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Joy in Lord’s Day worship

Valley of Vision: Lord’s Day Evening

MOST HOLY GOD,
Animate me with joy that in heaven praise
will never cease,
that adoration will continue for ever,
that no flesh will grow weary,
no congregations disperse,
no affections flag,
no thoughts wander,
no will droop,
but all will be adoring love.

 

We have our worship together today, and as the Lord’s Day hours progress and come to their end this evening, I pray I will reflect on the joy to come of eternal worship among the assembly, in heaven, forever.

window 3 spurgeon quote

What is a cornerstone?

The beauty of the examples and analogies Jesus uses is that any person can intuitively understand them, even if they are not familiar with them. Even if we’re not farmers, we understand ‘we are the sheep and He is the Shepherd.’ Even if we’re not gardeners, we understand when He says He is the vine and we are the branches.’ Even though we might not be a builder, we understand when it’s written that He is the chief cornerstone.

But it brings more depth and understanding to bear when we delve more deeply into some of these analogies. So let’s look at Cornerstone.

Photo Source

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone (Psalm 118:22).

therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation” (Isaiah 28:16).

let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. (Acts 4:10–11).

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19–20).

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious,” (1 Peter 2:4–6).

A cornerstone in the House of Giove and Ganymede

Did you know that the concept of cornerstone was mentioned these several  times in scripture? We can understand that cornerstone is important to a building. But how important? What does a cornerstone do? What is its function? What would happen if the cornerstone was removed?

A stone that can be in the foundation, above ground level or at the summit of the roof (the “capstone”). The cornerstone of a large building gives it a reliable and firm foundation, leading to the cohesion and stability of the whole building. In Scripture, such foundation-stones are taken as symbolic of the basis of faith in Jesus Christ and the church. Jesus Christ is thus represented as both the foundation upon which the church is built, and the capstone which crowns the whole. Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes

Also-

The most significant stone in important buildings is the cornerstone. Usually it is the first stone laid at a formal ceremony. Often it is engraved with the date of the building and perhaps some other ascription, honoring a person or an event. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Jesus is called the gōnia or “cornerstone” of the church. In fact, Jesus used this title for Himself. Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words

I thought this architectural description from Wikipedia was the clearest:

The cornerstone (or foundation stone) concept is derived from the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.

Is Jesus your cornerstone? Does He determine the position of your entire life?

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Further Reading

Making Christ Attractive in a Pagan World
JMac July 2 2017 sermon segment on the cornerstone

The Approachableness of Jesus (reprise)

There are so many attributes of Jesus Christ than we can praise and ponder. One of them is His kingliness.

He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (Revelation 19:16). God has given Jesus all authority in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:18), therefore He is above all authorities anywhere that can possibly be imagined. He is High and exalted on His throne and He is KING.

On earth few of us have actually been in the presence of a King or Queen. There are relatively few royals on earth, compared to number of the population of the plebeians like us.

If one is favored enough to visit a royal, there is strict protocol. ABC News reminds us, regarding a visit with Queen Elizabeth II-

There is a long list of protocols that guides one’s behavior in the presence of Her Majesty and even though the president and the first lady are not required to abide by all of them, there are certain formalities they do have to follow.

There is the “no-touch” rule…
Wait until the Queen extends her hand to shake it
No gripping her hand or tightly pumping it
No hugs, no kiss on the cheek, no touching the shoulder

Refer to the Queen as “Your Majesty” initially then “ma’am” subsequently
Bow upon being introduced
Do not turn your back to the Queen
Wear conservative clothing with not much flesh showing

And so much more.

I remember the HBO mini-series John Adams. It was an excellent series, showing the life of our second President from a fiery attorney in his youth through to old age, in other words, most of his political life.

There came the moment when the Americans had won the Revolutionary war. Adams had been given the privilege and responsibility as diplomat to begin relations with The United Kingdom as national co-equals. He was to meet with the King. The moment was fraught with tension for two reasons. He had all of the future of America resting on his shoulders in how he approached the Monarch these next few moments. Would the United Kingdom be an enemy or an ally?

The second reason was protocol. Here was a scrappy lawyer born in 1735 in British America, (Quincy MA), and was American through and through, about to meet the most powerful man in the world, King George III. Americans had not been known to stand on formality and protocol, and Adams had been strongly tutored for this meeting. Bow three times, once upon entering, once when halfway to the ‘Royal Presence’ and a third time as you enter the ‘Royal Presence’. Avert your eyes until standing before the ‘Royal Presence’. Wear suitable clothing, “something more British.” Unsuitable clothing has been the undoing of many an Ambassador, we learn.

