Everywhere we go nowadays, we see reminders to stay six feet from other people. Arrows on floors, signs on walls, markers on chairs, and plastic dividers in public places tell us that social distancing is a thing.
I thought this “distancing” concept was new to 2020. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it in Psalm 138:6—“Though the LORD is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud.”
The humble heart acknowledges its need for God. It understands its limitations, foibles, and imperfections, and it’s totally okay with asking for His help. But the proud heart—not so much.
A proud heart thinks it can manage without God’s help because it believes its way of doing things is best.
God favors the humble heart. He draws near to those who draw near to Him. (James 4:6-8) He establishes a sweet friendship with those who honor Him. (Psalm 25:14) But He responds differently to the heart that says, “No thanks, I can do it myself.” That’s when He practices distancing.
God will not force Himself into our space. He wants to be in our spiritual bubble, but He won’t shove His way inside. “I’m here for you,” He says. “Will you let Me in?” Then He lets us choose whether or not we want to welcome Him.
Social distancing has been hard on most people because God created us to flourish within community. Lack of human connection creates a longing for the day we’re once again free to shake hands, share hugs, and enjoy unhindered get-togethers.
Spiritual distancing can be even more difficult because God created us to flourish in relationship with Him. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. And nothing can fill the void we experience when we’re separated from Him.
Is there an area in your life where you’ve said to God, “No thanks, I can do it myself”? If so, turn it around and invite His engagement: “God, I admit my need for You.”
Social distancing ends when the powers-that-be declare it over. Spiritual distancing ends the moment we declare it over through our actions and heart attitude. All we have to do is humble ourselves, admit our need for God, and we can enjoy closeness with Him.
Tomorrow morning I’ll say goodbye to my mom and head back home not knowing when I’ll see her again. My emotions threaten to take me down a sorry path, but I refuse to go there. Instead, I choose to focus on the character of God and on His promises. I’ve found this is the only path to true and lasting peace.
I need God’s peace in this situation. Maybe you can relate. You’re in a tough situation and need a healthy dose of lasting peace, too. If so, take a few moments to read God’s encouragement to you.
“You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.” (Isaiah 26:3-4NKJV)
Now read it again. This time make it a personal prayer, like this: “You will keep me in perfect peace when I keep my mind on You. I trust in You forever because You are everlasting strength.”
Meditate on it.
Put it into practice.
And you will experience peace that passes human understanding.
Living and traveling on a sailboat has given me a whole new appreciation for anyone who makes a living from the sea. Some days the water barely ripples and I’m able to sit in the cockpit and work on my laptop as Sailor Man guides us through BC’s islands. Other days, the wind and the waves rage. I hang on for dear life, or I crawl into the salon to ensure there are no objects flying about because I accidentally left them unsecured before leaving the dock. Seriously—the thought of being tossed into foaming, frigid water leaves me white-knuckled and nauseous.
I suspect that’s how Jesus’s disciples felt as they rode out a storm in the middle of a lake in the middle of the night. (Mark 6:47-51) The wind thrashed and the waves splashed, and the experienced fishermen feared they might die. Their terror grew worse when Jesus approached them while walking on the water and they mistook Him for a ghost.
Everything changed when Jesus spoke the words, “It’s all right. I am here. Don’t be afraid.” Then He climbed into the boat with His friends, and the storm stilled.
We’ve all found ourselves in a storm this year. Some far more than others. I’m feeling the wind and the waves as my elderly mother continues to battle with a benign brain tumor that’s affected her entire right side. Steroids to reduce inflammation have triggered a host of other issues. One problem leads to another, it seems. What will her baseline capabilities be when things settle down? What kind of care will best meet her needs? And how will those details pan out especially during COVID?
Trying to keep our heads above water takes all the energy we can muster sometimes, right? When the storm makes me feel like I’m hanging on for dear life, I focus on these insights from this Bible story.
