Asleep in the Storm

Reference: Matthew 8:23-27 ~ Mark 4:35-41 ~ Luke 8:22-25

I have never been sea sick before but right now I am getting the full experience. The boat has been rocking for hours and I don’t think I can take it any longer. I lean over the side of the boat and let out a moan.

Maybe we made a mistake in taking this trip across the sea. At first when we set out there was nothing but a blue sky and a gentle breeze. Now dark clouds have crowded the horizon accompanied by strong gusts of wind.

“You’re not use to this are you?” one disciple laughs, seeing me in my sickened condition.

I shake my head. I really don’t see why he laughed when he asked the question. I don’t feel like laughing at all.

There is always that inward struggle where you have to weigh the need to throw up against the possibility of getting by without doing the disgusting act. I’ve been having this inward struggle the past few moments. Finally, I’ve come to the decision that it is just inevitable and I let it flow. Luckily I didn’t have a big lunch.

When I finish I look and see Jesus asleep in the stern. I’ve noticed that sometimes real life noises that occur when someone is sleeping can become a part of their dreams. Hopefully I didn’t just give Jesus a bad dream because I wasn’t quiet.

“The wind seems to be getting stronger,” I say, a little concerned.

“Oh that’s nothing!” Peter replies. “I had a day once where we were fishing in winds ten times as strong as this!”

This starts the disciples sharing their countless stories about past experiences in stormy waters. I just can’t seem to stomach their conversation at the moment. I look at Jesus again. It seems so funny that he lays in complete peace, able to shut everything else out so well.

I should follow his example and lay down across from him, I think. Maybe he can teach me a few things about being calm. I don’t know why this urge comes over me but I give into it and join Jesus in the stern.

I try to imitate him in his position of rest. He opens his eyes and sees me lying on the opposite side of the boat from him. I can see the peace in his eyes and the calm on his face. I don’t see his lips move but something seems to almost whisper the words, “Stay here. Stay in peace.”

I’m not really sure what is getting ready to happen but I decide to obey the silent words. Before long I realize my stomach ache is gone even though the tossing and rocking seems to have increased. The other disciples have quieted into hushed tones and I know they are beginning to be worried. This makes me worried too.

A sudden, violent wind howls across the sea and wreaks havoc on our little boat. I turn my eyes to see the disciples struggling to stand in the force of the wind. Their clothes appear glued against their bodies as a sea mist is being sprayed into their eyes. My heart begins to race at this sight. Things are getting worse and we could be in great danger. I just about get up to see if I can help the disciples when my eye catches sight of Jesus still lying in peace.

My full gaze turns back to him and our eyes meet. I realize he wants me to forget about the storm around us, forget about the waves, the wind, and the danger. I can see that he wants me to remain where I am, resting in peace.

If I’m going to do what he is wanting then I can’t keep pulling my gaze away to see the storm. I have to keep my eyes locked onto his eyes and keep my gaze locked onto his face. I make a decision to keep my eyes focused on him no matter what happens.

I hear a disciple scream a high pitched squeal and then suddenly a wall of water rushes over the side of the boat. The wave crashes into our boat and soaks me completely through.  But I work hard on keeping sight of Jesus.

The sky is now so dark someone might think it is the middle of the night. The wind continues to beat against us relentlessly. The waves have grown and seem to keep growing as they crash one right after another over top of us.

I hear the disciples yelling out commands and exclamations. They seem to be getting louder but making less sense. I can tell they are scared to death. Even with their screaming and the water that keeps washing over me, I am still able to stay focused on Jesus.

He is so calm. He is so peaceful. And even though it feels like our boat is almost upside down at times, I feel completely at rest. It almost seems wrong that I feel so peaceful. Shouldn’t I be up doing something right now? Shouldn’t I be helping the disciples in trying to fight the storm? Shouldn’t I be concerned? Am I being stupid and heartless to be resting at a time like this?

All these questions are silenced as I stare into the eyes of Jesus. He closes his eyes and I do the same. I can still see him even with my eyes closed. I can still see his beautiful eyes of peace and I relax knowing he is in control. My spirit seems to hear him say once more, “Stay here. It’s not about the storm around you but who is in the boat with you. I am peace. Stay here. Stay with me.” Those words echo through my mind over and over and over.

The shouts from the disciples grow louder. Suddenly all their voices are yelling in my direction.

“Master!!! Master!!! Wake Up!!”

My eyes are jolted open and I see all the disciples hanging on for dear life looking at Jesus asleep in the stern. Their shouts are for him as he is their last hope for survival.

