The Whisper

When the subject of stress comes up I easily identify by recalling a specific time in my life. My career was in growth mode; I had worked hard to earn the trust and respect of many clients and was determined not to let them down. I began my days in the wee hours of the morning to stay ahead of all the looming tasks while doing anything I could to ease the workload of my equally taxed co-workers. Then my husband became seriously ill. Balancing it all was overwhelming. Though I couldn’t afford the luxury of a break, much less a 15-minute lunch, when I found myself on the edge I would drive to a park nearby and silently stare at the greenery until my bulging eyes eased back into my head. Stress.

Trying to manage my time in a healthy way always felt like weakness – I should be able to do it all, all the time, and do it well. But those moments at the park cleared my head. They helped me gain perspective and reset my priorities. The overwhelming demands were put in order and tackled one by one.

I have come to cherish the discipline of intentionally setting aside quiet time alone, long before my eyes are bulging! Even with my recent retirement and this season of less responsibility, I recognize my soul’s need for it. It is where all things fall into proper perspective and align themselves with God’s priorities.

In 1 Kings 18 the Lord’s prophet Elijah humiliated the evil King Ahab by demonstrating the power of God against his 450 prophets and their false god Baal. He wrapped up the demonstration by killing all the false prophets. This earned him the promise of death from Ahab’s wife Jezebel. I find it so interesting that, after witnessing the power of God against 450 of the king’s prophets and his victory against them, Elijah ran for his life. It is so like something I might do. Elijah runs as far as he can and finally collapses under a bush praying, “I have had enough, Lord. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. I bet his eyes were bulging. This is exactly where an angel of the Lord met him; in the solitude of a day’s journey into the desert.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”  So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.  There he went into a cave and spent the night.

Wherever we are, regardless of circumstances, we remain under the watchful eye and compassionate care of our Father. I love how Elijah is simply attended to and strengthened. It is only after he is rested and fed that God begins reasoning with him, asking a simple, yet poignant question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Elijah gives God a summary of events (as if He needed one). 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 there 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?”

A gentle whisper, that’s where God was. Not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire, but in the gentle whisper. A gentle whisper is near impossible for me to hear when my eyes are bulging or when I’m hangry and tired.

Ruth Haley Barton says in her book, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, that times of solitude and silence are “times for noticing – noticing what is true about us in a given moment and then being in God’s presence with the things that we’ve noticed… When we are tired we feel out of control, compelled to constant activity by inner impulses that we may not be aware of… When I am dangerously tired I can be very, very busy and look very, very important but be unable to hear the quiet, sure voice of the One who calls me the beloved. When that happens I lose touch with that place in the center of my being where I know who I am in God, where I know what I am called to do, and where I am responsive to his voice above all others. When that happens I am at the mercy of all manner of external forces, tossed and turned by others’ expectations and my on compulsions.” …Eyes bulging.

Whether it’s five minutes, five hours, or five days, I must intentionally make room to hear God’s whisper.

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Right Now

Life circumstances can threaten to overwhelm me at times. Stacks of responsibilities and deadlines simultaneously pull me in multiple directions. The best (actually worst) example for me lasted a number of years. My husband was very ill, eventually requiring a liver transplant. I supported him through frequent doctor appointments, trips to the specialist 100 miles away, hospital stays, all while working a very demanding, full-time job. Eventually, during one of those hospital visits, the doctors advised us that my husband would not survive if discharged without a new liver. So, there he waited as I balanced work, insurance issues, maintaining our home, and visits so far away.

As exhausting as it was, I am so grateful that God gave me the strength to carry on. Each day I would meditate on Philippians 4:4-9:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Sometimes I’d read those verses over and over before my mind could grasp and relax into them.

Priscilla Shirer, in her Discerning the Voice of God study says, “God is the God of right now. He calls us not to be regretful over yesterday or worried about tomorrow. He wants us focusing on what He is saying to us and putting in front of us today. The enemy’s voice will focus on the past and future.”

