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Umbrellas and Whales

There is a story about a Midwestern town that was experiencing a bad drought. A drought, in case you have forgotten, is when it doesn’t rain for a long time. Obviously we are in almost the opposite of a drought here in the Peach State.

As a result of the drought the community was in crisis. Crops were dying, and the livelihood of the farm town was seriously threatened. In response to this crisis, a group of pastors decided to hold a prayer service on the steps of city hall and asked all the townsfolk to come. They were instructed to bring symbols of their faith to place on the steps in hope that God would deliver them.

People showed up with all sorts of things. The Catholics brought rosaries, statues of the Virgin Mary, crucifixes, and even holy oil. The Protestants brought crosses, Bibles, prayer journals, hymnals, communion elements and even a baptismal font. Individuals brought folded up prayers and family heirlooms of their faith—old bulletins or photos. One by one, folks came forward and shared their symbol, placing it on the steps of City Hall and then taking a moment to pray that God would send rain. Finally, there was only one small girl left. Without any hesitation she came to the front and slowly opened her symbol of faith ... a brightly colored umbrella.

This child—she knew what it meant to expect something from God! Her faith was built on confidence that God was real and active, not only in the world, but also in her community, and even in her own life.

The motivational speaker and author Zig Ziglar once said, “Confidence is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking the tartar sauce with you.”

While I’ve never been the outstanding angler that my wife is, I can tell you that going after Moby Dick in any vessel is an act of faith and courage. And every fisherman I know heads out on every trip planning to bring home a whole string of fish for a delicious fish fry dinner that night. And they are always prepared to land the elusive big one!

Each week when we come to worship I believe that we, like that little girl with her umbrella or the fisherwoman heading out to land Moby Dick, are announcing with confidence that we are coming to worship the living God—and through our faith in our Lord, we expect great things to occur.

Of course it’s not just in worship that we should be expecting great things both big and small to occur. God sends miracles our way everyday. Often we simply need to slow down enough to recognize them.

We also need to take time to spend with God in prayer. Boldly sharing our concerns, our needs, and even our desires while also being willing to pray that God’s will be done on earth even as it is promised to us in heaven.

None of this is easy. It’s so much simpler to fly through our over-scheduled lives and miss the lone lovely daffodil placed along our path, or curse traffic—forgetting that much of the world walks most everywhere. (In fact, Google tells me only 18% of the world’s population own a car.)

So we have to be intentional at how we look at the world. It means seeing the world in a different way. Finding joy, choosing hope, and living confidently as followers of Jesus Christ, even in the midst of a world where we are told to follow power and serve no one but ourselves. It means choosing optimism and positivity even as the world points to pessimism and negativity. The world shares these messages hoping to keep us living in fear. But the message from the beginning of scripture is always that we should “fear not!” As Deuteronomy says so powerfully, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; God will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

So show up with umbrellas at droughts, and tartar sauce with your rod and reel, and with hope even in the graveyards. Live with bold confidence and outlandish joy. For our God of love is faithful always and in all ways.

Alleluia Amen

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