Archive for The Bible

Glory On the Other Side of the Storm

In satellite images they seem almost solid, like you could hop down onto the swirl of clouds and bounce your way across the Caribbean. Astronauts’ photos capture the spirals of silver thunderheads cartwheeling against a deep blue sea. From the heaven side, hurricanes are magnificent: silent, beautiful, powerful. From the earth side, not so much.

As a kid in Miami, I found them exhausting. Battening down the hatches, riding out the storm, and living without power were just the beginning. For weeks afterward we’d work our tails off clearing the carnage. On the earth side of the storm it seemed all was broken: budgets and branches, houses and hearts. The grownups were grumpy and the yard was a mess.

But in South Florida, renewal springs eternal like a fungus you can’t get rid of. Drenching downpours and a scorching sun smother the land in humidity soup, ensuring Nature’s speedy recovery. Life goes on in a hurry. Survivors have precious little time to decide if they want to participate, as mold has already started growing in their closets. The sun will come out tomorrow, all right- but it will roast you in your recliner if you don’t patch the roof today.

So with sweat in their eyes they hammer and saw, repairing the damage and rebuilding their homes, all the while knowing that hurricane season comes every year. How do they do it? How do they keep their faith alive with wild winds ever on the horizon?

How do we?

Jesus told his disciples (and us, by John’s account) “In this life, you will have trouble.” (John 16:33 NIV) This does not sound like good news. But in the next breath he encourages us with these words:

“But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Like spirals of silver across the deep blue sea, Jesus sees our troubles from the Heaven side of eternity. Could it be that overcoming the world offers a view of our struggles as ongoing works of art: magnificent, beautiful, powerful? We know that our cries for help and mercy aren’t lost on the wings of the wind. Jesus remembers what it was like to live here on Earth, and he is ever interceding for us at the right hand of the Father. (Romans 8:34) But how does that help? What does renewal look like in the face of a broken heart?

Hurricanes drive us to Home Depot. Heartache should drive us to God’s Word. The apostle Paul knew more heartache than most of us will ever have to endure, but he had a promise from God that he shared with the church, and also with us:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV)

The rain may drive in a sideways slant and the wind blow down your trees, but the temporary shelter we call hope is open ’til the day we go home to Heaven. So let’s grab the hammer and patch the roof; renewal is ours if we choose it. Glory is just on the other side of the storm.

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

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

Finding Our Way When the Boat Turned Over

Like a wounded white whale washed up on the beach, the Costa Concordia lies on her side. The pictures shock and frighten us. What’s worse- an incompetent captain running aground, or the realization that cruise ships really can sink? As a dedicated cruiser I never thought twice about putting my life in the captain’s hands. I took it for granted he knew what he was doing.

We’ve always departed from US ports, where the first order of business is the safety drill. The horn blasts, we cast off, and before the coast is out of sight we dutifully file into our assigned common areas. We grumble and groan as the crew straps us into our life jackets, until the crowd resembles a sea of heads afloat on an orange tide. “Remember your muster station,” the head strapper warns. “Come here in case of emergency.” I’ve sometimes wondered what it would really look like: passengers running in every direction, trying to remember where to go. In my wildest dreams I never envisioned the ship turning over, the lights going out, and the crew swimming ashore without me.

But now we’ve seen the pictures. The passengers must have been terrified: crawling uphill, blind in the dark, fighting the pull of gravity as the water rose around them. Photos show tiny figures rappelling across the belly of the beast, desperate to reach the lifeboats in the sea far below. Even in the movies it’s horrifying. I can’t imagine how they had the courage to try. But I have experienced the adrenaline-fueled panic of my own surreal disaster.

Last week we observed the anniversary of our daughter’s death, the result of a snowmobile accident. Nothing could have prepared us for what we saw in the Emergency Room. Blessedly, her spirit had gone on to Heaven before we saw her body. In my wildest nightmares I never imagined the worst could actually happen, but it did: our ship went down in a matter of minutes. In its place spun a vortex: a cold, silent tide, sucking the warmth from my hands and the blood from my heart. I breathed in the dirt from the ER carpet, lying on my side like the Costa Concordia.

“Expect the unexpected.” Insurance companies thrive on helping us prepare for emergencies. For peace of mind we gather under the umbrella of impending doom with like-minded others, sharing the cost to cover the poor slob with the rotten luck to die early. We are ready- just in case. As we set sail into the future we ignore the rocks under the surface as best we can.

