Category Archives: peace

Planted by the River

Share

God spoke to me this morning—and, ironically, He used Facebook! Prayer Tree in EthiopiaNow, I don’t recommend starting off the day with Facebook, but that’s exactly what I did this morning; and it just goes to show that God can use any means He wants to get our attention.

What caught my eye this morning was a post from a friend who… well, you should read it in her own words:

Saturday night I was baking cookies for my boys when I burnt my hand badly. Brian came home from a work-trip at midnight and we were in the ER until 8:30 the following morning. My hand was so badly burned and swelling that they cut my wedding ring off and recommended that I see a plastic surgeon asap.

Twenty-four hours later, after a horrible reaction to the pain meds including multiple rounds of vomitting, I called the plastic-surgeon’s office. And, I cut off the bandage on my hand. Despite not being able to keep down any pain meds, I had NO PAIN and MY HAND WAS HEALED.

Later Monday, I was in the plastic surgeon’s office, reviewing pictures from the ER and said “I think maybe I’m here to encourage you…”

The doctor, a beautiful asian woman, Harvard Med School Grad, former Johns Hopkins Resident said, “Yes, actually, I’ve been really sad because my son is leaving for college. I could use some comfort!”

“Well, God is a God of comfort! I’m so thankful that he’s gifted you to be a healer for many! That’s just incredible!” I said.

She replied, “Well, thank you!”

Then I said, “I don’t normally do this but… can I pray for you?”

She said yes.

So I prayed, “Lord, you’ve known this doctor and watched over her all the days of her life and you have a plan for her future! I pray that she will experience your comfort like the arms of a kind, strong husband around her. I thank you for equipping her to help kids and grown ups heal from horrible scars, allowing them to be accepted in our culture. Lord, you know that it’s not what’s on the outside that matters to you. Thank you for helping others heal with this lady’s help from scars and may they heal from the inside out…”

I explained that praying is turning to God. That she could turn to God in prayer for comfort at any time.

The doctor said she had chills while I prayed.

It’s two days later and my hand looks perfectly healed. No pain.

Did I mention that my mom, sons and husband prayed for my healing? Because they did!

I shouldn’t be surprised that God still answers prayers like that, or that He heals people like that, but I confess: I am. But I’m also encouraged. And I needed that reminder of God’s sovereignty and His care for us.

But God didn’t use just my friend’s words this morning; He also spoke to me from His own Word. I’ve been slowly making my way through the book of Jeremiah recently and after closing down Facebook, I read these words in chapter 17:

The man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence indeed is the LORD, is blessed. He will be like a tree planted by water; it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn’t fear when heat comes, and its foliage remains green. It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit. (verses 7-8)

Then this, in verses 14-15 (which hit me especially hard after reading my friend’s story!):

Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me, and I will be saved, for You are my praise.

My prayer for today: Healing, Sovereign Father, help me to trust you today. Refresh me from the streams of Your grace. Sustain me in the time of drought. Free me from worry and keep me producing fruit. Heal me; save me, for You are my praise. Amen and amen.

Sanctuary in the Wilderness

Share

God, You are my God; I eagerly seek You.
I thirst for You;
my body faints for You
in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water.
So I gaze on You in the sanctuary
to see Your strength and Your glory. (Psalm 63:1-2, HCSB)

These words from David convict me. My prayer is far more often, “I eagerly seek from You. …I thirst for what You can give me.” I wonder if I will ever be satisfied with God rather than constantly longing for what God offers.

I wonder, too, how David went from the wilderness of the first verse to the sanctuary of the second. This may be poetry, but the dry and desolate land is no mere metaphor for David; he was in an actual wilderness, most likely running from a blood-thirsty King Saul—and yet it is not water he craves, but God. He needs water; he thirsts for God. He needs food; he faints for God. I, on the other hand, need God; but I long for a job. I need God, but I crave security, stability, income.

So… A simple word that suggests the answer to a problem, the satisfaction of a need. David is thirsty, fainting for God, so he “gazes on God in the sanctuary.” But wait—David was in the wilderness, not the temple; he was in a cave, not a house of worship. Was the sanctuary a metaphor? Maybe both yes and no. David seems to have cultivated a life of worship, much of which was likely experienced in the temple (actually, probably the tabernacle at this point—sort of a mobile, portable tent-temple). So as a poet, David could probably simply close his eyes and imagine himself there, worshipping God in the company of the people and the presence of the priests.

But as a shepherd he had also spent countless hours and days outside, bearing the sun’s blazing heat, the bitter cold of wilderness nights, the bone-drenching winter rains. He had worshipped God there, too, alone in the company of his flocks, coming alone to his God without the benefit of a priest; looking up to God not through the cloth and skin ceiling of the tabernacle, but in the canopy of space and stars and clouds.

