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Anchored In Hope - Anchored in the Creator

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.” Psalm 19:1-2

Our guest author this week is Pastor Jonathan Swenson. He has served alongside his wife, Pastor Jana Swenson, for over 30 years in a variety of ministries including 17 years in parish ministry. Jonathan is the Founding Director of Paraphrase Theatre, a one-actor, multiple-character drama ministry on the life of Christ. Together, Jonathan and Jana also have an online marriage ministry called More to This Life. We are excited to have both Jonathan and Jana as our guest speakers for Family Camp #2 this year at IOLBC!

One of the joys of attending a week at camp is the gift of being renewed in this great hope in Christ by spending time in the Word and the beauty of God’s Creation. As Psalm 19:1-2 tells us “the heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” When I‘m at camp I take God up on what He says in verses like these. I love to sit at the beach and stare into the glorious expanse of the lake and the wide-open view of the sky. I usually read a bit of scripture and then I try to listen and to look… and to lean into what God has to say about Himself, and about my relationship with Him.

One of the reminders God frequently brings to mind and heart in these holy moments is the truth that God is WITH us in ALL of life…the good and the bad, the mountain peaks AND the valleys. God is with us, even when we don’t FEEL as though He is. These reminders are critical for us to know and believe if we are going to hold on to this “Anchor of Hope” when trouble comes. The book of Psalms is a great tool for giving us these faith-building reminders because it contains such deeply passionate, honest and intimate expressions of faith through ALL the seasons of life. Theologian Walter Bruggeman suggests that, in a very broad sense, every Psalm falls into one of the following three categories: 1. Psalms of Orientation – When we pray confidently in God’s goodness and his care for our lives. 2. Psalms of Disorientation – When simple faith is difficult. 3. Psalms of NEW Orientation - When we move beyond the unfairness of life through a transformation and renewal of heart and mind. If we line up Psalm 19 with those definitions we see that Psalm 19 is very much a Psalm of Orientation. But what do we do when we find ourselves in a time of “DIS-Orientation?” A metaphor from another North Iowa lake might be helpful here…

The church where my wife Jana and I first served as pastors was in Clear Lake, IA. At the time Clear Lake hosted a boat racing competition which brought in people from around the world. The boats were long, sleek and POWERFUL with huge engines pulled behind them as they rolled into town. They were impressive, even before entering the lake for the high-speed competition. I also learned that these boats are quite dangerous. Apparently they reach such high levels of speed so quickly it is a very possible for them to flip and roll if they hit a wave at just the wrong angle. If the balance of the seacraft is thrown off just slightly, the boat may end-up tumbling across the surface of the lake like a huge skipping rock. In that moment, the pilot of the boat risks being ejected and driven deep down into the water by the sheer force of impact. To make an already difficult scenario seem nearly impossible, the pilot is often knocked momentarily unconscious when first hitting the water. You can imagine how confused and disoriented they are when they come to their senses! The world is almost entirely dark and they are surrounded by water with no apparatus for breathing. The term ““disorienting” seems pretty mild in this case. Instead, the words like “TERRIFYING” and “Nightmare” come to mind!

The Psalmists didn’t know the world of high-speed boat racing, but we can be certain they understood that life is full of ups and downs, mountain peaks of success and deep, dark valleys of failure and disappointment. In the moments when things are going well, it may seem easy to find meaning and purpose in life – to have faith in the goodness and the presence of God. But when you are in a time of despair or loss or grief… or even transition, it can become all too easy to lose energy and focus and lapse into a time of anxiety or depression. In other words, a time of INTENSE disorientation – emotionally, physically, relationally or spiritually. It is not uncommon for a speedboat pilot, in this moment of being shot down dozens of feet below the surface of the water, to begin swimming madly in the first direction they are facing. The problem is they are so disoriented, they may actually be swimming DOWN to more danger, instead of UP to safety. What they NEED, and are trained, to do in these crisis situations is to trust the lifejacket they have intentionally been wearing.

In other words, a the man or woman caught in this panic-filled situation must have the where-with-all to stop kicking and frantically trying to “save themselves” and, instead, simply stop “trying” altogether. IF they can let go, their LIFEJACKET WILL save them! It will naturally bring them to the surface and safety. To the light of day, air they can breathe, and other members of the community who can help rescue them. If they let go of the control and trust the life-giver, it will orient them OUT of their disorientation… and it will bring them to a place of safety and praise! The Bible IS the Word of God. It is filled with promises of God’s love, provision and protection in our lives. The Bible, along WITH the signs and symbols of Creation, work together to bring stability, understanding, wisdom, faith, and trust in the goodness of God and his promise to be the Anchor which holds us fast to our Hope in the Gospel. The hope reminding us that, though we may suffer and stray at times in this life, the day has already been secured for us when we will suffer and wander no more. “In Christ the Solid ROCK we stand… all other ground is sinking sand!” Hold on to Hope, my friends. Maybe I will see you at the Beach this summer, and we can hold on together!

Follow Up

- If you are interested in learning more about the Psalms, you can check out Bruggeman's book by clicking HERE.

- In what ways does creation speak to you about God?

- In times of disorientation, are you willing to let your "life jacket of faith" pull you safely to the surface, or do you fight against it?

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