finding Hope.

To say this week has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster is an understatement. Chaos seems to be the order of the day lately, both around the world and in my own life.
I generally refrain from making political statements in the social media realm, and this will be no different. Attempting to reduce complex issues to zero-sum statements does a disservice to everyone in the discussion.
But I see so much pain. Pain in the eyes of survivors of terrorist attacks, pain in the tears of people displaced from the homes that they love, pain in the eyes of those who wish to protect their loved ones, pain in the shivering cold of the homeless (many of whom have served within the armed forces of our nation), pain in the prayers of people trying to figure out where God is in their life and why they can’t see Him.
And all of these things hurt my heart: because there seems to be so little that I can do, because fear has replaced compassion, and because in so many avenues, I see the humanity of mankind failing.
Yet, somehow, in the midst of all this, I have hope. My hope is not in any government or law or even in my own righteousness (which really isn’t worth much at all anyway), so where does it reside?

Matthew 6:25-34
What if I put myself aside? What if I am honest about my problems in my prayers, and believing that God, by His very nature, has to keep His promises. I won’t pretend that that’s always easy; in fact faith plays a huge role in being able to do so. But the promises of God say that He will provide for me, and this is where I find hope. And where does hope lead me?
To freedom. Freedom from the worry and stress of the day-to-day. Freedom from the fear that something bad is lurking around the corner. And once I’m free from those burdens, the freedom to reach out to others in compassion, mercy, confidence, and love. To stop being afraid about my own life, and care for others. For orphans, widows, our young adults at church, veterans, refugees, my neighbors, my pastors, strangers, my friends, my enemies, and so many others that can be named; I am free to love them as I believe God loves me.

My hope is not in any power, ruler, or authority of this world. I don’t expect everyone to understand that. But my hope gives me courage.
I am not afraid; and that, my friends, is true freedom.

lake life.

I love water.
More specifically, I love water outdoors. If I could be on or in it every day, I would be. I grew up on an island, and while it wasn’t quite the endless summer, there was no shortage of time spent in the water.
When I went to college, I chose the mountains: it was as far from home as I could get and still be afforded in-state costs.  But I was never more than a short drive and hike from moving water.
There is peace in water, but there is also power. I find it amazing how something essential to life can just as easily take it.  It’s a fact you never take for granted growing up around water, whether surfing, swimming, fishing, or boating.
And few things take water from potentially dangerous to deadly quicker than a good storm. Storms overwash beaches, flood rivers, destroy homes, and, most unfortunately, take lives. Especially when on or near water, storms are nothing to take lightly.

And then there’s Jesus.

Matthew 4:35-41

I love this story. After a long day teaching parables, Jesus decides that he and his disciples should cross the lake for the night.  A surprise storm pops up, and here we get our first real glimpse of Hero-Jesus: steely eyed, clenched teeth, his face cut by the razor-sharp rain, single-handedly steering the boat through the wind and waves while the disciples struggle to hold onto the railings and their dinners.

Nope. That’s not what we get at all. We get Bro-Jesus: “Yo, Peter! John! We good? I’m gonna go snag some ZZ’s in the back. Wake me up when we get there.” And the disciples are freaked. Several of them are fishermen. They know how dangerous a situation they are in. And where is their fearless leader?! Sawing logs with his head on a cushion.
So they wake him up. “Jesus! We’re gonna die!”
Then, in typical Jesus fashion, he does something amazing, says something confusing, and walks away (presumably humming a Gordon Lightfoot tune as he did – Happy November 10!): he calms the storm, challenges the faith of his disciples, and then probably went back to sleep, leaving mouths wide open in wonder.
We get caught up in the power of the moment just like the disciples did. We’re left standing there in amazement at what just happened, but what is the real truth of this story?
I don’t imagine Jesus yelling angrily, either at the storm or his disciples. I imagine him calm, but firm in his rebuke of the storm. “Quiet. Be still.” Then again to his friends, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” He doesn’t affirm their Kingdom authority over the storm (even though they had it), and he doesn’t even try to utilize what so many pastors call, “teachable moments.”
The truth of the situation is one that many people miss: Jesus was never worried about the storm. He didn’t wake from his slumber surprised and terrified.
We miss the grace in this story: the storm was never the threat to their faith, their fear was. He didn’t calm the storm to sleep better, he did it to show his love to the disciples. If the storm was the problem, they would have been filled with a supernatural peace and comfort, maybe celebrated a little bit, and gone on their way, probably hiding their insecurities along the way. “Yeah that wave was huge, but I wasn’t afraid, not like John over there.” “Shut up James! I wasn’t puking, I was leaning over the railing to check for barnacles.” But no. They were still terrified, just of something, someone, different. Someone stronger than the strongest force they could imagine. They didn’t trust him.
Which is our problem all along: we don’t trust Him. We know more about the storm we’re facing than he does. Never mind that He knows that the ship is solid, and her captain capable. He’s sleeping! He’s not even paying attention! What the hell is wrong with Him?! Jesus, DO SOMETHING!

He will. He’ll calm the storm, or send provision, or whatever else grace you may need or think you need. Because it’s what He does. His grace is sufficient, and He sees you where you are.
But what if, instead thinking we know exactly what we need, and trying to occupy ourselves making it happen, we look to see what God is doing in the midst of our storm? Maybe He is calling us to do something about our situation. But, maybe, just maybe, He’s not worried about the storm. Maybe He’s encouraging us to see what it is He’s doing at the moment and join Him in it.

I think I’d like to go take a nap near some water.

fighting.

As I write, I’m in the midst of a depressive state.  And the one thing I can think to do to fight it is to talk about it, which is exactly what I don’t want to do.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12

“Don’t fight like the world.”

I constantly remind other believers that we’re called to be set apart, to not fight as the world would have us believe we should.  That’s not to say I don’t believe in the values and miracles of modern science and/or psychology. I realize that, while I do believe that there are forces beyond our understanding of the natural world, not all illness is a demonic affliction or torment.  I happen to see a counselor/therapist on a regular basis, and I value both the psycho-therapeutic and spiritual nature of his guidance.

To what degree is difficult to say, but there seems to be a stigma attached to people who are willing to be open with mental health struggles.  Even more so, many times the perception of the person suffering is a lie: that nobody wants to help them.  Many fear that the response of loved ones will be abandonment or dismissal.

I have struggled with this for many years.  “Keep it to yourself.”  “Just push through it.” “Nobody wants to deal with your crap.”  “They can’t handle it, so why burden them?”  I’m not going to go on some rant about how we should all be seeking out our loved ones who may be struggling, or placing shame on those who suffer in silence.

But I will be honest about my struggles.  Not for attention or wallowing in helplessness, but because the darkness in this world tells me not to.

“‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10