The Heavens Tell

Labor Day in the United States is an opportunity to take a brief respite from work and enjoy a rare weekday off. It signals the end of the summer rush here on the Outer Banks, and when the weather cooperates with a lessening of the humidity and heat, the tangible promise of fall is nothing short of glorious. We are having that kind of weather right now, and our minds have turned to college football, fall festivals, and all things pumpkin spice-flavored. Forget about Christmas! This, right here, is the most wonderful time of the year.

Psalm 19 is the perfect reading for today. David draws us into a vibrant and lyrical praise song of all of God’s creation. He begins by directing our attention to our surroundings. He invites us to see what the heavens are doing. What does the night say? Can anything compare to the glory of the rising sun?

The heavens are telling the glory of God;
    and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
    and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
    their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.

In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,
    and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them;
    and nothing is hid from its heat.

You probably have noticed that I post a lot of sunrise pictures. I have friends who have practically made it their life’s work to be up at dawn with cameras and cell phones ready. I have another friend who sends me sunset pictures almost every night from her deck overlooking the sound. We are blessed to live on an island that affords both east and west views of the sun’s activity in the sky. “Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them” perfectly describes the sun moving from rising over Atlantic Ocean to setting into the Albemarle Sound. David unknowingly captured Outer Banks living at its best.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is pure,
    enduring forever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
    and drippings of the honeycomb.

In addition to his affection for creation, David also loved the law. He understood that the clear and unadulterated precepts of the Lord are right, sure, perfect, and true. As a king, he appreciated the structure that the law provides for society. As an individual, he was less successful in keeping the law, and it brought him great pain.

11 Moreover by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can detect their errors?
    Clear me from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent;
    do not let them have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
    and innocent of great transgression.

The challenge for us today is to spend a moment reflecting on the beauty of all these things. Take a walk if you are able and dwell in the glory of what God created for you. Search your heart and see if there is any “hidden fault” that is causing you to stumble in your walk. Where is God trying to correct or even rebuke you for departing from the law…and from him?

May we rest today, knowing that when sins are revealed and confessed, we can offer our repentance and know that we are heard, loved, and made new.

Go and make it a great day!

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Heavenly Sunrise by Michelle Robertson

Creeping Things

You might imagine that with a website called At Water’s Edge, I love anything that has to do with water. When we purchased our house on a small island on the Outer Banks I was immediately attracted to the listing description that boasted “water views from every room.” I had a hard time imagining this!!!!!! But on the point of land where I live, surrounded by canals on two sides and a harbor at the front, it turned out to be true. Water, water everywhere! There is something quite calming and peaceful about water. Unless it’s hurricane season. Or Nor’easter season. Or January.

Our beautiful Psalm today takes place at the water’s edge. The psalmist calls us “yonder to the sea,” and contemplates the innumerable creeping things that reside there. I find it more peaceful to NOT contemplate the innumerable creepy things that are in the water with me, but to each his own.

Psalm 104 (New Revised Standard Version)

24O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

25Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great.

The reference to ships in the next section is so ancient and yet modern at the same time. Those who live on the coast know that ships are always present in our communities. Indeed, the Outer Banks is a community full of boats and ships. Many people here make their living on the sea.

26There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.

27These all look to you to give them their food in due season;

28when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.

The psalmist correctly points out that the inhabitants of the water depend on God for their sustenance. Without God, all of creation would simply return to dust.

29When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.

30When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.

From the sea we now turn our attention to the land and the mountains, which also rely on God’s goodness.

31May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works—

32who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke.

33I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.

34May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord.

35Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord!

May the meditation of our hearts and the rejoicing from our lips be pleasing to the God on high today! Let us praise the Lord.

Yonder is the Sea by Michelle Robertson

Overwash

Highway 12 is the main road that runs north to south on the Outer Banks. It is a narrow two-lane road that is bordered by the ocean on the east and the sound on the west. There are places where it runs through Pea Island National Seashore that are so narrow you can easily walk from ocean to sound in a few minutes.