Boy do those words speak wisdom! When I was smack dab in the middle of my husband’s illness, or even today when I am feeling overwhelmed with life circumstances, I need to stay present – not worried about where this is all going, full of regrets about what should have been done differently, how I got here or how I’ll get through it all. God is the God of right now, and He is with me in the right now. I can trust He has a plan that I cannot see from my limited vantage point.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

My husband did receive his transplant, but eventually went home to be with the Lord. The experience had a deep impact on who I am today.  It put many things into perspective and even now surfaces as a reminder of what’s important. It prompts me to let the little things go. It deepened some relationships and developed compassion for others in situations I otherwise would not have understood. It even evokes warm feelings of the satisfaction and reward that come from having served another in their time of need.

As Discerning the Voice of God notes, God is the God of right now. I don’t have to let circumstances overwhelm me, or try to figure out what will happen, where this is all going, or what His plan is. In the words of Priscilla, “Want to know God’s will for you? Well, what has He put before you today? Do it.”

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Anxiety: an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it. (Merriam Webster)

I met a woman recently who struggles with anxiety. She was in tears, so disappointed in her inability to take part in a women’s gathering at our church. There she sat, alone in the lobby seemingly watching the program stream on a wall monitor, but in reality beating herself up for failing again.

“I thought I could do this. I’m a newer Christian and I’ve been praying that God would heal me of these panic attacks, that I would trust Him with the evening and make it through. I feel like I’m failing Him again, that I am disappointing Him.”

As we talked she shared what surely was the root of her fears, something so personal and rarely talked of from her childhood. A trauma I cannot imagine, one that took years to share with her own husband, but that she trusted me with that night.

She diligently seeks God through His Word and various teachers. She knows God does not want us to worry, but recently heard a teacher call worry a sin. While the Bible never directly calls worry a sin, it implies that most worry or anxiety is a failure to trust and believe God.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:25-34)

It was tearing her up that, despite her diligent pursuit of God, she was still bound by this recurring sin.

As I was listening to this sister’s frustration with the speed she was developing her trust in God, I thought of John, the disciple that Jesus loved. In Kelly Minter’s study What Love Is she points out that John walked with Jesus as he performed so many miracles; telling the fishermen to drop their nets after catching nothing and coming up with more fish than the nets were made for, turning water to wine, watching Jesus being transfigured as he was joined with Moses and Elijah, raising a 12 year old girl from death to life, and many more. Yet John 20:8 records his reaction to the empty tomb:

Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;

Wait… didn’t he already believe?

Trusting God is a gift that we will continue to open and receive in fragments for the rest of our lives.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8)

We are all sinners and will never fully conquer our doubts and fears, until that is until we make it home. While I suppose there are people who receive the Good News and do a much better job of immediately placing all their trust in Jesus, for me it’s one day at a time, working out my faith as I learn to trust Him more. I’ve come a long way from where I started, but look forward to greater trust and a deeper faith with every passing day.

I told my lobby friend how delighted God must be that she trusted Him enough to come to our event. It was a leap of faith, believing He would give her the strength to participate and connect. While it did not turn out exactly as she had hoped, perhaps that was part of His plan. The enemy loved seeing her in tears and self-condemnation, her faith teetering and hoping to render her ineffective. But God is greater; He brought us together to share our stories and encourage one another.

Think of the testimony she will have, glorifying God as she conquers her fears and doubts one baby step at a time; focusing on the triumphs and celebrating the progress, every inch of the way.

We left there united in our intentions to thank God for the night’s victory over the enemy, with praise for the portion of trust added to our faith, and for the way he brought two sisters together just when we needed it most!

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The Great I AM

It’s easy for me to empathize with someone stepping into a public forum who is visibly rattled by nerves. It’s painful. I really dealt with it growing up because I was so self-conscious.  And, when the focus was on me, my anxiety would often be compounded by someone commenting on how red my face was.  The unease I so wanted to conceal announced its presence instead.

It’s natural to feel insecure when tackling something new with an audience that matters, whose respect I value. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when I was approaching a stage not too long ago to address a group of women and felt the nerves rushing in. When I accepted the position I knew it would draw me out of my comfort zone.  Part of me wanted nothing to do with being on that stage, but on the other hand I really wanted to accomplish what God had placed on my heart.  And that required the public aspect of the job.

I remember diving into Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life when it came out. The first sentence, “It’s not about you,” were the very words I needed as I prepared to walk on stage. I repeated them over and over as I approached the stage, confessing that any nervousness simply indicated how self-absorbed I was. I asked Him to realign my motive with His purpose and to give me a spirit of humility as He filled me with courage. He was the focus, not me. I prayed that He would turn my heart, mind and soul to Him.  He was faithful; I delivered my short talk in tranquility and didn’t hear a single whisper about a red face.

