Monthly Archives: April 2015

What if…?

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Yesterday I was challenged with a “What if…?” question.

“What if” questions require imagination.  They require us to ponder the possibilities, explore the potentials, and mentally fly to places unknown.  What if questions are usually an invitation to hope and dream about positive, wonderful things.  I encourage my kids to ask “what if?” all the time.  I want them to learn to imagine and dream the biggest of hopes and possibilities.  It’s a good exercise.

But I have to admit that when the question was first being posed to me, I wasn’t feeling particularly imaginative…or positive…or wonderful.

This particular “what if” scenario wasn’t about imagining the possibilities of great inventions or missions opportunities or travel destinations.  It wasn’t about letting my mind take me away to possible twists and turns on my life journey or even hopes or dreams.

No.  This “what if” question was about pain.

“What if,” my friend asked me, “this current pain that is so hard is actually meant to be life-giving rather than the death you think it is?”  I knew where he was going, but I was not particularly jumping up and down about going down that imaginary road with him.

I was thinking, “But the pain is… well, I don’t mean to sound dense, but… it’s painful.  And I want it to stop – yesterday. I don’t want to open myself up to the possibilities of it – I want to close myself off so it stops hurting so much.”

I knew that probably wasn’t the wisest thing to say out loud.  Even as it was rolling around in my mind, I could hear the stories of Joseph and Job and Paul objecting to my objections.

Still, I wanted to say, “But…”

I didn’t.

I listened.  Wanting desperately to object to the idea that the pain had to continue, and wanting to object vehemently to the notion that it might be for my good.

“Why does pain have to be such a harsh task master?”

Why, oh why can’t we learn the hard things through easier means?”

These were the questions I wanted to raise like a child wailing at the top of her lungs while the Physician was trying to administer a life-saving remedy.

I don’t want pain.  I certainly don’t want pain that has to last and last.

But I know better.

I know that the painful lessons are the most thorough ones.  I know that the tutelage of pain has the most lasting impact.  And I know, more than anything, that the painful times bear the sweetest, truest, deepest, richest spiritual fruit in my life.

Do I want to embrace this pain as the faithful teacher I know it to be?  Not really – do you like hugging porcupines?  But I’ll hug him again and again if I have faith that there will be an even greater reward than I can ask for or imagine on the other side of pulling out the quills.

I’ve been asked to trust that the pain will achieve its purpose because it has come through the hands of my loving Heavenly Father.  And I’m being asked to consider the possibility that hopeful anticipation for the blessed reward on the other side of it all will make me wonder what I was so afraid of.  Big requests, really, but honest ones.

Opening one’s self, voluntarily – willingly ­– to the lessons of pain feels like giving one’s self over to the tyranny of a tormentor… Unless we know our Teacher well.

Trusting in human beings is risky business.  But trusting in the One who loves me enough to lay down His life for me isn’t risky at all.  Keeping my eyes – and heart and thoughts and hopes and dreams – stayed on Jesus will bring me safely to the other side of all of this.  Even if it goes on and on He will sustain me and comfort me and be enough for me.  I know this to be true.

So onward pain.  Do your work. Have your way with me and mold me into a woman who radiates the tested beauty that only the heat of a refiner’s fire can produce.  Keep me captive until I have learned the God-exalting lessons you have prepared for me.  And do not leave until this work is accomplished.

And Lord, for what it’s worth… I do believe all of this.  I know that you work all things together for my good, because I am yours.  I know that you have plans for me for a future and a hope.  I know that my help comes from you and you are my defender and ever-present helper in times of need.  Lord, I do believe all that  – but please, help my unbelief.

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Bee Inspired…

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Bee Inspired…

When my son, Joel, was around 8 or 9 years old he started asking if we could get some bees and learn beekeeping.  My answer was swift as sure as it was firm –

“Ain’t gonna happen, Sparky.”

Sparky – that’s one of my many terms of endearment – don’t ya just love it??

Undeterred by his mother’s seemingly iron-clad negative response, he continued.  It’s not that he was whiny or nagging.  He just kept asking.

