Archive for April 2012
The Ben Franklin Five and Dime at the Arcata Plaza was doing a booming business—it was 1958 and hula hoops were a nationwide craze. Kids, myself included, were all over the plaza, whirling and twirling those brand new hoops around our waists and from every appendage.
Fifty-some years later, the Plaza that I remember so well was still there; the surrounding businesses now a more eclectic mix of shops and restaurants, and the Ben Franklin building housing a furniture store. But that was OK because I wasn’t shopping for hula hoops this time—I was browsing bookstores, hoping to find unique-to-the-area publications featuring the redwoods. I did make a few good discoveries, but there wasn’t much that couldn’t be picked up at any local tourist trap. Perhaps these ancient trees are just too big to describe adequately via the written word; only in their presence can their majesty be experienced.
A few days ago, reading through the gospels, I was struck anew by the fact that there’s really not a lot written about Jesus’ life on earth either—just four short books, with many of the events of His life duplicated in two or more places. And yet, in those few pages, lies the greatest biography ever recorded. How can so few words hold so much truth? How can the brief accounts of His teachings convey everything we need to know in order to have a relationship with God? How can each passage be so simple that a little child can understand, yet so complex that every time you read it you may see something new? I think it’s because the words were inspired by the best communicator ever—the Holy Spirit; and He knew exactly what we needed.
The Apostle John said it well as he concluded his account with, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25)
The majesty of the redwoods forests is nothing compared to the majesty of Jesus; and only though relationship as we sit in His presence can we even begin to comprehend the fullness of Christ.
At the gym, sweating away on the elliptical and trying to distract myself from how much time was left to exercise, I was watching a cooking show on the TV in front of me. The guest chef created a dish that looked and sounded delicious, and he described it as comfort food. The host responded, “Well, that’s what food is all about—to provide comfort.” I doubt that he even thought about what he was saying—it was just the polite response; but oh, how dangerous a comment if taken seriously. To seek our comfort from food is to invite disaster, yet to be honest most of us probably do so on occasion. Just smelling the dish this chef prepared would probably add ten pounds to my body, not to mention sending my cholesterol through the roof!
But the danger lies far deeper than the physical repercussions when we depend on anything or anyone other than God for our comfort. Lives are wrecked because we try to sooth our wounds, not just with food, but with other things as well—everything from drugs, to shopping, to sex, to anything that gives us a temporary fix and makes us feel better. Even depending solely on a trusted friend can backfire because a time will always come when they will disappoint.
Every created thing to which we run for comfort will eventually fail, but God never will. He can always be the place we go, whatever our need.
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
The Mad River wasn’t always angry. During the summer it might dwindle down so far that we could wade across in a just few inches of water; or hop from rock to rock, never even removing our shoes. In the shadow of the railroad trestle we’d play in the water until a logging train came by—then we’d stop and wave at the conductors who would wave back and give a loud whistle blast in return.
But the Mad River lost its temper during the week of Christmas 1964. In the midst of a 100-year flood it joined with all the other rivers of the Pacific Northwest to rage over its banks, engulfing the surrounding land with wet devastation. From our hilltop vantage point all we could see was water with a few rooftops and telephone poles sticking up here and there—for miles and miles the entire low-lying area around the Humboldt Bay became a vast sea in which hundreds of dairy cattle were doomed as they floated out into the ocean; and at least a dozen communities were completely wiped out or forever altered in the Redwood Empire. But as bad as it was, there was once a flood that was much, much worse—the one we read about in Genesis 7 when God’s anger was unleashed against a wicked world and, the flood was on the earth forty days… The waters prevailed and greatly increased on the earth…and the mountains were covered…Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive.
I returned to that hilltop a few years ago and gazed out at lush green dairy land, with a scattering of cows peacefully munching the grass; and a pleasant walking/biking path traversing the old railroad trestle. I pondered God’s mercy and remembered his promise after the biblical flood, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:21-22)
(This is another excerpt from “I’m Still Standing” which deals with my journey through the battle with breast cancer.)
It was a normal Friday evening as I prepared for bed, gratefully anticipating the weekend ahead. Whatever pleasant hopes that existed for the next two days were quickly dashed as a quick breast self-exam revealed, to my horror, a walnut-sized lump. Though I worked as a registered nurse in a medical office, it was too late to call any of the doctors; there was nothing to do but wait until Monday morning.
