Culture, Discipleship, Grace

Diminished Unhealthy Urgency

This pandemic is changing us. In uncomfortable ways and in some good ways. Let’s focus on the good to get through the difficult.

As I began my day this morning I was contemplating a newer reality for me, something that has taken place especially the last month. Usually I would wake up with a list to conquer, places to be, and an anxious urgency to get it all done. While I still have the same list of tasks the number of places and start times are different. But the anxious urgency has been diminished.

I have the same portfolio of work, and even the same number of meetings (which are virtual or outside at a distance). But the sense of a crushing burden of the week is different. And I am okay with it.

In the last year we saw the publication of numerous books on eliminating hurry as the cure to what ails us but those books often failed to deliver a fulcrum that could bring us into a different way of life. COVID did.

The pandemic, if we allow it to, can shift the things we value and the way we approach life. If we are lost to the idol of politics are self-righteousness there isn’t much hope, but if we start to value our neighbor, our family, even our enemies for the image-bearing souls they are, we might value the time we get with them more. We don’t feel like an intrusion like we used to. We take the time for connection. We learn again what it means to set aside our preference for the other and this is the way we grow.

The pandemic is also changing our pace and what a gift this is. Time is becoming less of a commodity. Even though some days feel like Groundhog’s Day (the movie) we don’t have the same pressure to fill each moment with meaninglessness.

I wonder what other ways the pandemic is shifting the way we live, the way we see the world, and where we place our hopes. For now I thankful for the diminishing of unhealthy urgency.

Discipleship, Grace

Finding Restoration

For the last week and a half, our family has been “hiding in the woods” of Oregon for some much desired and needed time away. And as one does, as we approach the end of our vacation I have been reflecting on whether I have found the refreshment or rest that I thought I needed.

I think so.

For me time away from the regular schedule and demands are times to dream and scheme. I usually come away from short sabbaticals with a list of new challenges or ideas to tackle. This trip has some of this but not nearly the typical crush of tasks to take on. I think a big part of this is that we still don’t know what the next months hold. As virus infections continue to rise in the U.S. and the likelihood of another lock-down seems necessary the church remains in the a flexible posture and we keep preaching the word and trusting the Spirit to move among us (even if we are apart).

I think the other reason I don’t have a huge dream list from this trip is that what I need is not new dreams, what I need is restoration. Renewal, re-energizing for the days ahead.

Sliding into Psalm 126 this morning I join the Psalmist crying out for another move of God.

The prayer begins by recounting. “When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.” Mouths filled with laughter, shouts of joy, and people taking notice. “The LORD has done great things for them,” Indeed, the LORD has done great things for us… we are in fact glad!

But we won’t settle for nostalgia. We want more of Jesus, more of his harvest, more of his glory. “Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negeb!” Like a flood to a desert place, wash us anew in your grace and overwhelm us with your presence and power.

This has been a season of tears and weeping, which are seeds for sowing. In Christ, we shall come home with shouts of joy. With his harvest.

This is what I need, I think it is what you need too. Restoration. Grace-driven, Christ-exalting, wind-in-your-sails strength. I think that is what the Spirit is working. We are laughing again, shouting for joy.

May we say, Yes, the LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.


Surreal Reality

This week in preparation for recording an Easter sermon one of my confidants relayed how it has been difficult to engage in the usual experiences of Holy Week. For Christians it is the time in the church calendar that commemorates the pivotal events of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

Typically there is pause, the slow, thoughtful end of a Lenten season of surrender. But sheltering-at-home has robbed us of routines, of seasonal recognition and the unfolding of what we have believed to be spiritual intention.

2020 has instead given us a new way of aching for something better. Many of us grieve loved-ones and strangers felled by COVID-19. Many of us face the fear of financial uncertainty. Many us are burdened by an avalanche of information and can’t figure out who to listen to. We hope for true leadership in the crisis. We wrestle with our usual misplaced hopes and fears on steroids.

It is a surreal reality. Bizarre. Can this all be happening?

And that is it. Can this be happening?

That is the sense we are meant to have during Holy Week. A numb questioning if it is even real. The surprise of it.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem he was welcomed as a king, set to solve what the crowds assumed was their trouble. Yet his purpose was larger than political boundaries and tribalism. His purpose was global and spiritual in nature. When he was arrested and tried, those who knew him to have the words of life were stricken with fear, things were not unfolding according to their script but to Scripture.

There on the cross as Jesus died, as the sky was dark and the earth shook, those with hope found it dim and were left searching. A surreal reality.

But the work being done was forgiveness. For all who dishonored the holiness of God, a sacrifice was made. What was surreal was truer than anything that had come before.

As the breath left his lips and exclaimed “it is finished” it really was. Absolution. Freedom.

Those watching still couldn’t believe it. We have a hard time believing it now. But the waiting, the unknown, the uncertainty would be resolved. The Savior who was killed on the cross would walk out of his grave.

This was living hope then. This is living hope now. Jesus.

Our experience will still be surreal. But resolution is coming. Whether we live or die we live with Him. On this Good Friday, trust in Jesus. In his finished work on the cross to present you as blameless before our Creator God.

Rest in his reality. Breathe in his peace.