Jesus is never taken by surprise when the wind rises and the waves roll. He put the disciples into the boat knowing full well what their future held. He knows what our future looks like, too. Nothing happens that takes Him by surprise. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Jesus was in prayer when the disciples ran into trouble. I wonder if He was praying for these men. One of His roles is to pray for us. When we’re in trouble battling the storms of life, He’s sitting at the Father’s right hand interceding on our behalf. (Romans 8:34)
Jesus saw the disciples in their situation. He took notice of their needs. (Mark 6:48) Back in the book of Genesis, Hagar named Him “the God who sees,” when He took notice of her needs in the wilderness. (Genesis 16:13) He’s the same today as He was then. We’re never out of His sight. (Psalm 139:2-5)
Jesus came to the disciples’ rescue. He did so by joining them, climbing into the boat with them. He’s with us in the midst of our storms, too. His promise to never leave or forsake us assures us that we are never, ever alone. (Matthew 28:20).
My friends, keep your minds focused on the Truth as we ride out the COVID storm and any others that churn up the wind and waves. None of this has taken the Lord by surprise. He sees us and He prays for us. All will be well because He’s in the boat with us.
Sorry for the delayed blog this week! I wrote it on Monday but my website experienced a few hiccups this week. The folks who run my site worked hard to remedy the problem, and they got ‘er done. So, here it is. Have a great weekend!
Gene and I are anchored at Thetis Island as I write this, grateful for the opportunity to enjoy the coastal waters once more. We weren’t sure we’d have another chance this year after our engine failure in August, but Sailor Man figured out the issue and made the repairs.
One of the things I enjoy about a marine lifestyle is being immersed in an environment that declares God’s glory. Fish jump and seabirds sing. Seals splash nearby. Sometimes orca whales appear and swim a few hundred feet from our boat. And every evening gifts us with free passes to the most incredible dinner theatre—the sunset. What a display of God’s creative genius!
On this trip, we’ve ended each day by lying on our backs on the boat’s bow and gazing at the night sky. There are no city lights to compete with the heavenly lights, so it’s easy to spot shooting stars, satellites, the Milky Way, and various constellations.
My mind automatically recalls the psalmist’s words: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:3-6)
I suspect the psalmist may have penned his reflection while shepherding his father’s flocks. Can you hear the wonder in his words? Can you sense the awe stirring in his soul as he thought about Almighty God knowing his name and caring about his needs?
My friend, take a few moments to reflect on this life-changing truth: The same God who crafted the heavens knows your name. He knows where you are this very moment. He knows what time you crawled from bed and how you felt when your feet hit the floor. He knows your fears for today, your worries for tomorrow, your wants, and your dreams. He knows your needs, and He longs for you to talk with Him about them.
Some days you might feel like a little star unnoticed in an endless universe populated by a gazillion trillion other stars. Why would this God ever notice you or care about your needs? Truth is, He made you in His image and designed you for His glory. You are His display of creative genius and the object of His never-failing love.
Step outside tonight and gaze at the heavens or google keywords like “view night sky.” Recite the psalmist’s words aloud as I’ve done the past two nights, and spend a few moments in worship. You may even want to watch Lou Giglio’s presentation about the wonders of the universe and then thank its Creator God for holding you in the palm of His hand. Let the wonder of the psalmist’s words become yours.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13 ESV)
Does anyone out there remember the poster picture of a kitten dangling from a knotted rope, its claws embedded in the fibrous nub? It’s still a favorite of mine because it represents how I’ve felt on several occasions.
When we had to make a quick exit from Nepal within days of my giving birth to a wee daughter with a heart defect and hydrocephalus (too much water on the brain). The international airline refused to issue me a ticket because I’d had a Caesarean section and it considered me a high medical risk. Gene took our baby back to the States and I was left behind not knowing whether or not I’d see her alive again.
When our family was seriously underfunded while working at a year-round Christian camp. We hit a breaking point when our car’s transmission blew as I was driving out of town with the same daughter, now graduated from high school and bound for Bible college. Cha-ching. The repair job delayed our trip for several days. During that time, one of my molars broke and required a crown. Cha-ching. When we picked up the car, the repair guy noted that our tires needed to be replaced. He was right. Cha-ching.
