Doing the Jesus Thing

I was jerked awake this morning in the early hours by a weather alert on our phones. The emergency signal had me jumping up, grabbing my glasses, ready to go gather kids into the basement. I was sure it was a tornado warning as the news had been telling everyone to stay alert for that kind of weather. My husband rolled over, grabbed his phone, and told me it was a flood warning. Not a tornado. I sat on the edge of the bed, heart pounding, totally confused. Ok. I don’t need to jump up. Lay back down. We don’t live in a flood zone, the only thing that’s going to happen to our house is for the unfinished basement to get flooded, which it does regularly during heavy rain. I laid back down, but now my heart was still thumping loudly and it took me a long time to get sleepy again. Instead I lay there and listened to the rain and the thunder and lightning and I thought how wonderful it is to hear these things from the comfort of my warm cozy bed. 

Lightning is an issue for our property. We have a large lot, almost half an acre, and during our almost fourteen years of living here, we’ve had three large trees struck and killed by lightning. We’ve also had another tree blow over onto our house. And we’ve had a chimney get blown over. 

I lay in bed and remembered these things, but also remembered that no one got hurt. Insurance helped cover the costs of repairs. And we only have two large trees left. In my constant optimism, I was sure they would be fine. 

Surprisingly, no children ran down to shelter in our room. I’ve got several kids who are not fond of thunderstorms. 

Of course, while I was happily weathering the storm in my cozy bed, there were other people dealing with flooded houses, blown over trees, and other weather-related disasters. 

We have a tendency to do this. As long as we are happy, we can forget about other people’s suffering. 

I read an interesting article yesterday in The Atlantic about the barge that is stuck in the Suez Canal, affecting the world’s shipping industry. The article was talking about how everyone is suddenly becoming aware of the shipping industry and how our goods get one from one place to another. And how this awareness is something that the large companies don’t want us to have. The stores want us to see goods and products that we like and then buy them. They don’t want us to think about underpaid factory workers in poor countries who labored to make those products. They don’t want us to think about this system we all participate in, where the poorest people in the world are taken advantage of so that we can have all the cheap things we want, whenever we want them. If we all actually thought about this when we were shopping, we might make different decisions about what we buy. 

Same theme. I’m fine. I’ve got what I need. I don’t need to think about what other people are going through. 

I’m reading a good book called The Guardians by John Grisham. In the book, a small organization works at helping inmates who have been incarcerated unjustly. People who are innocent. They spend years on each case. It’s a nonprofit. They don’t get paid. They eek by with donations and fundraising. The story is essentially about people who are purposefully looking at someone else’s problems and turning their own lives upside down in order to help those people. I don’t think it’s an accident that the main character is an Episcopal Priest. It’s a very Jesus thing to do. 

Love your neighbor as yourself. It sounds so simple. Sure, I can be nice to people. But, can we look past our own contentment and ease, and purposefully try to see the problems of people around us? Can we turn our own lives upside down in order to help people in need? Can we lay in our warm comfortable beds, listen to the rain, and pray for those whose homes are being flooded? Can we check on family and friends and acquaintances who we know might not be in as safe a position as ourselves? Can we offer our own warm residences as a place of shelter for those who are out in the storm? Can we take our eyes off ourselves and see the people around us? That is, after all, the Jesus thing to do. 

New Year’s Resolutions, Uncertainty, and God’s Sovereignty

Christmas is over. Yesterday marked my last day of festivities. This morning I took my daughter to get her ears pierced, one of her Christmas presents. As of 12:27pm today, I was officially done with celebrating Christmas. As far as taking down Christmas ornaments and cleaning up the debris from all the celebrating, well that falls more into New Year’s activities. And I am getting all geared up for New Years. 

Without fail, every year, I get excited about New Years. Every single year I think, this is the year. This is the year I will lose weight. This is the year I will become more disciplined. This is the year I will grow exponentially in my spiritual disciplines. This is the Year!!

I start making plans. This is the diet I’m going to try. This is the exercise plan I will attempt. These are the Good Habits I’m going to start. These are the Bad Habits I’m going to get rid of. 

RIght now, I’m pretty convinced that starting Jan 5th, I will be waking up at 6 am every day, getting on my elliptical with a sun lamp pointed at my face, working hard for thirty minutes while I listen to scripture being read out loud from my Bible App. Then I will go eat a small breakfast of vegetables and rice and maybe some fish thrown in. (And all these things will lead to inner peace, weight loss and lots of energy.) 

Hey, a woman can dream right? 

Interestingly, I was reading “The Atlantic” magazine today (a stocking-stuffer from my husband!) and the very first pages had an advertisement/article whose headline said, “Uncertain about the future?” and then at the end of the article, also in big letters, “Make a Plan”. The article of course had scientific evidence of how uncertainty stresses us out, and making a plan alleviates a lot of that stress. I think this is a coping skill I have been using for a long time. Making plans always makes me feel better. 

Uncertainty may be why we always face a new year with lots of New Year’s Resolutions. We have no idea what the New Year is going to bring, so we cope with that uncertainty by making all kinds of plans that should bring us health and prosperity. Almost like a good luck charm. If I just do A, B, and C, then I am guaranteed a good year. 

In the end, I know that I will not follow all my “plans” perfectly. I’m still hopeful. But, I know I will mess up. And even if I do succeed it will be a series of ups and downs. I also know that I have no way of predicting what is going to happen in this upcoming year. We still have election uncertainties, covid, vaccines, shaky economies, schools opening and shutting, lots of shifting in the world governments and systems. I have no guarantees that this upcoming year will be better than the one we just weathered. And yet, I am feeling hopeful. 

We had a very good Christmas. We ended up with a lot of snow, which for many people in our area ended up causing a lot of trouble, but for us, it was just pretty white stuff on the ground. Everything went smoothly. No sickness. (We’ve had several Christmases where we’ve been hit with the stomach bug.) The kids enjoyed each other’s company. My oldest daughter has been able to be with us. Everyone liked their presents. I have felt like this time has been a gift from God. A gift of Peace and Joy. And I really don’t know if I’m getting this gift because it will be a good memory to hang on to when things get rough again, or if it’s just the beginning of a better year. Only God knows. But, it made me feel seen. Made me feel like God was watching out for me. Made me remember that God is still in control. I’m in his hands. 

In the end, we live in uncertain times. All humanity has always lived in uncertain times. And we can make all the plans we want, but we have no guarantees that those plans will come to fruition. Psalm 20 verse 7 says, 

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” 

God has our future in his hands. The great drama of world history that is playing out before our eyes is also in his hands. And that is our true source of hope. For those who have put their trust in God, his hands are the safest place to be.