Of Bridges, Dolphins and the Church

“There’s a broken beam inside of the big big bridge
I guess that whole thing is caving in
Maybe it is time I learn how to swim
I’ll be a dolphin, I’ll be a dolphin” ~ Dolphin song by Poe

Soaking in the warm sunshine and turquoise water, my husband and I ferry toward Shell Key Preserve near Tierra Verde, FL with our Eco Tour Guide at the helm.

“Do you know the story behind this bridge?” Our guide points toward the Sunshine Skyway, a bridge that spans at least four miles, connecting St. Petersburg and Bradenton over Tampa Bay.

“No.”

“In 1980, a violent wind blew a freighter off course. With impaired visibility, he crashed into a bridge pier causing 1,200 feet of the southbound span to collapse into the bay. With very low visibility, eight unsuspecting motorists had no clue they would be driving off the edge. Thirty-five people lost their lives that day.”

(Photo Credit: Tampabay.com)

Surveying the 430 foot high bridge packed with vehicles. . . packed with lives, questions rise and fall like the tumultuous waves that probably swallowed them below. What flashed through their minds as they plummeted to their death? Fear? Regret? Were they right with God?  

“Over there!” One of the other passengers points. Shark or dolphin, I welcome the interruption.

It is a dolphin! No, two dolphins!

The pair swim closer, surfacing near our boat several times as if to say hello. Thank you, Lord! I asked Him just this morning if we could see a dolphin or two on our excursion. 🙂

Dolphins . . . with the impressive range of different species, unique characteristics and identities, small wonder they charm so many. Not only do they appear to smile, they are also intelligent, athletic, and social aquatic mammals who can form groups of over 1,000 individuals, known as super pods.

(Photo by christels on Pixnio)

I know, sounds like I’m going down a rabbit’s trail, but God showed me a connection between the broken bridge, dophins, and the church, so please bear with me!

With my newfound dolphin fascination, I later learned that the builders of the new Skyway Bridge strategically placed 60 foot bumpers they appropriately called ‘dolphins’ around the piers to protect the bridge’s structure.

Why do dolphins group together? Besides being social, small dolphins will gather into multi-member pods when facing predators. These groups provide protection to an animal that does not have large jaws or sharp teeth. When dolphins are together, It’s easier for dolphins to survive as they communicate or intimidate the predator.

Like our Flipper friends, the church body desperately needs each other, not only for friendship, edification and accountability, but also for protection. God never intends for us to be isolated, independent Christians.

God also desires His church to be like a bridge, anchored in Him, supported by Him. People that stand strong and steady during tumultuous times. He not only helps and blesses us when we help others connect with Him, but also blesses us when we seek to help and support each other along our earthly journey.

I know I need people in my life whom I can count on when the going gets rough. Relationships and parenting, to name a few, have festered into squalls in my past, making me feel as though those piers might collapse in a given moment. But when I am surrounded by caring people, I am bolstered with encouragement and hope. I also realize I’m not the only one struggling to stay the course. We need to gather together not only during formal worship services, but also beyond the formal settings, whether that be getting together for Sunday School, coffee, hiking together, or joining a life group at church.

Covid has disrupted all of our gatherings. It hit not long after our last move, which resulted in a year when my husband and I weren’t plugged into a life group at our new larger church. Feeling isolated, however, has given me a deeper appreciation for family and connection.

If I’m honest, there have also been times that I have put off seeking a church “life group”. Someone carelessly sharing information outside of the group; exaggerating a truth that borders on a lie; gossip; subtle manipulation to ‘promote one’s ministry’. Unfortunately, I’ve seen these within the church. All of these result in hurt, misunderstanding, anger and distrust. These are not from God, nor are they by-products of Him.

Perhaps we’re the most Christlike, however, when we choose forgiveness. Remembering that Christ has forgiven me, and seeking His help, I can also forgive whatever “grievances” I have with another, (Col. 3:13). God never said it would be easy, but it is possible. And the really scary part is that God won’t forgive me if I choose not to forgive others (Mt. 6:9-15).

Although it takes courage and resolve to seek out another ‘life group’, it’s okay to do so.

I find the following discovery interesting: “Scientists discovered that when dolphins belong to a group, nothing binds them to it in a matter of space and time, this means that they can move freely to different pods that are in their vicinity, then the movement of members is continuous. This type of social network is flat and open, and scientists found no evidence of a rigid, closed or semi-closed structure, so dolphins do not have permanent “membership” in any pod,” (Dolphin Social Structure).

