Beautiful Peace 3: Fear, Anxiety, and Conflict

February 26, 2007

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:
       “Do not be afraid, Abram.
       I am your shield,
       your very great reward.”
       – Genesis 15:1

Do not be afraid.” How many times are words like these uttered in scripture? And how many times do they come from God himself or, at least, an angelic messenger? The relinquishment of fear is – apparently – one of the first prerequisites to finding an authentic faith in God.

And it is fear itself that drives almost all conflict, from the internal conflict of individual stress to the widest of geopolitical wars. Think about the things we tell ourselves when we are in conflict:

  • They’ll cut off our oil supply!”
  • They will come in and corrupt our culture!”
  • He is taking my inheritance! I’ll sue him!”
  • My husband/wife will spend all of our money!”
  • Our children will suffer if my spouse doesn’t change his/her parenting skills.
  • I’ll never feel wanted again unless I sleep with her.”

Why do we feel anxiety? Why do we fight with each other? Why do people inflict violence on each other? Whether the concern is legitimate or illegitimate, it is always because of fear. It is only when fear is dispelled that peace can become possible. Identify your fear, let God speak to it, and maybe – just maybe – you will find peace.

Up next: We’ll consider whether our fear is well-founded. That is: is the universe a safe place? 


Advice for Pot Smokers

February 26, 2007

You need to be really, really sure that your text messages are going to your dealer’s phone number, instead of – oh, say – a cop.

Beautiful Peace 2: Peace on Earth (Not)

February 24, 2007

A lot of words can be used to describe our world at this stage in human history. “Peaceful” is not one of them. Wars rage across much of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, fueled by military involvement from the other continents. In the meantime, in our own culture, politics continue to spiral downward, following partisan paths defined by culture wars, carefully drawn “red and blue” state lines, and the annual knock-down-drag-out over the allocation of the Federal budget.

And thats not all: continually raging within our own society are lawsuits, zoning disputes, school board fights, parental fisticuffs over youth sports, gang violence, Enron, and macabre court battles over celebrity corpses. Even our churches are not immune, engulfed in worship wars, atonement wars, ordination wars, and budget wars.

The human condition has always been one of rest-lessness. Taking, holding, defending, impugning, and denying are the rules of engagement on every level of society: from families to parlaments, from board rooms to back alleys. But all of the rest-lessness, even the frentic, driven pacing of my own life, is ultimately responding to the same, primal fear. It is a fear that says this: the world is not what it ought to be, and only I can make it better. And it is by examining that sense of fear that our search for peace will begin…

(More to come) 

Beautiful Peace 1: A Confession

February 24, 2007

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
– John G. Whittier

Somewhere along the way, the fast forward button for my world got stuck. Days, weeks, months, even years now blur and flash by in my consciousness like a DVR set on maximum speed. My attention flits from work to parenting to marriage to volunteer work to the latest headlines and back to work again in cycles that run in minutes, sometimes even seconds. Occasionally, I begin to reel from the experence, and I stop to try and clear my head. But I have little time to take a breath before a phone rings or an email pops up, or a 7 year-old asks me to read her a story. Then, I’m back into the melee again.

I’ve read warnings about this for years, of course. Stress, sleep deprivation, anxiety, overcommitment – all of these things are linked to a whole array of bad things: heart disease, depression, marital strain, cancer, male pattern baldness. Yet, in spite of my efforts to avoid it, responsibility only seems to multiply exponentially.

I write, then, about peace, not as someone who experiences it all the time, but as someone who despirately needs more of it. The modern, Western twist-a-whirl of high-speed internet, 100+ channel television, instant messaging, mobile business, and nationwide cell phone service is whipping me about in a frenzy. And I’m ready to get off.

(More to come)

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Yeah. That’s What I’m Talkin’ About…

February 20, 2007

My copy of N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God arrived today, just in time for Lent. Last year, I promised myself I was going to read it as the Passion Week drew near, so now its time for me to get busy.

This book is huge. 738 pages, with references and notes on the level of a dissertation. Still, I can’t wait to dive in.

In honor of this event, I am going to make it official: N.T. Wright will now join Dallas Willard, possessing the honorary title of Jedi Master in this space. (“Honorary” for a sci-fi geek like myself, at least).

Anyone else want to reveal whats on their current reading list?

A Generous Orthodoxy of Hell: Some Concluding Thoughts (With Apologies to Brian McClaren)

February 19, 2007

Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.
– Job 42:3

I am an exclusivist…
I believe that no impure thing can enter the Kingdom of God; and that Jesus is the only way to eternal life. I believe that, in the end, no one else can live within that Kingdom; only those who perfectly conform to the image of Jesus. 

I am an inclusivist…
I believe that God does not want anyone to perish; that God is throwing a party, and no one is too lowly or too wicked to be removed from his invitation list. I believe that whoever is not against Jesus is for him, and that God’s love makes room for the most offensive of prodigals.

I am an annihilationist…
I believe that sickness, sin, death, wickedness, and even hades itself will one day end, never to return again. I believe that God is a consuming fire – that just as everything that is of God will find its purpose in Him, so everything that is not of God will find its end in him. The light shines in the darkness. The darkness cannot overcome it.

I am a mourner…
I am bewildered, and laid low when I contemplate this world: where people suffer and where death seemingly gets the final word. I join with the voices of scripture in wondering about God’s promises of life and love in a universe where the only natural laws send us all spiraling, seemingly inevitably, in the direction of pain, decay, and nothingness. Can it really be that all of this can be reversed? That nothingless can turn into something, that decay can turn into rebirth, and that pain can become joy (as in the pains of childbirth)? On some days, I cling to that thin hope like I would a bouy in the middle of a raging storm at sea.

I am a universalist…
I believe that God is the savior of all men, that just as all died in Adam, so all will live in Christ. I believe that the power of God’s grace is mightier than the power of sin. I believe that God’s love for us is eternal, unfathomable, and relentless. I believe in the day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.

I am a mystic…
I do not know how all of these things can be true at once. And so, while I may form my own ideas about God, I do not worship those ideas. I only worship the One who is both known and unknown, the One who is yesterday, today, and forever; the one who has set eternity in my heart, yet who has kept me from knowning what he does from beginning to end.

I am a petitioner…
I join with the voices of the church throughout the ages in asking God to bring all things: all of this world, all of creation, all people, into His eternal kingdom. And even amidst the suffering and anguish of this world, I continue to trust and hope that God intends the best for us, that he is ultimately good – good in ways that I cannot even fathom. For…

The LORD is gracious and compassionate,
       slow to anger and rich in love. 
The LORD is good to all;
       he has compassion on all he has made.

– Psalm 145:8-9

May the grace of God the father and the Lord Jesus Christ truly rest on us all. Amen.

Who Said Runner-Up is a Bad Thing?

February 17, 2007

Levi and Lexi attended the annual Abilene Interscholastic Chess Tournament again today. Levi finished a solid second, and was only barely edged out by a really great kid from Abilene Christian Schools in the final round.

In the meantime, Rachel also finished as a runner-up in the Lemony Snickett letter writing contest that I mentioned a few weeks ago. You can listen to none other than Lemony Snickett himself read Rachel’s letter here.