heroes were the firefighters and first responders at The World Trade Center, the passengers and flight crews who put up a fight, and the selfless souls who gave up their lives so others might live. The day that rocked our world defined drama and destiny; a real-life reenactment of the battle between good and evil, where brave souls wearing the face of Jesus lay down their lives to save strangers. The fury of hate was foiled by the face of love.

I’ve been watching television coverage of this solemn anniversary, and to the families of the fallen, I extend my sincerest condolences and grateful thanks. In no way do I wish to minimize the sacrifices made or the losses suffered. But I ask that we remember that as children of God, we too are called into battle every day. Our enemy masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) just as the terrorist strives to blend in with his target. He “prowls around, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV) Like the terrorist, he uses fear and intimidation to accomplish his purposes, striking when we least expect him in ways we could hardly imagine. If we read our Bible we know the enemy is out there and he hates us. We are fools if we ignore the danger. How, then, should we live?

The Department of Homeland Security works on our behalf to protect us from the terrorist threat. We take off our shoes at the airport, remove the scissors from our carry-on bags and submit to X-rays just to enter our government buildings. Nobody likes it but we put on our big-boy pants and act like grownups. That’s the price we pay to keep from getting blown up. Likewise, God gave us weapons to use in the war against Satan. Refusing to acknowledge we’re at war or assuming someone else will fight the battle for us is lazy, childish, and not particularly smart. If we’re not willing to rise to the occasion and use the tools He gave us, we can’t blame God when the devil finds a foothold and shakes the ground beneath our feet.

Our arsenal comes complete and can be found, item by item, in Ephesians 6:10-18. The firefighters who climbed the stairs at The World Trade Center each carried 110 pounds of equipment as they sweated their way up floor by floor. All we have to do is fall to our knees every morning and put on the armor of God. So we suit up and show up for war, understanding the one thing the firefighters must also have known:

Sometimes we lose the battle.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13 NIV) Sometimes all that’s left is a burned battlefield and one lone soldier silhouetted against a ragged sky. That’s what Ground Zero looked like after the towers fell. For all their courage and all their efforts, the buildings fell and people died. But because of their courage, and because of their efforts, many people lived. The firefighters did not die in vain, nor did the passengers of Flight 93; neither are our efforts for naught. We may lose the battle, but God will not lose the war. He will use our suffering for our good and His glory. To this end, He calls us to live one step beyond our own self-protection.

In the last verse in our list of armor, Paul writes, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18 NIV) The firefighters carried a backbreaking load of equipment not only to protect themselves, but to save those in danger. Likewise, we are responsible not only to pray for ourselves and our own protection, but to pray God’s armor over our loved ones, our friends, and our leaders. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” -Jesus Christ (John 15:12-13 NIV) Laying down our lives can be as simple as five minutes of prayer every morning for those in the line of fire, and those already under attack. It’s time to put on our big-boy pants and stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. It was the signature of the 9/11 heroes; it should also be God’s signature, written on us.

The fury of hate can only be foiled by the face of love. Alone, we are sitting ducks for the enemy abroad as well as the enemy within. But we are not alone. Let us put on our armor and join forces with others in prayer. Let us, as Jesus commands, lay down our lives (at least five minutes a day) for our communities, our troops, and our leaders. Let us remember the heroes who gave their own lives, as well as our Hero, who gave His for ours. Let us remember 9/11, and take up our weapons in the battle of good versus evil. We have a job to do.

©2011 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com

The Search For Serenity

*The Search for Serenity is the second installment in The Serenity Prayer Series.

“God, grant me the serenity…”

When my knees were younger, I played tennis. Not well, or often, but I enjoyed running around the court and whacking the ball over the net. Once, in the midst of a rally, a bee stung me on the ankle. Hours later, an allergy I didn’t know I had launched an all-out assault of hives, accompanied by a relentless itch deep within each joint of my body. The hives were unnerving but the itching almost drove me to the edge. Because I was young and stupid, it didn’t occur to me to go to the doctor. The symptoms came and went for a week, leaving me miserable in my own skin. Had I known Benadryl would ease my suffering, I’d have been popping those little pink pills faster than Serena Williams can serve. I was too dumb to seek relief from my pain.

The naivete I displayed in ignoring a systemic allergic reaction was unfortunately similar to how clueless I was in dealing with emotional pain. As the oldest child in a family beset by mental illness, the others bounced off me like a trampoline. My bipolar father had survived Nazi captivity but eventually descended into madness, venting his fury on my brothers and me. My mother worked constantly. She kept us fed, clothed, and housed while I juggled housework, childcare, and school. The responsibilities were staggering but the violence pushed me to the edge. I was miserable in my own skin until the day I found marijuana. I was fifteen. For the first time, my soul stopped screaming. Finally, I had found relief from my pain.

