Stop the Insanity!

“Stop trying to protect, to rescue, to judge, to manage the lives around you . . remember that the lives of others are not your business. They are their business. They are God’s business . . . even your own life is not your business. It also is God’s business. Leave it to God. It is an astonishing thought. It can become a life-transforming thought . . . unclench the fists of your spirit and take it easy . . . What deadens us most to God’s presence within us, I think, is the inner dialogue that we are continuously engaged in with ourselves, the endless chatter of human thought. I suspect that there is nothing more crucial to true spiritual comfort . . . than being able from time to time to stop that chatter . . . ” (Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets).

I suspect that this little gem of a quote will hit home with many of you as it did with me.

I quite agree that being able to still the inner dialogue and the endless chatter of human thought to recognize God’s presence and find true peace. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done.

 

Be At Rest

“God is at work. He does not slumber.
Christ intercedes. He does not fail.
The Spirit comforts. He does not forsake.
Be at rest. Be at peace.
Your name at the end of the day is Beloved” (Ann Voskamp).

You and I can be at rest and have peace, even on those Mondays when our devices aren’t working, when our circumstances don’t cooperate with our plans, and when fear and anxiety seem to have the upper hand in our thoughts.

We can rest because we know that our identity is not what we do but who we are. Or whose we are.

All the diplomas and titles and honors and rewards in the world count for nothing apart from Christ, and nothing is lost if you lose everything and still have Jesus.

That is peace. That is rest.

 

More Lucy Memories

Lost in all the hoopla about the solar eclipse, Monday, August 21, marked two months since my Lucy crossed the rainbow bridge. While I have Peanut, my lovable and playful kitten to heal my heart, I still find myself at times missing the old gal fiercely.

Tonight, I stood at the railing overlooking the stairs. I remembered how Lucy used to look up from the bottom, see me, and come running up the stairs to me. Every single time. Even when she was older and couldn’t run as well, she still willed herself to run to me, greeting me with her friendly chatter.

I remember how when I got home and found her in one of her usual napping spots, the first thing she did when she saw me was let out the hugest yawn ever. I believe it wasn’t because she found me incredibly boring but rather because she was completely relaxed and at ease with me.

I’m finding out these days that it’s possible to carry around two conflicting and completely opposite emotions at the same time. For me, it’s joy and grief, peace and longing. Sometimes, it’s hard to know where the one ends and the other begins.

It’s another reminder of the “now and not yet.” Sure, there’s good to be found here and we can have the peace of Christ, but we wait the perfect consummation of all our hopes and joys. We know that we were made for another and better world — heaven– and we have a longing and a desire that nothing earthly can satisfy.

I do wish that rainbow bridge had visiting hours. I’d go see my Lucy every chance I got. I bet she’d come running up to me and greet me with that ginormous yawn of hers. I would expect nothing less.

A Little More Heartache

I was doing just fine tonight. I’d celebrated my sister’s birthday earlier and we’d all had a grand time (except for a food allergy scare with my nephew, but even that turned out fine in the end).

Then I saw a short video of my recently deceased cat Lucy kneading the pillow next to mine, getting ready for one of her patented naps. I wanted so badly to reach through my computer screen and pull her out if only for one more night beside me. My heart still aches for moments like these that I know will never come again.

I know that you can’t short-cut the grieving process, whether it’s for a pet or for a brother or sister, husband or wife, son or daughter. It’s not a process that you ever get through, but a process where you learn to live with a new normal, like an amputee learns to live without an arm or a leg.

I’m also learning how very deep the grace of God is. I’m learning that His arms are indeed strong enough to carry and long enough to save those who feel they are drowning in sorrow and grief.

I know that faith in God doesn’t always make the road easy, but it makes it possible. I’ve learned when you’ve exhausted all your own strength and peace and joy, God becomes your strength and your peace and your joy.

