Can We Rest in the Midst of Storms?

Jesus Calms the storm – Rembrandt

This morning I read the story of Jesus in the storm from Mark 4:35-41

35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.”36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!”Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

Something struck me that I had never thought much about before – Jesus was actually deeply asleep in the midst of this storm. Now I lived on a ship for 12 years and I know that it is hard to sleep in the midst of a storm when the ship is rocking and rolling, the waves are crashing and the cargo groans against its bonds threatening to break loose at any moment. Even now when I live in a stationary home, I know how anxiety can keep awake, often creating its own storms of fretting, fear and uncertainty.

Sleeping in the midst of storms is a sign of extreme stupidity or of supreme confidence. Jesus’ response when the disciples woke him shows that his sleep was one of confidence. He trusted completely that the God who formed the waters and allowed the storms, the God who called him beloved Son, was still in control and would keep them all safe no matter how violently the waters raged. In the midst of the storm he was able to find rest and refreshment.

Sometimes I think that we forget that Jesus is in the boat with us. Sometimes I not sure that we really want to wake him. The storm itself is frightening, Jesus calming of the storm is terrifying.

We are in the midst of stormy times as the government shutdown here in the U.S. and its accompanying storms continues to rock all our boats. My neighbours are out of work for the duration and the poor are tightening their belts even more as programmes like SNAP, WIC and low income housing assistance are suspended.

How much confidence do we have that Jesus is in the boat with us? And what would it look like for him to calm this storm? It is so easy for us to pray for the solution we want to see happen – extreme conservatives for the disintegration of the government, democrats for the passing of a budget that still includes health care reform. But it is hard for us to have the faith to believe that whatever God allows to happen in this storm, Jesus is still with us. It is he, not us who is in control.

So my prayer today is that God will calm the storm and that we will be able to find rest and confidence in whatever that calming looks like.

A Holiday by the Sea

Today’s post is by Kimberlee Conway Ireton, author of The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year and a newly released memoir, Cracking Up: A Postpartum Faith Crisis. This essay is a repost of last summer’s reflection on her family’s holiday by the sea.

Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” –John 15:12

Brother and Sister at Twin Rocks

If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness.

But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love.

You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestions not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love.

The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mudpies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

—C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”
The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses

Play is Serious Business

I think back on my Stop Slavery series earlier this year and how I almost didn’t write it. But since God was clearly nudging me in that direction, I wrote the posts. I published them.

Looking back, quite apart from the money we raised for Love 146 and IJM, I see so much joy that came out of that act of obedience. It felt good—joyfully so—to write those posts. It was joy-giving to see so many of readers of my blog rally around these girls and help end their exploitation. Many days, I came home from the coffee house after writing those posts and responding to blog comments almost giddy with happiness.

And that felt wrong. After all, these girls’ lives are hellish. Why should I be so happy simply for shining a little flashlight on their plight? It’s not about me, after all. I shouldn’t be getting anything out of this. My joy seemed to negate and make null the good I was doing. Almost as if my gaining anything by a given act automatically makes that act suspect.

Lewis would say that I have placed a priority on Unselfishness, as if my going without were what mattered. As a Christian I must be selfless. I must not seek my own good. I must take up my cross and be miserable.

But that is not what Jesus did. Yes, he took up his cross. Yes, he walked the dark road to the cross. But he did it for Joy. He did it for Love.

…for the sake of the joy that was set before him [Jesus] endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. —Hebrews 12:2

Brother and Sister 2

Parenting my four is not an act of unselfishness. It is an act of love. It is love that prompts me to feed my kids good food and read them good books. That I get to enjoy the good food and the good books, too, in no way negates the love I show in feeding and reading with them. If anything, my enjoyment enhances the love. It shows them they are not simply loved but also enjoyed and enjoyable, that they are people I delight to be with.

I want to make Love my litmus test. Not: is this unselfish? But: is this loving?

As often as not, the love I show will redound upon my own head in joy, as it did when I wrote the stop slavery posts. That’s okay. That’s better than okay; that’s good. That’s the way it’s supposed to be: like the loving and being loved within the Trinity.

Love does not count the cost, it is true. But then, it doesn’t have to—because Love is wrapped up in joy. Love sees the joy of the other and looks at that, rejoices in that, rather than focusing on its own gift or sacrifice. Love doesn’t even think of the gift in terms of sacrifice, because Love experiences the beloved’s joy as Love’s own.

Jesus, for the joy set before him, endured the cross.

When the joy of giving, of loving, far outweighs any so-called sacrifice, this, too, is the path of the cross. It’s the obedience that leads to Life. It’s the love that leads to Joy.

It’s the holiday by the sea.
Photos by Doug Ireton. Used by permission.

A repost from Kimberlee’s archives.

A Tree Planted by Water – Kimberlee Conway Ireton

Today’s post is by Kimberlee Conway Ireton, author of The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year and a forthcoming memoir, Cracking Up: A Postpartum Faith Crisis.

Blessed is the one who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
who meditates on God’s law day and night.
Such a one is like a tree planted by streams of water,
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.

Psalm 1:1-3

Psalm1_tree

Almost three years ago now, in the throes of postpartum depression, I desperately grasped at anything that would help me channel my out-of-control thoughts away from the fear that choked me. In the midst of this darkness, my friend Susan offered me a lifeline.

She mentioned over dinner one night that she was memorizing Ephesians.

“The whole book?” I asked, incredulous.

She nodded and pulled a little black Moleskine out of her bag. Inside, the words of Ephesians were pasted, six to eight verses at a time, onto the left-hand pages. The right pages were blank. “For my notes,” Susan said. “Or for keeping track of how many times I’ve recited it.”

I paged through the little book, and something in me stirred. “May I—may I join you?” I looked at her. “I want to do this, too.”

