Thursday, December 23, 2021

The Stranger in the Lifeboat


I read the book, The Stranger in the Lifeboat, this month. The new Mitch Albom book isn't a "Christmas" book, per se. However, Albom is typically an author who makes you think. (Remember his Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven? This was no different.)

As I was reading it, I also saw a meme on a Facebook post. I emailed it to myself, but then made my own version, using my own photo:

As is often the case, it seems like I get multiple chances to get the message. Don't you suppose that means I'm supposed to pay attention?
Yep ... I think so. Because then this devotional arrived in my email inbox: 
The Nativity at Stafford UMC


A Time to Think

Every day can be like Christmas in its love and its peace if our hearts open up and make room for love. The holy child is waiting to be born in every instant, not just once a year. 
—Marianne Williamson

A Time to Act

Praise God for the gift of today. Reflect on blessings you may be taking for granted.

I admit it: This time of year can get "fuzzy" - kind of like when I take off my glasses to look at the Christmas lights on my mantle and tree. There are lists to keep track of my lists. I obsess about what needs to be done: Do I have the same number of gifts for this person and that? Have I made it fair? What Christmas treats are "must-haves" for each family member? Why can't I play the piano for the church service like I'm just in my living room practicing at home? Why do I have to let nerves get in the way?

I had a conversation with Jill about Christmas not long ago. She said that she and a friend were talking. They came to the conclusion that they didn't realize the "magic of Christmas" they felt as children was a reflection of how much their mothers loved them. And now they are the mothers! I just laughed and told her it didn't change - even when your children are grown up.

But The Stranger in the Lifeboat was just another reminder that my obsessive lists aren't the be-all and end-all of Christmas. 
Warm Lake, taken during a trip to Idaho several years ago
In the book, a ship goes down. Several survivors from the ship end up together in the lifeboat - from the rich guests to the lowly servants. And then a stranger shows up, claiming to be the Lord. So what happens if we call out to the Lord and He actually appears in the flesh? And what if everyone on the boat has to believe?
One of the survivors is the book's narrator, Benji. From the book:

I have thought about that many times, given the stranger in our lifeboat. I call him a stranger because if he were truly something divine, he must be as far from me as you can get. We are taught as children that we come from God, that we were created in His image, but the things we do as we grow, the way we behave, what is godlike about that? And the terrible things that befall us? How does a supreme being permit them? ... 

From The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom

We don't have to look farm outside our own "lifeboats" to see the "ungodlike" behavior in our world. Here we are - a year later - and people are still fighting about vaccinations or no vaccinations. We are divided by politics. We are divided by race and gender and culture and immigration and ... and the list is unending.

From the book:

It's as if we'd been sorted by our beliefs. I suppose, when I think about it, much of the world is separated this way.
Benji, the narrator in The Stranger in the Lifeboat
Too often, we separate ourselves, not even trying to see the other side of an argument.  In the book, when one of the survivors dies, the other lifeboat inhabitants try to eulogize him, listing off his attributes. But the Lord says this:

Did he love others? the Lord asked. "Did he tend to the poor? Was he humble in his actions? Did he love me?"

If that doesn't sound like The Golden Rule, I don't know what does.
"Did you know that when I created this world, I made two Heavens? ... Above and below. At certain moments, you can see between them."

"Just stop, OK?" I said. "Can't you see we're slowly dying here?"

"People are slowly dying everywhere," he said. "They are also continuously living. Every moment they draw breath, they can find the glory I put here on Earth, if they look for it"

There is lots of "glory" here on Earth, isn't there? 

 From family to friends to community ... the list goes on and on. 

We just have to look for it. And that can be a challenge when there seems to be so much to do ... and pesky humans to deal with. (And the most perplexing human of all is often yourself - at least, I find that's the case.)

 In the end, there is the sea and the land and the news that happens between them. To spread that news, we tell each other stories. Sometimes the stories are about survival. And sometimes those stories, like the presence of the Lord, are hard to believe. Unless believing is what makes them true.

From the conclusion to The Stranger on the Lifeboat

 And that's my wish for of all us this Christmas season!

Peace on earth, good will toward all. 



  1. Thank you. And Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours as well!

    Terri Dunning

    1. Thanks, Terri! I always like hearing from you!

  2. Merry Christmas, Kim! I need to check out this book!

    Mary Jo Mann

    1. Merry Christmas, Mary Jo! Have a wonderful time with your boys!

  3. A special message as always!
    I'm sure your day was filled with love and happiness.
    Our friends looked after us and we had wonderful facetimes with our family in Canada and Austria.

    1. As I will share tomorrow, our Christmas didn't go as planned. Bah humbug to Covid!