The ensuing weekend was miserable, with thoughts of potential breast cancer looming in my mind—all of the “what-ifs?” were there, all of the fears of pain, loss, and the effect on myself and my family if I were to become seriously ill or to die. There was never a moment when such thoughts were far away.
Monday morning finally arrived, and I doubt there was ever a time that I was so anxious to get to work in my entire life. As soon as a doctor arrived I pulled him into an exam room to get checked out. He was appalled and immediately called for an appointment with a surgeon and ordered a mammogram that same morning. Filled with fear and dread, I walked over to the surgeon’s office and waited for the dire diagnosis that would surely come. Imagine my relief when he was able to tell immediately that it was just a big cyst, which he proceeded to drain on the spot. His diagnosis was quickly confirmed by further tests.
Thus started a pattern that lasted for more than ten years—cysts that appeared on my mammograms, generally causing enough concern to the radiologists that they performed ultrasound exams to rule out tumors. Eventually I became complacent about it, never worrying when a lump was discovered, and never getting too excited when further tests were required. So complacent that I finally skipped my regular mammogram for a year or so, thinking it was no big deal because it was always the same story. Besides, not only did I reject the idea that I could be at risk for breast cancer, but life was very busy. We had moved and it was a hassle to locate new doctors; numerous other health issues had overwhelmed me; and surely I was just too young for all of this and enough was enough. Wrong.
It was another Friday. I had finally gone for a regular mammogram and had been called back for another view. No big deal. I’d been through this before. Besides, there wasn’t even a lump that could be felt manually. The extra pictures were taken and it was no surprise when the technician said the radiologist would like to do an ultrasound. But this time was different, for when the tech left the room to get the doctor to come and look at the results there was an air of trepidation in her manner that was unsettling. Sure enough, the doctor was not pleased with what she saw and wanted to perform a needle biopsy on the spot. I eventually walked out with her assurance that she would call me on Monday as soon as the biopsy result was received, but that she was sure it was cancer.
For the second time in my life I faced a weekend of not knowing, a weekend that could have been filled with the same fears as before, but this time it was different. In the intervening years God had been at work in my life—teaching me to trust him in the most difficult circumstances. I had been irritated when I turned 50 and needed an “overhaul.” During that year I had two surgeries within one month, the first for kidney stones and the second for gallbladder removal. I figured that since the maximum out-of-pocket expense on our insurance had been met and it was paying 100%, it would be a good idea to just get everything possible done during that year. So I did—physical exams, colonoscopy, mammogram—even a long-term ingrown toenail finally got fixed. By the time all was finished I figured I was good for another 50 years. Wrong again.
Two years later I endured, from out of the blue, a frozen left shoulder for no apparent reason, a perforated colon with peritonitis that required a short-term colostomy and two surgeries, and (just when I thought it was all over) a fractured hip that also required two surgeries. Added to this was the stress of fixing-up and selling our house, remodeling and downsizing to a condo one-third the size and an hour away; all of which contributed to a tremendous strain on my marriage. Then, a couple of years later, an attack of diverticulitis threatened to perforate my colon again and required another hospitalization, seven days of IV fluids, and several weeks of recovery. But God was faithful. No matter how traumatic; from the words of a surgeon, “This is as bad as it gets. There’s a team on the way in and we have to operate. You may not make it;” to the frustration of being incapable of helping in any way with our move and having to depend totally upon others to make it happen; God was there, teaching me one small, painful step at a time to just trust him—no matter what.
