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Finding Calm in Stormy Seas

the-storm-on-the-sea-of-galilee-rembrandts-painting“All hands on deck!” the captain hollered, as another towering wave crashed over the bow.

The cabin of our barely sea-going vessel was already knee-deep with water. We were bailing as fast as we could, but the storm was beating us down. How do you make headway in a blinding rain when every wave threatens to throw you overboard?

“Cap’n, we’re gonners,” I shouted between bucket fulls. “This little fishing boat’s not…” A mouth full of salt water interrupted me as the next swell tipped us nearly sideways and sent me sprawling. Dragging myself upright, I was surprised to see the death grip I had on my bailing bucket. Nope. Not gone yet.

Thank goodness I’ve got me some sea legs. Always did love being out on the ocean. Those churning waves never bothered me. Never made me queasy either. I’d even tease ’em by standing deck side with feet spread and arms wide to ride the waves like a surfboard. Not a one had ever bucked me off my feet. Until now.

“Just bail, sailor,” shouted the Cap.”Best give that mouth a rest.”

That’s when I saw him – yes him, Jesus, whose bright idea it was to set out across the lake. He was asleep in the stern. SOUND asleep. His head on a pillow, having a nice dream, judging from the peaceful look on his face. Sure, the boat was rocking mightily and the waves were drenching him over and over. But he was paying ’em no mind. Just sleeping.

What was WRONG with this man? “Teacher, can’t you see we’re about to drown here?!”

Another wave, even bigger than the last, submerged the bow and swamped the cabin again. All of us were tossed to our knees as the boat was slammed by the cresting wave. It was a miracle the boat held together at all. Our little crew of twelve was helpless in the face of it.

And there was Jesus coming awake, rising to take in the scene, perfectly balanced and not a hint of falling. No proud bucking bronco rider, he was standing calm and still, like it was nothing, as if there was the firmest of ground under his feet. The look on his face was not panicked or anxious, not worried or rushed. He simply surveyed the splay of men, kneeling waist deep in water to his right and to his left, and frowned.

Then he looked up at clouds and sky and sea and raised a hand to them. “Quiet! Be still!”

And I’ll be damned if the wind didn’t stop and the lake didn’t turn still as a pond on a windless day. And there I was, incredulous and staring, frozen and kneeling at his feet. He shook his head slowly and spoke to me, for I was the closest to hear him. “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

I took the hand that he offered to help me up, and I stood right there. Right in the place where my Teacher stood, I turned to look as he had been looking from the stern of the boat ahead to the bow. The stormy sea still raged to our right and to our left, the ocean roiled, the rains pelted, and the angry clouds persisted. But here where I stood, it was still. Perfectly still. Without exertion, preparation or effort, I could stand as if on solid ground.

“Set a course for straight ahead,” the Teacher said.

Looking around, we could not find him. Not I, nor the Captain, nor the rest. But bailing done and sails raised, the Captain gave the command. “Straight ahead! Steady as she goes.” We set sail with the prevailing wind toward the land on the distant horizon which was our destination. To our right and to our left, I knew the storm raged on. I could hear it. But I didn’t turn to look. My faith depended on it.

I was no longer afraid.

“What kind of man is this? Even the wind and the water obey him!” ~ Mark 4:41

Can We Bring Back Going Steady? What ever happened to going steady?

Happy Days 2Just the thought of it makes me smile, recalling Happy Days with the Fonz and Richie Cunningham sorting out teenage life at the malt shop. Going steady was what a boy did with a girl before asking her out or to the prom. Of course, after school you’d meet up to walk home together.

It may be old fashioned, but these days, going steady sounds really good to me. As a newly minted graduate, a cocky new employee, or a brand new Mom, I figured I knew what I needed to and what I didn’t know I’d look up, figure out or cross my fingers and fake it. the problem with all that individual effort and aptitude is it sets us on the course of our lives leaning WAYYY back on the boards when the boat takes us on the ride of our lives. When gale force winds blow, sailing solo may be exhilarating, but how long can you do that before capsizing? Then you’d better hope the rescue boats get there before the sharks do.

All it takes is one other sailor to balance the boat to keep things steady. If I start to tip, he brings things back upright. If I slip and scrabble for a hand hold, he grabs it and pulls me back. Even if I fall overboard, he hauls me back aboard. Even with the wind at our back, the ablest sailors need steadying. Life is full of rough waters, and navigating them in a one person ship is asking for trouble. To be sure, the voice of self-sufficiency that soon sounds of panic, angst and fear will always be more than happy to join you on the low side.

boat tipping

When life makes waves, we need someone else, one who can steady us. Yes, there will be days of smooth sailing that we can navigate alone or even invite others along for the “joy” ride. But let’s not let those days fool us. When the chop keeps coming and the waves get really big, we will need steadying. Very likely, the one doing the steadying won’t be there right next to you but may seem very far away. That’s because the further we tip, the more He rights.

