Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Person Named Peace

I am writing this from beautiful Half Moon Bay in northern California where I’ve accompanied my husband on a business trip. At the moment, I’m enjoying breakfast in my hotel room with a spectacular view of the Pacific. Through the open window I can feel the ocean breeze and hear the rhythmic crash of waves on the rocky shore below. I took a picture to try and capture the moment for you, but you know how hard it can be to do it justice on an iPhone:

I have nowhere I need to be. No stressful to-do list to follow, no packed schedule bearing down on me. I think I can literally feel my blood pressure falling. The longer I sit here, the more relaxed I feel.

In short, I am at peace.

But the reason I’m blogging about this is because of what just happened while I was sitting here.

A moment ago as I sat looking out the window, I began to pray - I say “pray,” but it was really more of a casual conversation with God in which I’m telling Him how much I’m enjoying His pretty ocean and thanking Him for inventing coffee and bacon. All of a sudden, the peace I had been feeling became palpable. It was a peace that went way beyond quiet solitude. It was a peace that invaded my soul and filled up my senses to the point that my surroundings didn’t even matter anymore. It took me a second to understand what was going on, but then the realization hit me: I was experiencing the presence of God. I was communing with the Prince of Peace himself.

And I was reminded of a verse in Micah where God says that He literally is our peace:
“He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely,
for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.
And he will be their peace.”
(Micah 5:4-5)

Maybe true peace is not just the absence of stress or conflict, but the presence of God.

So now it dawns on me – if true peace is not so much based on external circumstances but more on an awareness of God’s presence, then I can experience peace anywhere, anytime. If He is our peace, then it doesn’t matter whether I’m sitting next to the ocean or in a traffic jam on the freeway. He’s there just the same. I can simply invite Him into my moment, and He will answer.

For He is our peace.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Turn Out for What?

Although many pundits emphasized the importance of the Millennial vote in the mid-term election, very few ended up voting on Tuesday.  In fact, only 13% of voters were age 18-29, an even lower turnout than in past elections.

Not even Lil Jon and his star-studded “Turn Out for What” video could rally young voters.

photo from the #turnoutforwhat video

Many consider Millennials to be unmotivated, whether it’s in elections, career advancement, or church attendance, and would chalk up this week’s election as one more example.

However, I agree with Jim Denison's assessment of the Millennial mindset in his excellent recent article:

“Millennials [are] intensely motivated, but by their personal mission rather than their financial success…They have little ‘brand loyalty’ to a particular organization, denomination, or political party. However, they are intensely loyal to those whose mission aligns with their own.”

On Tuesday, Millennials voted by not voting. They voted to opt out of a system that doesn’t align with their ideals. They are tired of empty rhetoric, broken promises, and the inertia of bureaucracy. And although I strongly believe as Christians we need to exercise our right to vote, I nonetheless admire the integrity of Millennials. Why stay loyal to something that is not in line with one’s values or mission?

Likewise, when it comes to the institutional church, Millennials are voting with their feet. They are leaving the church in droves, although not necessarily abandoning the Christian faith. Instead of pointing the finger at Millennials, assuming that once again they are just unmotivated, perhaps the church should take the opportunity to explore ways of focusing less on “brand loyalty” such as denominational issues, and more on instilling a sense of personal mission as a follower of Christ.

Until then, whether it’s in politics or the church, Millennials may continue to wonder, Turn out for what?