An ever-changing world requires a shifting skill set. Children now take keyboarding classes in early elementary school, but many never learn to read or write cursive. In many ways I lament the loss of handwriting. This morning I used a vintage Conway Stewart 58 to jot a few notes. People wonder why I paid $100 for the pen ten years ago. I often hear comments about how many plastic Bics they can buy for that amount. My pen is cheaper, lasts far longer, and brings me more writing pleasure than the three or four phones I have had during that period.
I am not against phones; they do come in handy for checking email, fidgeting while waiting for Sherri to come out of Wal-Mart, and finding directions. I no longer have an atlas in the car or a glove box full of maps from various states. Those big, accordion folded sheets of paper that mapped all the arteries of American transportation languish in antique stores with the fountain pens. Now men who would never admit they are lost or pause to ask for directions take orders from a lady every time they go off of the beaten path. While GPS may take me through parts of town I may not have gone on my own, I do not get lost anymore. I only miss the old maps when Sherri and I want a “wandering vacation” where we keep to three rules: stay off of four lane highways, avoid bad weather, and turn around when half the money runs out.
As I walk through Acts 27 I am struck by the way Paul was literally and figuratively swept away by the currents of life. Other people decided when they would leave one port for another, the type of ship they would ride, and when they would pause for wintering. Paul gave suggestions, but no one paid attention to the prisoner.
The trip began on small coast hugging boats, but they soon switched to a ship transporting grain from Egypt to the masses in Rome. The ship owner and captain had to balance the threat of a late season voyage against profits to be earned. The decision to leave Fair Haven made sense – they left a city without a safe harbor for Phoenix where the ship would find protection from storms from any direction. They could certainly take the risk to sail for one more day to reach a safe place to winter.
The day began with a gentle breeze. Then the northeastern winds blew off of the 7,000-foot mountain tops and the sea became angry. Sailors threw some of the cargo and equipment overboard rather than the preacher as had happened so many years ago. This preacher experienced sustaining grace rather than delivering grace. Luke did not record rebuking of the storm or crying out for deliverance. Paul had not chosen the destination or set the course. His deep-set confidence in the One who called him to witness before kings sustained him through the sunless days.
Paul feared loss of cargo and of “our own lives”. He felt anxious over the decisions others made. Luke drove the point home by stating “all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.” Paul had defended his hope when threatened by human adversaries in chapter 26, now his hope suffers with this new threat. As the storm screamed of pending death and the arms of the sea reached up to receive the bodies of those about to die, Paul experienced fear with the other 275 people on the ship. The clouds blocked any hope of mapping the journey by plotting a course with the stars.
But the heavens where not silent.
At that moment Paul got a messenger from God. The angel commanded him to reject the rational fear of the moment in favor of the deep confidence in God’s call so many years ago. The wind could change nothing. While sailors bound the ship with ropes to try to keep the boards secure, Paul held himself together by the angel’s reminder that he would stand before the king. He did not pray against the storm; he already had a word that the storm would pass.
Paul got a bonus message – he got to keep all of the people on the ship from harm too.
The storm provided a convincing background for Paul to witness yet again. He spoke of the One he worshipped, the One who sent the messenger. Paul may have lost hope of surviving the storm prior to the angelic visit, but he kept his faith. That kind of faith must be shared with a world that can only trust in fragile, eggshell-like lifeboats in those dark stormy nights. After the witnessing came the food for those who had fasted for 14 days.
That kind of faith calls me to pray.
My world needs real faith – a faith that can speak in those dark, hopeless nights. I am ashamed of moments when I have lost hope that the storms will pass. I know You have called Sherri and me to serve You with our lives, but a few of the storms seem to have lasted so long that our efforts and voices seem to be lost in the chaos.
Thank you for the Bible’s honesty. Paul defended his hope in one chapter when faced with a king and 5,000 soldiers, but in the storm his hope waivered. You did not abandon him in those moments. Instead You chose to send him a message.
Thank you for all of the messages You have sent my way through the years. Some messages have come through dreams and a vision. Other messages came through a dear saint sharing a word with me that had originated in Your throne room.
I have confidence that Sherri and I will make it through every storm to come just has You have taken us through so many in the past. Give me the courage to know when to quit praying against the storm and start sharing faith with people who are so terrified and hungry in the storm. Help me to trust Your guiding hand when life seems to give me very few options. Your purpose and intent for us cannot be thwarted by poor decisions of others or by abrupt changes in life. We will treasure Your sustaining grace even when we would prefer Your delivering grace. You always know what we needed to complete the missionary journey You have laid out for us.
Today my faith and hope both rise by the power of Your Word and Spirit. Nothing can stop Your kingdom coming and Your will being done on earth as it is heaven.
In Jesus’ Name,