fish stories

IMGP9293 The Naz had a storyteller once upon a time. Harmon Schmelzenbach had his Swazi fish and he wove them deep down into the centers of our bellies and tugged. Somehow, Mr. Schmelzenbach helped ears to get beyond our heads and our troubled lives and our pressing needs and to remember that the soul and the stomach rumble in a painful unison.

He who has ears, let him hear.

I love it that Jesus said that because, who doesn’t, really? Have ears, that is. It is the paradoxical Jesus speaking. The one grinning while sea water drips from his beard like tears drip from the soul of humanity.

I will make you fishers of men.

I wonder if Jonah and Harmon were in his smile when He said that to Peter. Because, hearing God’s call is a tricky thing. You have to want to hear.

And, it is quite a story: this guy called Jonah who hears God call but doesn’t want to listen thereby ending up in the belly of a fish that ends up in a net of a guy called Peter who ends up fishing for men.

Just like Harmon Schmelzenbach.

IMGP9039But, that leaves me asking how big was Jonah’s fish? Or Harmon’s? Those fish stories are notorious for growing bigger every time. No offense Harmon and Jonah, but, I am just wondering if our ears have become so attuned to the big fish stories, that we miss the fact that Jesus individually called each of those wiggling, gill-bending specimens.

And, I am not sure if fish have ears, but it seems pretty clear to me that of all of God’s creation, I am the only one with ears that gets to choose whether to hear His story deep down in my belly, where Jonah lives.

It is a little odd, really, like God forgets the storyline because, sometimes we ride in the fish

and sometimes we catch the fish,

and sometimes the fish feeds five-thousand,

and sometimes the fish is filleted and scorched over a campfire and served to someone who betrayed Jesus.

DSC02594 IMGP1268Who was that guy? Oh yeah,

on this rock, I will build my Church

Yeah, that isn’t really what I signed up for on that missions contract. Harmon never told me that sometimes the fish only nibble and move on. Or, that the fire burns when it scorches the skin.

Here in the shadow of Schmelzenbach, maybe one of the most valuable lessons I have learned in missions is to stop searching for my story in someone else’s fish and simply hear God.

The real truth about missions? The story behind Harmon’s fish?

You have to have ears to hear, Jonah.


It is a bit hard to hear sometimes, Jesus, what with the noise of our desires and fears rumbling in our souls and making us hungry for stuff that fills our bellies but leaves us starving. This sea coast is a beautiful but confusing place. And, really, the only sure thing that keeps us steady is that in every picture that we have, you are there. You are the constant in our story.  So, write your word here in our hearts, Lord. Write it loud. Write it strong. Write it however you want, but help us to want to hear.IMGP9061

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