This is where my analogy breaks down in part. I’m not advocating ‘church hopping’, but we’re not married to our life group either. God gives wisdom to the one who asks in faith (James 1:5-6). As God’s children, we are free in Christ (Jn. 8:36), not only free from enslavement to sin, but also free from remaining in an unhealthy group and/or church. If someone can’t control their tongue (James. 3:5), and/or doesn’t seek to love and protect others, we are free to leave and seek a healthy group. We need mature believers to come alongside new and younger believers, ones who seek to mentor and help us grow so we might function properly within the church body.

Like the wind, words come easy. But let’s seek to model Christ; forgive, and be that faithful friend who genuinely loves (1 Jn. 3:16). Who knows. . . we might just be the ‘dolphin’ bumper that prevents someone’s ‘bridge’ from collapsing, as well as saving the lives of those who travel over our life bridge.

Where Is Jesus Now?

Have you ever wondered where Jesus is now and what He’s been doing since His resurrection?

As a child I believed Jesus went back to heaven after He arose from the grave. But other than preparing a place for us, I wondered how He spent the rest of His time. After all, who enjoys building all the time? My young mind imagined Him enjoying activities I’d love to do. You know, things like jumping on fluffy clouds, soaring over colorful universes, and landing a quadruple back flip, just to name a few. 🙂

Not to say Jesus can’t, or doesn’t, engage in “fun” activities. But Scripture doesn’t promote Him as a thrill seeker or as One who is consumed with Himself. Rather, His thoughts and prayers are for His children.

Don’t you love that Jesus isn’t like a cartoon depiction of a Genie floating on a heavenly cloud, sipping Cherry Coke while being entertained? Not only did Christ accomplish His mission on earth through His teaching, atoning sacrifice and resurrection, but He still engages in our lives, helping us navigate all of life’s twists and turns. Having been through fiery trials and temptations Himself—without sinning—He not only knows what we need, He is also able to help us. And He presents His prayers and petitions to God the Father on our behalf!

Hebrews 1:3 says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

The apostle Paul also paints a beautiful picture of God’s children sitting victoriously with Christ in the “heavenly realms” over the dark canvas of what we used to be: objects of God’s wrath due to our sin (Ephesians 2:1-9). This is made possible because our sinless Lord took our deserved punishment upon Himself (Isaiah 53:4-12). Our eternal life is secured only through Jesus Christ (1 John 5:11-12).

God the Father raised Jesus up in the power of His Holy Spirit, seating Him at His right hand―to His original position before Christ took on flesh (John 1:1-5). Jesus now reigns victoriously (Philippians 2:9-11) and will one day reign in justice over a new earth (Revelation 21).

Maybe you’re unsure if you are God’s child. This is a decision you must make yourself. The church can’t save you. Your parents’ faith won’t save you. There are no guarantees for tomorrow, but you have today. Isaiah 55:6-7 says, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.  Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on them, and to our God, for He will freely pardon.”

For more on where Jesus is now and why Scripture emphasizes the right hand of God, see the following links at gotquestions.org: Is Jesus in Heaven?, Right Hand of God.

Have a wonderful week!

What is Good Friday?

Why do Christians refer to Good Friday as “good”? After all, the Romans and Jewish authorities were anything but good to Jesus (see Matthew 26-27).

The results from Christ’s death, however, go far beyond “good”. There really are no words that ascribe the greatness of Jesus’ sacrifice, or the depth of gratitude we should have for the eternal, abundant life He purchased for those of us who believe and place our faith in Him as Lord and Savior!

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” 1 Peter 3:18

Many Christian churches celebrate Good Friday in a serious and reverent manner. This is a time of remembrance of Christ’s death, usually expressed through prayers of thanksgiving, solemn hymns, a message centered on Christ’s suffering, and observance of the Lord’s Supper.

The events of that day, Good Friday, should always be present in our hearts and minds. For Christ’s death on the cross—along with His bodily resurrection—is the foundation of our Christian faith. You may read more about Good Friday here, What is Good Friday/Holy Friday?

You can trust the One who laid down His life so we might live.

Finish the Race

I started this post two weeks ago and am finally finishing. Woot-woot! It has been a very busy time as my family is in process of moving, (which has been our marathon move).

