Peace

Family of Swans Swim Across Misty Foggy Autumn Fall Lake At Sunr

Grasping, reaching, with desperate hands
Peace can slip through fingers like a handful of morning mist
Hiding in the shadows of fears
Tangled beneath a maze of insight
Compressed by cowering turmoil
But it’s still there
Not lost
Not vanished
Not taken away
Just buried
Waiting to be excavated by Your gentle touch
As tears wash fears to the surface exposing their tangled roots
And panic yields to surrender
And pain gives way to brokenness
It seeps in between the cracks of terror and pain
Its cool tendrils wind through the labyrinth
Covering all in a cool, shadowy blanket of rest
Still and quiet, with hands enfolded in His

 

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A Bent Tree

Pine on a rock.

Buffeted by winds, storm, isolation
Bent low, stripped of bark and needles
Twisted, pushed, stretched

Lashed by rain, hail, ice
Buried by snow and glacier
Threatened, thrashed, eroded

Held by the Rock, Mountain, Fortress
Encircled by light and endless horizon
Gripped, Nourished, Valued

Held by the Rock

A stake in the ground

I worked a deal out with God quite some time ago. I won’t lie to him.

I lived many years of my life telling God what I thought I was supposed to say. Saying words about what I felt that I really didn’t. Speaking words of right theology while desperately clinging to my own control, anchoring my hope in people and dreams, and actually being quite afraid that God was in my corner.

If my theology bears any relationship to truth, this was and is really ludicrous. For real. As if I could pull the wool over the eyes of the one who knit me together, counts my hair, knows all my thoughts, and holds me with his righteous right hand. But life is not to be found by pretending that the knowledge in my head is what my soul believes. It’s like putting a band aid on a gunshot wound in my chest. Through grace and power, God chipped away at the pretense that ruled my life for so long. That’s a story from a long time ago, but it still has pervasive impact on the me-who-is-now.

In the now, I’m being rocked by an ongoing tough time. My faith is stretched, my heart is bruised, and hope seems more like a distant light in the fog than a full sun on a cloudless Texas day. And I won’t lie to God about what I’m feeling. Again and again, through truth I have found life and freedom.

So here’s the truth. I trust God. And that’s not easy to say. I trust him to work for my good and the good of those I love – even when the hard outweighs the good for years. I trust him to intervene with power and might so that his glory and purposes will draw people to him, even if I or people I love feel hurt in the process. I trust him, even though I fear that the mess-that-is-me will get in the way of his good and glory.

At the moment, my trust is not a brazen and confident trust like young David facing a giant, or Paul before the statue of the unknown god, or Peter preaching to a city, or Stephen radiating peace on his knees. This is a desperate and tremulous trust like Jeremiah after being pulled out of the prison pit of persecution, Elijah isolated and discouraged at the mouth of a mountain cave, Hannah blabbering on her knees at the temple, or Naomi leaving graves behind for a lonely journey to an uncertain future.

I know the stakes. Trusting doesn’t mean I’m instantaneously teleported to bliss. Trusting means counting the cost, enduring, persevering, clinging, seeking, waiting, and dying to myself with no meaningful control on my part of the direction or length of the journey to something easier. I really don’t like this part. Just because trials produce character and hope, just because my heartache can be used for his glory, just because all things work for the good of those who love Him, doesn’t mean I’m doing a jig for joy that things are hard. I’d rather things not be hard.

But even though they are, I’ll trust. I’ll wait. I’ll seek. And I’ll rejoice that His glory and purposes cannot be contained or constrained by my fears, worries, or doubt.

I wrote that yesterday. This afternoon, our family was rocked by yet another variation of crisis and stress. Confusion, anxiety and fear undermined any confidence that I had been making right or wise choices. I felt trapped in a bog and had no idea how to break free. And then all I could think of were the words I had written.

I trust God.

If that’s true then I believe that he has power and authority over the crisis and stress. If that’s true, then for some reason he is allowing or choosing to let the crises come. That’s challenging. If he doesn’t have authority, then he’s not worthy of being God. If he doesn’t make it poof away, then it feels like he doesn’t care. Or worse, that he’s the author of harm. An age old conundrum that philosophers and theologians and seekers have wrestled with. I’m not going to add anything new to the grandness of that discussion. But I have to decide.