The following Monday, Susan brought me my own little black Moleskine, its pages already pasted with every verse in Ephesians, and I began to memorize the words.

When the fear stirred, I forced myself to recite Ephesians. When I realized my thoughts were swirling chaotically, I forced them into the channel of Ephesians. These words became my prayer in a time when I had no words of my own to say, no words of my own to pray.

Week after week, I added new verses to the ones I already knew. It took me ten months, but I memorized every last word in that book. Even now, two years later, I still have them etched in my memory.

Since then, I have memorized half a dozen Psalms, part of 1 John, and large chunks of John 10 and John 17. Currently, I am beginning to memorize Colossians 3. I do this memory work slowly, a verse every week or so. But a verse a week adds up over time to a whole lot of verses.

I say all this not to boast. (Well, okay, maybe a little, which tells you just how far I’ve still to walk before I am renewed in my mind.) I say it to encourage you to memorize Scripture, too, to show you that you can.

To put on the mind of Christ, it is important, Dallas Willard writes, “to draw certain key portions of Scripture into our minds and make them a part of the permanent fixtures of our thought.” He continues, “This is the primary discipline for the thought life. We need to know them like the back of our hand…and then constantly turn them over in our minds as we go through the events and circumstances of our life.”

I came to the place of needing Scripture as the nourishment for my mind out of desperation. My mind was a dark and scary place, and I needed something other than my own frightening thoughts to fill it.

On the other side of that darkness, I continue to memorize Scripture and turn it over in my mind day after day because I want my mind to be filled with the light of Christ. I want it to be full of the thoughts and images that occupied His mind when He walked on this earth. I want to abide in Him and have His words abide in me.

And so, I continue, slowly, one verse at a time, to feed myself on the words of Scripture, to root them in my mind, so that I no longer conform myself to the patterns of the world or my own destructive thought processes, but can be transformed by the renewing of my mind.

If you feel nudged or pulled to plant the words of Scripture deep in your own mind, why not choose a favorite Psalm or Gospel or epistle passage to memorize? I have a sheet of memorization helps that you can use if you want, but the easiest way to memorize is simply to read 4-6 verses over and over again, day after day. Stick them on your computer monitor, your bathroom mirror, your kitchen sink—wherever you spend a few minutes several times a day—and read them a time or two every day. By the end of a month, you’ll have them memorized. Then, as you’re stuck in traffic or waiting in a line somewhere, say those verses, so that they affix themselves to the walls of your mind, a spot of beauty and light and peace in the midst of the anxious swirl of your thoughts.

Lord keep me in your thoughts.

I have been sitting here this morning reciting the prayer I posted on the Facebook page Light for the Journey earlier and this photo kept coming to mind so I thought I would repost them together.

Lord keep me in your thoughts.001

 

Stations for Praying in Response to Boston marathon – Lilly Lewin

I don’t usually blog on Sundays but was chatting to Lilly Lewin at Inhabit this weekend where I learned about this wonderfully creative Stations that she produced in response to the Boston marathon. I wanted to share it for those who might like to use it for their Sunday observances. Check out the entire post and her blog: Praying in Response to Boston marathon and Global Violence

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shoe-station-300x225

PRAYING IN RESPONSE TO BOSTON MARATHON and GLOBAL VIOLENCE

Stations created April 16, 2013 in response to the bombings at the Boston Marathon and as a prayerful way to responds to violence in our everyday world.

Use all of these stations created and set up together as a prayer experience for your small group, youth group or your whole church, or just pick one or two to do as a corporate prayer response during worship. Or just use the run/walk prayer yourself this week as a part of your personal prayer /devotion time.

Feel free to use these stations to inspire you to create your own prayer stations. I would love to hear about how you used them in your community.

Praying for peace and healing for us all!

Lilly

Read the entire post: Praying in Response to Boston marathon and Global Violence

Prayers for the Journey

It is a long time since I have posted prayers from the Light for the journey Facebook page. There always seems to be something else to write about. So this morning I thought I would post some of the most popular from the last few weeks. These prayers are posted daily from a variety of sources with regular contributions not only from my own prayers, but also from Faith and Worship, The Contemplative Network and In His Footsteps.

In the stillness of the morning - Bonnie Harr

This prayer was written for the Inhabit conference which Tom and I are attending this weekend:

God breathe on us,
Fill us with your living presence.
Christ breathe in us,
Restore our joy in your salvation.
Spirit breathe through us,
Renew our compassion and our mercy.
Three in one, one in three,
Breathe with us,
Fill us, restore us, renew us,
Through your love,
Make all things new.

—————–

God gift us today with eyes that see,
What you are doing in our world,
May we stand in awe of your creativity,
And delight in the beauty of spring flowers.
May we embrace the wonder of your love,
And reach out with hugs and tender touches.
May we glimpse your hurting heart,
And respond with acts of compassion.
May we see the mighty deeds you do each day,
And join in wherever we can.

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Gracious Father, in our walk with you
we often stumble and fall,
needing your steady hand
to raise us to our feet
and set us upon the path once more.
Forgive the unsteadiness of our faith
which wanders from your word
and stumbles into sin,
raise us to greater things
and complete obedience to you.

(http://www.facebook.com/faithandworship)

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We are blessed indeed,
who have put our trust in you,
live to serve
and in our walk of faith
go where you might lead us.

We are blessed indeed,
who have found our strength in you,
seek your face
and hear that quiet whisper
as you encourage us.

We are blessed indeed
who bow down to worship you,
and go out
in faith to do the tasks
you have prepared for us.

(www.faithandworship.com)

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Earth Day Meditation.

Earth day is coming. I find myself constantly thinking about the wonder of God’s creation as is reflected in this meditation prayer.

Earth prayer.001