So, again, this weekend of facing the threat of breast cancer was different, as was receiving and dealing with the dreaded diagnosis on Monday. In my journal I recorded the following entries…
…Today I had a breast biopsy—today I was told it’s almost certainly a cancer—today I have been given another opportunity to live my faith. Nothing can happen to me unless God allows it. I am his and I am here to bring him honor—it’s all about him, not about me. I submit to the hand of my Lord—yes, I ask for healing, but ultimately, cancer or not, I trust that the purposes of my Lord will be fulfilled in me…
…As I contemplate faith, I wonder how strong is my own. I should find out today if I do, indeed, have breast cancer. At the moment I have faith that God will bring me through it—that it will not bring me down. But at some point we die—at some point I will die if I’ve heard correctly (as opposed to being alive for Christ’s return). The time that was appointed before I was born will arrive. I’ve faced it before when my colon perforated, but how would I handle the certain knowledge that I had a given amount of time? How well would my faith hold? Would I give into sorrow, or fear, or worry? Or, would I embrace the moment with joy? God knows and he’ll never give me more than I can handle. So, for today, for everyday of my life, I look to him—and Lord, while I certainly hope for a benign result, if this is something you’re allowing I’m determined to go through it in faith—to be a witness and to draw attention to your goodness—to your ability to see me through. I trust that what the enemy means to destroy me will be used by you to make me stronger. I have a destiny I know I will fulfill—I have a destiny, and as long as I hold on in faith it cannot be thwarted by the enemy. So, my Lord, help me to hold on to you—my rock, my solid rock—my redeemer, my teacher, my friend, my strength…
…So, breast cancer it is. How do I really feel about it? The reaction of others ranges from shock, sorrow, or pity to calm acceptance. It’s interesting that the calmest reaction came from a woman who expressed her faith in God. She commented that she and I have it settled, and the worst thing that could happen in the long run is that we die and go home. The most shaken was one who exhibits no apparent faith in God. But again, what of my own reaction? I say to others, “no big deal;” I claim faith; I sleep well; while I’m not thrilled with the idea of surgery and radiation, I have no need of a support group. Yet I found myself on the verge of tears several times yesterday. Lord, help me be honest with myself, with you, and with others. This is happening with your permission. My life is yours. My body is yours. I trust you to bring me through this in victory, with opportunities to share your love with others that I would never have otherwise. I pray for good that is equal to sevenfold in damages against the enemy for this attack on my life. Deliver me from fear for I choose to trust in you.
Again and again, in my journey from fear to faith, the cries and praises of the psalmists, the prophets, and Job have comforted me. How I thank God that, as Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 1, there is nothing new under the sun—how I thank him that the comfort he provided to those Old Testament believers is still available to me today—how I thank him that I, too, can walk through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil.
“Moving Mountains” is an article that grew out of my journal entries during 2006 when I was fighting breast cancer. It is included in my book, “I’m Still Standing”.
Mountains. How I love the mountains! And I’m not alone—any season of the year will find many heading to there to relax—from mountain climbing or biking to snow skiing or sledding; from swimming in a mountain lake to skating on its ice; from gathering around a campfire on a warm summer night to relaxing in front of a roaring fireplace on a snowy winter night, the mountains are an amazing retreat. Flower-carpeted hillsides in the spring or snow-capped peaks in the winter, they are things of such majestic beauty and grandeur that any description seems inadequate. But mountains also have another side. They are places of terrible danger. Every year we hear of hikers being lost, of people being stranded in the snow with tragic results, of swimming or skiing accidents, of avalanches. Perhaps the difficult, dangerous aspect is why we so often think of the problems or challenges in our lives as mountains that we must climb, ever straining to get to the top. Certainly cancer, or any other disease for that matter, can seem like a mountain. So, as I contemplated my diagnosis and the long and difficult treatment that it would entail, I also contemplated what Jesus had to say about mountains. In his words, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20b, NIV)
How often have I read this verse and visualized a physical mountain on the horizon; questioning or doubting the meaning—assuming that my faith is too weak because I know that the mountain is simply not going to get up and reposition itself no matter what I say or pray. Not that I doubt God’s word; I just don’t expect to see a mountain move.
But what if the mountain is really something in my life that is just too big for me to overcome? What if it’s financial trouble? What if it’s infertility? What if the mountain is cancer—or death? What if it’s a problem that’s so massive that I can’t see any way through or around it? Faith will move those mountains—yes it will—I know it will! In fact, it may appear to everyone else that the mountains are still there—but suddenly, for me, it can be as if they no longer exist. Even death? That’s a biggie. But yes again! Death is impending sooner or later for all of us—but death is only the end of physical life, and none of us is even promised a tomorrow, let alone a week, a month or a year. So if I really believe what God has told us—if I really believe that death is swallowed up in victory and has no sting—then what’s the big deal? The big deal is my own fear—fear of pain, fear of loss, fear of the unknown.
