In the Midst of the Storm

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I came out to the patio to write. I swept the patio. I fussed around the table. I decided to work on worship music for tomorrow’s online service.

I was doing everything but writing.

I pulled up the song, “Fear No More by building 429.” I found something to write about. I love this song. It fits my current situation. The lyrics of the song contain an image of Jesus holding us in a storm not of our own choosing. “This isn’t what I planned…” Chaos is all around but Jesus is with us in the storm.

As I listened my mind drifted to the passage where Jesus and the disciples are in a boat and a strong storm happens. Mark records Peter’s recollection: On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:35-40, NIV)

Jesus is not holding the disciples when the storm crashes in on them, and they are terrified they are going to die.

Jesus is there. He’s been there all along. He has the power to still the storm around them…and within them. Their fear brought them to Jesus, but not for an answer. They came accusing him of not caring. They are angry because while they’re consumed with and by their fear Jesus is curled up, cozy on a cushion. They are infuriated at his selfishness: this is no time to sleep, man! Do something for us. NOW!

In Mark’s account, Jesus rebuked the storm. What an object lesson. Storm, be at peace. Be still. Jesus may have addressed the storm, but his message was for the disciples. And it’s for us also.

Do you feel like there’s a storm all around you? Are the walls closing in? Do you fear for your life…or your way of living?

Here’s my confession: I’ve been really mad at God. Life was going pretty sweetly for me. I was achieving goals. I was about to start my D.Min (or finish it). Nelson was finally getting some of his medical issues addressed. We were happy. It was sort of like a Sunday boat ride on the lake on a wonderful summer day. Weather perfect. Floating along. Cozy. Relaxed. Happy.

Then bam. And nothing was comfortable. I couldn’t find happy anywhere on my radar. Ripped from the familiar. Life as I knew it…as I wanted it…was gone.

And this isn’t the first time in my life. I don’t want to re-rehearse the litany of what I saw as injustices perpetrated by God upon me. Why give it to me just to yank it away?

Selah. (Period of reflective silence.)

Job: shall we take the good and not the bad?

Paul: I have learned whatever situation I am in to find contentment.

Jesus: I’m right here. Be at peace. Be still.

Paul again: God puts us right where he wants us. (1 Corinthians 12:18)

Me: okay. I will trust that you are with me—even in the storm. I may not be in school for my D.Min, but I have a lot to learn. Right here. Right now. (That’s my prayer, so Amen.)

Message Meme: Content or Covet

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Contentment…satisfaction. These are the opposites of what leads us to coveting—being consumed with desiring what others have, not being happy or satisfied with ours.

We live in a world that celebrates striving over thriving. Work hard. Play harder. Have the best and the newest. We are no longer fulfilled by merely keeping up with the Jones, we have to exceed them at every turn, and who cares if the get trampled?

God does.

Back in the garden, the serpent spoke to Eve’s innate desire for more: eat from the forbidden tree and you’ll be as wise as God. To get ahead you can’t trust that God has your best at heart. She coveted what God had.

Dissatisfaction played a role in the murder of Able, and the birth rite theft of Esau. And who can forget how coveting his neighbor’s wife was nearly the demise of David.

The Apostle Paul’s comment to young Timothy must have been a jolt, even back then: “A godly life brings huge profits to people who are content with what they have (1 Timothy 6:6, God’s World Translation).”

I wonder what those profits might be?

 

Surrender

We started our study of Conrad Gempf’s book, Mealtime Habits of the Messiah in our Sunday school class last Sunday. And as I suspected, we didn’t get very far, very fast. In fact, we only got through half of the introduction. Lest you wonder…this is a good thing. There was much discussion and participation. Our class has grown so much that we have to find a better way to squeeze us in–such a glorious problem!

So while I was studying and preparing for the upcoming class the topic of surrender was mentioned…but the way my mind stuck on it you would have thought that it was the main theme. Rumination at its best.

Surrender. Not a popular word. Somehow it has become the definition of weakness, of defeat. We don’t want to surrender to our enemies, our spouse, our boss, our grandchildren. And yet we daily surrender to our passions, our obsessions, our addictions. Go figure.

For a bit, I want to focus on what surrender means in the spiritual sense…at least for me.

Here’s the problem as I see it: we think surrender means giving away everything and getting nothing. And somehow in that process I get lost…the me that I am, is gone. If I surrender to my spouse I cease to exist and it’s only them. If I surrender to God…then there’s no me. And we can’t fathom not being. That’s why we fight death so fiercely.

Until we begin to understand God, this surrender thing makes him seem like some cosmic terrorist: why surrender? He’s just going to kill us anyway.

Our thinking is really twisted…thanks to the great deceiver and the work he’s been at since the garden. See, he started his number on the first folks, Adam and Eve–and primarily Eve. His job has been to distort God’s purposes and He’s really quite good at it and we’re really quite sucked into it. His opening remarks were to twist the words and purpose of God’s reasoning. “Did God really say that?” “I’m sure that’s not what he meant.” And then she bit and bought the apple.

What does this have to do with surrender? Everything. We think everything is ours and to get a piece of God we have to give it all up. As if to hold God in my hands I have to lay my stuff down. And there in, or in there, lies the problem.

Nothing I have is mine. It may be in my possession, but it doesn’t belong to me. Having trouble with that? I understand. I was dealing with my grandson on the concept just the other day. He was playing with a neighbor boy, who happens to remind me of Eddie Haskill (if you don’t remember Leave it to Beaver, go look it up on youtube). He’s older than my grandson and constantly tries to take advantage of his naivety. Especially when it comes to trading. (This is a boy concept which I don’t get very well.) Eddie-boy tries to grandson to give him something or things and in return gives him junk that he tries to pawn off as really great stuff. Grandson wants to be friends with Eddie-boy so he goes along with it.

