5/30/12

Perfect Peace in a Chaotic, Confusing World

I remember a conversation I had on a flight home in the 1970s with a man from Canada. He seemed so tired, and ~ to cue him that I wouldn't be chatty on the flight ~ I said that I hoped he could get some good, sound sleep. I'll never forget his answer.

"Sleep? How can anyone really get good, sound sleep in a world like this?" he said.

"Having a tough time?" I asked, and he shared some of his struggles ~ a plunging marriage, financial burdens, and constant thoughts about "all the things going wrong in the world."

I thought, "Who wouldn't be worried and stressed with a life and perspective like his?" I tried to tell him about the peace Jesus gives, but he wasn't ready to listen.

"Yeah, I've heard all that before," he said, as he turned his head and shut his eyes. He obviously wasn't willing to take the only sure route to peace. He was stubborn and committed to his own troubled path.

I think that was about the time when the scripture, Isaiah 26:3, took hold in my heart. I learned it in the King James Version, but I like it in another version today: "You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You." (Amplified Bible)

Perfect, constant peace comes when our mind is fixed and focused on God. That fixed, focused mind aligns with a life that rests with confidence in who God is and what He can do.

God wants to fill up our hearts with Himself, to crowd out our worries about the circumstances of life. And the circumstances of life can get tough!

Jesus said we would face "tribulation" in this world, but he added that we could cheer ourselves up with the promise that He has already overcome the world. We can enjoy true, lasting peace in Christ (John 14:27; 16:33). Our circumstances may not change, but our perspective about them can. Our attitudes can change, because we realize that God is in control and He has purpose in all that touches our lives.

Initially, peace comes from faith in Jesus as our Savior and Lord (Romans 5:1) ~ it is peace with God that leads to the peace of God being manifest in our lives.

Peace grows stronger when we practice a life of prayer connection with God (Philippians 4:6-7). Peace is a "proof" that we are walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and abiding in the truth of God's Word (Psalm 119:165). It springs from our walk in righteousness (Psalm 37:37).

I was watching a program from the new television series, "Doomsday Preppers," the other day. People are going all out to protect themselves and their families from coming turmoil and threats. Some are building bomb shelters and holes to hide in. Others are stocking small grocery stores in their basements. They are buying gas masks and building gardens in former swimming pools. I've learned a lot of useful information, but some of the preppers' strategies are beyond ridiculous.

As I watched I had two thoughts:

(1) It would probably be wise to make some preparations for difficult days, not as a result of fear, but as an act of good stewardship of the resources and insights God has given me. If the whole world falls apart around me, it might be a good idea to have some basic survival strategies; but I also need to think through how I might help others. Doomsday or not, it's not Christ-like to be selfish.

(2) No matter the crisis that comes ~ financial, war, pestilence, whatever! ~ I do not have to worry. I know the One who holds my future, and I know where I'm going.

In other words, it's entirely possible to have God's perfect peace in this chaotic, confusing world. But we have to receive God's Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) and trust in God and His Word before this kind of perfect peace "kicks in" to our spirit.

Don't be like my Canadian flight companion, committed to your struggles and worries. Instead, trust in the Lord with all your heart; don't try to figure things out by yourself. Surrender to His control and guidance, and He will direct you now and in any of the troubling days ahead (Proverbs 3:5-6).

5/9/12

Why I Appreciate My Husband's Mother

There's something extra special about being born on Mother's Day. Can you imagine a mother's delight? This was the case for my husband and his mother on May 9, 1949 ~ Mother's Day. In honor of both my husband Bob ~ whose birthday is today ~ and his incredible mother, I want to share some special insights that will hopefully encourage any young moms who read my blog ... especially mothers of sons. (Though this is personal, I believe it will bless and encourage others.)

I asked my husband's mother, Adele Wilson, to answer some questions for me. She graciously agreed. When she responded with a precious email titled "Raising Bobby," she began by saying Bob was her first Mother's Day gift ~ a gift from God. She noted that I have now lived with Bob for twice as long as she and Bob's dad (also named Bob) and that I probably love him "twice as much." I doubt that. There's something intense and precious about a mother's love.

