I've never been on a cruise. People tell me they are great but I haven't yet been persuaded to try it. I do remember being on the boat from Calais to Dover when the water got a bit choppy. I thought the rocking motion of the boat was quite pleasant. Others were running to the toilet ...
Christian songwriters love writing about storms ... 'all through the storm your love is the anchor' .... 'God is the lighthouse who will lead us through the storm' ... 'Christ is firm through the fiercest drought and storm' ... 'when oceans rise my heart will rest in your embrace.' These songs testify to God's presence in the storm even when we are being thrown about. It doesn't feel like it at the time but believers have long testified that it is true.
In John's gospel Jesus appears walking on the sea. He says 'It's me. Don't be afraid.' The disciples are more scared of Jesus than they are of the storm. But he's there and they eagerly take him into the boat.
The words 'it's me' could also be translated as 'I am' or 'I am real.'
I pray that you will find Jesus in an unexpected place today. Maybe you will find that he is real in the least likely place.
The book of Proverbs is wonderfully down to earth.
Like one who takes away someone's clothes on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart. (Proverbs 25:20)
There's also warning that it is not a good idea to speak loudly first thing in the morning and another that it's not good to trick someone and then say you were only joking. As a morning person I find the first of those a challenge.
Proverbs has a lot to say about angry people. Rescue an angry person and you'll probably have to do it again. It's better to be long tempered than to be a warrior. There are several warnings about breaking confidences.
I guess peacemaking is about lots of small decisions.
I guess wisdom is about lots of small decisions.
It's about how I speak to the people I live with, how I am with my neighbours, what I do at work, how I treat those who are 'different' to me.
It's about giving good feedback and receiving bad feedback well.
It's about speaking directly but gently.
See if you can make some wise choices today. They may make more difference than you could imagine.
Some of us are prone to overwork. We work so hard that we might achieve more if we slowed down a bit.
If that's you, you don't need to read on. Please come back for next week's blog.
For the rest of us, the book of Proverbs has a lot to say about laziness. Some of the one-liners are there to make us laugh as well as think:
The door turns on its hinge; the lazy person turns on his bed.' (Proverbs 26:14).
My favourite is Proverbs 22:13:
The lazy person says, "There's a lion outside. I'll be killed if I go out."
Have you heard about the person who was so lazy they put their hand in the bowl but couldn't bring it back to his mouth?*
Here's Proverbs 18:9, which may get you thinking:
The one who is slack in his work is the brother of one who destroys.
Just in case there are people still reading after I told them not to, there is a verse in the Psalms about people who get up early and work until they go to bed late. People like that really do need to learn that sleep is a gift from God too.
Hope to see you Sunday.
* Proverbs 19:24
Suppose God cares ... about the hungry bring fed ... about the state of the environment ... about fair trade ... about our safety ... about racial justice ... about honesty ... about poverty ... about domestic violence ... about prejudice ... about greed ...
Be sure of this: the wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free. (Proverbs 11:21, NIV.)
The book of Proverbs* calls us to an unflappable optimism, that there is everything to gain if we try to please God. It's always worth pushing through to build a relationship with God. It's good to care about the things he cares about. It gets results.
The desire of the righteous ends only in good. (Proverbs 11:23, NIV.)
I think there is a couple of challenges here. The first is to line up with the optimism when it's easy to be cynical and to get tired of doing good. The second is to work out God's priorities.
The first verse of Proverbs 11 says that God hates dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favour with him. So there's one of God's priorities: don't cheat. Honesty is not just the best policy; it's the way to God's heart.
More on Sunday ...
* It's the 20th book of the Bible.
The Book of Proverbs has some good advice for people who want to look wise.
Here it is ...
Sometimes it's best to hold your tongue, or at least to wait a bit before you say anything.
Here's some wise advice from the book of Proverbs:
* if you speak before you listen it's your stupidity
* it's better to keep your cool and hold back your words
* if you guard your words you preserve your life
* a stupid person expresses all their feelings; the wise person holds back
Like all proverbs you can take this too far. A word correctly spoken is like a golden apricot in a silver setting. I'm not quite sure what that means, but it sounds good.
Let's practice wisdom this week. Try holding back your words a little. Check you've understood before you speak. Keep quiet until your anger dies down. Ask for time to think if you need it.
You may find it takes you closer to God.