Between The Bookends

bookends

Have you ever been on a cruise?

I really enjoy them; David not so much. He said it feels like “church camp on the ocean.” He doesn’t like the structure that a lot of cruises keep…eating at certain times, games by the pool, karaoke (although he did win first prize one year at a karaoke contest on Royal Caribbean), going to shows, fighting for pool chairs. Like church camp, you’re not allowed to leave the “boat” except for a predetermined “excursion” that you signed up for ahead of time…often guided by a “camp counselor” (ok, the ship social director.)

There’s one thing about a cruise…people either love them or they hate them. Ok, that may actually be a bit extreme. But for sure, there is a wide variety of emotions when it comes to a multi-day home-away-from-home on the open water.

The thing is, especially on the cruises nowadays, you aren’t obligated to do one, solitary thing if you don’t want to. You can eat whatever you want, whenever you want. You can walk through the casino and drop a nickel in, or not. You can attend the magic show or the karaoke bar if you want to. 

Want to make a crafty necklace? Want to play shuffleboard? Want to participate in the poolside dance party? Want to stay in your room or on your personal balcony all the live-long day, sleeping, reading, doing a puzzle, playing Solitaire? You are free to do or not to do.

Imagine this with me.

You’ve boarded the biggest, grandest vessel in the line. It’s going to take you on a 3-week cruise that ends in Greece (or pick your favorite bucket-list spot). You can hardly wait. The excitement is through the roof. Your bags are packed. Your anticipation is peaked. You’ve got all the info on all of the adventures that you’re looking forward to. You’ve finally made it and you’re about to embark.

When you first get on the ship, you decide to get your belongings stowed away in your cabin and take off to discover the ship and get familiar with where everything is. You find the fancy dining rooms, the buffets, the snack bars, the ice cream parlor, the pools, the bars…the chips and guac’.

You’re interested in everything the ship has to offer. After all, this is nothing like you’ve ever been used to. All the choices. All the possibilities. All the freedom. All the things! You never dreamed that it could be so wonderful!

Then the next morning comes and it’s time for the ship to set sail on the journey. You can hardly contain the excitement because you know the final destination. A place you have, up to this point in your life, only dreamed of going. This is real! This is happening!

But somewhere toward the beginning of the cruise…maybe 2 days in…you start to lose interest. You met the family at the table you’re sharing meals with. You’ve been to the pool and even slid down the big slide. You played a game of shuffleboard with John and Marsha, the retired couple from New Hampshire with a daughter who’s a pediatrician. You went to a past-your-bedtime show in the fancy theater featuring dancers and singers doing an 80’s tribute.

But now, you decide that’s enough. You’ve done a little of each thing that you wanted to do. You’re thinking it’s a whole lot of trouble to leave the room and get involved in more of the fun activities the ship offers…without a whole lot of payoff. After all, you got on the boat! And you have a really nice cabin…with a balcony, no less. You can control the temperature…just like you like it. You can order room service any time you want. You can sleep all day if that’s what you desire. The two books you brought are just begging to be read.

You’re planning on letting the crew just take care of YOU. “That’s what I paid for, after all!” Why go out and get involved in a bunch of stuff around a bunch of people you don’t even know? After all, your whole purpose in taking the cruise in the first place is to get to the final destination…that grand and glorious place you always thought was beyond your reach.

That’s ridiculous, wouldn’t you say? I mean, you’re completely missing out on the journey. You’re missing the adventure of meeting people, of laughing, sunshine, sunsets, glistening water and music. You’re missing the chances to go on excursions into new parts of the world to discover new cultures and sights and smells and tastes.

And besides all that you would be missing, others would be missing out on getting to know you…especially if you are there with friends and family. They would miss your face and excitement and humor and your own personal viewpoint and insight and joy!

What a tragedy! 

The cruise has a starting point and it has an ending point. A beginning and an end. But somewhere in the middle, it can get messed up.

Not the tightest analogy, but hang in here with me.

Do you find sometimes that’s the way we are in our lives; those of us who have believed in Jesus?

I was recently reminded of a verse in Hebrews.

Chapter 12, verse 2.

“… Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith…”

He’s the Beginning and the End.
The Alpha and the Omega.
The Eternal, Cosmic Bookends.
The Originator and the Perfecter
The Starter and the Concluder
The Captain and the Completer

The Amplified Bible says it this way: “Jesus…the Leader and the Source of our faith and…also its Finisher.”

In other words, not only does Jesus bookend our earth-journey of faith; He is also the Source all the way through it.

The beginning of our relationship with Jesus is [hopefully] a joyous one. So exciting and brand new, full of hope and anticipation and expectation.

And when we reach the end of this earth-life, our relationship with Jesus will be an even more joyous one…exciting and new, full of anticipation and expectation.

A lot of life happens in between 

Between the bookends, how are we living? Between the bookends, what are we doing? Between the bookends, what are we going through that we’re trying to handle all by our lonesome?

The time between the bookends varies with every single person. Whether you began your relationship with Jesus at the age of 5 or 75, there is an in-between time where we live life.

In between the bookends, we are going to need some things to help us through this life…this crazy, hard-to-figure life…this “Man-heaven-is-sure-looking-good-right-about-now” life.

Above all else, we need His Holy Spirit. Thank God the Holy Spirit is never far away. Even if we ignore Him. We need God’s provision, His strength, His goodness and kindness, His grace and mercy, His guidance, His assurance.

But we get all comfy and settled into our Christian cabin. We want to be taken care of. “That’s what I paid for, after all.” It’s comfortable. It’s predictable. It’s familiar.

We unpack our bags and put our Bible in the bedside table drawer. “We good.” After all, we know where we’re going. “Jesus saved me and I’m going to heaven. What else is there?”

Just like the cruise ship, we got the ticket to get on the boat and we get to exit the boat at the end in a new, beautiful city. But we’ve spent the whole journey watching our voyage on the tiny tv that’s in our cabin…never experiencing the elation of standing on the deck and feeling the warm wind and the sea spray on our face.

As an aside: The people that embark on the boat and spend all/most/a-lot-of their days of the journey in their comfortable cabin, are still going to disembark at the final destination with everyone else and “relish in the splendor” (sounding all fancy lol) of the beautiful city. This brings me a lot of comfort. 

I know people who have a relationship with Christ, some from a very young age, that have decided that the daily doings of believing and following just don’t interest them as much as they used to.They don’t see the need.

The joy comes in knowing that there is nothing that will keep them from getting to heaven with me. The sadness comes in knowing that they have missed out on a life of incredible purpose and joy and freedom and excitement…and others have missed out on them and their individual contribution to the world.

What a pity! What a waste! We’re missing out on a large majority of the trip. And the people on this journey with us? Well, we’re missing watching them experience the journey…and they’re missing us.

One commentator said, “One may say that Jesus is with us at the starting line and the finish line and all along the way of the race that He sets before us.” 

We can be assured that Jesus never leaves us. Between the bookends of “beginning and end,” He is there. He’s doing his best to coach us, to lead us, to guide us, to help us live our most purposeful life. We just don’t listen. We get into our comfy jammies and watch the world go by on a little t.v.

Here’s my challenge. Don’t the let the middle of your life become a warm, weighted blanket holding you down in luxurious comfort. Let it be full of messy adventure and risk and opportunity and purpose.

Don’t waste your journey. Invest it. Get out of your cabin!

Time To Start Picking Up Rocks

YESrocks

A couple of posts ago, we talked about the children of Israel in the desert…how they got really tired of having no food. They decided that they’d rather have died in Egypt with full bellies than to die out in the desert with their stomachs gnawing on their backbones.

We are all pretty familiar with their first big crossing…the Red Sea…with Moses as their God-rep/leader (you may have seen the movie). Then 40 years later (after running around like chickens with their heads cut off) they’re about to cross the Jordan River with Joshua as their God-rep/leader.

One of the big God-stories in the Bible. Forty years they’d waited (their own fault, mind you)…and now the time is finally here. Imagine as they stepped their toes onto the dry river bed of the Jordan River, the water having been dammed up by God’s mighty, powerful hand.

