Month: January 2021

Props to Peter

Sunday Sermon 1.16.21

What would compel a person to step out of a boat that is in a storm?

As a sailor, who enjoys sailing the coastline of Southern California, this question gripped me, “Why would anyone leave a boat in the middle of a storm?” Consider it, why?

The foundation story for this question is found in Matthew 14:22-34, where Peter, a new follower of Jesus, aboard a fishing boat (sail boat) was, along with his other disciple buddies caught in a fierce storm. Here are the conditions on the lake, when we pick up the story:

  • it was dark at night
  • they were far from land
  • they were being pounded by high waves
  • there were strong, opposing winds

The men on board this boat were not having a good time! In fact it was dire for them.

Again, from my own personal experience, were I aboard Lady Debra in these four conditions, I would be absolutely terrified! Which is why I was wondering why leave the boat? What could ever be so motivating that you would actually step INTO these conditions without the protection of the boat?

(I can honestly say that each of these four conditions are ones in which I would NEVER sail. I don’t sail at night and get concerned when the sun is setting and we are still out. I choose to sail, nearly always, with land in sight. High waves and strong winds are no-no’s for me. Absolutely not, no way, not me on my boat!)

The boys were in a very difficult situation that did not look good at all. The best thing coming was dawn.

As the story goes, “Just before dawn, Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake”. Matthew 14:25 Or put another way, “walking on the waves.”

Now we have some good news appearing. Jesus is showing up in the midst of the storm, walking on top of its waves. A lot could be said about this, but let’s focus on the disciples, who responded with terror, thinking he was a ghost, and crying out in fear. Matthew 14:26 To them, Jesus showing up like this seemed to add to the terror of the moment. Oh no, a ghost too, we’re gonna die! We’re dead.

Jesus wasted no time, and spoke to them across the waves and in the wind and said,

“Be brave and don’t be afraid. I am here.”

Matthew 14:27 TPT

These are reassuring words, for sure! We will come back to them.

Peter, upon hearing Jesus’ words responded with a statement, that on its face, to me seems odd. He said,

“Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” (and waves and winds, in the darkness a long way from shore)

Matthew 14:28

Herein lies, our opening question. Why in the world would anyone leave a boat and step into the storm surrounding it? That’s crazy!

Well, I thought of 3 reasons why someone might do that –

  1. the ship is sinking – escaping it may save my life (remember Titanic?)
  2. suicide – taking a permanent solution to a temporary problem
  3. delusional – extreme conditions at sea causing me to see ghosts

Clearly, none of these apply to Peter and the gang. So why step out into those conditions? Why?

I can vividly imagine these conditions on the lake and the guys in the boat. I can vividly see the waves overwhelming the boat and the winds opposing their every attempt to right the boat. I can imagine the panic of darkness in this storm all the while knowing there is no land in sight or even near. This is real in my minds eye. This is horrific.

And yet Peter steps out of the relative safety of the boat and into the uncertainty of this dark storm. Why? What motivates him?

In one way, Peter’s statement back to Jesus is not unlike what many of us have said; Peter said, “if it’s you…”.

How many times have you said or heard said,

  • God, if you’re real…
  • God, if it’s really you…
  • God, if you’re in this…

That part I get, I understand because I have done it, said it. How ’bout you?

But Peter’s “conditional statement” If it’s you… then tell me to come to you…” puzzles me.

In math, the conditional statement formula is, p ➡ q. P equals the hypothesis, q equals the conclusion and the arrow shows the logical connection.

To me, I fail to see the logical connection between the two. It is not logical to come to Jesus on the high waves in this storm, yet it for sure is a conditional statement. So, what’s the connection? Why did he leave the boat and step willfully into the dark storm?

When Jesus responded to Peter’s statement, he did so by simply saying to him, “Come, join me.” Matthew 14:29

Peter made the connection and stepped into the stormy waves, not the glassy lake. Peter stepped into the roaring winds, just as the new day was dawning. Peter left the little safety he had in the storm tossed vessel in blatant defiance of all things logical. Yet, for him it made totally, logical sense to step towards Jesus on the turbulent sea.

Why?

Remember what Jesus told the guys when they first saw him on the water?

