It’s early. Like before the rooster crows early. I did’t plan it nor set an alarm because it’s Saturday, and this is the day I like to sleep a bit later. It seems the men around here have other plans. Before the clock numbers read 5:00 am one arrives home from late night hunting for wild hogs and the other rises to head out for a day of fishing. I sling my arm over my eyes to shield them from the light but it’s no use. I’m wide eyed awake, and there’s no turning off this brain.
What to do? What to do?
I attempt to sit out on the deck but it is sticky hot and the June bugs keep landing in my coffee. Flying dust from halfway around the world shields my view of the stars.
Yesterday’s conversations float through my thoughts.
“I figure we will all get this virus at some point.”
“Did you hear the governor has halted the reopening?”
“What about school? How will we manage to teach and keep our kids safe?”
“My coworker’s family tested positive. We are waiting on her results.”
“The new baby is back in the hospital.”
“The statue on campus was spray painted.”
“They postponed the wedding for another year.”
This is surreal living. With every conversation a phrase runs through my mind. Wars and rumors of wars. Over and over this is my internal response to bad news. What does it mean? Where have I heard these five words? A quick google search leads me to an expected place.
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.–Matthew 24:6-8
I am not surprised by where I find the words though I am taken aback when I read them within the larger context. Honestly I am hesitant to share them. I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. This is not “the end is coming soon” post because I have no idea how long “soon” will be. Nor will I pretend to understand the complete context of Jesus’ warning.
What I do see is a short little phrase to live by. See to it that you are not alarmed. It means feeling a sense of danger, urgently worried, concerned, or frightened according to Webster’s. In other words, see to it that you are not feeling a sense of danger or worry. Don’t panic or tremble in fear. Do NOT be alarmed.
Easy to say… much harder to live.
One of Jesus’ name is Lord. Of all the names I call him, this one is special to me. It is the one I use the most. I begin most conversations with Lord. I whisper this name in the midst of my fear. Lately I have taken to holding prayer beads tight and praying Lord have mercy on us again and again.
It literally means one having power and authority.
Jesus has all power and authority. I am certain of this even when I question why. Why allow sickness to ravage the world? Why does slavery still exist? Why wars and rumors of wars?
Not having the answer doesn’t change my understanding of who Jesus is. Jesus is Lord no matter my circumstance or the state of the world. I have no idea what it will take to transform the world, but I know it all begins with acknowledging who is Lord of my life.
In the midst of wars and rumors of wars I hold tight to the most familiar name to me.
Jesus is Lord…
See to it you are not alarmed…
Almost every morning of quarantine I awake singing, “… Way Maker, Miracle Worker, Promise Keeper, Light in the Darkness. My God, that is who you are.” As we take baby steps to move out into the world again, it surprises me how quickly I have become accustomed to this new way of living.
Washing my hands has become second nature. Being aware of how close I am standing to others on the sidewalk or in the store has me shifting and moving constantly. I wipe the door handles and everything else a customer touches with alcohol. I don’t hug those I usually would or shake hands with a new friend. Not long ago I spent my quiet time learning to balance chemical equations in order to teach my student body of one. It is a huge shift in living and thinking. With the dawning of each day, I follow the new way as best I can mostly smiling, finding things to be thankful for, and creative ways to connect with others.
My friend’s text makes me smile. “I’m fine, we’re fine… everything is fine.” Like my friend, most days I think I’m fine with this way. At least I tell myself everything’s fine, and I tend to believe myself for the most part.
Until the other day when one of my favorite littles came into the shop. Before I knew it or could step away, he wrapped his little arms tight around my legs. I’m pretty sure time stood still as I considered my options, and tried to decide what was best for him. Tears puddled as I leaned down and we had a proper hug. It took all the strength I could muster not to fall down on my knees and sob right there in the middle of it all.
It is not because I haven’t seen him or talked to him in the last six weeks. We talk to each other through the miracle of internet and zoom. I tell him Bible stories. We play games like hangman, and he quizzes me on the Ten Commandments. Before quarantine we usually spent time together in our pew on Sunday mornings. Now our connection comes through a screen. And I’m thankful. Really I am. But his hug reminded me not so gently that this is not the way.
Turns out I’m not quite as ok as I thought I was. Because that little guy’s hug brought to the surface the longing I have for community. It reminded me no amount of zooming or social media can take the place of face to face conversations or squeeze you tight hugs.
Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life.” Early believers weren’t called Christians they were followers of The Way. They understood it took a community of people gathering together to love and build each other up. We were created by a community (Father, Son, Spirit) for a community (the church).
