Black Friday

The history of “Black Friday” includes several versions of how the day after Thanksgiving was named. For a long time, the story was told that retailers operated at a loss all year (written in the books in red ink) until the Friday after Thanksgiving. On that day, holiday shopping pushed profits into the “black,” i.e. written in black ink. This is not entirely accurate, but it is true that with the advent of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade heralding the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, (cue Santa’s arrival at the end of the parade) the holidays are indeed the most profitable time of the year.

But another account has emerged that tells a different story. Back in the 1950’s, Philadelphia police officers dubbed the day Black Friday due to the chaos and crowds that poured onto the streets of the city in advance of the Army-Navy game, which was held in Philly every year on Thanksgiving Saturday. (Go Navy!) The additional traffic and crowds meant that all the police officers had to work that day, and were scheduled for extra shifts to manage the large numbers of people. In addition, shoplifters took advantage of the situation, making law enforcement even more challenging.

Whatever the true reason, Black Friday has emerged to be a day of chaotic shopping, where people arrive at stores as early as 2AM to score that one must-have for Christmas. And coming on the heels of a day full of prepping, cleaning, cooking, baking, and serving, we end up absolutely exhausted after Thanksgiving “break.”

Even retailers without brick and mortar locations are jumping into the shopping frenzy. We have received offers of Black Friday deals on hotel rooms and rental cars this season, and many of us will be scouring Amazon for those incredible deals that are the make-or-break of our Christmas season.

Since we are talking about Fridays and gifts, wouldn’t we be smarter to take a beat and focus on the gift of Good Friday instead? If any day should be called Black Friday it was that day. The day of the crucifixion was black indeed, even to the point that the sky went suddenly dark and the sun did not shine from the sixth hour to the ninth hour. The tomb was sealed shut in blackness for three days. But on that third day….on the third day, he arose, and everything changed forever. So how dare we call any day black, when we have the resurrection to look forward to? Once he arose, all the darkness of the world shrank back in respect for the Light. That’s why we call the day of Jesus’ death Good Friday. It was good indeed.

Lest you think I am jumping the gun straight to Easter just days before Advent begins, consider this. What was Christmas for, if not for Easter? Why did the angels sing and the shepherds rejoice? Because the Messiah was born, and he came to save us. Easter arrived wrapped in the swaddled cloths of a cooing baby lying in a manger. In the fullness of time, he turned black days into good days. All of them.

So how can we turn Black Friday into a Good Friday? Maybe by finding some way to do good:

1 Timothy 6:17-19 The Message (MSG)

17-19 Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow.

Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.

Do good and be rich in helping others. Be extravagantly generous. This is the way to build up an everlasting treasury that brings life that is truly life.

On Black Friday, you can either be a buy-out or a sell-out. Sell yourself out for the one who made all Fridays good, and go after God with all your gusto. Buy someone’s groceries, pay for someone’s fast food order in line behind you, hold all the doors open, smile more, donate to your favorite charity….find a way to bring light into the black. And if you are brave enough to go shopping, please be especially nice to the store clerks!

In giving, you receive all the things you will ever need. God indeed piles on all the riches we could ever manage. Do you, and the people you are buying for, really need any more?

Early Light by Patti Kohl Kohler.

The Sound of Freedom

Yesterday I sat in my favorite chair by the corner windows overlooking the harbor and I was startled by the sudden sound of jet noise. I looked up and saw Navy F-18s flying low in a tight formation. NAS Oceana is just over an hour away, and it is not uncommon for us to see Navy planes flying training hops over our beautiful island.

For the first eight years of my marriage, I was a Navy Pilot Wife. I am accustomed to the sound of freedom flying overhead. We lived close to Naval Air Stations where jet noise was a constant reminder of what freedom costs our young men and women as they serve in the skies.

And then there was that horrible time when no planes flew for days. After 9/11, air traffic was grounded for two days. I lived just south of the Atlanta airport at the time, and it was Twilight-Zone-eerie to walk the dog and not hear a single airplane overhead. That was unheard of; the Atlanta airport handles over 2,700 arrivals and departures a day. There was ALWAYS airplane noise…until there wasn’t.