Strength doesn’t mean the absence of weakness but persistence in the presence of it. Peace doesn’t mean that there’s no conflict or storms, but the knowledge that God can still calm the waves and winds of your soul. Joy doesn’t mean the absence of sorrow and pain but the ultimate belief that God can transform those griefs into gold and work even the worst possible circumstances into something far more beautiful than you could ever have dreamed.

I’m resting in the strength of God tonight. Soon, I’ll go to the shelter and bring home a cat who won’t replace my Lucy but will honor her memory with all the love that’s still left to give.

God is still good, so I am still good.

 

Living in the Now but Not Yet

I have several conflicting emotions at the present. My heart hurts over how my cat Lucy’s health continues to fail and she inches closer and closer to that rainbow bridge.

I’m also at peace and feeling gratitude over 17 years with her that I wouldn’t trade for the world. And yes, I’d go through all of it again (even the hardest parts) in a heartbeat.

How can you be sad to the point that you feel that at any moment you might burst into tears, yet at the same moment be filled with joy? I have no idea, but I’ve known both feelings simultaneously.

For every believer, there’s always going to be a tension between the now and the not yet, between joy and sorrow, between contentment and longing.

The fact is that we’re living in the Kingdom of God now but have yet to see its fullest consummation. Still the hope that carries us is that God will finish what He started and will make everything right and wipe away all the tears from our eyes.

I’m clinging to that hope with all my might tonight.

 

 

Make Every Effort

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:14-15, NIV).

Living out your faith requires effort. You have to be intentional about striving for peace. We’re called to be peaceMAKERS who actively pursue peace and not those who passively accept it when it comes our way.

These days, peace means reaching across the aisle to those who think and feel (and vote) differently than you. It means learning to seek dialogue instead of demonizing anyone who disagrees with you. It means instead of always blaming “them” for what’s wrong with the world, looking in the mirror and realizing one of the biggest problems is staring back at you.

What are you doing to make your world better? How are you teaching your children to make a difference in their world? Is it teaching them to hate Republicans (or Democrats)? Or is it showing them how to learn to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute them?

I was reminded today that you might be far less eager to criticize someone’s journey if you only knew where they’ve come from or how far they’ve travelled. That was convicting.

It’s easy to bash someone’s views that run opposite to what you believe. It’s much harder (and much more rewarding) to seek common ground and understanding while loving them. It’s harder to live out the tension of loving people without condoning all of their behavior and beliefs.

Jesus died for everyone, not just for those who loved and followed Him. He died for the Pharisees and Sadducees who opposed Him at every turn. He died for the Roman soldiers who drove the nails into His hands and feet. His love led Him to forgive those who were in the very act of murdering Him.

That’s the standard of love we’re called to. That’s what we strive toward when we make every effort for peace. That’s what will ultimately conquer evil and hate.

 

Come, Lord Jesus: An Advent Prayer for 2016

“Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in me a wonder at the wisdom and power of Your Father and ours. Receive my prayer as part of my service of the Lord who enlists me in God’s own work for justice.

Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in me a hunger for peace: peace in the world, peace in my home, peace in myself.

Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in me a joy responsive to the Father’s joy. I seek His will so I can serve with gladness, singing and love.

Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in me the joy and love and peace it is right to bring to the manger of my Lord. Raise in me, too, sober reverence for the God who acted there, hearty gratitude for the life begun there, and spirited resolution to serve the Father and Son.

I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, whose advent I hail. Amen” (A Catholic Advent Prayer).

At this time of year, I’m always on the lookout for prayers and quotations that reflect the true heart of the Advent season. I found one just now.

The incarnation of Immanuel means so much more than my world getting put right. It’s about the entire world getting put right. It’s about God inviting me to be a part of the revolution that started not from a throne room and a king or a battlefield and a general but from a manger and an infant.

The question this advent: how can we show tangible love to those around us with whom we live and work and play? How can we be the visible body of Christ to those who have never seen or heard this gospel (or who have seen and heard a very distorted version of it)?

I’m praying that this Advent is about more than just me and my own serenity and fulfillment. I want it to be about more than buying and receiving presents. I want to see change in the world and I want it to start in me.