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting we throw caution to the wind and ignore safe practice. For now, in this time, this is the path set before us. There are days I don’t mind it as much as others. Days I wash my hands and stand six feet away without much thought as if this is the way.
But it’s not. Make no mistake about it. THIS is NOT the way.
My little friend’s hug is God’s reminder even in the midst of quarantine and safe practice, the Way Maker is still at work. Even when I don’t see it the Miracle Worker is bringing Light in the Darkness, and I can trust the Promise Keeper no matter my circumstances because God never stops working.
That’s who God is.
Want to hear the complete song? Click on the link: Way Maker by Leeland.
Prince of Peace.
It’s hard to find peace these days.
Most mornings I have to ask myself what day it is. I think about how to get the things I need and consider if I really NEED them or not. Some moments are filled with joy while others bring tears. I wish at times I could go back to the days and months before this all happened, and at the same time wonder what life looks like on the other side.
Just this week the school cook (that’s me) burned the cinnamon toast and the chemistry teacher (that’s me too) said a bad word. I have learned the difference between a stringer and weave weld which was mesmerizing but probably not something I will ever use.
My student is struggling in English and doesn’t really have an interest in dystopian literature. In fact if it weren’t for text messages and social media he would never read a thing. To top it all off, I forgot an entire subject. While trying to figure out google classroom and which assignments go with which teacher, art slipped right by us. Now we have a lot of catching up to do.
As school time closes, thoughts whir in my mind. What’s next? Maybe I should start that project in the yard. Or I could finish the sewing project I started two months ago. Perhaps we could get a pool this summer since we probably won’t be traveling. Or a puppy! A puppy would be fun right now. My mind is on energizer bunny mode. Don’t be too concerned. I know these are the ways I’m attempting to escape the hard feelings and struggles of quarantine living. So I let my mind race and tell myself no… especially to the puppy thought.
Maybe this is how the disciples felt as they waited behind the locked door. Maybe they whispered to one another, “How long will this hiding continue? What will life look like on the other side. What’s next? What do we do next?”
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” —John 20:19
Right in the midst of their fear and anxiety and all their wondering Jesus appeared. His first words didn’t answer all their questions or give them the information about what to do next. Instead, he spoke words of peace.
Words that remind me peace doesn’t come from the ability to teach my son chemistry or virus numbers going down. It certainly doesn’t come from the screens I watch or the bleach wipes I use to clean, clean, clean.
Peace comes when Jesus steps through the locked door of my heart and whispers, Peace be with you.
In the momentary quiet of my mind I hear a song.
And may peace rain down from Heaven
Like little pieces of the sky
Little keepers of the promise
Falling on these souls
This drought has dried
In His Blood and in His Body
In the Bread and in this Wine
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you
Oh friends, if you are finding peace to be a minute by minute struggle I get it. I pray God steps through the locked door places in you and whispers…
Peace to you…
peace of Christ to you.
(Want to hear the entire song for yourself? Click on the link below.)
Peace of Christ by Rich Mullins
Less than two weeks to go. The end of Lent is in sight, and Easter waits just around the corner.
Only today marks the beginning of a new month and thirty more days of this virus war. I wake up wishing this was some kind of joke, but there’s no fooling around this April.
Today more businesses will close, and children will hear the news they will not return to school next week. While our healthcare friends and family fight on the frontlines, doing our part doesn’t mean doing much at all. This feels more like the end, but its only the beginning.
Jesus’ name, Alpha and Omega, is the reminder I need. This may be the beginning, but it is NOT the end.
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.–Revelation 22:13 (NIV)
It is difficult to wrap my mind around the idea that staying home, interacting with others as little as possible can actually help. The studies show it does. The studies, not yet fully tested, show if we cut our social interaction by 90 percent, the end will come sooner and leave the least amount of destruction in its wake.
In my limited interaction this week I noticed this is more difficult than we anticipate. Just a few days ago I went to the post office and stepped up to the counter to send a package. The nice lady stood at a distance and said, “Please move back to the line.” I stepped back and she stepped forward. We continued this until the transaction was done. I called it the social distancing dance. She smiled and agreed it felt very weird.
Yes! This is weird. It goes against our very nature because we were not created for isolation. God created us through the community of the Trinity, to be in community with each other. This battle we begin anew today is not how we were created to live.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”–Revelation 1:8 (NIV)
Thirty days or sixty or even more will not change this. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Jesus was… is… and is to come. Nothing. Not one thing will wipe away His-story.