See how it went, at the link. It’s an extremely memorable cinematic moment and an incredible piece of acting, as well as a visible punctuation for my point. I can’t embed, HBO has disabled it.

There have always been strict protocols when meeting royalty. In Esther 4:11 we read,

All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.

This scene is described in Esther 5:1. The King is holding his scepter.

On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, in front of the king’s quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace.

Wikipedia

Thrones were always higher, set upon a dais in order to visibly indicate the lower position of the person approaching the Royal Presence. This is a photo of Napoleon’s throne. Pharaoh is described as sitting on a throne in Exodus 11:5; Exodus 12:29.

Solomon wrote,

Do not claim honor in the presence of the king, And do not stand in the place of great men; 7For it is better that it be said to you, “Come up here,” Than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince, Whom your eyes have seen.

And yet, another aspect of the uniqueness of Jesus continues. He sits upon His throne, the highest of the high and lifted up (Isaiah 6:1) and yet we may approach!

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12).

Must we dress in a certain way? Must we wait to be introduced or summoned? Must we bow in sequential order as we reach certain spots in the throne room? Must we avert our eyes until He speaks? No! No! No! No!

Our Lord Jesus is said to be the Mediator between God and man. Now, observe, that the office of mediator implies at once that he should be approachable. ~Spurgeon
He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings and yet He has told us we may approach Him with petitions large and small! He is tremendous. Every time we pray we approach Him. He is a God who sees (El Roi Genesis 16:14) and a God who hears!

In 1920 Frank Boreham wrote a book titled “A bunch of everlasting; or, Texts that made history“. His book contains biographies of famous Christians who came to the saving grace of salvation as the light of one particular verse broke upon their hearts. John Bunyan met Jesus through this verse in John 6:37,

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

From Boreham’s text we read,

In his pitiful distress, there broke upon the soul of John Bunyan a vision of the infinite approach-ability of Jesus. John Bunyan’s text-verse was a revelation to him of this approach-ability.

‘This scripture did most sweetly visit my soul; and him that Cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” Oh ! the comfort that I had from his word, in no wise! As who should say, “By no means, for nothing whatever he hath done. ‘Him that cometh I will in no wise cast out!’ Like the gate that swings open on hearing the magic ‘sesame’; Like the walls that fell at Jericho when the blast of the trumpets arose; the wall round Bunyan’s mountain fell with a crash before that great and golden word. ‘Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out!’ The barriers had vanished! The way was open!

Christ is approachable. Praise Him! Approach today, with no worries of what you must say or how you must look. He will in no wise cast you out. How sweet is this knowledge.

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Further Reading

Spurgeon sermon- The Approachableness of Jesus

Frank Boreham, A Bunch of Everlastings, online text

Wikipedia entry about John Bunyan

Etiquette: How to Address a King or Queen

War no more

Sin is the oldest negative thing on earth. After God created the world and the two people and called it all “very good”, sin came. Shortly after that came murder, lying, anger, jealousy, polygamy, and war.

War has been with us for so long.

I remember growing up, the Viet Nam War. It was the first war to be broadcast on television, and in living color, too. There were reports every single night. We’d hear the tally of dead and wounded. Scenes to my young eyes of limbless men hanging off gurneys in the jungle, helicopters, camouflaged men skulking with rifles pointed through the leafy undergrowth were plenty scary. They were scenes of chaos and blood.

That’s war.

I saw a news article from the Canadian Broadcasting Company.

A cannonball fired by the British during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759 has been unearthed at a building site in Old Quebec. The rusted, 90-kilogram projectile was unearthed during excavation work last week at the corner of Hamel and Couillard streets and still contained a charge and gunpowder. The work crew that found the ball picked it up and gathered around it for photographs, unaware that it was still potentially explosive.

The cannonball is from Britain and was fired at Quebec City from Lévis,
across the St. Lawrence River. (Facebook/Lafontaine Inc)

In Genesis 4 we have the first murder. The Bible isn’t specific on how Cain killed Abel. Later in Genesis 4:22 we read, Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron

Knowing that Tubal-can was in the line of ungodly descendants of Cain, and knowing the evil heart of man, I’d say with near certainty that some or all of those instruments were instruments of war. Many of those implements were likely arrows, shafts, spikes, and the sort.

Then by Genesis 6:11 we read Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.

