Sinking Sand

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Matthew 7:24-27 ESV via biblegateway.com

I’ve been thinking on old hymns lately, and one that has gotten stuck in my head is the one often called “The Solid Rock”, or “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less.” While slight variations of the lyrics exist, the words follow here:

1My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
 On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
  All other ground is sinking sand.
2When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
3His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
4When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
In Him, my righteousness, alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

For more on the history behind this hymn, see this link:https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-my-hope-is-built

While the song speaks of anchors, frames, and trumpet sounds, its inspiration comes from Jesus’ parable of the houses built on rock and sand, found in Matthew 7. We understand the wisdom of building our house upon the rock, on a solid foundation; we may even agree that Christ is the only solid foundation, and our only hope of salvation. We confess that Jesus is Lord; we say all the right things, and do many good works, believing that we are building on the rock.

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But there are days when I build a temporary summer house on the beach–days when I plant my bare feet in the sandy shoreline, while the gentle waves tickle my toes and slowly cover my feet with glinting sand. My “main” house is safely sitting on the rock, but I am living at the beach. If the storm comes, I might run back inside, but I am lulled into thinking that the storm will never come, and I will only need the shelter and the solid ground in times of distress and obvious danger.

Slowly, the tide and sinking sand can pull me in– I slide into the sinking sand, until the water covers my ankles, and knees. I am still standing, but I am farther from the solid ground, and more vulnerable to the next big wave. It doesn’t take a storm to make me fall over and start thrashing in the surf. I don’t have to rush toward danger, or ignore clear warning signs. I just have to stand in the sinking sand, idly enjoying the scenery, and trusting in my own ability to run to safety at the last minute.

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“All other ground is sinking sand.” There is nothing wrong with enjoying some time at the beach (although I wouldn’t recommend the beaches in my area in November, when the waves are treacherous and the wind slices through several layers of clothing!). There is nothing wrong with enjoying the blessings God has given us in this life. But we cannot plant ourselves in comfort and complacency and hope to build a solid foundation. I cannot trust in my circumstances when they are pleasant and only look to God when I am half-drowned and far from shore. Not because He can’t or won’t rescue me– He is still my hope and my firm foundation– but because I will forget how to stand and where to turn to regain solid footing. My house will be on solid ground, but empty and useless to me on the shifting, sinking sand where I am actually spending my life.

But when I live on solid ground, the storms of life cannot pull me away from safety. “When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my Hope and Stay.”

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Recently, this old hymn has been updated and revised. The message still remains– My Hope is Built on Nothing Less: Christ alone is my Cornerstone and sure foundation. I dare not trust in my circumstances, my own wisdom or feelings, my family, my finances, my health, or any dreams or hopes apart from Christ. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy any of these things. I do, and I thank God for all He has given me. But I pray that I never drift away from the solid and eternal foundation that only He can bring and be in my life.

When Sorrows Like Sea-Billows Roll..

My mother and I shared a wonderful morning shopping and enjoying the spring weather.  We both arrived home, only to be greeted with the news that one of our extended family members had died in an accident.  Just the day before, another member of our family had passed on at age 94.  Both of them left a legacy of faith, hope, joy, and kindness that leaves us grateful, but grieving their loss.

And it is a loss– even though both of them were Christians, even though we have the great hope of being reunited with them in Heaven, even though both of them led full lives–they were unique on this earth, and everything that made them special and irreplaceable to friends and family is now absent; a gaping, aching hole, lined with teasing flashes of memories, echoes of laughter, and unanswered questions.

Some days, the hits just keep coming– an unexpected expense, a misunderstanding at work, a fender-bender during the commute, a plumbing nightmare, a migraine, the phone call with bad news.  Each new pain rolls over us, throwing us off balance, and trying to drag us under.