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
Friends, there is power in these three statements. Might I suggest you give it a try? When you notice you’re feeling overwhelmed with the weight of it all, or fear grips you for the hundredth time in less than a day say the words. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
Then he said, “It’s happened. I’m A to Z. I’m the Beginning, I’m the Conclusion. From Water-of-Life Well I give freely to the thirsty. Conquerors inherit all this. I’ll be God to them, they’ll be sons and daughters to me.–Revelation 21:6 (The Message)
Life looks different around here, and I wake up feeling out of sorts most mornings. Still, Lent marches on day by day, and so do I. Only I’m not going to work as usual, instead I rise early to teach my high school-aged son algebra and English and chemistry. The first two aren’t so bad, but chemistry? Now that’s another story.
When school is over the sewing machines take center stage and I sew… mask after mask. Though I’m happy to do something just in case the need arises, it makes me sad, really sad.
Jesus’ name, Man of Sorrows, brings me great comfort in this moment. I think of his anger and frustration as he tossed tables in the temple. I remember his weeping with Mary when Lazarus died. Jesus experienced all the emotions I experience which means Jesus knows exactly where I am today.
He’ll not be turned away by my sadness or frustration, my buzzing thoughts and times of anxious energy. I used to think so. I used to think any “negative” emotion was a sign of little faith or spiritual growth. That’s just not true.
What I understand now is Jesus, Man of Sorrows, walks hand in hand with me in my most emotional moments. Jesus understands because he lived it. There’s no need to deny life stinks sometimes. No need to speak flowery prayer words to cover what I’m feeling in my heart. He knows. Oh, how he knows.
Isaiah’s words describe the Man of Sorrows…
This uncertain time ramps up my wrestling. I move from trusting God to anxious thoughts of what’s to come. I think about my oldest working in the medical field. The neighbor’s family in California. I wonder if the small business I co-own will survive. I second guess my reduced coming and going. Graduation, wedding, and retreat plans change minute by minute. I avoid media and binge watch at the same time. I find myself praying Moses’ words.
Lord, I’m not going if you’re not with me. Please… show me your glory.
Moses faced uncertain times too. God told him to leave Mt. Sinai, to head toward the promised land. Yet, God did not plan to go with them.
The Lord said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” —Exodus 33:1-3 (ESV)
Moses wrestled with God, interceded on behalf of the people. Literally told God he wouldn’t go without His presence. In the end Moses asked, Please, show me your glory.
And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”—Exodus 33:19-23 (ESV, emphasis added)
Moses stood on the rock, and God sheltered him in the cleft. With his very hand, God shielded Moses and kept him safe.
Jesus, The Glory of the Lord, is the rock on which we stand, our firm foundation holding fast in uncertain, stormy times.
Christ is our hiding place, the cleft in the rock, our refuge.
He is the hand that covers us and shields us in times of trouble and wrestling.
Then, after God passes by, he removes the covering so that we might see his glory.
This is good news in troubled times. Gives me hope in the wrestling. Reminds me in this moment, to wait and rest, for The Glory of the Lord is present.
And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” —Exodus 33:14 (ESV)
I have the wonderful privilege to lead a group of young adults in Sunday school. You might say I’m their teacher, but each week I learn more from them than they learn from me. We are a diverse little bunch with much to share and most Sunday mornings you’ll find us near the fireplace because one of us is often cold.
It wasn’t my plan, and I can’t remember exactly how we came to consider John’s words.
“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.
“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant.
John 15:1-8 The Message
I asked, “What does abiding in Christ look like for you?”
She responded, “There once was an old house in town covered by a vine. They wouldn’t remove the vine for fear the house might collapse. The vine held the house together.”
Whoa! The picture in my imagination comes back to me over and over. Because I want to be that house. The house where God grows in and out, weaving through every part of me. I want to be so intertwined with the Holy removing it would cause my collapse.
Let me encourage you, in this time when our eyes and ears are being consumed with uncertainty, to spend some time imagining God intertwined through every particle of your soul’s home.
…holding you up
…strengthening your faith
…keeping you together.
The free Israelite slaves were hungry. Really hungry. Like, let’s go back to slavery because at least we had food kind of hungry.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.–Exodus 16: 4
There’s that word again. Behold… look… watch… pay attention.
I imagine God might say it like this. “Watch. I’m about to provide bread for your hunger straight from heaven. Pay attention now, this is important. Gather enough for one day at a time. Don’t store it up in jars on your shelves or hoard it up in a grain bin. Each day when you get up, gather enough for the day. There will be plenty again tomorrow. Look, you can trust me on this. Do it my way.”