Violence that included war, with implements, I’m sure.

We all know about Galileo. He was famous for looking through his telescope and making

“observations that strengthened his belief in Copernicus’ theory that Earth and all other planets revolve around the Sun. Most people in Galileo’s time believed that the Earth was the center of the universe and that the Sun and planets revolved around it.” (Source: NASA).

But 20 years before that, Galileo experimented with, produced, and wrote about military technological advances, in a treatise called The Operations of the Geometrical and Military Compass. Galileo’s invention of the military compass was used to calculate precise trajectories of cannonballs and other military killing projectiles.

Throughout the Renaissance many attempts were made to develop a universal instrument  that could be used to perform arithmetical calculation and geometric operations easily. This need was felt especially in the military field, where the technology of firearms called for increasingly precise mathematical knowledge. … The geometric and military compass of Galileo belonged to this class of instruments. [T]he Accademia Delia was founded in Padua to provide mathematical instruction for young noblemen training for a military career.

Imagine how much of our mind will be released when we don’t have to devote so much of it to devising evil. Imagine when we are freed to think up ways to worship Jesus, or ways to praise Him, or anything else, than to creating military items that maim and kill and destroy.

He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:4)

Jesus will dissolve the earth in a fervent heat. When He creates a new earth, there will never be a cannonball to dig up. There will never be any implements of war found anywhere, like arrowheads or bullet casings or swords. Forgers of instruments of bronze and iron will be making plowshares and pruning hooks.

Won’t it be great when we will study war no more? Peace. Peace will reign in men’s hearts, between men and Jesus, and between men and men (and animals). Peace, shalom, war no more.

Humdrum to Terror: A Sailing Story

I lived on a sailboat for two years. It was a Tayana 37 with a full cast iron keel and a wooden mast. A cutter rig. It was a pretty boat, a standout in the harbor.

I sailed with my husband from Maine to the Bahamas and back, worked for a year and did it again. We sailed and motored down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) combined with “outside” overnight passages, and made it to our terminus of Georgetown, Exuma, Bahamas in 6 months. After languishing in harbor for a while, we turned around and sailed back up.

boat

The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is a series of Bays, Sounds, Lakes, Canals, and Rivers that connect, from Cape Ann Massachusetts to Key West, FL. (and beyond) There are man-made parts that the Corps of Engineers dredge and maintain, and there are natural parts that form the connection, like Albemarle Sound or the Neuse River. The technical portion of the Waterway begins at Mile Marker 1 in Norfolk VA, because you can go all the way from Norfolk to Key West without having to enter the Atlantic Ocean. However the informal ICW goes all the way to Maine. In order to make passages north or south most live-aboards use a combination of staying inside and going outside.

220px-CapeCodCanalEastEndAerialCape Cod Canal, Wikipedia photo

When you’re motoring or sailing down the ICW, what you’re really doing, apart from cruising and sightseeing, is commuting. If you are on a sailboat, your maximum speed is likely going to be 3-5 miles per hour. That’s only how fast sailboats go.

So traveling down the ICW means you’re seeing the eastern seaboard at a rate most people can walk or jog. Progress is incremental at an agonizingly slow rate. Since there are only so many daylight hours, and since it’s inadvisable to travel the ICW at night, and since you need to chart ahead to make the next anchorage and bed down before it gets dark, you get up at dawn and start aiming to hit that anchorage before dark.

So, you’re essentially commuting. You can make between 30-50 miles per day on average, given weather conditions and ICW traffic. The traffic you share on the ICW is a mixture of other sailboats, motorboats, small pleasure craft, commercial fishermen, and commercial traffic such as tugboats and barges. It’s busy.

Getting up at dawn and turning on the motor and setting off for the day, every day, repeatedly, lulls one into a routine. We’d check the engine first, all the belts, the oil, and the pistons. We’d do a once-over topside to make sure things were still hunky dory. We’d turn on the engine, my husband would up the anchor, and off we’d go.

anchor 2

Leaving a Georgia anchorage at dawn. EPrata photo

Mainly, life commuting down the waterway was humdrum. You turned on the motor, did the same thing each day, and you anchored down at night. You made slow progress. Sometimes you had to look at a map just to see IF you’d made any progress. It seemed that the ICW was very long and the amount traveled in a day was very short, inconsequential even. Looking at the 1700 miles from start to finish it seemed like we would never get there.

