Finding Faith in the Storm

I woke suddenly to the boom of an explosion, my heart-thud echoing the blast. In my sleepy-confused state, I lifted my eye mask and glanced around the bedroom cast in early gray light. Had it been fireworks? A blown transformer?

No, there it was again: thunder crack so loud I shook; seconds later, a charge of lightning zapped the gloom.

In the fourteen years I’ve lived in Northern California I can’t recall a single summer thunder-and-lightning storm. After days of oppressive, record-breaking heat, rain felt refreshing. Unusual heat, followed by an unusual storm; unusual, like most of 2020.

Which got me thinking about other storms, like this one:

23 As they sailed, [Jesus] fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.
24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”
He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.
In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him” (Luke 8:23-25).

The disciples were in the boat because Jesus asked them to go to the other side of the lake. They sailed while He fell peacefully to sleep. Jesus must have been exhausted, because he stayed asleep during their storm-battle. Experienced fishermen among them, it must have been exceedingly bad for them to panic as they did.

They woke Jesus. I would have, too, wouldn’t you?

As I reread this story, I realized I’ve been reading it wrong since forever. Jesus rebuked the wind and water; He didn’t rebuke the disciples. I’ve read His question, “Where is your faith?” as a rebuke, but that’s not what it says.

Jesus calmed the storm, and then turned to calm His amazed disciples, to remind them that He deserved their faith.

2020 has hurled all manner of storms our way: a global pandemic; unemployment and/or financial insecurity; political and racial tension; distance learning; the cancellation of oh-so-many celebrations and traditions; isolation and loneliness; mental health turmoil; frustrated and angry people at every turn; devastating fires in Australia, Colorado, and again in California (the NorCal fires resulted from those lightning strikes); I could go on, and you’d have your own storms to add to the list.

We all recognize that 2020 has been a whopper of a year, and I don’t mean delicious. But the storm last weekend reminded me of the storm in Scripture that reminds all Jesus’ followers that Jesus is with us in the storm. We can have faith. No matter what, He is here.

Not all storms are bad, some might even be refreshing, and especially if they send you running to Jesus. Jesus will never rebuke us for running to Him during our storms. He won’t be angry when we “wake” Him, and He never wakes up sleepy-confused. He knows the score: God always wins, even when the game looks like an upset from our perspective.

Take heart, friends. Jesus is with you, a calming presence in every storm. Put your faith in Him.

Cover image: Craig Mole Photography, sfgate.com

“Living and Lingering in Love”

My intention in starting this blog was to chronicle the places and times my eyes caught a glimpse of the Divine among the mundane. So where I have seen God this week?

In too many ways to count, actually!

Last Monday I led a devotional for a church ministry leadership team. We’ve been reading a book together and this phrase, “living and lingering with the Father who loves me,” grabbed hold of my heart. I could have treated the devo like one more thing on my To Do list and I could have led it as such, but instead I used it to provide an opportunity for us to linger in God’s love.

Instead of spending a lot of time discussing a chapter any of us could read I took us to Luke 8, the Parable of the Sower. The thing God impressed upon me from Luke 8 is that the primary difference between the fertile soil and the others is that the good soil not only receives God’s Word but clings to it. I hear a lot of God’s Word, but how do I cling to it? There’s the challenge. So this week I began writing about God’s Word, for myself, as a way of lingering with God in conversation about His Word. There are certainly other ways to cling to God’s Word, but this is working for me.

Tuesday I had the opportunity to host a lovely friend for lunch in my backyard. We talked about the challenges of a busy ministry schedule, and that while programs are well and good, Jesus fostered relationships. Relationships require time to ‘waste’ together. She told me some of the ways she has been intentional in relationships with her immediate neighbors and with those in her ‘neighborhood’ – coffee shop and friends of friends, mostly. I am encouraged to look for relational opportunities, to linger.

Wednesday the church staff had a great conversation about the need for water, and how new shoots grow from old plants in the right conditions, which led to a discussion about how we can tend to the new shoots who participated in our spring break Mexico house building trip. That afternoon I took Teen on a spontaneous coffee run and saw two teenage girls in the coffee shop, one meeting with an adult from our church and the other who told me she’d met with her team leader the day before. I hadn’t planned to be at that coffee shop at that time, but God allowed me a few extra minutes in order to show me that it doesn’t take a lot of program for relationships to develop – it just takes willing adults ready to foster relationships in His name.

Also Wednesday a friend told me about her amazing experience on a two-week trip to Ghana to work at a preschool. She’s well-rounded in mission experience but this trip grabbed her heart differently. How so? Her specific skill set is exactly what the Ghanaian school needs, and she saw just in two weeks the difference she’s already made and a vision for what else she can do. Joy overflowed in her stories. She can’t wait to go back, and those listening can’t wait to hear what happens next – isn’t that a great way to build a support team?

Friday Guy and I took a much-needed day to spend together. We went to Napa, just over an hour’s drive from our home, for a wine and chocolate tasting, a Christmas gift experience Guy arranged for me. We talked and laughed, we sipped and enjoyed. We made conversation with the winery employee who served us, and we joined the wine club to continue the experience – and potentially, the relationship with our new friend. We ate lunch outside at one of our favorite spots and we walked around the gourmet marketplace next door. After a stressful few months of too much work and a resulting strained relationship, the day was exactly what we needed.

Friday night we hosted friends new and old for a barbecue. Kids and adults, people who’ve known each other for years and others only for a few hours, mixed and mingled and felt welcome. It’s exactly what I want for our home: for people to know they are welcome, to relax and enjoy and be together.

Saturday was all about time with Tween and a baseball game where encouragement flew faster than the ball, and today I’ve set aside for Teen and his final rugby match of the season. We’ll have hours together in the car and then I’ll do the thing I do best as Mom, cheering him on from the sidelines.

Living and lingering in love – that’s what Jesus modeled, and that’s what I want to be about. Less busy-ness, more love. Yes!