“Stranded starfish have no place to hide
Still waiting for the swollen Easter tide
There’s no point in direction we cannot
Even choose a side.”-Here Comes the Flood/Peter Gabriel
“Find the Lighthouse” I was pretty sure I heard Him say…prayer drive to the coast, of course there would be a Lighthouse, it’s the coast…but alas Google search would only give me “Gospel Lighthouse” and I loathed the idea so I determined that was not what He meant…so I searched to no avail…finally decided to stop looking and just go find a spot to have some coffee…little town of Trinadad…and as I turned to go to the ocean, there it was a lighthouse…
Took the steps down to the beach and expected to meet someone or something…nothing…just a beach…but hey when is a beach just a beach to me?
Odd bit of info about me, I have always loved the ocean…long before I ever saw it, I was in love with it…I sat and watched in rapture Jacques Cousteu’s underwater adventures after reading his book on sharks, I loved him and what he did and wanted to be an oceanographer…but I was stuck in Oklahoma…cattle, cowboys and Indian reservations…I hated the midwest, probably because there was no ocean.
Whatever possessed the God of heaven to wire the son of a preacher and grandson of a Cherokee in Oklahoma to love the ocean as I do is one of the mysteries of life, but I do.I can just sit like an old friend and recharge my entire life…just listening to the waves.
I first saw the starfish dried out the night before, but next day is when I really discovered what this would be about…I found many starfish stranded on the sand, most of them rather small…but one or two full sized and all left high and dry by the tide…
The tune…”Here comes the flood” ran through my mind…stranded starfish have no place to hide…I can still hear Peter Gabriel sing it, lovely tune, so mournful.
But what did God want? What was special about this moment?
As I sat drinking my coffee on a large boulder that had been half submerged in tide water the night before it began to slowly dawn on me…
Ebb and Flow…
I have spent almost 30 years learning how to flow with the Spirit, how to run meetings, how to prophesy, how to carry the Presence in worship, make no mistake about it, I have learned a few things about bringing the glory…and especially in “flowing”…at this moment I can unleash a flow of prophetic song and bring the sound of heaven, my biggest challenge was often turning it off so as not to”go over” my allotted time (image that)…my point being I know how to flow.
If you have been in ministry or a “ministering servant” for more than a few years you know how to flow…its part of the job description now…
But what no one teaches, and what is almost never done is to “ebb”…
What is ebb?
Well if flow is when you are plugged in serving, pouring out, ministering, giving, keeping your post, maintaining your line, keeping watch, serving…it is by definition when God (and your own effort) is being displaced through you to others…and its an intoxicating substance this flow stuff.
So flow is when you are in your place giving 100% thinking of others and serving without wincing…flowing out of your core to take care of those around you…
Ebb is the opposite…you are giving nothing…you are doing nothing…you are nothing…no title, no office, no anointing, no calling (and no calls), no demands no ministry, no nada.
Its when it is all taken from you.
The tide is out, and if you are not careful you will be washed up somewhere with no place to hide.
But wait you say (see how well I anticipate your question) “What about the gifts and callings of God are without repentance?”…good question…so your definition or His? Putting something on hold is not exactly taking it back…re-tooling a life for a number of years is not taking back a calling…it might be fulfilling it.
Why are we so reticent to stop doing ministry?
No place to hide
“Oh how are you, whats the Lord doing in your life right now?”
“Oh surely He’s doing something, where does He have you serving?”
See what I mean, no place to hide.
No one expects you to do nothing, unless of course you are somehow being punished..either because you have done something so horrendous, or God is just pissed at you and put you in time out.
Todays christian culture has no place for a pastor or leader who says I am stopping for a few years…we don’t know how to deal with that, so we don’t.
Statistics show that in an average month 1500 pastors leave the ministry, some because of moral failure, others because of disillusionment and depression. A study I recently read state that 57% of Pastors would leave the ministry now if they had something better to do…
The machine is broken, because this is the machine almost all ministry comes from…
Whats the problem?
Heaven forbid anyone in ministry let alone pastors take a year and do nothing.
Let the tide go out.
Let it take from you the water of ministry and serving and identity and the flow of life as you know it, see what happens…
If you are a crab and the tide leaves you stranded you end up as lunch…caveat emptor…this strikes to close to my own mouth so I will move on…
No one teaches us that God might one day just pull the tide out, and its not like nature doesn’t warn us, all of life has cycles of ebb and flow even the majestic redwood forest, its just on a much longer cycle of fire and burn and regrowth.
