Who is this man?

But Jesus cares

Mark 4:35-41 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out. … But soon a fierce storm came up. … Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” Jesus rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still! Suddenly the wind stopped and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

Shutterstock: Oskari Porkka

Mark 8:27-29 Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” “Well,” they replied. “Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.” Then Jesus asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”

Teacher … Messiah. What a huge leap from one to the other. Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of God, the Savior, Redeemer, Rescuer, Lord.

A friend recently told me, “I admire Jesus. I learn a lot from him. But I don’t believe he is God.” I thought but didn’t say, You’re in Mark 4. But Mark 8 is coming!

A lot happened between Mark 4 and Mark 8. The disciples saw Jesus bring peace to a man who had been tortured by a legion of demons, heal a frightened woman sick for twelve years, bring a dead twelve-year-old back to life, suffer rejection in his home town, give them authority to heal, feed five thousand men plus women and children from one boy’s lunch, walk on water, free a Gentile child from a plaguing demon, restore hearing to a deaf man and sight to a blind one, feed four thousand more people …

What do you need to make the jump from “Teacher” to “Messiah”? Can you accept the testimony of those who walked with Jesus day in and day out, who witnessed his power and compassion and listened to his wisdom? Ask the Father. Don’t stop asking, seeking, knocking.

In The Inner Voice of Love, Henri Nouwen writes beautifully about Jesus calming the wind and waves in the story told in Mark 6:45-50, when the disciples still didn’t “get” who he really was. Here’s part of what Nouwen says:

… waves cover you and want to sweep you off your feet … feeling rejected, forgotten, misunderstood. Feeling anger, resentment, or even the desire for revenge, self-pity, self-rejection. These waves make you feel powerless. What are you to do? Make the conscious choice to move the attention of your anxious heart away from these waves and direct it to the One who walks on them and says, “It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” … He is very close to you and will put your soul to rest.

Jesus does care.


But God keeps his promises  December 19, 2022

Psalm 145:13-14 The Lord always keeps his promises; he is gracious in all he does. The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads.

Psalm 119:140 Your promises have been thoroughly tested; that is why I love them so much.

Matthew 11:28 Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Last night Dave and I watched a movie reminiscent of “The Notebook,” called “Still Mine.” 89-year-old Craig (James Cromwell) tells his memory-challenged wife, Irene (Geneviève Bujold), “I have never broken a promise to you.” Amid the insecurities she experiences, Craig wants Irene (her name means “peace”) to know she can trust him to care for her.

Psalm 145 also links confidence in God’s promises to relief from the burdens we carry. We can trust him to help us bear the weights of our lives. As we trust him, our burdens ease. Isn’t it true that when we worry about whether we can trust someone, our concerns in relation to them are heavier?

It occurs to me that Jesus’s invitation can include sharing with him our doubts and concerns, even about God’s trustworthiness. We can tell him how it feels to want something very badly and not see God doing anything about it. We can tell him we don’t always understand why he doesn’t apparently act on our behalf. We can weep in his lap about the disappointments and betrayals we feel so keenly.

Doing so in itself is an act of trust. I love Psalm 116:10-11, I believed in you, SO I said, “I am deeply troubled, Lord.” In my anxiety I cried out to you.

We’ve reached the fourth week of Advent, the last week before we celebrate one part of what we’ve been waiting for: the Incarnation, the birth of our Savior. In one system of naming the Advent candles (there are many!), the fourth candle represents Peace. Peace is the direct result of trust, so easily seen in the comfort of a child relaxed in his or her mother’s lap.

Or in the case of Irene, resting in Craig’s embrace, his tears reveal his heart touched by her trust in him.

My granddaughter Talita with her daddy

Love from the center

But God will rise up

Psalm 12:5-8 “I will rise up,” says the Lord, “and will give help to every one who longs for it.” The words of the Lord are pure words. … Preserve us, O Lord, and save us … The ungodly walk on every side when wickedness is exalted among the children of men.

I try to post on Mondays as well as Thursdays, but over Labor Day I was caught up in enjoying these two scallywags so their parents could enjoy a brief getaway. The photo was taken last week when our son Dan visited from DC.