When my dad suffered two massive strokes within three weeks. My youngest daughter was about twelve years old and scheduled for surgery within days of the second event, so Gene stayed home with the kids while I headed to Alberta. I was torn between wanting to be present for my child but feeling I needed to support my parents in crisis. To top it off, we couldn’t afford a plane ticket, so I drove through the snowy Rockies in December.
The picture of the kitten dangling from a rope also describes how I’ve felt occasionally during this pandemic. Life with all its uncertainties can feel scary at times, but I hang onto hope for a favorable outcome by focusing on God’s promises, His faithfulness, and His sovereignty. The world appears out of control, but God is still in control. Nothing can happen to us corporately or individually without His permission. And if He gives permission for something difficult to strike us, then He will give us the grace to endure.
Luci Swindoll writes, “Faithful Father, hope is an unbreakable spiritual lifeline between me and you. I receive it as my own and hang on to it for dear life, trusting you will provide all I need for whatever I will face. Amen.”
I like Luci’s statement, “…hope is an unbreakable spiritual lifeline.” No matter what happens, we can ride the storm filled and abounding with hope that comes from focusing on the truth of who God is and His promises to us. Let’s receive that spiritual lifeline as our own and hang on to it for dear life trusting that God will give us everything we need for whatever comes our way.
Chuck Swindoll writes, “When the sovereign God brings us to nothing, it is to reroute our lives, not to end them. Human perspective says, ‘Aha, you’ve lost this, you’ve lost that. You’ve caused this, you’ve caused that. You’ve ruined this, you’ve ruined that.’ But God says, ‘No. No. It’s time to reroute your life. Now’s the time to start anew!”
Holding onto a heavenly perspective restores our hope. Especially now. As many parts of the world brace for COVID’s return, human perspective might either push the panic button or throw its hand in the air in doomed resignation. But God views our plight differently. “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT)
We view the pandemic as the culprit that ended normalcy. We see it as responsible for taking away our freedom to worship in customary ways, visit friends and family, and sit with loved ones in the hospital. We blame it for upending our job or business. We consider it the bad guy that ruined wedding, vacation, or ministry plans.
But what if we’re missing something? Maybe God is saying, “No. No. It’s time to reroute your life. Now’s the time to start anew.”
I’ve discovered this is true in my teaching ministry. For nearly twenty years, I could pretty much look at my calendar and predict when ministry leaders would book me for fall or spring events. But things are different. For now, the pandemic has slammed the lid on ministry as I’ve known it for two decades. That doesn’t mean things can’t change and return to the usual, but perhaps God has other plans. Maybe He’s saying it’s time to reroute that aspect of my life and start anew. You know—the message remains the same but the method of presenting it changes.
I’m open to whatever rerouting and starting anew looks like even if it’s far beyond my comfort zone. In fact, I ventured into hosting a Zoom Bible study that began late last month, and more than eighty women registered. The learning curve has been steep but worth the effort.
Realistically, life might never return to the way we once knew it. Does that mean everything’s ruined? No. That we’ve hit a wall and can never move forward from here? Absolutely not. It does mean that we need to ask God to shift our perspective so it aligns with His. How might He want us to reroute our lives?
If spending habits have been a little too loose, now’s the time to reroute by developing, and sticking to, a budget.
If the gym remains closed, now’s the time to figure out a different routine to stay healthy and strong.
If your business has slowed or closed, now’s the time to experience God provide in new ways and to follow as He leads down an unfamiliar path.
If people in your life have taken a backseat to position and possessions, now’s the time to switch things up and focus on what matters more.
If faith has grown complacent, now’s the time to recommit to loving God with all one’s whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.