Highway 12 has been closed for several days due to ocean overwash and wet sand impeding travel. Big swells from Hurricane Teddy and our normal high tides have impacted that little strip of road and our Department of Transportation has struggled to keep up. Water is powerful. Water is sometimes dangerous. Water gets its own way.

I have always lived close to water. I grew up in New Jersey about an hour from the ocean, spent my summers camping by the streams and lakes of Central Pennsylvania, and now live on a canal that opens out to a harbor and the sound. My “At Water’s Edge” life is a metaphor for the beautiful power that water has over our lives. It sustains us, nourishes us, cleanses us, satiates us, keeps us alive, and even symbolizes our initiation into the household of God at our baptisms. Water is essential to life…yet too much of it can be deadly. Not enough of it can be fatal as well.

Psalm 78 (Common English Bible)

But God performed wonders in their ancestors’ presence—
    in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
13 God split the sea and led them through,
    making the waters stand up like a wall.

This amazing image of God parting the Red Sea so that the thousands of Hebrews could walk across on dry land is stunning. He made the waters stand up like a WALL. It is a timely reminder that no matter what you are dealing with today, God’s power can easily move it aside so that you can safely walk through it.

14 God led them with the cloud by day;
    by the lightning all through the night.

Then God combined water vapor with air and created a cloud for his people to follow. It gave them much needed direction and the assurance that as long as they followed him they would be all right. It was a tangible reminder of God’s abiding presence. Are you feeling alone? Look up. God’s cloud is with you.

15 God split rocks open in the wilderness,
    gave them plenty to drink—
    as if from the deep itself!

When they were almost perishing from lack of water, God split rocks in the desert and made clean, potable water flow out. They had plenty to drink…from rocks. If God can do this, is there nothing he wouldn’t do to save you from your situation?

16 God made streams flow from the rock,
    made water run like rivers.

Yes, water is powerful and often dangerous. But God is greater than all of that. So if you feel like you are drowning today, reach up. God will surely grasp you by the hand and pull you out. Ask him to wash over you with his grace, mercy, and healing and he will lead you across the dry land to his safe place.

Highway 12 Overwash by Tim Fitch

Coming Out of It

We are in soft shell crab season on the Outer Banks. Here on Colington, the shedders are being watched day and night, and crab harvesters are working under the hanging bulbs to capture these delicacies the minute they are ready. The dilemma is that the restaurants aren’t ready. So while the harvest is happening on its own timeline, there is not the usual demand. Friends of these hardworking folks are trying to help them sell their soft shells to locals to cook at home, and the community is responding. But this is just one small sadness in the midst of all that is sad about the economic impact the pandemic is having on our beautiful island.

What will you do first when we come out of this? Eventually we can go back to hugging, eating at a favorite restaurant with our friends, taking the kids to a real playground, getting on a plane…until then, this time of isolation and quarantine certainly feels like being in exile. If the pandemic ends in time, I would rush out and eat a fried soft shell crab sandwich at the Salt Box Cafe.

Today’s scripture invites us back to the time when Israel lived in exile. They had been overrun and carried away into Babylon, where they couldn’t live life as usual and were forced to adapt to a completely different culture. Jeremiah dreamed of the time when their exile would be over and they would return to a normal life:

Jeremiah 36 (Contemporary English Version)

At that time, declares the Lord,
    I will be the God of all the families of Israel,
        and they will be my people.

The Lord proclaims:
The people who survived the sword
    found grace in the wilderness.
As Israel searched for a place of rest,
    the Lord appeared to them from a distance:
I have loved you with a love that lasts forever.
    And so with unfailing love,
        I have drawn you to myself.

This picture of God appearing to Israel from a distance as they are returning from the wilderness is profound. We are immediately reminded of the story of the Prodigal Son, where the father was waiting at the edge of the field every day for his wayward son to return. God indeed has gone before us, and waits there to welcome us back to normal life when our exile is over. And notice the phrase “found grace in the wilderness.” Have you found grace in your pandemic wilderness? Can you list some “silver linings?”


