I know that I say that my Pastor hits it out of the park every Sunday, but it’s true. Of course, I have felt that way about other Pastors whose churches I have attended too. I don’t think it’s so much the person, or the delivery, or the atmosphere because, in every church, these are always different. I just believe that God gives messages to be shared with me so I go expecting. And He never disappoints. I guess you could say I go whale watching.
Staci Eldridge tells the story of her husband, John, who went to the beach to be alone with God. John loves wildlife. While he was there, a humpback whale breached the water exposing half of its body and landed with a whale-sized splash before disappearing back into the ocean. He was unusually close to shore. Whale migration had long since passed and John knew in that moment that the Lord had sent the whale just to delight him.
I love when God does this. Who wouldn’t? No, I have not seen a whale in Spring Creek. If I ever say that I have, please have me committed somewhere safe. Thank you! But there have been times when I’ve been sitting at the creek, feeling particularly needy in some way and the Lord has sent something along to remind me that He sees me and knows me and loves me. It might have been a new spring flower. It might have been raptors in the sky scrapping with each other like WW2 fighter pilots. It might have been a water snake who didn’t see me in time, ducked under a log, and played peekaboo for a few minutes before continuing on his way downstream. Some days it was a song he brought to my heart or a word from His Word that was illuminated as I sat on a rock by the water. These may seem small to you but that’s how God comes to me, in the little moments. He knows best what will catch my attention as I quiet myself before Him to let me know that He is present, watching over me, leading me, guiding me, loving me. He delights in those “little moments” because they are personal and intimate, and only between Him and me.
The photo is one of God’s whales. It was a cloudy, dreary day. No sun was in sight or in the forecast. My heart forecast felt much the same. The birds were hunkered down in silence. No songs to lift my spirits. I’ve developed a habit of asking God what he wants to do when we are alone. On this heavy-hearted day, my agenda was to once again reiterate my problems to Him because I was feeling desperate of heart and near the breaking point. I sat on a rock, holding my Bible in my lap and I asked Him, “Lord, what do you want to do today?” All of a sudden, the sky cleared just a little bit, and a sliver of sunshine beamed down directly onto my Bible. It was as if God’s finger came out of heaven and pointed to His Word. I was reminded that every answer, every comfort, every provision, every solution was found in Him and I felt like He was saying to my tumultuous heart, “I’ve got this! Just let me talk to you for a while.” That moment was so poignant and sacred that I took a photo of the sun peeking through the clouds. Then it was gone and the sun did not shine for the rest of the day. I spent that hour reading His Word, letting its words soothe my spirit as the water’s music, tripping over the rocks, soothed my aching soul. God sent a whale in the form of a sliver of light and word from His Word.
Jesus is nearer than I realize. He loves me and wants to be with me. He hardwired me to have fellowship with Him. Real fellowship, not just some activity in a Bible study book. He wants to “walk with me and talk with me” just as He did with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening in the Garden of Eden. It’s my creation-DNA. And every time I have asked God for a whale, He has sent one. Really, all I need to do is whisper His name, and He’s right there. If only I would recognize His presence as quickly as He comes.
In this sermon series, “What in the World is God Doing?”, we were again reminded that God is beckoning us to come to Him. He’s desiring to perform a spiritual reset in our hearts, especially in this Covid19 “pause”. His mercy is granting us time to stop and consider our lives, our desires, and our priorities in light of eternity, to adjust our lives to an eternal perspective and purpose. To be able to say that “to live is Christ and to die is gain”, instead of “to live is gain and to die is Christ.” He’s “inviting us to a new tomorrow.” And we now are faced with the choice to go back (to normal) or “surrender forward.”
In John 5 we find Jesus at the Pool of Bethesda. The man laying there had been there for a very long time waiting on an angel to stir the waters so that he might be healed. That was his normal. Yet, he associated being healed as living, or as we might put it, having a life. He wasn’t satisfied with just existing where he was. He was dissatisfied and knew that this was not way it was supposed to be. This is what drew Jesus there. He goes to people who are marginalized, who are considered insignificant or on the periphery of life. He responds to need and desire, not comfort and complacency. He doesn’t let brokenness keep Him away because He is a fixer. He came to seek and save those who are lost, who are broken, who need to be fixed, but He can’t do any of that if the need is not acknowledged. Perhaps what God is doing is to thrust us outside of our comfort zones to let us see that there is still work to be done and He’s willing and wanting to do it. Now is the time.