Reconnecting to life outside the delightful Caleb and Talita bubble, I read the Psalms scheduled for Monday in the lectionary. I’ve read the Psalms many times, but I didn’t remember Psalm 12:8 at all. Doesn’t it seem like it was written like, maybe yesterday, not three thousand years ago?

But how do we avoid “exalting wickedness” when it’s already so widespread, including in the halls of power? The starting place is my own heart. Will I let the prevailing sins of our culture contaminate me? How much have I already done so?

While I mulled over Psalm 12, I ran across the following words by Michael Gerson, Director of Speechwriting for President George W. Bush and like me, a graduate of Wheaton College:

Jesus rejected the role of a political messiah. In the present age, He insisted, the Kingdom of God would not be the product of Jewish nationalism. It would not arrive through militancy and violence, tactics that would contribute only to a cycle of suffering. Instead, God’s kingdom would grow silently, soul by soul, “among you” and “within you,” across every barrier of nation or race — in acts of justice, peacemaking, love, inclusion, meekness, humility and gentleness.

 Christians seeking social influence should do so not by joining interest groups that fight for their narrow rights — and certainly not those animated by hatred, fear, phobias, vengeance or violence. Rather, they should seek to be ambassadors of a kingdom of hope, mercy, justice and grace. This is a high calling — and a test that most of us (myself included) are always finding new ways to fail. But it is the revolutionary ideal set by Jesus of Nazareth, who still speaks across the sea of years.

I long to be faithful to this high calling. I want Jesus to so own my heart that I can be an ambassador of a “kingdom of hope, mercy, justice, and grace.”

As I wrote this, I heard my husband reading the following out loud on a Zoom call. Try it yourself! 

“Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.

Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.

Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame.

Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant.

Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.

Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath.

Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.

Get along with each other.”

(Romans 12:9-16, The Message)

Lord, we long to see you rise up and usher in your kingdom of love and justice and truth. Please help us to trust you more than we fear people and events. Give us confidence and peace in the center of ourselves because we know you. Help us to live as Jesus taught us and modeled for us, never compromising our integrity or supporting those who do so. Be, truly, Lord of our hearts.

What do you want to tell your Father today?

But God knows  March 14, 2022

Matthew 10:29-31 But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

Matthew cites Jesus calling God his Father 45 times (Mark only 5; Luke 18 times). Why do you think Matthew paid so much attention to this? I would love to know your thoughts—you can write them in the Comments.

Most often, Jesus calls God “your Father,” as he does here. Read the verse again and then close your eyes for a moment. Can you imagine Jesus coming to you, right now, today, and saying these words to you?

Shutterstock: Natalya Lys

Don’t be afraid. You are valuable to God. Don’t be afraid. Your Father knows. You matter to him. He notes even the smallest details of your life.

What do you want to tell your Father? What are you afraid of? Can you offer your fears to your Father, and then be still, receiving his peace?

“I cannot clutch this peace,” wrote Karis in one of her poems.* No, this is a daily transaction with our Father, clearing our souls of fear, letting his Presence touch and comfort us, re-centering into his peace. A transaction of trust. Imagine yourself as a small child, burrowing into the comfort of your Father’s lap.

Shutterstock: Jamesilencer

Peace: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uW6xcmqfiY4

A song for Ukraine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duOnmlJuNJQ

Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul (Matthew 10:28).

*The poem “Caçula,” which means in Portuguese the youngest child of a family.

But God will cover us with his feathers, by Barbara Alexander, Villers St Paul, France

Psalm 91:4, 14 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge … The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name.

One day recently, during my early morning quiet time, I came upon Psalm 91:4.

Having gone through (and continuing to go through) difficult times (health issues) over the past 20 years, the image of me being covered with God’s “feathers”, and being sheltered under His wings, was of immense comfort to my soul and spirit.  After all, is He not the Infinite God – without measure, without boundaries?  How awesome His feathers!!

