Sometimes, we need to step out of our own peripheries to see that there are other things that matter and other people who matter more. It’s estimated that 90% of global goods are transported by sea. I was one of those who relied on the shipping industry for just about everything, yet hadn’t considered the human beings behind the vital vein we all depend on; the largely unseen individuals who toil hard and sacrifice greatly at mentally and physically taxing, and often spiritually challenging, high-risk jobs on ships at sea.
When this book, The Seafarer’s Mind: The Questions I’ve Always Wanted to Ask, popped up out of nowhere as I was busy doing something else, I glimpsed at the cover and knew I was meant to read it before understanding the context. Then I found the words inside gave deeper insight, as well as affirmed what the Lord had already spoken to me.
I am not a seafarer, but I am an intercessor, and many months ago, the Lord asked me to commit to praying and fasting for seafarers, as one part of a three-strand cord of intercession. At first, it seemed like a strange request from the Lord for little ole me in landlocked Tennessee, who has always feared water, to venture into my “prayer closet” for seafarers. But I didn’t question the assignment for long; the persuasion was strong. Besides, the Lord asks for obedience often when the big picture is not clear or understood. At the surface, with human eyes, my prayer cord doesn’t look as if the strands are related, and yet the Lord keeps assuring that they are connected, and I have to trust.
The aforementioned book is expertly crafted for the sake of seafarers. The impassioned testimonies are inspiring, the resources offer help and support for various challenges that many seafarers face. So if you work in the maritime industry, The Seafarer’s Mind is truly an anointed aid for thriving in your environment. And if you’re in a landbound profession, this is an expander of knowledge and understanding; should be read by all lest we forget the largely unseen individuals on whom we depend.
I’ve found that there is very little literature in the way of ministry to seafarers, and I appreciate this author, Rev. Martin Otto, who helped fill a gap. So I went on a recent binge-reading journey, as I felt like I was meant to read all of the following titles. The Lord asked me to be still, draw in, and absorb highlights of the seafaring world. I gained some clarity into visions I’d seen and dreams through which the Lord had already spoken. Sometimes what doesn’t have shape, form, or sense in the beginning, if you focus on God, filling your mind on things above, and with a heart full of lovingkindness and thanksgiving, eventually the fog will dissipate and you see what you before couldn’t; and comprehend what made little sense. And then sometimes, it’s a crash-course in faith-building, to believe though we can’t see.
As I am learning about and appreciating the crucial international community of mariners and their families, praying for their spiritual edification and encouragement, I’m also praying for those serving at ports in missions to seafarers, an area of ministry that still needs expanded.
Back at the start of this segment of my intercession, the Holy Spirit impressed upon me that there are individuals who the Lord has planted a seed for specific ministry that is emerging from the oceans. Where cultural background, work experiences, and particular exposures lend to a uniqueness of testimony only God could orchestrate and use—for all things work together for good (Romans 8:28). But the devil has been especially hard on these ones in the past season, trying to trip up and discourage to thwart the call and birthing of ministry in service to others upon and between the waters. In some cases, mistakes in the flesh-vs-spirit barrages have almost caused a giving-up, a falsity propounding disqualification. The only perfection any of us has is Jesus’ perfection within us; we are holy as he is holy within us. Works and/or clean behavior can’t save us, but Jesus, who unconditionally loves us and by his grace forgives seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22), each day renewed, can. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). We fall down; we get back up. Even when circumstances feel overwhelming, there are people who are praying, lifting weary arms like Aaron and Hur to Moses (Exodus 17:10-13). Appointed to pray healing and strengthening words, to intercede, instill hope and encouragement, stand as watchmen on the walls, and help battle principalities and strongholds. A company of Christians you’ve never met are called to your cause; I’m only one in the appointed mix. And an invisible force of angels has been assigned to your spiritual welfare to help carry you through your life’s purpose.
So this blog today is more than another book review, but these titles are spurring standouts. There is much to embrace within the pages. I highly recommend each one.
I have this relationship with the sky. When I wake up first thing, I grab a cup of coffee, step outside, glance up into its face and ask, “Well, what would you like to do today?” And whether the answer is filled with clarity, clouds, storms, or stillness, I make it a point to add, “This day belongs to you, Lord.” It has become a habit, this daily dedication. No matter what, come what may; in good times, bad times (you know I’ve had my share 🎶), there is no other name under heaven than Yeshua.