“Don’t you care we’re about to die!? Our boat is sinking!!! We’re going to drown! How on earth can you be asleep! Are you going to save us!?”

I have never seen the disciples so scared before. The blood has drained from their faces and they look worn out from fighting this enormous storm.  Years seem to have been added to them in just a few minutes.

Jesus sits up and I do the same. My eyes quickly verify that we are indeed in trouble. Our boat is sinking, filling up with water, and the huge waves are about to capsize us completely.

Jesus looks out over the sea and the storm and says with authority, “Peace! Be quiet!”

The words are so simple yet so electric with power. The wind stops immediately and the sea slowly dies down until it becomes smooth as glass. The sun even begins to break through the clouds as the darkness dissipates. The danger had felt so real at the time but when things changed so quickly and drastically it almost made you question the reality of the storm.

Everything is so calm. It occurs to me that it is simply the manifestation of the reality Jesus was already experiencing in the middle of the storm. Out of peace he commanded peace. The great calm we now experience is the outward circumstances aligning with the world of peace Jesus was always in.

The circumstances around our boat were made subject to the peace of God. I realize that the storm that was trying to act big and scary was actually fake compared to the reality of God.

“Where is your faith?” Jesus asks, looking at each and every disciple after this great miracle.

I can tell they are just as much in awe as I am. In one command he changed the entire weather outlook for the day. In one command he silenced a storm. We worshiped him in awe and adoration.

In my heart I felt God speaking to me. It isn’t about the storm. The storm isn’t the reality you should live by. Life is never about the storm. It is about the One who commands the storm, the One who is peace itself, and the One who is in the boat with you.

*Interesting Side Note: After crossing the sea, Jesus set a madman free then got back into the boat and left. It might be said that he came across the sea just for that one demon possessed man. Isn’t true that the storms we endure aren’t exactly about us (though they seem to be at the time) but are actually for the freedom of someone else.

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Beautiful Beggar (Short Story) Acts 3:1-11

I feel kind of helpless as I’m being carried up this long row of stairs. The two men hold me up as they ascend step after step.

“I really would help you if I could,” I say half-jokingly.

“You seem to have put on weight since yesterday,” one of the men laughs.

“Well, we’re almost there,” I encourage.

There are only two types of people in the world: The beggar and the giver. Now, I’m proud to say I’m a professional beggar. I’m not ashamed of it. Some beggars I run into are ashamed of their profession. They feel bad asking people for money without performing some sort of work. I guess I’m different in that respect: One, I have absolutely no problem asking people for money and two, I wouldn’t say the money isn’t hard earned – begging is a lot of work.

The reality is most people are beggars they just don’t know it. They argue their case and try to point out how they’ve never asked for anything from anybody but the truth can be seen in their faces. Deep down they are longing for something, begging for something more.

“Just set me down in my usual spot, thanks,” I say to the men carrying me as we reach our destination.  “Ah! Easy now!”

The men set me down gently in front of the Temple gate we have affectionately dubbed the Beautiful Gate. I’ve sat in front of this same gate for many years now mainly because it’s almost always busy. In my profession you have to be where the people are and that’s why the key point in my marketing strategy is location, location, location.  I also picked this gate because I feel like the name is a very accurate description of my complexion.

“Here’s your pay.” I hand out the coins to the two men who carried me to my spot. “Now don’t forget to come back tonight to pick me up!”

“We won’t,” they say, chuckling to themselves. “We haven’t forgotten you for years now!”

I smile at them. “Yes, I know but eight years ago you did forget me.”

“That was only once!” they argue. “And that was during a nasty storm that came through . . . “

“I know,” I interrupt. “Now hurry up and leave. Here comes a lady who looks like an easy target.”

As my two friends slowly ease away I see my first customer approaching. She is a middle aged lady, probably married, and who looks well off.

“Isn’t God good?” I say when she’s in earshot.

“What’s that?” she asks, coming closer.

“I said, isn’t God good?” It has always been my philosophy to start off with a religious comment that has nothing to do with the fact I want money.

She pauses for a moment. “Are you a beggar?”

She isn’t buying my small talk.  “I don’t like to call myself a beggar,” I answer in sincerity.

“Really? Why not?”

“Well, I think the public perception of the word ‘beggar’ isn’t always positive. The problem is, I haven’t settled on an alternative title for myself but I’ve been kicking around a few ideas.”

I can tell the lady is amused by my reply. “So what are your ideas?”