Again, I will build you up,
    and you will be rebuilt, virgin Israel.
Again, you will play your tambourines
    and dance with joy.
Again, you will plant vineyards
    on the hills of Samaria;
    farmers will plant and then enjoy the harvests.

The hope in these verses make me tingle. God will build us up again. We will dance for joy again. We will plant vineyards and farmlands and harvest them again. We will have life as normal again. Gosh, I can’t wait for Again to begin. How about you?


The time will come when
    the watchmen shout from
        the highlands of Ephraim:
“Get ready! We’re going up to Zion
    to the Lord our God!”

Hold on to these words. There will be a time when this virus is completely gone from this earth. Get ready! And in the meantime, look for grace in the wilderness.

Grace in the Wilderness by Michelle Robertson

Refuge

Waterspouts occur in the Outer Banks when the conditions are just right. Like a land tornado, a waterspout is a fast column of rotating air and water mist that occurs over a body of water and moves quickly and unpredictably. They are forceful enough to cause great damage, and strong enough to pick up objects as they move along.

I have first-hand knowledge of this, unfortunately. A few years ago my husband and I were on a long walk, and were almost two miles away from home when we spotted a waterspout coming rapidly across the sound toward the harbor. To our horror, it turned and aimed directly toward the area where we were walking.

People were out on their decks watching it move closer. We decided to run up a driveway and take shelter in somebody’s carport when a woman began to yell at us to come into her house. We told her we were OK, but she insisted. The urgency in her voice changed our minds, so we ran into her house just as the waterspout changed direction again and came directly over the houses around us.

We sheltered with this kind woman and her mother for about 30 minutes until the danger had passed. When it was safe to walk home, we discovered that the waterspout had caused quite a bit of damage to the houses around us. A large orange patio umbrella had landed on the roof of the house next to the one were we found refuge. A day later, we found out that it had flown from our next door neighbor’s deck across the marina and landed there. A friend across the canal shot a video of the waterspout hitting our neighbor’s house. It sucked the umbrella straight up out of the table, where it swirled in the spout until finally landing almost two miles away. It was like being in a water version of The Wizard of Oz.

The damage to our house was manageable. Our two large trash cans had flown from the front curb OVER THE HOUSE and landed in the canal out back. A pair of heavy Adirondack chairs was picked up off our dock, and also landed in the water. Loose shingles were all over the yard. But thanks to the intervention of a kind stranger, we were safe.

Psalm 16

Keep me safe, my God,
    for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord;
    apart from you I have no good thing.’
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
    ‘They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.’
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
    I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
    or take up their names on my lips.

It doesn’t take a waterspout to make you realize that there are times in your life when you need to take refuge. God is our permanent place of refuge. In him is all the peace, hope and comfort we need. Apart from him, we have no good thing. Running after the gods of pleasure and distraction (as we are inclined to do) is a faulty plan. God sets boundary lines to keep us safe from harm, and we are wise to observe them.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

For the second day in a row we are given a scripture that boldly states, “I shall not be shaken.” Do you think the Holy Spirit might be trying to tell us something??

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful one see decay.

And here again, for the second day in a row, the scripture assures us that we will not be abandoned to death. We know that Jesus brought about the death of death.

11 You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Where is God calling you to find refuge in him today? What aspect of your life needs to be carefully placed in the safe shelter of his plan right now? What needs to be left behind so that you can continue on the path of life?

You will not be shaken or abandoned. God is with you in every waterspout and storm…and pandemic. Thanks be to God!

See Betsy and Kenn RUN

He is Risen!

Happy Easter, beloved readers! I am breaking my sabbath practice of not posting on Sunday to share this beautiful Outer Banks Easter sunrise picture. May your Easter celebration be holy, happy, and draw you closer to one another and our Savior. He is risen, indeed!

Easter Sunrise by Wende Pritchard

The Rescuing Gift

Living in the Outer Banks has increased my deep appreciation for First Responders. When the tourist season begins in earnest, we see an increase in their efforts. Ocean Rescue begins their patrols again. Life Guards take their stands. Emergency crews gear up for the inevitable water and Bypass accidents. The Coast Guard increases their practice drills. We go from sleepy chill to high alert as winter moves into spring and on into summer.