The humdrum routine was punctuated by occasionally pulling into a town. It was always interesting learning about a town’s history, getting some local food, and/or replenishing the larder. It was fun to hop into the dinghy and putt-putt into a town for recreation. Even doing a laundry run was all right if it got us to walk and stretch our legs a bit. Getting off the boat added a little different something to the day-to-day commute.

Cruising the ICW was fun and good, sometimes thrilling, but it was far from being the glamorous yachting life you see in jetsetting magazines. Routine is routine. Humdrum.

Then some days an unexpected kind of comet would burst into your life and BLAM! you would almost die.

There was the sunny, calm day like all the previous days in northern FL when we were cruising north, in tandem with a tug pushing a barge. Barges are big. The part of the ICW we were motoring was narrow and crowded. We were ahead of the barge and both of us were cruising at the same speed. We had been in close VHF radio contact and were friendly with each other, courteously minding the navigable ‘rules of the road’ and frequently making way for each other in minor ways that helped us travel safely.

The bottom was sandy, which tends to silt up at the edges. We both tried to stay in the middle so we wouldn’t ground. The tug & barge had a draft of only a foot or so but we needed at least 6 feet of water under us to stay afloat and not touch bottom.

At one point in the long day, the tug radioed and asked if we could pull to the right a bit, as he wanted to pass us. He had to do some maneuvers up ahead as his turn off the ICW into his home port on the St. John’s River was approaching.

We edged over and slowed to just enough speed to keep way on. The tug and barge passed us. We sped up and started coming back to the center of the river. We made it!

BLAM!

Underwater in the middle of the channel was a hump of sand, enough to ground us. We grounded so hard nothing on the boat even jiggled. It was instant and it was final. I was below making lunch, and all I heard and felt was a JOLT. I looked out the porthole and the trees were not going by. We were stopped.

IF we had still been traveling in front of the tug and barge, we would be dead. The tug and barge are too large a vessel to be able to stop on a dime. Think 18-wheeler, on water. It would have crushed our boat, ramming us and pushing the debris down into the mud below, and us along with it. Or perhaps my husband who was steering in the cockpit would have had time to jump off, but with me being below I certainly would have died instantly.

But those thoughts didn’t come until later. For the present, we had a terrible problem of being stuck in the middle of the channel and exposed to all other motorboats, barges, tugs, and whatever else came along. We enacted the protocol for this situation where you put the anchor into your dinghy, row out to deeper water, set the anchor, and then get back on the boat and winch yourself forward off the obstruction. Fortunately, this worked. After some hard work, terror, sweat, and skittish eyes looking down the waterway for oncoming craft, we shook loose of the keel grabbing sandbar and got afloat again.

We were extremely grateful we had a full keel and it could withstand the jolt. We were very grateful we had no adverse effects except a little lost time. It could have been so much worse.

giww-tug-colo-locks

A tug and barge, not THE tug and barge., Photo TX DOT

As we processed what had happened and realized our extremely close call, we shivered and shuddered. Our days and days of tedium had been shattered in an instant by a near death experience we would never forget. That is liveaboard cruising on the ICW, long periods of humdrum routine punctuated buy sudden terror.

And that is the Christian life too.

Sometimes it seems like you’re making no progress. It feels like you’ve come only inches and there are miles to go. Can you even see your progress? It’s only incremental. It feels like you’ll never get there. You go days and days and wonder if you added anything of value to the Kingdom at all. It’s just routine. Tedium. Then BLAM! , a life changing event stirs you out of your mundane life and suddenly you’re scrambling.

A car accident. A cancer diagnosis. An injured child. A lost job. Homelessness. Whatever it is, one day you’re sailing along and the next you’re struggling for your life. Job knew. Elijah knew. Mary knew. Paul knew.

Does God use His interruptions to our daily life to shake us? Our pastor had given us the example of the fish tank. He said he had known someone who had a fish tank with fish in it but sometimes it got dirty. The water looked clear and clean. But if you were walking by and bumped it, the sludge on the bottom would drift up. He said that sludge accumulates, laying there, invisible, until a bolt from the blue comes along and then you see how much there is to clean out.

guillaume-150

Photo by Guillaume on Unsplash

That’s us believers. Our hidden sins, ruts, and blots lay in the bottom of our heart lurking and waiting undetected. When an unexpected life-comet zooms in, you turn to God. Prayer suddenly becomes fervent. Diligence in spiritual disciplines become tantamount. Pleading with tears ensues.

Does God uses the occasional BLAM in our lives to shake us? I think He does. Progress might be slow, tedium might even enter in. But when the jolts come, thank the Lord for them. He is using them to do a good work in you. It will be OK.