They’re about to leave behind them some pretty miserable memories: their history of slavery in Egypt, the endless wandering and nomadic life in a barren wilderness, countless funerals for an entire generation of Israelites that messed up big time and wouldn’t trust God’s promises.

But now they’re looking ahead to the Promised Land (not heaven…that’s another post). A new start! A new land! A land richer than they could ever dream, more fruitful than they could ever hope for and more beautiful than their wildest imaginations. And it’s only a few obedient steps away.

When they got to the edge of the river, it was at flood stage. Not the wisest decision to cross any area that’s flooding (like watching cars go through a flooded intersection thinking they can make it…and they don’t). The river’s speed was menacing and dangerous. To human eyes, this was an impossible, impassable river.

But if you know the story, you know that God pulled another big miracle moment, just as he always does. Similar to the miracle of crossing the Red Sea, God rolled back the waters. God showed up with all of his holy power and made a way where there seemed to be no way, displaying his fierce majesty by making a sandbox through a stream.

Have you ever unlocked the door to your new house? I can remember when I was a preteen and my mom and dad bought a brand new house on a brand new street in a brand new subdivision in a brand new zip code. We went periodically during the building process to see how things were coming along. I remember early on, standing on the concrete foundation with no walls yet. I couldn’t make heads or tails out of it. My parents would point out, “This is where the living room will be, this is the kitchen, this is your room” etc.

We envisioned it, planned for it, imagined how we’d decorate it. So many exciting possibilities ahead. But when the day came to unlock the front door and step into the house, the emotions came in a flood. The excitement was worth all of the time, trouble and waiting that we had to go through to finally and permanently move in.

Now imagine the children of Israel finally standing in Canaan; finally they are home. Finally they have a place. Finally they are experiencing being the fulfillment of God’s ancient promise to Abraham. Can you imagine how overwhelming that must have been? I can see them hoopin’ and hollerin’ and shoutin’ praises to God in worship!

But there’s a key element of worship that I want us to focus on today.

When all of the people had crossed through the river to the other side, God gave Joshua some very specific instructions. In Joshua 4:2-3, he said, “Now choose twelve men, one from each tribe. Tell them, ‘Take twelve stones from the very place where the priests are standing in the middle of the Jordan. Carry them out and pile them up at the place where you will camp tonight.’”

So twelve burly men (they must have been burly) hoisted heavy stones to their shoulders from Jordan’s river bed and then placed them in a pile in the Promised Land, just as God instructed. This is what the Bible calls an “altar.”

Short study on altars

I can remember a few summer youth camps in Palacios, Texas, as a teenager. On the last evening of camp, we were often instructed to go out and pick up rocks to build our own “memorial” to what God had done in our lives that week. (Mind you, this was a difficult task, as Palacios sits right on the Gulf coast and there were a whole lot more shell than there were rocks…we had to compromise a tad.)

Altars are a physical symbol of a spiritual desire to “consecrate” or dedicate yourself fully to God. They are memorials built to recall an encounter with God that had a profound impact on someone. They are an unmistakable marker at the very place where God demonstrated his power to overcome anything.

There are many examples of altars throughout the Bible.

In Genesis 8:20, Noah’s first act after leaving the ark was to build an altar to God and worship him through sacrifice. His motivation was gratitude of the Father’s goodness, provision and protection.

In Genesis 12:7, Abram obediently left his home, took his wife and his nephew and all that they possessed, and headed to Canaan… just like God told him to do. Once he arrived, God reminded him of his promise…that the land where he now stood belonged to Abram and his descendants. So Abe built an altar to honor God; a place where he would meet with, offer sacrifices to, submit to and worship him.

In the book of Judges (6:24), after an “angel of the Lord” met Gideon in his personal hiding place and charged him with leading God’s army into battle (and after Gideon picked his jaw up off the threshing floor,) he built an altar to God. He had just encountered him face-to-face…and he was no longer afraid. He even named the altar “The-LORD-Is-Peace”…because he is!

We are [prayerfully] reaching the beginning of the end of this “pandemic.” Before too long, we will be acclimating and adjusting to whatever life holds from here on out. We don’t exactly know what that looks like. I will tell you this, though: life will never be normal again. Make of that what you will. I have my ideas; that’s not for today’s post. 

But as we gear up and get ready for whatever the future holds, why don’t we make a declaration? Why don’t we build an altar? Like literally, legit build an altar…a memorial, if you like that name better.

Why? Here’s why.

• It’s a personal reminder of how awesome God truly is.

When the people of Israel saw that pile of rocks near the river, it reminded them, without a doubt, that they didn’t do this alone. The rocks were shouting, “God did this, y’all! He’s the one who made a way through that flooded river. You accomplished this because of HIS power, not your own!”

When you make it through to the other side of this pandemic/quarantine/plague, or whatever your name for it is, you need to realize that God did this, y’all! God made a way, and is still making a way, through this flooded river we’re in the middle of.

For the people of Israel (and for us), the pile of rocks served as a reminder to everyone that God is all and almighty. It wasn’t a memorial to the strength and perseverance and fortitude of the people: it was to honor God, and God alone.

• It’s a great way to tell others how awesome God is.

Guess what? There are a lot of people who couldn’t be less interested in what God or the Bible says, especially in regards to this current wilderness situation…and they don’t care about what God did for the children of Israel crossing the Jordan, either.

But some of those people are very interested in what you have experienced; about what God has done for you specifically. It would be pretty easy for them to argue with a Bible story or some specific scripture verse, but they just can’t argue with what’s happened to you…your personal story.

You might find people asking you questions like:

“What is it that makes you different?”
“Why do you go to church every Sunday?”
“Why is it that you don’t worry about the future?”
“Why did you pile up a bunch of rocks?”

Be ready to answer them.

• It’s a great way to tell future generations about how awesome God is.

Closer to home, though, it is a reminder to our families, and especially our children. Since rocks don’t naturally just pile themselves up, there was going to come a day when the little ones of God’s people would ask their parents or grandparents to explain them. And God tells those adults exactly what to do. 

“…tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:7)

The rock pile altar had a very important purpose: for the people to teach their children about the great things God had done. God wanted this great moment in His-Story to not be forgotten among the generations.

Do you remember the great things God has done for you? Are you telling your children how real God is, how good He is, how He is interested and working in their lives? Keep their faith from growing weak with constant reminders of how God is always busy on our behalf.

Be amazed and forever grateful to God in front of your children/grandchildren. Remember and speak out loud about all the times God has shown up…yes even during this difficult season. Tell the story; pass it down to the next generation. Children will only remember our heritage if we teach it to them.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Here is my challenge to you. Whether you live alone, with only your spouse, or with children or parents…I challenge you to take your family and go out and pick up rocks. Try to find bigger rocks if you can. Gather enough to make a decent pile.

Pick a spot outside near your home…somewhere they can be seen regularly…and put the “altar” together. Doesn’t have to be fancy or pretty. It doesn’t have to be any particular shape. That’s not the point. The point is, make it where it can be seen. Paint the rocks if you want to…with strong words like faith, hope, love…words of remembrance.

In the story of Joshua and the children of Israel, notice that Joshua had the men gather the stones from the Jordan River…right in the middle of where the miracle happened. Right where God entered into their physical circumstances and changed things.

Since we are all “safe at home,” and that is where we’ve spent the large majority of our time together there, it’s fitting to build your memorial near your home. The stones in today’s story were placed where the people lived. They were set where the people and the next generation would continue to gather.

As you build your memorial/altar with the gathered “stones of remembrance”:

• Talk to each other about the things God has done for you, your family, your church and your community during this season of uncertainty.

• Talk about how this physical representation will continue to remind you of those good things.

• Talk about the faith you have that God will continue to guide and provide in the future, because He is always faithful.

The simple, plainness of the rocks doesn’t matter…the story attached to them is what makes them a treasure. They represent some important things.

