September 29, 2017
Can I Borrow Your Umbrella?
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13
As the words tumbled out of her mouth, the room grew silent. The horror she described touched the deepest corners of our hearts. Her story was followed by someone else’s story which was closely followed by a third story. Suicide. Dementia. Rape. Abuse. Prejudice. Pain.
As my small group of running friends gathered to pray that night, I was struck by the depth of hurt surrounding each of us. Hurt that cuts so deep all hope is lost. Scaring hurt that builds walls around hearts. Hurt that mere words cannot reach. Hurt that can only be healed by a touch from God.
Our world is hurting. Our country is hurting. Our friends our hurting. Our family is hurting. Hope for many is fading. So what do we do? How can we help those who are struggling with painful issues? Paul offers us a few tips in Romans 15:1-13.
First the strong need to hold up the weak (Romans 15:1). We need to let our friends who are struggling stand under our umbrella of faith until the storm passes. If we are struggling we need to huddle under someone else’s faith umbrella.
Next, we need to embrace each other (Romans 15:5). Literally and figuratively we need to be hugging each other’s necks. Don’t shy away from hugging a friend and whispering hope into her ear. Be authentic. Stop hiding, pretending, judging, and criticizing. Let’s get real with each other.
Third, praise God for his mercy (Romans 15:9-11). The lies of Satan must be replaced with the truth of God’s word. When the waves of despair wash over you, turn on some praise music and float in Gods’ truth. Read back over the scripture you have been writing for the last nine months.
Last, pray (Romans 15:13). Pray for hope to be restored. Pray for healing. Pray for wisdom. Pray for strength. Pray for God to be revealed and glorified-no matter what. Just pray.
There is darkness all around us, but Jesus said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12
Things to ponder: Who needs a hug from you today? Reach out to a friend who may need to stand under your faith umbrella and offer to be her strength. Maybe you need to ask to stand under a friend's umbrella. Do it. Who do you need to pray for today?
Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth. Psalm 47:1-2
According to the Myers-Briggs personality test, I am an ISTJ which means when it comes to praise, my arms stay pinned to my sides and my toes barely tap, but my insides dance as I sing praise to my God. I find it hard to release myself from the constraints of my Baptist upbringing, our traditional, trying to be contemporary church, and my introversion to freely move my body to the rhythm of the music and joy in my heart. My eyes dart around looking to see if others have been freed from the chains of tradition and introversion hoping their freedom will open the door for mine. I long to be unencumbered by the customs of my conservative upbringing and raise my hands high in praise.
Psalm 47 calls us to shout for joy and sing praises to our King because he is a great and mighty “king over all the earth…God reigns over the nations and God sits on his holy throne.” Maybe your praise is locked inside of your body with two-left feet and no sense of rhythm like mine, but I challenge you today to get in your car or shower, pick your favorite praise song, turn up the volume, and sing loud! Give yourself permission and freedom to “shout to God with LOUD songs of joy!” Do it today. Do it often and maybe you will find it a little easier to unpin your arms and raise your hands in worship when you heart moves you in praise.
After the Storm
Philippians 4: 4-9
Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say rejoice. Philippians 4:4 (ESV)
An entire community heaved a collective sigh of relief and breathed short billowy breaths of thankfulness. Words of gratitude twisted and spiraled around every conversation. “What could have been” was a mantra repeatedly spoken everywhere. We were spared the worst. The worst hurricane in the history of the United States had taken aim at our state, and more importantly our west coast community, and played a deadly game of chicken with us. We spent over a week anticipating the arrival of Hurricane Irma. The 48 hours before her arrival were a whirlwind activity: boarding windows, buying water and nonperishable food supplies, stocking the house with flashlights and batteries. The next 24 hours were spent waiting and watching the strength and track of the storm as it moved west across the Caribbean. Irma remained a Category 4 with the strongest part of it tracking straight for us carrying with her 155 mile an hour sustained winds.
As Irma pounded Cuba and the Keys, I knelt washing out the bathtub in order to fill it with water in case we lost power and our ability to our flush toilets and I prayed one last time, “Lord, should we stay or should we go? Please give me a peace about what we were supposed to do.” Five minutes later my son’s mother-in-law texted me: “Kim, y’all need to come!!!” We left within the hour.
Our family decided to evacuate to the east coast of the state about six hours before the storm arrived. Other families stayed. Some families left five days earlier fleeing to Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and even Las Vegas. Regardless of what each family did in that moment faced with a storm beyond what any of us could imagine, our decisions were based on what we felt was best for our families and what we believed God was leading us to do.
Paul writes to us in Philippians about the peace of God which will guard our hearts in Christ. He tells us to not be anxious about anything, but to pray about everything. I wish I could say I wasn’t anxious at all during the storm, but I was. It’s hard not to worry when the media is telling you your house is going to shake and the wind is going to howl and it will be catastrophic (Think tornado for hours not minutes). I knew God was in control, but I also knew we needed to be wise. I am grateful for the prayers that were lifted up for our safety and protection. I am thankful that the storm downgraded before it reached us, causing minimal damage. But, I know that my thankfulness should not come solely from the outcome of the storm, but from the Lord himself. People in Houston and New Orleans prayed for God’s protection during Harvey and Katrina too and many lost everything.
