First there’s thunder, then there’s lighting, and then it pours. Oh how we fear getting caught in the rain and getting wet. There’s a storm brewing. Did you know? Did you notice the dark clouds rolling in? Did you hear the clack and rumble of the thunder above? Did you see strikes of lighting across the sky? Or were you busy and distracted?
Does the thought of it all make you shutter? What do you feel? Is it fear, anxiety or worry? The Lord wonders why. In whom do you rest? In whom do you trust? In whom do you look to for protection? And where do you run in the rain?
There’s only one place in all of scripture where Jesus sleeps, and it’s in the bow of the boat during the storm. Jesus would be the first one to sink if it went down, but He’s sleeping and not concerned at all about sinking. His confidence is in the Father. Ask yourself would you be at peace in Jesus’ sleeping, or filled with anxiety and fear of a impending shipwrecking?
In the state of Illinois we are now under a shelter in place. What does that mean. Basically, stay home. Let me say that again, stay home. Go out only when necessary; milk, gas, groceries, or the pharmacy. Those out and about are working for a profession that requires them to be on the road; medical professionals, fire and police, supply chain and logistics etc. otherwise the roads are empty for the most part. An upgraded enforcement of what we’d been hearing days prior to this order. An addition to the practice of social distancing.
Yet, so many do not listen and heed the warnings. In fear their freedom is being taken away. They want to do, what they want to do, and ain’t no body gonna tell them any different. No thought of the other person, the neighbor they may infect, or the healthcare system of doctors, nurses, EMT’s etc they may overwhelm by passing on an invisible enemy we can not see.
Here’s a news flash with truth. This is not fake news. That’s not freedom. It’s actually a form of slavery one can’t see. I know the truth is hard to come by these days. Journalism and media have become about opinions and varying views, with little to no reporting or facts.
Yet, this truth I speak of has already been lived out by millions of saints. You can find it in their writings. You can find in scripture. And if it behooves you during this time to take up the study of morality or philosophy you’ll find the same path. There’s men behind bars that live more freely than many of us.
So why all the disruption to our normal daily routines? Because a plague has hit our land. A disease caused by an infection SARS-CV-2 called Covid-19. Plagues are not new news, nor is a Coronavirus. Remember SARS and MERS, not new, and all part of the Corona family of viruses.
In human history there’s been many plagues or virus pandemics; cholera, the bubonic plague, smallpox, the Spanish flu and a slew influenza viruses, all noteworthy killers to have taken out large populations of people. In many cases millions of people. The Old Testament is full of plagues too. Remember the 10 plagues in the book of Exodus; water turning to blood, frogs, lice, livestock pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and the killing of the firstborn children. So plagues are not new even if you haven’t seen one before.
But this is not a post on the virus, plagues, or pandemics, as I’m not a medical professional or immunologist. And this is not a post on politics or a bi-partisan stance, because I’m not a politician or an expert on public policy either. This post is posing another threat you may not be aware of yet, because I am sort of a mystic. The mystic that dwells inside has much to say on this topic because I live far from a superficial life.
You see, there are two storms. The one outside; the virus, the crash of the financial markets, the closing of businesses, and the rising unemployment rates etc. Then there’s another storm. The one that rages inside of you. It’s this one I imagine you never saw coming. The dark within and what rumbles below the surface like thunder.
When your external reality changes so quickly, in such a radical way there’s pressure and tension for a shift is coming. Like two platonic plates one must move, that’s just science and physics folks that we can’t dispute. So you will shake and quake inside. Your soul will scream. Because you heart was made for more. Your fears will tell you to run. And when you look in the mirror you wonder do you have what it takes. The storm, as well as the mirror exposes our vulnerability and exposes all we try to hide and run from in our lives.
A vulnerability and insecurities that can longer be escaped. The masks are being removed by force. And your mortality is smacking you in the face. You can’t run and there’s no where to hide. Not in this moment, in this time, because there’s no where to run. You know, the big scary questions. Why am I here? What is my purpose? Why am I in a job I hate? Why does such and such person bug me so much? What happens if I were to die? Or if family member does? Why am I living my life the way I do? Is there more?
Your image, your addictions, your idols, distractions, attachments, and busyness are no longer available. Sports gone. Entertainment gone, dining out gone, 401k, retirement and investments gone (the market tanked), weekend extravaganzas of large gatherings, parties, the arts, museums, concerts, and crafting all gone. Parties and large social gatherings to be seen and noticed. Gone. Even Sunday church as you know it. Gone. Everything that use to keep you busy, going, tire, and completely distracted is gone. All that emptied your wallet and filled your credit card statement. It’s all gone.