A decision.
A dedication.
A declaration.

Something that you not only want to remember…but you need to remember.

In The Meantime

meantime

Y’all, I’ve needed to write something for a while, but just haven’t known what.

God hasn’t been giving me anything to write about. But he sure is talking to me a lot. My mom is going through some health issues and this is giving me a great bit of concern…so my quiet life has been focused on how God wants me to handle certain aspects of that situation.

I’ve actually written some things that I wanted to share, but have felt really strongly that God was either saying “no” or “not yet.” So those things will come when God is ready for me to release them into the universe…if he ever does. They may just be for me.

Right now in my everyday daily-ness, I’m finding myself needing some very practical spiritual guidance. I’ve written and talked about worry and fear and uncertainty and storms and faith…but I want to switch it up a bit this time and talk about some other elements of this new, temporary journey I’m facing. Maybe you’re facing them, too.

It stinks being an adult sometimes. We just should know some things, shouldn’t we? But as we grow up, not only in age and physical maturity, but spiritually, things change, too. Our perspectives change, our circumstances change, our needs change. And boy have they! These past few weeks have tossed the chess board right up into the air and the pieces are hard to gather back up. (We can’t reach under the couch like we used to be able to.)

So this is what I feel like God is telling me that I need…that you and many others need, perhaps. Some practical suggestions to help us navigate our way through this. Instead of asking, “Who will I be when all of this over?” ask “Who will I be while I’m going through this?”

“I’M OUT OF CONTROL!”

The first thing I want to talk about is control. We humans have a real issue with being in control. We don’t like for things to happen around us that we have no control over. Even when things are going good, we still want to be in control. It’s a thing!

Right now we feel very, very, very out of control. But we desperately need to be in control of something, don’t we? It’s who we are.

Yesterday morning I was listening to a live leadership broadcast and one of the speakers was Dr. Henry Cloud. I have listened to, read and respected this man for many years. Here is what he suggested when we find ourselves steeped in the need for control.

Get a piece of paper and divide into two columns. In the left hand column, write out everything right now in your life that you can’t control. Things like the virus itself…who gets sick and who doesn’t…how long we will be quarantined in our homes…whether or not you lost your job or took a pay cut…what the news reports.

You get the picture.

Once you’ve completed your list, then you have permission to worry about it. But only for 5 minutes. (I talked about this in my blog post “When It Becomes Too Much”)

Look at that list…all those things out of your control…and worry the heck-fire out of it. Worry hard! Let it take you to the darkest places.

But only for 5 minutes. Then let it go. Mark through every thing in the list with a big fat red Sharpie if you need to. There’s no need to go back through that list!

Then secondly, in the right hand column, write out everything right now in your life that you can control. Your attitude, your schedule, when you go to bed and wake up, when and what you eat, how much news you watch, what books you read, which social media accounts you subscribe to and follow, the words you say…

You get the picture.

Spend the rest of this time of social distancing (and beyond, please) concentrating on the things that you can control. But be careful not to be over-controlling about them. Just know that you have the freedom in your own life to handle these things as you personally see fit. Make wise choices when it comes to this list of things. If you need help with those decisions, be sure to reach out to someone you trust. Let them give you spiritual and practical advice and guidance.

“NO REGERTS” (misspelling intentional)

A couple of days ago, one of our dearest friends asked his wife what was on her mind in recent days. She said “regret.” As you can imagine, he was sure that she was regretting, not only marrying him in the first place, but for sure having to spend 24/7 with him during this quarantine time. But of course that wasn’t it at all. She told him that she didn’t want to get to the end of this (whenever that is and whatever that looks like) and regret the time that’s been given to her.

I’ve seen lots of memes and social media posts saying things like, “Remember that thing you said you’d do when you have the time? Well, you have the time now.”

The negative side of this pandemic and subsequent quarantine and isolation goes without saying. So many bad and sad things happening to individuals and families and establishments, from our own communities to faraway world places. Too many to mention.

There is also a positive side. So many positive stories coming through this tragic time in our world. I could list examples, but that would take all day.

I consider this time a “reset”…time to take inventory of things. And that can be a literal inventory of our stuff, or an inventory of intangibles. As my friend said, this time that’s been thrown upon us is a gift. Slowing waaay down is a gift we rarely give ourselves.

When you get to the end of this, what do you want to have accomplished? Are you accomplishing it? Are you taking steps on the daily to reach those goals?

Or will you come to the end of this season and look back and think, “Oh man…I had all the time to…I had every chance to…I had the opportunity to….and I blew it royally!”

On another piece of paper, make a list of the things that you want to make happen during this gift time. Things that before now, you’ve never had the uninterrupted time to work on and concentrate on and give your attention to! Do it now!Don’t wait. Don’t get back to our “normal” life and look back in regret.

You’ll never get this time back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.

When asked near the end of her life how she would live her life differently if she could, humorist Erma Bombeck gave some really good advice:

If I had my life to live over again I would have talked less and listened more.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, I’d have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten popcorn in the “good” living room and worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted while being stored.

I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television … and more while watching real life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband which I took for granted.

I would have eaten less cottage cheese and more ice cream.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the Earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for a day.

I would never have bought ANYTHING just because it was practical/wouldn’t show soil/guaranteed to last a lifetime.

When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now, go get washed up for dinner.”

There would have been more I love yous … more I’m sorrys … more I’m listenings … but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it … look at it and really see it … try it on … live it … exhaust it … and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.”

A humorist to the end, when asked what she would write on her tombstone, Bombeck did not hesitate. “I told you I was sick.

Keep this in mind during these days.

“ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE”

Remember the children of Israel in the Old Testament? About a month after they were rescued out of Egypt, they started running out of food. And the knuckleheads started complaining about it to Moses and his brother Aaron…like it was their fault.

As their tummies started growling, they started grumbling. (Ever been there?)

Do you know what they said to Moses and Aaron?

“We wish that the Lord had killed us in Egypt. There we could at least sit down and eat meat and as much other food as we wanted. But you have brought us out into this desert to starve us all to death.” (Exodus 16:2-3)

What the what?? They’d rather go back to the horrible conditions of Egyptian slavery, just so they could eat and drink to their heart’s content?

Yes.

But our ever-compassionate (and uber patient) God had compassion…and provided. And his provision was called manna. “Manna” literally means, “What is it?” That has always cracked me up. They had no idea what it was, but they didn’t have to. God had provided it as a way to sustain them.

They could gather this manna for 6 days of the week. For 5 days, each person was allowed to gather just enough manna to provide for their family for one day. On the 6th day, they were allowed to pick up enough for two days. This is because the 7th day was the Sabbath and they were not to work that day. And if they picked up more than God allowed, it would ruin…it would get all nasty and wormie.

God provided in their time of need. Was it prime rib, mashed potatoes, green beans and yeast rolls with butter? No. But it was just what they needed to keep from dying. But even during these tough times, they complained about what they didn’t have, rather than being unbelievably grateful for what they did have.

We knuckleheads complain, too. Especially during these days while we are stuck safe in our homes. We’re looking at the same old faces, at the same old walls, the same old furniture, looking out the same old windows, eating the same old food, playing the same old board games, sleeping in our same old beds in our same old rooms. And we get tired of it. And we’re not afraid to let everyone around us know about it.

We complain. Our house is too small. The paint is chipped where the kids run through the hallways. The couch has no cushiness any more. The rocking chair squeaks. The windows are dirty. The food is blah and boring. The kids are getting on your last nerve (and you’re really wishing they’d warned you a couple of nerves ago so you could prepare yourself.) The board games are tired and a couple of pieces are missing. The mattresses need to be replaced. The bedrooms need new curtains.

What if we turned the complaining into thanking…into gratitude.

Our home, no matter how big or small, new or old, fancy or simple, protects us from the outside world for a bit of time. Many don’t have a home.

The faces in your home are your family/friends. Be careful not to take them for granted, but to thank God for them and the part they play in your life (hopefully, they are a blessing to you…)

Every chip in the paint is proof that active, messy life happens in those walls.