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“Even so, it is well with my soul.”  The story of this favorite hymn has been told many times, but it bears repeating. ( It Is Will With My Soul. wikipedia.org )  The author of these words had lost everything– his only son had died; shortly afterward, he lost almost all his money and property in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  A friend, knowing of his troubles invited him to bring his family to England for an evangelistic campaign.  Mr. Spafford (the above-mentioned author of the hymn) had to stay behind and sent his wife and four daughters ahead.  Their ship, the Ville du Havre, was struck by another vessel and sank.  All four of the daughters were drowned, and only his wife survived to send him news of the tragedy.  As he made the heartbreaking voyage to rejoin his wife, he passed the place where his daughters had most likely gone down.  At that moment, Mr. Spafford felt a welling of peace and hope beyond human understanding, which led him to pen the words that have given comfort to so many in the years since:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Nothing can prepare us for the sorrows that sweep over us at unexpected moments.  Nothing can stop them, and though we know they will come, no one knows how high they will rise, or when they will crest and break around us.  No one except the one who set the boundaries of the sea, the one who has walked on its waters, and the one who can calm the storm.

God doesn’t remove the sorrows or tragedies from our life or prevent them from washing around and over us.  But for those who trust in him, there is a promise that we will not be consumed. We may be in a storm-tossed boat in the middle of a raging sea, but at our faintest cry, Jesus will walk on choppy waves to be by our side and bring comfort.  He will teach us to be in awe of him as he commands the winds and waves to obey him.  He will teach us to trust him in the good times and the bad.  He will teach us to say, “It is well with my soul!”

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Making Waves

Yesterday, students across the nation walked out of class to protest the school shooting that took place a month ago in Florida.  Many have hailed this as the beginning of a new movement; others have decried it as a stunt.  I’m not here to debate the merits of this particular action or even what it may or may not represent.  What I do want to look at is how and why groups are using various methods to “make waves” in our world.

What does it mean to “make waves?”  According to the online urbandictionary.com, it means:  to cause a disturbance, or to create a situation where chaos or controversy will surface

The underlying assumption is that there is a deceptively calm surface that requires a disturbance– that chaos or controversy are already present, and bringing them to the surface is necessary to prevent more tragic results.

If you live near a large lake or the ocean, you may have watched waves in action.  Waves can be powerful, and even tragic, in their own right.  Storm surge waves and tidal waves have been known to decimate coastal areas; even normal wave action can erode shorelines and pull unwary swimmers under the surface.  But waves also serve good purposes– they polish the stones and wash up treasures onto the beaches.  They prevent stagnation.  They help move small creatures that dwell in the sand and shallow waters.

One thing about waves that sometimes passes unnoticed– waves may change in size or power, but they are constant– rolling in and out unvaried in their rhythm from day to day and year to year.  In this sense, no one “makes” waves, except the creator, who started that rhythm and set the boundaries for the lakes and seas.  Instead, we attempt to create bigger, more powerful waves, or make waves where none were before– puddles, or swimming pools, perhaps.  At some point in our lives, we WILL make waves– but what kind, and to what purpose?

waves

My point is not that we shouldn’t try to be agents of needed change in our world– but we should examine the positive and negative consequences of our wave-making.  Are we pushing something to the surface that needs to be seen or discovered?  Are we pulling something under the surface to drown it out?  Are we eroding a foundation, or carving out a new coastline?  Also, are we being consistent in our wave-making?  Are we hoping for a single tidal wave of chaos, or a constant churning action that brings lasting change.

Of course, since this blog is about prayer, I would suggest that prayers are also like waves– each one breaking in its turn, but constantly rolling, churning, and moving forward, bringing things, both large and small, to the shore.  Prayers have a constant rhythm and a subtle roar that masks their full impact.  Prayers, like rolling waters,  intermingle, push each other forward, dance, and rise, and fall with the winds and storms of life, and roll back to rise up again.
Not all prayers are like waves– not all waves are like prayer.  but  shouldn’t we want to make waves in tune with God’s purposes?  Waves answer to God– he can both calm them, and stir them into wild fury; walk on them, or hold them back.

I pray that our prayers and our actions would be consistent with God’s rhythm; that we would embrace changes and actions that bring him honor.

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