I am forever impressed and humbly grateful for the work these men and women do. They RUN toward tragedy while the rest of us shrink back. I remember a time when my mother collapsed outside a restaurant and was lying unconscious on the ground. I called for help and within minutes the EMTs arrived. Their incredible care, their kindness in dealing with her, and they way they spoke to both of us still stay with me to this day. People like this have a rescuing gift, and thank God, they use it to serve the community.

In the book of Romans, Paul talks about the ultimate rescuing gift that came in the form of Jesus on the cross. Paul makes the case that one man’s sin (Adam) separated us from God. But that was overturned by another man’s gift (Jesus) which gave us life:

Romans 5 (The Message)

15-17 Yet the rescuing gift is not exactly parallel to the death-dealing sin. If one man’s sin put crowds of people at the dead-end abyss of separation from God, just think what God’s gift poured through one man, Jesus Christ, will do! There’s no comparison between that death-dealing sin and this generous, life-giving gift. The verdict on that one sin was the death sentence; the verdict on the many sins that followed was this wonderful life sentence. If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides?

I love how Paul describes this as a breathtaking recovery, a wildly extravagant life-gift that Jesus provides. It is indeed a grand setting-everything-right that puts death at bay and offers eternal life in its place. Death has no sting! All because Jesus said yes.

18-19 Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.

How about you? Is today the day you will say yes to Jesus? Will this be that moment that you accept him as your Savior and put your whole trust in his grace? Will you confess your sins and ask him to cleanse you? And then promise to follow him for the rest of your life?

It’s a simple step, one that brings the rescuing gift into your own grasp. Jesus died so that you might live. He offers you the breathtaking recovery of a sovereign life, and gives you an extravagant life-gift. Are you ready?

Just say yes.

Getting Ready

WhatEVER

If you have ever had a teenager, if you have one now, or if you simply know a teenager, you have heard the word whatEVER waaay, waaay too much. It becomes the common response to EVERYTHING for a (thankfully) brief period of time…say, from age 11 to about 21. (31?) Often delivered with an eye roll, a foot stomp, and a perfectly dismissive tone of voice, whatEVER signals to the hearer that the speaker is finished with the conversation and has totally moved on. End of. Door closed. Don’t bother to knock.

Oh, the joys of raising kids!

In defense of the teens that we all raise and love, whatEVER also signals that your teen is overwhelmed, frustrated, distracted, and emotionally underwater. The dismissiveness is not always a lack of respect, as much as it feels like it. It is your kid’s way of saying, ”TOO MUCH. School is too much, social media is too much, my boy/girl friend issues are too much, the bullying at lunch is too much, my so-called-friends are too much, the pressures of hormonal life with an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex are just TOO MUCH.” It’s perhaps in this moment that they need Mom and Dad the most, even with the strong-arm/push-away behavior that they are exhibiting.

And don’t be fooled…whatEVERness is not just restricted to teenagers. Look around your friend group, your workplace, and your community, and you’ll find someone choosing dismissive and off-putting behavior as a way to deal with their own TOO-MUCHNESS.

WhatIF we could turn their WhatEVERs into something lovely?

Philippians 4

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

When someone comes at you full bore and you get blindsided by their hostility, it is a good thing to pause and consider what else is happening. It’s also important to think about what is true, honorable, just, pure, and pleasing about them. In other words, in the face of resistance, rebellion, and rudeness (whether from your kid or another adult) think to yourself: what is really going on? Is there ANY redeeming quality in this person (albeit not in this moment?)

If the answer is yes, take a deep breath and think about THOSE things. Then pray.

Someday, you will be glad that you did not overreact to your teenager’s hormones. Someday, you will be glad that you didn’t meet rudeness with rudeness. Someday that awful co-worker who was trying to undermine you may actually come back to apologize, and thank you for your graciousness.