 

That’s the Gospel

“”The One we preach is not Christ-in-a-vacuum, nor a mystical Christ unrelated to the real world, nor even only the Jesus of ancient history, but rather the contemporary Christ who once lived and died, and now lives to meet human need in all its variety today. To encounter Christ is to touch reality and experience transcendence. He gives us a sense of self-worth or personal significance, because he assures us of God’s love for us. He sets us free from guilt because he died for us, from the prison of our own self-centredness by the power of his resurrection, and from paralysing fear because he reigns, all the principalities and powers of evil having been put under his feet. He gives meaning to marriage and home, work and leisure, personhood and citizenship. He introduces us into his new community, the new humanity he is creating. He challenges us to go out into some segment of the world which does not acknowledge him, there to give ourselves in witness and service for him. He promises us that history is neither meaningless nor endless, for one day he will return to terminate it, to destroy death and to usher in the new universe of righteousness and peace” (John Stott).

First, the gospel is bad news. We’re all messed-up sinners in dire need of redemption. Then it is good news. God took on human form and became one of us to rescue us from our sin and ourselves. Then it is the best news ever. We not only get the penalty for all those sins paid for, but we get the blessings and benefits of Christ plus eternal life.

For it to be the true gospel, it has to tell the whole story. Not just the pretty or politically correct parts. It needs all of it. Any other gospel is really no gospel at all with no hope and no redemption.

After all, it’s the true gospel alone that still brings salvation.

 

 

Mystery in the Journey

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The older I get, the less I’m sure about. The more I realize that there’s so much that I don’t know and probably never will.

The older I get, the more I believe God is calling me to trust in spite of the mystery of my life– or maybe because of it. After all, faith is trusting what we can’t see or feel or touch or taste with our physical senses. Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.

I do believe rest comes from cessation of striving after knowing all the answers. Tranquility comes with making peace with unanswered questions and unfulfilled longings. Peace comes when you and I finally understand that God doesn’t give answers as much as He gives Himself and He doesn’t grant our desires as much as He gradually becomes the greatest desire of our hearts.

So I trust in God in the midst of the unknown when there’s so much that doesn’t make sense. I cling to the Promises when I can’t see beyond the next 24 hours what my life will look like.

And that to me is the most restful place to be.

 

Mondays Are Rude

“Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen Your people. Fill their souls with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in their hearts. May love be the rich soil where their lives take root. May it be the bedrock where their lives are founded so that together with all of Your people they will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God, may Your fullness flood through their entire beings” (Ephesians 3:16-19, The Voice).

Mondays are just rude. They come barging in at some ungodly hour of the morning, interrupting your nice, relaxing weekend, making all sorts of demands, sucker-punching you in the face, forcing you to interact with life before you’ve even had your first cup of coffee. Of all the nerve.

Mondays are typically the days when your passwords suddenly don’t work, you spill that beloved cup of coffee on all your papers, and your inbox blows up.

Sometimes, it can feel like Monday can last a lot longer than 24 hours. It can seem to go on for days, weeks, and even months. You don’t feel adequate to handle all that Monday brings.

Relax. Remember this.

God doesn’t just give you enough grace and mercy to get by. He doesn’t just give you enough love to sustain you until Tuesday mercifully arrives. He doesn’t dole out peace with stingy fingers and a dour face.

Your cup runneth over with God’s provisions. You don’t just get enough. You get much,much more.

You get God. Not just what’s leftover when everybody else has gotten their share. You get all of God.

You get so much grace, mercy, love, and peace that it’s like trying to catch the ocean in a thimble (with thanks to Mike Glenn for that image). There’s so much that it overflows your capacity to receive and pours out on those around you, those in the places where you live and work and play.

Honestly, all Mondays come to an end. They seem to last forever, but they’re just 24 hours, like the other six days in the week.

All of God’s grace and mercy and love and peace will never end. Long after Monday is over, those will still be with you. God will still be with you.

And there’s always more refills of coffee.