Priscilla's Friends

The Sea
    God is our shelter and strength, always ready 
to help in times of trouble.So we will not be 
afraid, even if the earth is shaken and mountains 
fail into the ocean depths; even if the seas roar 
and rage, and the hills are shaken by the 

    I am the Lord: why don't you fear me? Why 
don't you tremble before me? I placed the sand 
as the boundary of the sea, a permanent 
boundary that it cannot cross. The sea may toss, 
but it cannot go beyond it; the waves may roar, 
but they cannot break through.

    Come and see what God has done, his wonderful acts among us. 
He changed the sea into dry land; our ancestors crossed the river on 
foot. There we rejoiced because of what he did. Who is a God like you, 
who pardons sin... You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our 
iniquities into the depths of the sea.

    There will be strange things happening to the sun, the moon, and the
stars. On earth whole countries will be in despair, afraid of the roar of
the sea and the raging tides... Then the Son of Man will appear... When
these things begin to happen, stand up and raise your heads, because your
salvation is near.

    Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth... and there was no longer any

(Psalm 46:1-3, GNB; Jeremiah 5:22, GNB; Psalm 66:5-6, GNB; Micah 7:18-19,
NIV; Luke 21:25-28, GNB; Revelation 21:1, NIV)


Every day we are made promises. Advertisers promise us cheap peace,
translating our wants into needs. A trouble-free existence is ours, for a
price. Sometimes preachers, too, promise serenity without strife,
tranquillity without turmoil, resurrection without Gethsemane or Calvary.
Whilst we must not let anyone crucify us who cannot resurrect us, Jesus said
there is no life except through death. As one mystic put it, the Spirit of
God and our own spirits strive together in a storm of love. In this 'strife
of love' each spirit is deeply wounded by love. Gethsemane is not a detour.
The primal sin of Adam and Eve was to try to get knowledge without working
for it, to 'arrive' without the pain of the journey, to attain 'instant

    God is a sea, says Ruysbroeck. The sea, for the ancient Hebrews, was a
turbulent place where danger lurked. (So the Jews did not make good sailors;
they left that to the Phoenicians.) Deliverance from the Red Sea was a
recurring theme for wonder-full recollection. Apocalyptic writers pictured
great beasts coming out of the sea. In heaven there will be 'no more sea'.
But the 'second death' is symbolised by a 'lake of fire' (Revelation 19:20,

    So the sea of love, where we meet God, is sometimes a fearful place.
Love is always enhanced by courage and hard work. The objects of temporal
love eventually die, so the more we love, the more risks we take. The
opposite of love is inertia, doing nothing.

    As we begin this journey, sometimes through uncharted, unfamiliar seas,
let this text encourage us: 'When you pass through deep waters, I will be
with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you... for I am the Lord your
God, who saves you' (Isaiah 43:2-3).


Here begins the sea that ends not till the world's end.

   Where we stand,

Could we know the next high sea-mark set beyond

   these waves that gleam,

We should know what never man hath known, nor eye of

   man hath scanned...

Ah, but here man's heart leaps, yearning towards the gloom

   with venturous glee,

From the shore that hath no shore beyond it, set in all

   the sea.

A.C. Swinburne, 'On the Verge', from A Midsummer Vacation

The enlightened man shall go out and observe God in his glory with all
saints. And he shall behold the rich and generous outflowing of God, with
glory, and with himself, and with inconceivable delights towards all the
saints, according to the longing of all spirits; and how these flow back,
with themselves, and with all that they have received and can achieve,
towards that same rich oneness from which all bliss comes forth.

    This flowing forth of God always demands a flowing back; for God is a
Sea that ebbs and flows, pouring without ceasing into all his beloved
according to the need and the merits of each, and ebbing back again with all
those who have been thus endowed both in heaven and on earth, with all that
they have and all that they can.

Ruysbroeck, quoted in David Walker, God is a Sea

The  ebbing  and flowing  of  the  tide  is  a  continuing phenomenon. Each
day the tide comes in and draws out. It is the same with the divine tide.
The Father has not simply poured his graces into our hearts on an isolated
occasion in the past; he continues to do so in the life situation of each
person. The divine love floods the universe. Each situation is a graced
situation, a sacrament in which the divine is present, open to us, reaching
out in love. This ever-present divine love draws us to itself within each
situation. The love of the lover draws the beloved to a love of which he
alone is not capable.

