I have the pleasure of sharing the wisdom of a guest writer and my friend, Janet Mills Koolhaas, with you all once again. May you find this inspiring and thought-provoking today as we consider The Voice within.

“Recently, my husband and I attended a four-day Christian conference in Pensacola, Florida. We were inside an arena each day from morning until late at night. When the conference ended, we knew we couldn’t go home until we had been to the beach at least for a few minutes and dip our toes in the water.    

So, after the conference ended, we found a nice beach and set up our beach chairs and sat there enjoying the waves which swooshed in to kiss the shoreline with rhythmic accuracy. After some time observing the waves, we determined that the tide was coming in. We took the obligatory beach pictures. I used my phone to take some video of the little shelled creatures that quickly burrowed down into the wet sand after being deposited on the shore with each succeeding wave.  

As we sat in our chairs and continued to watch the waves, something in the water caught my eye. It was red and it floated on top of the water, moving in and out from the shore with each wave’s retreat back towards deeper water. As I watched it, I surmised that it was a red balloon that had popped and was left to be eaten by some unsuspecting sea creature.  

In response to the urge to be a conscientious global citizen, I got up and waded out into the water to try to retrieve the bobbing red object and do my bit to save the planet. Having waded in to about my knees, I realized I was still holding my cell phone in my hand. A little voice inside my head told me not to be out there in the shallow water with my phone. But instead of leaving it on my beach chair or with my husband, I ignored the voice and put my phone in the pocket of my blouse — but I didn’t button the pocket, because the pocket was too small to allow me to button it.  

I continued to keep my eye on the red object as it came in towards the shore with each wave. But each time I tried to reach out and grab it, it just as quickly was swept back out into the deeper water by the retreating water. I made several attempts and even almost lost my balance a couple of times. Finally, I made one last desperate lunge at the object and, eureka, I got it!  

My personal victory over the waves and the red object was extremely short-lived as I suddenly noticed that my cell phone was no longer in my blouse pocket. I almost slapped myself silly trying to find that phone in one of my pockets, but it was in none of them! A wave of despair suddenly swept over my being as I came to the horrible realization that with all of my grasping for the red object, I had unwittingly lost my phone in the water.  

I retraced my steps staring desperately down into the shallow water in between waves.  By this time, I was some distance from where I had started, as the waves had been washing the red object further and further down the beach from the location of my chair. I was praying desperately, “No, no, no, dear Lord, please let me find my phone!”. I felt sick to my stomach.  

Without much delay, self-condemnation set in. How could I have been so foolish to carry my phone out into the water and then think that it would stay in my unbuttoned pocket?  Why didn’t I listen to the voice in my head? I searched and searched. But found nothing. I even went back to my chair, in the vain hope that maybe I had actually left my phone on my chair when I got up to wade out into the water. But in my heart I knew that was not true.  

I called out to my husband, who helped me search up and down the beach in the shallow water. At one point I went and sat down in my beach chair while he continued to search.  Finally, when we had done all we could do, I decided to face reality and declare the phone gone forever. It was a sickening feeling. The excitement of my mountain-top experience at the four-day conference had instantly evaporated and I felt devastated. We both did.  

We numbly gathered up our things and trudged back up through the sand to the road where our car was parked. We began the six-hour drive back home and didn’t talk much at all. Both of us seriously had gotten the wind knocked out of our sails. I kept thinking about all the thousands of photos I had on my phone, many of which had been taken in the past day or within the last hour. I prayed that they would somehow be out on the Cloud somewhere. Please, Lord!

That night when we got home at 2:00 a.m. — much later than we had planned, because searching for the phone had taken more time than we expected — as I was changing clothes I took off my blouse and felt the red object that was in my pocket. (Actually, it had turned out not to be a balloon but a rigid plastic thing-a-ma-jig that probably fell off someone’s fishing line or boat. I still don’t really know what it is.)

“…but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the Word, making it unfruitful.”
Mark 4:19

As I held that red piece of plastic in my hand, I felt a sense of hatred and resentment towards it. The irony of losing my iPhone in exchange for this piece of JUNK, amplified my sense of loss and devastation. I put it on the bathroom counter and have kept it there where I see it every day.

In the days since, I have looked at it and thought about the significance of the object and the implications of what happened that day at the beach. Could there be a lesson in it for me?  Is this how easily I am distracted so that I ignore all common sense and go chasing after things that turn out to be of no worth in my life?  On what other occasions have I done something similar, only to come up empty?  

I am still processing what happened. But I have had enough time to realize that I need to pray that I will listen to the voice within and obey it when I hear it speaking to me.  Everyone has a conscience and, hopefully, some good ole common sense. But beyond that, as a Christ-follower, I know that God has placed his Holy Spirit within me to lead me, guide me, warn me, teach me, comfort me and convict me when necessary. It is up to me listen and to obey the voice of the Holy Spirit.  

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
Colossians 3:1-2

Lord, I pray that You would help me be more aware of times when I am chasing after a red, shiny object — instead of Your perfect will for my life. Thank you for Your patience and for Your forgiveness when I fail. From now on, I purpose in my heart to be a better listener.”
Janet Mills Koolhaas

Food for thought: Don’t let the noise of this world keep you from hearing the voice of the Lord.

Fun(?) facts: A recent study found that coastal countries alone sent eight million tons of plastic trash into the oceans in 2010. Yet another recent report predicted that in just over 30 years, plastic will outweigh fish in the ocean.

Photo by: Kari Wiseman – Sunset waves

For more words of wisdom by Janet Koolhaas, here is direct link to her new blog Life Notes by Janet.