“Take courage. I am here. Don’t be afraid.”

Matthew 14:27 NIV

THAT statement is the key! THAT statement is Peter’s motivation! THAT statement was Peter’s reason for stepping into the storm and towards Jesus! THAT statement!

Peter was familiar with part of THAT statement. He’d heard about it for his whole Jewish life.

He’d heard how his ancestors had at one time called their God Elohim, (this is a title, not a name) until Exodus chapter 3, when God revealed to Moses His name as “I AM”. Exodus 3:14

He’d heard how I AM had delivered the Israelites from 400 years of slavery, sent plagues and judgment to Egypt, parted the Red Sea, delivered them from enemies, armies, threats, disease, judgment and so much more.

He’d heard that I AM was the source of all power and eternal in nature. How I AM was self-sufficient, self-sustaining. How I AM was and is and will be forever the same omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God of the universe.

He knew the name I AM. He’d heard it his whole life. He believed in I AM as the God of his ancestry.

NOW, Jesus, the one he had chosen to follow, was standing before him, declaring to him, “I AM. Don’t be afraid. Come to me.”

Peter now saw Jesus as the Almighty, omnipotent, self sufficient, name above all names, God who is in control of all things. THAT was his motivation for stepping out of the boat and into the storm. THAT was his solid ground he stepped onto when he left that boat.

How could he go wrong stepping towards I AM? There was no fear, no hesitation. When I AM says “Come to me” you step towards Him. Confident. Sure. Unflappable. Secure. Certain. Comfortable. Unshaken. Doubtless. Peaceful.

Even though “I AM” or the “tetragrammaton” appears over 6,000 times in the Bible this one, for Peter was his moment of truth. The dawning of a new day for Peter’s understanding of who he had committed his life to follow.

Although scribes through the ages could not say I AM out loud, nor fully spell it out, here was Peter walking towards the great I AM, fully able to express himself before Him and be accepted, cared for and destined for greatness

I AM brought proper perspective to Peter. Peter saw that, when he saw Jesus as the great I AM.

When you realize the great I AM is in control and calling you to come close to Him, you come close to Him, regardless of stormy circumstances, dark times, opposing winds or overwhelming waves. It makes perfect sense and is the only logical thing to do.

THAT would compel many to leave the boat and step into the storm.

So I say, “Props to Peter!” (Lord, help me.)

Go with God.

Digital Dependence

That’s the phrase I woke up with.

Whhaat? Why? So after some coffee and AM focus, I dove in to investigate this phrase.

Digital. What does that mean? Go ahead, how would you define it? Ummm, having to do with digits???, the internet??? How are you doing? Easy? Challenging?

“Digital, in its broadest sense, is any piece of technology that connects people and machines with each other or with information.” According to Leighton.com/whatdoesdigitalreallymean

For us old timers, we first knew it as IT – “Information Technology”, and it was how documents, spreadsheets and databases created information through the use of hardware, software and their necessary methods.

The term digital has now superseded IT and includes the addition of social media, mobile and cloud services.

But why does this matter and why should you keep reading?

Because we are living in a digital world and it is changing rapidly. So fast, in fact, that we cannot keep up with it, nor can our legislation. It, this digital world, is at the forefront of our First Amendment rights and the loss of them.

From October 29, 1969, when the US Dept. of Defense’s ARPANET delivered it’s first message from UCLA to Sanford and crashed the ARPA network, the technology has grown to a rate of 11 new users per second, resulting in one million new users each day. (“wearesocial.com/2019-global-internet-use)

Of the 7.8 billion people in the world today, 4.388 billion are active internet users, representing 57% of the total population; the vast majority of those are mobile users, 3.986 billion or 52% of the total population.

The stats reveal that these users are spending on average 6 hours and 42 minutes online each day. That means we are connected to devices hundreds of times each day.

These are the places those 4.4 billion are visiting during those 6+ hours digitally connected.

Please notice those companies, especially the ones at the top.

Now, we realize that time spent on devices is not all play and scrolling. We are emailing, reporting, comparing, creating, ordering, communicating, you know, actually working. The lines between leisure and work however, are slowly slipping away, as we are responding to emails “off the clock” and checking Facebook while “on the clock”. Our devices and their APPS, all digital, are “making life easier”, so they say.