And what a mother to have. My "mother-in-love" is a godly, wise lady ~ the epitome of the Proverbs 31 Woman, but never in a "stuffy" way. She adopted me into her family from the start, and I have always felt loved and accepted. She is every daughter-in-law's dream.

When I think of Mom, the scripture that comes to mind is Proverbs 14:1a ~ "A wise woman builds her house." Perhaps the best way to honor her is simply to share her answers to my questions. I will simply call her "Mom," here, because I've always considered her as another mom ~ never a challenge to my relationship with my birth mother (who I also dearly love).

I first asked Mom, "What did you do to help instill a desire for spiritual things in Bob's life?"

Mom is a book lover, and she replied that, besides taking Bob and his siblings to the library and using the Child Craft encyclopedia, she also purchased devotional books to use over and over again. "There were questions at the end of each devotional, geared to establishing godly character," she said. "We also had all the children in Sunday School programs, and enrolled Bobby in a Christian school beginning in the second semester of first grade."

I asked her what she prayed about for her son as he grew up. She and Dad prayed for Bob's health, because he had some medical issues in his early years, and they also prayed for "godliness and loving kindness," although, she said, "these came naturally it seemed" to him. "He was a handsome boy from day one and adjusted to family circumstances easily," she said. "He loved to be around people, and as he grew, he liked to help others, almost to his own detriment."

When Bob's mother told me about his demeanor years ago, I thought she was just being prejudiced as a mom; but I have discovered that all she said was true. Bob is an easy-going servant of God with a big, loving heart. He is incredibly patient, kind, and a natural peace-keeper.

"What surprised you most about being a mother in general," I asked Mom, "since he was your firstborn?"

"I was surprised at how much love came in and went out to such a tiny human package," she said. Circumstances for the family were tough at the time, and "this new little life became more important than any other challenges we had before or after our precious baby came," she said. "God used our baby to direct our paths from then on."

When I asked about her hopes for her firstborn, Mom's answer was quick and simple: "Love the Lord and be an honorable and godly man." But I'm sure that those hopes were challenged many times as her son grew to manhood. Every mother knows the struggles of getting a boy to manhood. When I asked her how she dealt with him or encouraged him when he didn't seem so motivated by spiritual things, she had many thoughts.

"It's not just one thing," she said, "but certainly prayer and consistently living a godly life in front of your children is what I feel is the key to a happy home ~ that and surrounding him with healthy friendships and activities;" and then she listed some of the many life-building activities Bob and his father enjoyed.

She also mentioned that "a mother's willingness to sacrifice personal time to meet the needs of husband and children has to be a priority. Add a great deal of patience and unconditional love to this mix," she said, "and I think everyone would agree that it takes a family team effort."

Mom said Bob had "a heart for spiritual things" early on. He was first called to live for God in high school. Then, as he attended LeTourneu College in Texas, "he wrote home," Mom said, "telling us he had gone to the altar to dedicate himself for full-time Christian service. We thanked the Lord and we were so blessed to know that often when you think they are not paying attention, God is speaking to their hearts."

Mom and Dad Wilson were intent on instilling important character qualities in their son's life ~ faithfulness, responsibility, integrity, and a work ethic. "But I wanted home to be a safe place," Mom said, "a loving-kindness kind of place. I remember asking the children to leave the world outside the doors of our home and be a part of this team we call a 'family.' We had a hospitality kind of home where, many times, an extra place was at the dinner table... we had missionaries over for dinner, and a home open to others who needed a temporary place to stay.

"I suspect," she added, "these were good influences for Bobby's future." Indeed they were, Mom ... good training for ministry! And you are still building into his life.

Tears filled my eyes this past Easter as I watched (and snapped a photo) of Mom listening to her "Bobby" talk about his ministry overseas. She was intensely engaged, encouraging her son as she listened to his stories and asked questions.