Your personal tower of Babel is crumbling before you and you’re not sure what to do. We’ve created more golden calves in this country than we can farm and we wonder why the world has gone mad. The world hasn’t gone mad, the people who were created to steward it have gone mad.
“Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire.” They used bricks for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.” Genesis 11:1-4
So now you are left with nothing to do and no where to go. It’s like being a small child and having your pacifier taken away. You want to scream and you want to run, because you want that attachment that smooths, soothes, and numbs all you don’t want to see, feel, or give attention to in your life. You don’t want to suffer without and you surely don’t want to face it. Yet, it’s now taking hold and taking you down and you are filled with fear because you can’t run or hide.
Fear is a false belief that your ego has fooled you into believing that those beliefs, attachments and fears protect you, but not a one of them do. Fear lies, it’s seductive, and sneaky smooth like a velvet tongue. It always says RUN. Fear hides in your wounded and broken places. It’s true. I know because I’ve walked that path so many times. The only thing it does in the running is paralyze you. It stops your growth and it keeps you from love. It keeps you stuck, stagnant, dying, a slow death of sorts. It’s painful and so you run.
That paralyzing fear feels like your having a crisis – it’s a storm in your soul. Because you were created for life and not death. You wanna crawl out of your skin and you want to run before you can even crawl. I imagine these days you have no idea where to run and what to do. How to fill the time and space. What’s left you wonder? You! Let me say that again. You are left. You are still breathing, your feet hit the floor today, and your reading this blog. You are here. You’re breathing, but are you alive?
Did you notice? Are you aware of your own breath? Of how you feel? And who did you thank for this moment in time. It’s the only one you have because none of us are guaranteed the next moment in time. Do you feel alive inside? Or a little dead inside, but afraid to face that graveyard of bones that’s been carrying you around. I know a man who opens graves, do you? Keep reading and I’ll introduce you to Him.
“Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” 1 Cor 15:55
Do you wonder why you’re here? Did you know you were created for a purpose? Did you know you are designed to prosper and not perish by a God who created you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14). God thought of you long before you were in your mother’s womb (Ps 139:13). Long before the moon and the stars aligned. You have Father who seeks you out and is always inviting into a great and grand story. An adventurous romance.
The emptiness you run from that you constantly try to fill. All those attachments and busyness that is now gone is all meant for Him. Your hunger was given to you by a God who hungers for you. He has a heart that seeks you out and He never stops. The beautiful you. The ugly parts of you. The ordered you and the disordered you. He desires you where you are right now. You are not a penny or a shoe. So there’s no need to try and shine yourself up before you go before Him. Let Him do all the shinning. He will make you shine like the sun. A beacon of light in the darkness. A calm to the waves and a light in the storm.
You are a miracle! Did you know that? A million and one things needed to go exactly right in the conception of you and in the time you spent in your mama’s womb for you to enter the world. I don’t know about you, but I thank the giver of miracles and it ain’t me. It’s the Lord of the universe, the creator of all creation, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, and eternal God who created you. The one who eternally desires for you to know Him.
Social media is full of sayings like “I didn’t know I was going to have to give up so much for lent?” This may near be the darkest Lent or spring you’ve ever experienced. Are you starting to wonder if what you did in the past for lent missed the mark? Winter, as well as lent is about dying and there’s a whole of dying going on, and Covid-19 is not cause.
Nuggets from my prayer journal on dying well.
1. Anchor your worth to God
2. Draw energy from God and His Spirit
3. Sacrifice yourself for God. Watch your motivations & intentions, as they can be wrongly prioritized
4. Set boundaries with God’s help. Ask for Grace and beg if your must.
This is the struggle, the battle, and it’s big. It’s for your soul. How often do you go to the symphony and miss the music playing? Because your mind was in some other place. Or meet a friend for coffee and miss the conversation, because your head was buried in your smartphone. Or attend the game, tournament, ceremony and miss the beauty of the moment because you were looking at your iwatch. Or miss what’s being said, because you were doing something, fill in the blank and not being present.
Just recently I was talking about an moment when I stood on a ledge in a place called, Chachapoyas. A mountain range in northern Peru. I was talking about the grand nature of God, and looking out with endless sight. The ability of feeling the presence of His glory in that very moment on that ledge. That same conversation happen to come up again only a few hours later.
Of course the landscape of that mountain range was stunning, but what made it more beautiful was I was aware of the moment. The wind on my face, the warmth of the sun, the breathe in my lungs, and the friend standing next to me. I was not lost in the past or worrying about the future. I was in the now and the eternal presence of God. It was the beauty of being fully alive that touched my soul.
Knowing it was God, by His grace that brought me to that ledge. All was right in that moment of time because I said yes to His invitation of an adventure. An adventure that made no sense to me because I had no answers or reasons why to go. Yet, God blesses our yeses and all our messes.
I’ll admit, I had my doubts in taking this adventurous trip that came to me like a call in prayer. It was only after conversations with two friends who told me the same thing, “Lisa you want control, you have a control problem, you want to know why God wants you to go before you go.” Gulp! Those two friends were right, but in those conversations they challenged me in love. They showed faith in my fears, hope in my doubting the Father’s goodness, and peace in my worry about looking foolish to my friend when I was not sure of what I was going to do when I arrived.
So I made the brave decision to go. That trip was awesome, crazy, amazing, wonderful and so much fun! I loved it! We traveled and hiked for five days. The majority of our travel was done in the dark of night to save time because we wanted our daylight hours to not be spent in a bus or in a car. We even had to wake up two border guards to get a passport stamp out of Ecuador into Peru at 3:00 am! We were the only two on the border bridge in the dark of night. I remember saying, “have you done this before in the middle of the night?” And he responded, “Nope, first time.” It was beautiful in the dark. In the quiet of the night. We could hear all of creation and nothing else, but our own voices.
On that trip, I had only small day backpack of items and there was nothing I missed. In all reality I was completely dependent on my friend to lead. Isn’t that what God wants from us to be — completely dependent on Him. I did not know the way and I could not communicate because my Spanish included limited vocabulary. If my friend lost me, I knew I was lost. Months before the trip he told me to learn five phases to help me find my way back to the mission house in case we got separated. Lose me I thought, oh you’re not going to lose me – I’m precious cargo. Instead, I prayed this, “God spiritually tether me to him so we do not get separated under any circumstances”.
Nuggets from my prayer journal
“The way is the person -Jesus, the path is dependence.”
Everything and anything that could of went wrong on that trip did; from canceled travel arrangements, to miss and wrong information to illness. Yet, in all that, not once was I afraid, concerned, anxious, or worried about anything. That included crossing the border in the dark, crazy travel in vehicles that looked like they might not make it from A to B, eating off street vendors, losing my lunch into a plastic bag in a taxi from a migraine and then ending up in the ER in a foreign country because my friend, who’s a physician thought I was having a stroke! It’s been almost 9 months since that trip. The graces continue to flow and I’m just now seeing some new ways in why I had to go. He blesses our yeses.
You might feel like you are in the dark of night. Winter is a time of darkness, so is Lent, but the dark is not so scary when you know you are not alone. You see all attachments and idols are fools gold. They make you feel safe, but provide no real safety at all. They attach and distract us from all that’s important. So look for the beauty.
Think about how you spend your time? Is it some carnal desire and pleasure or a life giving moment of sharing intimacy with God, a spouse or mate, family and friends. How do you spend your talents? Are you building your own towel of Babel on shrines in remodeling projects, vacation junkets, snowmobiles, boats, and ATV machines or building another up the one in need. And your money, oh the lure of greed. No one shows St. Peter the number of zeros on their paycheck or retirement statement or stock option plans. How do you spend your money? Or do you save so much thinking it will save you?
Ask your self if your money, your towel of Babel, or things you cling to quell your fears when the man at the grocery store sneezes right next to you? I imagine not. And for the record that extra toilet paper won’t save you either. Talk about faulty shelter, a tent out of toilet paper, there’s no hope in that folks.
So what does one do in the storm. You close the shutters, shut the door and hunker down, aka shelter in place. You wait for it to pass, because all things pass. Time is always passing away. It’s what you do in the storm and in the passing that makes all the difference.
I’ve lived through my share of storms and let me say this. The tents I built were nothing but faulty shelter. The tent tore and the stakes were up rooted in a matter of a minutes with one mighty, wind blow. So I did something uncomfortable. Well many things actually.
I started letting my self get uncomfortable. I got real, I got honest, and I got vulnerable with God and people I trust. First, I humbled myself. I had to admit I didn’t have all the answers. I started asking the tough and scary questions. I had to admit I needed help. I had to asked for help from God. Last, I got on my knees and beg for the one who saves to pick me up from my pity party. I begged God to grant me something I knew I didn’t deserve – grace. You see I’ve been tempted to turn back so many times, but I knew I wanted something more, something new. I asked the Lord to turn my judgement and wayward ways of sin and pain into beauty and grace. I learned the safest place is in the Lord’s will even when I look like a fool to others. Be it cackling on the floor for hours for thousands to see or going on an adventure to Ecuador and northern Peru with no plans or agenda in site. Ya, many reading this told me I was nuts. I’m ok now with being called nuts or extreme. God knows.
In my decision to not turn back to go all in, I was desperate for peace. Therefore, I was willing to take the stripping, the painful emotions in the cry of my soul, to be completely vulnerable and to not try to fix or let anyone fix me, but to accept the Lord’s love and grace. Instead of looking out, I started looking up and in and learning to be.
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is a like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like a chaff that the wind blows away.” Psalm 1:1-4
So I tossed my tent and stakes, and built a real foundation. I learned to grow roots for any storm. Oh sure, I get a little beat up like any good tree, but my roots are growing deeper and deeper as time passes. And although, I’m not like many of my medical professionals friends on the front lines and I am on the front line of the spiritual battle. Praying and fighting for souls because I know who I am and to whom I belong, and it’s only Jesus who saves. So I pray a lot, which is not an activity of doing, but being. Additionally, I pray a lot for all reading this post, for those I minister to, and mainly for those who don’t know this God in which I write because my soul desperately hungers for people to know the intimacy, love, and mercy I know. The goodness, the faithfulness, and the sovereignty. Oh and the grace.
Here’s another news flash that’s not fake news. This Coronavirus will not the change the mortality rate. Humans have a 100% mortality rate. We will all die, as no one gets out of here alive. Each and every one of us will take a last breath at some point in time. It’s your choice where you go after that last breath and how you live this life now. You can live a life of joy and peace in the storm and eternally live forever in a heavenly kingdom in the glory of God, or you can live in hell which is the complete absence of God. Talk about darkness, it gets no darker.
So in the storm I think the Lord is saying come rest in me. Reflect, reset, and refocused the priorities of your life. Take in the moment, stop running from thing to thing, activity to activity and reconnect with all that’s important God, family, and relationships with others.
Ask, any hospice nurse what the dying all say and they will tell you hey hear; “I wish I didn’t work so much”, “I wish I spent more time with family and those I love”. Don’t wait. God is giving you a precious gift in this moment to make changes that will be life giving. Changes that will bring you peace and incredible joy. Jesus slept, will you?
For those of us who do know this intimacy with God in which I write. Join me!
Sing! Ya, sing out praises to God and make the devil run. Intercede for His people and for this disease and nonsense to stop because death has been defeated and the king is surely alive. The ground is being tilled with turmoil, seeds are being planted because a great revival is on the way. Sing praises for the souls He’s going to save.
Rise up! Let those around you know that your peace comes from the person of Jesus Christ. Bring His peace and love to those filled with fear on the phone call, in texts, on social media, in zoom calls etc. because God is victorious and He hasn’t given up His control to some bird virus we can’t see. We know who the enemy is and it’s not Donald Trump.
Pray! Let us pray for the sick and dying, many of which are now alone with no family for support. Pray for our leaders of this country and around the world to have wisdom in their decisions. Pray for the protection, wisdom, and peace for all our medical professionals and all those on the the font lines. God is a God of multiplication, if the Lord can multiply loaves and fishers by the thousands surely he can multiple masks, ventilators, and every item needed, as well as people to show up and hear the call to go and assist where ever the Lord wants them to be.
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” St. Augustine
Now, if you do not know this Prince of Peace I speak then may I make a suggestion. Turn turn off the noise, sit in the silence and invite Him in. Learn to rest in God. Ask God where things are out of order in your life. Ask Him where is this peace You offer God. Go for a walk alone, take a deep breath ask to God to reveal Himself to you. It’s as simple as saying this little prayer.
Come Holy Spirit, Come Holy Spirit. God come into my life and into my heart. I want to see you, to hear you, to know you. God show me that you are real. These days are difficult, they are filled with worry, anxiety, and fear. I worry about about my family, my finances, my employment and so many other things. I want to know your peace and the love you have for me. I surrender all my attachments and relationships to you. I ask you God to help me. God, I desire for You to be my Lord and my Savior. I turn my heart and life over to you. Grant me peace Lord. Amen.