The couch has lost its cushiness because lots of bodies and bootys through the years have sat on it, slept on it, jumped on it. It’s where families and friends have scrunched up together and watched movies and cuddled and talked about important things and laughed hysterically.

The rocking chair squeaks and creaks because a mom or a dad or grandparent has sat in it for hours on end, rocking a sleepy child or soothing a hurting one.

The fact that you have windows at all is a blessing. The view may not be the most pristine, but it’s your view. No one on earth has that exact view out of their windows.

You may be running out of ideas when it comes to food choice and preparation (I know I sure am!) but if you have any food at all, you are amongst the most very blessed…even in your own hometown.

The kids getting a bit stir-crazy don’t like this any more than you do…but they’re your kids. The laughter, tears, joy and sadness, silence and screaming are all part of what it means to be a family.

You get where I’m going here. As my father-in-love always said, “Attitude determines your altitude.” And when your attitude is gratitude, you’re gonna fly high.

Take a third piece of paper and make a complete list each day of the things to be thankful for. And don’t forget to be thankful for even the tiniest of things!

My prayer is that you’ll take these ideas and make them a part of your life. Let go of control of the things that are out of your control. Don’t look back on this gift of a slower pace and regret not doing some big important things. And don’t complain about the “manna” that God is providing for you, even in the everyday aspects of our lives.

 

Un…/ Un…/ Un…

Because of this quarantine/shelter-in-place/isolation/“house arrest” (as one friend calls it lol), we are prone (as we humans are) to get into harmful habits when under pressure and stress and uncertainty.

I’m saying this because of the tendency I personally fall into if I’m not painfully and carefully aware of myself.

Be very careful not to spend your day scrolling, scrolling, scrolling through your social media feed…whatever it may be. Doesn’t matter if it’s Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (which one author I heard this morning described it as currently becoming a “dumpster fire”). It is a very easy habit to get into when we’re just unsure what to do with our time. After all, this is uncharted territory for some of us.

I believe that we tend to scroll and scroll and scroll because we’re looking for a connection…any kind of connection that we can grab onto. We’re looking for any kind of good news; we’re looking for hope; we’re looking for something—anything—to take our minds off of our current circumstances.

We look at all the things: all the memes, all the celebrities, all the “lives,” all the articles, all the posts, all the words, all the everythings! Stop it!

That’s so dangerous, my friends. We get sucked into a rabbit hole like Alice…into everyone else’s life…which is honestly no more better nor put together than our own, even though we imagine that it is.

Are there wise people out in the social media world that have words of truth and encouragement and hope for us? Of course there are! But they’re not going to be found by the “wheel of fortune” scrolling that we’re doing. They are specific people and specific accounts that are offering that kind of hope: positive family and friends, your local church and its leaders, authors and teachers of wise words, etc. You know who they are. Find them…and follow them.

Here is my suggestion. And this is something I try to do every 6 months or so. I go through my different social media platforms and I do one of these three things:

UNFRIEND/UNFOLLOW/UNSUBSCRIBE

Nobody is making us be friends with, follow or subscribe to anything or anyone that we’re currently friends with, follow or subscribe to. We get to decide what we read. We get to decide who we listen to. We get to decide who to learn from and who to follow.

Our eyes and ears are the inputs to our hearts and minds…what we see/read and what we listen to greatly determines the health of our spirit. That’s just God’s honest truth, right there. So please be very picky and discerning about the voices that you’re allowing into your life.

This uncertain season we’re in right now is a very loud season—so much input, so many “experts,” so many voices and opinions and warnings and projections and reports and numbers and statistics and graphs and charts…that can all lead to more fear, panic, despair, etc.

Here is a question that will help us decide who to unfriend, who/what to unfollow and what to unsubscribe from.

Are the people you’re friends with and the people/accounts you’re following impacting you in positive ways? Do you feel empowered and encouraged and inspired by the words they write and the way they live/think/interact? Are you able to learn from their beliefs, wisdom and experience?

Be careful to most closely follow people who inspire you toward hope and encouragement, toward kindness, prayer and faithfulness, generosity, creativity and brave actions…and especially good humor. Laughter is so important during these days. And it’s more than okay to laugh!

Don’t follow people (even friends) who stir up your fear, depression, anger, anxiety and panic. Many of our “friends” on social media are only our friends because we met them one time at that one place and they said that one thing we liked. Or we’ve known them and their family a very long time and if we weren’t FaceBook friends, it would hurt somebody’s feelings. 

(And don’t forget that the number of friends you have on FaceBook is no indicator of your worth, your popularity or your happiness. It’s simply a number!)

If that’s the case, it’s perfectly ok to “unfriend” them. Remember, you are looking after your heart and mind; you’re protecting and caring for your spirit. 

If you don’t want to go so far as to unfriend, that’s ok. There is always the option of “unfollow.” They won’t even know that you’re not following them, but you won’t be an unwilling, uninvited party to their negativity and unwise whatevers.

Is it time to create a little more space and silence and sanity in your own corner of the internet? I challenge you to unfriend/unfollow/unsubscribe from anyone or anything that feeds your anxiety, your fear, your panic. And add some people or accounts who are brave and kind, Biblical, true, encouraging, hopeful and outreaching…who make you want to be more courageous, who teach you something you’d never have known otherwise. 

The internet is simply a tool. We get to decide how to use it for good in our lives and in our communities. Let’s choose wisely.

(And if you need to, disconnect completely from your social media accounts for a period of time. That’s the surest way to avoid additional stress and will allow your heart and mind and emotions to withdraw and heal.)

Instead of scroll/scroll/scrolling, here’s a long list of other ways to spend your time. Put your phone/pad/computer away (like in a locked box, if you must) and:

Listen to Rapunzel’s song about isolation in a castle
Rest
Make a gratitude list
Go for a walk
Read
Sit outside
Bake
Reach out to someone living alone
Write in a journal
Write a poem
Play games with your kids
Assemble a puzzle
Organize the pantry
Learn (or relearn) to play an instrument
Watch your favorite movie
Color in a coloring book
Write actual hand-written letters to family and friends.
Write thank-you notes to service people
Organize your food storage containers
Learn to knit or crochet
Listen to the happiest, danciest songs you can think of
Women, go through and get rid of all of your old/unused beauty products
Men, go through all of your tools and gadgets (organize them or give away multiples)
Call your grandparents (you’re blessed if you still can)
Go through your camera/computer pictures and delete unneeded/repeat photos
Go ahead and finish your taxes now
Learn a new dance
Grow a killer beard…moisturize it, comb it, groom it, love it
Practice writing with your non-dominant hand
Do stretches to release the tension in your neck and shoulders (YouTube)
Plan and/or plant (if it’s time) your flower garden
Try moving in   s l o w   m o t i o n   for a while…and laugh about it
Practice using Old English words…grab a Jane Austen book and get after it
Do deep-breathing exercises

But above all, discover new Scriptures…and pray. Keep building into your relationship with God. Don’t waste this extra time that’s been granted to us to grow and learn and thrive.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Here’s a PS,  my friends: Sweet, loving, well-meaning family and friends will send/forward you texts, emails, private messages, videos, articles, etc. that, if we’re not careful, can cause us to be yanked back down into sadness, fear and depression…and a rise in our cortisol. If you are able, politely ask them to refrain from sending you anything, especially if you are bent toward negative thoughts. If you aren’t able to ask them, then glance at the attachment and move right on along if it looks like something that will do more harm than good. Shalom!

When It Becomes Too Much

storm

Had a whole other door I was going to walk through with you today…and it was good. But I just thought I better let y’all in on some personal struggles I’m having during this time. Just being real.

Last night, I had an emotional breakdown. Suddenly, everything seemed to just come together as a “perfect storm”: the whole state of Colorado going on lock-down for 17 days, not even being able to go to the store because of my compromised immune system, searching for my new rhythm while staying at home constantly, needing to encourage and uplift others (yet not being able to find the words myself), missing my son and daughter-in-love, missing my parents and my sister and her family so much I ache, on the verge of tears most all the time. (I’m even crying when I hear the good things happening all around the world.) All of a sudden, everything became “too much with me” and for a while, I just couldn’t handle it.