A human perspective thinks the pandemic has taken so much. In many ways, it has. But God’s thoughts are higher than ours, and His perspective renews hope. What does He have in store? How might He be using it to give us a fresh start? How might He be using it to give you a fresh start? Go ahead–share your thoughts here to encourage the rest of us.
For years I felt like a freshman in the school of prayer. I felt I had so much to learn in order to do it right. If I missed the mark, my prayers would waste both my breath and God’s time, and my best intercessory efforts would score a failing grade.
Sometimes we make prayer more complicated than it is. It’s not a formal conversation in which we’re compelled to repeat spiritual-sounding words. Neither is it a case of tiptoeing into His presence hoping He’s available and willing to listen.
Prayer is a heart-to-heart connection in which we come into God’s presence assured of His welcome: “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.” (Ephesians 3:12 NLT). Imagine God bending down with His arms outstretched toward you, like a father beckoning his toddler to run to him. That’s the welcome Christ’s followers receive when we pray.
My fear of missing the mark in prayer dissipated when I realized how much the heavenly Father longs for connection with His kids. He wants us to pour out our hearts when we feel grieved or disappointed. To tell Him when we’re afraid. To share our delights and joys with Him. He wants to be a part of our life. He wants to be our life.
Some days—or life seasons—we enjoy chunks of uninterrupted time in conversation with the Lord. Other days and seasons, the thought of an uninterrupted quiet space defies imagination. That’s when we can rest assured that we can carry on a meaningful conversation with God even in the midst of real-life busyness.
Living in a sailboat means I use the marina’s laundromat. Walking back and forth to the laundromat on wash day provides a perfect opportunity to talk with God. Folding clothes, cutting veggies for salad, mixing ingredients for a baking project, driving to the grocery store, and walking for exercise—these ordinary moments become sacred moments when bathed in conversation with Almighty God.
Prayer needn’t be complicated. It’s not about trying to impress God or twist His arm or tell Him how to do His job. It’s about heart-to-heart communication. Back and forth conversation. Speaking and listening. It’s responding to our heavenly Father who stoops to love us and waits to welcome us with open arms. How sweet is that?
Question: What ordinary moments become sacred moments for you?
Our view last night as we headed toward Sand Head.
Sailor-Man and I took the Makana away from the dock for the weekend. We could never have written the script for what took place.
First, the alternator quit working. Then we experienced engine failure not once, not twice, but three times on our way home yesterday. The first failure meant retracing our journey twelve nautical miles to the only safe place to anchor so Sailor-man could try to fix the engine.
As he worked, a large wave came from behind, lifted the Makana’s stern, and dragged the dingy underneath. This resulted in its being punctured. Picture Sailor-Man desperately trying to rescue it before the weight of its motor pulled it underwater as I clung to the back of his shirt lest a rogue wave wash him overboard. He managed to winch it aboard but our oars and safety kit floated away.
When we finally got going after the second engine failure and fix, we realized that reaching home before nightfall was impossible. We motored up the Fraser River in the dark keeping our eyes peeled for the flashing red lights on the guiding buoys.
With sighs of relief, we pulled into a public marina. Three feet from the dock, the motor died for a third and final time. We drifted toward a group of wooden pilings and lodged against them. Trouble was, it was so close to shore that our keel would get stuck in the mud at low tide. The clock was ticking.
the pilings and our boat-home today
Gene returned to the engine compartment to see what he could do while I sat in the cockpit and prayed. Suddenly a spotlight shone on me and a voice from nearby bushes said, “Do you need help?” I said, “Yes, we’ve had engine problems all day and my husband is trying to fix it right now.”
Then the voice identified itself. “We are the Canadian Border Patrol Agency. You entered USA waters today—twice—and failed to report when you re-entered Canada. Please come to the dock so we can have a conversation.” My heart stopped. Seriously?