Reading about God calling Moses to leadership in Exodus 3 reminded me of that night. I smiled to have something in common with him – nerves!  Moses had a heart for the people, but didn’t feel equipped or qualified to lead them. He questioned God’s choice and responded with insecure questions. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (3:11) Though God promised to be with him, Moses continued with his insecurities, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” (3:13) God patiently prepared Moses by establishing his Name and providing Moses with an answer should the people ask (3:14). But still Moses’ insecurities and fear of looking foolish persisted, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” (4:1) At this point most of us would just want to slap him silly and tell Moses to man up!  But instead God reveals his patience by equipping Moses with amazing miracles to demonstrate to the Israelites that he had indeed been in the presence of God. Still Moses dug his heels in with more excuses not to accept the call, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” (4:10) Realizing that he’s getting nowhere, Moses finally lays it out there, attempting to throw in the towel he pleads, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” (4:13)

Really? Right about now I’m not feeling so bad about my reluctance to be on that stage.  Moses loved and was loved by God, yet struggled deeply when called. This exchange is encouraging. It confirms God’s deep, patient love and resolve to stick with us. He gently calls us to what he has planned for us, patiently equipping us and empowering us to overcome the insecurities that threaten to render us ineffective.

Like social media documents some of our weakest moments, the Bible exposes Moses. At what point did Moses finally understand who it was that was calling him to action, the significance of His Name.

Exodus 3:14:  And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you.

 Matthew Henry’s Commentary explains that God’s Name establishes him as self-existent with no dependence on any other. Therefore He is also self-sufficient and therefore all-sufficient. He will be what He will be and what He is. Moses desires instruction from God – what answer to give them – what name to give them to vouch to them as proof of his authority (If I must go, let me have full instructions so that I may not run in vain).

The commentary warmed my forever-planning-and-organized-heart by stating, “It highly concerns those who speak to people in the name of God to be well prepared beforehand. Those who would know what to say must go to God… to His Word… and to His throne for instruction.”  Being a person who too often questions her calling and authority, who was knit together with a need to have all the facts before proceeding, helped me sympathize with Moses’ resistance.

The commentary notes that when facing insecurities, “It is desirable to know, and our duty to consider, what is His Name?” Why would a child of the God Most High, carrying out His agenda with His support have anything to fear?

Moses and I could save ourselves a lot of misery if we’d just truly understand early on who calls and equips us to complete the mission – the one and only I Am That I AM, the One who said in Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

With eyes on Him, oh what confidence to approach any circumstance, to obey any call!

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The Shield

Our country is permeated by a climate of hate and fear. Many are anxious as they take in the increasingly popular reports of evil. Watching the news I can’t help but think of Don Henley’s song, Dirty Laundry:

I make my living off the evening news
Just give me something – something I can use
People love it when you lose,
They love dirty laundry.

We got the bubble-headed-beach-blond who
Comes on at five
She can tell you ‘bout the plane crash with a gleam
In her eye
It’s interesting when people die
Give us dirty laundry.

Can we film the operation?
Is the head dead yet?
You know, the boys in the newsroom got a
Running bet
Get the widow on the set!
We need dirty laundry.

Dirty little secrets
Dirty little lies
We got our dirty little fingers in everybody’s pie
We love to cut you down to size
We love dirty laundry.

There’s more, but you get the idea.  I had stopped watching the news for quite a while and just picked what was important off the internet.  I was tired of the sensationalizing of people’s misery, of placing a microphone in the face of someone in the midst of tragedy, using their grief for entertainment.

But the elections drew me back in.  Like an addiction, I couldn’t get enough of it all.  The media succeeded in entertaining me with all the sordid details of two imperfect candidates picking each other apart.

I need perspective, which I lose when my focus is on the cares of this world versus God’s eternal plan.  Truth does not scream at me.  It is calm, humble and loving. It wants me to look for it, it wants to be found as opposed to forcing itself on me.  I won’t find it on the evening news, and it probably won’t be in the emotion charged conversations I’ll have with angry or frightened people.  It gently knocks on the door of my heart, inviting me to rest in the assurance of God’s eternal plan.  He is with us – He will never leave us nor forsake us.

