May 18, 2012

Shaken to the Core

This devotion is running today on Internet Cafe Devotions

On January 12, 2010 the foundations of the earth shook as a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti.

The already-poorest-country in the Western hemisphere suffered unthinkable destruction. News reports confirmed the ruin, chaos, grief, tragedy. By all accounts Haiti was devastated. Period.

Did you know earthquakes foreshadowed major plot shifts in the Bible?
  • Before Moses received the Ten Commandments, “the mountain trembled violently.”
  • When Jesus was crucified and took his last breath, “the earth shook.” 
  • When the angel rolled the stone away from the tomb, “there was a violent earthquake.” 
  • When Paul and Silas sang hymns in prison, “there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken.” 

I imagine the witnesses focused on the chaos, shock and ruin of the earthquakes. But knowing what came next, I hear God saying, “Don’t focus on the shaking earth and get stuck there! Look at me. Watch what I’m going to do!” I’m giving you The Law. I’m overcoming death. I’m giving you eternal life. I’m building my church.

The earthquakes weren’t the end of the story; they were the beginning. It’s been said, “Don’t put a period where God intends a comma.”

In the two years since the earthquake in Haiti, futility, hopelessness and despair abound. Each news report draws circles around the period at the end of the story called Haiti.

But God.

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging." (Psalm 46:1-3) 

The earthquake drew me to Haiti to work with the Foundation for Peace. Relief has turned into rebuilding and ongoing care.

During each visit to Haiti I see momentum building and the story growing. I hear God saying, “Don’t focus on the shaken earth and get stuck there! Look at me. Watch what I’m doing!”  

Newly rebuilt boats ready for fishing.
Recently I received an update on the work FFP had been doing since my team’s departure in March. They:
  • Distributed shoes to children and Bibles to adults in a poor village, and they helped rebuild the village’s three fishing boats. 
  • Finished building a house for a woman and her children who’d been living under sheets. 
  • Held a worship service where a voodoo priest and his family gave their lives to Jesus. (It took an hour to burn all of his voodoo trinkets.) 
  • Continued to build the vocational school started last year—the only school of its kind in the region. 

God is telling a story of glory in Haiti.

In our own lives earthquakes will happen. Natural disasters. Death. Divorce. Cancer. Financial woes. Heartbreak. Our foundations will be shaken to their core.

But God says, “Be still…” Relax. Pause. Add a comma. “…and know…” Experience for yourself. Take my truth into your soul. Turn toward me. “…that I am God.” Your refuge and strength. Your ever-present help in trouble. Your fortress and deliverer.

Has your foundation been shaken? Is God calling you to "Be still, and know…?" Where is He writing a story of glory in your life?

If you'd like to learn more about Foundation for Peace and the work they do, and even join an upcoming trip, click here.

May 9, 2012

Gym Time and Jesus

I wrote this for Internet Cafe Devotions last month and thought I'd share here.

I love Thursday morning spin class at my gym. It’s intense, sweaty and leaves me feeling exhausted in a great way.

A spin bike is stationary, of course. So no matter how hard you pedal, the bike remains in exactly the same place. Yet, every week my competitive streak flares and I try not just to survive spin class, but to “win” it. Throughout the class I compare my perceived effort to others. I try to keep my gear and cadence above what the instructor calls out. And I glance at the digital displays on the bikes of nearby riders to see if my “numbers” are better than theirs.

Recently my bike was “tighter” than usual and during the class I struggled to reach even the lowest gear range the instructor called out. I looked at my fellow pedalers.  

They’re doing it, why can’t I?

My heart pounded. Sweat flowed off my forehead and down my back. Yet, I felt discouraged. At the end of the class my body said, “Wow, tough workout!” But my mind said, “You’re weak—loser!”

The next week, the bike I chose shifted easily. Throughout class, instead of lagging behind, I stayed several gears ahead. A quick glance around the room confirmed, Yep, you’re beating them! My adrenaline pumped and I finished class feeling victorious. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t as fatigued as usual, or that the victory came on an “easy” bike—I “won” spin class.

Letting a fickle machine and the perceived performance of strangers validate and invalidate my results is silly of course. But my competitive nature can be my fatal flaw: I constantly compare myself to those around me—and use them as my barometer. When tail winds of affirmations, praise and success make the ride easy, I feel great…and worthy. When the head winds of rejection, stress and failure press me back, my spirits sink. Up and down goes my self-esteem.

All around us, every single day, the mirrors of life reflect who we are, what we’re worth and where we fit in. They label us (and we label ourselves) by what is seen: Popular, smart, beautiful, talented, winner … Weak, rejected, fat, stupid, loser.
How this must grieve our Savior. That we believe these fickle, flawed labels instead of the heavenly ones He so preciously obtained for us:

Forgiven … worthy … accepted … known … victorious … redeemed ...

His Word shatters false labels and shows us our true reflection. “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (John 15:9,19)

One day I hope this amazing truth permeates into the center of my being, because isn't the greatest victory to truly know and accept the love God has for us? To that end, I pray as David did:
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139: 23-24)
I’m still going to try to "win" spin class, but there's only one label I want to wear as a crown of victory ... beloved.