In whatever amount of time we are spending in the digital world, we are being bombarded with messages of all sorts. We know that our search history is collected and we are targeted by ads and other messages that “they” deem important.

I can’t for the life of me figure out why, on my Instagram feed, since the election, COVID19 warnings and messages have disappeared! Has the pandemic ended? Why is it no longer inserted after nearly every picture? (I jest, but seriously!) Is it no longer important?

But back to the title, Digital Dependence.

Whether we like it or not, we are dependent on our digital world. Banking, PC/laptop data, cloud storage, medical records, records of most kinds for that matter, travel, communications, etc. We are dependent.

So, the first action step for me is to do whatever I can, to cover my butt, in the event those digital connections are lost. I mean it, folks. In the world in which we live, you cannot discount that possibility. My husband speaks of “EMP’s”, but as we are seeing now, there are several more ways our digital world could be upset. So back up, keep hard copies, write things down, arrange for other means of taking care of your business and dealings. Seriously.

Second action step, we need to make any changes in our surfing habits that are necessary. Six plus hours a day for the average person, online???? Don’t tell me you don’t have time to pray, read the Bible, meditate, talk with your family, visit neighbors or call your father.

Third and last action step, beware of the messages that are bombarding you while in the digital world. I am so ticked at some of these that just keep showing up on my feed or in my stream. I don’t believe them, hate seeing them and can’t get rid of them. I refuse to allow them to cloud my thinking and will seek to keep my head above the foggy, rising waters that wants to overwhelm me. The best way to do that, I have found, is to get off the devices!

I am an optimist and I do walk by faith, but the digital dependence we have learned to lean on is teetering, and I feel in my spirit we must prepare, we must beware, we must wise up. Change is coming and we need to be ready for it. Forewarned is forearmed.

photo from Larry Elder

What do you think? Am I off base? Where are you on my three action steps in our digital dependence?

Cheers to you.

When Things Don’t Go As Expected

Sunday Sermon 1.9.21

The previous year, 2020, has provided for all of us more than ample situations or events that most certainly did not go as expected. Were we to have a race writing things down, the only thing slowing us down would be our ability to write fast and the fact that no one would really want to win the race.

And here we are only nine days into the new year and that list just keeps growing. So many things are not going as expected. Not even close.

Shoot, here in my house, we were expecting a wonderful two week visit over the holidays with our son and his new wife – we got that and more – Covid. All four of us! So we actually got a plus three week visit instead.

Here’s the thing, when your life belongs to Jesus, God uses things intended to harm you for His good.

“You intended to harm me but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done.”

Genesis 50:20

It sometimes is a hard pill to swallow, but He really does “work all things for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

All things means just that – all things!

Personal issues, relational issues, family, work, school, politics, church, community, health, financial, supply, housing, pets, neighbors, business, government, all things!

He works in each and every situation, always, to bring good from it for us. He is God, that is who He is and that is what He does.

“No weapon, (plan or purpose, idea, threat, legislation, edict,) formed against thee shall prosper…” Isaiah 54:17

When faced with the unexpected, watch what God can and will bring from it for you. Take a look at these few bible characters to get you going:

Joseph – the earlier quote from Genesis came from his lips after his brothers dashed his dreams by selling him into slavery in Egypt. There, after many years in prison, he eventually became the Egyptian vizier, 2nd in command. His dreams fulfilled and his brothers bowing down to him.

But consider how many times things did not go as expected for him. Goodness! Our hearts bleed when we recall so many injustices and seemingly bad outcomes for him. Beaten by brothers, abandoned, sold, forgotten, imprisoned, mistreated, ridiculed, forgotten again, promoted, falsely accused of rape, imprisoned again, promoted again, respected, empowered, honored, restored to family, blessed his family and the nation.

Joseph’s life is a vivid example for us of how all things really do work for good. All things are not good, but God is able to work them for good for you, and Joseph.

Consider another – Noah. Noah was living in a horribly wicked and violent era; so bad in fact God had it with the world. Seriously. You know the story. Noah built a floating barge under God’s direction and then God sent animals to Noah to fill the barge. Noah, his family (wife, three sons and their wives) all boarded the barge and God opened the windows of heaven and fountains of the deep, and rain as never before seen, flooded the earth and destroyed all mankind.