So I let myself feel it…in all its not-glory!

David sent me an article this morning that really helped me see my emotions with new eyes. If you’ll allow me, I’ll hit the high points that spoke directly to me.

As I’ve said before, God gave us all the emotions that we have. Yes, all of them. Even the ones that aren’t so pretty. Even the ones that we’re ashamed that we’re feeling. Even the ones that don’t have names yet.

The writer of the article gave my emotion a name. And that name is grief. That underlying, discontent that I just haven’t been able to put my finger on. Maybe that’s what you’re feeling, too. And according to him, we’re actually feeling a variety of griefs during this time.

We grieve that the world will never be the same again. And it won’t. Just like after 9/11, going on a trip by air has been forever changed. This is a new “9/11” for us; a point of change.

There’s the grief of normalcy.
The grief of an unsure economic situation.
The grief of a loss of connection.
The grief of uncertainty of the future.

We’re grieving. And it’s ok.

Most of us know that there are stages of grief:

Denial (The virus won’t affect us.)
Anger (You’re making me stay at home and miss out on my life.)
Bargaining (I’ll stay home for two weeks…then everything will be alright, right?)
Sadness (I’m thinking this might never end.)
Acceptance (This is happening. So I just need to figure it out.)

Acceptance is good. Acceptance is where we find our power. “I can wash my hands. I can socially distance. I can work at home. Hold my sweet iced tea…I can do this.”

I’m at the tail end of sadness, and inching into acceptance. It’s hard for me. I’m not a huge worrier, but my creative and active imagination pulls images of the “worst case scenario” into the forefront and I can sure as heck get distracted and sidetracked and “frozen in place” when that happens.

Which stage do you find yourself in? Whatever stage, whatever emotions you’re experiencing, it’s very, very important that you don’t hold them inside. You need to let them out.

If you’re having a tough time, tell others about it. Tell trusted family members and friends about the struggle.

Cry out loud, for crying out loud! Ugly cry if you have to. It’s ok. Admit that you’re feeling these feelings deeply and let them out.

The writer of the article said, “When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion.”

One interesting point he brought up is that, as a generation that embraces “self-help,” we’re the first one to have feelings about our feelings. Isn’t that ridiculous, but so true!?

“I feel sad, but I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse.”

Instead of saying that, say, “I feel sad. I’m going to give myself five minutes to feel sad.”

Have you seen the TV series Lost…from ahundred years ago? The story about a plane crash on a deserted island that has a lot of secrets and supernatural happenings. (Watch it if you can…excellent show! Except my Daddy hated the final episode lol)

One of the main characters, Jack, is a surgeon. Another main character, Kate, is a scrappy criminal. During the first episode, Kate has to sew up a large gash in Jack’s back. They talk.

Kate: I might throw up on you.
Jack: You’re doing fine.
Kate: You don’t seem afraid at all. I don’t understand that.
Jack: Well fear is sort of an odd thing. When I was in residency, my first solo procedure was a spinal cord surgery on a 16-year-old kid. A girl. And at the end, after 13 hours, I was closing her up and I accidentally ripped her dural sac; shredded the base of the spine where all the nerves came together. The membrane was a thin as tissue. So…it ripped open.
…And the terror was just so…crazy. So real. And I knew I had to deal with it. So I just made a choice. I’d let the fear in. Let it take over. Let it do its thing. But only for 5 seconds. That’s all I was gonna give it. So I started to count. 1….2….3….4….5…. And it was gone. I went back to work, sewed her up and she was fine.

Kate: If that had been me, I think I would have run for the door.
Jack: No, I don’t think that’s true. You’re not running now.

Later in the show, Jack and Kate are running away from an enemy…a “monster” that they can’t see, but they hear it and “feel” it moving closer to them. Kate gets separated from Jack and is paralyzed with fear. She hides in a tight grove of island trees, panting, sweating, literally afraid for her life.

Remembering her conversation with Jack, she takes a few deep breaths, tries to steady herself, and in a panicky, shaky, breathless voice she begins counting.

1…2…3…4…5…

And then she runs like her tail’s on fire!

That’s what we need to do. When an overwhelming emotion comes to us, we need to feel it; we need to let it take over. But only for a certain amount of time: to the count of 5, to the count of 100, for one hour or one day. Then we need to let it go and run toward what we know is right and true.

In the Bible, King David went through some rough messes, too. Many of the psalms that he wrote are cries that came out of times of big trouble. They’re unashamed cries for help. They’re not pretty. They’re during times when all seemed lost except for God’s intervention.

Psalm 69:1-3 (TPT)

God, my God, come and save me!
These floods of trouble have risen higher and higher.
The water is up to my neck!
I’m sinking into the mud with no place to stand,
and I’m about to drown in this storm.
I’m weary, exhausted with weeping.
My throat is dry, my voice is gone, my eyes are swollen with sorrow,
and I’m waiting for you, God, to come through for me.

David’s not hiding anything here. He’s literally pouring out all of his ugly, heartfelt emotions to God. He didn’t compose himself before coming to God. He didn’t go to the mirror and make sure his hair was combed and there was no spinach in his teeth and that his nose was powdered: he came to God exactly as the mess he was.

Remember what the last stage of grief is? Acceptance. That’s a good stage to get to. But an even better stage to get to is one step after acceptance: Praise!

After David had poured out all of his messy emotions, then guess what? He turned his woe and his worry into worship.

Psalm 69:30-32 (TPT)

…my song will be a burst of praise to you.
My glory-shouts will make your fame even more glorious
to all who hear my praises!
For I know, Yahweh, that my praises mean more to you
than all my gifts and sacrifices.
All who seek you will see God do this for them,
and they’ll overflow with gladness.
Let this revive your hearts, all you lovers of God!

Feel your feelings. Feel your grief, your sadness, your fear, your uncertainty, your anger, your frustration…for a time. Then stand tall and praise God! Sing! Dance, if you want to! Remember all of the good, good things that our Father has done for us already. Thank him for all the good things in your life that He has given you. Because He is a good, good Father. Yes He is.

Source: Scott Berinato

Stormy Crossings, the Sequel

Mark 6:45-52 (NLT)

“Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and head across the lake to Bethsaida, while he sent the people home. After telling everyone good-bye, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.

“Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, but when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost. They were all terrified when they saw him.

“But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed, for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.”

Same disciples.
Same Sea of Galilee.
Same boat.
Another direction from a tired Jesus.
Another storm.

What are the chances??

Can you believe it, though? Just 2 chapters before today’s story, the disciples had learned a big lesson about trusting Jesus in the midst of scary, big-fear circumstances.

Guess what? They hadn’t learned it well enough, so Jesus decides to do another flannel-graph lesson to prove the point.

As we said yesterday, Jesus had been talking his lungs off, teaching the people that just kept following him around. Granted, he was the wisest, most loving voice around at the time. But it wore Jesus out.

We’re here at the Sea of Galilee again, and Jesus tells the disciples to make a crossing to the other side (to Bethsaida) again. After having just fed this huge crowd (around 5,000 people) using five fish and two loaves of bread from a little boy’s lunchbox (which had been a huge, miraculous miracle), Jesus needed a little break.

Jesus loved the multitude, but the crowds were starting to wear on his nerves. He kindly told them to go home, and he set out to nearby hills where he could spend some time in prayer.

When you’ve had a tough day, remember it
drove Jesus TO prayer, not FROM prayer.

In the middle of the night—the fourth watch (between 3am-6am)—Jesus sees that the disciples are having a rough time rowing their boat, because they were heading into a strong wind. The wind and the waves were messing with their progress.

(Side note: things are always worse at night, aren’t they?)

