Saturday, September 29, 2012

Why I Love Turtles

Each morning that I go to the lake, I greet my turtle friends. Aloud. In Spanish. Ok, it’s eccentric, but I’ve always had an affinity for turtles, ever since I was five and screamed in the car causing my dad to slam on the brakes so he wouldn’t massacre a tiny box turtle I had spotted in the middle of the road. Needless to say, we hopped out of the car, rescued Hermie, and he became my pet.

For years I’ve wondered why I have such a kinship with turtles. Sure, as an introvert, sometimes I can duck my head inside my shell withdrawing from the world when I sense danger and then stay hidden until I think it has passed. Then I tentatively peer out of my shell, ready to retreat at a moment’s notice.  But last Tuesday as I eyed my little reptile friend placidly swimming through calm waters, I noted another of his qualities. Turtles know how to persevere. They may be slow and their wrinkled faces resemble the dried-apple dolls you make as an elementary school craft project. But despite their seeming weaknesses, they keep trudging along. I always thought they were fearful creatures, but they trek out into the middle of roads oblivious to oncoming traffic. And they keep on sticking their necks out time and time again no matter what giant speeding SUV comes barreling down on them.
Turtles remind me of the men in the parables of Matt. 13:44-46. Stay with me here. Turtles risk it all to get what they want even if that’s only traveling from point A to point B. The men in the parable risk all financially in an effort to gain the kingdom of heaven.

So what others may see as recklessness, I prefer to see as deliberate risk-taking and perseverance. And risk-taking and perseverance are two lessons God has been trying to teach me this year. When you really examine faith, it’s a risky proposition to follow a God you cannot see or touch and trust His words are true in a world saturated with lies and half-truths. Faith demands we risk it all and then persevere in our walk with God despite obstacles and opposition.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Resisting Change

Earlier this week while I was exercising at the lake, I saw a crepe myrtle tree that seemed to be having a difficult time deciding what the current season is. Most of its spindly branches were loaded with dull round green berries, smaller russet ones, and red-tipped olive green leaves.  But there were two branches crowned with bright purple blossoms with the beginning of autumn only days away.

Observing that confused crepe myrtle made me wonder what changes still lie ahead for me in a year overflowing with changes. And it also made me reflect on how resistant I am to change. Out of all of my friends I have only one, ok maybe one and a half, who really embrace change.  How I envy them! I am like the proverbial Biblical sheep that wallows in a rut and has to be lifted out by the Shepherd’s crook.
Like the crepe myrtle, my resistance to change sometimes produces confusion. It is so important to know what season you are in for a variety of reasons. For instance, you cannot reap when it is sowing season and vice-versa.  Spiritually, it is important to know the season so you can know how to pray.  It is also important so you will know the work God has for you to do. Some seasons are fallow ones where you wait on the Lord to move or to provide wisdom and insight. Some are busier where you work on multiple projects or ministries simultaneously. But to be effective, you need to know the Shepherd’s voice and observe the signs of changing seasons.  So as summer gives way to fall, watch the changing leaves and ask the Lord to open your heart to the changes He wishes to make in your life.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Stormy Weather

Every June, officials warn us to prepare for the start of hurricane season here on the Gulf Coast. Even when no hurricane hovers on the horizon, we have to guard against daily thunderstorms like the one that fried my computer modem a month ago. But after eight months of much worse storms, a fried modem seemed quite a little thing. Annoying? Sure. But when you endure a health crisis and daily fight spiritual battles designed to steal your faith and break your heart, even a hurricane seems less daunting.

Sometimes the Lord dispels the physical and spiritual storms of life before we even have to face them. Other times, He allows us a taste of their force but blunts their destruction. Then there are storms we must endure, but during them He keeps His promise:  “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Remember in Mark 4:37-41 when the disciples faced a storm in a boat on the Sea of Galilee?  “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, don’t You care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to His disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do still have so little faith?’ They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and waves obey Him?’”

God also spoke to Elijah in the midst of a storm after the prophet hid himself in a cave while the force of nature displayed God’s power. Then out of the storm, Elijah heard the still, small voice of God calling to him.  1 Kings 19:11-12: “The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”

Storms are inevitable. So the next time one threatens your dreams, your health, your financial security or any other area of your life, remember the One who can calm the wind and rain can say the word and end the storms in your life, restoring peace. The greater challenge, though, is to rely on His peace when He chooses not to calm the storm.
“My peace I leave you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not be troubled or afraid.”  John 14:27