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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You Are Being Watched

“Restaurant Stakeout” and “Mystery Diners” are two of our new favorite shows.  In case you’re not familiar with this Food Network fare, both programs feature restaurant owners who suspect problems with their employees.  Hidden cameras are installed in the kitchen and dining areas, enabling the boss to secretly observe what goes on when he or she is absent.

And while the cat’s away, the mice do play.

The best part of the show comes when the staff are assembled and the restaurant owner reveals that he’s been watching them.  The looks on their faces as they react to this announcement are priceless.  You can almost see them rewinding and replaying the tapes in their own minds, trying to determine whether this is good news…or bad news.

Now imagine yourself in their shoes for a moment.  An emergency meeting has been called, and you’re curious, wondering why you’ve been summoned.  Then you hear the words:

I’ve been watching you.

Only this time it’s the voice of God.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13, NIV)

Rewind.  Replay.  Gulp.

That bad attitude you unsuccessfully tried to hide behind a fake smile?  Those little compromises you justified because you thought no one would ever find out?  The poor work ethic you displayed when you assumed the cat was away?  It’s all there, in plain view, up on the monitors.

Oh and by the way, there’s plenty more footage where that came from.  Cringe.

Before you crawl under the table in fear and shame, may I suggest something?  That whether the knowledge that you are being watched is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ news might depend less on your performance and more on your relationship with the owner?  Please read that again.  Then allow me to illustrate.

Typically on these shows, once the offending employees are identified they lose their jobs.  Good riddance, right?  Justice served.  Problem solved.

But in one of the restaurant stings, a trusted employee was caught red-handed, brazenly stealing from his employer, a close family friend.  When confronted, the thief begged for a second chance, promising to change and make restitution.  Instead of being fired, he was forgiven.  Why?

Because he was more than just an employee, a hired hand.  He was “family.”  He was shown mercy, because he was a beloved friend.

Certainly the fact that we are being watched should give us pause.  We should try to live in such a way that we bring honor to Our Maker and Master, seeking to hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23, NIV) more than we desire our own convenience and comfort.

But if you have a personal relationship with the Owner, the revelation that He is watching you should not strike terror in your heart.  For the eyes that are upon you are peering through the lens of love.

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.  If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” (1 John 4:18, NLT) 

You are so much more than a mere servant.  You are a dearly loved friend.  You are Family.

“I no longer call you servants…I have called you friends…” said Jesus to His disciples in John 15:15 (NIV).

Listen to how one Bible commentator describes the watchful gaze of the Lord:

“He observes them with approval and tender consideration; they are so dear to him that he cannot take his eyes off them; he watches each one of them as carefully and intently as if there were only that one creature in the universe.” (From The Treasury of David)

Let that sink in.

He loves you.  He approves of you.  He values you.

He’s not waiting just to catch you in the act so He can kick you to the curb.  He’s watching because He cares about you.  He may discipline you and correct your behavior, but it is always out of a heart of love and a commitment to nurturing an ongoing relationship with you.

Isn’t that good news?

Doesn’t that make you want to please Him?

“For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”  (2 Chronicles 16:19, NAS)

The Helix Nebula, also called the “Eye of God”

 

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