Devotional for Wednesday, December 16
Hello siblings, Trent here.
Unusual greeting but I’ve had an unusual few weeks with familial siblings, half-siblings, step-siblings, my dad’s friends, his widow, his widow’s dad, their friends…wow. Oh, and by the way, I call Donna ‘my dad’s widow’ because she is only eight years older than me and it seems strange to call her my step-mother. A very strange conglomeration of relationships that all seem to work.
If you are connected at all (TV, newspapers, online, etc), the onslaught of “this year in review” programs, articles, posts, blogs, etc. is about to begin. So, I figured I’d be one of the first. And while sitting in a hammock, talking to God I decided to be human and vulnerable instead of pastoral and encouraging…though I hope this will be both.
In January, I expected the most difficult thing we would be dealing with this year was the pending retirement of Pastor Greg. He announced it the last week of January 2020, giving us a year's notice.
We knew the election cycle would be contentious, but that is nothing new. Then COVID, fear, anxiety, lockdowns, illness, death, overreactions, underreactions, decisions, managing responses to decisions, PPP – and managing differing opinions on that. All the while trying to keep God’s people looking toward the One who saves, the Giver of Life, the Beginning and the End. Then riots, racial tensions, conspiracy theories, and prophecies, all of which I tried to stay on top of in order to be a safe harbor for people to vent, share, hope, and wait.
The world opened up a bit, but that brought its own sources of anxiety – people within the church, within families, within the staff, all had differing responses to the media, science, and policies. And I have yet to meet anyone who believes the way they see something is the wrong way…myself included.
Then the election - contested still to this day. Anger and joy mixed together, within the body of Christ, each person concerned that others aren’t concerned about the same things they are.
Then the much-anticipated birth of my first grandchild, Lucy, half a world away in a country closed to outsiders with no opening in sight. Just eight days later my dad died, the day after Thanksgiving. Three days after that, Pastor Andrew informed me of his forthcoming resignation. Then a trip to Florida with my very unusual family where I am sibling, son, and pastor. I eulogized my dad and then went through his clothes. Stayed a few days and then headed down to a place on Siesta Key that a friend owns and offered to us.
One other thing (human and vulnerable), the last six to seven weeks have been filled with inexplicable and debilitating pain in my glutes, hips, hamstrings, and both shoulders. The shoulders are excruciating at night and the glutes, hips, hamstrings by day. Car rides and flights are almost unbearable.
Why tell you all of this? Because Lyn and I had a good discussion this morning about something we have both forgotten of late. Shabbat. Sabbath. Rest.
Do you remember when the disciples were in the boat and it was going down because the storm had come up? They were terrified because they had no control over the wind, the waves, or the boat. They questioned Jesus.
Mark 4 - 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
What I realized today, in a hammock was that I am not so much afraid of a storm as a feel like I am the storm. He is telling me to be quiet and still. And slowly, but surely the pain, anxiety, concern, and a false sense that I have any control over my circumstances begin to fade.
Shabbat is hard. It is choosing to turn off the noise. It is choosing to embrace the pain, own the discomfort, and acknowledge the anxiety. But like grieving, if Shabbat is ignored, it will impose itself upon us. The 4th commandment has less to do with sabbath observance than it has to do with us. Remember Jesus saying “man is not made for the sabbath but the sabbath for man”?
Am I still concerned about tomorrow: Andrew’s departure, Greg’s retirement, political and social unrest, how the church ends the year financially, what the future holds? Yes! Do I know how things will play out? No. But I know the One who does. And right now, He wants to remind me of this: if I trust Him, I trust Him enough to rest (like He did) in the midst of the storm.
Not a hair can fall from your head without the will of your Father. Is He not concerned with the things you are concerned with? Of course He is. And He is the one who can heal the sick, calm the storm and set up or tear down kingdoms.
Rest and trust.
Your Father is alive and well and He wants you to be the same.
Below are three pics: One of my dad when he still looked good, another is of Lucy, my granddaughter and the third is a selfie my wife took and if you look closely, you will see my feet sticking up from the hammock at about the moment God told me to “quiet, be still.”
See you on Saturday and Sunday.