Finally, when he was 14, I paused a little when he asked…  “He has been interested in this for a long time,” I thought to myself.  “I shouldn’t allow my reluctance to voluntarily expose myself to tens of thousands of angry, stinging insects on a regular basis to snuff out a genuine interest he has…. Should I…???”

We started going to the county Beekeepers Association meetings (did you know they existed?) just to see if this was something we could even consider.  We were not even novices – we were novice wannabees.  But we kept going and learning what we could.

Joel was a trooper sitting through countless hours of men and women with PhD’s in apiculture (beekeeping) drone on and on about pest management and bee diseases… He really just wanted to get on with it.  But perseverance was becoming a strong suit for him and he kept going so that I could feel more comfortable with this whole idea.

To make a long story short, I relented, and we finally got some bees.  We started out with two hives, which both died the first winter.  Undaunted, we bought two more packages of bees (a small crate about the size of half a cinder block containing approximately 3lbs – or about 12,000 bees) to try again.  One of those survived this past winter.  And we got two more packages this year, for a total of three hives.

Our apiary (beehives)

Our apiary (beehives)

Can I just take a moment and be the voice of that excited five-year-old who has just lost her first tooth….  BEES ARE SO COOL!!!!!!

When I first found out that there are men and women who have PhD’s in a variety of things having to do with bees, I thought, “Oh come on… That’s a little ridiculous.  That’s like getting a PhD in basket weaving.”  But now that I know a little something about bees and beekeeping I realize that not only is there enough knowledge to legitimately earn a PhD in beekeeping – I WANT ONE!!!

These little creatures are AMAZING!

Their bee society is amazing.  Their body structures are amazing.  Their honey production is amazing.  Their hives are amazing!  I mean it – the more I learn the more I am in awe.

But not with the bees, really.  Though I find them fascinating to ever increasing measures, I am in awe of the One who made them.

I cannot help but to praise God every time Joel and I go out to work with our bees.

Recently we attended a lecture at our local Beekeepers Association meeting and the professor – who openly gushed about how awesome she thought bees were – said multiple times, that bees and the flowers they pollinate are “so smart – amazingly intelligent!”

Joel and I looked at each other.  Huh?

As cool and amazing and fun and educational as we both think bees are… we’ve seen the size of their heads that enclose their even smaller brains.  “Smart,” is not an adjective either of us would use.

And flowers…. Last we knew, they didn’t have brains at all.

So what gives with this professor of professors trying to earn PhD’s in apiculture calling flowers and insects “smart?”

This woman, who knows so much about the created order, has carefully constructed a world view that tries to deny a creator.  But she simply cannot deny praise!  Her research and experience all point directly to awe-inspiring design – yet, who can she praise if she denies a designer?  She is left to relegating her praise to the created things – as absurd as it sounds – because surely these are praiseworthy!

Bees are not smart.  Flowers are even less smart.  But bees and flowers and birds and mountains and oceans and stars are all awe-inspiring.  They don’t inspire awe because they’re so clever.  They inspire awe because they each, in different ways, give a clue – a small hint – to the AWESOME character of the God who created them.  Their beauty, design, majesty, power, light, and order all tell us something about Him.  They remind us how small we are and how mighty He is.  They speak of his delight in color and strength, tranquility and grandeur, and even in his humor (have you seen the size of a bee’s wings compared to its body size??) in the unexpected.

Look around you – His handiwork is everywhere.  And everywhere there is cause to praise Him!

Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!

Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;

he will judge the peoples with equity.”

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;

let the sea roar, and all that fills it;

let the field exult, and everything in it!

Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy.  Psalm 96:10-12

Imagine our delight to open up this hive this year to find it BURSTING at the seams with bees and honey!

Imagine our delight to open up this hive this year to find it BURSTING at the seams with bees and honey!

Routine Joy…

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Several years ago we got to live in England for a while.  It was, as the Brits would say, lovely.

One of the side-effects of living in England for a while is that a lot of our friends and family – who’d always wanted to visit England but never quite had the motivation – became highly motivated to come.  Maybe it was the free digs and personal tour guides, but I was truly happy to share in their delight of visiting a country I had grown to love.  This, too, was quite lovely.

In the course of these many visits I became very familiar with London Heathrow International Airport – especially the waiting area just outside of customs.

