Archive for Trust

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.

Living Between Heaven and Earth

She seethed with all the rage an eleven-year-old could muster. I hadn’t even stopped the car completely when she jumped out of the front seat and glared at me through the window. Catherine was a force. Never had she been madder at me than she was at that moment, and she was making sure I knew it before she stomped off to her classroom.

I put the car in park and waded into the indignant fury radiating from my beloved daughter.

“Honey, I know you’re mad, and I’m sorry about that. But you and I never know when will be the last time we will see each other. I never want us to part on these terms. I love you.”

She was literally taken aback. Her head jerked upwards slightly in shock, and the body that had been quivering with rage slowed to a stop. She thought for a moment, then came over and hugged me. I’m sure she was still angry, but I was amazed that a kid her age would take that to heart. For the next three years, until the day she died, she seemed to live with the perspective born of that moment. Thank God, thank God. I had no idea I’d lose her so soon.

After her accident, I seethed with all the rage a forty-four-year-old could muster. I didn’t understand God’s perspective on my loss any more than Catherine understood why I made her go to summer school. I stomped and screamed and glared through the windows of Heaven, shaking my fist at the God who’d abandoned me. Had He not heard my prayers for her life? Didn’t He love me?

How could He do this to me?

Night after night, when I wanted to die, I instead searched the Bible for comfort. Words that had once only warmed my heart now pried open my eyes to eternity. So long ago, in an upper room, the man who was God faced an excruciating death. Rather than pleading with His friends for compassion, He gave them a hope: a hope they could cling to, a hope I could cling to, the hope that would save my sanity. He took me aback with this promise:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am. You know the way to the place I am going.” (John 14:1-4 NIV)

I wish I could say I responded to God as quickly as my child had come and hugged me. Rather, He suffered my rage and endured my fury until I collapsed at the foot of the Cross. From there He could lift me out of the pit. In the darkest of nights, when her accident haunted me, I learned to picture Jesus coming for Catherine in the high mountain meadow where she died. With her unbroken smile she’d be so happy to see Him! He’d hold out His hand, and she’d grin and accept, and together they’d fade from my sight. My daughter’s in Heaven, waiting for me. What a comfort! What a Savior. Thank you, Jesus.

…as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.”– (1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV)

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

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

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.

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.

Hearing the Heartbeat of God

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge.

I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”– King David (Psalm 57:1-2 NIV)

Were we still in the days of paper and stamps, the letters would arrive damp with her tears. Instead she updates by email from a hospital far away. Her husband’s heart is failing. I plead with God to hold them so closely they would feel the beating of His very own heart as they walk through the valley of the shadow. In the sterile domain of the mortally ill, where the hush in the hall is broken by sobs, sometimes it seems God is nowhere to be found. Perhaps He is across the street, flying a kite with a child in the park? But while I’ve flown plenty of kites, I’ve also been to the morgue. In the still of that silence I heard His heart best.

When our daughter died, we walked the sacred ground between Heaven and Earth, and there I first heard the heartbeat of God. I also felt it; I smelled it. Curled up on the hospital carpet as we waited for Catherine’s body, a virtual stranger wrapped me in her arms, my back against her chest, and the steady rhythm of God’s heart pushed my breath in and out, in and out. Later at home, and for days to come, it thrummed through the sounds and the scents of the saints coming and going, bearing hams and lilies; pleading prayers and passages on our behalf. Steadily it thumped in the rhythm of life, pulling our own hearts in tow lest they lose their momentum and surrender their song.

I’ve changed in the years since my daughter went home, because I now know the heartbeat of God. I hear it in the wail of the siren and the hum of the heart monitor. It throbs in the background as children let go of their parents, parents let go of their children, and as husbands and wives whisper, “goodbye, for now.” We can drown out the tempo with a flurry of fists as we pound on His chest and scream out our pain. But in the quiet of after, when our voices are broken and we’re fresh out of tears, He pulls us in close to His steady, strong comfort. He gathers us in and holds us next to His heart.

I have little to offer those who walk through the valley of the shadow, but I’m not afraid to go with them. I’ve been there before, and I know God is there. In the shadow of His wings I’ve felt the beating of His heart.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18 NIV)

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

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

What Do I REALLY Believe?

