Thursday, July 21, 2016

These Precarious Times

The last few weeks have been pretty unsettling. As I read articles, watched the news, and viewed the videos people that made to express their opinions and their rage, I searched for words to say. Over and over the word precarious came to mind, and to be honest I could use the word in a sentence, but I couldn't really concisely define it. So, I looked it up and google defines it as "not securely held or in position; dangerously likely to fall or collapse and the synonyms given were "uncertain, insecure, unpredictable, risky, hazardous, dangerous, unsafe, unsettled, unstable, unsteady, shaky." Yep, those words pretty much describe what this world feels like right now, especially from the view down here.

Cancer, diabetes, debilitating viruses, infections, and autoimmune diseases are making life tough for precious people and the medical system with delayed appointments, information and misinformation, and insurance battles add to the uncertainty people experience as they struggle with health issues.

PTSD, depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders and other mental illnesses rob people of peace, hope, and joy and a recent suicide left many of us wondering at what point her hope completely died and at what point did her ability to make choices that could lead to healing could no longer be made.

Family units, once haven's of stability, are radically changing as marriages break down due to long work hours that exhaust, isolate, and separate.

Marriages that were designed to be safe havens for two people doing life together crumble as porn allures men and women into false relationships with fake images that turn people into even more selfish, self -centered, demanding people instead of people trying to learn to love well as it normalizes the victimization of women and children and feeds the hatred of the rape culture.

And gender? It's now considered something to be assigned rather than Creator-designed. And marriage? Its been redefined to a contract between people rather than a life-long covenant between a man and a woman.  

Terrorists attacks both here and abroad make this world scary; Places once dreamed about now seem less inviting. And, while I've thought  the US to be a safe haven for people from all over, I am now finding myself fearfully contemplating the personal cost of welcoming the masses when the risk may be increased sexual violence of women and children as it was in Germany, increased risk of terrorists entering our country as it was in France and Turkey, and increased risk of the recruiting our own sons and daughters to do hateful deeds and even in just the writing of these things fear rises inside.

Mass shootings here at home make malls, theaters, schools, places of worship, and other places of social gatherings no longer feel safe, lending to the the break down of unity.

And gang violence, racial uprisings, and brutal attacks on our law enforcement have added to the insecurity felt as the ugly rhetoric on these things makes the stomach churn, especially when people evoke the name of Christ either verbally or through the jewelry they wear as they spout evil and hate, both so contrary to the character of the Savior.

I, like many others wonder how we are to live brave in a world that feels precarious and all I can do is come back to what I know to be more real than what I see. From the time Adam and Eve took the bite we have been living in a fallen world with a propensity to sin, a propensity to be driven by pride, a propensity to demand, and a tendency to clamor for some type of stability apart from God. The truth is Jesus warned us of precarious times, but we tend to forget His warnings. believing we deserve more, thinking He has abandoned us, doesn't really love us, is irrelevant, or doesn't even exist. But the truth is He was, He is and He is to come.

One of the stories we can draw wisdom from for days such as these is found in Luke 8:22-24. It is the story of Jesus getting into a boat with His disciples and saying, "Let's cross to the other side of the lake." As they sailed, He slept, and a strong wind arose, the waves grew, and the boat began to sink, causing great fear. The disciples frantically woke Him up and He rebuked the wind and raging waves and turned to His disciples and asked, "Where is your faith?" And they marveled at the One who could calmed the storm.

The storm they were facing wasn't a simple storm, it was hurricane-sized and even the seasoned fisherman were frightened because the boat was about to sink. The disciples fear moved from a healthy fear to frantic panic because they forgot one important thing--Jesus was in the boat with them! His question about their faith wasn't a judgement about their fear because God created them to feel this God-given, life-preserving emotion. It was a question as to why they waited to wake Him. They could have cried out to Him when the storm first started to become violent or when the stirring of fear began to rise. I wonder what kept them from crying out to the Lord sooner?

There are several reasons people wait to cry out to God in the face of storms. Sometimes it is because we are prideful, thinking we can handle storms by ourselves; but the truth is that some storms were never designed to be experienced alone.

Some of us fail to cry out, because we've been taught to ignore fear rising in the gut to warn us that something is growing dangerous--that fear that should be driving us to our knees on behalf of our families, our churches, our communities, our country, our world, and ourselves gets turned off or numbed when it is ignored.

Some of us have been taught that fear is sin, so we swallow it, we hide it, and we bury it deep and we feel so alone and so ashamed, weathering the storms through which Jesus wants to display both His peace that passes understanding and His magnificent power, and His heart loves us through through the storms.

Sometimes we don't cry out, because we're afraid of what others might think. This can be due to pride, but it is often because we've been shamed by believers for fear we experience, and the unbelief with which we struggle in face of huge storms. The fear one feels in the face of cancer, the loss of loved ones, debilitating accidents, acts of violence, growing terrorism, explosive hate groups, and the rising and falling nations is not sin. It is a call for the church to unite and encourage one another and to fall to its collective knees because the storms we are facing are not of this world; they are spiritual in nature and beyond our power to navigate. The unbelief we experience as we weather storms isn't sin; it is normal and it is healthy and it is being surfaced so it can be overcome. But sadly, Jesus image bearers often make it unsafe for unbelief to be expressed as was in Jesus day when the father of one sick child honestly cried out, "I believe, help my unbelief!"