I was never able to quite figure out what the right amount of time was to allow folks to get through customs.  There are so many variables.  The age of the traveler and how weary they were from their trans-Atlantic flight, did they know to fill out their customs form prior to “queuing up,” how many were traveling together, and of course, the overall amount of air traffic at their arrival time all factored into how quickly (or slowly) they got through the all-important passport-stamping customs agents.

So, I always had to arrive earlier than I really needed to be there and I always ended up waiting for quite some time.

But waiting outside of customs at LHR became one of my favorite things to do because I found it to be one of the happiest places on earth.

You see, what I learned while waiting for my friends and loved ones was that everyone standing around the customs area exit doors was waiting for friends and loved ones, too.  It was a joyous place – full of expectation and hope.

Again and again I witnessed beautiful reunions bathed in tears of happiness that spilled freely and unashamedly.  This happened every time I was there.  Long, lingering hugs and enthusiastic kisses were the norm as families welcomed mothers, fathers, daughters, sons.  Lovers who had spent too much time apart didn’t care who saw their affection for one another.  Flowers for friends and other beloveds were always a part of the scene.  Culture played a huge role in the steady expression of delight – from bowing low to kiss the shoes of an elder relative not seen in decades, to squealing loudly while jumping up and down in unison.

Always – without exception – happiness was the norm.  I came expecting it and I was never disappointed.  I grew to love this place where joy was routine.

In my own delight at simply watching others reunited with people they loved so very much I couldn’t help but let my mind wander to thoughts of heaven.

Can’t you just see it?  As every soul enters there a crowd of witnesses surrounds and welcomes them in with shouts of joy and hugs and kisses!  “You’re here at last!  We’ve been waiting for you!  We’re so glad you finally got here!  We can’t wait to show you everything and everyone.  Lord Jesus!  Looks who’s here!”

In Luke 15: 6-7 Jesus tells of a shepherd who went looking for his lost sheep and compares his joy to that of heaven when he says,  “And when he (the shepherd) comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

And in Revelation 21 we’re told that in heaven he will wipe every tear from our eyes and there will be no more sorrow or mourning or pain or death – our joy will be routine for we will be in the presence of the One who is and gives unending joy.  While the reunions will be sweet, there is no doubt about that, living in His presence will be the very thing that makes our joy routine.

Oh to be in a place like Heathrow’s customs area forever – only so, SO much better!  I can’t wait!

I met Darth Vader in a bar…

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I know – you’re shocked that I might like Star Wars.  I don’t go to conventions or anything, if that’s what you’re thinking.  But the stories are fun.

I know – you’re shocked that I was in a bar.  Don’t be.  I wasn’t there to get drunk.

But in 1982 I really did meet Darth Vader in a bar.

Here’s what happened:

When I was tiny – I mean a really little kid – my father stormed out of the house and never returned.  My memories of that night are vivid, but they are, after all, from a 4-year-old’s perspective.  I was little, so he was really, really big.

He was scary, too.  He was broad and strong and dark and loud – he sounded ominous.  In addition to his threatening image, he had come to represent everything evil in this world.  He was, for me, Darth Vader.

While the years went by, my thoughts of him were consistent in this perspective.  I was, more than anything, afraid of this hulking figure and malevolent nature that made me tremble.  There was nothing about my childhood experiences that made me change my mind.

But in 1982, I got engaged to be married, and somehow he heard about it.  He sent me a message that he wanted to meet with me and get reacquainted.  Though I had feared him all those years, I had also longed to know him.  So I agreed to go to meet him (with my older brother for protection).

I was all grown up then – no need to be afraid.  But I was.  I was terrified!

With all the maturity I could muster, I made myself look as adult as possible (I did not want him to see me as that scared little girl anymore!)  My brother and I walked in to the appointed, public, meeting place.

And that’s when I met Darth Vader…  He was sitting at the bar.  Waiting for me.

In an instant, I took in the scene before me.  His cape was tattered and faded.  His helmet was battered and dented from many miles of bad road.  He wore thick glasses and he had let himself go terribly.  No longer strong and formidable – he was overweight and flabby – and had teeth missing.  He certainly wasn’t as tall as I had remembered.