I’m a seer yet can’t seem to see what’s directly ahead of me right now (the irony). Other than a few significant dreams—about ships and clocks, specific people and cultures—I have no idea what God is doing. Yet, for some reason, I can glimpse up at the expansive sky and find reassurance, a reminder that HE’S got this day, and every day is in his hands. Instead of analyzing or fretting, I can rest in his presence, trust in faith, albeit blind faith sometimes.
As I was out visiting my horse, pondering the meaningful metaphors of the sky, I looked upward when my favorite Mr. Heron made a sudden appearance, changed direction and flew right over my head. I watched the stoic air-traveler meld into the horizon. I then drew a big breath—because I think I’d stopped breathing for a second there—and exhaled with pleasure. Then last night when I greeted the full moon, I acknowledged and appreciated its reflection of the cross.
Yeah, the sky inspires me. It is ever-present yet full of surprises. Just like my God who created the lovely, larger-than-me-and-my-issues, hope-filled sky. This day belongs to him.
We can settle in a place of peace, regardless of what’s going on around us. It might be our nature to desire delineations, even if we dive deep in the Spirit. We might want to see above the surface, or how far to the floor. We might yearn for a glimpse of what’s around or ahead of us. We think we need explanations. Lines and restrictions can give a sense of security… or control. But what if God is asking us to abide in the depths of his fathomless grace? To just linger in his presence, in stillness, even if it’s dark and we can’t see as far as our own hands in front of us? To truly, wholly, trust in him, his mercy--just trust. A hurricane can rip over the surface and destroy everything in its path; impacting everything as we know it; perhaps ridding the familiar or comfortable. But in trusting him, in letting go and allowing him to sweep through our circumstances, our lives, our hearts; we can all the while abide in the depth of his peace, in calm. We can remain in an immovable space, a divine place; one of intimacy and confidence in the God of Glory who speaks to the storms. Instead of the storms threatening to destroy us, we watch them as they shift and scream away at his whisper. All that’s left is what was there all along. Peace, calm, assurance. To trust at a place in the present, where neither height nor depth nor anything can separate us from his love (Romans 8:39). May you abide in his immeasurable peace.
On my shoulder, I feel… tap, tap… the prodding of the Holy Spirit, along with the words, “The time is 0400 in Davao.”
Oookaaay. I’m perplexed. I also have to look up as a refresher what 0400 means, as I don’t operate on so-called military time. As a courtesy, if you’re like me, that means 4 AM, lol.
Other cities and times are given to me over weeks, maybe months now, at different spots in my days. Even a waking in the middle of the night, I hear, “The time is 12:39 PM in Dubai.” Appreciating better the civilian time, I glance at the clock and had already grown accustomed to looking it up, as if I still needed confirmation. It was indeed 12:39 at that instance in Dubai.
I’m an intercessor and requests of the Lord can be unusual. At first, I wondered what this was about. Then I realized these were all port cities. I asked if God wanted me to pray for these cities; did it have to do with territories, spiritual dominion, what? Then I saw in my mind’s eye distinct lines across blue. These were shipping routes. I began praying, and it led to praying for not just the shipping industry or routes themselves, more so, who works at sea. In some instances, what I was experiencing in “stepping into the shoes of another” so to speak, was rather tangible. And it wasn’t like intense spiritual warfare. This was more like prayers for edification, encouragement, a building-up of the human heart and soul.
Dates are important, and for some reason here, so are clocks. Over the past year, the Lord has taken me into three-month seasonal increments with themes. They are somehow connected, although my human eyes and reasoning cannot tie it all together (yet) but I’ve been through the wilderness, mountains, stretches of desert, and now it seems the ocean. This is my “Period of Rendering” I’ve been told, until Purim, anyway. Not sure I’ll fully know what rendering means, as there are so many definitions. But currently, images, visions, dreams seem to have much to do with the seas, ships, and nautical symbolism. It’s grown strong. Even in my prayer language, maritime terms have flown out of my mouth, including crew positions. I had to refresh my mind on, for instance, what a bosun is and does.
