Ocean 

The waters increased and lifted up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters prevailed and greatly increased on the earth, and the ark moved about on the surface of the waters.  And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered. And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died. So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     (Genesis 7:17-23)

I have always been fascinated by the ocean. It’s strength. It’s depth. It’s unfathomable beauty.

I am both terrified and awed by it.

I wonder about the sea, the vast depths that, at the very deepest, is over 36,000 feet below sea-level. If Everest were planted at the bottom of the Mariana Trench – the deepest part of the ocean yet measured by human beings found in the western Pacific – there would still be nearly 7,000 feet of water above its peak. Scientists estimate that only about 5% of the ocean’s seascape has been explored by human beings. That is a lot of unseen territory. But what we do know about the depths is pretty fantastic: lifeforms impervious to crushing pressure and total absence of sunlight, daily, violent volcano eruptions, deep-sea hotbeds that can reach temperatures up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit, waterfalls as tall as 3.5 kilometres, and the existence of chemical substances that are yet to be understood, to name but a few. Humanity has vastly more knowledge and understanding of outerspace than they do of the myterious deep.

Recently on vacation in the north Pacific, I enjoyed watching my children frolick in the crashing waves that seemed to rough house them like a playful Saint Bernard. As a non-swimmer, I was extremely vigilant in keeping watch, shouting, “Closer, please,” whenever they inadvertently ventured further from the shoreline.  At times, they would stand up straight to reassure me by revealing the relative depth of the water. But I would not be fooled: I’ve heard of violent undertows and, by instinct, am wary of that which I do not understand. The vast mysteries of the powerful deep, although breathtaking in sensual beauty, can also be literally breath-taking.

My husband and son are captivated by sea lifeforms. Much of their time in the water was spent decked out in breathing aparatus that allowed them to spend long periods of time under water, chasing various species of fish and other wildlife. I watched them in amazement, rear-ends sticking up above the sea-surface in hot pursuit, oblivious to life above. Indeed, what lies beneath is wonder-ful.

As I re-read Genesis with my children last night, I came upon this verse, captioned above. I am seeing something that I have always read, but have never really taken note of before: God used the waters to destroy sinful humanity and the earth’s surface, defiled by man’s presence. But He did not destroy the creatures of the deep, only those that dwelt on land and those of the air. Why, exactly, is this such a revelation to me?

I am, once again, struck by two things:  the wonder of His Creation, and the inerrant truth of His Word that reveals, more and more, the realities of our physical world. The mysteries of the deep are no mystery at all when I contemplate the ways of the Almighty. When I ponder the lifeforms of the deep – an estimated one million species (although only about 230,000 have been observed), I marvel at how many of these might have existed since the day of Creation, never before seen by the human eye. I am amazed by their survivability, their indestructability. I wonder about God’s untenable instrument (the word used in the literal sense, not figurative sense, as in the French, “tenir” meaning “to hold”), singularly chosen for life and for destruction. I stand in awe of the power of the ocean, so acutely congruous to a mighty, unstoppable God.

By day’s end, I could stand it no longer. The refreshing draw of the glistening, salt-clean waters beckoned me. I jumped in. The surge of each wave lifted me up and threw me onto the sand like driftwood, entirely indifferent to my humanity. I had no control, could only succumb to the unspeakable force that could conceivably snap me in two like a twig. But as I realized that, this too, was the work of God, I suddenly became more at ease. I admired it, reveled at it. Respected it and revered it. Prayed for safety in it. Then, rejoiced in it.  Jesus commanded the waters to be calm (Matt 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25). Indeed, even in this, He is in control.

Alas, I laughed.  Laughed long and hard as this miracle of God bobbed and tossed me about, throwing me safely back to the warm shore almost as soon as it had dragged me out, like a child given momentary reprieve from a tickling onslaught. My children and a few of those around us watched me in wonder, suddenly transformed from overly-cautious safety marm to giggling peer.

All I can say is, it was wonderful.

