The world feels heavy and scary these days. I struggle to know how much of reality to share with my children, how often to watch the news, or whether or not to keep track of the rising death tolls as I go about the mundane tasks of my day.
While I often have a lengthy thoughts, they are seldom quick. In general, it takes me a while to process: Things. Feelings. Events. Conversations. Truth... Though I sometimes wish I possessed more prompt and "tweetable" wit, I do treasure the wisdom exuded when thoughts are allowed time to steep. At the end of the day, however, we must work with what we've got.
One morning after the tragic shooting in Las Vegas, the littles and I embarked on our normal walk to preschool. It was pleasantly sunny, and the golden rays shimmered through the trees dancing in the breeze, creating a shadow mosaic on the sidewalk at our feet.
Whenever tragedy strikes, the quote from Mr. Rogers always seems to surface. It's become almost as predictable as Micheal Jackson eating popcorn in the comment section, and I've learned to expect it.
Look for the helpers. There will always be helpers.
Do good. Make a difference today.
Notice the beautiful. Pay attention.
People have different of ways of reorienting themselves to life and truth after a catastrophe, some with mantras that shift focus from the evil of the world back to the good that exists in spite of it. I've heard every single one of these this week. Don't get me wrong--these are all good ideas. Positive, helpful, and even life-giving. The issue with every last one of them, though, is they're focused externally, "out there," when the real problem is an internal one: the depravity of the human heart.
No external focus is going to fix an internal problem, however good the intentions. Change has to begin in our heart. And it was in the still of that casual morning stroll to school that the Lord began to speak into mine.
Though my heart was hurting for our chaotic world, I reminded myself to look up and feel the warm glow on my face. To breathe deep the fresh air and relish the cool breeze as we walked. The weather has been unseasonably warm here in Cleveland, blessing us with an extended summer.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess. 5:18
But it struck me that it wasn't enough to just notice the beauty, to appreciate its warmth on my skin. God asks us to take it a step further and give thanks, because counting blessings reshapes a heart. Gratitude turns what we have into enough, gives us eyes to see more like Jesus, and slowly creates a heart eager to praise the Giver of good gifts in all things.
It's almost mid-October, and very few trees have changed color. The late dry spell has left the ground parched, and instead of reaching their pinnacle of glory, many of the leaves have begun to wither and brown on the branches.
"There's a lot of people who are upset about this, the way the leaves have started to die on the trees," said the elderly man we passed in the parking lot.
"Do you see these brown spots?" he asked. I nodded. "The leaves can't keep up with the lack of water. There hasn't been enough rain. I've never seen anything like it, but it doesn't bother me."
I could hear the trees gently rustling in the wind as he walked away, and I noticed for the first time that they sounded different this year. Crinkly almost, like cellophane. I'd never heard anything like it. And I realized that even in the midst of drought and decay, God was doing a new thing. He always is, in the most unlikely of places.
I trust You
When we arrived at preschool, my daughter gave my leg a quick squeeze and bounded off to check out the new library books. She loves flipping though their pages, eyes wide with interest, as she uncovers the details of each story and runs her hand over their textured pictures.
I remember when I first learned how to read stories for myself, especially chapter books, and I would peek at the last chapter to see how the story ended. I just needed to know how everything turned out, and it gave me motivation to finish the pages in between. As an adult I have far more self-restraint, and I find myself at a point now where I don't want to spoil the ending or ruin the surprise, and I want to be able to relish all the details as they unfold.
But I am thankful that, as Christians, we know how the story ends. God, like any loving Father, does his best to calm the anxious fears of His children. The bible not only tells us He'll be with us wherever we go, both behind and before us, but in the ultimate merciful spoiler, He's allowed us to peek at the end of the book. Beloveds, we know without a shadow of a doubt how the story ends, and the victory is His!
So when the world makes life feel so uncertain and unpredictable, our hearts don't need to be blown and tossed about like the waves, riding the current of the latest news cycle. We may not know how our personal stories will unfold, but we know who holds them. We can claim our rightful place with the God who walked on water, who can calm the raging storms with a whisper. When everything around us makes it seem otherwise, we can choose to believe the truth: God is in control.
He's got this, friends--all of it. And He's not through with any of us yet.