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Waiting Well

“Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” Psalm 27:14, ESV

Book Update

I have finished the first draft of the book “Sitting on the Lap of God.” I celebrate this important milestone. Currently, I am going back through the chapters with a light grammar edit, and then I will turn it over to my editor for the first of several editing stages. Over the next few months, we will produce a finished manuscript. I expect to have Advanced Reader Copies ready in March. I plan to launch the book for sale at the beginning of June in 2022, in time for Father Day weekend. So we are still nine months away from launch. In between, I am developing an extensive marketing campaign to raise awareness of the book. In all, I am excited to see the process moving forward.

I am far more excited about this project than I am about the prospect of going to Antarctica. I believe the book will help many to find the love of the Father in their own lives.

Antarctica Update

At this time, there are no new updates to share regarding my job at the McMurdo research base in Antarctica. I am waiting for an assignment. If you missed the last update, the National Science Foundation decided to scale back operations at McMurdo due to the most recent surge in the pandemic. As a result, they cut my position. I keep in touch with my boss regularly. The first of three Mainbody groups began deploying on September 11. Over the next several weeks, two more groups will transition through the quarantine process in New Zealand. With my alternate status, I am available to replace anyone who may not be able to go. So, for now, I have to wait and see what will happen. I may be called up to replace someone this season. If that does not happen, then I am first in line for a position next year.

I think I confused some by writing that I hope to work in Antarctica for the next several years. But the work in Antarctica I am pursuing is seasonal. It is only for the four months of Austral Summer – October through February. So if I get this job, I would be gone from October through February only. So, to clarify, I am hoping to work in Antarctica seasonally from October through February for the next several years.

There are three main United States research bases in Antarctica. I hope to experience each one.

McMurdo is the largest and the main jumping-off point for most of the research on the continent. I am currently under contract to work here in the lodging department. When fully operational during the Austral Summer, the base houses around 900 people with approximately 600 researchers and 300 support staff. The average temperature in the summer is around 30 degrees Fahrenheit. To see an image of the base and to read more information, click here: https://www.usap.gov/videoclipsandmaps/mcmwebcam.cfm

The South Pole station, nearer the continent’s center, is smaller, with around 125 people during summer. It is the harshest environment of the three, with average high temperatures around -18 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Click here to learn more about the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station: https://www.usap.gov/videoclipsandmaps/spwebcam.cfm

Finally, the Palmer Station, on the opposite end of the continent from McMurdo, is the smallest of the three bases, with up to 44 people in the summer. Palmer is the warmest of the three bases, with average temperatures in the summer around 36 degrees Fahrenheit. It is the most picturesque, in my opinion, with abundant wildlife. Here is a link to the webcam at the Palmer Station:  https://www.usap.gov/videoclipsandmaps/palwebcam.cfm

In the Waiting

And so I am in waiting mode again. Again! Oh, there must be a lesson in all this. As I wrote in the last update, I remain guarded by the peace of God through this process. If you missed that update, click here to read it.

I know of no one who enjoys waiting. But when you think about it, waiting is a natural part of our lives. We wait for an end to the pandemic. We wait for a new school season to begin, then we wait for summer vacation to start. We wait for a new friend to return a text. We wait to hear back from a job interview. We wait for a vegetable garden to grow, then we wait for the tomato to ripen. We wait in waiting rooms for appointments to finally begin.

I wait for the book to be complete. And I wait for a position to open in Antarctica.

Waiting is natural. Waiting well is the trick.

The Bible says, “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!”

In this passage, the original language for the word “wait” has the connotation of a rope under tension. It is the tension of enduring, like a tie-down strap holding an object in place during a storm. Waiting in this context infers a sense of tension.

I live in Southwest Florida in an area prone to hurricanes. Years ago, my sailboat was out of the water in the work yard of a marina. As Hurricane Irma approached, staff at the marina secured the vessel with strong tie-down straps. They attached one end of the six-inch-wide straps to the vessel and the other end to screw anchors they drilled into the ground. The vessel rode out ninety miles an hour winds without tipping over. The winds put the tie-downs under great stress. In essence, the tie-down straps waited out the storm. As the winds increased, the tension also increased. But, the straps waited well and saved the boat from harm.