I also want to share that this will be my last post for a while. I know God called me to this blog after I almost lost my husband to pneumonia seven years ago. But after prayer, I feel led to focus on some other areas, the first being getting our family situated in our new home. Many of you have been so encouraging in my blogging adventure. Thank you for reading and for all of your support! . . . . On to the race. . .

With rubber-like legs, I pushed myself to what I thought was the last stretch before the finish line. Although my vision could only focus on the runner in front of me, my hearing worked just fine. “Half a mile left!” the runner next to me told her friend.

No! I wanted to scream, if only I could. There’s not a half-mile left in me!

But I knew I would be my own worst enemy, if I didn’t push myself and finish. Amazingly, I did, (although I almost collapsed afterwards). Not that I’m a great runner, but my body had more reserve than my brain let me in on.  

Ever feel like you’re in the last stretch of a marathon, (or half-marathon as was my case), with no kick at the end? The daily grind in itself can chip away at our resolve to go an extra mile, let alone the inevitable monster trials that pound all of us on occasion.

To finish a race, one must practice discipline and persevere. What is this race the Bible talks so much about? While there are many references, I think Galatians 5:7 (ESV) brings some clarity: You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?”

Any athlete knows the importance of good nutrition and adequate rest for optimal performance. Likewise, applying the discipline of Bible study, devotions, prayer, fellowship, and service is the training ground for believers to successfully follow God’s truth and finish the race.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24) .

How do we “run that we may obtain the prize”? The following are a few points that come to mind.   

Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Not every runner is built for long distance. Some are sprinters, but they lack the endurance for the long run. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are the abilities God has given you? What are your spiritual gifts? God made you unique and has equipped you for service that will not only bring Him glory, but will also be rewarding.

Don’t Get Sidetracked

I’m sure you’ve heard this one before: Keep your eyes on the prize.

The athlete must be disciplined and throw off every hindrance. And “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,” (Hebrews 12:1).

We’ve all sinned and fallen short. We’re exhorted to “forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead,” (Philippians 3:13). For the believer, we have everything to look forward to: heaven, eternity with Christ, no pain or sorrow, and much more.

Know Your Course

Jesus tells us His sheep know His voice and listen to Him. Too many times, I needlessly stress, wasting precious time and energy, seeking after good things, but fail to run after what’s best. When I don’t take time to be still and ask God to show me what my race course looks like, I wind up running the wrong direction, missing an important turn, or limp along a course God didn’t design or call me to in the first place.

Ephesians 4:6 says, “Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.”

God has unique plans for both churches and individuals. The Apostle Paul writes: “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God,” (Acts 20:24).

What does your race course look like? Have you taken time to seek God’s direction in prayer? Ask Him to scope it out with you. He alone knows what He has in store for each of us. His ways may be mysterious, but He has good plans for those who love Him. He will only call you to a ministry course that He has trained you for and knows you can finish with His help.

Pace Yourself

I’m not a track coach, but I’ve learned that the correct race strategy for a marathon follows the exact opposite theory of a 5k. The runner’s goal for any race is to learn how to settle in to a specific pace and run it from start to finish. Control the need for speed. It’s better to be consistent.

Maybe God has placed you in ministry that feels like a marathon. Maybe you’re in training with some shorter sprints. Maybe He’s called you to a season of rest. Ask Him to speak into your season and what He wants you to pursue each day. Then follow through.

Don’t Run Alone

Many of us who enjoy writing are introverts. While we need our down time to reflect and reenergize, it’s really important we don’t hole up and withdraw completely from other believers. We are part of the body of Christ and need the other members if we want to be healthy and keep in the race. Other members need us as well. It’s God’s intention for us to meet together regularly.

Thanks for staying the course! I appreciate each of you and pray God’s blessing as we continue the race. 🙂

Where is Your Treasure?

Your heart will always pursue what you treasure.

What do you treasure? It’s natural for teenagers to daydream about athletic glory, romantic excitement, pride of possession from owning the right car or wearing the best clothes. Hopefully, as we mature, we recognize what will last for eternity and set our focus on that.

Matthew 6:24 tells us we can’t serve two masters, God and money. Jesus also warns us in Luke 12:14, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

So how does one store up treasures in heaven? I found the following post to be concise and insightful. You may read it here: Treasures in Heaven. Have a great week!