THE VAST OCEAN

Is there a special place where you seem to feel God’s presence most powerfully?

For me, one place where I always seem to feel God’s presence most powerfully is the beach.

Marco Island beach

                                                  Marco Island, FL

When I was young, my family would often vacation in North Wildwood, NJ to enjoy the beach and boardwalk there. We would always stay in the same motel, The Flying Dutchman, usually with an ocean view room that was a short walk to the beach. I think because of that, I have always enjoyed spending time at the beach and ocean especially as I became an adult. Even as a child, I would be sad when it was time to leave and return back home; I just wanted to stay there and be in God’s presence. On a side note, we took our kids to North Wildwood a few years and were surprised to see The Flying Dutchman was still there….just remodeled! 🙂

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                                     Back in the day at North Wildwood, NJ

I have been blessed to continue to vacation at a beach often and have gotten spoiled to frequent places where we are able to rent a condo right on the beach. That way there is easy access to and from the beach, and you can cook your own meals whenever you want. I have enjoyed sharing my love of the beach with my children through the years, and it was a good place to vacation, especially when they were younger.

When I go to the ocean, I seem to encounter God more powerfully and sense His presence. It is still difficult when it is time to pack up and return home.

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                                      Virginia Beach, VA

What makes the ocean so special to me?

–I love to look out and see miles and miles of the vast ocean water-you can’t see the beginning nor the end of it…it just flows on continually all day and night…

–I marvel at the width and depth of the ocean waters…

–How does the water continually flow from one place to another…back and forth…all under God’s command?

–It is amazing to think how the the tides come in and out each day…

–Sometimes the waves are enormous and sometimes they are few and far between…

–I love to think about all the life that is present in the ocean waters…each type of fish, crab, starfish, sand-dollar, shark, dolphin, sea plants having its own life pattern and serving the purpose God has in mind…

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      A sand-dollar at Marco Island, FL. So cool to see it breathing!

–The uncountable grains of sand in the ocean and on the beaches each with its own special purpose in God’s plan…

–I think it’s neat to think about the many Bible stories of Jesus and his disciples that were near the water…

–There is a peacefulness in listening to the waves soothing my soul…

O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them.  –Psalm 89:9 (NIV)

This summer my family was blessed to visit a new-to-us beach place called Marco Island in Florida, which is on the southwest coast. I felt like I was in heaven because it was such a beautiful place with the water having a blue-green hue to it, and there were such calm waters there. My kids were actually disappointed the waves were so calm, but for me, it was just perfect. You could go out in the 85 degree ocean waters and just float around for hours not having to worry about waves. Technically, it is the Gulf waters rather than the ocean, so I’m wondering if that is why.

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                       The tranquil waters of Marco Island, FL

Being on the west coast of Florida provided for stunning sunsets glistening upon the ocean waters every night. I was glad a friend mentioned about taking a picture for her the first night. Then, it was so much fun and so beautiful, that every night I had the pleasure of seeing God’s majestic glory of the sunsets. It was great to take so many pictures of them.

Seeing the sunrise or the sunset shows me God’s presence, and I love to soak them in.

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  SO PROUD OF THIS SHOT… a bird in the sunset at Marco Island, FL

For me, the ocean is a wonder of God’s presence where His awesome love and beauty flow forth. I feel the glory and the splendor of the Lord at the ocean!

The seas have lifted up, O Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea–the Lord on high is mighty. –Psalm 93:3-4 (NIV)

A friend of mine was just at the beach last week, and I felt her words best summarized my thoughts of being at the beach exactly:

“There is a peace to be found at the ocean’s edge. Words cannot touch the part of our souls that a pounding surf reaches. This gives life a tranquil place of rest.” –Mischell Barbieri

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                     Ship Bottom, NJ Photo credit by Mischell Barbieri

How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number–living things both large and small. There the ships go to and fro, and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there. –Psalm 104:24-26 (NIV)

CHANGE

How many times do we, as humans, resist change in our lives? 