“In this life, you will have trouble,”1 Jesus said to his disciples. Like the life jacket drill as we pull out of port, we are warned. On this night, the last night before his murder, he told his dearest friends what he really wanted them to remember. Likewise, he gives us a heads-up: once in a while we’re going to hit the rocks. This is not good news, but it’s no surprise to anyone who’s been around a while. What can be surprising is what he says next:

“But take heart! I have overcome the world.”2

What does that mean?

I will leave the literal interpretation to learned theologians, but I can tell you what it looked like to be a friend of Jesus the day our ship went down. On that day, and for weeks to come, we were surrounded (and fed, nurtured, and cared for) by our church family. We hurled our furious questions at God every day in the same place we always met him- in the Bible. God’s Word assured us we will see Catherine again; the same girl she was, only made perfect. We survived and eventually thrived because we knew what to do in an emergency. It wasn’t a matter of expecting the unexpected; it was a matter of accepting the invitation long before we hit the rocks.

Finding our way when the ship turned over was as simple as going to our muster station. Jesus drew the map on our hearts. The captain knows what He’s doing.

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

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

1. John 16:33b NIV
2. Ibid.

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

Knowing Which Mountain to Climb

*Knowing Which Mountain to Climb is the fifth installment in The Serenity Prayer Series.

God
Grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can

       And the wisdom to know the difference.

When I was twenty-something, then thirty-something, and finally sneaking into my forty-somethings, I thought I could climb every mountain my friends could. After all, nothing was physically wrong with me, and I could hike 5-6 miles at a stretch, maybe three or four times every summer.

Then, I naively accepted an invitation to hike from Aspen to Crested Butte, Colorado with a group of women in recovery. We took the ‘long route’- fourteen miles- because it was supposedly easier. The super-athletes in the group made it in eight hours, arriving about four in the afternoon. More trickled into town as the sun sank lower in the west. Finally, my desperate foursome wandered in long after dark, exhausted like we’d each given birth to triplets. Some people are born athletes and some aren’t, and that day God gave me the wisdom to know the difference.

Webster’s defines wisdom as “the knowledge of what is true or right, coupled with just judgment as to action.” * I wish that I could say that now, in my fifty-somethings, I can easily discern the difference between the things I can change and those I cannot. But truth be told, my perceptions of events, circumstances, and people naturally filter through my own self-interests. It’s always me first. How does this affect me? What should I do about this? That’s why the Serenity Prayer is, for me, an indispensable tool in seeking peace of mind and heart. I can ask God for help.

The New International Version of the Bible mentions wisdom over two hundred times, but this verse from James is my all-time favorite:

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. -James 1:5-8

Every time I’ve asked, I’ve received. Sometimes I have to wait a while, and sometimes I don’t like what I hear. But eventually an answer will waft my way, suggesting a solution that works for everyone’s good and God’s glory: that’s how I know it’s from Him. As far as obtaining the power to carry it out- that’s a blog post for another day.

All the courage in the world can’t change the fact that I’m not a born athlete. Last week a friend dropped by with her twenty-something daughter and casually mentioned their plans to summit a 14’er this weekend. That means a mountain over fourteen thousand feet high. Even trees can’t breathe up there. I expressed my heartfelt admiration and wished them well, knowing my days above timberline are over. I still hike, but now I’m very selective about which mountains I climb. Thank God for the wisdom to know the difference!

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

Please visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com for more information on recovery and the awesome love of God.

*Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary ©1996 by Random House Value Publishing, Inc.

The Exclamation Point of Surrender

*The Exclamation Point of Surrender is the first in The Serenity Prayer Series.

Just
     “God”

Not reverently, like

     “Almighty God”
     “Most High”
     “Creator of Heaven and Earth”
     “I AM WHO I AM”

Not endearingly, like

     “Dear God”
     “My Father”
     “Jesus, My Savior”
     “Oh Lord”

Not claiming a single promise, or fawning in search of favor

     “God, who relents from sending calamity”
     “God, who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine”
     “O compassionate and gracious God.”

Just one word. Without the “Dear” or the “O,” or any address whatsoever. The speaker prays with urgency. The first word of the Serenity Prayer screams immediacy, with no time for title; no need to clarify the address of the recipient or the qualifications of the sender. No “in reference to,” flowery prose, or unnecessary details. God’s child needs help, and she needs it now. So the cry goes up from the church basement or the doctor’s office or from detox in a crummy part of town. Whether this daughter of the King can’t stop drinking, or using, or finds herself in circumstances beyond her ability to endure, this much is certain: she’s desperate and knows God can help her.