This trading isn’t too big a problem until grandson starts to trade off the stuff that we have paid for (aka: of high value to us as it should be to him). That’s when I step in as the enforcer and put the kibosh to the whole thing. The last incident left grandson in tears and confused and me trying to explain. I wanted grandson to know that we provide these things for him so that he will have things to do and play with while he is at our house (daily). He is allowed to play with them and in some sense they are his things, but they don’t belong to him. He is also charged with the care of these things.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized that this is how God sees things, too. He provides it all–but it’s still his. All he asks is that we acknowledge that and take care of it.

I think that was why the Rich Young Ruler (see Mark 10:17-27) had such a hard time when Jesus told him to sell all that he “possessed” and give it to the poor. He didn’t really understand who the true owner, possessor, was. He really bought the lie (of the evil one), and thought he owned it. He thought to give it, to surrender, meant that he would lose it all. As if to think that God really needed his possessions? I don’t need to own all my grandson’s toys. In fact, when he’s grown and gone, so will the toys. It would just be nice if he recognized the provision occasionally, but that might be a lot to expect from a seven year old.

But we’re adults and it seems to be what God is asking of us.

Could this be what Paul was saying to the Romans (Romans 12:1-2) when he describes our reasonable service/sacrifice as one that is living? He says God wants a living sacrifice. That is what is holy and pleasing to him. Too often we think we quit living if we surrender.

(I just had a moment…a thought…I was thinking about Abraham offering Isaac. There seems to be some parallels. Would God have allowed Abraham to kill Isaac? Or was he wanting to see if Abe would give, surrender his son–give back to God what ultimately was his anyway? Going to have to think on this some more.)

If you’re still reading along with me, then you have exceeded blogdom’s suggested word count and I thank you. Let me hasten to close…

Surrender is not to be feared or avoided. In many ways it reminds me of how I define confession: agreeing and owning what God already knows about me. Surrender is recognizing who truly owns everything and receiving it back as a trust–whether it’s my life, my money, my toys…you fill in the blank. I’m not, you’re not, the owner, but the steward.

And here’s a thought: God trusts you with his very best and treasured possessions. How will that impact your living?

What do I want for Valentine’s Day?

I read a tweet this morning that made me think…and write. The tweet asked the question: What do you hope to receive for Valentine’s Day? So I started thinking…
-I will wake up and my husband will have left for work already (because he’s such a responsible person that he’s working overtime), but before he goes he will take the dogs out and then feed them so that they will let me sleep in.
-I will be able to spend time studying the Word, studying from different devotionals and doing Greek word study.
-I will connect with friends and family through emails, tweets, and messages.
-I will clean in my house and then go to my favorite coffee shop and sip some wonderful concoction while I write inspirationally.
-I will pick the red-haired wonder child up from school and enjoy energetic conversation with him til he runs off to play with his little buddy.
-It may even be warm enough today to break out my bike and get a short ride in!

I can’t think of anything else that I need. I’m not even aware of anything else that I want. I’m not the kind of girl who needs the usual candy, flowers, or cards. I’m not into jewelery. And I’m working too hard to lose weight to want to go out for a carb and calorie laden meal. My level of contentment and satisfaction with life should be quite a relief to my hub!

It reminds me of God’s truth: The Lord is my Shepherd. I have everything thing that I need. (Psalm 23)

I pray that on this day when we are inundated with thoughts of love that you will be encouraged in heart and united in love. Great big hugs and Hershey kisses.


Day 23 Leftover Thanks

Today you will not find me lining the coffers of any greedy retailer. The other day Nelson asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I had no answer for him. Now that’s not to say I there aren’t things I would like to have (convertible laptop tablet and hazelnut coffee), but there isn’t anything I need. I’m hoping to get some Barnes and Noble gift cards so I can feed my hungry little Nook Tablet. But I don’t need any clothes and because of my ecsema I quit buying my favorite yummies from Bath and Body.

One of my favorite things for this day is leftovers. I love leftover turke–white meat only. The sweet potato and green bean casseroles always seem better the second day and beyond. And since we ate at home there will be lots to enjoy.

So today I am thankful for the bounty and the blessings. Yum!

Day 9 Counting Blessings

I am thankful today that I am wired to see the positive, to find the blessing, to find the good in what others can only see as empty and bad.

Do you know that kind of person? They seem only able to see the negative, what’s missing and wrong. They’re the kind of people who always seem to be looking at the underneath side of things. I often wonder if they would know a blessing if it walke up and kissed them on the face. (At this point, all I can think of is Lucy of Peanuts: Eww, dog germs.)

Sigh. People like that drain me. Is that too honest? I think part of the reason that they do is that when I get around these Negative Neds and Nancys I fee responsible for trying to help them see the positive. I spend my time like some kind of NFL cheerleader on a mega dose of caffiene. It’s exhausting….and most often futile.

My life is F.U.L.L. of blessings. That awareness helped me when I was in jail. Even there I was able to see positive things. Granted, some days I had to look even harder, but I could always find something. The good thing is that I don’t need a whole lot. I’m very content with the mercy drops that fall around me, I don’t need the Showers of Blessing.

I guess that’s why Paul’s message to the Philippians has always resonated with me: Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. (Phil. 4:11) This truth became real and foundational when I began to grasp more fully, and allowed the truth to get ahold of me, that “The Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything that I need.” Don’t have it? Don’t need it.

I count myself blessed. I am content in the blessings.