Jesus decides to walk toward them on the water…and the silly disciples thought he was a ghost. They’d been walking with Jesus for a while now, but suddenly he is unrecognizable to them. Granted they weren’t expecting him to be walking on the water. But that happens to us, doesn’t it? We don’t recognize Jesus when he does something miraculous for us. Even if He’s done miraculous things for us in the past, our perspective changes and…suddenly, he is unrecognizable to us.

Jesus comes to us in the thing we fear.

The disciples had watched Jesus perform miracles…and then they forgot. 

They’d watched him change water into wine…and then they forgot.

They’d watched him heal a little boy…cast out demons…feed 5,000 people…heal a leper, a paralytic, a blind man and restored a withered hand…and then they forgot.

They’d witnessed first hand about 20 miracles that Jesus had done up to this point…and yet, as Jesus walked to them on the water…they had forgotten.

They saw this “ghost” and they were afraid.

There’s that word again: fear.

And just like Jesus, after they finally figure out that it’s him walking on the water, he tells them “Guys! It’s just me, Jesus. Don’t be scared!”

Jesus then climbed into the boat with them…and the turmoil ceased.

There are a few big ideas I want to look at today.

First of all, be confident that Jesus sees you.

He may seem far off on a mountain, minding his own beeswax. But he’s not. He is omnipresent—everywhere at all times—and He is not ignoring what we’re going through.

The disciples couldn’t see Jesus, but he could see them.

Secondly, remember that Jesus is praying for you.

He does! Even now!! Jesus has already prayed you through what you’re going through right now (and anything you’ll go through in the future) and he continues to pray for you.

Romans 8:34 says, “The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us.” (The Message Paraphrase)

That’s what Jesus is doing right now: praying for you and for me to make it through this storm.

Thirdly, Jesus doesn’t always rescue us immediately.

This doesn’t make him cold-hearted. He’s God. His timing is different than ours. Plus, he sees our situation from a totally different angle than we do. He sees the end of the story…he sees what he wants us to become at the end of all of this.

Finally, Jesus will eventually calm our storm.

The disciples hollered for help! This storm was scaring them to death (again!) But don’t miss this important truth:

The very thing they feared the most was under the feet of Jesus.

Any problem over my head is already under his feet! This virus and quarantine probably seems completely overwhelming; you may feel like your boat is going under and you are in danger of drowning. 

God has placed everything under Jesus’ feet. Ephesians 1:21-22 says, “God made Christ more important than all rulers, authorities, powers and kings. Christ is more important than anything in this world or in the next world. God put everything under his power…” (The Message)

And you know what else? “[God]…picked us up and set us down in the highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.” (Ephesians 2:6)

Where are you right now? Wherever your physical body is right now, spiritually you have been picked up and set down with Jesus.. Your physical body is in the middle of this mess, but as a believer, your spiritual body is with Jesus. And, through Jesus, we can claim victory over the things that are over our head.

This is a scary time right now. But our Abba-Daddy never sleeps. He never turns his face away. He is eternally awake and alert. In the fourth watch of your night, he doesn’t drift off on the couch. He is wide awake and completely aware of you. He loves you and doesn’t want you to be afraid. Like the Perfect Father, he wants to hold us close to him and be at peace!

“In this world you will have trouble. But be brave! I have defeated the world!” (John 16:33, ICB)

AMEN!!

Stormy Crossings

Today we’re going to talk about another crossing. It’s found in the book of Mark, chapter 4.

Here’s the story: “Late that day he said to them, ‘Let’s go across to the other side.’ They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, ‘Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?’

“Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, ‘Quiet! Settle down!’ The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: ‘Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?’

“They were in absolute awe, staggered. ‘Who is this, anyway?’ they asked. ‘Wind and sea at his beck and call!’”

(verses 35-14, the message paraphrase)

Fear vs. faith

It’s the ongoing battle that we all fight.

In this story, Jesus and his disciples are crossing the Sea of Galilee. At the beginning of Mark 4, we read about Jesus standing in a boat-pulpit in the edge of the water, teaching the people on the shore. I don’t blame him for standing in a boat…these people, whom He loved with all His heart, had been following Him everywhere and, quite honestly, suffocating Him. Plus there were probably good acoustics and a heavenly backdrop!

After a long while of teaching, Jesus told the disciples that He wanted to cross over to the other side. The Sea of Galilee (more like a lake) is 13 miles long and 8 miles wide (at the longest and widest points.) At this particular point it was probably about 5 miles across to the other side.

Jesus stayed in the boat he was standing in. He’d been teaching all day. He was tuckered, probably hungry, and He wanted to rest.

The Sea of Galilee is well known for sudden, violent storms with no warning whatsoever. The disciples were no strangers to this body of water. They made their living fishing on this lake; these were no amateurs. No doubt they had seen plenty of storms out here. So when these experienced fishermen reacted with “What will we do?? We’re all gonna die!” (said like a southern grandma) when this storm acts up, we know that it must be one booger of a storm. They “feared a big fear”!

You know who didn’t “fear a big fear”? Jesus. Once again we see him as the insouciant Son of God. His human side fell fast asleep because he was dog-tired, but his God side kept Him asleep.

Ok, you know that you and I would have done the same thing. “Asleep!? Jesus, how can you be asleep??” They just assume He doesn’t even care that they’re all gonna die. I can see Jesus, waking up, rubbing His eyes, calmly and confidently standing and looking out at the storm. And I love how the Message Paraphrase says it: “The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass.”

And that’s that.

Jesus doesn’t have to worry because He knows they’re not going to die; He knows this isn’t the end of the story. It also doesn’t hurt that He can command the wind and waves…and they obey.

He’s not concerned.

So why were the disciples? And why are we?

Well, the disciples were very new to their faith. They’d been following Jesus, but they hadn’t quite begun the path of belief yet. They were still learning to believe.

Some of us are the same way, especially when storms crash into our lives. We love Jesus, we follow Him, but have we actually reached the point where we believe in who He is and believe in what He is capable of?

We tend to fall back on our fear instead of grabbing hold of our faith. We have centuries of proof that Jesus can be trusted…even stories in our own lives where Jesus calmed our storms…yet we revert back to how we acted before we believed.

Here are some things about fear:

Fear isn’t a sin. It’s unwise, but it’s not a sin. Fear is an emotion…and God gave us our emotions. It is our choice to be fearful, just like it’s our choice to choose faith…just like it’s our choice to choose love, kindness, selflessness, self-control, etc.

On a good note, fear can drive us to make certain decisions that are very wise. For instance, if you’re walking in the woods and there’s a rattle snake on the path in front of you, be very afraid. But let that fear move you to move!

However, fear can’t be a motivation for every move we make. In fact, when facing future decisions, we need to determine the next steps on our path based on our faith, not our fear.

Fear can cause us to make a lot of stupid decisions. In our current situation, fear has caused people to do dumb things:

• hoard toilet paper and hand sanitizer and chicken and eggs and bread and…
• watch every minute of news and read every article that they can find, all. day. long.
• assuming every tickle in our throat (or your sneeze) is COVID-19
• sitting frozen in place for hours
• getting depressed & self-focused

Sometimes I wonder if Jesus wants to grab us by the ear and ask us, “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?” He’s told us to have faith, yet our fear shows through way more often than it should.

Faith isn’t some mystical word or idea; it’s very practical! If we are motivated by faith, our next steps include:

• obeying mandated isolation
• praying
• reaching out
• loving
• encouraging others
• trusting God

We’re in the middle of a very stormy sea right now, just like the disciples were. “We’re all gonna die!” is probably something that has crossed your mind more than once. Just like the disciples, we’ve never experienced a storm like this. But if we are believers, if we trust our Leader, then we can have no doubt that Jesus is in the boat with us. We can rest beside Him. We can be calm, because He is calm. We don’t need to panic, because He’s not panicking. And He will calm this storm in His time.

And when He does, we’re gonna ask what the disciples asked: “Who is this? Even coronavirus obeys Him!” 

 

(Original 3/22/2020)

Crossings

I love Bear Grylls. Do you love Bear Grylls? A lot of people love Bear Grylls.

