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.

Pre-Light

I am not a morning person, so my favorite way to watch the sunrise is catching my friend’s FaceBook posts about an hour and a half after the fact. But Sundays are a different matter, as I wake up in the dark to prepare for church. As I caffeinate, I notice the beautiful deep blue that replaces the charcoal grey as the sky prepares to welcome the sun. The pre-light of dawn is almost prettier than the sunrise itself. It is so filled with promise.

Here on the Outer Banks, we enjoy “big sky,” where you can see for miles and miles. There are no high rises, no buildings, and even no trees to obstruct your view. As a friend’s child once observed on a cruise ship, you can “see as far as your eyes can see.” When the sky changes here, it colors the entire horizon.

If you’ve ever spent a sleepless night staring out your window, you know the change that comes over your soul when day finally begins to break. Somehow the company of the sun brings a warmth with it that dispels the darkness of the spirit, and even can bring with it a sense of “maybe this isn’t so bleak” as the night dissipates and clarity comes in.

Every day is filled with promise. Every day is an opportunity to get it right, undo a wrong, make a difference, bring joy to someone, and talk to the Lord. Pre-light signals hope.

Psalm 119 (New International Version)

147 I rise before dawn and cry for help;
    I have put my hope in your word.
148 My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,
    that I may meditate on your promises.
149 Hear my voice in accordance with your love;
    preserve my life, Lord, according to your laws.
150 Those who devise wicked schemes are near,
    but they are far from your law.
151 Yet you are near, Lord,
    and all your commands are true.

The psalmist speaks into the pre-light. Having stayed awake all night to meditate on God’s promises, he rises before dawn and cries for help. Ever been there?

So often we put our hope in other things: spouses, family, neighbors, the government, friends….and with luck, these things come through for us. But putting our hope in God’s word is the only thing we can really count on to sustain us and preserve us.

God is near, and his word is always true. So next time you find yourself awake in the dark, lean on his understanding and not your own.

Arise and shine, for your light has come.

Colington Pre-Light

Surf Fishing

Surf fishing is a very popular sport on the Outer Banks. Our entire coastline provides numerous spots that are perfect for this. Wherever you go on the beach, you are likely to run into a surf fisherman. I am a beach walker, so I know to carefully look for the sun’s reflection on their lines and walk under or behind them. It would be counterproductive to decapitate myself whilst trying to get in shape.

The beauty of surf fishing is that you can simply walk to your fishing spot. No boats, nets, piers, or docks required. Take off your shoes and cast your line! Of course the challenge is the surf itself. Negotiating the waves and the unknown depths of the water just beyond the break are part of the fun. More than once I have watched someone excitedly reeling in a fish while walking into the waves, only to hit the underwater drop-off and submerge up to their chest. By the way, the fish love it when that happens.

Surf fishing also requires a fair amount of “situational awareness,” especially as you cast. Always look around you, and especially behind you! Nobody wants to hook a sunbather in the eye. Or the bikini top.

Jesus knew a lot about fishing.

Mark 1 (The Message)

16-18 Passing along the beach of Lake Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew net-fishing. Fishing was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions. They dropped their nets and followed.

19-20 A dozen yards or so down the beach, he saw the brothers James and John, Zebedee’s sons. They were in the boat, mending their fishnets. Right off, he made the same offer. Immediately, they left their father Zebedee, the boat, and the hired hands, and followed.

So, had you realized that surf fishing is in the Bible?? Simon and Andrew were net-fishing from the beach. James and John were in a boat. All were given the instruction to leave their work and follow Jesus. The new job would be to fish for people.

Fishing for people also requires a kind of “situational awareness.” How ready is this person to hear the Gospel? What is the best approach? What do they need…a testimony, or a sandwich? What would communicate God’s love best?

You are also called to people-fish. Dropping the net you are currently holding is the best way to approach this new task. How can God use your abilities, resources, and personality to spread a word of hope, acceptance, and love?

Jesus calls us to follow him. May we be like the disciples and drop what we’re doing, leave everything behind, and immediately respond. You never know what you’ll catch.

Sunrise Surf Fishermen by Michelle Robertson

A Pig’s Tale

A pastor’s job is never done. All day long we are about our Father’s work, laboring with him to save souls. Then we get in our cars to take our weary bodies home, still thinking about saving souls.

Then there was that one day when I got in my car and had the chance to save something else. A 300-pound pig.

I was driving home from my office on Kitty Hawk Road when the little lass in the picture darted across somebody’s front lawn and ran in the road directly in front of me. I made a U-turn, parked in someone’s driveway, and set about chasing her. She had a good head start, but I am a less-than-300-pound runner, so I caught up. She turned to look at me as though to assess what kind of game we were playing, and suddenly I realized that I had absolutely no idea what I would do if I actually caught her. All I wanted was to keep her from getting hit on our busy road.

At that point I was only a block away from the Kitty Hawk Police Department. Having been raised to trust and respect the men and women in blue, I immediately set out to get my new friend over to the police station. Listen, it was a good plan…even their cars say they “protect and serve.” I was sure that in Kitty Hawk, that is not limited to people.

So I began to walk toward the station, calling, “Here, Piggy Piggy!” For those of you laughing, what exactly would YOU have said?? After all, Piggy and I had not been formally introduced.

At first she just stared at me. I think she liked the chase better. But after rooting around a little more in somebody’s yard, she began walking my way. (Do you think she maybe recognized the call of a savior?) I had to stop traffic when I needed to get her to cross the road (next morning‘s Sentinel headline: Why Did Piggy Cross the Road? To Get to the Police Station) and she trotted right over to my side.

I piggy-piggied her right up to the front door of the station, and walked in the front lobby and told the very startled receptionist, “I’m here to report a rogue pig.”

“Excuse me, M’am, a rogue WHAT? Oh….well, that’s just Caroline. She gets out all the time.”

She called an officer up from the back and he took one look at the pig and said, “Caroline, did you take yourself out for a walk again? Come on, let’s get you home.” And the Caroline and the officer trotted off to a property behind the police station where Caroline was safely delivered back home. Thus ends my pig tale.

Caroline is apparently a notorious Kitty Hawk wanderer, and I was not the first to save her. In fact, it was obvious to me that Caroline wanted to be saved.

How about you?

2 Peter 2 (The Message)

21-25 This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step.

He never did one thing wrong,
Not once said anything amiss.

They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right.

He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.

Jesus used his servant body to carry our sins to the cross so that we might be saved. His actions enabled us to be free to live the right way. By his wounds we are healed! No longer lost sheep, (or pigs) we know the way home. Jesus did that for you.

Are you longing to be saved? Today is the day. Kneel down and confess your sins. Ask Jesus to cleanse you and make you whole. Ask him to live in you from now until he calls you home. Dedicate yourself to a life of following him, serving him, learning about him, and never straying from his path again.

Jesus saves. Is he calling you? Get yourself home.

They call me the Wanderer.