Safe and secure despite COVID-19

These days seem unprecedented with lock downs, toilet paper shortages, and social distancing. It seems ominous, even slightly apocalyptic. But it is nothing the world hasn’t ever seen before. There have been plagues and pestilences before. The news of the novel coronavirus, how fast it is spreading, and how many people are dying each day sounds so frightening when the media reports it.

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How does anyone find comfort and peace during this time? Maybe the vice grip on your chest loosens when you know you have enough supplies stocked up for the next month (or two). Maybe the anxiety eases when you completely cut yourself off from the world to keep the virus out of your life and home. Maybe some peace sneaks in when you realize that COVID-19 acts like any other virus. It acts like the virus of the H1N1 Pandemic of 2009. Only during that pandemic millions of people died. Maybe you rest easier knowing that the fatality rate of COVID-19 is nowhere near that yet.

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Day-at-a-glance wisdom

Several years ago I found some books by Christy Barritt. The first series I read was called Squeaky Clean Mysteries. They are the perfect mix of suspense and hilarity. Barritt has written a handful of other series; her most recent is the Lantern Beach series. These books follow Seattle detective Cady Matthews who is forced off the grid. There is a price on her head from her undercover work. She killed a drug lord. His followers are out for revenge so she has to disappear.

She disappears to a small town in North Carolina where she takes on Cassidy Livingston for a name and owning an ice cream truck for an occupation. Cassidy has a complicated and sad past, one that doesn’t get less so with a new identity or residence. One of the few ties she has to life in Seattle and life before going undercover is a day-at-a-glance calendar from her deceased best friend. When Cassidy needs to bear up her resolve, she takes note of the day’s conventional wisdom and clings to it.

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Lay your hand upon me

The weeks leading up to spring break are harried for teachers. Third-quarter grades are due, parent conferences need to happen, regular teaching must go on, and everyone is desperate for the break’s arrival. 

harriedWhen the days seem short and the weeks long, it is easy to feel that nothing will be done on time and that everything is out of control. Well, everything is out of my control, but I know the one who is in control. So as I counted down the weeks to the break, I turned my thoughts to consider God’s sovereignty. God’s sovereignty (or his supreme power and rule) is not limited to the ability to make something happen or keep something from happening. While that is certainly part of it, it is only a part of it. We are known and kept by God Most High more intimately than that.

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Rescue

As you read the Bible, you see that the lives of the saints who have gone before were shaped or marked by some sort of affliction and suffering. Job is possibly the most prominent name associated with suffering, but he is certainly not the only one who suffered. Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, David, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel, Paul, Peter and plenty others are on that list.

King David, who is equally as well known, though for different reasons, also lived a life full of challenges and affliction. Some came from being a soldier; some came from being a king; some came just from being human. The psalms that David penned are both a cry for help and comfort and a record of God’s faithfulness and love as he experienced them. These two themes are tightly woven into Psalm 119, making it clear where David sought his comfort and strength.  In Psalm 119:50, 51, David says, “Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.”

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Taste and see

Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake (the world’s greatest pair of best friends) were part of an SNL sketch that had Timberlake impersonating Fallon with recurring “so good” comments. It’s hilarious, and the comedic duo’s “so good” perfectly captures our culture of opinions. In the vernacular, things we like are “good.” When people ask how we are, we respond with “good.” When we confirm that nothing is wrong, we say “it’s all good.”

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The most wonderful time of the year

For years I have been using a yearly Bible reading plan that propels me through the major and minor prophets for the last few months of each year. A few years ago (and pretty much every year since) I found myself lost in the sea of imagery, language, and lessons that I didn’t have a clue about.

It is hard to love reading Scripture that seems so far away from life in the twenty-first century. There’s Ezekiel, the intrepid prophet. He was naked, cooked his food over dung, and lay on each of his sides for some time. There’s Jeremiah, the sorrowful man whom nobody in Israel listened to, but had not problem dragging him off to Egypt. There’s Hosea, who had to marry a prostitute, one he could not change (let that be a lesson, ladies and gentlemen). There’s Jonah who ran away, Daniel who went through the Babylonian wringer and came out on top, Isaiah who had to name his children some very complicated, symbolic names, Amos the shepherd, Haggai, Zephaniah, Nahum, Micah, and all the rest. Each prophet was sent by God  during specific times and with specific messages about Israel’s faithlessness, disobedience, and idolatry.

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A promise from Psalm 55

In my endeavor to know and cling to God’s promises this year, I have noticed that I am more prone to look for them when reading the Bible. I just read Psalm 55:22: “Cast your burden on the Lordand he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” God promises two things in this verse. First, he will sustain you when you cast your burdens on him; and second, he will never permit the righteous to be moved. 

It was the second promise that I took note of when I read Psalm 55 because as I was sorting through the stack of verse-inscribed index cards in my car, I found one of Psalm 16:8:”I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”

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Living quietly

There comes a point when the daily grind becomes so monotonous that only time away can truly refresh the perspective. My break came during my recent trip to South Carolina, a place I am growing to love. Being away from home and my daily routine gave me time to think about life—nothing earth-shattering, just reflections on the last year.

During my first trip to South Carolina last year, the pastor at Coie’s church preached from 1 Thessalonians 4:11 on the Sunday I joined them. Coie now has a picture hanging in her dining room of flowers in a mason jar with the words of 1 Thessalonians 4:11 written beside them: “and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands…” Yesterday, the day after I came home, my dad preached from 1 Thessalonians 4:11. The timing of these sermons, my trips to South Carolina, and the opportunities to reflect was not lost on me.

The truth of Scripture, combined with the idyllic backdrop of South Carolina and the reinforcement when I got home, gave a fresh focus to my musings.

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Minding my own business and working with my hands is not so much a struggle for me as aspiring to live quietly is. Discontentment, often cloaked as hopes and dreams, pushes this rebellious heart to be bold, make a statement, or do something wild. Living quietly seems too good, sounds too much like being a stick in the mud, and hints too much at becoming a wallflower.

But this is not true. Living quietly means I accept with joy and contentment the life the Lord has given me. I forsake visions of grandeur; I forsake all notions of self-importance; I forsake the world and its cares; I forsake frivolity.

Regrettably, I spend far too much time and concentration deliberating about the way my life looks—the job I have, the company I keep, the things I like. Truth is, I am a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and as a believer, my life is fundamentally and radically different from the world anyway and always. I can spend as much time as I want worrying how I look to the world, but I will never fit in. I can’t fit in. I should not seek to fit in.

God, in his love and grace, allowed this trip and the last to South Carolina to be woven with reminders to aspire to live quietly, to follow Christ and trust him. Whether it was the serenity of my surroundings or the break from the mundane, the Lord firmly impressed on me the importance of living quietly and being content. This is not the dedication of the rest of my life to the mundane or unexciting, but it is a matter of obedience. I must obey (and can do so boldly) because aspiring to live quietly is good and right and mandated by God.