He gathered the oceans into a single place;       He put the deep water into storehouses. Let all the world fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.   

(Psalm 33: 7-8)

Thank you, Lord God.

 

 

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Speak

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”                                                             (Proverbs 18:21)

God created the world by speaking it into existence. (Genesis 1)

By speaking it forth, He healed people, forgave their sins, raised them from the dead.                   (Mark 2: 1-12, Luke 7:48, John 11:43)

I don’t know exactly how it works, but there is no denying that there is power in the spoken word. This is not just some silly superstition. It is evident throughout the Bible. Jesus, Himself, is called the Word (John 1:1). 

Countless verses in the Bible deal with the tongue. Countless. The tongue brings life and brings death. When in doubt, we are told to remain silent. Better silence than a tongue misused. (Proverbs 17:28)

The bad guy knows this. This is why his deadliest temptation of human beings comes by our tongue. Not lusts of the eyes or body.  But our tongue. Deadliest because it is an innocuous little muscle, employed unobtrusively in daily functions. The mole you would never suspect.

I have often wondered why, when I get angry or frustrated, a dam breaks inside of me and all I want to do is shout curses at the top of my lungs.

Bad drivers. Inconsiderate people. Difficult colleagues.  A fender-bender. A leak in the roof – again. Plain old meanies of life.  

All I need to do is open my mouth and…how easy it would be! Instant relief, right?

And I’m a rational person. A nice little Christian school teacher, mother of two who prays daily and has even taught Sunday school.  Yup. Confession time.

As if ugly words could fix the problem.

But they are not merely ugly words.The Bible makes it clear that the power that raised Jesus from the dead also lives in us, those who believe. (Romans 8:11, Ephesians 1:19-20)

This is not good news on a bad day.

The bad guy knows that spoken words are powerful. This is why the temptation is so great. Greater than other sins because our tongue is so easy to use! No “on” switches or login passwords. No locks or combinations. No messy physical evidence. Just let loose.

“If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile.” (James 3:26)

There is nothing that makes me feel more ashamed or further away from God than when, out of one side of my mouth I have uttered fragrant prayers to My Lord, then with the other side of my mouth, I proceed to do bloody violence.

What good is it that we teach children in Sunday school, feed the poor, visit the orphans and widows if, with one strike of our tongue, we can bring sulfuric rain upon the earth, killing all that is in its path?

Our tongues make it so easy for the bad guy to pack it in and call it a day. God hates hypocrites, after all.

But there is a flipside, too.  The life-giving part.

“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24)

Indeed, it is easy to “know”, this little secret. We all know it. But will we use our “rudder” to bring ourselves and others to heaven or to hell?

I am too weak. Too given to sin. My body does what I don’t want it to do, and doesn’t do what I want.

But I have another secret weapon.  He Who is not too weak. Whose Word is Strong. Mighty. Awesome. Wonderful. Invincible.

And He lives in me.

When that dam threatens to break, I will shout it out at the top of my lungs:

“Lazarus, come forth!”  (John 11:43)

 

 

Seen

“Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, ‘Have I also here seen Him who sees me?'” (Genesis 16:13)

Oh to be Seen!  Known.

By someone who loves and cares for you.

At the start of every new semester at school, I make an effort to learn the names of all my students – eighty to ninety of them – on the first day of school. I make each one of them repeat their name every time I ask for it on day one, then I let my eyes rest on each one of them, mentally repeating their name, everytime I ask them a question.

At the end of the first class, I repeat all their names to them, even the more obscure ones of a different ethnicity. By day two, I can usually still remember at least 99% of them.

Imagine the look on their faces when I say hello to them in the halls by name throughout the first week!

I love it. The look on their faces. That look that says, “Wow – she knows my name!”

It is difficult to believe that the God of the Universe knows each of us by name. And not only that, but that we have His undivided attention. At every second of the day.  We are not merely His student. We are His child.