On Thanksgiving, we remember the hazardous journey of intrepid immigrants looking to settle in a new land where they could have religious freedom. The first Thanksgiving was a meal that celebrated a late autumn harvest and their successful founding of a colony on a new continent. They gathered to thank God for his provision and their freedom.

Psalm 107 New International Version (NIV)

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;

    his love endures forever.

2 Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—

    those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,

3 those he gathered from the lands,

    from east and west, from north and south.

4 Some wandered in desert wastelands,

    finding no way to a city where they could settle.

5 They were hungry and thirsty,

    and their lives ebbed away.

6 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,

    and he delivered them from their distress.

7 He led them by a straight way

    to a city where they could settle.

8 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love

    and his wonderful deeds for mankind,

9 for he satisfies the thirsty

    and fills the hungry with good things.

I am thankful for everything God provides; for the beasts of the field, the creatures in the sea, the sunrise over the ocean, and the moonrise over the canal. I am thankful for my family, friends, and a congregation who loves me. I am thankful for all those who serve our country and protect our freedom. I am thankful for my home and my dog, and for everything God has given me that brings so much happiness into my life.

What are you thankful for today?

This morning, I am especially thankful for all of you who want to be in God’s word every day. You make At Water’s Edge possible. Bless you, and THANK YOU for reading, and especially for sharing!

We give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind today. God satisfies the thirsty when we turn to him, and fills the hungry with good things. It happens every time we open the word or sit at the table. Have a wonderful feast today!

Flying High by Jamie Mathis

The Google

Do you remember a time when you couldn’t pick up your phone to access a global source of information in a matter of seconds? We are so accustomed to having a map, dictionary, encyclopedia, calculator, instant news, weather, etc. at our finger tips, it’s no wonder we freak out when we lose our smart phones or worse, drop them in the toilet. Yes, I’ve done that. Twice.

I haven’t the foggiest notion of how “the Google” works, but I do know that you have to frame your search inquiry correctly to get the results you want. As search engines evolve and algorithms track your previous searches, it gets easier to find things out. For example, I do so many searches for scriptures that scripture references now pop up whenever I type in a few words. Alexa listens to our conversations and then an ad for that very thing magically pops up on our FaceBook feed. We are living in a time when artificial intelligence not only responds to our inquires, but actually directs our behavior. Big Brother is not just watching us, he has moved into the guest room and has commandeered the best fluffy comforter and the biggest bathroom in the house.

But none of this happens until you initiate a request for a response. You start the process by seeking something: a product, an answer, a direction…you seek, and Google finds.

I wonder if the Wisemen would have found Jesus faster if they had Google Maps and a Star Finder app.

Occasionally during the holidays you will find something that says, “Wise people still seek him.” I love that. Whenever we stretch out an arm to shade our eyes and cast our vision outward, we can easily find God. He is never far away from our presence, and longs to be found.

He can be found in the eyes of a homeless man looking for help. He can be heard in the cries of a child separated from her family at our nation’s border. He can be felt in the palm of a dying grandmother, longing for one last hand-holding with her grandson. He can be seen in the Sunday morning choir as they stand to bring their harmony into worship. God can be found in God’s people everywhere: all we have to do is look.

In seminary, a professor taught us that the Bible is God’s love letter to his people. In scripture we find not just the answers to the complexity of the world and beyond, but the Answer to everything in Christ Jesus. The Old Testament is the search. The New Testament brings the answer.

Hebrews 11 The Message (MSG)

11 1-2 The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.

3 By faith, we see the world called into existence by God’s word, what we see created by what we don’t see.

6 And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.

Anyone who wants to approach God must believe that he cares enough to respond to those who SEEK him. Ask, knock, and seek, and you will find.

Psalm 105 English Standard Version (ESV)

1 Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;

    make known his deeds among the peoples!

2  Sing to him, sing praises to him;

    tell of all his wondrous works!

3  Glory in his holy name;

    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!