“Only the self-deceived will claim perfect freedom from fear.”– Bill W. (Founder of Alcoholics Anonymous)

The cold swept in just ahead of the dark; the coldest day so far this winter, with overnight temperatures forecast at twenty below. We pulled into the driveway after a long day at the emergency room, tired and hungry and six thousand dollars poorer than we were at breakfast. If I didn’t know that God had a plan for all my days (Psalm 139:16) I might have been tempted to knock a few off the end of my lifespan. It had been a long time since I’d been this low.

Since late December I’ve been short of breath, and last week my chest started to hurt. Sounds like a reasonable excuse for a trip to the doctor. But with a $4000.00 deductible and a $3,000.00 out of pocket expense, I’ve tried to avoid spending the money. Good thing, too, since the economic downturn wiped out our savings and has me clipping coupons to save a dollar here, a dollar there. We are grateful we still have our house, and we’ve just begun to recover financially. I figured that, if we were really careful, we might make it out of this hole.

For a month I agonized over going to the doctor, just trying to wait it out. But always in the back of mind is June 8, 2005: the day my brother Matt passed away. He developed chest pain at work, went home, writhed on the sofa for a few minutes, and died. The neighbors noticed his truck parked askew, looked in his window, and broke down the door. It was too late. He was forty-eight, my little brother, dragged from this life down the same heart attack trail our father traveled when he was sixty-one. Dropped like a sack of dirt. It’s not the worst way to go, but I’d gladly settle for passing gently in my sleep when I’m no longer in my right mind.

So, I bit the bullet and went to the doctor, who immediately sent me to the ER. After four hours of poking and sticking and prodding and pictures they cheerfully announced I was in no imminent danger, “so go on home and c’mon back tomorrow for MORE tests. Oh, and here’s your bill. Do you want to take care of this now?”

Fighting the urge to clutch at my heart (there’s undoubtedly a charge for that) I stumbled out the door and into the cold, even asking Kevin to drive home- a rare occurrence indeed. The self-flagellation began before we left the parking lot, and by the time we pulled into the driveway I was in full self-hatred mode. How could I be so dumb? So thoughtless? How could I do this to my family? Would God forgive me even though I should have just toughed this out? Would He think I was just crazy and stupid, and if we do lose everything, it’s all my fault?

My best thinking said to me, “The only way it would be okay to spend $6,000.00 is to prove I’m dying.”

My best thinking said, “God may forgive you for making such a dumb decision, but your family’s financial insecurity is now your fault.”

So I lay awake half of last night, beating the crap out of myself emotionally and figuring God isn’t going to bail me out of making such a selfish choice. I still don’t know why I’m short of breath or why my chest hurts; more tests are scheduled tomorrow and the next day. The only good news is that once we pay the seven thousand dollars, insurance will pay the rest. But seven thousand is so much more than we have I cry just thinking about it.

By the morning’s light, all of this gave me pause to consider: For someone who says her best friend is Jesus (hence my website, http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com), why do I not believe He will provide for us? Does His provision EVER depend upon my performance? Does He really shake His head over my self-centered concerns, deeming me beyond hope because I put my fears above my family?

I believe I have fallen prey to the illusion that God takes care of me because I do my best to follow Him, and make the best possible decisions for everyone involved; moreover, if I only had enough faith, I would have heard Him shouting, “Buck up and wait it out, dummy!” My best thinking seems to run contrary to what God actually says. I believe I’ve been listening to a lie; or rather, a liar. I believe Satan’s been whispering in my ear.

I believe it’s time I look to the Bible to remember what God actually does say about me, and about all those who have given their lives to Christ:

I am God’s child. John 1:12
I am Christ’s friend.  John 15:15
I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins.  Colossians 1:14
I am complete in Christ.  Colossians 2:10
I am free forever from condemnation.  Romans 8:1-2
I am free from condemning charges against me.  Romans 8:31-34
I cannot be separated from the love of Christ.  Romans 8:35-39
I have not been given a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power,
   of love, and of a sound mind.  2 Timothy 1:7
I can find grace and mercy in my time of need.  Hebrews 4:16
I am born of God, and the evil one cannot touch me.  1 John 5:18
I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.  Ephesians 2:6
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13.

(Excerpted from Living Free in Christ by Dr. Neil Anderson)

I believe Bill W. was absolutely right when he said, “Only the self-deceived will claim perfect freedom from fear.” But as a follower of Jesus Christ, I’ve been given the promises of God’s Word. When I fall into the arms of Jesus and seek His truth, I am rescued from both “my own best thinking” as well as the enemy who hates me. The truth can set me free.