Do you ever get set in your routine and ways, and don’t think that change is necessary?

We are probably the creatures that have the hardest time with change.  As I look around this beautiful world God created, it occurs to me how the Lord made everything to change.

Maybe we can learn some lessons about change by looking at the world around us.

Consider the birds of the air.

Some birds change colors with the various seasons; some birds migrate to different places in order to survive each year.  Their environment is constantly changing, but they adapt in order to survive.


The oceans change too.

Sometimes the waters are calm and serene, while at other times they are rough and full of waves.  At two different times each day, the tide comes in and then goes out.  The oceans serve the purpose God has in mind for them.

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Photo credit by Lara under Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0)

Even the trees experience change in their lives with the different seasons.

In the spring the trees grow new leaves that are green, and in the summer they grow bigger and bigger.  When fall comes, the leaves change such beautiful colors, and then, as the weather cools, they eventually fall off their branches.  In the winter, there are no leaves, but the trees are preparing to start changing again.  The trees bring us a sense of awe and wonder in their change, but they are really fulfilling the laws of nature that God has set in place.

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Photo credit by Ted under Creative Commons License (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The skies change many times during a day as well. 

Sometimes there are clouds that bring in rain, sometimes snow.  And, sometimes the sky lacks even the hint of a cloud–it is just crystal clear blue.  Sometimes the sky shows God’s beautiful red sunset.  Again, this is such magnificent beauty, and a plan of nature set in place by God.

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The Lord also created our physical bodies to change throughout our lives.

Did you ever stop to think how little you were when you were in your mother’s womb?  Your physical body endured many changes before you made your grand appearance on this earth! And for the next 18 or so years your body grew in leaps and bounds. Maybe you suffered some ailments when you were a child and actually outgrew them as you got older because of the way your physical body changed. Personally, I was thankful when I finished growing as a teen so that my scoliosis did not get any worse. After enduring years of allergy shots, I was blessed to outgrow my allergies. Even as adults, our bodies continue to change. It is all part of God’s plan.

The next time change comes into your life, remember how God made everything in the universe to change–it is a natural part of life. Change can help us grow in ways we never thought possible.

Since the Lord made all these “things” to change in so many ways, how much more must He expect our hearts and spirits to change throughout our lives?

He wants to continually change us—to make us more in His image.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.  –2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV)

He can only do this if we are willing to accept change and to surrender our lives to Him. 

We shouldn’t be so afraid of change since the Lord wouldn’t lead us astray, and He is always with us no matter what!

To be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  –Ephesians 4:23-24 (NIV)

GOD’S CREATIONS

Have you ever thought about how unique and amazing ALL of God’s creations are?
While visiting a local zoo last year with my eldest son who enjoys photography, I pondered that thought. How amazing our God is who created every living creature in this world…from the littlest sea creature and the smallest plant, to the huge elephant and even you and me!
Every creature that God created is different and unique in its own way.
While at the zoo…
…I loved seeing how the snow leopard’s tail was actually as long as its whole body.
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…the black toed penguins and the river otters (my son’s favorite) are really so cute. In fact, almost as cute and cuddly as the panda bear that is my favorite!
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…watching the gray and red wolves (another favorite of my son’s) move around was kind of eerie, but is was neat to see the differences between them. The red wolves have longer legs and are smaller than the gray wolf.
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…I never realized how small the arctic fox was!
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The beach is another place where I find myself marveling at God’s creations too. Looking out at the vast ocean and thinking of all the life that it holds seems mind boggling. Collecting seashells to see their beauty is another highlight and thinking of the life that was once contained in them. Everything just works together and flows under God’s command.
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seashells final