Did things go as Noah expected? Well, first off, he had never even seen rain before, so right there we have the unexpected. How ’bout the length of time for this rain stuff? Expected? How ’bout after the rain stopped and the flood waters covered even the highest mountains? How ’bout living in an indoor zoo for over a year, with your family??? Expected?

Noah certainly faced the unexpected and he too experienced the faithfulness of God. From that time aboard the barge, God worked for the good of Noah, eventually resulting in a blessing for he and his family and an agreement with Noah’s name on it – the Noahic Covenant; which turned out as a blessing for future generations around the world.

Abraham/Isaac– When this father and son went up to the top of the mountain with all the supplies and tools to make an offering to the Lord, do you think their expectations included Isaac being tied and laid on the altar? Could a father imagine holding a knife over his son, ready to slice his throat as he would an animal?

Why would a father do such an unexpected thing?

“Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”

Hebrews 11:19

What followed? God worked it for good and revealed a ram, just out of sight to be used as the offering. Issac was untied as were his fears and faith in his dad, not to mention Jehovah God. Oh, and remember what God said to Abraham, “Now, because you have not withheld your only son Isaac, I will bless you and you will be the father of many nations and your offspring will be more than the sand on the sea shore and stars in the sky.” Genesis 22:12, 17

I have several more to share. But stop and think. When things don’t go as expected, what is really happening for you?

Is all lost? Are hopes dashed? Is faith gone? I hope not, but if any of those are close, then this word today is vital for you. When you hit a wall, an unexpected and firm obstacle, God is still at work on your behalf, bringing to you a bigger, broader purpose than what you see in the immediate. He is working whether or not you see what he is doing.

What is faith after all? “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:6

In the face of the unexpected, faith sees God working. We walk by faith, not by sight.

Joseph, Noah, Abraham and Isaac all looked beyond what their eyes saw. They looked beyond the immediate and to the One who was at work for them preparing them for the good which would eventually be forthcoming.

We could add to those men Moses, who went from basket, to burning bush, to bondage to being broke free. Did he face the unexpected, you bet. Did he have faith God was working, sometimes.

How about Rahab? This one was a business woman who happened to offer protection to some spies, and was rewarded by being the only family saved when the city was destroyed. Unexpected? Faith? Yep!

John the Baptist began his life the result of a prophetic word. He was filled with the Holy Spirit before he was even born and grew up being a voice that called the Jews to return to the Lord and His ways. He was all in serving the Lord, all the time. Bold. Brave. Brazen.

Did his life all go as expected? He was beheaded, probably not expected.

But was God at work for good even in THAT situation? It did turn out for good for him, he went immediately to heaven. And it turned out for good for the disciples and for us too. His life God used for good, even though the enemy meant his death for evil.

One last bible character, Peter. The unexpected fisher of men. The unexpected walker on water. The unexpected insightful friend, (YOU are the Christ!). The unexpected voice of Satan, (Get thee behind me, Satan.) The unexpected ear cutter-offer. The unexpected denier. The unexpected witness at the tomb. The unexpected preacher at Pentecost, saving 3,000! The unexpected healer, deliverer, teacher, prayer, leader. The unexpected martyr.

The unexpected result? This man is now listed as one of “these men who have turned the world upside down.” Acts 17:6

Walking by faith, each of these persevered through difficult situations for them. They looked beyond what they saw to a God who was at work on their behalf. The wall was not all they saw. The problem was not all they saw. The impossibility was not all they saw. The unexpected did not deter them or their faith.

When things don’t go as expected, where do you put your faith?

Please allow me to close with a recent personal, account.

My husband had to have surgery on his L4, L5 in his spine. He prepped and was ready for the in one day, out the next expected hospital stay. Seven days later, after having unexpected drug interactions, and him being unresponsive, The Rapid Response Team was called.

During his unresponsiveness, from where we were, we thought we were loosing him. It was terrifying.