As I’m praying for others, the Lord is also working with me. Although I grew up in a fishing village where a lot of people were about boats and fishing, those in my immediate circle were not. And to say I’ve had a healthy fear of water is an understatement. It’s probably pretty unhealthy. I’ve watched movies like The Perfect Storm, All Is Lost, or Poseidon with abject horror—yet I can’t look away; it’s torture. I’m not a strong swimmer. The idea of cruising the ocean has filled me with dread. I’ve had a PTSD kayaking incident (rescue) in the Gulf Islands. And a recurring nightmare has plagued me most of my life where I’m trapped in a sinking ship.
He’s reminded me that there was a time when he’d asked if I was willing to go to remote places on the earth to share his love for others, and I said yes. Decades ago, I served as a missionary all over the world with an amazing group of people who strove to preserve cultural wholeness rather than changing everybody up. We presented Jesus exactly as he is, a Semite who came for all people. We did cultural exchange programs—and I loved these—where I’d learn the local dances; I’d also teach my Jewish dances, and together we danced and celebrated the glory of God. But the recent reminder here hovered over locations. And willingness. There’s a joke among missionaries, “Yes, God, I’ll go and serve you; just don’t send me THERE.” And that’s usually where God sends you, the place you fear the most. Kind of like Jonah running from his mission to Nineveh then getting swallowed by a whale. As I was thinking about that, I remember when God had asked me to go to some pretty challenging and hard-to-reach places, ministering, joining arts and hearts, planting churches, delivering commodities. So many places, opportunities, tribes, and events.
So the Lord recently questioned me, “Tessa, if the ocean were a mission field and I asked you to go there… would you?”
I think over much of my life, the answer would have been no. Instead, I jumped and shouted, “Yes, Lord! Hineni!” Hineni is a Hebrew term that means much more than “Here I am!” It’s a serious way of giving yourself over to complete availability and total readiness. Wildly abandoned to God’s will. In other words, if you say it; you’d better mean it. And I do.
Water is often symbolic in the spiritual sense of expanding and moving, cleansing and flowing. The important thing is being ready for anything. And trusting wholeheartedly. And this is where God is working on my fear. I was surprised at my emphatic answer. But then I realized, I’m mentally at a place in life where I could give up everything, leave everything and sail, if that’s what he wanted me to do. I know he has my life in his hands and I can face anything. For if he’s beside me, behind me, before me, and beyond me and the horizon, and even below me, then I’ll be all right. Not unlike a lot of people, I’m not void of snags and complicated circumstances that hinder a mission of picking up and leaving if this were literal. I wondered about those details when the Lord gave me a vision. I was holding two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The outline or frame of the puzzle was already laid-out. The Lord had all the rest of the pieces in his hands and he plopped them down within the frame, and suddenly the puzzle was done, pieces put together. I snapped in my two little pieces, and the Lord said to me, his little girl, “Good job! I’m so proud of you,” making me sweetly feel as if I completed the puzzle when he did it all. I took this to mean to not worry about the process or details or how things fit together; he’s got it all, whatever “it” is. Just focus on the big-picture result, and childlike-trust him.
I believe this year will be a revealing of mysteries and revelations. “He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though He is surrounded by light.” (Daniel 2:22). Things that are shifting or have been getting into position in the heavenlies will suddenly fit together in the natural. The weary will burst into rejoicing (hallelujah). And I hear the Lord say, “Thank Me. Thank Me for what I’ve already done.” I just have to interject here that I honestly don’t know why anybody would not want to pursue a Spirit-filled life. It’s spontaneous, meaningful, and exciting. As an intercessor, I sometimes get to live vicariously through someone else and what they do, someone for whom I’m praying.
Speaking of that, apparently, I’m still in the metaphorical maritime phase. Yesterday, the Lord again told me to get ready for my new assignment, and that my future is going to look nothing like my past. Then he said, “Suit up.”
I’m like, “Right on! It’s go-time! I’m ready—wait, did you just say ‘Suit up’?!”
… to be continued
“Unfathomable oceans of grace are in Christ for you. Dive and dive again, you will never come to the bottom of these depths.”—Robert Murray M'Cheyne