A Photograph and a Poem

I was weary and discouraged. A couple of very difficult appointments with clients at the pregnancy center where I work had left me questioning my abilities and doubting my adequacy. I felt like a failure. I wanted to quit.

But I had a Bible study to prepare for that evening. Flipping through the pages of my workbook, I spotted the photograph. Thoughtful Geraldine had excitedly given it to me before the start of our study the previous week. It was a picture of a sunset over the Sea of Galilee in Israel, with a short poem printed below. She knew I had traveled to the Holy Land and thought of me when she saw it. I didn’t have time to look closely at it just then, so I tucked it between the pages of my workbook and promptly forgot about it.

Until now.

I picked up the photograph and slipped on my reading glasses to examine it more carefully. The sun, setting behind the Galilean hills, was in the shape of a Star of David.

This was the text of the simple poem that followed:

Star of David on Galilee
Jesus walked on this very sea
He called to Peter, step out and believe
Our eyes on Him and we receive.
He calls us now through Holy Spirit
For those with hearts and ears to hear it.
God Almighty, Creator of all
No prayer too big, no prayer too small.
So step out of your boat, you're not alone
Your miracle awaits, sent from the throne.*

Geraldine didn’t know that the story of Peter walking on the water with Jesus was special to me. But God knew. He had used this very story to lead me to accept the very position I had taken at work. Geraldine had no idea that a week later I would need confirmation that the Lord was still with me in the midst of a storm. But God knew.

It was as if He had sent this photograph into the future for me to find at the exact moment I needed it.

He knew I would recognize His voice speaking through this little poem, reminding me that HE was the One who called me out upon the water, that great unknown where feet may fail. (He had also used these very lyrics, from the song “Oceans,” to confirm His call when I took the job.) He knew I would see Him in this beautiful photograph of the very waters upon which Peter walked, and the shores upon which I had stood.

The truth is, I had actually begun to enjoy being out on the water with Jesus, preferring my exhilarating adventures with Him to the safe confines of the boat. Until like Peter, I took my eyes off of Him and placed them on myself–my inabilities, my inadequacies–and on the cresting waves around me. Next thing you know I’m panicking, thrashing, and coughing up sea water.

He came for me that morning in a poem and a photograph, and pulled me close, dripping and sputtering. He gently informed me that it was never about me. He pointed out that the storm didn’t actually stop until He and Peter returned to the boat.** And He patiently instructed me that He alone will determine when our walk on the water is over and it’s time to step back into the boat.

Who is this, that even the winds and waves obey Him? Who exists outside of time, sees our future needs and makes preparation for them? Who defies the laws of nature, walks on water and invites us to do the same? Who comes to our merciful rescue when we forget that apart from Him we can do nothing?

Jesus.

Amazing Jesus.


For Reflection: Where are you in your journey with Jesus? In the boat? Out on the water? Going under? Wherever you find yourself today, He is there too. He knows exactly what you need. Just “step out and believe.”

Watch this video of “Oceans,” filmed on the Sea of Galilee, and be encouraged!

*Photo and poem by Anthony R. Torres, Hand of God Photography.

**See Matthew 14:22-33 for the account of Peter walking on the water.

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Come, Spring!

Happy First Day of Spring!

(Are you sure it’s not April Fool’s Day? Because you could’ve fooled me.)

Around here the First Day of Spring is just a date on a calendar. No daffodil or robin sightings in these parts yet. The hills are still clothed in muted shades of brown and the branches hang as bare as empty closet rods. The First Day of Spring could be more aptly named The 91st Day of Winter.

I must be a skeptic at heart, because every year about this time I catch myself wondering if spring will really come. Everything just looks so dead, dry, lifeless. How is it possible to transform this barren landscape into something vibrant and alive?

When spring tarries, doubt multiplies.

I’m like this in life too. I scan the horizon and see bleak situations. Cold hearts. Lifeless marriages.  And I wonder.

How? Is it even possible, Lord?

Then a bud appears. And another. The grand green carpet is rolled out once again. Spring shows up, surprising us, delighting us.

Miracles do happen. I’ve seen circumstances reversed. Prodigals returned. Health restored.  Marriages revived. God shows up, surprising us, delighting us.