Heaven is a busy place

busy

The busyness of Rome’s Piazza del Popolo can’t compare
to the busyness of heaven. EPrata photo

Heaven is busy. I know you know this. But sometimes we let the invisible become abstract, and once abstract, distant. People tell me that they feel that since our faith relies on invisibility, despite their certainty, praying to heaven sometimes feels like whistling in the wind.

I understand the feeling, and I’d like to help along those lines.

Let’s get specific.

When we have a civic issue, we do things. We write letters to the editor. We complain on Facebook. We join protests. We march. We petition. We attend Town Council meetings and speak in the microphone.

“My road isn’t paved and it’s wrecking my car!”
“There’s too many potholes on my road, do something!”
“You can’t fire the Town Manager/increase the budget/Add onto the school!”
“We need a stoplight at John Smith Road!”
“Make John Q. Public Street a 4-way stop!”
“Re-stripe the lines on Main Street!”

We are pretty busy when it comes to civic duties. We make ourselves heard for our civic needs in all the venues that are available to us.

What do we do when we have a spiritual issue? We do things. We write letters to the pastor. We complain on Facebook. We join grumbling protests. We prayer march. We petition. We attend Elder Council meetings and speak up.

What don’t we do? Pray. For whatever reason, we don’t make available to us the first thing we should be doing. Instead, we relegate it to a last resort.

Far from being an inert, harp-playing, cloud lounging, Deistic place, heaven is active and always in motion. It is in operation all the time. Heaven is busy, Heaven is involved.

Heaven has angels coming and going, presenting themselves to God. The High Court is always in session. Jesus is praying. Incense is rising. The angels are hollering holy, holy, holy. Warfare is breaking out. Martyrs are arriving. Jesus is mediating. Requests and Petitions are coming in. Praise and worship is continuing.

So pray! Pray for all your concerns. Pray to praise Jesus. Pray for your sanctification. Pray for your friends’ salvation. Pray for nations abroad, and your kids at home. Pray about everything, especially your concerns.

When you pray, you become intimately involved in the activity of heaven. Your prayer is heard by Jesus and is then absorbed into the great stream of work and operations of the celestial realms. If Jesus heard Hagar’s lone cry in the vast desert, if He saw Elijah’s exhaustion in his escape from Jezebel, if He knows the heart of Nicodemus by night, if He understands all our sorrows, fears, and feelings, He hears your prayer. You don’t have to worry. You don’t need a liver shiver or a sign or confirmation. He hears it.

Scripture references

Job 1:6; Revelation 4:1-11; Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 7:25, Romans 8:24; Revelation 8:4, Revelation 4:8, Isaiah 6:2-3; Daniel 10:13, Revelation 12:7
Genesis 28:12; Revelation 6:9; 1 Timothy 2:5, Job 9:33; Philippians 4:6, 1 Timothy 2:1; Revelation 19:6-7, Revelation 11:16.

Christ, The Sure and Steady Anchor

Storm of the Century, March 1993. I was living on my sailboat, and I was in it. The arrow shows where.
Storm_of_the_century_satellite

I was saved at age 42, and before that I traveled a lot. I lived on a sailboat for two years, traveling about 10,000 nautical miles (with another 2000 miles on a speedboat delivery). As they say, “A lot of blue water under my keel.”

We left on our first voyage in October 1992. In March of 1993, we were anchored at Georgetown Bahamas, where we experienced the Storm of the Century.

anchor

The anchor as seen at night, through clear Bahamian waters, 20 feet down! It was convenient to be able to see that it was set well. Note the ripples the chain made in the sand as the boat at anchor sways gently to and fro.

In this from the Broward/Palm Beach New Times, we read the article Lost at Sea:

They called it the “storm of the century.” … that unnamed freak March tempest killed as many people in Florida as Hurricane Andrew and left $500 million in damage, even dropping snow in the Panhandle, by the time it finally moved out of Florida. It took with it a 40-foot sailing ketch called Charley’s Crab. No scrap, no bit of flotsam, no article of clothing was ever found from that boat, and after two desperate SOS calls, the four people who were sailing it just off the coast of Palm Beach were never seen or heard from again.

