When to ask why

I was sitting in a darkened sanctuary two Sundays ago with a few of our youth. Their friend Dakota had just died. Through tears, one asked, “Why? Why would God do this?”

“God didn’t do this,” I replied. “God didn’t look down from the sky tonight and say, ‘Her, I want her.’ We just live in bodies that aren’t made to last, and sometimes bad things happen. That’s why God gave us a better life, an eternal life, to come.”

I don’t know if the youth bought it or not. [Read more…]


A new year

Repentance is a big hairy word that few particularly like.  It carries a lot of baggage with it. It’s a word that’s been used as a battering ram on folks’ hearts, when really it was intended as an invitation.  To repent, simply put, is to change, literally, to turn around.  It’s to admit you’ve been headed in the wrong direction, and to turn around to head in the right direction, God’s direction, following God’s directions.

Repentance isn’t about what we can do.  It’s about what we can’t do, not alone.

Take a list of New Year’s resolutions, for instance, and remove the silly stuff and promises we’ll break before we even get the kids back to school. Take those away until the list includes what really matters:  the practice of our faith, our health, our relationships.  The things on any list, the things we might really need to change, are things we can’t change, not alone.

[Read more…]


Shalom

It’s Wednesday.  Leaves are falling from the tree outside my office window.  They come down in bunches with every swift breeze.  When not falling, the leaves still on the branches shimmer with a quality of light that is beautiful.  

Yet, the day is unsettled for me and for many.  There’s some fear in the air this week, alongside a waft of meanness from another direction.  Fear is a natural and appropriate response to threat, especially when it’s our children who are threatened.  We can’t make fear our dwelling place, though; fear makes us stupid.  Fear makes us hard.  There is nothing beautiful in fear.

At the end of a phone conversation a few moments ago, a friend prayed for peace.  “For shalom,” she prayed, “we ask You, God.”

Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace.  It’s the word God uses to offer a blessing upon His people:  “The Lord bless you and keep you;  the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;  the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:26-27)

Shalom is the word used by the psalmist to describe the arrival of salvation when God’s glory dwells in the land:  Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.” (Psalm 85:10)

Finally and most powerfully for me on this windy day, shalom is the Name given to the coming Messiah:  “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

Thanksgiving is near, and Christmas is around the corner.  We’ll be celebrating the birth of this Prince of Peace again very soon.  

The Prince of Peace speaks into our fears.  In fact, before Jesus is even born, the stories tell of the angel Gabriel having to tell just about everyone not to fear.  Zechariah, Mary, and Joseph all hear, “Do not be afraid.” All wonder why, but all obey.

At the birth of Christ, when the promise made by Isaiah was fulfilled, a new reality came into being, a reality in which the world for all its brokenness can no longer bring us ultimate harm.  

No police force, no government, no armory, can promise us such perfect security.  Only Christ can and does.  

Tomorrow is Thursday, a new day.  Today’s wind brought warmer temperatures, almost 80 degrees is forecast in mid-November.  More leaves will fall.  And we will, by God’s grace, let go of our fear and choose peace.