Here, alone again and fainting from thirst in the wilderness, David again looks to the sanctuary of space and finds God’s strength and glory. And he worships. And he is satisfied. And…

My lips will glorify You
because Your faithful love is better than life.
So I will praise You as long as I live;
at Your name, I will lift up my hands.
You satisfy me as with rich food;
my mouth will praise You with joyful lips.

When I think of You as I lie on my bed,
I meditate on You during the night watches
because You are my helper;
I will rejoice in the shadow of Your wings.
I follow close to You;
Your right hand holds on to me.

Praise. Glory. Meditate. Rejoice. In the wilderness sanctuary.

What Do You Do When God Says “Wait”?

Share
red light

Photo courtesy of freefoto.com. Used by permission.

One recent afternoon, road construction turned a ten-block drive in downtown San Diego into a thirty-minute adventure in impatient frustration. The following Sunday our pastor mentioned a smartphone app that not only guides drivers from point A to point B, but also suggests the best route given current traffic conditions. I readily downloaded the app. You see, I don’t much like waiting; anything that will keep me moving more and waiting less is worth trying because unless I am feeling particularly patient, I would rather keep moving then sit at a stop light. Obviously, any movement is progress, right?

The same rule tends to guide my life outside the car: movement equals progress; sitting still is bad. But sometimes—and probably more than I realize or would admit—moving forward merely gives the illusion of progress. Sometimes, in fact, it is impeding the progress. And that principle, too, applies to life outside the car as much as it does to navigating congested streets and highways.

For a while now I have been living at a stop light, waiting for it to change. I don’t like it. I have had a couple opportunities to turn but that didn’t seem the right thing to do so I just sat here, waiting. I have also tried to inch forward a bit—you know, like you do in the car when the light seems to be taking too long; you think if you move the car forward, it will be sort of like raising your hand to an inattentive waiter at the restaurant…you will catch the light’s attention and it will change. That works better with waiters than with red lights, by the way.

I tried mapping a different route, too; not much different, just a parallel street a block over. But the light stayed red and then I noticed the “no turn on red” sign. So I just sat here, waiting. If I only knew what God was up to, why he has me sitting at this red light, then all would be well, I could wait in patient peace. At least that’s what I tell myself.

God, in his grace, has given me with an uncharacteristic sense of peace at this light, but it’s being tested. He’s convinced me that he is trustworthy, but I still don’t want to be here anymore, I want to move forward. Or left or right. I just want to move. I want to move on. I’m tired of waiting. I am fairly certain I have learned everything I could possibly have learned from this recess! Yet a good friend and mentor—one who has been by my side over these months—reminds me: “The wisdom of the ‘wait’ often comes in the following season. But, the depth of the wisdom is earned IN the wait.”

And so I sit here, waiting.

Peace That Doesn’t Make Sense

Share

Recently a friend asked me a question that went something like this: In the midst of all the uncertainty you’re facing, how do you still have peace? To be honest, I have often wondered the same thing, because “peaceful” isn’t a word that I would typically use to describe myself. But for some reason I have experienced an uncharacteristic peace over these past months—what Paul described as “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) and what I like to call “a peace that doesn’t make sense.”

In just a few weeks, I’ll have…

  • a house but no job
  • expenses but no income
  • a calling but no call
  • a journey but no map
  • a destination but no direction.

Not exactly peace-giving circumstances!

But I will also have then what I already have now: a God who cares for me, and who has proven himself faithful; not only in the pages of Scripture—which, I confess, can seem a bit too easy at times—but also in my own life. Five-and-a-half years ago, a lamenting phone call to my parents introduced me to a stranger who became a pivotal contact for landing in the pastoral role I am in today. Six months later a desperate prayer spoken with too little faith was answered as clearly and explicitly as any I can recall.

God has not always answered my prayers quite so clearly or immediately. He has not spoken to me as plainly as he seemed to speak to people in the Bible. In fact, I am not entirely certain what to expect if God were to speak as plainly; after all, as I read through the Bible I see him speaking through burning bushes, talking donkeys, women and men; I hear him speaking in whispers and bellowing voice, at midnight and midday and midmorning; he speaks through angels and through dreams and visions. The only thing usual about how God has spoken in the past is that it is almost always unusual.

So how is it I can have peace in the midst of uncertainty? How can I trust in a God I can’t see and sometimes don’t hear? To be honest, I can’t. Not on my own, anyway. But God has given me a gift: the gift of peace that doesn’t make sense.