Sand Dollar

Just today while at Marco Island, FL, I was fascinated when my son scooped up some sand from the ocean water and found a beautiful shell that still had the creature inside. A quick google search indicates it was a ladder horn snail. I stood in awe as we held the shell in the water and after a bit the creature would pop its head and body out of its shell. What an amazing little creature that made me stop and think again how totally amazing God is! My son then found this living sand dollar!
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snail 2
snail 3 final
snail 4 final
snail 5
While in Florida, it has been fascinating to see some cool little “Geico” lizards too. We even spotted a little baby one!
geico little final
Observing the birds of the sky can also be mesmerizing for me. It is amazing to see their beauty while they soar through the sky and listen to their songs of praise. Each variety is special and unique in its own way.
What an amazing God who created such unique things to populate this beautiful world of ours!
While reflecting on all the animals at the zoo that day, it also made me reflect on how God then made humans. Just like all the animals, plants, and birds are unique and special in their own way, so are humans! We are each so different and unique in our own way.
Stop and think about what an amazing God we have!
He created our world, every plant, animal, bird, and human! All is created by Him to do His will. All praise and honor belongs to Him! We are all unique and special just as God wanted to create and fashion us. We have the honor of being made in His image!
But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.  –Job 12:7-10  (NIV)
How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number–living things both large and small.  –Psalm 104:24-25  (NIV)
If you would like to check out my son’s photographs, here is a link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/84373338@N05/

CLIMBING MOUNTAINS

A long time ago, I climbed a mountain, Mt. Ampersand in NYS, that was over 3,300’ high.  It was like a nightmare to me because it had rained the day before, it was a pretty steep incline for a non-mountain climber, and the terrain was pretty intense! During the mountain climb, I was sure I was going to die! Somehow, I managed to survive AND even live to tell about it! I sure was thankful to have made it back down and be on “solid” ground again (after slipping in mud at the very end!) This mountain climbing experience wasn’t all bad because it made me think about the parallel of “climbing mountains” in our own lives.

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                      The majestic view of Mt. Ampersand

First, it made me realize that often we’re lucky that we don’t know when the “upward” mountain times are coming.

Just like when climbing a mountain, you can’t always see where the path is leading or how high the path is going to be, if we knew what was ahead of us on our “mountain climb”, we’d try to avoid it and run the other way. Then we would never grow into the strong people God intended us to be.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.  –Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)

If we take one step at a time or one day at a time, slowly but surely, we’ll be able to make it to the top.

When climbing a mountain, you have no choice but to put one foot in front of the other, going step by step. In our “mountain climb”, if we stop to think about how far we are or where we are on our climb, we are bound to panic or lose our balance.  We need only to look straight ahead, and fix our eyes on Jesus Christ.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. –Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)

Through the rough and rocky times, we must grab onto the Lord, so we don’t slip and fall backward. 

Just like climbing a mountain, we will encounter rocks and rough terrain, where it is helpful to be able to hang onto something to help maintain our balance. The same is true with our “mountain climb.” We need to keep looking ahead, gather our strength and cling to the one true Rock, Jesus Christ.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  –Psalm 18:2  (NIV)

muddy mountain

  Yes, looking like I’m about to cry…Slipping in the mud at the end!

Being prepared at all times is another important lesson. 

I soon found out that hiking up a 3300′ mountain in sneakers is not being well prepared!  Hiking shoes would have made the trek more bearable.  For our “mountain climb”, getting in a right relationship with God is one way to be prepared.  Having true friends in the Lord and knowing the Word of God are definite necessities.  They are our shield and the armor of God.

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. –Ephesisans 6:16-17  (NIV)

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      I really did make it to the top of Mt. Ampersand!

The view from the top will make all the hard “work” worth it!

Have you experienced first hand the beauty of the view once you reach the mountain’s summit? The beauty can be breath-taking and one can’t help but revel in the Creator of the Universe! Once we are at the summit of our “mountain climb”, we can thank the Lord for all He did to help us make it, enjoy the view, and praise Him for His goodness!

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. –Isaiah 55:12  (NIV)

Try to remember through the mountain times in your life, that He is always with you every step of the way!

…As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. –Joshua 1:5  (NIV)