So, what will I do? I can cower in fear in the shadow of the mountain, worried about the very real dangers ahead—worried about the pain of surgery, the effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Or, I can worry about what will happen once I get to the top of the mountain—what if I find a mountain range ahead instead of a wide, pleasant valley flowing with abundance? What if I find an uncertain future filled with another illness or metastasis? I have to face those fears head-on and recognize them for what they are—challenges that have been placed in my way by a devious, cruel enemy which can be removed with faith. I get to decide who wins. Fear or faith is my choice. Which will it be? Two reactions that are diametrically opposed; but one leads to anxiety, sorrow and defeat, and the other results in peace, joy and victory. No contest—faith is my only choice.
This is the foundation of my life—God is real—his Word is true—my life is his—he is my refuge, my place of rest, my peace and my hope. Oh, he may deliver me in different ways—sometimes he will take me through a mountain before he removes it. I may come to a mountain and realize there’s a tunnel—a day by day way to keep on keeping on. I can’t see any light at the other end, but I know it’s there and I just have to keep going. Once I’m through, I look back and the mountain has disappeared—vanished into thin air as if it never existed. By faith, the mountain has moved. Or, if it can still be seen, it’s now just a little blip up against a far-away horizon, nothing more than a molehill.
Other times I may have to climb a mountain, encountering one challenge after another along the way—the landslides, storms, wild animals, hunger and pain of life—but I keep on—and finally I arrive at a summit to find a vast panorama of beauty ahead. So I continue on my journey, occasionally glancing back, and once again the mountain has disappeared—it’s shrunk down to the size of the distant hills.
I’ve lost count of the mountains my Lord has moved for me. He’s proven himself over and over, even when my faith was so weak there was hardly any at all—so weak that it wasn’t any bigger than a mustard seed. And so, as I consider the fact that the cancer is something for which I must be treated; as I recognize that it’s not an easy battle; I also realize it’s really a non-issue because my God is the mover of my mountains.
This article is a summary of a message by Paul L. Cox, which is available on DVD at http://aslansplace.com/articles/?0000000108
In the spring of 2010, I began feeling that we should gather together at the beginning of Pentecost, the evening of May 22 at sundown; so I invited whoever wanted to come and join me at Aslan?s Place. I arrived at 7:30pm and a small group assembled as sundown approached. As we waited, we could feel the presence of the Lord increasing and, as the sunlight disappeared, we felt a slight breeze moving through the room. At 7:50pm, the anointing rapidly increased and we felt we were to stand and join hands; but then, all of a sudden, I started running backwards. Now, I want to tell you that I have not even run forward in a long time!
I ran backwards around the living room at a full run seven times. On the final return to my chair, the Lord sat me down and I asked, ?Okay, what was that all about?? Each person had a different idea. One said I was unwinding; another said I was undoing; and another said I was going backwards to something. I was mystified and wondered for many weeks what this meant.
Also during the spring of 2010 the discernment of something new began. I was on the phone with my friend, Pastor Rob Gross from Kaneohe, Hawaii, and together we realized that I was discerning Melchizedek. As I pondered what it meant to discern Melchizedek, I kept saying to others and especially to Rob, ?I do not get this.? I listened to a set of tapes and read a couple of books about Melchizedek but still was not satisfied?I knew that there was something more the Lord wanted me to understand. This was a mystery that I was to comprehend, but what was it?
In searching out the things of God I often say I need my ?ah ha??the moment of clarity when all that the Lord is trying to communicate finally makes sense. My ah ha moment in regard to Melchizedek finally came when I understood that the Lord had taken me back to the very beginning of my training to discern good and evil; and I remembered that the Lord had given me Hebrews 5:14 just after I had conducted my first seminar on discernment, Discerning the Battle. I had returned home from Virginia following that seminar when my friend, Dr. Tom Hawkins, called and said ?The Lord gave me a verse for you.? That scripture was Hebrews 5:14, and it became the foundational verse for the call of God on my life to teach discernment. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (NKJV) Now, years later, my ah ha moment occurred when I realized that this verse is right in the middle of the passage about Melchizedek.
After twenty years, the Lord had brought me back to the beginning days and showed me that discernment is really all about recognizing the intercession of Melchizedek. It?s about knowing what the Lord Jesus is interceding for in his function as the eternal high priest, Melchizedek; and then doing what the Father is doing. All these years I had been in training, learning to discern many different kinds of spiritual beings; angels, seraphim, cherubim, elders, rulers, elemental spirits, orbs, powers, etc. Now I knew that the purpose of my training had not been just to recognize these beings, but also to understand Melchizedek?s intercession as the High Priest before the Father. By discerning the spiritual being(s) present I would be able to see what the Father was doing because He has trained me in regard to their purposes and functions and I would know how I was to respond based on my discernment. I would understand how to do what the Father is doing.