4 Seek the Lord and his strength;

    seek his presence continually!

Got questions? Need answers? Feeling empty, and long to be made full? Seek God today. He will be found.

Layers of Light by Michelle Robertson.

Connections

The logic of a four-year-old is astounding. Connor and I sat on the floor and created four animals out of mega blocks. We made a moose, a dog, an alligator, and a giraffe. Then Connor realized that our animals were likely to go running amuck, so we needed to build a fence. We sorted out all the short four-peg blocks for the bottom row, and then started to build a second layer. I handed him a single-peg block to begin the top layer and he said, “Nana, we need one with two or three so we can connect the bottom row and the animals can’t get out. Otherwise they can kick through it.” He picked up a three-peg block and placed it across two of the bottom row blocks, connecting them.

Yup. Confounded and corrected by a four-year-old.

I was reminded of the simple lesson that “together, we can do more.” I belong to a denomination that is highly connectional, and that is our greatest strength…and our most vulnerable aspect. A global connection is a heavy and weighty thing. When we think and dream together, it is powerful. When our differences are too big to overcome, the connection starts to break.

That is the macro-lesson, and I don’t have any answers for it. But taken in the micro, this logic of a four-year-old can reap many applications. Marriages are strengthened when both parties ensure the connection is strong by putting the needs of the other first. Families are happier when the connections are real, uninterrupted, intentional, and focused. Work teams function better when roles and responsibilities are interconnected and people work together toward a common goal.

I spent time with a large group of friends at a restaurant recently and realized at the end of the meal that I had not exchanged any words with one of them, other than our initial greeting. I was regretting this until my husband, who sat directly across from him, remarked that he was playing games on his phone the entire evening. Suffice it to say that it is hard to connect with someone when he or she is already connected to something else.

But to take it even smaller, think about your connection to your Maker. From the moment of your conception you were connected, even if you didn’t realize it.

Psalm 139 (NIV)

13 For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place,

when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;

all the days ordained for me were written in your book

before one of them came to be.

God knit us together in our mother’s womb. The choice of brown or blue eyes, black or blond hair, vanilla or chocolate skin, is all part of his artistry. He is our first and most intimate connection, and like Connor’s animal fence, his connection with us acts as a safety barrier if we just follow his direction:

5 You hem me in behind and before,

and you lay your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

too lofty for me to attain.

It is all too easy to disconnect today. That thing in your pocket that “connects” you to the world disconnects you from the people right across the table from you. Real connection is what we were built for from the very beginning.

When we lose our connection with each other, we lose our humanity. When we lose our connection with God, we lose all that is holy.

Where is God calling you to connect today? Do you need to reach out to someone who is being ignored (or ignoring you) and have a real conversation? Do you need to stop the crazy of your life and reconnect with God? Are you so busy doing for others that you need to connect with your own soul?

We aren’t meant to do this life solo. God longs to be fully engaged in our daily everything and creates community for us to build one another up and be his people. Let him come in with his mega blocks and provide a safe space. Together, with God and each another, we CAN do more.

Connor’s Animal Fence

“Did Anybody Drop This?”

I was buckled in with my cell phone in airplane mode, and my tray table in its upright and locked position. I was ready for takeoff. We had just started to push back when the PA come on and the flight attendant asked, “Did anybody drop this?” Of course everybody looked up, craning their heads around the seats and leaning into the aisles to see. She continued, “OK, now that I have your attention, let’s go over the safety demo.”

Touché! Well played, Southwest Airlines, well played!

If God could completely have your attention, what do you think he would say?

Here’s one thought:

Matthew 6 (The Message)

34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

Whoa. Did you hear that? Are you craning your head around all your problems to see what he is saying? Don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. Whatever it is, God will help you deal with it.

Do you believe that? Do you have a well of trust deep enough that when you dip your worry-bucket in, it comes out filled up to the rim with hope? Yeah, me neither. I mean, it is hard to face your unspoken fears with courage and faith. Instead, our human tendency is to immediately dive deep into fret and worry. It’s normal. It’s natural. It’s understandable. And it’s also useless.

