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

Blink of An Eye

It’s just not comforting for my heart to think my son is looking down on me from Heaven.

I can’t reconcile the idea that he might be watching my sorrow with what the Bible says about Heaven being a place of joy and peace.  

But I do love the idea that he’s outside time and so isn’t “waiting” on reunion the same way I am. 

No matter how many years it may be, it will be only a “blink of an eye” for him.  ❤

Blink of an eye heaven

Discombobulated

Yep.  It’s a real word.  

And it sounds just like what it is-mixed up, disoriented and confused.  Like a kid spun around with a blindfold playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey at his five-year-old birthday party. 

That’s me.

I depend on routine, habit, regular workflow patterns to help me remember what I need to do and when.  So if something (or a bunch of somethings!) interrupt my tired old footpath through the day, it confuses me.

not to brag but i can forget what im doing

I’m confused.  

This summer has been full of random life events that guaranteed I couldn’t lean into my dependable routines for support and comfort.

So I’m winging it-more or less.  

Actually more of the time it IS less but who’s checking?

stressed is desserts spelled backwards

Anyway, it’s been a good reminder that I’m not in control and that what absolutely MUST be done always manages to get done.  And if the other stuff falls by the wayside, then it wasn’t nearly as important as I once thought it was.

I need to be reminded. 

Because it’s easy to be frustrated over things that aren’t worth the effort, to get my priorities mixed up and let myself fall prey to the tyranny of the urgent and ignore the supremacy of the important.  

tyranny of urgent sticky notes

Speaking of which, I think I’ll take a break, go outside and get some fresh air.  

The vacuuming can wait.

And the laundry,

and the dusting,

and the….

goat i must go my people need me

The Danger of Rushing to Serve After Loss

There are all kinds of doubts that creep in and take up residence in a mind after child loss.

Most of them have to do with the child that ran ahead to heaven.

But many are also about me:  “What should I be doing? Where should I go from here?” 

For those of us active in church ministries, we wonder, When do I return to service?”

There can be a lot of pressure to “get back in the saddle” if you fill a large role in a particular ministry.

No one ever wants to find a replacement for an effective Sunday School teacher, youth worker or hospitality hostess.  It’s hard when you have months of warning and nearly impossible when the vacancy opens up suddenly and unexpectedly.

But does the difficulty in finding my replacement mean that the burden is on me to keep serving, even when I am utterly broken, empty and unable to do so?

I don’t think so.  

I’ve learned many things through child loss and one of them is this:  the world still turns and things still get done in spite of the absence of any single person.

God invites us to join in the work He is doing in the world.  It is HIS work, not mine.  And He will absolutely assure that it gets done.  If I am unavailable to fill a position, then He will raise up another to fill it.

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  

His yoke is easy, His burden light.  

yoke-of-oxen

We are never to serve out of a place of exhaustion, weariness, emptiness.  

Grief certainly exhausts us, wears us down and depletes our resources.  

Take a season-as long a season as necessary-to allow the Holy Spirit to minister grace, mercy and love to your broken heart.  That is the calling of Christ on our lives.  To listen and follow our Shepherd-our Gentle Shepherd-who promises to bind up our wounds and tend our shattered souls.

heals the broken hearted

People who have not suffered the death of a child will not understand.  But it won’t be the first time you’ve been misunderstood if you’ve ministered for more than a minute.

Don’t let others’ expectations or your own fear of failure keep you from hearing the call of your loving Father to come to Him, to lean on Him, to rest in His arms as He sings over you.

rejoice over you with singing

There will be a day for ministry again.  

I promise.  

crown of beauty planting of the lord

 

No More “Quiet Mouse” For Me

Believe me, I’ve imposed my share of“Quiet Mouse” on my own kids through the years.

Raising four close-in-age siblings, sometimes that was the only way to make the last five miles home without losing my mind.

But the premise of the game is really this:  I’m bigger, I’m stronger, I’m in control and you are not-so shut up.

Even if you have something important to say.  

Even if you feel like you will burst wide open if you have to hold it in.

No excuses allowed.  Just. Be. Quiet.

quiet_as_a_mouse (2)
Peace at all costs.

I’ve been a quiet mouse for most of my life when it comes to standing up for myself.

Now, advocating for my children or for someone unable to fend for themselves-that’s another story.  But somewhere in my formative years I embraced the message that the most important thing in the world was to keep the peace.

Even if you have something important to say.

Even if you feel like you will burst wide open if you have to hold it in.

No excuses allowed.  Just. Be. Quiet.

But all this emotional turmoil I’ve been feeling since Dominic left us has uncovered layer after layer of brokenness, pain and untold stories.  His death lifted the lid on the vault that had been sealed for decades.

Emotions are flying out like genies.

genie-lamp

And I’ve come to understand that peace at all costs-when the costs are borne by a single individual in a relationship-is not peace. 