The next morning there it was, but they didn’t know what it was. So they called it manna, and each morning it was ready for gathering and grinding, and cooking. They learned to take what was needed for the day because the leftovers spoiled before their very eyes.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.–John 6:35
Jesus, the Bread of Life, is manna. He alone is able to quench my thirst and feed my hunger. Still, I’m prone to go looking for provisions in other places, and I’m especially good at storing it up.
Just last night the oldest son called from miles away and asked, “Should I be worried? The grocery stores are packed with people. Some things on the shelves are all gone. Have you ever seen it like this? Is there anything I should do that I haven’t thought about doing?”
My daughter called next. “Mom, the meeting today was pretty serious. We were told to wash our hands whenever possible to conserve things they know will be in short supply. They’re preparing for the worst, making sure we’re ready to provide care if we’re needed. I told them I was available to help if the time comes.”
I listened, reassured, reminded them of the God we serve, but when I hung up the phone, my unsettled mind began to reel. The mama in me wanted to call them right back and tell them to get home quick, to leave the cities they live in and let me shelter them. I considered my current household supplies and wondered if we have enough. I played the “what if…” game as I cooked dinner for the tractor driving boys.
In the midst of all my thinking I hear, “Behold. Pay attention. I am the Bread of Life.” It was a stop sign right there in the kitchen.
Stop the what-ifs because there is no way to prepare for the things of this world I cannot control.
Pay attention. No amount of stored up supplies will last forever, nor do I have the ability to shelter my loved ones from all the yuck going on around them.
Behold. Faith is not about taking care of myself, it is trusting Jesus, the Bread of Life, to provide for the daily nutrition of my mind, body, and soul. It is depending on Him to care for those I love. This isn’t easy for me because trusting doesn’t feel like I’m doing anything. But the truth is at this point there is not much I can do, and so I wait. I watch.
I pay attention to the One who knows exactly what to do and how to provide. I soak up the provision He gives for this day, and trust He’ll do it again tomorrow.
Lord, you know exactly what the world needs this very moment. So many of us are worried in the face of the unknown. Forgive us for any attempt we make to trust our own provision. Help us to be alert to your direction. Bring healing to those who are suffering from this illness. Comfort those who have lost loved ones. Show us how to trust and grow our faith. And Lord… if you’re willing… use us to love others like never before. Amen.
I notice the little word from yesterday in today’s scripture.
Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.–Isaiah 28:16
Pay attention… stop… listen! For God is laying a foundation, an invaluable Cornerstone on which to build our hearts’ home.
I hear the melody of a song. Christ alone, Cornerstone, weak made strong in the Savior’s arms. Through the storm He is Lord. Lord of all. The song’s lyrics put into words what I might say.
Take a moment to stop and listen by clicking on the link below.
What phrase draws your attention? Encourages you to keep going?
Stay a moment longer and be… be still… stand solidly on the sure foundation… behold the Cornerstone.
“Son, pay attention to what I’m saying.”
“Babe, are you listening to me?”
“Wow! would you look at that!”
I spend lots of time wondering, asking, demanding those I love to put aside their distractions. It’s not just about others, I constantly remind myself to stop, pay attention, and notice what is happening in the moment.
Life is busy. Success in this world equals getting things done. Our culture places a ton of value on final production. We say things like “time is money” and “there’s no rest for the weary.”
Go… go… go.
Do… do… do.
Work… work… work.
The going, doing and working leaves me feeling hurried, never enough, and lonely. I wonder if God is keeping up with me, and look for any sign of Presence. I yearn to slow down, to rest, to form real relationships.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.–Isaiah 7:14
In Isaiah’s prophecy there is a six-letter word I’m prone to miss as I quickly read the scripture. The only word in the entire sentence that gives me direction, tells me what to do. A word which holds the key to embracing Jesus’ name, Immanuel. It means God with us. Do you see it?
In other words, pay attention, take notice, stop. Look at this! My busy, busting at the seams life gives little room to notice God with me. It takes intention and a willingness to embrace Jesus as Immanuel. God with us. In every second and circumstance, every emotion and outburst, in all things Immanuel.
Won’t you take time today to behold the moments you notice God with you? Maybe look for God’s presence like a child on a scavenger hunt. Pay attention to thoughts and emotions that draw you closer to Him.
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!–John 1:29
And if you feel inspired by something to behold, I would love to hear from you. Just drop your thought in the comments.