Scripture reminds us that God loves the wildflowers he created, and….wait for it…he loves us even more:

30-33 “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving.

People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

Do I have your attention yet?

So here’s the thing. You know God. You know how he works. Every day you check in here to read, learn, and grow in your understanding of his word. So pick this up today: the best defense against useless worry is to relax in his promises.

Steep your life in God-reality.

Steep your life in God-initiative.

Steep your life in God-provisions.

When you do that, you’ll find all your everyday concerns will be met by the God who loves you, who created you, and who died on a cross for you. Thanks be to God.

Outer Banks Starfish by Michelle Robertson.

A Joyful Noise

I am just going to put it out there. Kids belong in church. I don’t care if you disagree. I once talked back to an usher for telling a hassled single Mom that she should take her fussy child out of the sanctuary. I pulled him aside and corrected him in my best minister-voice. We do not ever tell a tired mother to remove her exuberant kids from the sanctuary. Not for any reason. Not on any occasion. NOT. IN. MY. CHURCH.

His reasoning was that the child was disruptive. So was Jesus.

He was afraid that the noise would prevent others from following the service. That’s why we give out a bulletin.

He didn’t want visitors to not want to come back. They are welcome to find a church where kids aren’t welcome. This is not that place.

He was concerned I would be distracted in my preaching. Buddy, don’t try to hide your gate-keeping bias under some fake concern for me. I love that sound and I can preach in harmony with it any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Like, for real, twice on Sunday.

Babies, toddlers, and old people singing loudly (off key, and several beats behind) are the Lord’s joyful noise. Even the angels rejoice at this noise! I don’t know a preacher who isn’t used to it and can’t ignore it when it happens. The fact that it happens tells us one thing: we have a baby in church! There is a child here! Some parent went to a tremendous amount of effort this morning to get here to worship.

Please tell me how that is a bad thing.

Matthew 19 (New International Version)

The Little Children and Jesus

13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.

14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

So if you like to take scripture literally, let’s unpack that one for a bit. Let them come. Don’t hinder them. The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

Hold up there a minute. The Kingdom of God belongs to the little children? Jesus wants them to come to him? Sounds like all the big people sitting in the pews are the actual interlopers, since apparently we are invading the church that, according to Jesus, belongs to the kids. Ponder that! Maybe it’s a good thing that they still need us to drive them to church; otherwise they might decide to unionize and hinder US from coming. No more Grups! (Some of you may recognize Gene Roddenberry’s contraction of grown ups from a very early Star Trek episode. If so, I salute you.)

And that is so true. We all realize that the future of our churches and our denominations depend on the children who are squirming in the pews and running helter-skelter to the doughnut table, but do we acknowledge that they are also the PRESENT of the church?

Maybe it’s time to count the ways kids are hindered from worship. Like parents who are overcommitted and too tired to make the effort on Sundays. Like churches who don’t make an effort to warmly and intentionally welcome them and make a place for them. Like pastors who continue to use dusty, old sermon illustrations meant for the over-50 crowd. Like worship committees who don’t utilize children and youth as worship leaders.

Where is Jesus calling you to open your heart to the little disciples? Do you need an attitude change? Parents, is God calling to a stronger commitment to consistent worship participation with your family? Or maybe your entire church needs a shake-up?

Let the little children come to Jesus, with all of their joyful noise. When Jesus laid his hands on the children and prayed over them, I bet that is just what he asked his Father to do. Wake up, churches. The future-present is crawling under the pews during the offertory. Make way!

Raising Cain.

Covenant

I love the word covenant. For me, it may be one of the most significant words in the Bible, just after salvation, peace, and forgiveness. Covenant describes the reason all those other words exist. In a Biblical sense, a covenant is a solemn agreement or contract between God and his people that is flesh-and-blood binding.

In the Old Testament, covenants were made with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. These covenants were promises God made to never destroy the earth again, to provide land and descendants, to bless those who followed the law, (and punish those who didn’t) and that the house of David would produce the kings of Israel. Not to mention THE King.