Serenity: the opposite of emotional pain; the state of being calm, peaceful, tranquil. We seek it, pursue it, crave it. Some of us drink or drug to find it; some run or exercise for the high. In the sweet buy-and-buy we shop for clothes we don’t need and cars we can’t afford. Most of these pursuits are not sinful in and of themselves, but they are no substitute for the peace of God. But why invest time and effort in getting to know the Almighty when we can feel better (faster) with a quick trip to the liquor store, the gym, or the mall?

Because: Every earthly pursuit exacts a price. Every addict knows the depression of coming down; every alcoholic faces the morning after. Clothes fade, cars depreciate, and the bills stack up at the end of the month. While physical endeavors are good for the body and soul, they can’t take the place of relationship with God; even the strongest knees give out eventually. We are left squirming in our pain with nowhere to go, unless we know we can go to the Lord.

I drank and drugged because substance abuse eased the pain, at least until I sobered up. Those habits led to alcoholism and addiction, the bottomless pit of despair. Sitting in church I pleaded with God to miraculously deliver me. Instead, He introduced me to people who taught me this prayer as part of how to live in the light. From Day One of recovery, God has continually answered my pleas for serenity. I have learned to live comfortably in my own skin, in spite of what happened before, in light of what I’ve done since, and in anticipation of whatever would come in the future. Never once has the Lord denied me serenity when I further surrendered to these terms:

To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.

When my heart was younger, it broke every time my father beat us, especially the vicious attacks on my brother Matthew (may God rest his soul). It broke every time I tried to quit drinking, only to pick up again. In a thousand failures from my life in addiction to the simpler failures of life in sobriety, I’ve found only one answer that brings healing to my heart and serenity to my soul: the endless, timeless love of God through forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Thank you, Lord. To God be the glory forever and ever, Amen!

©2011 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

For more information on addiction recovery through faith in God, please visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com/

Adrift With a Turtle to Guide Me

Let heaven and earth praise him,
          the seas and all that move in them. –
Psalm 69:34 NIV

Kekaha Kai State Park is hard to get to. From the Queen’s Highway all you see is lava stretching down to the ocean, save for a distant line of scrubby trees. The sign says the road is semi-paved. Maybe on Mars. Creeping through the lava field, we did come across the occasional memory of pavement between the craters. But we thought we’d beat the crowds in this out-of-the-way destination, and we were right.

Our reward lay beyond the dirt parking lot and through the trees, where a white-sand crescent sidled up to a turquoise bay. Palm trees presided over the north end of this half-moon paradise, and a lava-rock jetty marked the boundary south. We staked out our piece of shade around the halfway point and headed toward the only building in sight. I had hoped it was guest services…

But my hopes were dashed from a distance by a bright yellow ribbon of police tape. Did this mean the restroom was closed? Actually, it meant the restroom was gone. Back in March, the Tohoku-Oki Earthquake spawned the horrific tsunami that swept westward and swallowed the northeast coast of Japan. However, a similar wave swept east. Thankfully, the residents had ample time to evacuate, but the northwest coast of Kona took the brunt of Hawaii’s damage. Many buildings along the waterline were gutted, their contents sucked out to sea.

Beyond the building lay a barrier of debris washed ashore by the wave, so Kevin and I turned around and headed back down the beach. As we shuffled through the sand we noticed a sea turtle just a few yards offshore, paralleling our walk. No- make that two turtles. They seemed to follow us until we cut up into the rocks and back to our camp. Settling into our lawn chairs, we kicked back with a couple of cold sodas and watched in astonishment as one of the turtles came ashore and parked himself not far from our feet! Given the events of the day before, this was almost too much to believe.

A snorkel boat had taken us down the coast, anchoring over a coral reef. This particular cove offered not only coral but lava tubes, where the green limu grows. Sea turtles LOVE limu. Kevin swam off toward the colorful fish while I floated face-down, mesmerized by the beauty and grace of the turtle below me. In previous encounters I’d found these creatures to be shy, or at least sick of tourists following them around. But this one seemed to welcome my company, and together we drifted with the current for the better part of an hour. Six seasons snorkeling in Hawaii, and I’d never seen anything like it. I was enchanted, but the magic had only begun.

Back here on the beach, our fellow picnickers so pestered the turtle that he slipped back into the sea. Later, as the shadows lengthened, I walked alone to the rocky point at the southern boundary, looking for a place to pray. So narrow was this spit of land that crashing waves sprayed me with seawater from both sides. So narrow was my path that I couldn’t miss them on my left: two turtle heads, bobbing above the surface where the rough water pounded the rocks. I bent over to say hello, and one leaned as close as he could in my direction, working his jaw muscles with his head in the air like he was talking! We were only feet apart. I waved wildly at Kevin on the beach, hoping he would see me, but I was too far out and probably looked like a crazy woman flapping my arms in preparation for takeoff. With no one around to share my joy, I shared my thanks with the One who sent them.

