Friday, August 10, 2012

Not Wasting the Water

Earlier this week I wrote about the storms of life. It is funny that storms involve a lot of water, but you can hardly call them refreshing. In order to bloom, however, you do need water, but a soft, gentle rain or a bubbling spring is best for that. Often after a storm the water runs off and you are left with the dry cracked earth of the desert. So what then?

Sometimes God is gracious and provides us a season of rest after the storm or more often small breaks, or breathers as I like to call them, even in the midst of longer storms. But if we aren't careful we could use these breaks as an excuse to rest on our laurels, as though we are “entitled” to these moments.

I went through this a couple of years ago. I had gone through chemo, lumpectomy and then radiation and, though I was still getting herceptin, it was only short trips to the chemo chair every few weeks and seemed like nothing compared to what I had gone through in the last year. I thought the cancer was gone and that I was finally able to rest. The problem is that I decided that was a rest from everything—my household duties, my health (eating right and excercising), and most appaling of all, my prayer life and quiet time with the Lord. By doing this, I actually was self imposing desert living. I grew complacent and distant from God and as a consequence was not growing.

I had a rather jarring wake up call when friends had to confront me with the knowledge that I was neglecting my children to the point that the day care had mentioned calling CPS. Thank goodness that never happened. I could have wallowed, put up a fight exclaiming “but look what I have gone through?” or “why aren't you accusing Brian of the same things?” O.K. I did a fair amount of this at first. But then I woke up and confronted myself and it drew me closer to God as I prayed about what I needed to do. First things first is that I had to get back to the Word and use it to water my soul back to green. I also reflected on how God's goodness had gotten me that far. Finally the brown, cracked earth of my heart began to come back to life.

Think about the Isrealites. They went from having too much water when they were threatened by the Red Sea, to grumbling about being thirsty to the point of death. Maybe if they had reflected on God's goodness in saving them out of Egypt, they would have realized that God was not going to let them go. God provides what we need, if we rely on him for the giving.

That is the key to bringing the refreshment of water back to the desert moments in our life. Go to the true source of the Living Water—Christ's love as reflected in the Bible and in our own life through his loving provision. Spend time in prayer and in the Word even if it feels strange at first, like you are going through the motions. The pump needs to be primed a bit before the water begins to flow. That isn't any fault of God's though, but a by product of our neglect. Look over your life and record even the smallest of merciful moments where Christ's love brought you through the storms of your life. Then watch how God brings you back to life again. And don't forget to reflect and record that blooming.

We don't have to wait for rest to bring the Living Water into our lives. We need to stay in the Word while we are going through the storms. In doing so we are catching the rain water so it can do good to our souls, rather than running out into the gutters of life. We should reflect on and record the littlest provisions, the strength and peace God provides through it all. Then maybe we can experience more of the gentle waters of the cool garden and less of the cracked earth of the desert. Then when we are given rest, it won't be wasted, but will be times of true blooming.

Psalm 1:2-4

New International Version (NIV)
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

John 7:37-39

New International Version (NIV)
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

Monday, August 6, 2012

Calm vs. Peace

I am definitely in a stormy period in my life. It may not be a full out tornado, but it is a steady down pour with the occasional squall. The squalls usually involved my children. They are no respecters of my disease. They still act like willful children. Yesterday I was in charge of children's church. It went fine except for my two littlest ones—they int interrupted me every five seconds, whining and crying about some such matter. I finally had to drag them (literally) out to their father, them screaming all the while. What a nightmare!

Here I was serving God and this happens. I often find myself wishing things would go smoother, especially on the days of my treatment. Is it too much to ask that my children get ready without struggle, that my house be clean and in order, that my appliances and car work without fail? Yes, it is.

God never says life will be without storms. He just promises that He will be there to help us weather them. Sometimes God calms the storms and I am forever grateful for the rest that provides, but sometimes He lets the winds roar and we just have to trust Him.

I can think of several instances in the Bible involving storms and the disciples.

One is in Mark 4. This time everyone was in the boat, including Jesus when

37 [a] furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?"
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
This time he calmed the storm. What a wonderful relief to the disciples. Perhaps Jesus sensed their fragile faith couldn't take too much of the wind, but he still needed to teach them to trust Him. Sometimes our storms are short lived, but there is still a lesson to be learned, a lesson to take into the next storm that may last longer.
Another is in Matthew 14. This is the one where Peter walks on water. The wind is buffeting the boat when Jesus came to them:
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: 'Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid."
28 "Lord, if it’s you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."
29 "Come," he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God.”
Notice that Jesus didn't calm the storm until Peter had walked out to Him. He may not have lasted long above water, but he did show faith and courage as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus and not the storm. No matter how long the storm, we too must keep our eyes on Jesus and not our circumstances.

Finally in John 6 there is a storm and Jesus walks out to the disciples whose boat was in rough waters. Jesus says, 
“It is I; don’t be afraid." 21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.
Notice that it never said that he calmed the storm. Perhaps even when they reached the shore safely, the storm still raged. Who knows how long the storm lasted, but Jesus still got them to where they needed to go and He does the same for us.

All three (and many others) have one thing in common—Jesus urged his followers to not be afraid. This is the key between calm and true peace. The truth is that only storms bring growth. It was only in the storms that our faith is tested and we are able to walk on water. But we can still have peace amidst the buffeting if we take courage, resist fear, keep our eyes on Jesus. Then our hearts will have clear skies while outside the wind roars.

Or in my case, my children scream :-)

Psalm 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation —
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?