Wednesday, June 23, 2010

God's Protection at the OBX

God protects.

Earlier in June, my family and I traveled to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We logged more than 2,700 interstate miles on worn tires that we replaced within two weeks of our return. (Smart of us to push it that far, true.)

We played in the ocean, safely avoiding areas with an undertow. We navigated restaurants, convenience stores and tourist spots full of strangers with our precious children.

How many times on our trip did God send His angels in regard to our ways? How many times did He enfold each of us in His divine blanket of security? In what ways was He our strong tower? We do not know how many times, and in how many ways in the span of nine days of vacation He protected us. Praise my God and Rock!

But I do know the children and I drove safely from Des Moines to Chicago to meet up with their dad where he had been at a company meeting, and we arrived happy and healthy. I know my son experienced no breathing problems, even though he swam in chlorinated water a few times. Often, chlorinated pool water causes reactive airway issues for him. We drove through busy cities with inattentive and risk-taking drivers, and over high, curvy mountain passes. Our teenage daughter drove shifts on the unfamiliar interstate, safely.

In the ocean, I safely swirled my tween daughter out of the way of a little jellyfish, and my son out of the way of a little red octopus. Just call me Mama Bear. But that’s only because God showed me the jellyfish and octopus, and gave me the instinct and bravery. I confess, the red octopus, I learned from an OBX resident, was likely a plastic deep-sea fishing lure. Funny.

God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe,

And he is the fortress where I feel secure.

God saves me and honors me.

He is that mighty rock where I find safety.

Trust God, my friends,

And always tell him each one of your concerns.

God is our place of safety.

Psalm 62:6-8 CEV

Bad things happen, though. I know. It’s not easy to sort out. We offer up many why questions to God. He can handle our honest, even angry, questions.

Sometimes God allows the hard days, and the mean in people to come our way to realign our priorities, to strengthen us for a new purpose, or to show those around you how He carries people through hard times. God must have a myriad of reasons for not swooping down like a helicopter parent every time the world throws us a curve ball.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

James 1:2-4 NLT

Maybe that sounds like an excuse or a platitude. But I still can’t shake the truth of His divine protection.

Back to driving concerns. After our departure from the coastline, we headed inland to Fayetteville, N.C., to enjoy a barbecue with family we hadn’t seen in several years. On the journey, my husband looked over at me because a Bible passage I was reading touched my heart, and I cried a little (happy tears).

I tried to hide my emotions, unsuccessfully, while I was watching the road ahead. He looked up in the rear view mirror to give an approving look at our teen daughter for a sweet gesture she had made toward me. In that moment, the traffic in front of us came to a halt. Cars that were going 70 mph or so, came to a complete stop in a few yards, or at least what seemed like it. Oh, dear.

Well, my husband looked back ahead at the road, in time to see the danger, but not in enough time to stop. Praise God that the left lane stayed clear as my husband maneuvered the car into it. He avoided smacking the dark blue Honda Accord in front of us by about four inches. God made that possible.

How kind the Lord is! How good he is!

So merciful, this God of ours!

The Lord protects those of childlike faith;

I was facing death and he saved me.

Let my soul rest again,

For the Lord has been good to me.

Psalm 116:5-7 NLT

How often am I under God’s shield of protection, though, unaware of my need for Him, and His authority to heal, block evil and divert danger?

Most of these incidents just didn’t seem like a big issue at the time, but realistically, some of them could have morphed into huge problems. I’m glad God brought to mind how He guards my family.

While we enjoyed everything from Kitty Hawk and the Elizabethan Gardens to wild horses and the Atlantic Ocean, I know God was our shield.

*This post is part two in a three-part series about how I experienced God during our family vacation to the Outer Banks.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Seeing God at the OBX

Sounds of the surf. Soft ocean sand. Wild horses. Magnolia and Live Oak trees. Southern Accents. Vacation.

God gave my family and me a special gift last week, seeing His handiwork at the Outer Banks, N.C., which are barrier islands off our Atlantic Coast. What a blessing. What a way to see God in a fresh way.

I have always understood God made this world, and everything in it. I know it. I believe it, and I feel passionate about the topic. But seeing God as Creator with this change in geography bolstered that understanding.

On these islands, the sand dunes shift and change in the ocean winds and storms, so the appearance and topography adjust themselves through the years, visibly through decades and less, not just through centuries or millennia.

I know God made Jockey’s Ridge, a three-peak dune reaching 80 to 100 feet at its highest. It claims the spot as the largest dune on the Atlantic Coast, and broadens my perspective about my Lord’s creativity.

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Romans 1:20 NIV

The Atlantic Ocean, Albemarle Sound and other waterways show me the refreshment and the power in God’s creativity. The sound of the ocean is matchless. The peaceful appearance of the coastal waterways on a sunny day in the Outer Banks captivates me.

I also consider the life within the ocean, the sounds and on the shores. God’s hand made crabs, jellyfish, octopi, dolphins, fish, ospreys, and mustangs. Carefully protected, wild mustangs thrive here.

With my children, I raced the tides to scoop patterned black, gray, white, or tan shells from the sand. What a joy, even on the day the water was chilly because of the upswell, another way God made the world to work. Wind directions move deeper, colder ocean water to the top, making water play a truly cool experience.

When I think about the Outer Banks, I also remember the trees. I love the twists and turns in live oak branches. The curling petals of the four-inch wide, white blooms on the magnolia trees contrast the flowering crabapples and beloved lilac bushes my eye appreciates at home.

How can I put on a finger on God’s creativity, with Him making animals and plants out of nothing? How can I grasp His wisdom and intelligence, when He developed the tides and ocean currents? Praise Him that I cannot.

*This is the first of three in a series of blog posts showing how I experienced God during our family vacation to North Carolina’s Outer Banks in June.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

God is Good

For today’s post, I adapted a prayer of praise I wrote last week. After I had written it, though it was not what I would describe as prize poetry, I was struck by the truth of it. It made me feel thankful for the time I have been able to devote to God and my relationship with Him through the years. It also renewed my gratefulness for many people in my life – from childhood through today – who have taught me much. So, I for each characteristic of God, I looked up a familiar Scripture that backed up what I said, and inserted it here.

Dear Lord,

You are good. Look at all the good things You have given me. You couldn’t or wouldn’t give me those things, unless You’re good.

James 1:17

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

And You love justice and righteousness. So, you’re good. You long for care for the poor and the oppressed. You want me and all your people to carry this care out. So You are good.

Deuteronomy 16:20

Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you.

Psalm 82:3-4

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.

Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

You take care of the widow and the orphan, so You are good.

James 1:27

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

You are perfect, without sin, wickedness, false motives, pretense or cruelty. So You are good.

Deuteronomy 32:4
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.

You take events that hurt and events that bring joy, and use both for good. How famous and loved your Name is!

Romans 8:28

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

What a thrill to worship You. What a joy and relief that YOU would want me!

Psalm 100:2

Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.

You long for every single person to find You. You don’t want to cast away anyone. But You give me, and all people the choice to follow You. You are good!

Matthew 18:10-14

"See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.

Thank You. Thank You, for being good. For BEING. Thank You.

Exodus 3:14 (See verses 12-14 for context.)

God said to Moses, "I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.' "

In Jesus' Name, Amen

All the Scriptures are taken from the NIV version of the Bible, using