July 3, 2021 - Day with God Reflection
The past year and a half has been quite a faith-stretching adventure for my wife Marie and me. It’s been fraught with many challenges: both of us contracting Covid-19, losing two beloved grandparents, Marie being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and more recently one of our parents being diagnosed with cancer. But it has also been a season of great spiritual growth as we’ve discovered and experienced new depths and dimensions of God’s grace and goodness in our lives.
God sometimes speaks to me through lived experiences, especially when I’m communing with Him in nature. This July (2021) I had one of those experiences. I thought I’d share some of that experience with you in this short [video] reflection below.
This July, after completing my support-raising journey to serve as a P2C campus minister at the University of Guelph , Marie and I took a week off to rest and celebrate our 12-year wedding anniversary up at her family’s cottage. During this time, I set aside one of the days to spend alone with God. I decided to take a day trip kayaking to Knife Island—one of my favourite swimming spots on the Bruce Peninsula.
Kenya, our 9-year miniature poodle, also loves the water and swimming, so I decided to bring her along for the adventure. I loaded up my day pack, put Kenya’s and my life jackets on, hopped in the kayak and then launched off into the sparkling blue waters of Lake Huron.
After about 10 minutes of paddling, Kenya’s initial excitement changed to nervousness as the sight of the shoreline slowly faded from view behind us. And then, almost as if someone had flipped a switch, a powerful wind began to blow over the bay, stirring up white-capped waves which began to pummel the side of the kayak, drenching us both with crisp lake water.
Although it would increase the time and distance of the voyage, I veered off course to the left of Knife Island so that our kayak could attack the waves head-on, rather than being parallel to them. I did this to protect Kenya and me from being sideswiped by the waves and risk tipping over.
However, I couldn’t explain my good purposes for heading directly into the waves to Kenya. She began to whine and shake as our little aquamarine kayak rode up 3-foot waves and then swiftly down the other side, again and again. In her fear and discomfort, I imagine Kenya must have thought I was uncaring, or at the best oblivious to her discomfort. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth: I love her and am for her.
Twenty minutes into the water crossing, we were both wet and weary. Kenya was now looking for a way to climb up out of the kayak. But every time she’d try to abandon ship, I would grab hold of her firmly and pulled her back into the cockpit of the kayak. Each time I would pull her in close to my chest so she could feel my warmth and hear my heart beating. Eventually she surrendered to my love and strength, and in budding trust tucked her little wet nose and head into my chest and under my straining arms as I paddled us into another big wave. Now she was no longer focusing on the winds and the waves, her focus was on me. And she was able to rest and recover, tucked safely against my chest and snuggled under my strong arms.
I then began to worship God over the sound of the crashing waves, singing songs of joy to my Father and Redeemer, declaring my own growing trust in Him. As I continued to worship God in song, Kenya’s shaking and whimpering was stilled, even though the wind and waves still raged around us.
After a little while, Kenya’s trust and courage grew strong enough for her to turn and stand up with front paw perched firmly on the kayak deck to face the wind and waves without fear. There was now a renewed light of excitement and adventure in her brown eyes.
Almost an hour later we arrived at Knife Island, tired but exhilarated. We spent most of the day there basking in the warmth of the sun and God’s goodness and diving into refreshing waters of Lake Huron and God’s amazing grace.
Reflecting on that recent Day with God, I feel like the Lord was giving me a profound and prophetic picture concerning the waters of life God has brought Marie and me through the past year and a half. The Holy Spirit illuminated my eyes to see that we were like Kenya in adventure and God was me planning the adventure, paddling the kayak, steering us into and through the wind and the waves, and holding us tightly and close to His heart under the shelter of His strong arms, as He brought us to a good and spacious place.
Like Kenya, we had hope-filled excitement and expectations when we launched off on this new life and ministry adventure with God back in Fall 2019. However, we really didn’t know what kind of voyage it would be, how long it would take, or what waves and wind we’d encounter along the way. We did know one thing: God was with us; He was the One steering the ship, even when it didn’t feel like it at times.
Like Kenya, our scope of vision and knowledge of God’s larger plan was very limited, like one peering into a mirror dimly. I’m reminded that God’s thoughts and ways are infinitely higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). Like Kenya, we could not understand the Lord’s wisdom and goodness in steering us headlong into the white-capped waves, rather than taking us on the shorter, but more perilous route.