We must not forget that we are people who are in the process of being transformed and we are all people who live with the reality of a faith that can be ambivalent. Ambivalent faith is faith that dwells first in head then moves to the heart where it can calm fear and anxiety and give peace. We must never forget that the movement from head to heart is sometimes a supernatural act that God performs, but at other times it is a process that takes place when the ambivalence is recognized, acknowledged, and confessed. To be like Jesus we are called to be people who allow each other the grace to be transparent with ambivalent faith and encourage one another to cry out to Him in our desperate need during these precarious times.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Love Part 5--His Love was Screaming in the Silence

If there was ever a man who deserved to live life filled with joy, it would have been Jesus. Though clothed in the clothes of the common, He deserved royal robes, a golden crown, and a scepter. His character was marked by a righteousness no other man had ever achieved. His was a ministry characterized by miracles, grace, freedom, and healing. He exhibited authority over nature, man, and demons. More importantly He possessed a pure, unadulterated love for His Father and an unconditional, sacrificial love for man that was the motivation for every act He performed and every word He spoke. 

To begin to understand the depths of Christ's love, we are looking past the life He lived to the death He died. In was in His death that He chose to set aside His right to live to experience our deepest fear--of death. He chose to set aside His glory to bear our heaviest burden--the burden of sin and shame. He chose to set aside His perfect relationship with His Father to feel our deepest pain--our separation from the Creator.  

During His life Christ expressed His love through through many active ways. But at the end He chose to express it in a different way. As He was arrested, tried, beaten, and crucified, He maintained a purposeful silence that spoke His love even more loudly than the all the words He spoke and all the actions He carried out. 

The same mouth that spoke the universe into place was silent when He was taken away. The same mouth that calmed angry seas remained silent as people twisted His words during His illegal trials. The same voice that called a man from the grave refused to answer lying accusations hurled. The same voice that caused soldiers to fall back remained silent as He was beaten. The same strong voice that confronted the Pharisees was silent in the face of the mocking. He who had every right to defend Himself and He who had the power to walk away remained silent--and His love it was screaming in that silence because in the silence He was actively laying down His life. 

He remained silent when soldiers took their whips with sharp stones and bits of bones and beat Him, ripping apart His flesh. He was silent when soldiers put a scarlet robe on His raw flesh and jammed a crown of thorns upon His brow. He was silent when the soldier's mockery was no longer enough to satisfy the angry crowd. They were so enraged by the perfect life He lived, the sinners He forgave, the broken people He healed, and the people bound by sin He had set free that they joined the cruel soldiers by slapping His face, pulling hairs from His beard, hurling curses in His ears, spitting saliva in His face, and bidding for the clothes He would no longer need.  

He maintained His silence as the robe was ripped from His wounded back. He maintained it with each clang of the hammer as the searing pain of nails broke through flesh and bones. He remained silent as they picked up the cross and dropping it into the ground with a thud. He was silent as He gazed into a sea of faces filled with hate. He was silent through the searing pain of the nails and the pain of raw back rubbing against rough wood as moved to take each breath. He was silent--hanging suspended between heaven and earth and His silence...His silenced it screamed of His love as it was being poured out. 

He looked around at the people below and finally broke the silence with words we all need to hear. He didn't scream of the injustice or demand to be set free; He asked His Father to forgive--forgive those who rejected Him, forgive those who denied Him, forgive those who deserted Him, forgive those who falsely accused Him, forgive those who mocked Him, forgive those who beat Him, forgive those who hammered nails, forgive those whose sin evoked the Father's wrath. 

As the afternoon wore on darkness blanketed the earth and our sins--past, present, and future--ware laid on Him and Christ faced a realm of pain never ever experienced before or since. He felt the collective pain we feel when we are bound by sin--lonely, hopeless, and forsaken. For the first time He was separated from His Father because of our sin and in the anguish of being alone He broke the silence. It was a heart-rending cry from the depths of a deeply hurting soul, "My God, My God why have You forsaken me?"  With a heart broken by separation, He released His spirit, dying the death--the death we deserved. 

The silence surrounding His death speaks loudly of love. He loved deeply enough to die for disciples who deserted Him, for Peter who vehemently denied Him, for those who didn't recognize Him, for those who hated Him, for those who arrested Him, for those who beat Him, for those who mocked Him, and for those who hammered the nails. He loved deeply enough to maintain His silence and to stay on the cross as our sin, yours and mine, made Him feel alone and forsaken. 

His outrageous love endured the cruelty of the cross for the joy of presenting us, made holy and pure by His blood, as beloved children. We, the children who sin, who struggle with unbelief, who fail to love well, who at times deny Him, are the children purchased, purified, covered, and protected by the blood He shed. And His love? It was screaming in the silence. 


Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!