Seven days had passed since we arrived in Kona. The state of my heart then resembled that public building after the tsunami: gutted, surrounded by debris, and cordoned off to prevent further damage. So broken was my heart I considered abandoning the assignment God had given me. “Just tell people what you know about Me.” Instead, I climbed up into His lap. He sent sneaky crabs to reassure me of His care, a cast-off book to remind me of His promises, and turtles galore to knock my socks off with His love. Only one more post remains to be written in this series: “A Tale of Two Beaches.” When the road holds more pitfalls than pavement, it helps to remember that this life ain’t all there is; a distant, glorious shore awaits. Thanks for following along. May God bless and keep you.

The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth,
   in the seas and all their depths.
-Psalm 135:6 NIV

© 2011 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com

 

Special Delivery and Divine Destiny

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast.
    –
Psalm 139:9-10 NIV

It’s big; it’s heavy; it’s falling apart: three of the four reasons I left my Bible behind when I went on vacation.

The moments I spend reading my Bible are woven into the fabric of my morning. Even this first day out on our trip I missed it, more than I thought I would. I considered using the Bible software on my laptop, but just the image evoked a cold, metallic feeling in my chest. I am accustomed to a cup of coffee in one hand and my heavy, clunky Bible in the other; its pages worn soft by wear, its binding broken by the contours of my lap.

So I listened to the waves wash ashore, inhaled the salty breeze, closed my eyes, and quieted my heart for prayer. Considering I had a cup of freshly-brewed Kona coffee in my hand and a day at the shore ahead of me, I should have been feeling pretty good. Thank the Lord for the day, ask for protection, please remember Jesse, blah blah blah.

Instead I felt lost. So I asked Him to send help.

It’s not that God gives me specific direction from the Word at the beginning of each day. It’s just that He’s there. I meet Him every morning, and I have for years. This morning I felt like I’d been stood up; oh wait- it was my idea to be left alone. Instead, I was left bereft. And I knew why I had done it.

It had nothing to do with the size, weight, or the condition of my Bible. I had lugged it, or one of its predecessors, on all my previous travels. Instead, while I was suffering from a recent personal blow, a quiet voice whispered that God was fed up with me at the moment. And I believed it. And then I figured, why lug this big heavy message halfway across the Pacific when God didn’t want to talk to me anyway?

Sigh. Well, here we are in paradise, Kevin said, let’s walk into town before it gets too hot. So we strolled down the main drag into Kailua. High-end vendors hawked expensive trinkets to white-legged tourists while Bubba Gump sang his siren song of shrimp. The bay shone on our left, the shops bustled on our right, and coconut trees swayed in the breeze overhead. I could hardly believe the blessing of being back in Hawaii; still, it didn’t take us long to get sick of the noise downtown. Sauntering back to our condo, we wriggled our sweaty bodies into swimsuits and took a cool dip in the pool. No sooner had I plopped my dripping self into a deck chair than a quiet voice whispered, “Go check out their lending library.”

The voice could have been mine; could have been God’s; I’m a sucker for books anywhere, anytime. As I perused the jumbled assortment left by travelers before me, I found an older, hardback book; no jacket, but the author’s familiar name was stamped on the binding: Lucado. Max Lucado? Here? A Christian book among the usual trashy novels is a rare find indeed. Even more surprising, I had never read it. Finally, the subject matter grabbed my attention like police lights in my rear-view mirror.

It was a study of the 23rd Psalm. I have spent months in that passage. Millions of readers over the centuries have claimed for themselves this sacred promise, in times of joy and times of sorrow: “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

Now I was not only dripping but dumbstruck as the Truth dispelled the lie. God was not “fed up” with me. God wanted to feed me. I may have heard the enemy’s voice and left my Bible behind, but the Jesus who loves me laughed in his face and sent His Word in answer to my prayer. And every morning for the rest of my trip, I sipped Kona coffee and studied with Max before packing the cooler and heading for the beach.

Only God knows whose hands had held these yellowed pages; whose heart had been reassured, whose soul had been saved through this message before it reached me. When my time on Kona drew to a close I left the book behind, praying for the next weary traveler who’d be nourished by the words of David and reminded of the love of God. One simple volume in a jumbled assortment was singled out and delivered to me by divine destiny; all because I asked, and Jesus loves me. Oh, that we all could know that He loves us that much.

To God be the glory! Amen.

©2011 Rachel Ophoff, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com

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