Though the sun shone brightly today, it never warmed up and forecasters have plastered their minus signs all over the Colorado map. We’re in for another cold one tonight. But rather than lying awake and listening to the voice of the enemy taunting me into fear, I’ll remember this promise and repeat as necessary until my thoughts slide into a warm and friendly darkness:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.”– Jesus Christ (John 14:27 NIV)

Beats the heck of counting sheep.

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

Find out more about Him on my website: http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com .

 

What Child Is This? He’s My Lifeguard, Of Course

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”– Jesus Christ to the apostle Peter. (Matthew 16:15 NIV)

In my dream, I had landed a job with the United States Postal Service as a carrier, delivering mail to Rickenbacker Causeway. Just offshore from Miami, it’s an island in Biscayne Bay constructed solely to anchor a six-lane highway, flanked by a pebbly waterline and a few straggly trees. Any NFL kicker could punt a football over its width. In real life, there are no buildings; just hundreds of cars whizzing by on their way out to Key Biscayne. But in my dream, I was following the trainer and learning the route as I delivered to offices and apartments on the shore where I once played with my brother Matt.

Last night’s dream seemed to come in response to my struggle to write a Christmas post. For the last ten days, my every attempt at writing ended up in the virtual wastebasket. Finally, God drew me back to the question Jesus asked Peter in Matthew 16: “Who do you say I am?”

For twenty-five years I’ve pursued the answer to this question. The easy answers come from Scripture: Jesus Christ, Son of God, born to save His people from their sins. The star over the stable, the cross on the hill, the Sunday morning sunrise when the stone rolled away.

The harder answers came through my commitment to follow Him. In accepting His invitation and acknowledging His Lordship, I gave Him free reign to make me into the woman He created me to be. He, in turn, accepted the challenge, and so began the journey that led me through the joy and heartache of being identified with Christ.

Jesus has provided me opportunities to learn who He really is, far beyond Christmas and Easter. He helped me overcome addiction and abuse. He called my daughter home when she was only fourteen. He rescued me from my family of origin and adopted me into the family of God. The list goes on ad infinitum. With each challenge I dove into the deep end of faith, thrashing in panic and lashing out in rage ’til I rose to the surface, gasping for air. The hands that took the nails gently towed me to calmer waters where I could catch my breath and begin again. With each recovery came a deeper understanding of His power and my weakness, His goodness and my failings, His love and my need.

All this led me to believe that I know Him, and to a tiny extent I probably do. However, His latest invitation to the deep end of the pool has me tired of treading water. Strangely, it’s a gentler crisis, not the usual drama that sucks the air from my lungs. It’s a call to trust Him for provision when I can’t see any way He can work it out.

The recession left us with our house (so far), and I’m grateful for that. But all our savings are gone, and we’re still helping our son through college. What have no guarantee of work whatsoever. Believe me, I appreciate what we have. But I’m so tired of the struggle, and the call He’s given me to write a book seems ridiculous. When He asked me again yesterday, “who do you say I am?” my answer revealed the worry of my tired heart. I know who He is. But I also know who I am. I’m just fresh out of strength and trust, and I doubt my ability to successfully write, market, and sell a book. The blue depths of the deep end are beginning to look inviting, like the treasure lies at the bottom of the pool and not in the calmer shallows with Jesus.

In last night’s dream, I had landed a job with the Postal Service. My neighbor Randy works at the post office, and he has steady income. And benefits. And health insurance. My postal route covered the upper end of Rickenbacker Causeway, which is coincidentally and exactly the location where my book begins. Even though I was following the trainer, I had no doubt I’d be able to do the job. It was a best-case scenario: guaranteed income where I’d been told to work, confident of my ability to complete the task at hand. It was a great dream!

Message from God or wishful dreaming? I prefer the former but will accept the latter. In any case, Jesus didn’t ask Peter the question in Matthew 16:15 without confirming his answer. The rest of the conversation went something like this:

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 16:16-17 NIV)

Peter may have thought he came up with the answer himself, but the revelation of Jesus’ true identity was a gift from God. You’d think that a guy who’d been fishing with the Messiah and hearing straight from the Creator was pretty much set for life, faith-wise. But Peter’s truest test was yet come. Jesus already knew of the upcoming betrayal, but it didn’t change His plans or His love.