So why do I doubt when He tarries?

“Oh, that we might know the Lord!  Let us press on to know him.  He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.”

(Hosea 6:3, NLT)

What if we really knew this great God of ours and what He is capable of? What if we truly believed that He is faithful and His Word is sure?

I bet we’d hold on. Press on. Hope on.

For winter never lasts forever. Spring will come!

And so will He!

*If you could use a touch of spring today, check out Steven Curtis Chapman’s beautiful song “Spring is Coming”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fj3DMk3NB-8

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A Walk on the Water

Although the wind is still whipping and whirling unrestrained around him, a strange stillness has suddenly settled within.  For there, on the water, he sees the One whom his soul loves.

It is the Lord.  Their eyes meet.

His heart leaps at the thought of being near this One whose very presence presses peace into all that surrounds Him.  And there is that familiar twinkle in the Master’s eyes as His hand beckons him to join Him.

Warmth floods his body as he responds, compelled, drawn, unaware of the murmurings of his companions in the boat behind.

Their gaze is unbroken and the moment seems timeless as he approaches…

Until, for an unexplained instant, he looks away.

A wave of fear engulfs him and he is now painfully aware of his vulnerability and the absolute absurdity of his position.  The water begins to close in around him.  As he’s going under he manages a muffled cry to the One who had so captivated his attention just moments ago.

He is there.  His strong arm reaches down and pulls the dripping, shivering figure close.

“Oh, you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

It might have been a stinging rebuke had not that twinkle still been shining in those loving eyes.

And together they return to the boat.

(Note:  I wrote this way back in 1989(!), and thought I would share since my post yesterday reminded me of it.  It was one of those special times when I felt the Lord allowed me a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Scripture.)

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A Conversation with God

I had a “Job” moment last night.  You know, one of those “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” kind of moments.  The kind where we question God.  And God silences us.

I had come across this very thought provoking quote by Beth Moore: 

“Fear is an emotional outburst of unbelief.”

Go ahead and read that again.  I know I had to.  I wondered.  If fear has its roots in unbelief, then what about God am I not believing?  What am I doubting about Him, His character, His activity in the world and in my life?

I decided to be honest about the things I sometimes think about God, but don’t often voice because they look so ugly out in the open.  I timidly peeled back the layers of spiritual correctness I hid them behind.

The “conversation” that followed went something like this.  (My words are in italics.  God’s words are in bold.  Words in quotes are Scripture.)

I don’t believe You are still in control of this fallen world.  It looks to me like sin messed things up too badly.

I don’t believe You can be trusted when You say You will protect us and that no harm will come to us.  Because harm DOES come.  People get sick and die.  Soldiers don’t come home alive.

I don’t believe that Your good and perfect plan should involve pain and suffering.

Neither did Peter and the disciples.  Boy, were they surprised…

Peter:  “This shall never happen to You, Lord!”

Jesus:  “Get behind me, Satan.” (Matthew 16:22)

The belief that bad things should never happen to good people is a lie from Satan. 

And I have believed it.

“You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Matthew 16:23)

It’s true.  I am so focused on the here and now.  You see the Big Picture.

I wasn’t quite ready to give up yet.

“If You are really God, then why don’t You prove it by…?” 

This was the essence of Satan’s temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4 and what I realized was at the heart of my doubt. 

Oh, I could.  But even if I don’t, I am still God.

Then He repeated what He said when Peter was trying to intervene (again) on the night of His arrest:

“Do you think I cannot call on my Father and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53)

Oh, I can alright.

“But if I did, how then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?” (v. 54)

I took one more swing.

But God, YOU wrote the Scriptures!  You wrote the script!  You could have written it any way You wanted!

WAS there any other way?

I thought for a moment before raising the white flag.

No.  There was no other way.  Your ways are not my ways.

“No one (took my life) from Me but I (laid) it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it up again.”  (John 10:18)

I was the One in control, even when it appeared things were out of control.  I am still the One in control.  Just because I don’t act in the way you think I should doesn’t mean I am not.

 

I AM GOD.

I AM IN CONTROL.

I KNOW WHAT I AM DOING.

 

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.

 

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