But later we found out, during that time of his unexpected, unresponsiveness, he was having an out of body experience, hovering above his body, watching all that was happening to him in his room. He was talking to an old man. Den asked the man, “So I guess now is the time I get to choose whether to go or stay?” The man, whose face was only a bright light, firmly told him, “I will tell you when it’s time!”

Those words sent Dennis back to earth, into his body and into a responsive state. Those words changed his life forever. The medical team, to this day still cannot explain what happened or why.

Den was released from the hospital the next day! Less than 24 hours from when we thought we had lost him. In fact, we had gained a totally new man, spiritual fervor and dedication stronger than it had ever been. His fire and passion for life and the Lord burning brighter than it ever had. God had once again, according to his promise, been working in all things for the good of Den, for us. From this unexpected event, has come Dennis’ greatest freedom, joy, and empowering; and one of my greatest joys and desires.

Covid free and facing the unexpected together with faith.

We serve a God of the impossible. All things are possible with God and our faith will remain anchored to Him, not to events. For when circumstances appear to be harm to us, He intends it for good. He is at work, he never stops working for the good of those who love him.

When things don’t go as expected, have faith and keep going. He is at work for your good.

Go with God.

Strange Things

With such a title, it leaves a wide variety of avenues for possible exploration.

First, although it is a bit tempting, we will not be addressing the similar title “Stranger Things”. You’ve probably heard of it, it is the science fiction, Netflix series about Hawkins, Indiana, the boy Will, the girl Eleven and their battles against The Upside Down alternate dimension. Nope, tempting but not going there.

There are so many times when reading news about my city, my state, my nation; politically, socially, morally, personally, corporately in which I find myself shaking my head and declaring the things I am witnessing as strange. Seriously, where would I begin my list, were I to begin a list of strange things in 2020?

We are living in strange times. Things in nearly every arena are simply strange.

There is already enough about our strange times being written and aired, so I want to go a different direction.

I want to share with you 10 strange and very interesting creatures in our world that I hope will make you smile or maybe even creep you out. But let’s just enjoy looking at some different strange things, shall we?

Axolotl

This amphibian lives in lakes and canals in Mexico and can grow to 18 inches long.

Velvet ants

These furry creatures look like ants but are actually wasps. Found mostly in South America, watch out for them, they are known for their extremely painful sting and in fact are called “cow killers”.

Sparklemuffin

He is also known as the Australian peacock spider. They were only recently discovered in 2015 and measure just 5 mm in length. He looks like he is “dabbing” and in fact, his leg is seeking to attract a mate. Who wouldn’t be attracted to a dabbing spider?

Southern Cassowary

These guys have earned the reputation for being the “most dangerous bird in the world” due to their razor sharp talons they use to defend themselves. So watch out for these flightless 6 foot tall, 190 pound meanies. If looks could kill….

Alligator Gar

This is a fish that grows to 8 feet in length! If you near fresh water rivers and lakes near the Rio Grande to the Missouri River, you just may see one. Sorry, this is just creepy.

Maned wolf

Nope, they are not in fact wolves, they belong to the dog family. That is probably why I think he is sorta cute. Although they are omnivores, they prefer veggies. You will find them in Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Argentina. I think I want one.

Magnificent frigate bird

You’ve probably seen these before, as their big red sac on the males chest that balloon up are quite famous. Just ask the females. (Galapagos Islands) It looks uncomfortable… yikes!

Jabiru Stork

This guy grows to 5 feet tall and has been known to attack by stabbing with his 14 inch long bill. Ask the zoo attendees in Belize. I wouldn’t want this stork bring my baby, he looks dark and evil!

Pink fairy Armadillo

In Argentina you will find this lil guy, who is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. They are very rare and shy and scientists are still learning about them. Don’t you want to just pull off that top, ribbed layer?

Aye-aye

The aye-aye’s home is in Madagascar. He is known for his bulging eyes, growing teeth and long fingers. He is actually a type of lemur and will forage through the night. He looks like a fun one to hang out with at night, right? Never a dull moment.

Up until a few hours ago, I had never heard of most of these strange things. But at least now, I have more strange things to add to my already growing list of strange things happening in 2021.

Cheers to you, and smiles too.