Hagar was an Egyptian slavegirl, given to Abram by his wife, Sarai, to conceive a child. I cannot imagine being told to marry someone who owned me, and then forced to have a child with a man who did not even love me. Add to that indignity being treated like a piece of trash afterwards, taken out to the curb – not just me, but my child as well.   It is too much to bear.

But God – the God of Love and Compassion –  sees Hagar in her despair. He first gives her practical advice for a pregant slave woman in her situation: go back to her mistress and submit.

In her gratitude, Hagar cries out, “You-Are-the-God-Who-SeesYou-Are-the-God-Who-Sees!”

I recall a time before I became a Christian, a time when words cannot describe the sense of loneliness and bewilderment I felt. I was a young person, far from home, struggling to understand who I was and whether there was a place for me in a fickle and often unkind world. 

I was sitting on my bed, eyes entirely blinded by tears, with my textbooks open in front of me, when I suddenly stopped. I heard a voice in my heart that said, “Just keep going.” And it was as if my vision cleared, right then and there, and a sense of hope was restored in my spirit. The words in my textbook suddenly made sense, and like Hagar, I submitted to the voice I heard in my heart. I knew that somewhere out there, Someone, cared about me.

I did as I heard. I kept going.

When Hagar later gives birth to a son, things get really rough. She is cast out by her masters, along with her child. Basically left for dead.

But she is not forgotten. The God who loves her, who has seen her, opens her eyes and she sees a well of water.

I have always wondered why God would show such love to Hagar – a non-Israelite. Not much else is said about her except “God was with the lad,” (Genesis 21:20), her son, presumably because he was Abram’s son also. As for Hagar, herself, who knows? Did she continue to nurture a relationship with God based on her encounter with Him, or did she go her own way, falling into sin without a Saviour?  I do not presume to fully understand God’s relationship to Gentiles before Christ, and my research is unclear.  What I do know is that God sees us – then and now.

I am so thankful that He saw me, alone in my room, in my affliction. He knew me, even when I did not know Him and wondered, like Hagar, “‘Have I also here seen Him who sees me?'”  But God continued to speak to me numerous times throughout those years, continually reminding me that He knew my name, until finally, I knew His.

My prayer, today, is for all people to know this. This exquisite knowledge:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well…Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17)

He knows me!

 

 

Overcome

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)

Most days, I crash.

Right after coming home from school. I throw myself on the couch. I am unconscious in about ten seconds. Totally spent.

A troubled boy swore at me,  waving his fist in my face. An underperforming girl sneered at me during a detention, declaring, “My mom’s not going to be happy about this. A fellow teacher refused to share materials with me when I’m unexpectedly assigned his course. I’ve been told an ex-student has just committed suicide…

Not every day is so unpleasantly eventful. But these incidents are a regular part of the job.

And this is just my small world.

Then I read or watch the news: people mowed down by a terrorist truck while walking to work; another teenage girl commits suicide after being bullied on the Internet; a man and woman are convicted of beating their toddler to death. People of differing opinions physically assault each other in a political rally…

Now, especially with social media, everyone has an opinion on everything that happens: “You’re an idiot!” or “You don’t know what you are talking about, you *&##@#$!!” or “Go crawl back under your rock you bleepin’ bigot!”

Even when we try to do good, we do it badly, with our self-righteous judgements, indignant posturing, impure motivations…

I never used to understand why some Christians talk about “hastening the day of the Lord.” I mean, life isn’t easy, but do we really want to end it all?

I’m beginning to get it now, more and more. On the days when I am so angry, fed up with it all. This insane world. I reject it. Want to curse it. “You can go to $#@(&*^$@&, world!”

But the more I hate it, the more I realize my powerlessness. I can pipe in with my vitriol, become bitter and closed and hateful…and it wouldn’t change a thing. I would only reaffirm my own complicity in it, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of  God.” (Romans 3:23)

God loves this world. This is why He sent His Son. To save it. Not condemn it.

And if the Perfect God can love it, love me, who am I to condemn it?

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you willhave tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

The Power of Love.

It is the only thing that changes anything.