All my life I believed in the existence of a Supreme Being, but I began to learn about the God of the Bible when I was a young mother many years ago. My mentor pretty much forced me to go to a Bible Study with other young moms, church ladies-in-waiting with babies in tow. I prayed with all the sincerity I could muster, but my petitions consisted mostly of “Oh God, oh God, I’m so sorry. I won’t drink again tonight, I swear.” And I meant every word of it, until about 5:00 PM. When my hands started shaking I’d reach for the brandy, just to take the edge off while I was cooking dinner. Next thing I knew it was morning and I was sorry, so sorry, I won’t do it again, I promise. This included Tuesdays, when I’d pack Catherine up and totter across town to Bible Study.

Now there was this one church lady who was quite open about being a recovering alcoholic. Secretly I watched her live and laugh and love her kids, just like the rest of us. Secretly I was in awe of her. How could she go two days without alcohol, much less the two years I spent observing her? But on a sub-zero Sunday, in an early morning service, God responded to all my apologies with a Voice that thundered through my soul. I went home, poured my brandy down the drain, and called the lady who could laugh and love and make dinner without drinking. She took me to my first AA meeting, and I heard the Serenity Prayer. I’ve loved it ever since.

Far from being a too-familiar, almost insubordinate way of addressing the Almighty, I believe that the opening word of the Serenity Prayer is the exclamation point of surrender. Our urgency admits we need help, and that help can come from Almighty God alone. In the weeks to come I’ll be sharing my experience, strength, and hope through the framework of this famous piece. If you receive this post by email, you can click on the link to visit my blog home. There you will find a copy of the prayer, as well as a very brief history. To God as He is revealed in the face of Jesus Christ- the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, be the glory; for now and evermore. Amen!

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

For more information on recovery and Jesus, too, 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

The Roar of the Sea and the Whisper of God

Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea-
The Lord on high is mighty.

(Psalm 93:4 NIV)

The roar woke me. I opened my eyes to the silvery shadows of filtered moonlight and the thunder of surf crashing on the rocks below and wondered: is this what God sounds like?

As much as I hate being awake at four in the morning, the deafening roar of the sea was a welcome change from my four AM musings of late. The weapons in my arsenal against sleeplessness were proving no match for the pain of a recent personal debacle. Normally prayer, Scripture, and taking thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ could deliver me from insomnia. Normally owning my part, making amends, and forgiving those who wrong me would bring peace to my soul. But recent events were not normal, and God alone knew the way He would restore me to sanity. He just wasn’t telling me yet.

Well, what better time to listen? Out my window, boats anchored in Kailua Harbor bobbed in the moonlight. Salt air wafted through the window. Kevin was dead asleep, and it was just me and God awake in the quiet of the night.

“Lord, I don’t know how to get past this. What do You want me to do?”

“Just listen.”

“I’m listening. I’m listening! But all I hear is the roar. What do You want me to do?

“I want you to listen until you hear the quiet.”

Normally I would have opened my Bible and looked for something a little more concrete. But as I mentioned in an earlier post, I had left it at home. So I lay back against crisp white sheets in a very comfy bed, reveled in the color of moonlight, and listened to the roar of the waves breaking below my window. I didn’t even know I’d fallen asleep until the sun woke me in the morning.

What does God sound like, anyway? The story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19 always comes to mind. In my post of May 2 (Battered Baggage and a Pacific Breeze) I quoted Elijah from 1 Kings 19:4: he was terrified, running for his life, and exhausted. The Lord ministered to him through angels who brought him food, water, and the opportunity for rest. Even as he went on his way, he knew he needed more than provision, more than even the ministrations of angels. At God’s prompting, Elijah poured out his lament (1 Kings 19:9-10). I love what happened next:

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

(1 Kings 19:11-13 NIV)

Elijah recognized God’s voice in the sound of a gentle whisper: literally, “the sound of a gentle stillness.”

Can you imagine huddling at the mouth of a cave as the forces of nature preceded the presence of God? A wind that can tear mountains apart and shatter rocks would have my heart punching through the wall of my chest. Riding out an earthquake while the rocks crash down around me? Really? I’d be wetting my pants as I hightailed it down the hill. But what Elijah understood, and what I frequently misunderstand, is this: This disaster itself is not the voice of God.

Just like me, Elijah made his share of mistakes. But God never lost sight of him, never gave up on him, and never stopped loving him. Even though he suffered through persecution, disappointment, exhaustion, and terror, Elijah stood firm and listened. He knew God’s voice when he heard it. The “sound of a gentle stillness” then told him where to go, what to do, and even how God Himself would work in the situation. Waiting through the roar worked for Elijah. I could only hope it would work for me, too.

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

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

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