For years I was told that discernment (the use of the physical senses to know what is going on in the spiritual realm) is not necessary and, indeed, unbiblical. I now understand that not only is discernment necessary but it is essential to entering into and understanding the new realms that God has for us.
Who is Melchizedek? Melchizedek is first mentioned in Genesis 14, which tells of nine kings and nations that were warring. Abram became involved in the conflict because Lot, his brother?s son, had been taken prisoner. Along with 318 servants, he pursued these enemies, attacking them and rescuing Lot. Then, as Abram returned to the King?s Valley with the King of Salem pursuing him, Melchizedek suddenly appeared before him. Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: ?Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.? And he gave him a tithe of all. Genesis 14:18?20 (NKJV)
I believe that Melchizedek is the eternal High Priest who came as Jesus Christ. Melchizedek is the function of Jesus Christ as THE eternal High Priest, always interceding for us. As mentioned in scripture, Melchizedek is the King of Peace (Salem) as well as the King of Righteousness.
Melchizedek blessed Abram because the Lord had delivered the enemies of Abram into his hands. Could it be that when we are aware of Melchizedek, it is an indication that the Lord is giving us victory over our enemies? I realized that this is what I had been asking the Lord for?I had been sitting in the Jacuzzi some months before, worn out because I had been battling witchcraft and I prayed, ?Lord, when do we ever win?? A righteous anger came up inside me saying, ?How dare these people exercise witchcraft and come against the God Most High?? I got really angry and asked again, ?God, when do we ever win? Lord, why don’t you display your glory and remove those who come against Your Kingdom plans?? I prayed for grace and mercy for them but also declared, ?Oh God arise and destroy your enemies.?
Isn?t it time for God’s vengeance against his enemies? Isn?t it time for the Kingdom of God to advance? The revelation of Melchizedek would seem to indicate that we are now moving into a period of time in which we will have victory over our enemies.
Melchizedek is a King and a Priest and He belongs to the Order of Melchizedek. Our Heavenly Father has always wanted His people to be an order of Kings and Priests; in fact, that was His intention for the Children of Israel. However, Israel did not want that?the people refused the position. It was then that the Lord set aside the tribe of Levi to act as priests for the people. But, after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Church entered into a new position. Believers are declared to be a ?royal priesthood??we are now Kingly Priests and belong to the order of Melchizedek.
After the brief account of Melchizedek in Genesis, there is no more mention of him until 900 years later during the time of King David, who mentioned Melchizedek in Psalm 110. It is noteworthy that although David was a king, he also once went into the holy place and ate of the table of showbread, therefore acting like a kingly priest. David clearly stated in Psalm 110 that Melchizedek is tied to victory over one?s enemies. The LORD said to my Lord, ?Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.? The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! The LORD has sworn And will not relent, ?You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek. Psalm 110: 1-2,4 (NKJV)
Now, fast-forward through over 900 additional years before hearing of Melchizedek again. The New Testament book of Hebrews offers the most detailed description of Melchizedek and speaks clearly to us about the High Priestly function of Jesus Christ. In the Hebrews 5-8 we are reminded that Jesus is forever Melchizedek. He is the King of Peace and the King of Righteousness. It is this wonderful Jesus, the Perfect One; who, because of His intercession, enables us to endure and have hope in the future. This Melchizedek is not a priest of the tribe of Levi, but of the tribe of Judah. The entire passage crescendos in Hebrews 8:1-2; Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. (NKJV)
But how do we really comprehend Melchizedek? This knowing is not just an ?intellectual? knowing but a ?discernment? knowing; a knowing that arises through the five physical senses. Melchizedek is difficult to comprehend without physical discernment.
Perhaps it is time to train your senses so that you will know when Melchizedek is interceding so that you may discern the answers of the Father to that Priestly intercession. When you discern Melchizedek, then you will understand more fully what the Father is doing. Then like, Jesus, you will be able to do what you see the Father doing.
