Peace in Believing

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The situations you are in are not more powerful than God.

They are not stronger than Him.

There is light.

There is truth.

There is wisdom.

There is revelation.

There is hope.

There is joy.

There is peace in believing.

-Graham Cooke, The Process Series

There is something particularly sweet about connecting with brothers and sisters in the Lord who understand pain and yet, even in dark times, walk in the light. It’s like a knowing wink across the room because they share a secret. They know what it is to be loved by the One more powerful than any situation.

When they leave, the scent of peace lingers.

Surrender Anxiety

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“I can tell when you’re worried,” my friend said. “You repeat yourself. A lot.”

It’s called ruminating. Ruminants are animals like cattle and deer which bring up the substance of their last intake to chew over again. Rumination in humans means obsessive worry about something, going over and over the details in your head.

Have I told you this before? Sorry if I have, but it helped me understand something. I heard a podcast speaker (I think it was Bill Johnson) say, “If you can worry, you can meditate. Meditation is like worry, but with better subject matter.”

The first time I tried to meditate on scripture I chose a verse in Psalm 46. “Be still and know that I am God.” To be honest, I chose it because it was short. I didn’t feel like memorizing anything longer, which might explain initial results.

I heard, “Be still,” in the exasperated whisper of an adult to a child who wouldn’t sit still in church. I viewed “and know that I am God” through the lens of a squirmy child who was bored out of her mind as she sat on a hard pew with nothing to do but wonder what would happen if the dead fox decorating Mrs. McSomebody’s coat collar suddenly came back to life. (In the fifties trauma-induced weirdness in the adult population was as common as, well, accessorizing with dead animals.) I think I was poking it when I was told to “be still!” The consequence was that, yet again, I missed knowing God.

I tried pondering different translations. That helped. One version said, “Cease striving, and know that I am God.” Meditating on those few words took years. Who knew? It turns out that worrying, ruminating, and striving were kind of a package deal with my temperament. Personality tests didn’t give me much hope of unplugging myself from that slot.

Finally, I realized that knowing who God is means unlearning ideas that hold me captive and unable to change. Unlearning requires meekness – the humility to know that I don’t know and the courage to know that by grace I can know. Learning who God is basic to learning how he sees me. Being still and ceasing striving now means letting go of defensiveness and giving up attempts to earn God’s love. On my own, trying harder will never be “good enough.”

And that’s the beauty of it.

God, you’re such a safe and powerful place to find refuge!
You’re a proven help in time of trouble—
more than enough and always available whenever I need you. (verse 1)

Today I read another translation. Apparently, I am not finished meditating on the simple easy-to-memorize verse. The Passion Translation reads, “Surrender your anxiety.” When Jesus said he gives peace that passes understanding, it’s not an invitation to get back on the worry track for a few more laps. Peace that passes understanding comes as a result of surrendering anxiety that rises from not understanding. Here comes paradox again. Loss is gain. Surrender is winning.

Not that I haven’t noticed before, but this time I was struck by the importance of context. “Surrender anxiety” is nestled in a Psalm about the kind of  divisive war-threatening conflict and climate disrupting-level natural disasters we see around us now.

When the nations are in uproar with their tottering kingdoms,
God simply raises his voice
and the earth begins to disintegrate before him.
Here he comes! The Commander! (verses 6 & 7)

He’s messing with my theology again. Disintegrate?

Then I remember Jesus talking about tearing down and building up. He told people, who asked for a sign, if they tore down this temple (he meant his own body, but they didn’t know yet) he would raise it up again in three days.

Everyone look!
Come and see the breathtaking wonders of our God.
For he brings both ruin and revival. (verse 8)

Sometimes learning means unlearning first and sometimes building firmer foundations means tearing down wobbly bases first.

Sometimes we don’t have the means to correct problems ourselves because we have a death-grip on tainted assumptions and tottering institutions. We call it loyalty, but loyalty to whom? What if all this upheaval is about more than setting up another temporary camp that allows us to survive until the next crisis? What if God wants us to come to the end of our do-something-do-anything suggestions and let him reveal more of himself to us? What if he has a better plan? What if he wants to replace striving with thriving or coping with character?

What if  anxiety (which is actually lack of trust) acts as a barbed barrier that keeps us from going where he wants to take us?

He’s the one who makes conflicts end
throughout the earth,
breaking and burning every weapon of war.
Surrender your anxiety!
Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God.
I am the God above all the nations,
and I will be exalted throughout the whole earth.

The Mighty Choir

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Let the rivers and streams clap with applause
as the mountains rise in a standing ovation
to join the mighty choir of exaltation.
 
Look! Here he comes! The Lord and judge of all the earth!
He’s coming to make things right and to do it fair and square.
And everyone will see that he does all things well!