Gene called a towing service. Docking the Makana nearly resulted in catastrophe, but when everything settled down, the border guards began questioning us. Our boat had shown up on their radar with its original name as registered in the States. During COVID, boats are not allowed to travel between Canada and the USA. So, according to their trackers, here was a USA-registered boat in Canadian waters. When our engine failed, the only safe place to anchor was immediately beside a Canadian ferry terminal. Apparently, the water there is considered USA. So we traveled from Canada into the States and back again. Their “assets” had followed all our movement, even traveling up river “under the cover of darkness.”
“Because you entered the USA and then re-entered Canada, you will have to quarantine for fourteen days,” said one guard. “You will be monitored about this. Failure to comply will result in a $750,000 fine or six months in jail.”
Thankfully he gave me the opportunity to explain every detail of our day’s journey. Maybe he felt sorry for us, or maybe God pulled off a miracle. Either way, he and the others believed me and retracted the quarantine edict after confirming that we’d had no contact with anyone while anchored due to engine failure. “You drifted into USA waters,” he declared. “We’re glad you’re safe. If the police contact you, tell them we’ve had this conversation.” Then they bid us goodbye.
Sailor-Man and I fell into bed at 1:30 AM. We woke this morning feeling a bit traumatized. Our adrenalin was still pumping, I’m sure. He since discovered a crack in our new engine starter and is off to a fix-it shop. Looks like we’ll be tied to this dock for yet another night. Who would have thought our weekend getaway could have turned into this? Like I say, we couldn’t have written the script.
I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that I read Isaiah 61:10 as we began our journey home yesterday. It begins with the words, “I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God.” Sailor-Man and I talked about that sentence and agreed on how easily we can feel overwhelmed when the winds blow and the waves thrash us about both literally and figuratively. But that is sooo not how God intends for His children to live.
God’s desire is for us to navigate life overwhelmed by His goodness, His grace, His holiness, and His faithfulness. Our circumstances might not turn out as we wish. They may, in fact, be so difficult that they leave us feeling traumatized. But keeping our eyes on the unchanging Christ will help us weather the storm.
This I know: I don’t want to have a repeat of yesterday. Ever. But I also know that the LORD my God gave me the strength and courage needed to deal with the happenings. He’ll do the same for you, my friend, because He is overwhelmingly good.
A friend recently messaged me with this question: “How’s the lockdown going for you and Gene? I imagine your sailboat is feeling quite small these days.”
I smiled. Some days I would agree.
Seriously, where does one go to find solitary space on a sailboat? Sailor-Man works at the kitchen table and I generally work at my little desk about two metres away. He disappears into the forward berth and closes the door to make Skype calls, but I can still hear his voice. If that disturbs my concentration, I take my laptop into the cockpit. Problem is, that works only when the sun shines and the wind isn’t blowing.
I’m glad to say that Sailor-Man and I are still best friends. I think that’s quite an accomplishment considering the stresses we’ve weathered this year. On the days I feel overwhelmed, I take a walk and listen to praise music on my phone. Sometimes I sing aloud. Worship helps wash away worry. It also reminds me that God still sits on the throne of heaven. He’s working everywhere, at all times, and especially in me.
I’ve found this season of confinement humbling. It’s revealed areas in my life that need change or growth. It’s forcing me—in a good way—to open my hands and heart in full surrender to the Lord and to say, “Here I am. Change me. Do in me whatever You want. I’m Yours.”
This season has also reminded me of my dependency on the Lord. He’s shown me that He alone is my strength, my peace, my joy. He is the sure foundation that will never give way or fail me. I’m desperate for God. Let the chaos refine me and lead me into greater intimacy with Him.
This season has given me a new appreciation for Noah and his family. How did they handle being confined to their boat for twelve and a half months? (Genesis 8:13-16) We can only surmise. Theirs was truly a complete lockdown—no leaving the premises to buy groceries, take a walk outside, or meet friends in a parking lot while safe distancing.
Did they grow weary of seeing the same people, animals, and walls day after day? Did they complain because they couldn’t go outside or missed sunshine and the taste of fresh veggies? Did they grow bored with doing the same chores?