And I could tell immediately that he was even more nervous to meet me than I was to meet him.

So why would I put something like this on my blog?

Because God came down in that moment standing at the bar and taught me something I have never forgotten.  That meeting that day changed everything for me.  I had allowed fear and dread to rule in my heart.  It had shaped not just my thinking about my father, but about all fathers – most men even.  My fear paralyzed me from doing the things I’d wanted to do – from being the person I knew God wanted me to be.  I feared Darth Vader more than I feared God, but He was about to show me how ridiculous that was.

Sitting there on that bar stool was a man.  My father.  No longer Darth Vader.  Simply a human man.  In fact, a man I now pitied and had compassion for.   I had no reason to fear him.  I had no reason to be intimidated by his image or my memories.  He had lost everything and I had been blessed with so much.

God gave that meeting to me, there in the bar, as a sweet gift.  It was as if he was telling me personally, in such a profound way, that I had nothing to fear.  God was with me – what could man (including Darth Vader Dad) do to me?

It all melted away in an instant.  Bars aren’t well-lit, but at that moment, I knew I was washed in the light of truth.  God wasn’t telling me to “buck up”.  He wasn’t telling me to find the strength somewhere deep down inside myself to face my fears head-on and be stronger than they are.

The lesson was simple:  “Know me.  Trust ME.  I got this.  You do not have to worry about it at all.”

I’ve mentally referred to that moment many times.  God was so kind to show me how BIG he is and how small my fears are.  It’s not that I don’t still have fears – of course I do.  But like David facing Goliath – I have learned to not focus on the giants before me.  I focus on the mighty God who is infinitely bigger than any giant I may face.

Even Darth Vader.

My hope is that you will learn to do the same.  There is great joy in realizing we risk nothing to follow God’s plan for us, and there is unmeasurable sorrow if we don’t.  My prayer for you is joy.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:8-9

Praying Luke 10:2

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At the beginning of 2015 I answered a request to pray Luke 10:2 every day, at 10:02 – that the Lord of the Harvest would send more workers to the harvest with, “sure, I can do that.”

“And he (Jesus) said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’”  Luke 10:2

At first, the challenge seemed doable – set my alarm and pray for workers each day… no big deal.

Boy was I wrong.

Let me be perfectly honest here:

First of all, having an alarm go off every day, like…er… clockwork, can be irritating.  I mean really irritating.  It must be connected with my pride somehow, and not wanting anyone to tell me what to do – even when I am the one telling me what to do.  Which is so ridiculous I hate to even admit it, but it’s true.  I guess that is why new habits – even ones we know to be good for us – are hard to establish.  But irritating hardly seems like a strong enough word.

Secondly, praying “God, please send more workers to the harvest,” day after day gets old… fast.  And that was after only about the 2nd or 3rd day!

But we’re told to pray.  And we’re told to pray about this specifically.

So, hoping to build a good discipline into my life and actually desiring (though my sinful, selfish, lazy self would war against this) to pray with diligence and fervor about the things that are important to God, I pressed on.  I started with, “Lord, show me how to pray for more workers.  I’m dull and weary right now – I got nothin’!”

Wow.  I mean, WOW!!!

I was amazed at all the ways God showed me I could begin to pray.  Once I got past “Lord send more workers,” the floodgates began to open and ideas and insights are new and fresh all the time.  Here are just a few of the ways he has taught me to pray more specifically to the Lord of the Harvest:

– Lord, help us to train workers.

– Lord, help us to encourage them.

– Lord, help us to support them.

– Help us to care for, and know them well.

– Lord, help us to identify who your workers are!

– Lord, show us the fields.  Keep our minds keen and our eyes sharp to see them.

– Lord, keep our hearts soft toward the opportunities to go to different fields.

– Give us courage to go to fields that seem wild and untamed.

– Give us grace to send workers to even the most plowed and subdued, knowing that in every generation, there is a harvest.

– Lord, help us to overcome the dullness that keeps us from working, seeing, reaping.

– Lord, help us to be the workers you send!

– Help us to obey when you call us to go.

– Lord, keep us from ever hindering other workers.

– Lord, show us how to work in your fields.

