Monday, March 30, 2020

To the class of 2020

Well, apparently you've made it. It hasn't been the ending you expected--you were unceremoniously told that because of circumstances outside your control, if you were in good standing as of the end of the third 9-weeks, you're considered a graduate. There are a lot of unknowns right now--about prom and graduation and cap & gown pictures--and a lot of things that I'm sure tempt you to feel sorry for yourself.

So now, you have the first choice of your official "adult" life. You can feel sorry for yourself and focus on all the things you might be missing out on, or you can keep moving forward.

I've watched you since middle school (most of you, anyway). In 8th grade, most of you were uncomfortable in your own skin. You were struggling to figure out where you fit in the world of high school, a time of decisions like nothing you'd faced before that. I watched you try on personas like they were hats--class clown? flirt? brainiac? jock? thug?--and was so proud to see you settle into yourselves. It's been amazing to see who you've become as you've grown, and the glimpses of who you will become in the future definitely make me excited to see what tomorrow holds.

But here's the thing--this disappointment you're facing now? It's the first of many. This world can be a rough place. As Dan Rather once said, "A tough lesson in life that one has to learn is that not everybody wishes you well." That's true for the world as a whole. Your future won't be a smooth path laid out in front of you, all the curves clearly marked and well lit. You won't be handed a road map that shows your destination and all the rest stops between here and there.

If you're lucky, you'll be able to see to the next turn. More often than not, though, things will be like the end of this senior year--a sudden road block you didn't deserve or expect, thrown at you when you least expected it. You'll be faced with hard times and hard decisions, but there's a Helen Keller quote that's one of my favorites:

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.
Only through experience of trial and suffering
can the soul be strengthened,
ambition inspired, and success achieved."

Your circumstances don't dictate who you are. Instead, you are defined by how you deal with the circumstances life deals you. I know you, and I know you have the potential to take whatever life throws at you and use it well. So take this curve in stride, and keep moving toward your future.

So here's what I pray the future holds for you:

I hope you face something that scares you, something that makes your breath catch and your knees shake. I hope you come face to face with something you know you can't deal with on your own.

"But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you,
for My power is made perfect in weakness.'
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,
so that Christ's power may rest on me.
That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses,
in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.
For when I am weak, then I am strong."
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I hope you experience true joy, the kind that is deep down in the core of who you are and doesn't depend on what's happening around you. I hope you have the kind of joy that makes you smile in the midst of pain, that lets you face the future with hope even when the present seems hopeless.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peaces as you trust in Him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Romans 15:13
I hope you experience the kind of crying that leaves you breathless, with your stomach hurting and all your tears cried out. I hope you face a sorrow that brings you to your knees, one that breaks your heart and makes you think you won't survive. Because that means you've loved so deeply that that person has become part of you, and that kind of love--despite the risk of hurt--is a wonderful thing.

"The LORD is close to the broken-hearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
Psalm 34:18

I hope you see that some of the things you take for granted are actually dreams come true. I hope you achieve great things, like finding and staying close to the people who love you. I hope you have big dreams, too--and I hope there's always at least one that stays just out of reach. I hope it gives you something to work for and strive for, something that always pushes you to try harder and be better.

"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.
But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
I press on toward the goal to win the prize
for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 3:13-14

I hope you have the faith of a mustard seed--not small faith, but the kind of faith that is certain that God's plan for your life will be what is best and will come to fruition. That kind of faith is the kind that doesn't worry or stress about the hardships that come. It is the kind of faith that will carry you through the dark times, the times when you feel like you've been buried in the dark and there's no way out. It's the kind of faith that will let you face all the hard times of this life, all those times that will knock you flat on your face.
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for
and certain of what we do not see."
Hebrews 11:1
While it's true that not everyone in life wishes you well, I hope you will always remember that I do. I wish you nothing but the best, and I know you can face the hard things (just like you faced math...). You can turn to me no matter what, no matter when. More importantly, though, you can turn to God--no matter what, no matter when.

Monday, March 23, 2020

When the earth spins out of control...'s life? If you turn on the t.v. or computer (and who doesn't right now?), you gt the idea that the whole world is falling apart and out of control. One day last week, I could feel the anxiety. My heart rate, which is naturally fast already, was racing. My blood pressure was up. It felt like I was all tied up in knots with a million questions racing through my mind:
  • What's the best way to make sure our food lasts as long as possible?
  • How do we keep the kids in some sort of "school" mindset?
  • Am I getting all my work done without my trusty whiteboard (my absolute favorite thing about my office--yes, I'm that kind of nerd) there to show me my to-do list?
  • Where would be the best place to plant a garden? Even if this crazy time comes to an end soon and things get back to "normal", it's helped me realize just how important it is for us to make our farm self-sustaining for the future.
  • What are the farm projects we need to do and have the supplies here at home to get done?
  • How are my family members all coping with being cooped up at home?
That, I promise, is just the tip of the iceberg. When my mind starts racing I can't even begin to unravel the tangled knots of my thoughts.

