Today I feel strongly compelled to share something very private and personal to me. It is a personal journal entry I wrote on April 17, 2017. This is just as fresh to me today as it was then. May God use it as He seems fit…
Encounter with God…
(April 17, 2017). It started Saturday evening. Late. 10:30ish. The week had been extremely busy. Especially today, with work, Elijah’s baseball games, and the church Easter egg hunt at 4pm earlier today…then off to Dirt cheap where we discovered 5 buggies of books for $5. By the time we loaded and unloaded them in preparation of launching a new money-making venture with the boys, it was 8:30ish. As we pulled into our street, Roy Eichelberger flagged us down so he could feed us…thank God, because we were short on cash and hungry!! So we ate, got home, and set the boys in motion for getting ready for the sunrise service at 7 am in the morning.
I was tired…almost asleep on the couch, but needed to press on. Devotions at 7am , breakfast, then worship at 9am, and I still wasn’t sure what The Lord would have me preach. And I would not have the luxury of the Sunday school hour as extra time for preparation. It was on my shoulders then to get up, grab some caffeine, and go pray and study for the morning services.
Then I headed to Mars Hill, a place where I like to go pray and study from time to time when the stars are out. It is a beautiful place to look into the sky and talk to the Lord. As I began my ascent up the mountain, I was hungry and thirsty to hear a word from the Lord. I remember thinking to myself that I hoped the Lord would not disappoint me, but then it dawned on me that He never had. So I whispered a prayer, telling the Lord that he has never disappointed me. I also asked him, however, to at least surprise me with this visit I had planned with him.
Exhausted, a bit discouraged, and yet hopeful, I arrived to my destination, anticipating to spend some time with my precious Lord. I began to meditate on where life’s journey had taken me from, and where I had arrived to this point in my life and ministry. A bit overwhelmed, I began to cry out to the Lord in my heart to begin to manifest himself in ways that I had long for for many years. It was like groanings which could not be uttered. Then, it happened. The Lord brought back to my memory a recent time where he had spoken to my heart through a song called, “I feel the winds of God today.” It was a song of resolve. A song that enable me to realize that God had set me on this journey, and because it is a journey of faith, the unexpected twists and turns, though unexpected to me, were no surprise to God. And because of such, I resolved to be OK with God’s vision for my life, even if it looked totally different than what I had in mind when I first set out to sea with God.
Furthermore, the Lord also brought back to memory a recent prayer that I heard on an audio I was listening to, which I will now share:
Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well poised with ourselves. When our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little. When we arrive safely because we have sailed too close to the shore. Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly to venture on wider seas where storms will show Your mastery. Where, losing site of land, we shall find stars. We ask You to push back the horizons of our hopes. We ask You to push in the future in strength, courage, hope, & love.
~Sir Frances Drake, 16th Century English Sailor
The One phrase that resonated most with me tonight was, “Where, losing sight of land, we shall find stars.” It seems to me, the more my precious Lord leads me down this journey, the further the distance between where I thought I would be (or the place I wish I were), and the place where he is leading me. Unfamiliar territory is an understatement. I feel I am losing sight of land, meaning, I’m realizing now that God has a completely different path for me than what I had envisioned for most of my Christian experience. Until tonight, I had constantly dealt with disappointment, perceiving that I had failed to accomplish my objectives, not realizing that I was never meant to accomplish MY objectives. I may have had some general idea of what God would do with me, for me, and through me, but I had no idea of the specific steps he would lead me down, so I’m having to learn to trust him with every new step now. Though I have been saved since 1990, and preaching since 1997, I’m just now learning to lean on him.
So, today, now Easter morning (because it is after midnight as I write this journal entry), is the start of a brand-new day and a brand-new chapter in my life. The Holy Ghost has comforted me tonight. He has assured me that he has set me aside for himself. He has reminded me that I have been constantly guided by his unseen hand, and that I am still right where he wants me. However, it is a journey, and there is yet much to come in terms of destination. What I have been through to date is preparation. And when I considered the painful process of losing sight of the land I was so attached to and comfortable with, it was as if the Holy Spirit spoke to me in a whisper, “Yeah, but aren’t the stars just so beautiful?”
I then looked out my vehicle window to look up, and the stars were absolutely gorgeous. But it was more than a meaningful moment, it was monumental and profound on a spiritual level. The truth is, it is so much better out here on the water with my precious Lord, sailing His seas by faith, where I can see His Glory on full, bright display, than standing on the shores without him. Then it occurred to me, that His northern star has always been right, true, and faithful throughout my entire Christian life. When the storms of life seemed to blow me off course, I could always look up and find direction from my precious Lord to get me back on the right path.
Even in a very literal sense, some of my most meaningful times with the Lord since a teenager has been sitting under the stars and talking to him, imagining what it must’ve been like for Abraham when God told him to count the stars if he could. So just as Abraham heard the promises of God as he gazed into the stars, promising him that his seed would be more numerable than the stars in the sky for number, I too have renewed hope that God has blessings so abundant in my future that they are as countless as the stars.
So I sang this tune to the Lord that I referenced earlier, as I was now standing outside of my vehicle, eyes upward, hands lifted, and a cool perfect breeze blowing in my face:
I feel the winds of God today; today my sail I lift, Though heavy, oft with drenching spray, and torn with many a rift;
If hope but light the water’s crest, and Christ my bark will use, I’ll seek the seas at His behest, and brave another cruise.
It is the wind of God that dries my vain regretful tears, Until with braver thoughts shall rise the purer, brighter years;
If cast on shores of selfish ease or pleasure I should be; Lord, let me feel Thy freshening breeze, and I’ll put back to sea.
If ever I forget Thy love and how that love was shown, Lift high the blood red flag above; it bears Thy name alone.
Great pilot of my onward way, Thou wilt not let me drift; I feel the winds of God today, today my sail I lift.
So if today starts a brand-new chapter, a brand-new journey, a brand-new assignment, a brand-new vision or task that I have never imagined before, I will gladly set sail for my Lord understanding more now than ever that he knows best. Eventually, such an event may not only remove me from familiar territory, but also from familiar friends and faces that may or may not ever be an intregal part of my life again, but that is OK, because the Lord has set me aside for Himself, and His portion will be more than sufficient! Regardless of what lies ahead, I pray now more than ever (and feel assured that the answer is on its way) for the filling of the Holy Spirit of God.
End of journal entry