Do I trust God in the midst of the crisis?

I choose to trust.

I asked God for wisdom and clarity to make immediate choices. To know with certainty where to put my foot next. And over the course of three hours we received unanimous confirmation that the path we have been following has been the correct course and the next step is to stay on this path.

I’m grateful for wisdom and so appreciate the clarity. But I still ache for healing, balance, and life to descend so that the storm will end. In the meantime, I will trust.

When Normalcy is a Perpetual Storm

We know that tough stuff is going to hit us periodically. It’s just part of life. But we have this assumption that crap is supposed to be the exception. That we get thorough it. To the good part. That trials and tribulations should only last for a while. And then be done, occasionally resurfacing to be replaced by the good life.

But what happens when the tough stuff doesn’t quit. When it just goes on and on and on. When living means going from one crisis to another crisis to another crisis with stress and hurt and fear continuing unabated with no expectation that it will end. How do you live with hope when the hard part never quits? How do you soar on wings of eagles? Run and not faint? How does your joy overflow when your heart is shredded with worry and sadness?

I’m a person of faith. I believe deeply and sincerely that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the good news for all people, and the Reconciler of God and man. I look to my faith, Scripture, and fellow believers for life answers. And I look to God for hope and healing. But right now, I’m tired. I’m not full of the assurance of things hoped for or confident of the things unseen. I’m overwhelmed, sad, and gripped by fear for someone I love. Again. Or is it still.

I can’t tell you the details, because this life I’m living is not isolated from others. My story is entangled with others and their story is not for me to tell. So I’m not going to share the gritty, unpleasant details of heartache, crisis, stress, and worry that has filled my life for a long time. But it’s what’s normal for me.

For some time, I thought I was “handling” it all pretty well. God felt close even as life morphed from one stress to another crisis to another heartache. I experienced joy, peace, and hope. I’m surrounded by a community of people who love me, support me, bring me encouragement, and pray for me. I often get to share encouragement with others who are dealing with difficulties, perhaps especially because I understand what it’s like to walk through the fire.

But right now, I’m not handling it well. My body is telling me that’s it’s been abused by too much worry. Sleep is a challenge. I’m indescribably annoyed with the crying but can’t make it stop. I really, really don’t want to be around people. And I don’t want to talk with God. I’m mad. Very, very angry with the Lord of Lords, Maker of the Universe, and Redeemer of my life. I feel betrayed, ignored and alone. He answers trivial prayers – the small stuff. But on things that really matter – life and death, wellness and wholeness, about people I love so deeply I’d give my life for them without hesitation – He’s silent and nothing changes. At least not the way I want it to change.

So why am I writing. To complain about God. No. I’m writing to declare that I still have faith. Sometimes, I’m not sure why my faith remains. But it does. And I trust. I trust Him. I’m mad and I’m hurt, but I believe. This is not about theology. I can share with you the good news and preach a sermon about perseverance, endurance, and hope. This is about truth. His truth and my truth.

When I have to be around people, I will zip up my heart and press on a smile. But not because I want to pretend everything is hunky dory. Simply because there’s life in being around people I love and who love me. But if I walk around with my raw heart exposed and uncovered, then every encounter with other people is about me and my crap. And that’s exhausting. And I’m so pathetically sick of tears. So I cover my heart and get on with the busyiness and business of life. But I have no patience for lies.

So here is truth. He is God. He is good. And He is Lord. But I’m still angry. And I still feel hurt. And that’s my truth.

I believe that the feelings I have at the moment will morph into hope, peace, and joy again. Eventually. I trust that He is at work in my life and the lives of those I love. I believe that someday I’ll see the good in all of this. But today. I’m tired. And I want the fan to turn off and the shit to quit flying.

Am I looking down at the waves, allowing their power and instability to pull me under? Probably. Do I know who is master of the wind and the waves? Absolutely. So that’s the dilemma when you’re living in a perpetual storm. What rules my heart? My feelings or His truth. My feelings don’t change by ignoring them or faking them or judging them. So I wait for the truth of my feelings to be transformed by the truth of His love.

I don’t feel hope, but I put my hope in Him. I don’t feel peace, yet I cling to my Peace. I don’t have assurance, yet I trust Him. And I don’t understand, but I believe.

Lamentations 3:21,22 (NLT)

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.