Then, Nathan and I went outside to sit on the porch swing. It's something we rarely get the time to do in the normal everyday craziness of life when we're always running and sometimes feel like our paths barely cross. But with this forced slow down, we had time.

We sat there, watching the goats and donkey graze and listening to the ducks as they chased after bugs. We looked at shapes in the clouds in a sky that was unusually clear of vapor trails. We listened to the quiet of the hills, the birds and bugs and frogs singing, the puppies playing at the barn, and the goose honking to his ducks.

Sitting there, I could feel myself relax. The goats and birds weren't worrying. They were simply trusting their Creator to take care of them, no matter what. Sometimes, I forget that we're promised the same. He is faithful, and He is there in the midst of our chaos.

"God is our shelter and our strength.
When troubles seem near, God is nearer, and He’s ready to help.
So why run and hide? 

No fear, no pacing, no biting fingernails. 
When the earth spins out of control,
we are sure and fearless. 
When mountains crumble and the waters run wild,
we are sure and fearless. 
Even in heavy winds and huge waves, 
or as mountains shake, we are sure and fearless.
A pure stream flows—never to be cut off— 
bringing joy to the city where God makes His home, 
the sacred site where the Most High chooses to live.
The True God never sleeps and always resides in the city of joy; 
He makes it unstoppable, unshakable. 
When it awakes at dawn, the True God has already been at work.
Trouble is on the horizon for the outside nations,
not long until kingdoms will fall; 
God’s voice thunders and the earth shakes.
You know the Eternal, the Commander of heavenly armies,
surrounds us and protects us;
the True God of Jacob is our shelter, close to His heart."

Psalm 46:1-7


Friday, March 13, 2020

faith and fear

Fear is a dangerous thing--partly because it's so sneaky. It creeps in through the weak spots and quickly spreads; wrapping its tendrils around everything and choking out all rational thought. So often, we get sucked into the hysteria and the chaos around us and the fear spreads.

Right now, fear and hysteria are spreading like wildfires. The media is feed our fears--and feeding off of our fears. As a result, fear is becoming so widespread that it's taking over every aspect of life. People aren't making rational decisions (stocking up on toilet paper for an overwhelmingly mild respiratory virus?). College athletes who have realized life-long dreams of making it to the national tournament are now being told they won't be playing. Entire schools, cities, and countries are going into lockdown.

So what are we supposed to do? In the face of such widespread panic, how are followers of Christ supposed to react?

First, let me say that the science available on this virus doesn't back up the mass hysteria. The vast majority of people who contract the virus have such mild symptoms that they don't seek medical help. Yes, the mortality rate seems high--somewhere between 2-3%--but that is only based on the number of confirmed cases. For a little bit of clarity, as of the time I'm writing this we have more than 1,000 times more people who have died from this season's flu in the United States (and millions more cases) than Covid-19. Please stop fanning the fires of panic by demanding that things shut down and life as we know it come to an end...

Despite the science, people are in a panic. In my opinion, the biggest reason is the fear and sensationalism of something new and unknown. That means there's a significant level of ignorance surrounding this virus, and with ignorance comes fear. It's like a breeding ground for it and I would argue that it's the reason for a lot of the chaos and hatred in the world. Ignorance is a dangerous weapon.

That said, I understand that there really are things in life that induce fear. Sometimes that fear is rational and sometimes it isn't, but in either case it's still there. So how do we handle fear? I'm sure you've heard that there's a verse in the Bible for every day of the year telling us not to fear. I'll be honest, though--if that's where those verses ended I don't think they would do any good. I'm not a fan of being told, "Do this," or, "Don't do that." I'm definitely one of those who bulls up when rules are simply dictated without any background or reasoning. In my mind, "Don't be scared," ranks right up there with, "Just calm down." Both make my frustration go through the roof.

But those verses? They don't just demand that we not be afraid and then stop right there. Instead they go on to add the most important part:

"Be strong and brave, and don't tremble in fear of them,
because the Eternal your God is going with you.
He'll never fear or abandon you."
Deuteronomy 31:6

"We can be strong and courageous
because of the One who fights with us."
2 Chronicles 32:7a

"This is My command: be strong and courageous.
Never be afraid or discouraged because I am your God,
the Eternal One, and I will remain with you wherever you go."
Joshua 1:9

We are told not to be afraid, but it's for one very simple reason: the Creator of the universe has promised never to abandon us. He doesn't walk away during the hard times. In fact, He promises that He's so close to us that we can rest in His shadow. He's there through the storms and fires of life, no matter how things look or how chaotic the world becomes. Because the creation can't change the nature of the Creator. This chaos of the world has no impact on the steadfast nature of God, the One who told Moses to call Him "I AM."

So in those moments when life does get crazy and it seems like the entire world is spinning out of control, remember that He is there beside you.

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess,
for He who promised is faithful."
Hebrews 10:23

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