(Psalm 98:8,9 TPT)

Often, when I am driving through a mountain valley, the forest trees remind me of  a mass choir standing on every hillside. The line from the old hymn, plays in my heart, “All nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres.”

Can you hear it?

 

 

A New Day

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Stop dwelling on the past.
Don’t even remember these former things.

I am doing something brand new, something unheard of.
Even now it sprouts and grows and matures.
Don’t you perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and open up flowing streams in the desert.

Wild beasts, jackals, and owls will glorify me.
For I supply streams of water in the desert
and rivers in the wilderness
to satisfy the thirst of my people, my chosen ones,

so that you, whom I have shaped and formed for myself,
will proclaim my praise.”

(Isaiah 43:18-21 TPT)

When God Intervenes

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I’ve seen it. I’ve seen God intervene in “hopeless” situations. I’ve seen families, ours included, told to prepare for a loved one’s imminent death. I’ve seen that person get up out of their hospital bed in the ICU and go home. I’ve seen it more than once, and on this last day of the year, the day for counting blessings, I thank God that this year he allowed me to see it again.

I’ll leave the telling of details and the giving of evidence to my friend when she is ready. I have also learned that people who believe God no longer intervenes in our lives with healing miracles tend to dismiss the documented proof anyway. Even when our daughter and son-in-law included the testimony of a doctor who was involved in his case in their book (While He Lay Dying), some people disregarded it, thinking there must be another explanation.

One person said, “Okay, he got better this time, but who’s to say he won’t get hit by a bus tomorrow?” Another, who couldn’t handle the truth because of her own disappointment, said, “Sometimes I think we give God too much credit. Sometimes these things just happen.”

Believe it. Don’t believe it. It’s not my job to convince you. It’s my job to give God the glory and to thank and praise him for his goodness.

I hadn’t seen this friend for at least three years. When we attended the same church, she gave me a ride home from another city where we had both been visiting family. We had a great time. I knew she wanted children and we prayed about that. Life changes resulted in moves and being in different circles, but I saw the occasional Facebook post. I was happy to see God granted their prayer for children.

The day I saw her post asking for prayer for their little boy I knew somehow that God was going to answer again. I think sometimes he gives us a gift of faith for a specific person. The basic facts were these: the child’s body was overwhelmed with a lung infection and then sepsis, treatment had been unsuccessful, his heart stopped for four minutes during last ditch surgical intervention, the parents were told to say goodbye, they were on the other side of the world in the same country where I support a child whose dream is to someday live in a house that has a real cement floor.

I remember a friend who is a physician telling me that one of the hardest parts of practising medicine in an isolated area is knowing that the advanced technology that could have saved a patient is far away in a teaching hospital in a big city. She told me about the time her patient with a severe case of the flu was saved with a heart/lung machine that was not available in most places. When our son-in-law was at his lowest and we were told to say goodbye, he was too fragile to be transported to a city with such technology. But God intervened anyway and miraculously saved his life.

At first, I prayed for an ECMO machine for my friend’s child, then stopped because I let the limits of my logic get in the way. I didn’t think a bypass machine would be an option in a less developed country. If small cities in Canada didn’t have them, I thought they probably didn’t have one where this family lived now. I kept praying for a miracle and invited my Facebook friends to join. Bless them, many did, and kept up with bulletins.

This is where my ignorant assumptions needed an adjustment. A hospital on the other side of this huge city not only had an ECMO machine, they had one that was portable. They were going to attempt to use it and transfer the little guy to the larger university hospital. It was a risky mission. The mom told us that vehicles in this city were not in the habit of letting ambulances pass them. Traffic is a major problem. (I’ve seen the videos. Yikes!)

They needed to move quickly. One of my Facebook friends (who I’ve never met in person and who lives on the other side of Canada) said that while she prayed for the child, she had an image of angels parting traffic ahead of them to get him there. We prayed for rapid transit.

The next morning, I checked Facebook on my phone as soon as I woke up. My jaw dropped and tears came to my eyes when I saw a video Mom  filmed from the front seat of the ambulance. Traffic, which was extremely heavy, parted like the Red Sea ahead of them and the road was clear. They made it in record time.

The little boy recovered much more rapidly than anyone thought possible. He awoke from the coma without any brain damage and was soon home riding his favourite toy.

The beauty of many people joining to pray is that no one person can take credit. I am so thankful for advances in medicine and don’t believe a healing using modern medical methods is a second-class healing, but medical people face limitations all the time. It must be so hard when they have to say, “I’m sorry. There is nothing more we can do.”

In the end, all healing is from the Designer of these bodies.

