Thursday, May 31, 2012

The fruitless pursuit of peace

So many of recent devotional readings I've read with Bev are about peace.  Even in recent staff meetings we have talked frequently about peace, or, the lack of it. It seems appropriate, if not God-ordained, since peace is always on my mind but seldom in my heart.

Or, at least that is how it feels.

I've been drawn to two verses in the Bible.  One is the familiar promise (KJV is how I learned it) in          Isaiah  26:3 "Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee". The other is Colossians 3:15 which instructs us to "Let the peace of God rule in your heart..." (NIV)

Sometimes I feel as if I am in engaged in a frenetic pursuit of peace.  That in itself seems exhausting and certainly futile.  There are mental exercises I attempt, scriptural promises I quote, meaningful conversations I engage...yet peace seems fleeting if not elusive.

I am also reading a book entitled, FEEL, which suggests we cannot ignore our emotions--that, in fact, they are by God's design inextricably tied to the intellectual process of rational decision-making.  What I tell   my self is that peace is not the absence of internal conflict but the assurance that God is on the scene no matter what I am feeling.

I have not resolved the enigma of peace this morning but here's where I am with respect to the two biblical passages that have been resonating in my heart for the last few weeks.

1.  Keeping my mind intentionally set on God in every circumstance and situation, and being attentive to what His Word says about who He is and what He can do, is an act of productive discipline.  My morning devotional prayer simply  was, "Lord, I receive the peace that is mine because you live within me."

2.  I continue to intellectually affirm that peace is the arbiter of my life--in my relationship with God, in my commitment to meaningful personal relationships, in my tackling of difficult decisions.

My pursuit of peace continues unsatisfactorily.

But my experience of peace, though only occasionally an emotional reality, is growing proportionately to my abandonment of human effort and my affirmation of God's abiding presence.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Where do we go for help?

The Israelites were facing the challenge of the Assyrians and were contemplating asking their adversarial neighbors, the Egyptians, to join them.  In Isaiah 31 he warns the Israelites against this.  Here are some key verses I noted as I randomly opened my Bible for my morning devotions.

"Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or seek help from the Lord..."

As I think about the challenges before me--nothing like the Assyrian armies, but potentially overwhelming because they stretch me beyond my personal resources--I am often tempted to figure out what plan or program I should follow to attack the problem.  I am tempted to despair because when I look at my own arsenal of "weapons", I realize my impotency.

God does not ask us to look for creative resources when up against a challenge.  He does not ask us to compromise with the enemy to make our way easier.

He wants us to ask Him for His help.

What a novel idea!  The Creator of the universe, Sovereign God--He invites us to come to Him, and warns against the folly and futility of looking elsewhere.

I think I can do that.  I know I should do that. I will do that.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Managing free time

Now that sounds like an oxymoron...why would anyone want to manage free time?  Free time should be essentially time that does not have to be managed.  Right?


At least, for me.  Blessed with an extraordinary opportunity to be away--I am gone twelve weeks during the year to allow for Pastor Mark's continued transition into his role as senior pastor in 2013--I wrestle with all kinds of varying emotions and self-imposed pressures.

Guilt.  Self-indulgence.  Guilt   Work-aholism.  Guilt.  Other's expectations.  Guilt.

This weekend we traveled in our trailer with good friends, enjoying free time.  We hiked ( 11 miles in one trip), boated on the majestic Lake Oroville (a beautiful surprise), played games (Shanghai is our favorite "Christian" card game), slept in (7 am is late for us), had long devotional discussions and prayer time together (Bev and I got to do this without a clock ticking in the background), barbecued outside and ate too much.

We camped where there was no internet reception--no wi-fi, and we had opted not to bring a computer.  Of course, I had my mini-portable computer--my IPhone--which allowed me painstakingly slow email reception---but we  were generally shut off from the real world...the world I unsuccessfully try to manage.

Managing free time for me demands "intentionality".  The discussion about the IPhone, computer, church work, TLC work, counseling--these all have to be managed--which means, put aside.  I do that with varying degrees of success, depending on hopw willing I am to listen to a loving wife's counsel.

What I am learning to do is to embrace my free time as just that--time in which I am free to decide what I will do with this precious commodity.  Will I read for pure enjoyment?  Will I hike for the beauty and the exhilaration I feel?  Will I sit quietly in the sun under the shad of a tree for the sheer joy of unencumbered rest?   Will I leave my watch aside for the wanton pleasure of not being on a planned schedule?

These are choices I have to make in managing free time. Solomon's words from Ecclesiastes 3 resonate in my heart today.  "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven..."

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

a trusted friend

Yesterday I spent some time with a trusted friend.  Though we are very close we seldom have time to really just sit and visit.

Yesterday was different.

We went to a local restaurant and bought sandwiches and salads.

We took a short drive to the Mokelumne River, a few miles from where we both live.

We sat on some hastily-grabbed picnic chairs next to the river's edge and ate lunch.

We mostly sat and listened to the water.

We walked for an hour, occasionally talking, but intentionally listening to birds and frogs punctuating the silence.

We climbed back into the car--now hastily ushered back into the reality of our busy world--and reflected upon how good it was just to spend time together.

I thank God for my trusted friend.

My wife.