Waiting well means navigating this tension. How do we do this? How do we wait well?

When I am in the waiting mode, I make extra time to pull back into my relationship with God. I call this time “Sitting on the Lap of God.” It is the primary way I view my relationship with the Father. So I wait on his lap, held in his embrace, while the storm rages around me. He is responsible for managing the tension accompanying the storm. My responsibility is to sit in stillness on his lap.

Occasionally, I find myself wandering about, momentarily forgetting my relationship with the Father, and I feel the tension building within. I try to fix it. I work to make the situation better. I take responsibility for the tension instead of letting the Father take care of it. When I take responsibility for the wait, I bear the entire load of the pressure. When I let the Father take responsibility, I am at rest.

I have enjoyed an extraordinary peace since learning my job in Antarctica had been cut. The peace of God has guarded me well. Then one day, I checked in on the Facebook group for employees of the United States Antarctica Program. A pang of sadness started to creep in as I read through the posts of employees who were preparing to deploy. I started feeling melancholy. It was the equivalent of checking in on an old girlfriend, only to discover she has moved on and is happy without you! The peace I had enjoyed started fraying. As soon as I realized what was happening, I closed the website and crawled back on the lap of the Father God. I had wandered off the lap of the Father, and tension was settling in where peace had reigned. The solution was to get back on the lap of God.

As we wait, we wait for the Lord. We wait for him to decide the next move. We spend more time with him. We focus our eyes on him. We look up from his knee and gaze at his face. The storm does not faze him. He feels no tension. He is at rest. He strengthens us. We are encouraged. We are secure on his lap. And we wait well.

My friend, are you in a season of waiting? Are you waiting well? Or are you feeling the tension building as you wait out the storm? If so, join me in learning to be still on the lap of God. Wait for him to move.

Be strong. Take courage. Wait for the Lord!

 

 

 

 

The Lord is at hand

As a reminder, I will not have access to Facebook or any other social media site when I am in Antarctica. The only updates I expect to make will be through the email mailing list. If you are reading this on the website or from a forwarded email and are not currently a member, you can join the list here: https://timothymark.com/email-signup/

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5b-7, ESV.)

The clock is ticking, and the day of departure for Antarctica is only a few weeks away. Recently, I reviewed my journal of this journey over the past few months, and I noticed a disturbing trend. Again and again, I wrote about the anxiety I was feeling through the process of getting the job and preparing to leave. A sense of anxiety seems to be on repeat play. Throughout this season, there have been many moments when I felt anxious. The dream is so big and challenging to attain. It is a rare handful of people who get the opportunity I have sought. Now, feeling so close to the finish line, I feel stressed instead of at peace.

For several years, I have felt overwhelmed by my responsibilities with the ministry, work outside of the ministry, owning a home, owning a vehicle, and sailboat, all of which need attention and focus. Now, with deploying to Antarctica on the horizon, I feel like I am driving a car 100 miles per hour, trying to bring it to a complete stop before I leave. I am standing on the brake as hard as I can, but it feels like I am locked up and in a slide out of control. The perception has filled me with anxiety over and over again.

I can give many logical reasons why I should not feel anxious. But anxiety doesn’t respond to logic. Instead, anxiety glares at me, demanding my attention. When I lay down to sleep, it awakens, prodding me, imposing itself, stealing slumber and rest. Instead of shutting off, my brain turns on, trying to settle anxious thoughts that have rested in the background all day. The only way to break the cycle is to get up and read a book or watch TV until I finally feel able to go to sleep. This cycle happened to me in the process of getting the Primary position at McMurdo. And I find it happening to me again as the days tick down to deploying in September.

I’ve worked hard to check things off my list as I close down my life here for the time being. I’ve purchased all the items required, and my bags are still a few pounds under the allowed weight. But one essential thing remains unresolved – what to do with my sailboat.

