Scripture Journal Challenge: When Peace Is Only A Whisper

My heart is so broken over the recent mass shootings in Gilroy, Dayton, El Paso and Chicago.

Senseless violence spurred by hate.

I’m equally broken over Syria, the opioid epidemic and human trafficking.

It seems the world is spiraling downward into chaotic violence and unbridled hatred.

Peace feels like a distant hope, a faint whisper, a ridiculous aspiration of those who aren’t willing to see things as they are.

Our generation is not the first to feel this way.

The disciples were definitely not feeling peaceful as Jesus revealed that He was going away. They were afraid and confused. They could not imagine how the life they had come to know with the Rabbi they had come to love could continue without Him.

Jesus didn’t dismiss their fears. Instead He spoke words of comfort:

“I have told you these things while I am still with you. 26 But the [a]Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you.27 Peace I leave with you; My [perfect] peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. [Let My perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge.] ~ Jesus, to His disciples

John 14: 25-27 AMP

There’s all kinds of good news in this passage!

Jesus promised that although He wouldn’t be with them, He wasn’t leaving them alone.

The Holy Spirit was coming to comfort, counsel, strengthen and help them.

I love this rendering of these verses precisely because it teases out the various roles of the third Person of the Godhead. (If you want to be encouraged, look up all these words used to describe Him.)

Jesus assured them (and us) that they didn’t have understand everything right now. The Spirit was going to be there to remind them.

And then He promises peace.

But not just any peace-the perfect peace of God that passes all understanding.

The peace that transcends circumstances because it is based on the settled assurance that God is in control, that every promise He made is sure and that I am neither forgotten nor forsaken.

Fear reigns in the hearts of many-even those who believe in Jesus.

And if I trust in the government, or the police, or myself to keep me safe, I have every reason to be fearful.

But when I rest completely in Jehovah-Shalom, the LORD Who is Himself my Peace, I can be assured that I am safe.

Not safe from all harm, but safe in His love and care.

QUESTIONS:

  • What do you think about the Holy Spirit? Have you ever considered the many ways He ministers to believers? Why or why not?
  • Just a little while after Jesus spoke the words we’re considering today, He said ,”Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you. ” (John 16:7) Does this shock you? Why or why not?
  • Sometimes people complain that it’s hard to understand Scripture. I usually reply with two suggestions: (1) get an easy to understand translation (not paraphrase) and; (2) ask the Holy Spirit to guide your heart and mind into truth. How do you approach Scripture study? Will today’s exploration change your approach?
  • Write your own definition of peace. Do you think peace is possible in the world or only possible in Heaven?
  • When have you felt a supernatural peace calm your soul?
  • How can we share the peace of Christ with others?

PRAYER:

Lord, You are Three in One. Too often I think about and am grateful for the Father and Son but neglect the Holy Spirit. And yet He is the One Who helps me in my weakness, Who prays for me when groans are all I can muster and Who leads me into all truth.

Thank You for not leaving me alone. Thank You for sending the Comforter.

Help me listen better to what He has to say to me. Help me lean into the truth He leads me into. Let that truth guide my heart to Your peace.

Amen

What I’m Learning From Other Bereaved Parents

There’s a kind of relational magic that happens when people who have experienced the same or similar struggle get together.  

In an instant, their hearts are bound in mutual understanding as they look one to another and say, “Me too. I thought I was the only one.”

It was well into the second year after Dominic ran ahead to heaven that I found an online bereaved parent support group.  After bearing this burden alone for so many months, it took awhile before I could open my heart to strangers and share more than the outline of my story.

But, oh, when I did! What relief!  What beautiful support and affirmation that every. single. thing. that was happening to me and that I was feeling was normal!

me too sharing the path

I have learned so much from these precious people.  

Here’s a few of the nuggets of wisdom I carry like treasure in my heart:  

Everyone has a story.  No one comes to tragedy a blank slate.  They have a life that informs how or if they are able to cope with this new and terrible burden.  Not everyone has the same resources I do-emotional, spiritual or otherwise.  Don’t put expectations on someone based on my own background.  Be gracious-always.  

Everyone deserves to be heard.  Some folks really only have one or two things that they insist on saying over and over and over again.  That’s OK.  If they are saying them, it’s because they need to be heard.  Lots of folks do not have a safe space to speak their heart.  But it’s only in speaking aloud the things inside that we can begin to deal with them.