Going steady may be old-fashioned, but I’d like to see it make a come-back. Smooth sailing is just not normative to human life these days, and the force of the waves seems to be growing. Everyone needs steadying. Thank goodness for the One who is steadfast in the storm.

Stormy seas demand investment and balance

My little family, the part of it still here and not traveling all over Europe, went to the Outback Steakhouse for dinner Saturday night. Not a regular dining spot for us, but the one selected this evening. My 16 year old daughter and I approached the door, and just to the right was a table ably “manned” by several girl scouts.

“Wanna buy some cookies?” one asked, smiling.

“No. We’ve already gotten some,” I replied and reached for the restaurant door.

But scout girl was ready, “You could donate some for the troops,” she said, voice pleading and head tipping to one side.

I stammered, and hemmed, and my daughter shoved me toward the door. “Uh, not this time,” I may have eeked out.

“Enjoy your steak,” she called after me.

Oooohh. Ouch. What a dig, I thought. And I said so to my daughter. She assured me this “little” girl meant nothing by the remark. I wasn’t so sure. To me it meant, ‘Oh, you’re gonna spend your money on a big steak but you don’t have a few dollars for the troops?’ I found it both unkind and indicting.

Happily the girl scouts had gone home when we exited the restaurant. I looked.

But this raised some uncomfortable questions for me.

  • Should I be donating to the troops? Did they really need cookies?
  • Did I need to give?
  • Did I feel compelled to since I had been asked?
  • Why wasn’t I ready with a response?
  • Was the girl right, was I so tight-fisted? 
  • Did she really mean to accuse me by her question or was I just making this up?
  • The kicker: what is my relationship with my dollars, donations, giving, resources?

Because obviously I had some baggage stowed around this issue. Amazing how a 10 year old with a green vest can call this out in me. Guilt around “not giving” when I “should.” Where does this “should” come from, and why have I given it so much power over me that I can’t even say “yes” or “no” to a 10 year old?

True, I grew up in a household where money was “not discussed.” Children were not to know how much Dad made or how much our house cost. We had what we needed and we got, within reason, what we asked for. I don’t ever remember feeling like I had to “go without.” But I never developed a relationship with money. It was something my parents managed for me.

Now that I’m an adult (by most accounts, pardon the pun) money is something I have to deal with. Asking for payment, paying the bills, negotiating the cost. How much are things worth? How much am I worth?

I am fortunate to be married to someone who negotiates these things beautifully. He handles the bills, investing, savings plans and kids education funds. His income is more than sufficient for our needs. Ironically, he grew up in a family where he was challenged to account for his spending. So much so that he even threatened to cut any ties to parental support at one point. In the matter of finances, he is free of dis-health because he was made to negotiate the boundaries.

I was not and don’t experience that freedom. I don’t think I’m alone in this, judging from the financial woes of so many in today’s America. It seems that many, even those well-resourced, settle at the extremes: either “don’t think about it – spend now and pay later” or “think about it constantly  – and hold tight to every penny.” Oblivious or anxious, neither is healthy. We need to attend in a responsible way.

For me it means navigating mid-stream, making course corrections according to the wind and the waves. To say yes, go right, and when it gets choppy, say no, go left, adjusting the sails in the new course. Funny, I’m quite a good swimmer, but sailing never has been my thing. I think God knew this when he put in my mind to marry a man who had a sound footing in finances.

So it’s taken me until middle age to really become the skipper and launch the Fit2Finish (my fitness business start up in 2001, incorporated in 2005 and now writing my way into 2103) skiff into the world of “high finance.” Well, it seems high finance to me when I look at the wind and the waves. I just keep hearing,”Don’t get out of the boat!” I don’t think my swimming will save me and walking on water is not an option.

“Trust me; I’m making you a better sailor.” That’s what the wind whispers. So I set sail on a sea of resources, for which I give God thanks and praise. He has entrusted them to me – a great ballast of responsibility. Let me not be the one who buries them and returns what only what was given. Let me be the one who doubles them and returns them with interest.

No telling how the One who invested in me might magnify the return on that investment. That’s probably good. Don’t put me in charge of the investing, just the day to day spending. Maybe start me with a canoe and some paddles. Bi-lateral effort is my specialty.

Casting off was the tricky part, and there are sure to be waves. But tied to the shore is no place for a sailor like me.

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