This isn’t “pruning” either…I guess in a rough way it is, but is seems much more severe, you are stranded with no connection with the world you swam in and the tide is gone and you have no place to hide…
But whats wrong with that?
I have a confession to make…I generally hate christian radio…I cannot stand when people want to simply sell a CD so they take another persons worship song and do a new version of it, I wanna shout into the radio ‘Write your own worship song”…I know its very judgmental, but its one of my pet peeves, like it or not…
But that’s not the main reason I don’t like christian music…there’s always something missing from it and it wasn’t until now that I think I recognized it…I find the majority of christian music, roughly 99% of it lacks “ebb”…its all flow…even if the song is about a rough patch of life, its all sugar coated and gonna be fine…you now what I’m talking about the songs lack substance…give me Coldplay, or Snow Patrol or even U2…but this swirly rainbow, waterfalls and pony music?…blecchh.
Dave Matthews song “Gravedigger, or Bartender” have the element of ebb in them, there is a certain pathos that cannot be heard when all you sing is “Let the river flow”…(apologies to Darrel Evans)
And even when we have pastors and leaders and singers who encounter “ebb” it always gets turned back into “flow” and ministry and now I have a message because God took my mess and made it flow again, isn’t He good all the time?
My Bible does not read like that.
I have David whining and Job crying, and Jeremiah downright depressed and Sarah scheming and Jacob lying, and well…lots of time when it was not “flow”…
400 years in slavery probably was not described as living in the flow of Gods purpose, but it was…it was the back-flow…when things flow away from you and God seems silent.
And just a little side note, it was in the “ebb” part of Israels history where ministry refused to stop that they developed the traditions of men that Jesus challenged…the mishnah was a direct result of ministry refusing to do nothing when there was no temple and no way to do anything anyway…think about it…the traditions that Jesus had the biggest problem with were born in a season when the Temple had been destroyed, so honestly ministry was supposed to be in”ebb” but it refused until at the time of Christ there are actually two separate high priest, something the mishnah provided that the Torah did not.
I can almost promise that if you are in ministry for more than 5 continuous years it is almost impossible for you to hear the idea that God might want you to do nothing for a year.
Why is that?
Well for some its their job, and that alone should raise a red flag, but most often it is simply because between the demands of life and the demands of identity we just cannot afford to get quiet and hear that maybe God has other plans, once something becomes your job there are expectations and schedules and salaries and…well you get the drift, there is no room for spontaneous and terminated ministry in our culture because its always a bad thing.
Have you ever noticed how much Jesus ebbed? Just did nothing we can read about?
Oh we assume he was praying, but often it says he drew alone by himself…and I can see instances where there were plenty of opportunity for ministry and he just did nothing…or at best healed one guy and walked away.
30 years of Ebb.
Paul 13 years of Ebb.
But us…not so much.
If there is a flow there must be an ebb…its part of life…
But no one is talking about it.
So right now..I am.
Will there be another flow?
Well I assume so…but I can promise it wont look like the last one…each tide rises with its own current, its own purpose and carries new nutrients and adventures on its flow…
I’m hopeful…but also
Ebb…its where I am now…
And I’m ok with it.
I think God wants us human before he wants us anointed…and there’s something about living your life in and for ministry that strips away your humanity…ebb gives it back by stripping away all the tides of serving and identity and position…
Stranded starfish have no pace to hide.
I did find lots of other starfish though…stuck to the bottom of the boulders…in the shade…in precarious positions…if the rock were to roll even slightly the starfish would be crushed…
If the rock moved slightly the starfish would be worse than stranded…
I think the best place to be when the tide goes out is stuck to the bottom of the Rock…you have to go low to get there…and it defies gravity a bit…its in the shade away from the sea gulls and burning sun…
Its a quiet place…mossy and in the shadows…low key…
A couple of thoughts drift into my mind, first of all the question “Would God really have you just do nothing?” Define “nothing”…I played with starfish and collected pebbles and on my way home laid down in a mess of clover underneath a majestic redwood forest and just took it in…maybe God needed someone to appreciate His stuff he made for us today, so I don’t think nothing is what I did…
Second…I did bring a somewhat bemused and alive starfish back to Red Bluff…I rescued it so to speak…although its time is probably limited…call it nostalgia, call it presumption…the reality is there is no rescue…if you don’t survive until the new tide, well…I don’t know what to say…