In Florida, the winter months are the best months for sailing and living aboard the vessel. Most sailboat owners put their boats into safe storage for the summer hurricane season. It does not make sense to keep the sailboat since I will likely be working in Antarctica for the next few winters (i.e., the best time to live aboard and sail). So, I decided to sell it.

During this time, writing the book has been my primary focus. After that, I focused on preparing for a week of meetings at the end of last month. Now, with just five weeks away from the expected departure, I am finally getting around to listing the boat for sale. Once again, a sense of panic settled in. I began to feel anxious about it. Logically, I know I can just put it in storage and manage it next year. But again, my anxiety does not respond to logic.

Anxiety gnawed at my gut. At the height of my concern, the Father reminded me of a verse I learned as a child. It says, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:-7, ESV.)

I looked up the verses on my laptop. I noticed an odd thing. In the English Standard Version, the phrase, “do not be anxious about anything…” begins in the lower case, implying it is in the middle of a thought or sentence. Curious, I looked up the whole passage to consider the context. There it was. The preceding phrase says, “The Lord is at hand;” Read together it says this: “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything….”

I looked into the original language for the phrase “The Lord is at hand.” For the word “Lord,” Strong’s Concordance describes it this way: he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has the power of deciding; master, Lord or the possessor and disposer of a thing.

I was taken aback. The answer to my anxiety appeared in a straightforward phrase. “He to whom a person or thing belongs.” Those words exposed the heart of my fear. The glaring truth is that I was attempting to play God. But God alone is Lord. I belong to him.

Further, everything in my care belongs to him. I am merely the steward. I take care of his things the best I can. Even my body is his. I cannot change myself. I cannot control whether or not I get Covid before I depart for McMurdo. I cannot change my circumstances. I can only surrender, yielding my rights of ownership, yielding control, giving up the right of deciding what is best for me or my possessions. I belong to him. My home belongs to him. My car belongs to him. My sailboat belongs to him. It all belongs to him, and he alone has the power of deciding how to use it or even dispose of it. I say again. He alone has the power of deciding how to use it or even dispose of it.

For days I had tried to discipline myself not to be anxious. But trying harder to overcome my anxiety did not work. Surrender did. Appalled, I confessed to the Father how I have attempted to control my situation with getting the job in Antarctica. Same with taking care of the sailboat before I leave. I have tried to figure it out on my own instead of resting in the knowledge that my Father is the only owner of the vessel. He alone has the power of deciding what is best and how to dispose of it if necessary. If he doesn’t want to sell it, it won’t sell. If he wants to store it, he will store it. It is not my decision to make. So I wait for him to tell me what he wants me to do with his things.

Further, the Bible says, “The Lord is at hand.” He is not some faraway God, unconcerned with our day-to-day lives. He is near. He is with us. The one who owns all things and has the authority to decide what is best is close. He is aware. It is not as if he is somehow preoccupied somewhere far away in the universe. He is here! With us!

According to this passage, my sole responsibility is to bring all my requests to the Father, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving. I spent an hour talking with the Father, surrendering anew and afresh, letting go of my desire to control, yielding fully, finally resting in his embrace. My prayer had little to do with going to Antarctica and even less to do with a sailboat. It had everything to do with emptying my heart. The one thing that actually matters to my Father. My heart.

For me, the key to overcoming anxiety is not trying harder. It is surrender. And so I do not ask for relief; I ask for conformity. The Father pulls, stretches, slowly conforms me to the image of Jesus. Jesus, the son who trusted his Father fully even to the point of laying down his life. When we are aware of the presence of the Lord with us, we do not need to be anxious about anything. He is at hand. He is near. He is with us. Because of that, we let go of our anxious thoughts.

At that moment, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. When I surrendered control to my Father, I found a fresh perspective and peace. Options for storing the boat became clear, negating the pressure to make a quick sale before departure. Peace settled in where anxiety had ruled. And most importantly, my Father realigned my heart with his.