Maybe they weathered their circumstances with an attitude of worship. They’d experienced the power of God enabling them to build the ark. They’d witnessed Him bring the animals two-by-two. They’d seen Him close the door behind them and cause the rain to fall. And they realized that God, by His astounding mercy, had spared their lives. How could they not worship even though their circumstances were extraordinarily difficult?
A full year passed before God said, “Leave the boat.” Noah built an altar and worshiped with sacrifices of various sorts. (Genesis 8:15-20) Life settled down, and Noah became a farmer. But one day he got drunk and caused huge heartache to his family. (Genesis 9:20-27)
Think about it. Noah survived so much, but he wiped out when the chaos calmed. What happened? Again, we can only surmise. Here’s my thought.
Noah recognized his dependency on God for wisdom and strength leading up to and during his confinement on the ark. He experienced God’s presence and power in amazing ways. But when the stress eased and life returned to normal, he let down his spiritual guard and fell into sin.
Perhaps you’re like me—very aware of your dependency on God during these crazy days. You’re trusting Him to provide and protect. Maybe your prayer life has deepened. Perhaps you’re learning to worship in the midst of your pain. Maybe you’ve surrendered completely to His working in your life in any way He sees fit.
But someday the chaos will settle. The stress will ease and we’ll adjust to a new normal. The human tendency will be for our dependency on God to wane. Let’s remember that Satan is always seeking his next victim, and you and I are on his hit list. We need to maintain our spiritual guard against his evil tactics. As life settles down and things look less desperate, let’s stand firm in our faith, relying on God and recognizing our need for Him then just as we’re doing now.
Sailor-Man and I recently babysat our one-year-old granddaughter Lexi. She loves playing hide-and-seek. It delighted her when I tossed a towel over her head and asked, “Where’s Lexi?”
Adam and Eve played a game of hide-and-seek with God, but it was no laughing matter. They’d disobeyed God when they ate fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Their sin created a chasm between them and their Creator. When evening came, they heard God walking in the garden. Rather than run to meet Him, they withdrew and hid among the trees. That’s when God asked the question: “Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3:1-9)
This wasn’t a playful “come out, come out from wherever you are” tone. I suspect this was more the anguished cry of a father in search of his lost children.
God knew exactly where Adam and Eve were hiding. They weren’t lost to Him in a physical sense, but they were lost spiritually. His question, “Where are you?” was meant to help them consider their position in relationship to Him. He missed their company. He wanted fellowship with them and grieved that they didn’t share His desire.
Adam heard the question and cringed. “I heard you, so I hid,” he said. “I was afraid because I was naked.” (Genesis 3:10)
My heart would break if Lexi hid from me for any reason whatsoever. We can only imagine how God must have felt when His precious son and daughter hid from Him. How different from the psalmist’s open and eager response to God—“My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming’” (Psalm 27:8).
Unlike the psalmist, Adam and Eve hid when God showed up. We sometimes do the same. We might cower behind the tree of unconfessed sin. It may be that we’re hiding during a season of asking questions of our own: If God is so good, then why does He allow suffering? If God loves me so much, then why doesn’t He answer my prayers? How can God love me when I’ve made such a mess of my life? How can God ever forgive me for what I’ve done? We’ve not yet come up with satisfactory answers so we hide among trees of doubt.
Perhaps we hide among the trees of work, family, social media, and even ministry. “I hear You, God. I’ll be there in a minute, okay? I’ve got other stuff happening right now.”
That one describes me. I’ve rolled from one writing deadline and ministry responsibility to another since the beginning of the year. It’s time to examine and re-order priorities. In the past week, I’ve realized that I miss the read-through-the-Bible-in-a year program that I enjoyed for many years, so I’m going back to it. This time I’m going to read it from a chronological perspective. Why, I’ve even started a new journal to record fresh insights. (Today’s blog is the first!)
So, my friend – how would you respond if God walked into your home today, called your name, and asked, “Where are you?” Fill in the blank: “I heard You, so I ___________.”
#FriendshipWithGod #devotions #MyHeartCravesGod
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