Monday, May 31, 2010

Watching from Starboard

I've been Peter. Actually, I feel like my whole life has been a series of Peter moments - you know, those times when God calls you to get out of the boat and trust Him to keep you from sinking. Don't let anyone tell you it's easy being Peter. Anyone who has ever had their faith tested knows that the sight of the waves and the sound of the wind is a tough competition for the quiet, steady voice of the Savior.

Although it's hard to be Peter (and there have been a number of times that I took my eyes off of Christ and started to sink) it's also kind of an honorable challenge. To know that it's just you and Jesus - one calling, the other walking - to lose sight of everyone and everything around you and focus in on Him and see Him focused on you is an indescribable moment. And even when I begin to falter and feel the waters rising around me, when He reaches out for me there is such an overwhelming hope and joy that makes me crave another opportunity to join Him on the lake.

But then there are the times when I don't get to be Peter. There are times when I'm Philip, or Thomas, or Bartholomew. There are times when my faith is not carrying me across the water, but when I have to watch a dear friend be challenged in their faith. I am not such a fan of staying in the boat.

You see, from here all I can do is watch and pray that Christ won't let my friend sink because of the storm. All I can do is hope and pray that my friend keeps looking into the eyes of Jesus. I can shout encouragement, I can watch and hope, but I can't do anything to keep my friend walking into our Lord's outstretched arms.

I feel helpless. I feel useless. I feel like my faith isn't strong enough to carry them across the water. But I feel like my faith doesn't really matter here anyway.

Sometimes when I have to stay in the boat I'm afraid because, well, I know "Peter". I know my friend's faith is weak. I know they won't keep their eyes on Christ. I know it's only a matter of time before they sink...and it breaks my heart to watch them get out of the boat.

And then sometimes...sometimes "Peter" astounds me. Sometimes "Peter" walks right across the tide, grabs Christ's hand and turns toward the shore. Sometimes "Peter" puts my safe-in-the-boat faith to shame.

Erin, thank you for being a faithful Peter. I will try to be a faithful Bart.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I've been running lately. Before you give me a big "so what?" let me tell you just how much I hate to run. I hate it a lot. Why? Oh, so many reasons. I hate the way it makes my legs feel. I hate the way it makes my lungs feel. I hate the way it makes all my jiggly parts feel. I hate how bored I get.

But...I LOVE when it's over.

I love that I can say I just ran two miles. I love the way my leg muscles twitch for at least a half hour afterward. I love knowing that I just made myself do something I hate for the betterment of my body. And I love the water. Oh, do I love the water.

When I'm running my body kicks into overdrive and it needs water to keep going. Water cools me down so I don't overheat. Water slows me down so I can breathe normally again. Water refreshes me so I can look back over those two miles with pleasure. And water puts back into my body everything I just willingly gave out of it.

When I run, I crave water.

Why is it that I feel the effects of my thirst so much more powerfully in my physical need than I do in my spiritual need? Why do I give my body what it needs after a run but I won't do the same for my heart? I would venture to say that in this broken, depraved, troubled world my soul is actually putting in more effort than my body, and yet my body is always first to be tended. Why do I let my spirit go thirsty?

My Spirit needs the Lord every bit as much as my body needs water.

When I'm [pouring my heart into my day] my [soul] kicks into overdrive and it needs [the Lord]. [The Lord] cools me down so I don't [burn out]. [The Lord] slows me down so I can breathe normally again. [The Lord] refreshes me so I can look back over [my day] with pleasure. And [the Lord] puts back into my [soul] everything I just willingly gave out of it.

And yet, I don't crave the Lord.

I find other things to do. I find other things that "need" my attention. I find other things to refresh me - good things, tasty things, but not what I need. Basically, I drink a spiritual Coke.

I want to say with the sons of Korah,

As the deer pants for streams of water
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul longs for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

~Psalm 42:1-2

I am panting daily. Hourly. At this very minute. I want to crave the Lord, but I keep reaching for Coke.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Rock-A-Bye Baby

It's 3:30 AM. I gather my crying son into my arms and walk him into the living room while whispering in his ear the phrase I've kind of made my "mommy mantra." "I've got you, Son," I say. "I will always take care of you." I sing hymns to him while he eats, trying to keep myself awake. He finishes one of many mid-night meals and we make our way to the tried and true Babies R Us rocking chair, both blinking slow and hard, trying to stay awake. I pat his back rhythmically in time with the backward and forward motions of the rocker and sing softly in his ear the hymn that's stuck in my head, "Great is Thy Faithfulness". As his eyelids get heavier his body follows suit, and I can feel his head sink into my shoulder.

Back and forth.
Back and forth.
Back and forth.
Pat. Pat. Pat.
Back and forth.
Pat. Pat. Pat.

His body melts onto mine, and together we rock until he is deep in sleep and deep in my arms.

As I sat and whispered the words to that old hymn, trying to remember which lines matched up with which, I finally saw a rich depth and truth that I simply could not have understood until now. I also finally understood my rocking chair...and my patting...and the lullabies.

My son quieted down as soon as he felt the fluid rocking motions, the rhythmic pats on his back, when he heard the soft and constant melody. He felt lulled by the consistency and predictability. He knew that every time we went forward, we would also go back. He knew each pat would be followed by another. He knew to expect the chorus along with the verses. Babies are calmed by reliability, and patterns make them feel safe.

Lamentations 2:22-24 says:
22The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
23They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
24"The LORD is my portion," says my soul,
"Therefore I have hope in Him."

It is God's constant, reliable, faithful love and compassion that allows us to have a safe and peaceful hope in Him. We are calmed by the knowledge that we can expect mercy every morning. We are soothed by feeling His gentle love carry us back and forth. Knowing that His hand will softly and tenderly be laid on us gives us a security in who He is and what we can trust Him to do.

When I truly dwell on God's persistent love, I quietly melt into His arms of faithfulness and there I rest deeply.

Great is Thy faithfulness, oh God, our Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!