David and I have watched LOTS of his shows about survival in all kinds of conditions. How to catch a skunk, how to eat things you catch (including a skunk), how to sanitize your own urine to drink (ick!), how to start a fire, how to make a knot to wrap around a rock or a tree and then a slight tug will untie it for you, how to build shelter with whatever you can find, etc. etc. etc.

One of the survival tips that has always fascinated me is how to most effectively cross a river. Whether it’s a quick-flowing river with rapids, or a freezing cold river, there are things you must do to get across without dying. Always a good goal.

No matter what kind of river it is, the main thing he always makes sure we know is to…undress. Now (and maybe it’s just for TV) he doesn’t strip down to his birthday suit. He strips down to his skivvies. The idea here is to take off as much of your clothes (including shoes and socks) as you possibly can, stuff them into your backpack (hopefully waterproof/resistant) and start crossing…the less clothes you have on, the easier it will be.

If you’ve ever been pushed into a lake or a pool with your clothes one, or caught in a pouring Texas rainstorm, you know how heavy clothes can get when they are soaked. Not only will the extra weight of wet clothes slow you down, but just the resistance in the water isn’t conducive to making good time.

Crossing bodies of water is nothing new with Bear Grylls (thanks Captain Obvious).

Friends, we have stepped into this raging river of Covid-19. We’re starting the trek across this wide, uncertain river…from this side of it to the other. This isn’t going to be an easy crossing…mainly because we humans don’t know how to act being all quarantined and alone, with nothing to do, nowhere to be. We’re used to being able to come and go as we please: hang with friends, go to WalMart, eat at our favorite restaurants, go to the gym, go to church. I mean, we’re Americans, for crying out loud!

Whether you agree with having to stay put in your home or not, this is a reality. So what do we need to remember as we cross this river? Let’s take a few clues from Bear Grylls.

Bear’s suggestion is that we take off anything that slows us down or hinders our progress. But the write of Hebrews had the same advice.

“We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way. And we should remove the sin that so easily catches us.” 

(Hebrews 12:1)

What gets in the way and slows us down?

FEAR

All of us face fear at times. All of us! Even though Bear Grylls has crossed a buncha rivers in his time, I’m sure there’s a tiny sense of fear that he feels when he’s about to jump into that cold water. But he couldn’t let fear stop him…he had places to go. He suppressed his feelings and jumped in! (I’ll talk more about fear in my next post.)

BLAME

When we’re faced with a situation that is out of our control, it is so easy to blame others. I’ve read things online and heard things in the news of people blaming the government, blaming other countries, blaming the health system. As my pastor (also my husband) says, “To blame is to ‘be-lame’”! That’s true. Blaming never solved anything and never helped anyone. Even if we knew exactly who or what to blame, it would change nothing!

DISTRACTIONS

One of the main distractions in this present circumstance is getting too much information. I urge you to turn off the news shows, no matter which source it is. Turn them on long enough to get the latest updates, and then either turn the TV off completely or change the channel.

Instead of focusing on the distractions, focus on some attractions. Watch one of your favorite movies, play a game with your kids, write a letter (with your human hand and paper and a pen) to an old friend or family member, finally clean out that hall closet, exercise. There are lots of good positive things that are a whole lot more attractive than the droning news!

ANGER

What are you angry about? There are some legit reasons: some of you may have been laid off from your job, or lost it all together. Some of you may be angry that you have to work at home instead of escaping to your personal cubicle with no interruptions. Some may be angry that people are being stupid and insensitive and buying all the eggs and bacon at your local store.

Don’t be angry. After all, not unlike blame, it does no good except to raise your blood pressure. Anger affects you and the people around you, and it changes nothing about the situation. Accept the circumstances and adjust your attitude. It’s as simple as that (although far from easy!)

The only flaw in this idea is this: don’t pick these up again. When Bear Grylls reaches the other side of the river, he puts his clothes, socks and shoes back on. When you reach the other side of this river, leave these things where you left them. There’s never a reason to pick these up again. Granted, they may creep back in at times, but lay them aside every time they do.

God knows all of these things you’re dealing with and wants to help. If you’re finding it hard to pray right now, here’s a prayer that I found that can give you words:

“God, I find myself so fearful about; distracted by; angry about _____________. I don’t know what is going to happen, but I know that You are not surprised, and You are working all things together for good.

“God, help me trust You more fully today. Increase my faith today. I ask for Your peace. Thank you for freely giving us peace of mind no matter what happens around us.

“In Jesus, name, amen.” 

Remember these things:

Instead of fear, God gives us power: we can face anything because we are safe in His hands.

God gives us love: we can go in Jesus’ name and love and serve other.

God gives us clear thinking: insouciance, if you remember that from our Ruth study; a calm, self-controlled mind, instead of panic and confusion.

Hang in there! We’re gonna get through this!

 

(Original 3/19/2020)

When Fear Overwhelms

Peace

 

One day, life is good. The sun is shining. The early Spring birds are singing. Your job is going great. Your family is getting along. Your husband (or wife) made you breakfast in bed. Your youngest told you he loved you for the first time last night.

Then suddenly, something happens in our world that all-too-quickly yanks the peace right out of our hearts. That something-that-happens is beyond your control. That something-that-happens starts ripping little pieces away of your wonderful life.

Before long, your carefree heart starts to beat a little faster. Your worry-free tummy starts to curl up in knots. Your clear thinking is jumbled and confused and messed up…filling up with the what-now’s, what-if’s, I-can’t’s and oh-no’s.

What do we do when the something-that-happens messes us up so much that we find our internal world turning upside down? We find that the fear that is taking over is so thick that we could cut it with a knife?

Well, nothing that happens…let me repeat that…NOTHING THAT HAPPENS…is a surprise to God. He didn’t wake up a week or so ago and exclaim, “Oh, dang! I didn’t see that coming!”  Yes, He did.

Jesus even told us in John 16:33, “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

If Jesus told us that he wants us to be deeply at peace, then that means IT IS POSSIBLE to be deeply at peace. So many times, when going through tough stuff, I find myself doubting that I can ever be at peace. But Jesus says I can. And I trust Him.

Do you know what was going on when Jesus told His disciples that they could be “deeply at peace”? At that very minute, Judas was meeting with Jesus’ enemies to plot His arrest. Jesus Himself KNEW that in only a matter of hours, he was going to be betrayed, arrested, forsaken, rejected, mocked, humiliated, tortured and crucified. Why would He tell His disciples to be at peace when He knew that their world was about to be turned completely upside down?

Because He was at peace about it…and He wanted those He loved to be at peace about it, also.

Notice that Jesus didn’t promise peace; He offered it. We don’t just get peace automatically because we know Him or follow Him or obey Him…we get it when we seek it and accept it.

What Jesus did promise was difficulties. Peace is offered; trouble is promised. There’s no avoiding it. This is earth, not heaven. Jesus was attempting to comfort His disciples…not by telling them they were victorious, but by talking about His own victory. And His victory could be theirs…and ours. Knowing that Jesus has already claimed victory is the foundation for our peace. Because we know that Jesus is in control, we can be in control. 

There are lots of somethings-that-happen that can completely mess us up, but let’s talk about the elephant in the room: the virus that has gripped the world by the throat and threatens to take everybody down with it. I’m not going to talk about it in any specific ways…except to urge you to be very picky in who you listen to (experts and non-experts alike). Stay off the internet if you must!! But this latest scare has caused a whole lot of fear and panic and disruption and hysteria in our families and our communities. We are finding it very hard to find and experience any peace whatsoever.

When you are looking for a peace that dispels fear and anger and doomsday thinking, the only place you can go to is God’s Word.

365 times in the Bible, we are told to “fear not!” 365! That means every single day of the year, we can choose to “fear not”. And do you know why the Bible tells us not to fear? Because we get a-feared! It’s only natural! On the other hand, the supernatural thing is to seek the peace that replaces fear and doubt.

