Lessons in Floating

Last Year – When I was here at the beautiful Adriatic Sea last year, the Holy Spirit told me to go for a swim.  I loved the beach when I was a kid—what kid doesn’t?  But as an adult, I had come to associate the sea with many discomforts: the itchy feeling of salt water dried on the skin, oily sunscreen crusted with sand, fair skin that burns despite the use of sunscreen SPF 45, the sand that gets into places it shouldn’t, and a body that’s white and lumpy and looks better clothed than in a swimsuit—intense body shame.  So it was with all that beach-hating baggage that the Holy Spirit told me to take a swim.

Despite my bags and baggage, I did take a swim.  Leaving my glasses on top of my towel, I walked toward the water.  I saw something washed up on the beach that looked like a dead jellyfish.  I’ve been stung by jellyfish.  It’s like being stung by an electric wasp—definitely an experience I don’t want to ever have again.  But instead of turning back, I just laughed.  If God wants me to swim, then He has a purpose.  “Besides,” I told myself, “it was probably just a plastic bag from somebody’s beach lunch.”

I had decided that my act of obedience meant that I should get completely wet.  So I got about waist-deep, then dove into the waves.  After paddling around for a few minutes, I thought that I was finished.  But the Holy Spirit told me: “Lay back.”  I did, and discovered something wonderful: I float like a cork!  I am so buoyant that I can even float with my head above the water, toes above the water, and bottom down.  But laying back with my ears under the water was incredibly peaceful, and little by little I felt my limbs release their muscular tension.

I took that first swim fully clothed because I didn’t have my swimsuit with me.  I understood that swimming would be something I should do every day while I was here, so I knew I needed to buy a swimsuit.  The only thing I’ve hated more than the beach is buying a swimsuit.  The last one I bought online, and it covered so much of me that it was almost a throwback to the old swimsuits they used in the early 1900’s.  I knew that if I thought too much about it, I would talk myself out of buying one, so I just plunged into a swim shop and bought one.  It’s not bad looking.

A few days after that first swim the wind kicked up, bringing bigger waves.  Thanks to a breakwater, the big waves are tamed into choppy little wavelets before they reach the swimming area by the beach.  During my floating session that day, God (who had never repeated Himself to me before) told me: “Relax!  Relax!  Relax!”  And the little wavelets shook each limb with a different rhythm and out of synch with one another.  It reminded me of a Lamaze exercise in which your coach takes an arm and your teacher takes the opposite leg and they shake them in differing rhythms.  You are supposed to practice releasing the tension in those muscles and all the others in between.  And that memory tickled me so much that I laughed out loud—and a more profound relaxation followed.  God has the greatest sense of humor!

The lesson in physically relaxing taught me to relax when I’m worried about things going wrong.  Without going into detail (which you can read about in my book “Look, Listen, Love,” available from http://www.lulu.com/), I learned that I can relax and let God work out the things that I have no control over.  And when I do really relax and release those worries, God not only works things out, but blesses me in unexpected ways.  And one of those things, you can read about in my blog post: https://europeanfaithmissions.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/god-meets-radical-faith-with-radical-provision/.

This Year – I have returned to the beach, bringing two very dear friends with me.  The three of us have gone to the beach each day, floating and swimming, talking and laughing, praying and praising our Heavenly Father.

A lesson that God has been teaching me recently is to let go of the past—particularly past offenses and betrayals, but also past mistakes or bad choices that I need to forgive myself.  I have been working on it, releasing those people and things to God, forgiving and letting them go.  But every once in a while, the memory of these things comes to mind, robbing me of my focus and trying to rob my peace.  Whenever this happens, I try to release the memory as quickly as possible.

While floating yesterday, the Holy Spirit told me that, just as I had learned to relax my worries into God’s hands, I also need to relax my memories into His hands.  And lying there on the bosom of the sea, I did exactly that.

This morning during my prayer time, once again I found my attention wandering to a painful event.  Immediately, I said, “Let it go!  Let it go!  Let it go!” and I released the memory and returned my focus to God, my Peace.