Like me, God was expertly navigating the kayak through rough waters. He knew exactly what He was doing, where He was taking us, and how to get there safely, even though it meant a longer voyage than we had hoped or asked for. His strong arms were in complete control the whole time, even when it felt like the kayak would surely tip or be overtaken by the heaving of the waves.
Like God, my plans for Kenya and myself were good—I desired to bring her to a beautiful place, but this meant leading her across treacherous waters to get there. In a similar way, God’s plans for us were, are, and will always be for our good and His glory, despite the difficult circumstances we may find ourselves in. He knew that that this adventure would require us to choose faith over fear, and trust over timidity.
However, we, like Kenya, so easily lose heart and feel like abandoning ship. But every time this happened, God’s strong arms would grab hold of us and pull us in close, so that we could hear the Father’s heartbeat and hear His voice singing songs of joy and delight over us.
Hearing God sing over us brought comfort to our souls, and like Kenya, the Spirit began strengthening the feeble legs of our faith so that we could stand tall and gaze out at the horizon knowing that the Captain of our souls was in control and would bring us safely to His desired haven where the sunshine of His love and the refreshing waters of His grace would satisfy our weary souls.
We praise God that Jesus, our Captain and King, is still sovereign over the winds and the waves!
In part one and two of this series, I outlined some of my past experiences while making a living and embracing the secular music culture. I also detailed some of the various adjustments that I needed to make after being born again. In this last part of the trilogy, I would like to address a couple of personal concerns I have observed along the way, as Jody and I have been ministering in different churches over the past 23 years.
Having been raised in the slippery slope of secular music, it is difficult for me to hear worship minstrels say things like, “We had a great show last night at such and such a church,” or, “We’ve got a gig next Sunday morning.” This is the language of the world. I believe we should have an entirely different desire and focus.
We are called to worship the one true God with our whole being. The best musicians in every field are those who allow their hearts to express their inner affection through their music, and passionately express the love they have. It is awesome that we, as children of God, have the opportunity and privilege of pouring out our love and adoration for our beautiful and loving Father. Worship is a time to draw near to God with our deepest hearts, and not a time to draw attention to ourselves regarding our gifts.
I don’t believe it is healthy for us to look to worldly musicians as examples to glean from. We are blessed to have so many great godly musicians that we can learn from today. When we inappropriately look up to a particular person, they may become a type of teacher or mentor. YouTube is an excellent resource for both good and bad influences. We can inadvertently start to imitate the people we are watching on the internet. Jesus said, “A student is not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher” (Luke 6:40). Sometimes we get more than we bargained for when we set our eyes upon a prize. Many great worldly musicians have very serious relational issues, and many struggle with depression and addictions, among other things.
We are born again, and we are a royal priesthood. We are the children of God. Music was created by our Heavenly Father, and the majority of people on earth have a special love for it. I believe that we should be discerning, regarding the distinction between worldly music and music dedicated to God. James says, “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). Jesus said, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). Billy Graham was quoted in 2016 as saying, “This cosmos has its own entertainment and diversions that so permeate the atmosphere that it makes the way of the cross seem antiquated and irrelevant. In much of the entertainment media fostered by the cosmos, the name of God is profaned, sex is glamorized, and high, ethical living and Christian moral standards are laughed at.”
I know that many may disagree with my viewpoint on this distinction of worldly and godly music. I’ve had passionate discussions with Christians who vehemently oppose this concept. I've been told more than once that music is ‘amoral,’ which means it is neither moral nor immoral. Let’s agree to disagree on this issue. In my experience, all forms of music have an effect on us regardless of the lyrics. There is a vibration in the sound that has the power and capability to stimulate and awaken pure or impure motivations and desires.
God desires us to be holy, the definition of which means, “devoted entirely to God or to the work of God.” That’s us! We are called to be holy. Here are some synonyms of holy: blessed, consecrated, hallowed, sacred, sanctified. We are the ‘called out’ Levites who are expected to consecrate our hearts and hands in order to be ready to worship Him in spirit and in truth. This reminds me of a song by Mercy Me, written by Chris Tomlin called “Give Us Clean Hands.”
“We bow our hearts, we bend our knees
O Spirit, come make us humble
We turn our eyes from evil things
O Lord, we cast down our idols
So give us clean hands, give us pure hearts
Let us not lift our souls to another”
O, Minstrel of Worship, I hope that you are still excited to be part of this high calling of God?
Psalm 24:3-5 says:
“Who may climb the mountain of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
Only those whose hands and hearts are pure,
who do not worship idols
and never tell lies.
They will receive the LORD’s blessing
and have a right relationship with God, their saviour.”