More Fruitful than Feverish Activity

We are infatuated with ourselves.

Fearfully and wonderfully made, we are filled with power to shape the lives we lead, along with the world in which we live. Bearing the divine image, we are endowed with the potential for significant influence and impact. Indeed, we are weighty beings.

It is this “batting stance” that struggles to process a quote like the following:

“Coming before God in quietness and waiting upon Him in silence can accomplish more than days of feverish activity.”

wilderness2Tied into this realization, from A.W. Tozer, is a key strand of wilderness teaching. Ancient Israel was enrolled in a forty-year course toward grasping that their taking of the Promised Land would actually have nearly nothing to do with their ability to take Promised Land. This was to be deeply humbling and highly empowering at the same bizarre time!

So much of our lives are spent stressing over the challenges we must overcome or the standards we must meet. God wants His people clear that the works truly need undertaking within our surroundings and selves will require larger hands and finer craftsmanship. In these ventures, worshipful seeking holds more power than wild striving.

In a related theme, Barbara Brown Taylor describes the Sabbath rhythm as “a practice in death”. This is equally a theme of the Lenten season as well as a central strand to the Christian Gospel.

To be sure, God offers new life in His Son and fresh breath by His Spirit. It just requires a dead soul and a panting spirit to press us into a posture ready for such gifts.

That is why God loves the wilderness, because His people need it so.




Worry Results from Allowing Fear to Imagine the Invisible

worryWe all know there’s no value in worrying.

If a parent or teacher failed to personally tell us, voices throughout history are eager to chime in:

“Worry is interest paid on trouble before it comes due.” (William Ralph Inge)

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” (Corrie ten Boom)

“Pray, and let God worry.” (Martin Luther)

“There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

Yet for all the persuasive voices speaking all the compelling words, worry takes hold on our souls.  What counter-move might we make against its persistent grip?

Charles Swindoll has offered this perspective:

“On the day Jesus was crucified, it would have appeared to anyone seeing through eyes of flesh that the darkness, the devil, and death had defeated the Son of God once and for all. I will admit that those three D’s lie at the root of almost every worry I suffer. I worry about DEATH – in particular, the death of the people I love. I worry about DARKNESS, both literal and figurative. I worry about what the DEVIL is up to. All three worked diligently throughout the ministry of Jesus to bring about this long and anguishing day. But what no one could see was that the Messiah’s death would strike at the very heart of evil.”

Worry results from allowing fear to imagine the invisible.

To be sure, there will always be an invisible realms–questions without answers, ventures without guarantees. Life, by its nature, is filled with blanks.

But the message of Scripture is that much of that space is filled by a God whose very nature is gracious and compassionate, slow to become angry and abounding in steadfast love.  Seen most vividly in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are dared to rein in our ability to quickly imagine the worst, in exchange for a freedom to steadily believe the best.

The Bible’s opening scene depicts a God of light that dwells in the darkness and a God of order than hovers over the chaos.  As Swindoll said above, these lessons were re-affirmed for all time in what we thought were the darkest moments of all.

As God says numerous times in Scripture, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”

And He is.

Even more than you would believe!

YOUR TURN: How do you handle fear?  In what ways has your faith impacted your tendencies toward worry?  YOUR COMMENTS MAKE THIS POST BETTER.

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“Dad, What’s a Funeral?”

funeral flowersA few Sundays back, I was upgrading my wardrobe from the shirt and pants that I had worn to morning service to a full-blown suit and tie for an afternoon funeral. My four-year-old asked me why I was dressing up. I told her that I was going to a funeral, and in vintage four-year-old fashion, she asked the perfect question…

“Dad, what’s the funeral?”

Is it wrong that I wanted to provide her with a definition that made no mention of death, for fear of not knowing how to answer the next inevitable question?

Thoughts around mortality have rolled through my head more lately than usual.  Some of it is involvement in recent funerals. Some of it is the experience of raising small children and noting how very quickly time seems to pass.  The math doesn’t lie, nor do my joints.  Time is marching on.

Andrew Peterson, on his fantastic new album, says it this way:

And we just can’t get used to being here,
Where the ticking clock is loud and clear,
Children of eternity,
On the run from entropy.

Whatever the specifics, a couple observations linger:

1) Dust to dust is indeed the human reality, and my someday-dust-but-not-yet mind can hardly fathom the concept.  How can it be that friends I enjoyed only weeks ago can no longer exist in the form which I always enjoyed them?  We spoke and laughed and hugged, yet today, all physical traces of that speaking mouth, laughing voice, and embracing frame have vanished.  And my head shakes.

2) My struggle to grasp our own ends pushes me to consider the greater mystery of God’s endlessness.  The Bible portrays the reality that the my bookends of birth and death are merely tiny points upon the infinite shelf of God. Before me and after me, He is the sea in which my life floats.  As Scripture describes it, He goes before me and follows behind me, all the while His hand is upon me.

At times, the sting of death can seem very real.  It cuts through any veneer we have layered on.  It can unnerve us, even undo us.  Andrew Peterson’s lyrics above are affirmed as true: We do not know what to do with death, so much so that one wonders if our original design truly included this wretched feature.

pauseBut as we know, loss feels plenty real.  Sorrow can strike with staggering force.  There is no evading this enemy.  That said, perishing carries a unique perk.  This is why a friend of mine calls death “the great interrupter”.  Nothing hits the pause button as forcefully as death.  Assessments occur; inventory is taken.

In those painfully still moments, sometimes we step back from the canvas just enough to observe the frame on the painting.  And it is then that we observe that life–even in its dust-to-dust nature–is encompassed by One larger than the cosmos.

Surrounded by such loving grandeur, one can indeed walk through the valley of the shadow of death without fear.

YOUR TURN: How have/would you handle discussing death with kids? What have you learned from your run-ins with mortality? Your input makes this post better!

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