(Excerpt from “I’m Still Standing” which is a series of essays that were born out of my struggle with breast cancer in 2006-2007.)
Every time I think of Enid’s I hear a phrase from the old hymn, “There is a place of quiet rest near to the heart of God.” So what, you may wonder, is Enid’s? And, surprisingly, this place of refuge is not a church or chapel or ministry center—it’s a wig store. Labeled with a cancer diagnosis, it’s where I went when I was struggling to cope with the idea of losing all of my hair.
Years ago, in the days when nurses wore those perky, white, starched caps, I had a short, curly, red wig. Keeping my long hair neatly up and under my cap was quite a challenge so I would hide it under the wig—much easier and quite a time-saver. But it’d been a very long time, and now it wasn’t for convenience—it was a necessity, unless I wanted to go around bald or wearing a scarf, thus branding myself as a cancer patient; and that idea just didn’t work for me—I wanted to look and act as normal as possible. I wondered if I could even find a wig that would look natural, so off I went to find the store.
Five minutes after I walked through the front door of Enid’s I felt like I’d entered some other dimension where it was party time. All around me were women with no hair, laughing, talking, and trying on wigs and hats, browsing through lingerie and swimsuits, checking out pretty pieces of jewelry and selecting make-up. Enid, a cancer survivor herself, and her staff were more like cheerleaders than sales ladies; encouraging everyone, patiently helping us try on style after style and telling us how good we looked, teaching us how to cope, answering questions, sharing their own experiences—they’d been where we were now. I can’t imagine a support group that would have been more helpful—it was as if everyone had checked their diagnosis at the door and entered an arena of hope.
Hope—an intangible orientation toward the future, expecting something that is not yet a reality—a belief that there can be a positive outcome even when all evidence says otherwise. Hope that is not seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But, if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:24b-25) Hope is often what keeps us going in the face of adversity. It may motivate a rescue team searching a mountain for a missing hiker, a teacher working with a learning-disabled child, an unemployed man searching for a job so he can provide for his family, a terminally-ill patient looking for a cure, a lonely person looking for a friend—or me, looking for relief in the midst of my pain. There were times during my treatment when I identified with Job as he cried out to the LORD, “What strength do I have, that I should still hope? What prospects, that I should be patient? Do I have the strength of stone? Is my flesh bronze?” (Job 6:11-12) But I knew I could trust God’s promise that, those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint, (Isaiah 40:31) so I held on. And God did not disappoint me. One morning as I awoke I saw a vision of a blank sheet of bright yellow paper floating before my eyes and I was comforted, for I immediately knew without a doubt that this was him telling me that the next page in the book of my life was before me, a page full of hope.
The LORD also encouraged me with a living example of His love, described in Psalm 147:11, the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love, as I observed the joy of my son, Kevin, as he anticipated his wedding; and the look on his face as he watched his bride, Rachel, walk down the aisle to become his wife. Her hope was evident too—that of the bride preparing herself for her bridegroom, fully confident in his love; knowing that he would be there to welcome her into his home; to love her; to honor her; to protect her—and I remembered that we, the church, can rest in that same kind of hope because we are the Bride of Christ. And once again, instead of crying like Job, I was able to rejoice like David; I could find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 62:5-6)
I still go back to Enid’s. I use the excuse that I need to pick up some make-up or a scarf; but the truth is that there are a lot of places I could buy those things, and I really go back because I love to be there. I love to visit those amazing ladies who probably don’t even realize what a wonderful blessing they are. I love to see hope in action!
Trinidad, one of California’s smallest incorporated cities, rests on the spectacular rocky Pacific coast about a half-hour north of Eureka. With it’s own harbor, it is an ideal spot to take off for a day of fishing out on the ocean.
On this particular day, it was a beautiful morning and the water was calm and smooth when my dad and his brother took off in a 10-foot boat with a small outboard motor; Dad steering from the back and my Uncle Sarge riding in the bow. Except for the fact that they weren’t catching any fish they were having a great time bobbing around out there in the ocean; undoubtedly telling each other some pretty tall tales as they waited for a bite. But on California’s north coast the weather can be fickle and all of a sudden the mirrored surface of the water became choppy and the waves began to swell. It didn’t take long for them to realize they’d better head back into the harbor before things got any worse; but the waves started washing over the sides of the boat and the motor got wet. Dad tried over and over to get it started but it sputtered and died…sputtered and died…sputtered and died. Finally he gave up and the brothers traded places, but Sarge couldn’t do any better and soon their little boat was half full of water. They needed to bail and they needed to paddle but only had a small coffee can and one paddle to work with—it seems the boat was a rental and since the ocean was so calm when they left it never occurred to them that they needed to be more prepared.