Everyone (or almost everyone) is worried that they aren’t doing this “right”.  Society brings so much pressure to bear on the grieving.  “Get better”, “Get over it”, “Move on”.  And when we can’t, we think there is something dreadfully wrong with us.  But there isn’t.  Grief is hard and takes time no matter what the source.  But it is harder and takes a lifetime when it’s your child.  Out of order death is devastating.  “Normal” is anything that keeps a body going and a mind engaged in reality without being destructive to oneself or others.

Everyone can be nicer than they think they can.  Here’s the deal:  I THINK a lot of things.  I don’t have to SAY (or write!) them.  I’ll be honest, sometimes my first response to what someone shares is not very nice.  But when I take a breath and consider what might help a heart instead of hurt one, I can usually find a way to speak truth but also courage.  Snark is never helpful.  If I can’t say anything nice, then I just scroll on by.

Everyone has something to give.  I’ve learned that even the most broken, the most unlovely, the least well-spoken persons have something to offer.  It may take a little dusting off to find the beauty underneath, but my heart is stretched when I take time and put forth effort to truly listen to what’s being said instead of just ignoring it because of how it’s said.

Everyone deserves grace.  Because I am the recipient of grace, it is mine to give-without fear of running out-to every other heart I meet.  Sometimes I forget this.  I want to apply a different measure to others than I want applied to me.  But grace is the oil that greases human relationships.  Freely given and freely received, it provides a safe space for hearts to experience healing.

Everyone is standing on level ground when we gather at the foot of the cross.  There’s no hierarchy in God’s kingdom.  We are all servants.  I am responsible to my Master for walking in love and doing the good works He has prepared beforehand for me to do.  My works are not your works and your works are not my works.  I need to keep my eyes on Jesus, not on others always trying to see if I(or they!) “measure up”.  The standard is our Shepherd and only grace and mercy can help me strive for that goal.

Everyone needs courage.  When Jesus gave His charge to the disciples He told them it was “better for you that I go”What??? How could that be better?  But it WAS.  Because when Jesus returned to the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit as the personal, indwelt connection to Himself.  He knew they would need courage to make it through. The Spirit calls courage to our hearts.  And we are given the privilege of calling courage to one another.  The bravest among us quivers sometimes.  You’d be surprised how often one word is the difference between letting go and holding on.

There are dozens more things I could share.

I have met some of the kindest, wisest and most grace-filled people this side of child loss.

They have been the purest example of the Body of Christ I’ve ever known.  

I am thankful for what they are teaching me.

heart hands and sunset

The Fight For Joy is Not for the Unarmed

 

the fight for joy is not for the unarmed

This is very true.

I found that when I received the news of my son’s accident-it was Scripture I had hidden in my heart that helped me stand.

My Bible was available, but I could not open it. My heart was too broken to read.

But the Spirit brought to mind exactly what I needed from the storehouse of Scripture hidden in my heart.

I am still fighting for joy.  

I still have days when my Bible lies unopened beside me.  

And it is still those verses engraved on my heart that help me battle on.  

DCIM100MEDIA
DCIM100MEDIA

 

 

Repost: Move Over, Make Room for the Broken

I used to position myself at the end of the pew, just in case someone I’m not too comfortable with might come along and try to sit down.

It saved us both that awkward conversation where they ask if they can join me and I say “yes” with my mouth but “no” with my body language.

Read the rest here:  Move Over, Make Room for the Broken

Dig the Well BEFORE You are Thirsty

I am not a fan of church signs.

Most of the time they try to be cute and reduce eternal truth to a few words that often leave room for [mis]interpretaion.

But I saw one today that I DID like:  “Dig the well before you are thirsty”.

It takes time to dig a well.  

And it’s hard work.  

You can’t wake up one morning, decide to dig and expect results in a couple of hours. If you want a reliable source of water to quench your thirst you have to plan ahead.

thirsty-for-god

It’s been my habit for about 25 years to wake early in the morning, read my Bible and journal.  I started this practice when my children were young and boisterous and our active household meant once they were awake I’d have no time for quiet meditation.