    There are two attitudes with which we can confront this overwhelming
truth. We can be like the beach over which the tide flows and ebbs. It is
open and unresisting; it receives and it gives; it lets its mood be
determined by the tide. On the other hand we could be like the rocks on
which the same tide runs but which are hard and stand fast, resisting --
even fighting -- the tide and refusing to be affected by it. We must imitate
the openness and unresisting character of the beach, for it is only then
that the divine power within the Father's approach is able to draw us to
him... So long as the beach awaits patiently the inflowing of the tide and
yields generously to its ebbing, the pattern of nature is fulfilled. In the
same way, it is only when the person patiently and humbly opens himself to
the divine approach and lets himself be drawn out in response by the divine
power within it that the divine plan achieves its fulfilment.

David Walker, God is a Sea

Don't let yourself be torn between yesterday and tomorrow.

Live always and only God's today.

Dom Helder Camara, A Thousand Reasons for Living

Acknowledging mystery, then, does not prevent authentic 'asking and seeking
and knocking', but it does not stop there. It also encourages one to take
the best light one has and do what one can to bring glory and not resentment
out of any given situations. We do not have to understand perfectly why the
waves flood over us to make certain creative responses to them. There is
much that can be done with what we do know now that need not wait fuller

John Claypool, adapted from a sermon 'Absurdity, Causality and Mystery'

God is good... he who gives us our lives not only rules over us but loves
us, likes us, is for us and not against us. Out of this realisation comes
the ability to receive the events of life with gratitude, not resentment,
and to regard them as expressions of mysterious love rather than as acts of
hostility. It is amazing the difference a stance of gratitude can make in
the way we cope with difficulty. If we begin to look on the things that
happen to us as good gifts of a Father, then even the problems take on a
different shape. Instead of seeing them as hopeless obstacles to our
happiness, we come to see them as the challenges that give life its meaning
and excitement. What would our existence be like, really, if no effort were
ever called for or no challenges ever posed?. Such a levelled-off existence
would be intolerably boring. G.K. Chesterton was right in saying that a
positive challenge is a difficulty rightly understood. Problems cease to be
overwhelming when we see them as something to be received in gratitude.

John Claypool, The Light Within You

Just as it is the nature of the tide to flow in and to draw out again, so it
is the nature of the Father not only to reach out in love but also to draw
all things to himself. The Father is the fountain and source of all life. He
shares that life with his Son and his Spirit in a communion in which what
comes forth returns to him. It is this same life which the Father extends
through the Son and the Spirit to mankind in a communion in which what comes
forth from him is meant to return to him. The Father presents himself as
love, openness, self-offering, invitation, sharing, in a way to which every
person has the capacity to respond and to find in him his ultimate goal.

David Walker, God is a Sea

Accept surprises that upset your plans, shatter your dreams, give a
completely different turn to your day and -- who knows7 -to your life.

It is not chance.

Leave the Father free himself to weave the pattern of your days.

Dom Helder Camara, A Thousand Reasons for Living


Lord, I am prone sometimes to imagine that the tides of my life are
buffeting me without purpose, tossing me to and fro without meaning,
battering me painfully against the hard rocks cruelly.

    Sometimes the storms really are fierce, the skies are grey, and you seem
to be absent. It's just not true that 'my life is all sunshine in the
sweetness of the Lord'.

    Lord, remind me that you have never promised to deliver from struggle
and agony and conflict. In the world we shall have trouble. Your own
experience of life among us was a parable of struggle in hope.

    But in that struggle you overcame the world. Just as a stone becomes
beautifully smooth only in constant friction, so in the mystery of your
purposes for us, you create a thing of beauty
only in our chastenings. Conflict is the price to be paid for spiritual
creativity and growth. That which resists us perfects us.

    So Lord, when the waves are huge, and I feel so helpless, let me not
move against them in rage, or go under them in helplessness, but flow with
them in faith and hope.

    'You have given so much to us, give us one thing more, a grateful heart;
for Christ's sake. Amen'(George Herbert).

A Benediction

May you experience the peace of God in your trouble, hope when you are
tempted to despair, joy through your pain, faith and courage when the
heavens seem silent, and the sure knowledge that the Lord has been through
it all too. He understands, he cares, and he loves you, very much.

Lord, may we live by faith, walk in hope, and be renewed in love until the
whole world reflects your glory, and you are all in all.

Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.

Rowland Croucher, from Still Waters Deep Waters (Albatross/Lion) chapter 18.

rowland @ johnmarkministries . org
Email Jan and Rowland