And someday, that overwhelmed kid will be an overwhelmed parent of a teenager themself. And when that happens, and they come complaining to you about what their child just had the NERVE to say to them, you know what your response can be?

“WhatEVER!!!”

Whatever is Pleasing, Think on This by Michelle Robertson

Wind Shifts

Last week brought gale-force winds to the Outer Banks, and these winds often bring sound-side flooding. Our schools had to quickly scramble to declare an early dismissal so that the buses could get kids home safely before the roads flooded with salt water and became impassable.

I live on an island off the main drag, and so we have to be particularly aware of the three-mile road that links Big Colington Island to Little Colington Island to Kill Devil Hills. The low road is bordered by water on both sides and connected by two bridges. When the wind shifts, the lowest parts flood pretty quickly, and suddenly you can’t get on or off the island. But locals know to just wait, because the wind always shifts back and takes the water with it.

Island life is a constant reminder of who is in charge of the winds, the tides, the rising sea, and the setting sun. Whenever a change in the weather traps us inside for awhile, it is good to recall the words of hope and promise in Isaiah. And whether your entrapment is weather-related, or life-situation-related, the truth remains the same:

Isaiah 43

But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.


When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.


For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior
.

Whenever you pass through the waters, I will be with you. I have two beloved women in my life who are going through very difficult custody battles. I think of them everyday, and pray this over them. When things like this happen, remember that you are only PASSING THROUGH this time of your life.

When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. Another friend just lost her husband. Waves of grief will now come on a regular basis for a while. I pray this over her. When someone you love dies, remember that you will NOT be swept away by the sorrow forever; it will not always feel this way.

When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned. For all of you undergoing cancer treatments, spending another day of your life in prison, struggling to find work, advocating for your family’s rights, walking in protest, fighting your way out of abuse, overcoming addiction…I pray this for you. Remember that you will NOT be burned by your journey…just keep walking.

Eventually, the winds do shift. The flood water recedes, the dry land re-appears, and travel becomes easier.

Hang on. God had redeemed you. He has summoned you by name. You are HIS.

Colington Road Underwater by Amy Berge

Binocularvision

Binoculars are fascinating. Heavy and clunky, they contain a series of lenses and prisms that capture light and image, flip them around, and bring them to the eyes with clarity and a close-up view that is impossible to the naked eye.

In case you are curious about the science of binoculars, read this from https://www.explainthatstuff.com/binoculars.html:

Binoculars are simply two telescopes side by side, one for each eye. But there’s a catch. When light rays from a distant object pass through a convex lens, they cross over. That’s why distant things sometimes look upside down if you look at them through a magnifying glass. The second lens doesn’t sort out that problem. So binoculars have a pair of prisms (large wedges of glass) inside them to rotate the image through 180 degrees. One prism rotates the image through 90 degrees (flips it onto its side), then the next prism rotates it through another 90 degrees (flips it onto its side again), so the two prisms effectively turn it upside down. The prisms can either be arranged in a back-to-back arrangement (known as roof prisms) or at 90 degrees (known as Porro prisms).

Are we clear now?

All I know is that owning a pair of binoculars on the Outer Banks is almost essential. There are many times when I see something in the water, or across the harbor at the club house that needs a closer look, and my handy binoculars do the trick. Our clubhouse parking area is the local heliport for emergencies, and I have observed several take-offs and landings there. It takes a moment to focus the binoculars, but then everything is clear.

Ephesians 1 (The Message)

15-19 That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks.

But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!

This prayer that Paul lifted up for his friends in Ephesus is one we should continue today. We should ask God to make us intelligent and discerning. We should ask him to help us know him personally. Especially today, we ask that our eyes are focused and clear enough to see EXACTLY what it is he is calling us to do.

This is my prayer for you. You have a calling. You have a divine appointment! May God grant you binocularvision so that you might see and know your calling in the world. May he grant you clarity of sight so that you know without a doubt what actions you should take, what words you should utter, and what step to take next. Focus in! He will show you the way.

I can’t stop thanking God for you.

Up close and personal.