But after reading Scripture for so long, I’d noticed the stories had become too familiar.  I would read through some of them with a “yeah, yeah-heard that before” attitude.

So I committed to SLOW DOWN and force my heart to look carefully and listen closely to what the Spirit was speaking from the page.

I decided I would read just a single chapter each day and copy out a verse or two that stood out into my journal along with notes and comments.  I found as I went along that it was harder and harder to choose only a couple of verses, so I began to copy whole chapters. 

Of course I missed a day or two here and there so it took about three and a half years. 

Just a few months before Dominic left us, I finished my slow journey through the Bible.  I had copied out most of it by hand in six journals.  I had underlined and circled and annotated the pages, making it my own.

I was digging my well.  

I had no clue that I would be desperately thirsty in such a short time.

The morning I received the awful news-my heart shattered, my world spinning, my life undone-words of Truth bubbled to the surface unbidden.  

Living Water sprang forth from the deep well of promise that was dug before I knew I needed it.

When I began my slow walk through Scripture, I didn’t know what the future held.

But my Shepherd-Who knows the end from the beginning-was leading me.

When my hands trembled too much to open the pages of my Bible and my eyes were too full of tears to see the print, the words stored up in the well of my heart spilled out to soothe my soul.  

I continue to draw from this deep well and drink the Living Water.  

well-living-water

It is a source of life and hope and sustaining strength until that day when a well will no longer be needed-when faith will be sight and I possess what has been promised.   

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.

And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.

“And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who [e]heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”

Revelation 22:1-7 NASB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Move Over, Make Room for the Broken

I used to position myself at the end of the pew, just in case someone I’m not too comfortable with might come along and try to sit down.

It saved us both that awkward conversation where they ask if they can join me and I say “yes” with my mouth but “no” with my body language.

Frankly, I was at church to be lifted up so I could face the coming week with power and strength. I didn’t want to be dragged down by their reality of brokenness and sometimes bitter tears.

I don’t do that anymore.

I realize that most of what made me uncomfortable was other people’s pain.

Now I’m the one who’s broken.  I’m the one who can’t get through “Amazing Grace” without blubbering.

And I’m the one that others hope won’t ask to join THEM.

But here’s the deal:  God loves the broken.  Christ came for the broken.  It’s the broken and breathless who long for the Spirit to blow life across their wounded hearts.

It’s the hopeless and fearful that run faster to the safety of their Shepherd.

It’s the worried and weary who are thankful for a Burden-bearer.

When I refuse to move over and make room for the broken, I’m barring the way for the very ones who most desperately need the blessing.  When I want my worship experience to exclude those who haven’t the strength to bring their own hearts before the throne of grace, I’m being selfish.  

And that is sin.

Jesus went out of His way to heal the hurting,

to bless the broken and

to speak strength to the weary.

So now I sit in the middle of the pew and leave room for whoever God brings my way.

I want to be an open door, not a gatekeeper.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ~Jesus

(Matthew 11:28-30 PHILLIPS)

Surrender

“Follow Me,”  Jesus said to the twelve.

“Follow Me,” Jesus said to me when I was just a child.

“Yes,” I replied-not knowing or counting the cost. 

If it was a single commitment without opportunity for turning back then it would be easy.

But it’s not.  

Every day I have to face the question, “Did God REALLY say?” Boy that serpent knew just where to aim the spear of doubt so it would cause the greatest damage.

Can I believe that God is in control?  Can I believe that He is good?  Can I believe that He loves me?

Can I believe all those things when my circumstances scream, “NO!”

But I HAVE to believe.  

Because if I can’t trust God, then I am without hope.  If I can’t rely on His Word then there’s no foundation and no future.  If He is not Who He says He is, then I should just quit now.

So I find myself at the foot of the cross, again.  Facing my fears and having to choose: Who shall I serve?

choose this day lion

Surrender is hard.  Daily surrender is harder.

I cannot remake my heart.  I cannot breathe life into my own breathless soul. 

I can only place myself on the altar and allow God’s Spirit to do it for me.

So here I am.

Again.

Brothers and sisters, God has shown you his mercy. So I am asking you to offer up your bodies to him while you are still alive. Your bodies are a holy sacrifice that is pleasing to God. When you offer your bodies to God, you are worshiping him in the right way.

Romans 12: 1 NIRV