The storm continued to wreak havoc as a record-breaking blizzard as it moved up the east coast of the United States and into Nova Scotia. NOAA Weather:

The Superstorm of 1993 (also called the Storm of the Century) was one of the most intense mid-latitude cyclones ever observed over the Eastern United States. The storm will be remembered for its tremendous snowfall totals from Alabama through Maine, high winds all along the East coast, extreme coastal flooding along the Florida west coast, incredibly low barometric pressures across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, and for the unseasonably cold air that followed behind the storm. In terms of human impact the Superstorm of 1993 was more significant than most landfalling hurricanes or tornado outbreaks and ranks among the deadliest and most costly weather events of the 20th century. (source)

Wikipedia specifically mentions the derecho winds:

The squall line produced a serial derecho as it moved into Florida and Cuba [and The Bahamas, Ed. Note] shortly after midnight on March 13. Straight-line winds gusted above 100 mph at many locations in Florida as the squall line moved through. The supercells in the derecho produced eleven tornadoes.

Today’s point, is the anchor.

anchor 2

In gentler times, pulling the anchor up at dawn, another day of sailing
the Intracoastal Waterway.

1993 was before the internet and cell phones. GPS was very new and few sailors had it. Yet the sailing network still worked. We had been dithering about anchoring outside the harbor a little ways off behind a small island, really a sand bar hump, that had a lone palm tree. If we had followed through with that decision we might have died. As we came back in to the harbor from our day sailing, we heard the weather buzz. The chatter about the coming storm was pitched and nearly manic.

The severe weather talk prompted us to set two anchors instead of one.

As we further learned of the severity of the storm, I suggested that we set a third anchor. We possessed a third anchor but it wasn’t attached to the rope (rode) yet. We normally used the CQR as the main anchor and the Danforth as the backup two each night. The third, a Bruce, was the spare for emergencies. I considered this an emergency.

My husband resisted, but I pushed. Eventually he got busy and attached the anchor to the rope and set the third. We’d set the two anchors as if the wind would come from the normal direction, north-northwest. The harbor was very large, it could hold up to 400 boats in peak season. It was peak season. There were many, many boats anchored around us.

Storms in that location usually come in from the north-northwest. However as the unusual derecho swept over the peninsula of Florida, the Gulf Stream, and then western Bahamian Islands, it became obvious this was a storm that didn’t adhere to anything “normal.” It came not from the north, the usual winter storm pattern, but from the west.

As boaters anchored ahead of us were hit with the wind we heard them yelling into their VHS radios, reporting data from their anemometers. The wind only increased as it swept over the harbor.

“It’s 50 miles an hour!”

It’s 75 miles an hour!

“It blew out the anemometer at 98 miles an hour!”

My husband looked at me wide eyes. Without a word, he turned on the engine.

I heard it before I saw it. A terrible train sound increasing in its unearthly roar even as it blackened the horizon and roiled toward us at unbelievable speed. It seemed like a monster, a clawing, gobbling thing intent on devouring the yachts in its path like matchsticks. The last thing I heard before it hit was the incredulity in one yachtsman’s voice:

“IT’S COMING FROM THE WEST. THE WEST!!!”

610__360x_tayana37-sailplanIt hit. Our sailboat had a full cast iron keel from bow to stern, weighing 7,000 pounds. Our boat overall weighed 23,000 pounds. The derecho hit us on the side and slammed us over like a baby in a tub dunking a rubber ducky. Our side rail hit the water and as we righted, two of the anchors popped loose. My husband had gunned the engine to full speed, but we made no headway to relieve the wind’s pressure on the third anchor. All our prayers were on that last anchor. One thin rope ending in one metal anchor is all we had between us and destruction.

Boats all around us were dragging. Some were dragged by the insane wind onto the beach. Others were dragged into each other, masts tangling and rigging twining together. My husband and I stood the storm shoulder to shoulder, engine at full throttle, leaning into the wind staring into the black. Just standing. There was nothing else we could do in the face of such power.

The derecho passed over and left behind a week of winds. Thankfully, we were unscathed but many boats sustained damage, even anchored in the harbor. We heard that the sailboat Charley’s Crab (Florida restaurant owner) on its way across the Gulf Stream was lost, a tugboat and a freighter were lost at sea, too. Overall 48 people on the sea were reported missing. The Coast Guard rescued 160 people at sea. 270 people died on land.

anchor
That one little anchor, that one thin line, is all that saves you in a storm. It’s all that keeps you in one place at night when you pull down the sails and anchor in place. You go to sleep knowing that the anchor has to hold. Otherwise as you sleep, your boat could be dashed upon the rocks or swept to sea.

Christ has meaning for me as The Sure and Steady Anchor. I will hold fast to the anchor.