I’m no Peter, but I’m encouraged by his story. I’m encouraged by my dream. Perhaps there is hope for me yet. The baby in the manger is the Lord of the Universe, and His plans for me have very little to do with my strength or courage or wisdom. His love for me has nothing to do with my failure or success. In this season of worry I lift my pinky finger above the surface and trust He will tow me back to calmer waters, breathe into my lungs the breath of encouragement, and cheer me on to begin again. Who do I say He is?

He’s my lifeguard, of course. Who do you say He is?

©Rachel Ophoff 2010, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC, All Rights Reserved.

Visit my website at http://www.friendshipwithjesus.com

The Bridge to Sally’s House

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven…and a time to build up.”– The Teacher (Ecclesiastes 3:1,3 NAS)

“The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within- strength, courage, dignity.”– Ruby Dee.

If I weren’t so OCD, I could find my way to Sally’s house without checking the map. My house to Denver, then Denver to Orlando. After I get my rental car it’s less than an hour to the coast, bop over a couple of bridges, and before you know it, I’m home away from home.

I know better than to argue with her over where I’m going to sleep. “The kids have to get up early for school. You take my room so they don’t disturb you.” These aren’t kids anymore- they are working their way through college and living with Mom. I may catch a glimpse of them coming or going, but I don’t see much of them. Neither does she, but they are the reason she gets up every morning and goes to work.

Not this morning, though; she’s spending the day with me. She puts on a pot of coffee, lights her first cigarette, and with characteristic directness observes, “I suppose you want to go to the beach.” I just left Colorado in the dead of winter- what do you think? She lives one bridge away from the shoreline at Cocoa, another from the Kennedy Space Center. This perfect January day is warm and sunny, so we join the crowd over by the pier. The sand is hard-packed, perfect for a long walk; but we sit and watch the water. Her right foot is a little crippled from the car accident so long ago, courtesy of a less-than-sober boyfriend. Her mom snuck me into the ICU as family when her life hung in limbo. Passing as sisters was easy; watching her recover was hard. Thirty-five years since the accident and not a day without pain. But she knows I love to walk, and my late-middle-aged brain sometimes forgets how much it hurts her. She never forgets.

To say our friendship was made in Heaven would crack us all up- me, Sally, even Jesus. We were freewheeling teenage girls without a compass, working together at the local supermarket. Our parents evicted us simultaneously so we moved in together. In retrospect, I can scarcely believe we survived. We knew a little about taking care of ourselves, but nothing about boys or alcohol or the meaning of life. I could say the Seventies were a simpler time, but in reality we just acted like simpletons. For reasons known only to Him, God gave us each other so we wouldn’t get lost.

Our twenties and thirties were a jumble of growing up and moving on. Neither of us was a good bet for becoming a  responsible adult, but God had other plans. We each married and had two children. Both of us survived addiction recovery; she survived her husband’s, I survived my own. Both of us weathered the challenges of marriage as well as the crazy demands of parenthood. Sometimes we went years without talking just because the stresses of work and family drained us dry, but eventually the phone would ring and we’d pick up as if we had never left off. To sustain a friendship for almost forty years over two thousand miles seems like a miracle, but the real miracle was that we each found Jesus Christ. Neither of us could have survived our forties without Him.

We rolled into our fifties changed women. Sally was widowed nine years ago when Bob died of cancer; she called me with his diagnosis shortly after Catherine died. Whatever childish ways we held onto vanished in the face of death. I could only keep my sanity by surrendering my all to God; she could only take on the multiple roles of mother, father, and sole provider by praying for wisdom, courage, and provision. Our conversations took on a deeper tone because we lived on a deeper level. Suffering our grievous blows gave us a shared perspective; finding faith in Jesus gave us a common hope. While the folly of our youth still gives us a good laugh, our shared faith binds us as sisters. We have built a solid house of friendship that weathers the storms of life.

These days, I see her growing in beauty even as our bodies betray our age. The vanity of her youth has given way to self-sacrifice on behalf of her kids. She hasn’t bought herself new clothes in too many years, but her kids have a home and an opportunity for education. She spends her Saturdays limping along behind the lawnmower under the blazing Florida sun, working on her house and saving her money. Someday when we’re both flush we’ll take a vacation together, provided we live that long. But whether we do or don’t, I’ll find a way to get back to Sally’s house, my home away from home. It’s just a couple of bops over the bridge, from my house to Denver to Orlando.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”– Jesus Christ (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV)

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