May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.
May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.
When I was a child we received official government pamphlets in the mail that frightened me. They showed red circles, like ripples, over a map of a city. The closer you lived to the center of the circles the more likely you would die from the inevitable nuclear holocaust about to be dropped on our northern Canadian city.
“It’s because of the oil and pipelines,” I heard the adults say. “They make us a target.”
I remember what it was like to be raised in an atmosphere of fear by a generation scarred by memories of WWII and The Depression. I was a powerless child who felt responsible for stopping the bomb. I was part of the generation who could not trust authority because, after all, it was “the good guys” who dropped the bomb the first time. There was no hope for the world. As young adults we sought escape in self-indulgent sexual activity and recreational drugs. We questioned the wisdom of bringing children into such a world.
The great world-ending event never happened in my parent’s lifetime — not that it couldn’t have happened, but it didn’t. Thus far it has not happened in mine, nor in my adult children’s. In fact, we enjoy a higher standard of living than my parents or grandparents did.
When I read about the history of various faith movements that went off the rails after a generation or two, the same factors keep showing up: the exploitation of power, and fear of the end of the world — situations where people cast aside discernment and agreed to rash actions because of the “extenuating circumstances.”
This morning I read a poll asking for people’s reactions to the impending end of the world due to climate change and the carbon mess my admittedly self-focussed generation brought down upon our heads. The poll gave these options. Essentially they were:
1) We will soon be doomed. 2) We’re doomed now. 3) Maybe the people who created the problem could be trusted to fix it? 4) Never mind. We’re doomed.
I listen to my grandchildren who tell me, with desperation in their voices, that their teachers say the world will end in twelve years because of carbon emissions and plastic pollution. A young friend talked about the “immorality” of giving birth to another generation born to certain death.
I recognize the same net that held me captive for so many years: fear.
The reasons for concern could be true. The reasons for hopelessness are not.
If we fail to consult the Creator, who understands his creation much better than we do, we are left feeling like the helpless children of the sixties reading the red circle pamphlets. They were burdened with responsibility without authority. When we try to solve the problem all by ourselves, we are like shepherd-less sheep each wandering off right into the danger we fear most. Our debriefing sessions, if we live long enough to schedule them, include the phrase, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Fear and hopelessness were the weapons the enemy of my soul used to manipulate my actions and willingness to surrender power for most of my life. I see him tripping up this generation in the same way. Fear manipulates their thinking to the point where many see no future for themselves or the children they will not allow to be born – even if those children, like many generations before them, carry solutions their parents could not envision.
The Good Shepherd has resources the sheep do not have. He is willing to put himself between them and the predator. He is willing to venture into the wilderness to save the one who foolishly got him/herself into a terrible mess of brambles. Like the shepherd on horseback I saw on the Cowboy Trail last week, he is near — and he is good.
Psalm 23 was written by a King, and former shepherd, who found himself in a terrible mess of his own making. He recognizes another option to the trajectory his foolishness started: 5) Turn to God and trust in his ways.
The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd.
I always have more than enough.
He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love.
His tracks take me to an oasis of peace, the quiet brook of bliss.
That’s where he restores and revives my life.
He opens before me pathways to God’s pleasure
and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness
so that I can bring honor to his name….
…So why would I fear the future?
For your goodness and love pursue me all the days of my life…
(Psalm 23:1-3, 6a The Passion Translation)
Ever lift Thy face upon me
As I work and wait for Thee;
Resting ‘neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,
Earth’s dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father’s glory,
Sunshine of my Father’s face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting,
Fill me with Thy grace.
Jesus, I am resting, resting
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
(From Jesus, I am Resting by Jean Sophia Pigott. 1845 -1882)
Looking back, I am unimpressed with the amount of time I spent trying to impress people who didn’t impress me. Sometimes you just need to bloom where you are planted while the storm rages.
It always blows over eventually.
People who manipulate with fear and intimidation are often fearful and intimidated themselves.
Confident peace is a weapon they don’t understand. It frustrates them.
Fear and intimidation is a trap that holds you back.
But when you place your confidence in the Lord,
you will be seated in the high place.
(Proverbs 29:25 TPT)
I wish you could hear the songbirds in the trees surrounding my outdoor office. I wish so much you could hear them that I endeavoured to record them.
The result was not as anticipated.
What I heard on the recording was
a train, somewhere a long way off,
traffic on the highway down in the valley,
an air conditioner fan accompanied by windchimes,
the neighbour cleaning his barbecue,
a dog barking,
a water sprinkler intermittently hitting a fence,
the breeze rustling the leaves,
and tiny birds singing their tiny songs.
The extra sounds had been there all along, but when I was concentrating on the birds I was able to block the noises out. The microphone picked up everything.
As I sat at my computer, I heard another sound, a still small voice saying, “Yes. Hearing is about focus.”
Not long ago, when someone spoke about hearing God’s voice I rolled my eyes.
“Riiiight. How nice for you.”
That was before the Holy Spirit grabbed my attention and spoke to me in subtle ways I hadn’t noticed before. The reason I hadn’t noticed was because my brain is a noisy place constantly full of clutter and distraction. It’s like “the wall of sound” arrangement of music in most popular recordings of the last thirty years. Silence feels weird.
It wasn’t until I started to learn how to still my heart and wait that I could detect a song I hadn’t noticed before. I am so easily distracted. I tend to pack my waking hours with the urgent, the dire, the entertaining, the outrageous, and the humorously absurd. It’s hard to say excuse me to demands of my own making, but once I heard the song, I wanted more.
I desperately want more.
Now I’ll listen carefully for your voice
and wait to hear whatever you say.
Let me hear your promise of peace—
the message every one of your godly lovers longs to hear.
(Psalm 85:8 TPT)
That moment when the last warm rays of the late evening June sun disappear behind the mountains and a cool breeze, heavy with the scent of lilacs, slides down into the valley.