SNOW SABBATH

SNOW SABBATH

The recent weather reminded me of something I wrote many years ago, when our girls were little, and a blizzard stopped the world for a while. I hope it encourages you as we anticipate more snow Saturday night.

Monday morning January 24, 2000, dawned bright and clear, but school was still out. The cold and light snow we had experienced the previous week and weekend had closed the roads and deposited several neighborhood kids on our doorstep, in our den, in the basement and in our bedrooms.  They were everywhere! Eating the groceries, needing their mittens and boots dried and going through art supplies like snow in a frying pan. A few of them (including my two youngest) were home-schooled but most attended the elementary school down the street.

When my oldest daughter asked, “Are we going to school tomorrow?” My wife and I both said, “Yes! You, your sisters, the neighbors and all the home-schooled kids in the neighborhood!”  Little did we know; the blizzard of 2000 was almost upon us.

But the storm had a different effect than might be expected. Unlike the previous week’s weather that kept only the schools closed, the blizzard brought the adult world to a standstill too.  Fifteen inches of snow in eight hours forced everyone to “be still and know that I am God”.  It created a snow sabbath.

Sabbath, at its most basic, means to cease from work. Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man.”  It is an opportunity for the soul to re-establish the balance and equilibrium it loses by striving in the work place. We work in a world cursed by sin and that makes work difficult and draining.  It taxes us spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  Sabbath compensates us for the energy we spend dealing with our own sins and the challenges of working life.  We need sabbath time.  It restores us.

And if you’re one of those folks that “feels guilty when I relax” then sabbath can re-orient your perspective.  I had “things to do, people to see and places to go” the next morning. But the snow sabbath forced me to realize once again that, “God can run the world quite nicely without your help thank you very much.”  That single thought, a sabbath thought, will do more to relieve your stress than anything I know.  God has worked and is working to provide for us.  He wants us to know what it means to rest in him, to be humble enough to know that we can’t accomplish anything at all without him. So, we can trust him enough to relax, let the world go by, and enjoy the peace of a quiet day, or even the occasional blizzard.

HOW GOD HEALS BROKEN HEARTS

HOW GOD HEALS BROKEN HEARTS

Humanity is broken and hurting. Hear some comments from hurting people:

I’m 48 years old and my wife has just filed for divorce. I never planned for this. I never thought I would be alone and have to start all over this late in life. On top of that it may bankrupt me.

I was still in rehab, just recovering from a gran mall seizure brought on by spinal meningitis that could have killed me, when we learned that our daughter, contrary to everything we had taught her, had just “come out” as gay. We read the letter and sat down in front of her old bedroom door and wept broken and bitter tears.

My first husband beat me. The man I’m married to now doesn’t love me. I am fourth or fifth on his priority list. I’m so lonely and unhappy that I’m flying to the other side of the country to find a job and a new life. My life is adrift.

We only want to know one thing when we’re hurting. We aren’t interested in the weather. We don’t care about the stock market. And we sure don’t care about politics. We only want to know how to be healed.

Psalm 147, the second in a set of five that make up the last songs in the book, is a song about healing.

Verse two gives us the context saying, “He gathers the exiles of Israel.” The Psalm was written to help the people of God worship after their return from exile in Babylon. It was good to go home, but still a time of great brokenness and sadness. Their cities and towns had been destroyed, their property given to foreigners. Their spiritual, civic, and economic infrastructure was like Houston after Hurricane Harvey: a shambles.

The psalm shows us that God heals in four ways: “The Lord builds up; The Lord gathers; The Lord heals; The Lord binds up their wounds.” (V. 2-3).

First, he rebuilds what was broken down—the walls in Israel’s case. He gives them the tools and resources and leadership (under Nehemiah) to make their city secure once again, to keep out invaders, to give them stability.

God rebuilds our walls too. Brokenhearted people are often violated people. When we are sexually abused as children; when parents lose children; when we’ve invested years and fortunes in a career and suddenly lose it, our walls are broken down. We feel violated, less secure.

The healer of broken hearts helps us rebuild our walls. He brings together the tools, and the resources, and the leadership we need to make our city secure again, to give us stability in a shaky world.

Second, God gathers what was scattered. In Israel’s case it was the people, scattered about the Babylonian empire. Bit by bit and tribe by tribe, they made the pilgrimage back to the land of promise. God opened doors for them to leave. Cyrus the king issued a decree making money available. Property was returned. Travel was protected.

How does God heal us? He gathers what was scattered. Brokenhearted people are often lonely people, disconnected from healthy relationships with others. God brings us together for strength and encouragement. The New Testament is full of references to this. (See Acts 2:44-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:3).

God heals us when he gathers us to his people. When we become part of the living body of Christ, the Church, we cease to be scattered. We become connected to others who dispel our loneliness and welcome us into their lives based on our common relationship with Christ.

A challenge: do you isolate yourself? If so you are missing the healing God has for you. You may not like it at first, but it’s what you need, and God has it for you in his Church.

Third, God heals the brokenhearted with the brokenhearted. He heals the addicted with the formerly addicted; the divorced with the previously divorced; the grieving with the grieved, the hope and purpose from those who’ve come through on the other side of brokenness.

But there is a catch to all of this. Or maybe it’s better to say that the path to the healing power of God is counter-intuitive.

We are tempted in our brokenness to turn away from God, even to run. That’s the worst thing we can do. When the storm blows the hardest it is time to lean into him. The Psalmist shows us how.

Embrace humility in the pain. “Sing to him with thanksgiving,” it says (V. 4-7). Praising God when we hurt is a humbling thing, completely counter-intuitive. But that’s where the healing comes from. Lean into that wind. That’s what drives the fear and insecurity away, leaning into him with worship and praise, not running.

Finally, “put your hope in him.” (V. 8-11). Remember what Jesus said to Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus had died? “I am the resurrection and the life. Do you believe this?” “Look to me Mary, look to me Martha. Put your hope solely in me.” It’s counter-intuitive, but it works.

Many voices vie for our attention when we are brokenhearted, many people, many philosophies promise peace and healing. Only God can give us the order we need, the comprehensive understanding that leads to healing. Only God can give us himself.