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A Letter from Pastor Anita: Riding the Waves

Oh that I had the wings of a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest-
Psalm 55:5

Ever feel like David as he writes this prayer?  If only I could fly away…

When I was a child, I used to love riding the waves.  The goal: to swim out far enough to catch a wave before it broke, and ride on the crest of that wave all the way to the shallows.  When it worked the ride was exhilarating- so worth the effort!  More often the ride was short-lived as the power of the wave diminished.  And sometimes, when I miss-timed my efforts, I would find myself drawn under the wave… held under… being tossed about without control. Sometimes before I could reach the surface and draw a breath, a second wave would come forcing me under again and again.  Those moments were a test of how long I could hold my breath. They tried my endurance and tempted me with fear.  I had lived near the coast my whole life, so I knew the stories of those who did not survive that struggle.

Life can feel like wave riding.  When all the pieces come together, the ride is exhilarating!  Relationships thrive, work is successful, home is beautiful.  More often the ride is simple, mundane, safe.  But recently, many have felt the power of this COVID reality drawing us under, holding us under, testing our endurance.  The waves are invisible to the eye, and yet so real.  We are tossed, threatened, tested… some struggle to break the surface to catch a breath.  If only… King David’s yearning to fly away is a dream we wish would come true.  We need to escape the pressure that holds us under… We need rest, refreshment… we need to breathe… Where do we find rest?

As I write this letter, I am preparing to go on our family vacation.  We had planned to go to Iceland this summer in honor of my parents.  Their favorite duty station in their Navy career was Keflavik, Iceland.  They left us the resources to go as a family, to see what they loved, and walk where they walked.  But Iceland has closed their boarders to US citizens this summer because of COVID19, so the Bell family is going to the Poconos. Now I am dreaming of boating adventures and popcorn-movie nights, afternoons bent over a puzzle and family games, long dinners prepared together and bedtime stories with our granddaughters. We don’t need to go to Iceland to find the blessing of a family vacation.  I am so excited about time away… time together… time to breathe.  I know that this gift is a luxury not all can find these days, so I plan to treasure the moment and be thankful. A moment of rest… Yet as precious as the moment will be, it will still be just that- a moment.  And then I will face the waves again…

So today I am wondering what patterns of life can help us navigate the waves.  How do we continue to breathe, to live, even to thrive in the midst of what seems like the never-ending wave?  I think good answers are found in the life of Jesus and his disciples.  As I read, I see no evidence that they ever took a vacation.  The struggle of their daily lives was relentless.  We see Jesus pressed on all sides by the need of the people and the opposition of the religious leaders.  After the resurrection, that same pressure pressed in on the apostles.  The waves came one after the other in such a succession that it would have drowned most of us.  Yet, we see the believers living victoriously in the midst.  Here are a few lessons that we can learn from them:

1. I Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.”  
  • We usually rejoice when life is going well.  But Paul encouraged the people to rejoice even in their suffering.  He taught that those moments were when we would see the hand of God at work in our lives. (Romans 5:1-5) 
  • We usually pray sporadically at best, with divided attention.  But Paul called us to share in a chorus of prayer with our fellow believers- each adding to the symphony so that our shared prayer never ceases.  [Check out Facebook Prayer, M-W-F @7pm]
  • We usually give thanks for what God has done.  But imagine giving thanks for what God will do, tuning our hearts to the anticipation of God’s good.
2.  Matthew 14:23 “When it was evening, Jesus went on the mountainside by himself to pray.
  • Jesus had a pattern to his prayer life.  Those moments with his Father were precious and essential, so Jesus wove them into his life rhythms.  The gospel writers describe Jesus praying in the evening… often on a mountainside.  Finding a pattern, a time and place, helps to protect us from allowing days to slip by without prayer. 
  • Jesus found time to be alone.  Many of us struggle to find alone time.  But Jesus was in more demand than any of us and he still carved out that time.  That break from the demand allowed Jesus to breathe, to listen, to be refreshed.
3.  Luke 24:30 “Jesus sat at table with them.  He took the bread, gave thanks and broke it.
  • This scene is echoed throughout the gospel story.  Jesus loved to sit at table and share a meal.  Those moments refreshed the body and strengthened relationships.  The food was simple, the time essential.  Notice in those stories, Jesus focuses on the people at the table… no email… no texts… no TV shows…  In the course of a year we eat over 1000 meals.  Make some of those count! One of our members, who lives alone, Facetimes with her granddaughter while she drinks her morning coffee.

Friends, search God’s word for more lessons… find your patterns for riding the waves.

With you in the surf! Anita

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