Fill Your Sails

Sunday Sermon 1.2.2021

Earlier this week I felt impressed to create and share this image –

It is a message that I cannot shake off or ignore. I believe it is a call for us all, for the new year.

Our life is like a sailboat.

It is designed to sail, to catch the wind and navigate the lakes and seas, and then return safely to dock. It is not designed to stay tied up dockside, sheltered from the wind.

Don’t get me wrong, we have spent many wonderful times at the harbor, in the slip entertaining, laughing, talking, playing, and sharing aboard our sailboat. In fact, we have spent more time dockside than sailing. But that is not what the boat is designed for. She was made to sail.

Such excitement overcomes me when I make preparations to actually go sailing. Gauges are checked, items secured, unnecessary items removed, motor started, sails checked, and untied, lines checked, etc.

Then, using the motor, we back out of the slip and head for the open ocean. Before leaving the harbor, we face into the wind to hoist the mainsail, and then continue out of the harbor. Once beyond the jetty, we cut the motor, unravel the jib and allow the wind to fill both sails. We are now sailing.

aboard Lady Debra
click to play video

The wind is the power that drives the boat along. I steer the ship based on the direction of the wind, power of the wind, and our desired destination.

Without the wind, we go nowhere. Or facing the wrong direction in the wind, we also go nowhere. “Luffing” on a sailboat means your sails are not full and the wind is not being harnessed properly.

A friend of mine and I had been out for several hours and we had tacked to return back home. As anxious as we were to return, the wind was not cooperating. There was very little wind, and we were getting nowhere fast. To top it off, we would be loosing daylight soon. Although we were loving sailing, it was now time to use the motor; for without it, we wouldn’t make it back in daylight. (which is a rule of mine)

A sailboat, has a motor, but it’s primary power is from the wind. That is the way of it’s design. The sails are used for receiving the wind, embracing the wind and thereby powering the vessel. As the sails fill up the boat moves. The sails must fill in order for the boat to advance.

If the sails don’t fill, the boat is not fulfilling it’s purpose.

Lady Debra, under motor, not sail

The mainsail and the jib (front sail) are intended to fill with the wind. In this picture, you can see, they are not even up, much less filling with wind.

Here’s the Sunday sermon part, my friends.

Jesus told his disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the gift that the Father had promised. He told them that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit, and that baptism would endue them with power. Acts 1:5,7

On the day of Pentecost, the power showed up in the form of a strong, blowing wind that filled the house where the 120 were sitting. All of them heard it and then saw dancing fire flames on one another’s heads. Acts 2:4 says that all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.

When we are born again, our spirit is regenerated, reborn, made alive. We are a new creation in Christ Jesus. We are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Our spirit is alive now, within us.

Our spirit is like the sails of our sailboat. The wind of the Holy Spirit comes to fill our sails and empower us. The power of the wind (Holy Spirit) fills us, drives us, empowers us and allows us to advance. Without the power of the wind (Holy Spirit) we get nowhere. Our sails are “luffing”, we are floundering, without direction or power.

But the Holy Spirit blows on us and fills us we are thereby empowered to heal sicknesses, diseases, and drive out evil spirits. That is what we have been commissioned to do. That is our purpose. That is our call and our destiny. That is what Jesus authorized us to do.

We have been called to cast off the bow lines, leave the safe harbor, and hoist our sails to catch the powerful winds of the Holy Spirit that are blowing.

Mark Twain had it right.

It is time to allow your sails to be filled and experience the exuberance of sailing under the direction of the Holy Spirit, going where he leads and doing what he directs. Trusting him to use you where ever you are.

Your sailboat, life is meant for sharing. Everything that you have gone through, experienced, struggled with, lost to and gained victory over is meant to be shared with others. Your Christian life of peace, prayer, Word and worship is meant to be shared.

This horrendous pandemic with all of its ramifications has provided a ripe seedbed for hungry people, seeking truth, life and hope -all of which you have and have been commissioned to share.

I call forth 2021 to be a season of sailing under the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. A season of leaving the safety of the slip and venturing into the exuberance of a purpose filled life affecting others for the Kingdom of God.

That is what you, oh great sailboat were designed for!

Hoist up your sails and let the Holy Spirit fill you a fresh for an exciting 2021.

Go with God.