As my uncle tells it, “I don’t know if my brother was praying, but I sure was. We were way out beyond the bar and didn’t have any way to signal for help, and only the harbor master and our wives, who were at home miles away, even knew we’d gone out fishing. I told my brother we’d better take turns trying to paddle so we could try to get back to shore before we drowned, but with only one oar we just started going around in circles. I was bailing water out furiously and trying to keep the boat from sinking, but it seemed to be a losing battle. Then I had the idea that we needed to try to get the bow of the boat headed straight for shore so that when a wave hit we could ride the crest of the wave as far as it would take us; and then once it played out, we’d paddle the boat around to catch another wave. This took what seemed like forever, and each minute I was getting more concerned that we weren’t going to make it back to shore alive. As the Pacific got rougher and rougher it also started to get dark—and cold! Oh it was cold, because even though it was mid-summer the water was only about 45 degrees. I was praying frantically ‘Lord, please don’t let us die out here—I have two baby girls at home and a wonderful wife, and I don’t want to leave them.’ Somehow we finally started making a little progress—with every wave we’d progress about 20 feet, only to be pulled back out about half that distance. But we kept on and with each wave we’d get a little closer to shore. Finally, much to our relief, we limped in past the bar, totally soaked from head to foot—we couldn’t have been wetter than if we’d have had to swim for it. How that old rowboat stayed afloat out there in that squall I have no idea, except that it was a miracle. When we tied the boat up and checked in with the harbor master, he said, ‘Boys, I sure was getting worried about you making it back in,’ and then he told us that they had completely closed the harbor to boat traffic.. He was sure glad to get his boat back in one piece, but we were just glad to be alive and on dry ground, and not anywhere near as concerned about his boat with its single oar and rusty old coffee can. All we could think about was that we were heading back home to our families alive. Richard and I didn’t mention going fishing again for a while after almost drowning in that cold North Pacific Ocean—we were more than happy to stay on the shore.”
Dad and Uncle Sarge certainly had a taste that day of what Jesus’ disciples must have felt like when they went out to sea with Jesus. On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mark 4:35-41)
It is a valid question that we should still ponder today, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” To try to define him by saying he is our Lord, our Savior, the Creator, the Son of God, Immanuel, the Word, the Lion of Judah; and then to go on and mention all of the other names by which he is known does not even come close. And to speak of his love, his compassion, his humility, his wisdom, his humanity, and his obedience even unto death on the cross only scratches the surface of who he is. To think that this Jesus, whose majesty and power and authority is beyond description, wants nothing more than he wants a relationship with us is astounding but true—that’s why he came; that’s why he died. This Jesus is the One who can and will enter into the storms of our lives and say, “Peace, be still,” and once that happens we will never be the same again.
I grew up in a wonderful land that was inhabited by giants, many of whom were hundreds of years old; a land of six rivers that flowed into the ocean along a wild and rugged coastline; a land of giant ferns and colorful azaleas and wild blackberries. How I loved it there and how I hated to leave when, the day after I finished my junior year of high school, we had to move away from the cool, lush giant redwood forests of Northern California to the hot, dry deserts of Southern California. Even now, more than forty years later, that land still calls to me and I can think of few things I’d rather do than wander through the redwoods in the quiet stillness of a misty fog and soak up the beauty and majesty of God’s creation.
One of the trees along the famous Avenue of the Giants is the ancient Immortal Tree. Over 950 years old and big enough to build several homes, it has survived lightning strikes, fire, a logger’s axe and a horrible flood—and all of this in just the last 100 years. On this occasion, rather that just stopping in front, snapping a few pictures, and buying out the gift store I wandered down a path that led around to the back of the tree and stood in awe as I gazed at a living illustration of one of my favorite scriptures, Psalm 1:1-3. Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.
Lord, may I be like that Immortal Tree. May I be forever planted beside your river of living water; standing in faith against the trials of life, bringing forth the fruit of your Spirit in my life and enjoying the bounty of blessings that you have laid up for me.