After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward. Genesis 15:1

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior — from violent people you save me.” 2 Samuel 22:3

You make your saving help my shield; your help has made me great. 2 Samuel 22:36

Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. Psalm 3:1-4

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.  Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.  Psalm 5:11-12

My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart. Psalm 7:10

 The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2

 The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. Psalm 28:7

We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.  Psalm 33:20-22

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you. Psalm 84:11-12

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:16-17

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Have you ever had someone go to bat for you?  That’s exactly what Laurie did for me many years ago.

My husband had been ill for a while and his situation took a turn for the worse. After visiting him in the hospital, I returned to work weary and overwhelmed, unsure of where to turn. He needed a major surgery, but our insurance was declining coverage. Without the surgery his life expectancy was not good. I shared the news with my co-workers and began pushing through my workday, contemplating what to do next.

I was helping some longtime customers wade through a stack of escrow papers when Laurie gently interrupted.  She apologized to us all, but explained that she had just received word that our insurance company had reconsidered and everything was approved – she wanted to let me know right away. While I was struggling under the weight of the dilemma, trying to muster strength for a battle I was ill-equipped to fight, Laurie had stepped in! Those poor customer didn’t know the story, but from my reaction they knew this was big news. I broke down in tears of relief and appreciation in the midst of their signing, and they both joined me!

I arrived at work overwhelmed, feeling helpless and powerless to identify a solution on my own.  I didn’t know where to turn.  Laurie took up my cause. She knew where to start, who to call, and she used her influence on my behalf.

That is exactly what Jesus Christ does for us.  Jesus is our advocate with God the Father, interceding on our behalf.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Romans 8:31-34

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  1 John 2:1

Jesus lived a perfectly holy, righteous life before surrendering it to the cross for us.  Before his death he was comforting his Disciples and explaining what was to come:

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”  John 14:15-17

After his resurrection, Jesus took a seat at the right hand of God, advocating for us there.  But he also promised that he would ask God to give us another advocate to help us and be with us forever – the Spirit of truth.  This Spirit lives with us and in us when we love and obey Jesus.

The Holy Spirit was a mystery to me for a long time.  A copy of C.H. Spurgeon’s 1859 sermon entitled Grieving the Holy Spirit inspired me to look at Scriptures on the subject.  Soon after, a friend confessed that she was really confused about who or what the Holy Spirit is. I’m sharing my explanation below in hopes it helps anyone else who may be struggling with it too.

Who is the Holy Spirit?

When you place your faith in Christ, He places his Holy Spirit within you.  It is a deposit, God’s gift to you, setting you apart as a child of God.  God is a trinity – three in one – God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit. God manifest Himself as Jesus to redeem us, Jesus came to live among us in bodily form as a perfect example of who He is and how we should live.  But, Jesus is God and without sin, while we are born sinful.  Ever since sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, we became unable to live perfect, holy lives.  Our fellowship with God was broken.  Genesis 3 describes what happened.  I love verse 8, when Adam and Eve heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day and God called to Adam, “Where are you?” God created us to love Him, to walk with Him in the garden as with our most loved and cherished friend.  But when we were deceived and chose to disobey Him our relationship changed.  We are now separated from a Holy God by our sin.  He so loves and desires a deep relationship with us that He sent His very Son in the form of a man to live among us and lay down His life to bridge the gap between us.  Jesus took on all that sin, bore the consequences that threatened to eternally separate us from our Holy God. When He died, establishing a path to eternity with God, He took on our sin that otherwise separated us from God and brought us together, creating access to the Father again.  When He rose again, Jesus walked among the believers, the early church. In Acts 1, before ascending back to Heaven with God, He commanded the church to stay in Jerusalem and “wait for the gift my Father promised”. In verse 8 he explained, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, an in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

The followers of Jesus received the Holy Spirit as Jesus promised in Acts 2. God became flesh in Jesus, and became Spirit in the Holy Spirit.  When you come to believe in Jesus, the Holy Spirit also begins dwelling within us.  God first created us and directly walked among us. When sin broke that direct presence, God no longer walked among us. He became flesh in Jesus, died on the cross to restore our relationship with Him, and manifests Himself as a Spirit within us when we confess Jesus as Lord.  His Spirit is what led us to believe and helps us understand His teachings, and restrains us from and/or convicts us of sin, and nudges us to make decisions that honor Him.  His Spirit is what overwhelms us at times with joy and peace, and leads us to worship God.  His Spirit within us leads us to use our gifts and talents in a way that honors God.