The most important thing to remember is…God is right there with you. He sees you. He knows exactly how you’re feeling. Every single emotion you’re experiencing, God knows about it. And He wants you to give those feelings and emotions to Him…let Him handle them. He does a lot better job at it than we do, anyway!

One way to give all of that back to God is to write them all down on a piece of paper. Talk out loud to God and say, “God, here they are. Every emotion I’m having during this tough time. I’m kinda scared and nervous. But I know none of this was a surprise to you. And the way I’m feeling isn’t a surprise to you, either. So please take these emotions and hold them for me. And in exchange, give me the peace that you offer for free.”

You’ll probably have to do that every day. It’s rarely a one-and-done thing. We humans are very prone to giving God control…and then taking it back before we go to bed (then it keeps us up all night, tossing and turning, because we can’t let it go.)

So I wanted to give you some Scriptures on peace that I encourage you to write on index cards or post-it notes or on your bathroom mirror…and look at them, read them, over and over, every single day! Memorize the ones that speak to you most personally. It’s not a magic formula…it’s called using God’s words to change us from the inside out…no matter what the news tells us!

 

Colossians 3:15
“…let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.”

1 Peter 5:7
“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”

Philippians 4:6
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need [what you’re feeling], and thank him for all he has done.”

Philippians 4:7
“…experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

John 14:27
“I am leaving you a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

John 14:1
“Don’t let your hearts be trouble. Trust in God, and trust also in me.

Isaiah 26:3
“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”

Romans 8:31
“If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”

Galatians 5:22
“…the Holy Spirit produces…peace…”

 

Let me add that, besides these verses, one of the most powerful things you can do to derail fear and invite peace is simply to practice love. “Where God’s love is, there is no fear, because God’s perfect love takes away fear” is a powerful verse (1 John 4:18). 

When we are giving ourselves away for the purpose of serving others in love, forgetting about ourselves for a while, there’s a lot less time to think about the things that can cause fear. We live in a very self-centered, self-focused age. This crisis is literally forcing us to depend on each other.

If you’re not vulnerable to this virus and are able to help, I encourage you to find people that need help…and help them. And if you ARE vulnerable to the virus, please stay put…and let others help you. There’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. 

Don’t forget that, as the church, we are commanded to love one another…and sometimes loving one another means going to the store and picking up necessities for someone else who cannot.

I hope that these verses and these words can bring you some comfort and encouragement, but I also hope its spurs you to action. This is the time for believers to shine…not for our own glory, but for God’s glory alone.

Shalom!
(Now, go wash your hands!)

When Fear Overwhelms

Peace

One day, life is good. The sun is shining. The early Spring birds are singing. Your job is going great. Your family is getting along. Your husband (or wife) made you breakfast in bed. Your youngest told you he loved you for the first time last night.

Then suddenly, something happens in our world that all-too-quickly yanks the peace right out of our hearts. That something-that-happens is beyond your control. That something-that-happens starts ripping little pieces away of your wonderful life.

Before long, your carefree heart starts to beat a little faster. Your worry-free tummy starts to curl up in knots. Your clear thinking is jumbled and confused and messed up…filling up with the what-now’s, what-if’s, I-can’t’s and oh-no’s.

What do we do when the something-that-happens messes us up so much that we find our internal world turning upside down? We find that the fear that is taking over is so thick that we could cut it with a knife?

Well, nothing that happens…let me repeat that…NOTHING THAT HAPPENS…is a surprise to God. He didn’t wake up a week or so ago and exclaim, “Oh, dang! I didn’t see that coming!”  Yes, He did.

Jesus even told us in John 16:33, “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

If Jesus told us that he wants us to be deeply at peace, then that means IT IS POSSIBLE to be deeply at peace. So many times, when going through tough stuff, I find myself doubting that I can ever be at peace. But Jesus says I can. And I trust Him.

Do you know what was going on when Jesus told His disciples that they could be “deeply at peace”? At that very minute, Judas was meeting with Jesus’ enemies to plot His arrest. Jesus Himself KNEW that in only a matter of hours, he was going to be betrayed, arrested, forsaken, rejected, mocked, humiliated, tortured and crucified. Why would He tell His disciples to be at peace when He knew that their world was about to be turned completely upside down?

Because He was at peace about it…and He wanted those He loved to be at peace about it, also.

Notice that Jesus didn’t promise peace; He offered it. We don’t just get peace automatically because we know Him or follow Him or obey Him…we get it when we seek it and accept it.

What Jesus did promise was difficulties. Peace is offered; trouble is promised. There’s no avoiding it. This is earth, not heaven. Jesus was attempting to comfort His disciples…not by telling them they were victorious, but by talking about His own victory. And His victory could be theirs…and ours. Knowing that Jesus has already claimed victory is the foundation for our peace. Because we know that Jesus is in control, we can be in control. 

There are lots of somethings-that-happen that can completely mess us up, but let’s talk about the elephant in the room: the virus that has gripped the world by the throat and threatens to take everybody down with it. I’m not going to talk about it in any specific ways…except to urge you to be very picky in who you listen to (experts and non-experts alike). Stay off the internet if you must!! But this latest scare has caused a whole lot of fear and panic and disruption and hysteria in our families and our communities. We are finding it very hard to find and experience any peace whatsoever.

When you are looking for a peace that dispels fear and anger and doomsday thinking, the only place you can go to is God’s Word.

365 times in the Bible, we are told to “fear not!” 365! That means every single day of the year, we can choose to “fear not”. And do you know why the Bible tells us not to fear? Because we get a-feared! It’s only natural! On the other hand, the supernatural thing is to seek the peace that replaces fear and doubt.

The most important thing to remember is…God is right there with you. He sees you. He knows exactly how you’re feeling. Every single emotion you’re experiencing, God knows about it. And He wants you to give those feelings and emotions to Him…let Him handle them. He does a lot better job at it than we do, anyway!

One way to give all of that back to God is to write them all down on a piece of paper. Talk out loud to God and say, “God, here they are. Every emotion I’m having during this tough time. I’m kinda scared and nervous. But I know none of this was a surprise to you. And the way I’m feeling isn’t a surprise to you, either. So please take these emotions and hold them for me. And in exchange, give me the peace that you offer for free.”

You’ll probably have to do that every day. It’s rarely a one-and-done thing. We humans are very prone to giving God control…and then taking it back before we go to bed (then it keeps us up all night, tossing and turning, because we can’t let it go.)

So I wanted to give you some Scriptures on peace that I encourage you to write on index cards or post-it notes or on your bathroom mirror…and look at them, read them, over and over, every single day! Memorize the ones that speak to you most personally. It’s not a magic formula…it’s called using God’s words to change us from the inside out…no matter what the news tells us!

 

Colossians 3:15
“…let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.”

1 Peter 5:7
“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”

Philippians 4:6
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need [what you’re feeling], and thank him for all he has done.”

Philippians 4:7
“…experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

John 14:27
“I am leaving you a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

John 14:1
“Don’t let your hearts be trouble. Trust in God, and trust also in me.

Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”

Romans 8:31
“If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”

Galatians 5:22
“…the Holy Spirit produces…peace…”

 

Let me add that, besides these verses, one of the most powerful things you can do to derail fear and invite peace is simply to practice love. “Where God’s love is, there is no fear, because God’s perfect love takes away fear” is a powerful verse (1 John 4:18). 

When we are giving ourselves away for the purpose of serving others in love, forgetting about ourselves for a while, there’s a lot less time to think about the things that can cause fear. We live in a very self-centered, self-focused age. This crisis is literally forcing us to depend on each other.

If you’re not vulnerable to this virus and are able to help, I encourage you to find people that need help…and help them. And if you ARE vulnerable to the virus, please stay put…and let others help you. There’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. 

Don’t forget that, as the church, we are commanded to love one another…and sometimes loving one another means going to the store and picking up necessities for someone else who cannot.

I hope that these verses and these words can bring you some comfort and encouragement, but I also hope its spurs you to action. This is the time for believers to shine…not for our own glory, but for God’s glory alone.

Shalom!
(Now, go wash your hands!)