– Lord, teach us what we need to know to be your workers.

– Lord, make us into workers who produce good workers.

– Help us to do the hard work of weeding out things that would choke your harvest.

– Lord, help us to be fruitful in our efforts.  Help us to be faithful in them.

– Lord, help us to work hard and not be lazy, as we see the day approaching.

– Lord, teach us to number our days, so that we may get hearts of wisdom.

– Give us the wisdom we need to know how to pray, go, and work.

I have only begun to scratch the surface of how we can pray Luke 10:2, but I have already been amazed by the depths of what God has revealed to me through the simple act of choosing to pray one verse every day… and it’s only April.

Will you join me in this obedient, yet beautiful task?

Share with us what you learn, and how you learn to pray.  We will all be better able to pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest!

The Collateral Damage of a Parent’s Sin…

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“The wisest of women builds her house, but a fool tears it down with her own hands.” Proverbs 14:1

I watched a movie once called Collateral Damage.  It told the story of the horrifyingly negative effects on a couple’s life of “intervention” into another country’s affairs.  I don’t remember a lot about the story – something to do with oil companies in South America I think –  but I do remember the callous response of those individuals responsible for the mess that had been made.  “Oh well,” they shrugged.  “One has to expect a little collateral damage.”

What?!

This wasn’t even a war zone.  One might possibly come to some kind of terms in the context of war, but this? This was so… ludicrous!

And so is the nature of the collateral damage that we create with our own hands and mouths.  As we look ahead to Mother’s Day in a few weeks, and then Father’s Day beyond that, do your families a favor and think with me on these things.

Yes – I know.  This isn’t one of those cute and happy kinds of Mother’s Day thoughts… But if we can get this right, it is worth far more than the cards or candies or even expensive items that will be exchanged on those days and the lingering effects will last for many years to come.

Recently my husband and I were challenged to come up with a list of at least fifty consequences that happen when we sin.  The parameters were to think of things that happen in our personal, marital, and family lives – but for this post, I’m focusing on the things that happen to our children when we sin against them or in front of them.

To be honest, it was difficult to start this list.  I kind of felt like it was a big dragon that I was trying to capture by the tail.  Where do I start?  How do I get a concept like this down on paper?

So, as I often do when I have a puzzle to solve or problem that seems too big, I brought it to the table and presented it to my kids so they could help me organize this list a little better.  They’re clever people and all adults now (or very close to it) so I figured it was a good discussion to have around the table.

They, too, had some trouble grappling with the largeness of the category at first, but after a little discussion our collective thoughts came up with a few ideas.  We started grouping sins into categories, which was certainly an organized approach, but didn’t turn out to be very helpful in actually answering the question, “What are the consequences when we sin?”  It was all good food for thought, and they were actively engaged in the process, but we still hadn’t come up with a good list of consequences when they had to start leaving for various reasons.

I was alone again with my thoughts.

I tried again, trying to think through the many things swirling around my head.  Then I started to remember some specific times that I had had to go to them and ask for their forgiveness.  Painfully I remembered too many times I had hurt them with my words or accusations or tone.  Ouch.

The list started to flow more easily when I thought of how they felt, and how hard it was after some of those times to rebuild what I had carelessly wrecked.  I realized that I wasn’t talking about consequences like paying a fine when I’m late with a library book.  I was looking square in the face of damage.  I was the one who sinned, but they had suffered because of it.

The list (below) is still growing as I realize more fully how damaging my sin is to them.  Whether I have sinned directly against them, or have sinned in their presence, I do damage.  I create casualties out of my own flesh and blood!

How many adults do you know who are still heavily burdened because of how their parents treated them?  How many adults do you know who find it exceedingly difficult to say, “I’m so sorry I hurt you,” because it was rarely (if ever) said to them?  (Maybe you count yourself among them!)  What restoration could there be if we think about the lasting, hurtful effects we have on our children’s whole lives and change how we interact with them?  What love could we bestow on our grandchildren if we teach our children to quickly seek forgiveness?