The Holy Spirit is our blessed instructor, leading us to truth, taking the things of Christ and applying them for us.  He is our comforter when we fail or experience trials.  He gives us power, strength and confidence in the midst of circumstances because we acknowledge we are a child of Christ.  Whether you say God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit, they are the same, all three in one, just in different forms.  The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit teaches us, prays for us when we don’t know how or what to pray, intercedes for us so that our prayers reach the ears of Christ and are presented to God.

It is by the Holy Spirit that we are sealed until the day of redemption, a pledge of our inheritance, conformation that we are truly a child of God. If we set our heart on anything that is evil, if we openly sin, if we neglect prayer or the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit will be grieved. He bears with us and nudges us to repent and return to righteous living.  When you sin and find yourself miserable, void of joy, knowing you are out of fellowship with God and dabbling with the things of this world in way you should not, it is the Holy Spirit that you feel grieving inside you, letting you know something’s not right, drawing you back to right living with God.  And when you hit your knees to confess and beg forgiveness, it is the Holy Spirit leading you there & filling you with such joy, knowing you are forgiven.  That’s how lives are miraculously changed in an instant, addictions halted, lives turned around so drastically – the power of the Holy Spirit within.

Praise God that we such an advocate living with us and in us when we place our faith in Jesus!

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“Look at the Dolphins!”

IMG_4853I set out for a brisk walk along the beach this morning with lots of missions to complete – get some much needed exercise, feel the sand between my toes, enjoy the sound of the waves, watch for sea life, find some sea glass, people watch, and on and on. I didn’t get too far before I forgot most else and became captivated with sea glass. I slowly inched my way through the sand and seaweed, scanning the beautiful pebbles and shells, picking out lusterless fragments of white, green, brown and brilliant blue.

My concentration was broken when I sensed someone nearby. As we made eye contact, the man planted in a beach chair watching the swells shouted, “Look at the dolphins!” I turned to see pods of dolphins and seals breaching just in front of where I stood.

I watched for a few minutes, probably longer than I really cared to, out of respect for the stranger’s expectation. Before resuming my “brisk walk,” I noted how close I still was to where I began. I hadn’t accomplished much exercise. That’s when I made the conscious decision to abandon my original agenda in favor of my quest for sea glass.

As I inched along, appreciating the beauty of tiny pebbles washed up in patches along the sand, I began humming How Great Thou Art, wishing I could remember all the words. Having made the choice to be single in purpose, I relaxed.

My sea glass harvest was bountiful! When my pocket was full, I began my short walk back, content. I considered the full list I of objectives I’d set out with and chuckled at myself. It’s hard to break long established habits. While they were all things I enjoy, having an agenda of any sort this trip really defeats the purpose. I came to take a break from itineraries, multi-tasking and schedules. My goal is quiet time with Jesus, a personal retreat with my Savior.

I love the beach. It is a place that is easy for me to sense God’s presence. The constant pounding of the surf muffles any competing sounds. The sight of the waves thrashing the shore and the vast, seemingly endless expanse of the sea demonstrate His majesty and the wonder of His creation.

I spend most days of my life planning, multi-tasking and working through the list of responsibilities required of me. They are necessary and mostly rewarding, but they are not my purpose. My purpose is to love God. I do that by becoming more like the Son he sent to die for my sins and by loving the people he places in my life. Unfortunately, I fail frequently. But because of God’s measureless love and mercy, I get to start afresh with a clean slate each time I confess and turn from my sin.

Like my walk on the beach this morning, I have to be intentional about my purpose. Distractions fill my days. Unless I intentionally set aside time to learn God’s plan for me by reading my Bible and reflecting on His Word, stepping out of the whirlwind of life, jealously protecting quiet time designated with Him to discern his desires for me, it just won’t happen. Someone or something will always pull me back to life’s wonders or whirlwinds, shouting “Look at the dolphins!”

How Great Thou Art

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

– Carl Boberg

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