“Well,” I begin, acting a little embarrassed to share my ideas. “I’m not exactly sold on it, but I like the phrase Empty Vessel. It sounds religious, sort of humble, and yet implies the fact that I want you to give me something.”

The lady laughs at my explanation. I have her right where I want her. My begging technique is to strike a conversation with the customer, keep it funny, and keep it honest. I’ve been far more successful using this method than trying to pull on the heart strings and put on a fake show.

“Empty Vessel, huh? I kind of like it. So, how long have you been crippled?” the lady asks.

“All my life! But I don’t let that detour me from my calling!”

“Oh I’m sorry. Well, that’s the spirit to have! What do you consider to be your calling?”

“To be an Empty Vessel,” I say, smiling slowly.

She shakes her head and laughs. “Alright, here you go,” she says, tossing me some coins. “And to answer your first question, yes, God is good.”

“He sure is,” I whisper to myself as she walks away and I put the coins into my collection box.

“Look here,” a man’s voice suddenly says, coming out of nowhere.

I look up to see two men staring at me with marked attention. I can’t believe how easy it is going today! One right after another! I start to say something but the man beats me to it.

“I don’t have any silver or gold . . .” the man begins.

That’s a bummer, I think to myself. Not much I want from him if he doesn’t have any money.

“But what I do have,” the man continues, “I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!”

I can hardly believe my ears. Walk? Is he crazy?! I can’t walk! I’ve heard of Jesus before but . . .

“Whoa!!” I cry as the man grabs me by the hand and pulls me up to my feet. “I’m not quite ready for this!” I try to object.

Before I completely know what has happened, I am on my feet standing without any pain. I think my feet register the miracle quicker than my brain as I suddenly start running and jumping and going wild.

Finally my mouth gets wind of what has happened. “I’m healed! I’m healed! I’m healed! Praise God! I’m healed!” I shout at the top of my lungs.

The two men are laughing and praising God right along with me! Whoever this Jesus of Nazareth is I want more!

In my ecstatic joy, I see one of my co-beggars watching me with his mouth wide open. Suddenly it dawns on me: I’m not a beggar anymore! All these years I’ve been begging for money, money, and more money but what I really needed was a touch from God delivered by these two men.

I look around as I continue jumping for joy and I see all the other people – not just beggars but common people and religious scholars – they are all in search of something. They think activities, work, people, money, and pleasure is what they crave. They think doing religious routines will satisfy their souls. But I finally know that what they really desire, what they are really begging for is an encounter with God. Mine came just now, simply because two men took the time, not to give me money and just keep going, but to stop and extend to me the invitation to experience the glory of God.

Ever Had a Dream That Just Won’t Die?

It has been said that if you can imagine your dream fulfilled then you’re not dreaming big enough. Well, I guess that’s been my philosophy with PBMP (Peace Builders Media Productions). Who knows where it will take me but that’s the great thing about a dream isn’t it?

In Mark 10 Jesus says all things are possible with God. This is a big statement for those who are afraid. If Jesus was telling the truth (and we know He was) then the sky is the limit for us believers! So why not let God’s dream (which is entirely huge) become our own dream?

In the Gospel of John, Jesus repeatedly says, “Ask anything in my name and I will do it.” What?!!!!! That’s craziness right? But if Jesus kept saying it then I guess we ought to start doing it. Why not ask for big things? Why not dream big? Why should I put a limit on what Jesus wants to do for me?

My dream for PBMP involves a college for the arts, a school for upcoming movie directors, a place where Christian actors can work in a pure environment, a hub for Christian media and creativity, and a company that produces amazing films, TV shows, and books. These are just some of the things I see in my dream.

“But your dream is just your own imagination,” you might say. But what if God took my imagination and made it His own desire too! What if He was the one who gave me this crazy, wild, huge dream? I guess we’ll wait and see.

What is God dreaming through you?

Pure & Simple Show

Have this great idea for a show.

The show would be about 15 minutes long and would be a series of marriage counseling sessions. Of course it would be a comedy.

I’ve got my characters in my head. I’ve got the first episode script drafted. Now where to I go from here? I’m not sure yet. Life has been so stinkin’ busy I have barely had time to sleep!

I’ll try and keep you posted. By the way, I went to Asia this summer on a mission trip. Loved it.

Short Story – Another Day of Homeschooling

I look out the window and sure enough – it is snowing! I get up from my desk for a better view out the window. The snow is coming down slowly yet steadily. I can feel the cold coming off of the window and I see the stiff earth; concluding the snow should be able to accumulate on the ground.

“If only it had done this during the night,” I sigh as I turn back to my school.

