19 Sep


Life is a journey. As it has been said, “Some days are diamonds. Some days are stones.” Life isn’t always a beach. Sometimes, and often times, life is like being lost at sea during a raging storm.

In the book of Acts we learn how the Apostle Paul was literally fighting for his life in the middle of nothing short of a category five hurricane!

Things started out okay. The sun was out and the seagulls were cackling as Paul and his sojourners boarded the ship. As Paul put it, “When the time came, we set sail.” Key point. When the time came. Put another way, when the time was right.

Timing is everything and when the time is right and we are ready there is nothing like being in the right place at the right time. It seemed right. It felt right. It was right. They pulled out of the harbor with eyes on the horizon as the wind filled their sails. Smooth sailing waited ahead. Or so they thought.

We all experience those times when everything seems to be going our way. Life is good. The bank account is fat. Our bellies are full. Friends abound. The sun is shining and our tan line starts to appear. But not too far off shore we begin to experience a few headwinds. They come as a slight breeze at first. Refreshing in fact but before long, our hat is blown into the rising waves. We sense things are changing as dark clouds roll in.

Headwinds mount. The sails are pulled. We batten down the hatches and prepare for what we hope is a passing storm. One night of lost sleep turns into many. Riding the waves puts our head into a spin. The loss of appetite? A mere symptom of life at sea. 

Like life, life at sea can change in an instant. The headwinds we face not only pound the vessel they play with our attitude as well. We hold fast to anything that brings comfort as the winds that now roar in our minds bring new meaning to fighting the storm from within. Headwinds are now impacting our thought life.

The struggle is real. An expected joy ride has turned into a fight for survival. As the planks creak beneath and loosen around us, we can’t but wonder; Will it hold? Can I make it through this? Do I have what it takes to face these headwinds from within and from without?  Will the boat hold or blow apart as trials, tribulations, setbacks and difficulties linger as more trouble lies ahead?

The beautiful sunset that once danced on the horizon has now been consumed by a dark evil that looms and hisses on a violent sea and is mirrored in the skies above. We look up and can’t help but wonder; “What were we thinking? How did we end up here? Why didn’t we see this coming? Where is God in all of this? Is it time to abandon ship? Will my faith get me through this?

The right time, even God’s timing, doesn’t guarantee life at sea will be easy. Life is a journey and the paths we take are often full of twists and turns. Ups and downs. Change and pains. Hurts and hang ups. Disappointments, misunderstandings, lies, betrayals, bumps and bruises are all part of the cruise we call life.

Listen up mate. Let’s face it, life isn’t always pretty. Some days are better than others and some are worse than all the others combined. Life is a challenge. At times giving up appears to be the only option as we consider a permanent solution to a temporary typhoon that has overwhelmed and swamped the bow.

The storm has now become internal. The battle rages from within. The storm is relentless. We wonder if we will soon go down with the ship. But then we remember. This ship is equipped with a lifeboat. It is exactly what we need. Someone has thrown us a lifeline. God has put the key to survival within reach. We can do this. With His help, we take courage. We regain hope and even start to feel hunger pains. Not just for food but for life itself.  If we can hang on for just a little while longer we can make it to the break in the clouds as a glimmer of hope shines through the darkness that has engulfed every part of our being.

As what remains of our former life drifts away, broken and in shambles, we let loose of the anchors and debris that have held us back.  We now find ourselves navigating calmer waters and brighter days as the shoreline begins to appear on the not so distant skyline. It looks like we will make it! Our sea legs have strengthened as we shake off the fear that has gripped our hearts. We pushed through the pain and overcame unmet expectations only to discover that we have what it takes. We didn’t know what it took but when the time came, we possessed the moral fiber, grit and stamina to see it through.

Our ship has come in and we were on it. Our little vessel might look a lot different than the robust ship we once boarded with glee, but we have arrived. We have survived. We made it! What a ride! We conquered the challenges, the highs, the lows, the doubts, the concerns and the crisis!  We were headstrong in the headwind and lived to tell about!

Storms come and storms go as tranquil seas turn turbulent in no time. Nonetheless we are not satisfied to remain at bay. We must face our fears, raise our sails and push off into the great unknown where the clouds kiss the sea. Life was meant to be lived between and on top of the waves!

(For more on the storm Paul faced, turn to Acts 27 and 28.)   

12 Jul

"Trouble" hooks

“When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity.” James 1:2
When (not if) trouble comes. Trouble comes at work, at home and in life. 
Trouble is like having pimples as a teenager. They are coming you just don’t always know when. 
We tend to spend much of our time avoiding trouble. We need not encourage it but we might as well accept it.
SERIOUS QUESTION: What is troubling you today? 
I have been troubled/hassled by a lot of petty little things of late. These are small developed world issues I know but nonetheless these bees in my bonnet have actually been bugging me more than I realized. 
My issues are nothing compared to the challenges my friends in Africa, India and Honduras face but they have been dragging on my spirit. 
They have been like tiny treble hooks squelching my spirit. How about you? Any “trouble” hooks holding you back?
Reading this passage is very counterintuitive. What does it say? Troubles are opportunities. My first thought, get real God. Troubles are a pain in the butt!
Then it says, troubles are an opportunity for JOY! Really? That has not been my experience! 
But wait! I could try positive thinking and a good attitude. But that is kind of like faking myself out unless, yes unless, I go back to the opening verse. There is the key.
James says he is a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Oh, a slave! A slave! Who wants to be a slave? But in reality we are all slaves to something. Perfection, money, sex, fitness, food, kids, job and even our spouse. We are often slaves to our troubles! What does James say? He is slave to Jesus. 
As a slave to Jesus, my troubles are my master’s troubles. Certainly troubles come to the plantation but whose problems are they ? Yup, the master’s! I’m just a slave. 
If I focus on obeying him, my troubles are his problems. Ah and my joy is made complete in him. 
Send your troubles to the master. Ask him to deal with them. See your troubles as an opportunity for big daddy to take the wheel. Our joy is robbed when we try to take control. Remember the old phrase, let go and let God. 
He is the fixer upper. We are simply to listen and obey resting in the assurance that obedience is its own reward and being a slave has its privileges. Real joy being one of them.