This year, as we think about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, how about if we give the gift of humble repentance to our children?  I can tell you that the fruit is well worth it.  I couldn’t have had this discussion with my kids if I hadn’t first shown them that they could trust me with the brutal truth.  They have long felt the freedom to come to me and lovingly, call me out on my sin.  I usually don’t want to hear what they have to say – not because I don’t want them to tell me, but because I hate that it is true.  But I am so very grateful that they do come.  What a blessing to see them have the courageous love it takes to rebuke a brother – or, in my case, a mother – because they want the relationship restored and whole again.

Their loving rebukes have helped to change me.  It hasn’t always been easy to change some bad habits.  But habits can be changed and rooting out bad habits is worth all the struggle and failure and repentance and trying again and again that it takes.  It’s hard work.  It can be frustrating and wearisome, but the sweetness in the relationships is so very, very worth it!

Part of discipling our kids is modeling being discipled in front of them.  When we show them that we are willing to be humble and go to them when we have wronged them, then our exhortation that they humble themselves before God holds a lot of weight.  If we never do it, they see straight through us as the hypocrites that we are.

Remembering frequently that we are shepherding souls that will live for eternity helps me to keep things like this in the right perspective.   Unfortunately, we don’t take our sin seriously enough in general, and therefore, we don’t consider all that happens when we sin.  Writing a list of the collateral damage of my sin has been very sobering.  But hopefully it will bear much fruit for a long time to come.

You can read my list – but writing your own, and referring to it regularly, will reap the most benefits for you.  Adding to it as you realize the power of your influence in your home will reap rewards for you  – just as it has for me.  Every parent messes up.  Every parent messes up regularly!  The key to preventing it from becoming irrevocable destruction is to quickly go to even the youngest of children and own it.  Get down on their level, look them in the eyes, and say, “I’m so sorry for doing this to you (be specific).  I’ve sinned against you and it was wrong!  I shouldn’t have done it and I wish I had controlled myself so I didn’t hurt you.  I’m really and truly sorry! Can you please forgive me?”

It’s pretty tough for a child to resist the sincerity of a parent as honest as that.

This year, as mothers and fathers, give the gifts to your children.  Give them the gift of adulthood with as little “parental baggage” as possible.  If you have grievances to address – go to them and seek their forgiveness, not expecting anything from them.  Some things are long-standing and messy.  It may take them a long time to trust that you are sincere in your humility.  But do it anyway.  Your gift will be a blessing for generations to come.

 

Collateral Damage of a Parent’s Sin

What happens when we sin against or in front of our children…

  • We are poor role models for how to be godly men or women
  • We teach them to disregard what God says about humbling ourselves and asking for forgiveness because we disregard it
  • We teach them to disregard what we say about the same thing
  • Our home is not a warm, loving place, but a battle ground
  • Our children are afraid, rather than secure
  • They feel alone, rather than protected
  • They feel rejected, rather than loved
  • They are confused because we’ve violated the standards we’ve set before them
  • They are sad
  • They are broken
  • They feel despair
  • We cut down those we love the most rather than build them up
  • We hurt them now and for years to come
  • We communicate that we don’t trust them
  • We communicate that they can’t trust us
  • We communicate clearly that we don’t love them the way Jesus loves us
  • We sow seeds of doubt in their hearts that God is not who he says he is
  • We communicate that we think we are worth more than they are
  • Our selfishness communicates that we value our own desires more than we value them
  • Our indignation communicates that we haven’t given them permission to call us out on our sin
  • We build walls between ourselves rather than relationships
  • We preach a false Gospel to our children – one that worships self rather than God
  • We create an environment of fear and anxiety rather than love and safety
  • We use our position and authority as tools to get what we want rather than as ways to lovingly serve
  • When we put our needs above their needs it teaches them to do the same
  • We teach them to rebel against us rather than submit to loving parents
  • We create dependence on our approval rather than on the approval of God
  • We teach them to doubt that God has their best interests at heart because we don’t
  • We create cripples rather than soldiers fit for spiritual battle
  • We fail to teach them how to humbly and sincerely repent and seek forgiveness
  • Our selfishness begets selfishness – both in ourselves and in our children
  • We teach them that they have to protect themselves because we haven’t
  • We teach them that they have to build walls up to avoid future hurt
  • When we don’t listen well to them, we communicate that we don’t value what they think or feel
  • We create disillusionment in relationships
  • We teach them to doubt everything we’ve ever said about love and forgiveness because we haven’t lived what we’ve preached.