Fifth grade math is not what I want to do right now. I rub my forehead as I try to focus. Why does the book give you so many problems to complete in one day? I suddenly hear footsteps and I turn to see John entering my room.

“It’s snowing,” he comments.

“I know. I wish I didn’t have to do school today!” I say, letting out an even longer sigh. Why does school always seem to get extra hard when something exciting is happening?

John leaves the room and I glance over my math. Cross multiplying fractions isn’t seeming to click. I turn to my English and see it’s more verbs and adverbs. I was thinking of a few at the moment – swiftly sledding or perhaps joyfully freed!

I get back up out of my chair, back to my position of gazing out the window. Joy and Hope won’t be able to come over again today since they had just been here yesterday; John is leaving for work around noon; and the snow won’t be high enough to sled until maybe tonight.  I guess I don’t have anything else to do so I might as well draw out my school work.

The minutes fly by and soon Mom is out walking. I open up my history and begin to read about the dark ages. I feel like I can relate to the dark ages at the moment. I still haven’t completed my math or English.

“I guess I should go do my chores,” I eventually say after History has lost its interest as well.

My chores consist of the dishes, sweeping the floor, and taking out the trash. I usually do this while Mom is walking that way I can crank the music way up while I work.

It is twelve-thirty and I am finally done with my chores. John is gone for work and I am home all alone. I fix my lunch and am finishing up just as I see Mom coming up the steps to our house, back from walking. I sit down and look out the window at the snow still falling. How I would love to be outside right now.

Mom comes in the door. I look at the clock and see it is almost one. I take a bite of my sandwich and watch as Mom unravels her scarf and unbuttons her coat.

“Is it cold outside?” I wonder.

“The temperature is dropping. The wind makes it cold,” she replies.

“I wonder if we’ll get enough to sled on,” I say.

“Oh,” Mom says, as if I reminded her of something, “the kids will be coming over today. Andrea and I will be going shopping.”

I am in shock. “What time?”

“She said she’d be by at two.”

My mind races. I have only finished History and Bible and another chapter in my book which wasn’t exactly school. I gulp down my lunch and race upstairs. I only have sixty minutes to finish the rest of my school work.

I quickly pull out my math and begin completing the problems. Next, it’s on to English. I’m not sure I understand what I’m reading but I get through this as well. My last subject to complete – science. I haven’t even opened my science lesson today. Hopefully it isn’t much.

I open the lesson and see a very long lecture followed by fifty questions! Of all the days! I look at the clock once again, it’s ten till two. I sigh and turn to my lesson. I’m never going to make it if I read the whole lesson word for word.

“I’m just going to have to get the gist,” I say out loud. I quickly begin scanning the lesson and grabbing the main points. Then I move on to the problems. Ten minutes and fifty problems later I am done! It is amazing how much you can learn what a lesson was about by just answering the questions!

Just then I hear Joy, Hope, and Josiah ascending the stairs to my room. The snow is still falling, I notice so I might just get to play in it after all.

Living Sacrifice

“I beseech you therefore, brethern, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice . . .” – Romans 12:1

I was reading this scripture just last night and something stuck out to me. In the Old Testament a sacrifice was always killed or given up. Most of the time it was an animal that died in order to cleanse someone from sin.

When Paul said present your bodies as a living sacrifice, he was saying something totally new. Unlike in the Old Testament, our sacrifice is not in dying. In fact the Bible clearly says that Christ made us alive when we were once dead in our trespasses.

So what am I getting at? In the Old Testament a living animal became a dead sacrifice. In the New Testament we, once dead, become a living sacrifice to God. We don’t dedicate our lives by simply dying – that was the old covenant and the new is so much better! We dedicate our lives by living for God! Another example of how the new covenant brings life where the old brought death.

Just like death causes complete surrender so our lives are to be in complete surrender. Just like a dead sacrifice no longer gets back up to serve itself so we must remain faithful to our cause – the Lord Jesus.

This is a voluntary sacrifice but it is a “rational” one. It is our “reasonable” duty. And most importantly it is our joy!

Walk-Through Video

Okay, so I just finished making my third walk-through video of a house for a construction company. I can definitely see some areas for improvement but practice makes perfect!

This video actually took about five hours to make. One hour to shoot and four hours to edit.Used a tape log for the first time and that really helped in sorting out the clips. Could have taken longer without the tape log.

Also, I tried out some homemade equipment on this video such as a homemade dolly and a homemade boom for the camera. I don’t think I’ll be using either one again next time. I’m sure I can build some better equipment next time. 🙂

Anyway, here is the video: