Hunting for Resiliency

In the States we have merely two weeks under our belts of “stay at home” orders as we watch the COVID-19 pandemic spread. It begins by showing up places we have been, then it reaches people we know.

Fear, grief, uncertainty are all the order of the day. Striking among it all is the lack of resiliency in our systems and even our own lives. One author mentioned it on a recent podcast and I have been contemplating it since the fateful Friday a couple of weeks ago when schools closed and our lives were set for change.

Restaurants, always run on the slimmest of margins, are devastated. More than 3 million people applied for unemployment in the first week alone. The sky has fallen on the economy and our health systems warn of overwhelming.

Nothing is resilient. And I don’t say this thinking I have everyone bettered, I too live from paycheck to paycheck with little margin. I get the uncertainty, the fear of the unknown.

Perhaps, given the lack of resiliency, what we need is not a return to “normal” but a path to resiliency. Transformed economic systems. The way we do life and business. Shifts in education.

While that is a refrain we are hearing more often, that transformation is some days away. We could use some resiliency now.

Enter the King. Jesus.

The anchor that is meant to keep believers. To grant hope. To hold us through the most difficult of storms. His resiliency making us resilient.

Can I introduce you to him?

That ache for something more is an ache for him. Your Creator. The One who holds the universe together and works his purpose even through our times. He is the resolution to the pain of disregard for God. The ways you have rejected him because you have preferred to remain on the “throne” of your life. When we are ready to give that up, to surrender to his authority, we are welcomed home in him. Identity, belonging, purpose come from him.

We now have a place to bring our tears our insecurity and find hope instead. Resiliency.

The author of the book of Hebrews in the Bible, in talking about lesser things being stripped away in life, says this of our place now in Christ:

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28–29 (ESV)

In Jesus we have received a kingdom that doesn’t shake. It doesn’t face ruin. It is resilient. Because of that we can worship, give our attention and admiration over to God. He is bringing all things under his authority and glory.

Run to Jesus. That he will secure us in his resiliency and lend it to us.

The Riches of His Glory

We are all extroverts now… At least we are longing for connection. For other people (no offense immediate family). For the regular interaction that life is meant to afford. Digital connection is nice, hearing voices, seeing faces. But the hug of a friend. The presence of a colleague. It will come again, but we don’t know how long.

I feel this ache as a pastor. Watching our little church interact online yesterday was an encouragement but I also long to be with these people. Present. Reliable.

And in that longing is a prayer that they would experience something better than my presence. Something tangible and eternal. That all of us would be transformed in the midst of isolation.

To that end I join Paul as he prays in Ephesians 3.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:14–19 (ESV)

Amen.

Putting Pen to Paper

When we were all setting New Year’s resolutions none of us thought we would be here. Living through a pandemic, schools closed, churches live-streaming, the CDC saying we shouldn’t gather in groups over 50. It is a challenging time. But all necessary if we can flatten the curve of those sick with COVID-19 and the overwhelming of our medical systems.

So what should we do? Well lots of things, but first let me encourage you to journal each day through this pandemic. The days will begin to get interesting and for posterity sake it would be nice to have a record of what you experienced. But also, you are going to need to process everything that is happening and what you are feeling.

Describe the things you read or hear throughout the day. What it is like having the kids home. How much toilet paper you have in reserve. Whatever comes to mind and needs to be on the page.

Studies indicate journaling, just the art of putting pen to paper to describe the day and what you have been thinking, helps your overall mental state. It can calm where there is anxiety, it can capture where there is creativity, it can resolve what seems stuck.

As we embark on this journey together then, grab some paper (maybe you have an unused journal around the house), pick up a pen and let it rip.

Grapes on the Vine

As I have been studying 2 Corinthians for Sundays at Reservoir Church I am struck over and over again by the importance of the church gathered. The assembly of saints that goes through all of life together, thick and thin. It is the place of sanctification, the bullhorn of the glory of Christ as our lives are transformed in community.

While in the North American church we might give lip service to agreeing to this, how we live is terribly different. We choose churches and stay there only while our preferences are prioritized and as for lasting community, the moment we feel uncomfortable we bail. This is why “church discipline” is nonexistent and why sadly many of us hover in immaturity before Christ.

I had occasion in recent weeks to talk with someone about choosing a path other than avoiding the church (or their specific church). When speaking truth brought tension it was easier to “worship somewhere else.”

I get it. We find ourselves living in the cancel culture of boycotting people that don’t share our opinions let alone people who might call out our sin or encourage us to choose things that are better for us.

The thing is, in Christ this is what you were meant for. The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians says that church is a collection of redeemed people “called to be saints together.” As in not alone, but for the long-haul together with people we can build love with so outsiders will know us by our love for one another. And the thing about love, real, good love, is that it some times refines us and stretches us. And when we miss it, when we refuse it, we wither.

This was illustrated to me this week as I was packing lunch for my kiddos. Grabbing some grapes from the fridge I noticed that all the grapes that remained on the vine where firm and healthy, the choice ones. But the grapes that at the bottom of the bag, separated from the bunch, were those fading and spoiling.

This is a picture of us apart from the church. Now there are many reasons to choose a church well in our day, but when you find one, stick with it. Through thick and thin. It is for your good. And it is for the glory of Christ.