Paul states that our gratitude and peace are not based on positive circumstances, disaster avoidance, or supernatural interventions. It is based in the Lord. Period. Is it easier to be grateful when things turn out well? Sure, it is. But, I want to learn to be grateful in all things and I am going to start by thinking about the things that are honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise. And I have seen plenty of these things in these few days after the storm and I am grateful.
Waiting on Irma
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-3
Every muscle in my body is crying out for some rest. I have spent the last 10 hours preparing for the arrival of Irma. Cases of water have been moved from the garage to the laundry room. Christmas decorations have finally been stored in the attic. Outdoor patio furniture has found a new home inside the house. Plywood has been lifted and tacked up outside to protect our windows. The floors have been vacuumed and swept (why I felt the need to do that I really don’t know). Loads of laundry have been washed and folded. A supply of nonperishable food has been purchased.
A few more errands remain for tomorrow, but as of right now, we have done all that we can in order to prepare for the largest hurricane we have ever faced in our 18 years living in Florida. So, we wait. We wait not knowing what the next four days will bring us. We wait to hear whether we will face tropical storm type winds or full force hurricane ones. We wait for Irma to decide which way she is going to go and how much fury she is going to unleash across the state of Florida.
Waiting in the unknown is not easy. Facing unknown and uncontrollable challenges produces a wide range of reactions from people. Panic was palpable and rapidly spread around us on Tuesday. Stress swirled in the air and was clenched tightly in balled up hands and tightly strung shoulders. Words of anger and frustration spilled out from worried filled individuals in grocery lines and gas stations. Freaked out friends sought solace for their fears by repeatedly asking “Should we stay or should we go?”
James tells us to “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” Hurricanes have a way of testing your faith. Facing a major hurricane has a way of making you realize how little control you actually have over this life. No matter what I do, I cannot stop the wind or the rain that is coming my way. The only thing I can do is to prepare and then rest. I need to rest in the knowledge that the God I love is in control. I need to rest in the truth that no matter what happens through these hard days of preparation, storm, and recovery, God will work to build in me a steadfastness of faith that is complete, perfect and lacking in nothing.
I am currently eerily calm in the face of an unknown storm, not because I am in control, but because I know God is and I am counting on Him to see me through whatever comes my way.
Joy comes not from the absence of hard times, but from the presence of faith in hard times.
Be praying for all of us who live in Florida and are enduring the biggest hurricane this state has ever faced.
Sandwiched Between Love and Peace
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
Have you ever really stopped to think about this list of fruit? My lists can be kind of random- usually starting with the first thing that pops into my mind, or the first thing that is needed from the grocery store, or the chore that needs the most attention, or more likely the easiest task to finish. Sometimes my lists are chronological, or date oriented, or less often they might reflect my true list of priorities.
When I stop and look at Paul’s list of fruit, joy is sandwiched between love and peace. It is second on the list. Behind love, but in front of peace. I am not a Greek scholar, but for today I am going to take Paul’s list at face value and say joy follows love and precedes peace. Joy doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It needs love and peace surrounding it.
In the prior verses, Paul laid out the rotten fruit that is grown naturally in our lives. Yucky fruit. Fruit like envy, drunkenness, divisions, dissensions, strife, jealousy, and others. No one wants that fruit. But, Paul doesn’t leave it there. He follows that list with the list of fruit we want. Good fruit. Healthy fruit. Delicious fruit. And he starts with love.
Good fruit has to start with love. God’s love for us and our love for him. We can’t have good fruit in our lives without a relationship with Jesus (vs. 24-25). We can’t experience the next fruit on the list, joy, until we have love. Joy is grounded in God’s love for us and our confidence in that love. If I am firmly planted in God’s love, I can filter the stresses of life through that truth and be confident it’s all going to be okay in the end. That confidence frees me to enjoy each day God has given me and I can smile on the inside. If I am confident that my God’s got me and all my “stuff” under control, I experience the next fruit, peace. When my soul is content and confident in God’s goodness, my soul can be at peace.
Fruit. Sometimes it yucky and rotten, but sometimes its ripe, fresh and amazing. So, let’s prune our trees of the rotten fruit growing there and start grafting God’s good fruit into our lives. First on the list, love. Followed closely by joy.
Things to ponder: What is one thing you can do today to nurture your love for God? What is one rotten fruit you need to ask God to prune from your life? Take a moment and reflect on your day. Find one touch you experienced from God and let that moment of love fill your heart with joy. Then rest in it, if only for a few minutes.
Between a husband, 2 sons, and teaching high school my sanity is found in running and Starbucks. I have a circle of running friends who inspire me to be authentic and real as I live a life of faith before them.