Pilots are trained for emergencies. They are taught that when the unexpected happens, the number one thing you do is to keep flying. You may have to make some adjustments, but you keep flying the plane. And that’s where we are right now. We keep living. We make adjustments and be prepared, but we keep on living, and hopefully do it in a more mindful way. Slow down, spend more time with family, call an elderly friend, take a walk outdoors, or sit in your backyard and listen to the birds. Fresh air, sunshine, and God’s nature are all good, healthy things to enjoy. No one wants circumstances like we have right now to remind us what is truly important, but let’s not waste the opportunity either. Live now. Enjoy God’s beauty around us. Be kind. Pray more. Less sensational news and social media. Look up.
And now, I think I’ll go bake some cookies with all that extra flour, sugar, butter and eggs I recently bought. Live your fullest, my friend! Don’t waste a moment.
When faced with life’s challenges, we have two options in our response: Peace or Fear. Choosing peace requires some work on our part, as it does not often come naturally. Fear is an immediate response that requires no work from us, yet takes much in return.
Last week I had my “over 50” colon screening scheduled at the hospital. It wasn’t my first one, since I have a genetic tendancy toward such things, so I shouldn’t have been too worried. But considering all things going on in the virus world right now, I was a little more on alert. It seems like everyone’s senses are intensified. I couldn’t help but think to myself, what if I catch something in the hospital? Why not just put this off until later? I almost rescheduled. But then that would be acting irrationally in fear. The risk of not having a potentially life-saving screening done because of an unreasonable fear is a much worse risk. That is what fear does to us. It takes.
So instead of giving in to the fear, I prayed. The morning of my procedure, I prayed for God to give me peace through it all – the process, the surgery, and the anesthesia. I had done everything I needed to do. I had kept my appointment and followed the doctor’s directions, and now I was asking God to give me what only He can truly give – Peace. I wasn’t asking God to take away my circumstances, but just to be there with me and give me peace. And you know what? God did! He showed up! I felt an unusual calm as I waited for them to stick me with the IV needle and roll my hospital bed into surgery. PEACE. The feeling is priceless, especially when things are no longer under our own control.
We’ve all been humbly reminded of this over the last week, that we surely can’t control everything going on around us. But God does promise to give us peace when we ask. God has an abundance of peace that He is always willing to give. It is one of His promises from the Bible, and is available to anyone who believes and asks. God’s promises are something we can always depend on.
Jesus, who is called the Prince of Peace, said this:
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.” John 14:27
You can almost feel the tone in Jesus’ words as He speaks this. It is a feeling of true care and concern for people. He does not want our hearts to be troubled, or to be living in fear. He offers us what the world simply cannot.
When my surgery was over, I was glad I had not let fear take over. The doctor found and removed two benign but pre-cancerous colon polyps. Doing nothing out of fear would have been much worse for me later on. Instead, choosing to ask for peace from the Prince of Peace Himself was a wise choice, and a wonderful feeling to have. For every one of us, at some point in our lives, whether now or when we’re much older, will have our life be beyond our control. It will just be ourselves and God. At that time, I want to have God near to me, and to experience His peace when nothing else will satisfy. And it’s also a good practice for us to have in our daily lives now too.
It’s a beautiful and warm February evening in the middle of winter. The temperature is in the 70’s, a rare occurance even for a Georgia winter, and the sun is shining and pleasant. It’s a great night for a walk around the neighborhood. As I begin my walk down the familiar sidewalks on this most remarkable of winter days, I’m reminded of a similar February day twenty-four years ago. My son had just been born about a month earlier in January and I was taking him out for a walk on the first warm day. When you have a baby born in the middle of winter, you don’t go outside unless you absolutely have to. Our days so far had consisted of a continuous cycle of sleep-change-eat every few hours, so I was excited to get out and show him the world. I bundled him up in the baby sling since he could not yet fit in the baby stroller I had bought, and we took off down the sidewalks on an unusually warm February day.
Now, here I am twenty-four years later, walking around the same neighborhood on another warm February day, minus one small baby of course. My baby is now grown and looking to start out on his own, at almost the same age I was when I took that first walk with him. It doesn’t seem possible. The neighborhood still looks about the same, though neighbors have come and gone. We have new family members and those who have left us. I am older, a little wiser, I’ve shed a few tears and have a few more scars, and oh how I wish I could hug that young mom! But I can also smile at it all, because through all the ups and downs, we get to live life, we get to love our family, we get to have memories, and we get to pass it on to the next generation. Life is not about being perfect. It is about living.
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” – from the wise Dr. Seuss
“You haven’t prayed yet this morning.” a little nudging thought seemed to say to me.
I know… I say back to myself in my thoughts, while grabbing my purse and phone and taking that last sip of coffee. … I’ve got to get going for my appointment this morning. I’ll pray when I get back. Besides, there’s nothing going on here in this quiet morning that needs urgent prayer. It can wait a few hours.
I try to read my devotion and pray every morning, but honestly, it sometimes gets away from me. I always feel better when I do. It’s like getting dressed in the morning. When I rush, I don’t always look my best. Those shoes I grabbed in a hurry don’t really go with my outfit. I may get through the day ok, but I don’t feel great.
On this morning, I’m dressed but don’t have on great shoes. I head out for my appointment downtown, and afterwards I check my phone. There’s an urgent text from my son – COME HOME NOW. I call and text and wait to hear back from him as I’m madly driving home. And praying, urgently praying.
It all turned out ok, just some scary scammers that he wasn’t sure how to deal with. But it got me thinking. That nudge earlier this morning. God was giving me a heads up. He knew what was coming. He knew the evil that was lurking in people who are ready to pounce on the unsuspecting or vulnerable. When we least expect it. God wanted to talk with me that morning through my prayer, to reassure me, and to help clothe me for what my son would be facing in just a couple of hours. God was already preparing his angels to surround my son from such evil.
I was reminded there is nothing more important in getting ready for our day than starting the day talking to God. So this morning when I opened my devotion, I found this:
As Soon As You Prayed God thinks highly of you, and at the very moment you started praying, I was sent to give you the answer. Daniel 9:23 God answered their prayers because they trusted him. 1 Chronicles 5:20
God starts to answer us the minute we begin praying. And many times for things we don’t even know about.
The prophet Isaiah gives a vivid description of the coming Messiah as a servant – one with a gentle manner, who brings comfort and encouragement to the oppressed, and is a light to all. In our world today, this is exactly what we need, and it is exactly how Jesus lived. This beautiful Hebrew prose from the prophecy of Isaiah, woven in with the teachings of Jesus, says it well.
Isaiah 42:1-4 “This is My Servant; I strengthen Him, this is My Chosen One; I delight in Him. I have put My Spirit on Him; He will bring justice to the nations. He will not cry out or shout or make His voice heard in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed, and He will not put out a smoldering wick; He will faithfully bring justice. He will not grow weak or be discouraged until He has established justice on earth. The islands will wait for His instruction.”
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Isaiah 42:5-7 This is what God, Yahweh, says— who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and life to those who walk on it— “I, Yahweh, have called You for a righteous purpose, and I will hold You by Your hand. I will keep You and appoint You to be a covenant for the people and a light to the nations, in order to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, and those sitting in darkness from the prison house.”
Matthew 4:13-16 Jesus left Nazareth behind and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, along the sea road, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles! The people who live in darkness have seen a great light, and for those living in the shadowland of death, light has dawned.
Gentle. Comfort. Encouragement. Light. This is Jesus.
For all who are weary and burdened, may you seek Jesus where you will find the gentle rest that only He can give.
It is His promise to you – “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”