In the New Testament, we have the end-all-be-all covenant of Jesus, known as the New Covenant. The New Covenant came as a completion of all the old laws, ways, covenants and promises. In the New Covenant, God promises to offer forgiveness of sins through the shed blood of his son on the cross. All who believe will receive eternal life.

In every case, God is the agent of the covenant-making. He initiates, he declares, he invites, and he promises. Every type of covenant relies on both parties doing their part and agreeing to the terms as presented.

One of my favorite modern uses of the word covenant is in the wedding ceremony. It appears in several places, and is in the prayers when we refer to “this solemn act of covenant” and ask God to bless the union. At the end, we invite the bride and groom to “seal your covenant with a kiss.”

(As an aside: we stopped inviting the groom to kiss the bride when we finally realized that the old liturgy assumed the bride to be an object to be given away by her father at the beginning of the ceremony and kissed by the groom at the end. We now ask the family to “present this woman to be married,” and both bride and groom are invited to “seal the covenant with a kiss.”)

In a marriage, we have an equal partnership of covenant-makers. Each benefits from the mutually agreed upon terms from a position of parity. But not so with our covenant with God. We are not his equal. We cannot hope to match what he can give as part of his covenant agreement. It could not be more lopsided, and yet, there it is:

Hebrews 8 The Message (MSG)

A New Plan with Israel

6-13 But Jesus’ priestly work far surpasses what these other priests do, since he’s working from a far better plan. If the first plan—the old covenant—had worked out, a second wouldn’t have been needed. But we know the first was found wanting, because God said,

Heads up! The days are coming

    when I’ll set up a new plan

    for dealing with Israel and Judah.

I’ll throw out the old plan

    I set up with their ancestors

    when I led them by the hand out of Egypt.

They didn’t keep their part of the bargain,

    so I looked away and let it go.

This new plan I’m making with Israel

    isn’t going to be written on paper,

    isn’t going to be chiseled in stone;

This time I’m writing out the plan in them,

    carving it on the lining of their hearts.

I’ll be their God,

    they’ll be my people.

They won’t go to school to learn about me,

    or buy a book called God in Five Easy Lessons.

They’ll all get to know me firsthand,

    the little and the big, the small and the great.

They’ll get to know me by being kindly forgiven,

    with the slate of their sins forever wiped clean.

By coming up with a new plan, a new covenant between God and his people, God put the old plan on the shelf. And there it stays, gathering dust.

The New Covenant offers us the opportunity to be a part of the kingdom of God. God will write this new plan in our hearts. It is a plan that offers us his kind forgiveness, where repentance results in our sinful slates being wiped clean. God desires to be known firsthand. He will be our God and we will be his people. Did you catch that? The God who created the entire universe wants to be our God! He wants to be known in the little and the big, the small and the great. Can you even imagine?

The only thing we can do….the ONLY thing that God asks…is accept this gift of covenant. We can’t earn it, we can’t reciprocate in kind, and we certainly can’t mechanically adhere to meticulous laws to prove ourselves worthy. We just have to open up our hearts and receive the promises of God.

And that’s the best news of all. God has made a promise to us, and God always keeps his promises. How will you respond? What will you do with this gift? Can you keep up your side of this covenant?

God invites all to come to the table he has prepared before us. Will you accept?

God’s Creation, Offered Without Price. Photo by Patti Kohl Koehler

Neckties

Consider the history of the necktie. Legionnaires in the 2nd century B.C. wore the first neckwear, according to some historians. Their cloth bands were worn as protection from the weather. Other people cite the 3rd century B.C. terra-cotta statues of Chinese warriors as the first evidence of neckties. They wore neck scarves to protect the source of their strength, i.e. their Adam’s apples.

Most experts, however, date the initial appearance of what led to the modern tie back to 1636. Croatian mercenaries hired by King Louis XIV wore cloth bands around their necks to ward off natural elements and sword slashes.

Today, however, men don’t need to protect themselves from weather, assaults to their Adam’s apples, and hopefully not sword slashes. So why the tie? Most men find them uncomfortable and bothersome. Loosening the tie is often the first thing a fellow does the minute he leaves the office. I mean, even the word neck-tie sounds restrictive.

