Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Peace in the Storm

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
- Philippians 4:7

My oldest son Isaac and I went camping high in the Colorado Rockies once. It got stormy and the lightning scared us.

Well, um, I mean it scared me.

We were at a campground high on a smaller mountain at about 9500 feet. We had arrived at noon, and just as we were about to set up camp, we could see a small but dark storm cloud on the horizon. So we busted tail and set up, got in and zipped tight the door as the wind and rain started going crazy. Then came the lightning. And thunder. And did I mention lightning?

And when you're at 9500 feet, the storm isn't far above you. You're hearing thunder like you've never heard it. It is loud. There were dozens of peaks and trees (even a few cell towers) far higher than we were, so we were pretty safe... but I certainly didn't feel safe. Frankly, after explosion number three, I'm ready to go home. But I'm here and I'm Dad - big strong, very experienced out here. I'll just be brave for my son, who must be scared to death... so I look over at him.

My 8 year old is is chill-axing. (for the confused among us, that means "chilling" and "relaxing" at the same time. It's an extreme form of rest... wrapped in cool. I've tried to do this, and injured myself.)

Isaac is sitting upright, playing with his Spiderman action figure with this cacophony all around, as if nothing's going on..

Surely, he's lost his hearing. Otherwise he'd be as scared as me.

I'm actually considering whether we should be laying flat on the floor of the tent as if at this altitude, that will make a difference. Hey Isaac, let's play Primordial Ooze, the game where we lay flat for an hour and pretend we're amoebas.

I said, "Dude, aren't you freaked by the storm?"

And without even looking up, my son says,

"No, I'm with you."


If only I could apply the faith my son has in his Dad, to the faith I have in my Heavenly Father. If only I could have this much trust in the God of the universe when I'm in the middle of the storm. If only I could know that peace is not defined by a lack of conflict or fewer problems per se, but by a trusting knowledge of not only God's presence with me, but also a trust in His plan of redemption even through the hardest of times.

Someone once said, "We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are."

When we are filled with abandon to and trust in God - that's how we will see the storm around us. You cannot grab, exert, or create peace yourself. God's peace is the kind that passes understanding... and protects our hearts and minds while the thunder crashes and the lightning seems so close.

A friend of a friend wrote a great song once, and the chorus said, "May peace rain down from Heaven like little pieces of the sky... little keepers of the promise, falling on these souls that drought has dried..."

May this be the rain that comes in the storms of your life, and of mine.


16Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching heat.
17For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

On Sunday, Brian preached on hope as a part of our Advent celebration. During his message, I was reminded of a book I'm reading about a family whose small plane crashed in the mountains of the western US during a snowstorm. Much of the story is about hope, whether those are the words the author used or not; about the survivors' ability to cling to the hope that they could find their way to safety kept them persevering through even the hardest parts of their experience.

As it is in the survivors' story, our sense of hope affects our every day lives. Though we may not be on a snowy mountainside trying to survive, while we're in the middle of our own struggles, hope reminds us:

that today's messes won't last forever.
that we won't always feel this way.
that we are truly forgiven, and our sins are white as snow.
that while sometimes things will feel lonely, it doesn't mean we are alone.
that we won't always feel like we are waiting.
that no matter how hard life gets, we have an eternal reward with which there is no comparison.

Max Lucado was once talking about this broken world, and said that when it all goes down in the end (however it looks), he thinks Jesus will utter two words: "No more". My sense of hope for the future was profoundly affected by that line.

No more fear, hunger, sadness... no more sickness, no more anger, no more death... no more frustration or tears or worry or anguish and no more painful words... no more lies, promises or broken hearts. It'll be a beautiful day when He brings close those who are His. All of the junk of a broken world draws to a close, and we'll see in full the result of the redemption made real by Jesus' work. Jesus provides us hope in the here and now, and in the long term. I am not alone when it gets rocky today... and even now, all is being redeemed.

So may you cling to hope this week; the hope found in Jesus... that we have not been left to bear the burdens of life alone. That we are forgiven. That someday, a great "No More" will be shouted from Heaven and the day will be beautiful. And He will wipe the tears from our eyes.

Relentless Humanity

"Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul." -Psalm 86:4

Oh, people and their needs.

Is it just me, or does it seem like they're EVERYWHERE?

At the store, in the car, in your house, my house and life. They're in the yard, at the gate, the beach and the mall. There are people at Thanksgiving dinners and birthday parties, and movies. They walk up and down streets, drive in cars. They are found in our churches, schools and workplaces... at the cleaners, the bagel shop, the deli and the pizzeria. I swear I think they live in my cupboards.

I drove by the store in Bellmore that only sells pedal cars (yes, they really do sell those!) and they are in there too.


And most of them (they, these people) don't realize that they bring their luggage into basically everything:

* The need to ever so slightly insult you in every conversation.
* The need to be first.
* The need to be affirmed or liked by you, me, or everyone.
* The need to critique every person, place or thing.
* The need to be seen, heard or noticed.
* The need to be ok in your eyes. Or mine.
* The need to be in just a little more authority than everyone around them.
* The need for people to know how hard their life is.
* The need for others to know all their shame in order to relieve their sense of guilt.
* The need to get their way.
* The need to know the junk on everyone around them or those not around them.

And you know what, there is one fact about this whole people ordeal that really dusts my doilies. Yes, you read that right, I have doilies, and there is a fact that is really dusting them:

The fact that I am one of these people.

I am a person with tremendous luggage and needs, who can tend to, when he's not paying attention (or even when he IS paying attention), bring them into everything I do; into my many interactions on a daily basis.

Ugh. I'm relentlessly human.

But ultimately, this list is made up of symptoms of a much more profound and supernatural need: Whether we admit it or not, it is the fundamental need to be found, redeemed by and reconciled with the God of the universe.

The good news is that there is a symptom on the other side of life when it happens, and when we begin to let it be enough.

It's called joy.

Brian spoke Sunday about a lingering and profound joy that is more moving than laughter and longer lasting than happy, and even exists within the context of sadness, frustration, fear, or even question marks. It is altogether spiritual, and is in many ways hope, peace and love in motion within our souls.

Joy because I am found, redeemed, reconciled.

So this year, I'm addressing this people ordeal head on.

I'm praying. I am praying that my relentless humanity (made new in Jesus, empowered by His Spirit) will bring this joy into everything I do instead of my ever - increasing luggage list. A joy that is marked by hope, seasoned with peace, and overflows with the love of Jesus. And I'm going to pray this for you, too.

Is weird to say that I'm praying you'll pray it?

May your season be marked by hope, peace and love in motion within your soul... in the form of joy. May the luggage you (and I) bring into any situation be marked by a joy that is more moving than laughter and longer lasting than happy. May it exist in your question marks and exclamation points... may it be altogether spiritual, no matter how much hurt, now matter how much fear you are bearing today.

Found. Redeemed. Reconciled.

Now that is a wonderful ordeal.