It’s slavery.

I also realize that not every friendship and family tie is a mission field on which I must spill my life’s blood to prove my love for Jesus.

Sometimes laying down simply enables bad behavior and encourages bullying and disrespect.  

angry-man-pointing-finger

I want to walk in love.  Always. 

But love does not mean I must allow other people to walk all over me.  

I don’t plan to. 

No more “Quiet Mouse” for me.

not-required-set-yourself-on-fire-life-daily-quotes-sayings-pictures

Advent for the Brokenhearted: Peace Foretold

Peace is elusive in the best of times. 

Even in the absence of all out war (emotional, physical or spiritual) most of us dwell in a kind of no-man’s-land where we might not fear for our lives, but we are not exactly content and satisfied.

And in the world of afterloss, peace seems like a fairy tale promise best relegated to children’s stories and Hallmark movies.

But God knows my heart.  He knows my pain.  He has made a way for me to experience peace even here, even now.

It’s not the “and they lived happily ever after” peace where every little thing is tied up in a neat package with a perfect bow.

Instead it is the firm assurance that no matter how messy and untidy our lives are, He is in control.

It is a promise that regardless of circumstances, we can rely on Him.

God gave Isaiah frightening visions of the destruction Israel would face.  But He also gave Isaiah precious promises of the restoration and redemption that He would bring to His people.

It speaks hope to my heart that this passage begins with “a green shoot will sprout from Jesse’s stump”. Most days,  I feel like my life has been cut off to the ground.

I feel like there is not much left for even God to work with. 

JESSES-TREE-GREEN-SHOOT

But Jehovah is the God of Hope. 

He is the God Who breathes life into dry bones and brings forth new growth from old stumps.

I may feel like it’s over, but it’s not. 

I may feel like peace has fled, never to return, but that is a lie.

“But on this humbled ground, a tiny shoot, hopeful and promising,
    will sprout from Jesse’s stump;
A branch will emerge from his roots to bear fruit.
And on this child from David’s line, the Spirit of the Eternal One will alight and rest.
By the Spirit of wisdom and discernment
    He will shine like the dew.
By the Spirit of counsel and strength
    He will judge fairly and act courageously.
By the Spirit of knowledge and reverence of the Eternal One,
    He will take pleasure in honoring the Eternal.
He will determine fairness and equity;
    He will consider more than what meets the eye,
And weigh in more than what he’s told.

So that even those who can’t afford a good defense
    will nevertheless get a fair and equitable judgment.
With just a word, He will end wickedness and abolish oppression.
    With nothing more than the breath of His mouth, He will destroy evil.
He will clothe himself with righteousness and truth;
    the impulse to right wrongs will be in his blood.

With unwavering steps and integrity uncompromised, He will establish peace.

A day will come when the wolf will live peacefully beside thewobbly-kneed lamb,
    and the leopard will lie down with the young goat;
The calf and yearling, newborn and slow, will rest secure with the lion;
    and a little child will tend them all.
Bears will graze with the cows they used to attack;
    even their young will rest together,
    and the lion will eat hay, like gentle oxen.
8-9 Neither will a baby who plays next to a cobra’s hole
    nor a toddler who sticks his hand into a nest of vipers suffer harm.
All my holy mountain will be free of anything hurtful or destructive,
    for as the waters fill the sea,
The entire earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Eternal.

10 Then on that day, that root from Jesse’s line
    will stand as a signal for the peoples of the world
Who will come to Him seeking guidance and direction;
    and glory will be restored to the land where He resides.

Isaiah 11: 1-10 VOICE

Where’s That Peace Jesus Promised?

Horatio Spafford wrote the hymn, It Is Well,  after a series of personal tragedies.

It has become both an anthem of hope (for those who can identify with the peace it celebrates) and an impossible standard (for those who cannot find the same peace).

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

I have felt both hopeful and guilty singing this old favorite.

Before Dominic ran ahead to heaven I had faced a number of trials in life.  But none disturbed me so greatly that I didn’t still have an underlying sense of peace.  I was convinced that beneath waves of uncertainty or difficulty, the water was calm.

That changed the morning of April 12, 2014-my son’s death wasn’t a wave, it was a tsunami.  

Not a single part of my spirit, soul, mind or body was left undisturbed.

Peace was a distant memory.  

It took me a long time to understand that maybe I needed to redefine peace in a different way: the peace of God which passes all understanding is not necessarily a feeling or sense that “all is well”.

Instead it is a settled assurance that God is in control, even when all is definitely NOT well.

The peace that Jesus offers is a confident leaning on the truth of Scripture when my heart doesn’t want to or can’t hear it.

It’s holding my hands up and saying “help me” because deep in my spirit, I know He is there and that He will gather me in his arms like a lamb.

More than three years later, I still often don’t FEEL peaceful but I AM peace-filled.