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Together in a Storm

The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore. Vincent Van Gogh

I gave up fishing last year (or, fishing was taken from me, as my friend Hal says) to let my back heal from surgery. This was no easy task for a man who’s literally fished professionally his entire life! As I Shelter-at-Home my thoughts have drifted to what I’ve missed most about fishing?

Storms! Electrifying, loud and dangerous in all their fury! The most disruptive ones were unexpected. They roar out of nowhere and can turn a peaceful day into a world of chaos!

Have you ever been caught miles from shore when a summer tempest comes roaring in? If you’re like me, you don’t pick up lines and run, no! You don’t want to miss a good bite—something primal is triggered deep inside fish, or nature itself that sends the fish into a feeding frenzy!

As the storm approaches it generates powerful winds that flow out of the churning storm. The waves swiftly build and before you know it, the tops of the waves are capping and breaking over the sides of your boat! You feel as if you’re caught in the rinse cycle of the washing machine. The sky darkens as the storm intensifies and the rain begins to travel horizontally, striking you like machine gun fire.

But the fish! They seemingly come out of nowhere and strike anything that crosses their path!

As the storm overtakes you the thunder crashes down upon your boat as if Thor himself were striking his Mjolnir (that’s Thor’s hammer for you non-Marvel fans) upon you and the lightning flashes at the same instant! The vibration reverberates through your body and everything goes very dark. You will know you are in the center of the storm when the lighting flashes and thunder BOOM BOOMS at the exact same moment and you don’t know which came first!

But all storms pass and while the front side of the storm is full of fury and anger; the backside is calm and peaceful. As the towering thunderheads move off to the east, the wind calms down and the lake loses its edge. The sun emerges and transforms the sky from shades of purple to magenta to pink to blue. As a storm approaches, lightning rips across the heavens and the thunder roars like a lion attacking its prey. On the backside the lightning gently flickers across the tops of the thunderheads and the thunder is but a distant echo.

Today we find ourselves in a storm. The COVID-19 Pandemic has caught the world by surprise. This storm was not on the daily forecast. Yes, some scientist’s had said this sort of thing could happen but the average Joe and Jill have no pandemic playbook!

On the lake when a severe storm overtakes me, I keep the boat’s bow angled at roughly a 45 to 75-degree angle into the waves. I start the second engine, increase throttle for both engines and reduce the amount of lines I’m trying to run. I’ve had a few storms so severe you couldn’t run a single line. With no where to run you just hang on and trust your GPS, radar and autopilot as you navigate through these severe storms.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a biggie! Every American citizen whether you vote blue or red, male or female, young or old, everyone is caught up in this storm. Like our boats, we’re all adjusting. We’ve all had to reduce the number of lines in the water—Social Distancing. Some of us have had to pull all our lines and Shelter in Place.

Social Distancing is a strange rule for creatures designed for community. Jesus taught his disciples that they were to “love their neighbors.” I guess right now the loving thing for an apprentice of Jesus to do is to, well yes, keep your distance from your neighbor! Sheltering in Place is our civic responsibility to protect those who would not survive a bout with the C-19 virus and reduce the tide of victims flooding hospitals.

But sometimes a neighbor has to step across the boundaries to help a drowning neighbor. During 36 years of chartering I’ve returned to the dock with three more people than I left with. In this storm, some will be called to reach out to those who are struggling. I think of nurses, doctors, first responders, grocery clerks, Amazon workers, delivery drivers and other businesses deemed essential.

Storms can be terrifying in the moment, but they always end. The fingerprints of a departing storm transform the seascape. Coronavirus will alter the cultural and economic landscape of our world. I can’t see into the future but I’m looking, and listening, and striving to be fully present to this moment. A wise rabbi said, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (Matthew 6:34 The MSG)

This storm has struck our country during the season of Lent. Ironic, many of us have been forced to give up much that we took for granted. How will you respond to this forced slow down? Will you engage with family members, or escape into the digital universe? Will you spend time outdoors exercising or lose yourself binge-watching Netflix and eating junk food?

Some are using this season to look inward and examine the interior world of their souls. I want to encourage you—take a few moments each day and rather than fixate on the headline or engage in the political bickering that has been eroding our society, step away and ponder life, family, and God. If you follow Jesus, remember that he too retreated into the wilderness, into quiet and deserted places. You will emerge so much stronger!

As the sky grows dark, the wind begins to howl and the thunder and lightning intensify, I will choose to follow Jesus. My GPS coordinates are calling me to live life fully present to the moment, not a life of fear. Let’s make the most of this time—together.

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