Jesus sometimes asked the question of people, “Do you want to be made well?” That almost sounds like a stupid question, doesn’t it? But in our society, we see so many broken people who are making it the way they are. Their brokenness has become their "normal." It feels safe because they can manage it. To change might mean the unknown or worse yet, more brokenness before goodness. In terms of Christians and this time we have to rest and reflect, the Lord is giving us time to look at the broken or better yet, the blind spots of our lives. Some of us have lived so long this way that it is our "normal." To have the Lord point them out would almost be an insult, yet when we compare ourselves to scripture, we see that some things are not lining up. Secret sins, nagging habits, and less than holy ways of thinking can plague us and the Lord is saying to us that now is the time to let Him have His way, to let Him be God, to get us to the head of the line at the pool of Bethesda. If we really want to make a difference for Christ in this world, we have to let Him shine a light on those deep recesses of our hearts where we’ve tucked away the things we can’t seem to fix so that no one, especially God, can see them.
Or maybe, you are like I have been at times in my life. Things in life just aren’t lining up the way the Bible says they should and it's puzzling. It may even make you a little suspicious of God. I know there have been at least two distinct times when I have seriously approached the Lord and said that there must be more to Christianity than what I’m experiencing because if this is it, it wouldn’t have lasted this long. I just want the real thing. I don’t want one drop of Christ’s blood to be wasted in my life. I want all He died to give me. I want the whole enchilada, not just to feel comfortable. I want to really LIVE in Christ. Existing is not an option for me.
Recently I bought a new type of planner. (I’m sorry Franklin but this one has pretty flowers.) As part of the goal planning process, I was asked to write what I want to be known for. What do I want my legacy to be? How do I want to be remembered? I wrote the following:
I want to be known as someone who passionately loves God and others
Who isn’t afraid to be honest, vulnerable and transparent
Who does everything in a kind and loving way,
Whose words are salt and light, giving grace to those who hear them
Who loves life and lives with purpose, intention, and passion
Who makes others better, is a giver not a user
Who creates beauty and purposeful things using my gifts to be a blessing
Who is a positive influence in every situation
Who never gives up on things that are important or that seem impossible even if a miracle is needed
Who believes and receives from God
Who is a woman of prayer and piety
Who is someone who knows and understands myself and others intimately
Who lives simply and simply lives
And as someone who will be missed when I am gone.
Admittedly, I have a long way to go in some of these areas and in order to do this, I must move forward. (Thus, the goals.) I can’t go back to the junk of my life. Unhealthy ways of thinking, reacting to feelings instead of taking the thoughts causing them captive, time wasted on selfish or frivolous pursuits, trying to control situations and people in my life that only God can control, blaming others for things in life that make me feel uncomfortable or ineffective, not setting healthy boundaries and allowing others to run all over me, all of these things need to go.
The only way this will happen is if my eyes are off me and on God. As I respond with a “yes” to the question “Do you want to be healed,” and am willing to see what God sees and to allow Him to make the right adjustments, to SURRENDER FORWARD and not go back to “normal”, (which is highly overrated in my opinion), is where complacent isolation stops and real living starts. Christ came so that we would have life. Not complacent life, not a boring life, not a “normal” life but ABUNDANT life. I’m ready to ride the wave! There are whales there!
Sermon Legs: Suggestions for putting legs to the sermon. Otherwise, it was nothing more than nice talk.
Write down the blessings in your life and share them. #blessed.
Spend time in prayer. Where is your favorite place to pray? Mine is the creek, the swing in my backyard, or the rocking chair in my bedroom.
Ask God for a Whale, a sliver of sunshine, or a Baltimore oriole (that’s for Scott!). Don’t forget to thank Him for it when it comes.