*This is just the beginning of the list… there is more, so much more to be added.  But you can do that with your own children.  Mine are happily helping me add to this one.  Not so they can point out my faults, but because they know they are loved and want to love their own children well.  None of us wants this to be our legacy.  Getting rid of sin together is a joy!

The Allure of Peace

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We long to live in peace. Wars and hostilities, international conflicts and personal ones unsettle us.  Toil that is endless, work that is fruitless, spinning our wheels at the daily grind – none of it satisfies.  It all makes us long for something better – much, much better.

There are things that we intuitively know.   We know that goodness is good and evil is bad.  We know children should be protected and provided for and the elderly should be respected.  We know that mothers ought to love their children and fathers ought to be strong and courageous.

No one has to explain these things – they stand on their own.  We all agree that these things ought to be so.

We also long for a place where people live together in harmony and goodwill.  We long for a place where everyone has everything they need – not just to survive, but to thrive.  We long for a place where everyone loves perfectly – where self-preservation is no longer necessary and trust is a given.

We ache for paradise because paradise is perfect peace all the time.

But lately my thoughts about paradise and peace have been disrupted.

The news is replete with talk of terrorists being cajoled into blowing themselves up with the sweet-talk of “paradise” in the afterlife.  The promise of 72 virgins and endless self-indulgences seems to be a big lure.  This is paradise based on selfishness.

I teach a little apologetics class for my speech and debate students.  They’ve recently learned that Buddhism offers “Nirvana” as a sort of paradise – it is described as “a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth.” (Wikipedia)  OK, so I understand the allure of ending suffering and getting off the hamster wheel of living and dying over and over – that would get frustrating, I’m sure.  But to what end?? A state where there is no “desire, nor sense of self”…. Huh?  That is not paradise, that is nothingness.

Our recent history lessons have been focused on the events that led a large chunk of humanity to embrace Communism.  Communism promised paradise – a utopian society where everyone worked happily together for the common good – “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”  Lenin, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot… How many bought into the lie of this ideology only to then be the leaders of mass murder in efforts to control their starving populaces? (…all of them.)  This is a paradise for the “elite” (however that is decided).

All of these promises of paradise are false.  They are based on injustices, lies, and “peace” for a select few that come at an exorbitant price for many others.  All of these promisers believed that paradise must be grabbed.  Seize it or lose it.

It’s striking, isn’t it, that Jesus, the originator of Peace, did exactly the opposite?

Jesus left paradise in order to open it up to us.  Rather than clawing at his throne, he willingly, lovingly walked away from it so that he could personally invite us to enter into his kingdom.

The Almighty Maker of the Universe left his Kingly position and entered into humanity has a weak, vulnerable, squawking baby.  The Word became wordless to tell us what we needed to know.

The Law showed us that we are incapable of earning the right to claim eternity at peace with God, so Jehovah Jireh – the God who provides, gives it to us as a gift, because it was his to give, not ours to take.

It is his to give, because this Sovereign King humbled himself and became the sacrifice, the Lamb of God to secure for us what we couldn’t grab hold of no matter how hard we tried.

The Just Judge became the Merciful Savior by paying the penalty himself.

The Offended allowed himself to be hung on a tree to be the Defender of his own and prove himself victorious – not just over a Roman cross but over Death itself.  Death is dead – do you understand how good that is???  We cannot be condemned to death a second time!

And the kind, compassionate, Wonderful Counselor offers us a place at his eternal table- in sweet fellowship with him, and guides us by saying, “take, eat… it has been all accomplished for you.”

The owner and author of Paradise says, “come to me, and I will give you rest.”  The Keeper of Peace says, “follow me for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

What a contrast to what we try to engineer for ourselves!

We all want peace.  It is written on our hearts to yearn for, ache for, long for.  But real peace does not come from our own making.  We are as incapable of making real peace as we are of obeying all the Commandments.  And so God has made it for us.  And made a way for us to receive it.

The allure of Paradise is real and good.  Eternal Peace is meant to make our hearts leap. But we can only have it One Way.