Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2017 Reflection...

     "This One will be our peace." When a lone gunman shoots up a church congregation...this One will be our peace. When a man opens fire on a crowd in Las Vegas, this One will be our peace. When the leader of our nation makes fun of a foreign dictator in such a way that his words could very well cause "Rocket Man" to go nuclear, this One will be our peace. When Congress passes a tax bill that may cause 1.9 million low income children to lose their health coverage through the  CHIP program, this One will be our peace. When hurricanes cause mass destruction the likes of which hasn't been seen in decades, this One will be our peace. Though a terrorist tries to bomb the bus station in New York, this One will be our peace.

     I have held tightly to this verse from Micah 5:5 throughout 2017. As always, I asked God to give me a verse to hold on to for the year as a way of directing me. In His infinite wisdom He chose this! If I were to continue  the way I began this post in a more personal way, with the year in review it would look something like this: When my mom is diagnosed with a debilitating lung disease that will ultimately cause her increased suffering, this One will be my peace. Though I have few answers to all of my questions about God's sovereignty and our suffering, this One will be my peace. When my daughter gets her driver's license and I am not in the car with her, this One will be my peace. When my father-in-law has a hernia operation and gets a staph infection, this One will be my peace. Even as I watch my mom have convulsions on Mother's Day, this One will be my peace. When I am away on vacation and a drunk guy bangs on our door at 3 am for 30 minutes, angry we won't let him in, and security is missing in action...this One will be my peace.Though all home repairs and home improvement projects will ultimately go wrong, cost more, and take longer this year...this One will be my peace. Every single time I feel overwhelmed, overbooked, and exhausted...this One will be my peace.When I spend the last  remaining days of the year in the hospital with my mom who has pneumonia, doctors who are searching for answers, my anxious father, and all the uncertainty thick in the air...this One will be my peace. But how?

     Prayer. Prayer is the how. Prayer connects me instantly to the One (Jesus) who will become my peace. It's a way of positioning myself in Christ. Peace is elusive outside of Christ. All other methods of trying to obtain it, only amount to temporary releases of anxiety. Jesus however, IS peace and prayer allows me instant access. Prayer ushers me into His presence where I can unburden my soul. It's there that I can unload all that overwhelms me, petition for help, and find rest. I can't begin to tell you how many times this year I have felt overwhelmed by what needed to be accomplished in a day or who I needed to care for, only to pray and find instant release. I believe part of the reason for this is because the very act of prayer requires me to acknowledge that I need God. I can't do it all on my own. There is immense peace in acknowledging that. It's freeing to know that I am human and limited but that my God is powerful and  limitless! I find peace when I run to the One who IS peace. Anxiety flees and wisdom for the journey takes its place. My circumstances may stay the same but my response to them becomes different because I have positioned myself in Him, and by His grace am now able to view them from His vantage point.

    Maybe like me, you are not necessarily looking forward to starting another year. I am thankful that 2017 is over, but who is to say that 2018 will be any better? It could be worse! As with all the years before there will be world events, national events, and personal events that try to rob us of our peace.  What are we going to do about it? Will we walk around tied up in knots with anxiety and fear...overwhelmed and exhausted? Or will we hit our knees and position ourselves in Christ...in the One who IS peace, and find rest, hope, strength, and wisdom for the journey?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

You Are the Light of the World...

     I have been thinking a lot lately about the world we live in. I don't understand why people get so worked up about football players exercising their right to free speech by kneeling during the national anthem. It bothers me that we as a nation have grown somewhat comfortable trying to strong arm others out of their freedoms, by suggesting they be fired for exercising them.  I can't wrap my mind around how we look the other way when others are victimized. I struggle to understand the way people talk themselves into continued support of a politician running for office, who has a list a mile long of women that accuse him of rape. I have no frame of reference for the kind of evil that walks pew by pew executing children...whole families, as they duck for cover.

     My Facebook feed blows up at least once a week with friends and family arguing over the best solution to these problems. No one really listens to each other anymore. We're too busy pointing out the "flawed" thinking of the other side. The volatile issues of the world we live in and the hate that fuels them, have rendered many of us unable to see the humanity in the other. It's a dark world, and I believe people are longing for some light. So where is it?

     Matthew 5:14-16 tells us where we can find it.  "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."  These are the words of Jesus as he taught the disciples. The Church is the light of the world, or at least we are supposed to be...but are we really??

     Light can only shine brightly through clear vessels. Put a light bulb under a dark colored lamp shade, and the light still shines but it shines dimly. Put the same light bulb under a white lamp shade and and it shines brightly. My question is this, how pure, how clear is the vessel of the Church that the light of Christ is supposed to be shining through? Are we truly a town on a hill that cannot be hidden? A warm, bright glow that beckons a weary, dark world to find out more about Jesus... the Light that lives within us? Or are we more like a light dimly glowing through a dark colored lamp shade, colored by the things and the thinking of the world we live in? As I consider this, some questions come to mind that I believe are worth asking ourselves.

     Does the way we spend our time, the way we spend our money, and  the way we make decisions magnify the light of Christ living in us? Do the things we post on social media, and the politicians and policies we support mirror the heart of God? Does the way we give, how we serve others, and the conversations we have with them make people walk away feeling better or broken for having been with us? Do people feel as though they have just spent time with Christ Himself, because His light shines so brightly through us?

     1 Peter 2:9 declares, " But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light."  This is what God says we are...but are we living it? If we really were, the darkness would not be so great in our nation right now. It's time. It's time to ask God to illuminate the darkness in our own lives and to purify us so that we can shine brightly in this dark world. It's time to cast aside sin, the bondage that weighs us down, and the things that keep the world from recognizing any resemblance of Christ in us. It's time for the Church to rise up and be that town on a hill that cannot be hidden!