Neckties are a means of uniformity. Imagine the workplace of the 1960’s without men in neckties. Imagine the church of the 1990’s without men in neckties. Uniformity was the goal, and neckties were the instrument that tied it all together. Blessed be the tie that binds? Not when it is tied around the neck!

Thank God we are over that.

Ties, hats, gloves, and heels have faded away as mandatory “Sunday morning best.” Society has accepted the fact that it is so much more important to show up than to show off.

So with neckties out, what should we wear around our necks?

Proverbs 3 New Living Translation (NLT)

3  My child, never forget the things I have taught you.

    Store my commands in your heart.

2  If you do this, you will live many years,

    and your life will be satisfying.

3  Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!

    Tie them around your neck as a reminder.

    Write them deep within your heart.

4  Then you will find favor with both God and people,

    and you will earn a good reputation.

Loyalty and kindness. The perfect neckwear for any occasion! This type of necktie will help you find favor with God and people alike. When we tie the things God has taught us around our necks, we will have a satisfying life and a good reputation. Now that’s a necktie everyone should have in their closet.

I once had a conversation with a teenager about church clothes. Michael was the son of the school bus driver and never attended church. I knew him from the High School marching band, where I volunteered as a chaperone and band announcer. All the kids knew me, but most didn’t know I am a pastor. Michael had spent the weekend at Taylor’s house, and when they awoke on Sunday morning, Taylor’s mom called them to breakfast and told them what time to be ready for church.

When Michael arrived, he looked around at all the people dressed up for church, and all the men wearing ties. He found me and immediately came up to me. “Miss Betsy, I am so sorry to be wearing my band t-shirt and jeans in your church,” he said. “I spent the night at Taylor’s house and my Mom didn’t know we would be coming to church.”

I looked him in the eye and asked, “Michael, are you in a church?” He replied, “Yes, M’am.” I said, “And are you wearing clothes?” He laughed and said, “Yes, M’am.” “Then you’re obviously wearing church clothes, so have a seat.”

The Gospel is a message of freedom, not restriction. Church is a place of harmony, not uniformity. Come on in and find a seat! We’re just glad you’re here. There is no dress code in God’s house. In my church at the beach, the acolytes wear flip flops and the pastor never wears a tie. Got clothes? Come on in.

This leash is as close to a necktie as I’ll ever get.

Percolating

Back before Keurigs, way before Starbucks, even before drip coffee makers with automatic shut-off switches, there was an ancient device known as a percolator. You might run across this historical artifact today in an antique store, the Pawn shop, or any local church’s kitchen.

It was a thing of beauty and simplicity. A basket that holds the coffee grounds sits atop a long, thin metal cylinder. This unit is inserted into a metal coffee pot. Water is poured into the pot, and the attached cord is plugged in. As the water heats, it bubbles and percolates up through the cylinder and over the basket, running through the coffee grounds and magically, you have coffee. You couldn’t pre-set it the night before, and you had to unplug it to turn it off, but hey, if it was good enough for the original Apollo astronauts, it was good enough.

I love the idea of percolating. Heating something up, bringing it to boil, channeling the bubbles, and then watching it produce something well-considered is a joy. Good things come when we percolate. Sermons, ideas, stories, arguments, speeches, hanging wallpaper with your spouse, new ventures, movies…all manner of things benefit from taking the time to percolate.

Percolating should precede any major decision we make. Thinking about divorce?Percolate. Contemplating a move? Percolate. Ready to pop the question? Percolate. About to send an angry email/post a snippy retort/yell at your teenager? PERCOLATE.

The reason percolating is so effective is that it gives you time to step away from your immediate and emotional response and allows the Holy Spirit to weigh in with other ways to go about doing the same thing.

Opening ourselves to God’s guidance always pays off. I learned the hard way not to immediately fire off an email when I was deeply aggravated. I learned that after a time when I fired off an email when I was deeply aggravated. I regret it to this day. How about you? Ever wish in hindsight that you had waited for the right words to come to you?