And when I contemplate His limitlessness, an illustration always helps me keep a more proper perspective:

Suppose I were to walk out my front door, and walk in a straight line, over buildings, in the air.  And suppose I were to keep on “walking”, over mountains, countries, oceans, and out into space, never stopping, always moving, past stars and galaxies, swirling masses of celestial bodies.   If I could do that, and NEVER stop, just keep on going, going, going – I would never get to the end of God – NEVER!  And, no matter what direction I took, – north, south, east, west – the result would still be the same: He is out there, limitless, infinite, and WAY beyond the capacity of my feeble brain to imagine!

That said, as I took the dog out for our daily “promenade” that Psalm 91:4 morning, I paused for a moment on the sidewalk.  I live in a small town in France, about 30 minutes’ drive north of Paris.  In town, the buildings/houses/fences front the sidewalk – there is no grass between the tar of the sidewalk and the walls.  Most often I find myself on a sidewalk on these outings, and that morning was no exception.

So as I paused on that morning’s walk, I was beside a building, but no eaves hung over my head.  The sky was pretty clear as I recall, blue above me with a few clouds. Usually I keep on moving when I’m out with my dog Fifi – after all, that’s the purpose of this little jaunt, to get her out so she does her stuff.  But that particular morning I guess neither of us was in a hurry, so I found myself standing still for a moment.  

All of a sudden I noticed something in my field of vision in front of me – above me – something small and white, floating lazily down, in a zig-zag fashion, floating, gently falling, slowly, softly descending to the ground. I realized it was a little feather, an inch and a quarter long, probably from a pigeon, as there are quite a few of those around, especially on the roof of the large 12th-century stone church in the center of town, close to my home.  But there were no pigeons above me as I stood there out on the sidewalk – just open sky above my head.  

Shutterstock: Siwakorn1933

So where did that feather come from?

I reached down to pick it up, noting the perfect symmetry like a leaf, the soft whiteness, the fluffy curl of the “branches.” And there, in the bright, quiet morning, it seemed God was speaking to my heart: “Yes, My child, I am covering you with My feathers – feathers of love, feathers of protection, feathers of peace.  You are in My infinite care, and always will be.  Rest, My child, REST there, and know that My Infinite care of you cannot be surpassed.  I am your Sovereign protection, over every cell of your body, every heartbeat, every breath. Rest, My child, REST.”

Needless to say, I put the feather in my pocket, took it home, and mounted it on a card, whereupon I wrote Psalm 91:4, and placed it where I would see it often.  And when I see it, the truth it represents continues to comfort and calm my soul and spirit, and remind me Who is in COMPLETE control of everything that touches my little life here on this planet Earth, which is but a pinpoint in our galaxy, which is but a pinpoint in the universe, which is totally contained by the Sovereign Lord of the universe.

So, what exactly was I worrying about just now??? :):):)

But God is the author of peace

1 Corinthians 14:12, 26, 33 Since you are so eager to have the special abilities the Spirit gives, seek those that will strengthen the whole church… Everything that is done must strengthen all of you… For God is not a God of disorder [or confusion] but of peace, as in all the meetings of God’s people.

When Karis was a child, she asked her dad to study the topic of the Holy Spirit with her. They worked their way through the Old Testament and into the Gospels. One day, Karis said, “We can stop now, Dad. 1 Corinthians 14 explains everything.”

Apparently, what she really wanted was to understand the phenomenon of speaking in tongues. Whether this chapter “explains everything” could be debated. But it does say clearly that God doesn’t like confusion and chaos. He loves peace, and longs to give it to us.

The word translated “peace,” eirene, means harmony. It can also mean an internal sense of well-being. Is that possible for us, in the midst of Covid, grieving of so many losses, political tensions and wars, racial issues, financial challenges, and all the suffering, chaos and confusion in the world?

airdone: Shutterstock

Yikes! Doesn’t this graphic make you feel tired?

The best I can do in response to this question today is to offer you other wonderful eirene Scriptures. I invite you to pray through them with me.

John 14:27 I [Jesus] am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

Romans 8:6 Letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.

Romans 14:17 The Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Philippians 4:6-7 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.

Hebrews 12:14 Work at living in peace with everyone.