When it comes to relaxing my grip on those memories, would it be wrong to say that I’m working on it?  I’m grateful that God is a patient Teacher.  God is good!

Let it Reign!

I recently had the privilege of hearing Pastor Alexandre Guzzardi preach.  Pastor Guzzardi is one of those rare individuals with an honest-to-goodness supernatural gift for preaching God’s Word.  Not everyone who preaches has a gift for preaching, which doesn’t make them bad preachers, it just means that they may be more scholarly, and therefore, lean more toward the teaching gift than the preaching gift.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  I enjoy teaching, too.  In addition to his gift, Pastor Guzzardi is also a delight to hear because of his bust-a-gut-laughing hilarious delivery (not all of which translates with such hilarity into English, and some is purely visual).

Pastor Guzzardi, who is Brazilian, lives in England, and has for many years.  But he preaches in Italian.  Since the pastor of my home church in Milan is Brazilian, I am used to hearing Brazilian-accented Italian, but it really throws some people.

The “it” in my title is the Body of Christ, and “Destined to Reign” was the title of Pastor Guzzardi’s sermon.  In Genesis 1:20-21 God filled the waters with fish and other sea creatures, and the air with birds.  In the Amplified version it says, “Let the waters bring forth abundantly and swarm with living creatures, and let birds fly over the earth in the open expanse of the heavens,” (emphasis mine).  And in verse 24 it says, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creeping things, and [wild] beasts of the earth according to their kinds,” (emphasis mine).   The sea creatures are actually made of water, and the land creatures (including humans) are actually made out of earth, and in Genesis 2:7 we actually get to see God at work making the first man, and indeed, he is made from the earth.

Pastor Guzzardi said that when a creature gets too far away from the environment it was made from, it is in mortal danger, for example a fish out of water or a land animal in the middle of the ocean.  Then in Genesis 1:26 it says:

God said, “Let Us [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] make mankind in Our image, after Our likeness, and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the [tame] beasts, and over all of the earth, and over everything that creeps upon the earth,” (emphasis mine).

(Note that the word “tame” that the Amplified version inserts is something I disagree with.  Before the fall (and this is clearly before the fall), all the animals were tame.)

Other versions use words like dominion, rule, and reign, it all amounts to the same thing:  humans were made to rule over the earth and all the creatures on earth and in the sea and skies.  Then Pastor Guzzardi showed a picture of a flower, like this one:

He said, “People sell their souls, rob from their mothers, and even kill to have this.  It’s an opium poppy.  If you don’t reign over the earth, the earth will reign over you.”  Then he showed another picture:

He said, “People sell their souls and lose their families to have this, too.  Paper money is made mostly of cotton.  If you don’t reign over the earth, the earth will reign over you.”  Then he showed other pictures:

He said, “Men sell their souls and walk out on their families to have this.  Women sell their souls and leave their children to have this.  We just read that these bodies are also made from the earth.  If you don’t reign over the earth, the earth will reign over you.”

Anything you can think of comes from the earth and can rule over you, if you don’t rule over it.

We have been given the authority to reign on the earth and over the earth.  When sin entered the picture, we forfeited that authority to the devil.  But through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, He bought back our right to reign.  But we have to take authority, which is an active thing.  It won’t do us any good just to know that we have authority, we have to take it and use it.  If we don’t reign over the earth, the earth in one way or another will reign over us.

The only one who doesn’t have any legal rights on this earth is the devil.  True, he tempted and tricked us out of our authority, but without a physical body made from the earth, he has no legal right to rule over the earth.  He is called the prince of the power of the air because he has no physical body.

Great sermon!

And here’s how I took authority over the earth:  when I was almost too tired to keep going, and do what I needed to do, I took authority over the earth (specifically the earth that my body is made of), and I said, “I speak strength to keep going over my body.  Thank You, Jesus for giving me back the authority to reign over the earth!”  And I did feel stronger and was able to complete my work.  Then it occurred to me that we can do the same thing with sickness, injury, and any other earthly need.  Jesus was the perfect example of a man who reigned with authority over the earth.

Reign on!