Matthew 10 (The Message)

17-20 “Don’t be naive. Some people will impugn your motives, others will smear your reputation—just because you believe in me. Don’t be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities. Without knowing it, they’ve done you—and me—a favor, given you a platform for preaching the kingdom news!

And don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words.

That’s why percolating is such a helpful practice. In the slow warming up of an idea, in the increasing heat of a completed thought, and in the bubbles of the Holy Spirit rising up in your spirit, your finished product will be soooo much better. Like the best cup of brewed Sumatra with heavy cream, it will be a delight rather than a thin and possibly nasty version of what it should have been.

So take a beat. Stop and breathe. Suspend your need for instant gratification and sloooow youuuuur rolllll. Give God a chance to enter in, and let percolation have its way. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply them. You’ll never regret letting God percolate inside you.

Fresh brewed.

When the Sound Returns

Winds and storms in the Outer Banks are notorious for causing flooding. As my hairdresser explained while holding up a comb, “the Outer Banks are as thin as this comb, with the huge ocean on one side and the huge sound on the other…it is literally THIS thin!” she exclaimed. Indeed, there are parts of Highway 12 south on Hatteras Island where you could throw a football with your feet in the water of one and hit the water in the other. At high tide. If your name is Trace McSorley.

The dynamics of this ribbon of land between two massive bodies of water are especially heightened during hurricanes, Nor’easters, and large storms. The winds are capable of literally pushing the water out of the sound to the point where you can walk across its muddy bottom. The Albemarle and Pamlico sounds are 2,900 square miles of water fed by ten major rivers and numerous creeks. They are large enough that in certain locations, you can stand at one of the few points on the East Coast where you have unobstructed views of the sun setting into water with no land in sight. In fact, the Spanish explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano mistook the Pamlico Sound for the Pacific Ocean when he arrived here. It’s that big.

So the conundrum of the winds pushing all the water out during a storm is this: When it returns, it can come back with such force that it will create massive sound-side floods and high water that can cause more damage than the storm itself.

This is the way we live. This has been part of the cost of the beauty of our location for centuries. We know how it works, and we wait, often for days. I read a meme on Face Book recently that said, “Waiting for a hurricane is like being stalked by a turtle.” It is the not-knowingness of the situation that will slap wear you out.

I think this echoes what many people experience in other ways. A test result is suspicious, so further testing must be done. Wait. A spouse has been unfaithful and the couple doesn’t know if divorce will be the answer. Wait. A terminal diagnosis has been given, with a two-to-four year life sentence. Wait. A young woman receives an engagement ring and begins to plan her wedding and dreams of her married life. Wait. Another finds out she is pregnant. Wait. A military family sends their service member off for months to an unknown destination. Wait.

Psalm 27 (NRSV)

13 I remain confident of this:

    I will see the goodness of the Lord

    in the land of the living.

14 Wait for the Lord;

    be strong and take heart

    and wait for the Lord.

David’s assurance that he would see goodness in the land of the living is a pretty bold statement, considering the fighting going on all around him and the fervor with which his enemies were pursuing him. Just a few sentences earlier, he describes his situation this way:

2 When the wicked advance against me

    to devour me,

it is my enemies and my foes

    who will stumble and fall.

3  Though an army besiege me,

    my heart will not fear;

though war break out against me,

    even then I will be confident.

I would say he was under a fair amount of stress, wouldn’t you? Yet he counsels us to wait for the Lord, be strong, take heart, and WAIT. How can David be so sure? Because David was a man after God’s own heart. He knew the Lord, loved the Lord, danced for the Lord, and had a lot of experience in waiting and being delivered.

So while you wait, do not fear. In this in-between time of not-knowingness, don’t let your heart be troubled, and neither let it be afraid. God is mightier than the besieging army, faster than your foes, and stronger than the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds combined. When the Sound returns, you will see the goodness of the Lord.

The Pamlico Sound bottom, waiting for the water’s return. Photo by Tim Fitch.