Sometimes he intervenes in a totally miraculous way, sometimes he speeds ups the healing process, sometimes he becomes people’s keeping power through pain and testing and, I believe, sometimes he sets people free from suffering by allowing them to step out of their broken bodies and into his presence.

I don’t know why some people are healed by miraculous intervention and some are not. I only know that those who pursue the healing Jesus’ stripes bought us see a lot more miracles than those who comfort themselves with a self-protecting theology formed by disappointment. No matter the outcome, when we continue to draw closer to the One who loves perfectly, our relationship deepens.

On this last day of the year, when it would be so easy to look back and count losses as I adjusted to limitations of a body that is not yet healed, I choose instead to say I have seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living with my own eyes. To God be all the glory!

I trust you, Lord! More, please!

As Different as Chalk and Cheese

Sometimes I wonder if one of the greatest miracles Jesus performed was to keep the disciples from killing each other. This week, as I watched another political/religious family feud break out on social media I remembered that Jesus, born into a time of political high tension, took both a collaborator and a resistance fighter on a road trip. It’s time to re-blog this.

Charis: Subject to Change

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I grew up in a family where teasing was a form of affection. Wrestling, practical jokes, funny stories that revealed weaknesses in each other? All normal (to us). To those not accustomed to this way of relating, such play appeared intimidating and offensive. Most of the time we knew where the line was, but in the background, we often heard someone warning, “You had better stop now before someone gets hurt!”

And then someone got hurt. A line was crossed. For one of the participants the action wasn’t fun anymore. Teasing became bullying (to them). Fights ensued.

Like many parents, we discovered our children’s individuality early. One liked to cuddle. The one who had to move-it move-it move-it resented the restraint of adult arms. One cried easily, one bounced back like an inflatable clown punching bag, one treasured solitude, and one was happiest when surrounded by 27 of her closest…

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When the Right Time Arrived

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It was a mess. A world of division, compromise, corruption, and religiously followed traditions and rituals detached from roots of love and relationship. A hodge-podge of imperfect plans by imperfect people.

Tyrants, sycophants, miscreants, occupants,

masters, slaves, overlords, conscripts,

builders, destroyers, collaborators, rebels,

haves, have-nots, hopeful, hopeless.

This was the society Jesus was born into, because the time was right.

As they had many times before, the people not in control cried out for a saviour. They wanted freedom from the will of Roman conquerors. God sent them a saviour, but not to free them from man-made power ploys gone astray. He sent them Someone who could save them from something much more enslaving – their own sin.

As he had done before, he sent his answer in a form few recognized. He sent his son who set aside his godhood to live as a human. He sent a baby.

I often wonder why he chooses the weak of the world to confound the wise. Why does God frequently skip the well-bred, the educated, the credentialed, and those endowed with position and privilege when he wants to turn the tides of history? More than once people have said, “This can’t possibly be from God!” More than once they have been wrong.

“I see your plight,” he said. “This is my response.”

Then he sent a wanderer and his half-sister wife,

a wheeler dealer opportunist,

an insensitive spoiled brat turned slave turned foreign government official,

a stammering old man with a stick,

a stern mother,

a slave bride with a hammer and tent peg,

a scared unimportant farmer from a long line of scared unimportant farmers,

a lewd, crude, rule-breaking strongman,

a boy raised in a temple with a weak mentor and drunken, corrupt priests as companions,

a shepherd with a slingshot,

a runner given to depression,

a reckless prince with a bad driving record,

a left-handed messenger with a knife up his skirt,

a bizarre performance artist,

a beauty pageant queen who slept her way to influence,

a ploughman,

a child king with clueless teachers,

a eunuch in service to a despot,

a choir director,

a poet.

For the greatest mission of all time he introduced the bearer of his heart as a helpless baby. A baby.  A baby who so terrified the principalities and powers who knew their time would soon be up, that Herod killed every child close to fitting the toddler’s description.

Not even the ancient prophets who each told bits and pieces of the truth they held could see the entirety of God’s plan. Jesus gradually explained it, to those who could listen, over three years. Many heard and believed. Many did not. Before his death and resurrection the book of John tells us the Messiah spoke plainly to the credentialed experts whose education put limits on their understanding.

I tell you the truth; I AM before Abraham was born. (John 8:58 The Voice)

We are subject to change. He is not.

Trust him. He created the plan. Keep your eyes on Abba. Expect the unexpected.

When the right time arrived, God sent His Son into this world (born of a woman, subject to the law) to free those who, just like Him, were subject to the law. Ultimately He wanted us all to be adopted as sons and daughters. Because you are now part of God’s family, He sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts; and the Spirit calls out, “Abba, Father.” You no longer have to live as a slave because you are a child of God. And since you are His child, God guarantees an inheritance is waiting for you.

(Galatians 4:4-6)