Friday, April 25, 2008

Why are you so afraid?

I'm training the high schoolers for Backyard Bible Clubs. Last Sunday we went over our third day's story from Mark 4:35-41. It's a familiar story to many of us. Jesus has been teaching the crowds all day by a lake. Evening comes. He tells them to get into the boat. They're going to the other side. Jesus promptly falls asleep. Then the wind begins to blow...and blow...and blow. Like West Texas hard. Like blowing sand so hard it strips off the paint from your car. Seriously. What does wind like that do when you're on the sea? The Bible says that the waves were so high that they were breaking into the boat. The boat was already beginning to sink.

So, where's Jesus? Sleeping. The disciples wake him up, crying out, "
Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" Can't you see what's happening here, Jesus? Don't you see how bad it is? We're sinking! No words yet for them from Jesus. He just stands up. Looks out at the storm and says, "Peace! Be still!" And since creation always obeys its creator, it goes immediately quiet. No wind. Calm waters. And then Jesus turns to the disciples and says the words we all say with Him to those poor disciples..."Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?"

I wonder if, like me, you usually read these stories about the disciples and shake your head at them. They just never seem to get it, right? We would've been different. Our faith would not have been shaken on that boat, right? I mean what's a little wind and water. You've got Jesus.

But then it hit me as I was teaching the teens. On that boat were not seminary guys and accountants. Several of them were fishermen. They knew how to handle a boat. They'd been in storms. Who would know better when to panic than Peter, James and John? I usually just picture them afraid for no reason. But that's not what happened. They were afraid because they knew.

I was privileged to take a trip to Nigeria to visit my dearest friend, the sister of my heart. On that trip there were several times that I kept thinking: I should be afraid, right? But I'd look up at the guy who lived there, her husband, who was leading us. And he wasn't afraid. Seemed pretty bad to me and to others in my group. But I kept my eyes on the one who would know. If he's fine, I'm fine. That's these guys. They were the ones to know. Not a Galilean carpenter. These guys really knew they were about to die in that boat. And where's Jesus? Asleep. Doing nothing to help.

I've been there. A situation comes up in my life that I've walked through before. It hits my "area of expertise". Maybe it's an illness in the girls. A financial problem. Trouble in Wayne's job or with Cassie's school. Maybe it's worse. Adultery. Betrayal. Abuse. Neglect. Whatever the trial of the day, I look around me and I think to myself: I've been here before. I know how bad this is. It's time, Jesus. Time to do something. Time to fix this. This is as bad as we can take it. If you don't do something now, we're going under. The response I hear: Silence. Nothing changes. Maybe Jesus is asleep again. Doing nothing to help.

It's right then that the disciples and I sound a lot alike because my thought echoes theirs. Don't you even care that I'm perishing? Aren't you good? Don't you love me? Because I know what love looks like. And it's not this. I know what it means to do good to my children and I would never let them suffer like this. Don't you care?

So, what's our help in those times? What do we need? What turns our hearts back to God when He's silent in our pain? Think about it with me...I'll get back to you soon with what I see.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

If not silver then what?

There are a number of places in the Bible where God speaks of refining His people like silver (Zechariah 13:9 and Malachi 3:3). But in one of my favorite passages of Scripture God speaks through the prophet Isaiah to a people who are called by His name but are not acting anything like it. There in chapter 48 He speaks to them these words:

9 "For my name’s sake I defer my anger,
for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
that I may not cut you off.
10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.

I will never forget reading these words and thinking how clearly I see this in my life. He has refined me and is refining me still...for His own sake, for His own sake, He has done it. He will not give His glory to another. Not to me. Not to anyone.

That's who I'm becoming by His who would not steal God's glory for myself and not give His glory to another. It's hard work. Not for Him, of course. But for me. It's hard to be refined, to want to stay in the fire, to desire more of my flesh to die. Most days I really like what's being burned away and am resistant to more loss. But praise be to God, He who began this good work in me is faithful to continue it until the day Christ Jesus returns.

Why blog?

Because sheep follow sheep and that's what everyone else is doing?
I truly hope not, but probably a grain of truth in that.

Because I've got so much wisdom to add?
Would only take you a short time in my home to see differently.

One reason that presses me is my three girls...17, 12 and almost 11. Every day they ask the same question: Can I get on the internet? Or the variation: Can I check my email? I'm slow, but have finally picked up on the fact that this generation connects, listens, learns, engages via the internet. My oldest, Cassie, even turns in most assignments online. Never even hands in a hard copy. It's another world out there. And I have a strong suspicion that my girls are reading this now when they never would have if I'd have written it down somewhere. (Hey, sweetie!)

But it's not just those three. I also love their friends like Molly and Lindsey and Elizabeth and Sarah and Lauren. And I love young women in my life like Alli who getting married Saturday (!) and Katie. And by God's grace there are also some women just a few years older than those who God is blessing me with being around. And what they all have in common is that computers have been around their whole lives. They can barely remember a time before cell phones that you didn't need a carrying case for. This is where they are, where they live, where they learn.

So, it's also my hope that those great younger women in my life will chime in and post comments. That you'll bring to this blog your perspective on our world so that some of us older women will know better how to follow our mandate from Paul to train you to love God and love your families and love with your homes. We know what to tell you (well, we're working on knowing what to tell you!), but how it comes to you, what medium it takes, where it's applied, what language it's spoken in can make all the difference. I pray that this blog might be a part of that...with your help.

Most personally though, my desire springs from hearing those who come before me like Paul who wrote that he worked harder than all the rest...though, of course, it wasn't him but the grace of God within him (1 Cor. 15:10). I realize that I have spent more time reading and hearing from others who are working hard at this life with God than working to engage others through the internet. I have become a passive learner here. I click Mozilla, surf around, hum with some, scoff at others and work at nothing.

But it is by the grace of God that I am what I am. The last thing I want is for that grace to have been in vain. I want to work hard...though not I, but the grace of God that is within me. I want to take the talents He's given, not my abilities, but the contextual talents of Matthew 25 and use them for a great return for His Kingdom. I've been given much. He requires much. I pray this blog works hard for Him, for His people (esp. His women!), for His fame.