Ten Minutes till Impact – What I Learned from the Hawaii Missile Scare

January 13, 8:07am. A day and time that will forever be imprinted in my memory as the morning when over one million people received this startling alert…

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No need for your morning coffee when you wake up to this!

My phone conveniently decided to stop working the night before; so, when my husband told me in his calm Japanese demeanor, “An emergency alert just came to my phone,” my usual Italian “level ten” freak out reaction was reduced to about a 6.5.

Within seconds, our peaceful isle of paradise spiraled into a panic. People racing through the streets to find shelter. Families hiding in bunkers and bathrooms. One of my sons, who was at his paddling regatta, said the scene at the beach was reminiscent of the apocalypse – hundreds of people running to their cars trying to escape the imminent threat.

Thankfully, it was an error. Apparently, someone pushed the wrong button.

While those 38 minutes were quite traumatic – and a message I hope to never see on my phone again EVER – in a strange way the whole experience was kind of a gift.

Let me explain…

Our community, for 38 minutes, collectively captured a glimpse of what’s truly important.

Faced with the realization that within ten minutes we may be entering into eternity brought laser focus to our lives like nothing else possibly could.

My hurry and hustle, necessities and needs suddenly didn’t matter. The projects, the cleaning, the laundry, the errands – my “urgent, don’t-get-in-my-way to-do list” was reduced to…

  1. My family
  2. My family
  3. My family

All I wanted was to get home to my kids. Nothing else mattered anymore.

I wasn’t alone on this.

In my conversations with others about their experience, all of them involved gathering together with the people you love for a few words of prayer, love and comfort.

No one’s focus was on their stuff. It was all about people. Helping people, serving people, calling people, being with people.

I can’t be sure, but hopefully, some of these calls and conversations were between family members who hadn’t spoken in years. After holding onto years of offense, perhaps, this experience created an opportunity to lay aside differences and offer reconciliation?

Scripture reminds us of the urgency of the times in which we live. In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul admonishes the Thessalonians,

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

Suddenlyunexpectedly… When you least expect it, Christ will come. You don’t know when, so be ready. In other words, don’t get so busy with your life that you schedule God out of it.

It seems the apostle Paul understood this pretty well and lived with a level of urgency and awareness that life is a gift to be used wisely, with great care and intention.

Paul continues on this thought to the Thessalonians by finishing with these words,

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Perhaps the urgency with which Paul lived is what continually inspired him to encourage the early Christians to live in unity with one another? To be a light to a dark world? To offer hope to the hurting? To turn their focus from their wants and desires outward to the world they were called to love.

You can almost hear him pleading in his letters, “Put aside your pettiness, prejudices, preferences and politics and be the Church to a world that is hurting and searching for hope.”

Because when nothing else matters, people still do.

Which caused me to consider, what if I learned to live with this urgency and focus every day?

To receive every day as a gift, being fully present, truly enjoying and valuing the people in my life? Not taking them for granted. Not allowing little things to drive a wedge into my relationships? Not allowing my busy schedule to take precedent over the joy of gathering with those I love?

  • Is there a phone call you need to make? Make it.
  • Is there forgiveness you need to extend to someone? Extend it.
  • Are there words you need to say? Say them.
  • Is there something you need to do? Do it.

Because when nothing else matters, people still do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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God’s Presence, the Best Present

Christmas season… The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. A time of thankfulness, a time of celebration, a time of gathering with those we love, and most importantly, a time of remembering what God has done for us.

It’s ironic how a season centered around a little baby on a peaceful night in a small town can easily become the busiest and most stressful season of the year.

If you go to the mall today, you’re probably not going to experience an overwhelming sense of peace. Same if you attempt travel anywhere during the holidays.

You can feel the stress in the air. You sense it on the roads, at the grocery store and in the shopping malls.

What I envision for the season – quiet nights at home sitting around the tree drinking hot chocolate with the family easily evolves into…

Stuff, fill, cram, shove, pack, hurry, rush, dash, run, stress, worry and strain to create the perfect Christmas for my family.

Instead of less is more, and “peace on those whom his favor rests” I find myself…

  • Overdoing
  • Overcommitting
  • Overscheduling
  • Overextending
  • Overeating
  • Overspending

…only to finish the holidays worn out, sick and exhausted.

Every year, I’m realizing more and more how

Hurry is the great enemy of my spiritual life and health of my soul.

When we hurry, rush, run, cram and do, even the things we love can become burdens and obligations. And when we live a loud, hurried life, the one thing that tends to get squeezed out is the thing our souls crave the most.

What God created us for – what our souls really crave – is space.

  • Space to reflect
  • Space to rest
  • Space to connect with God and other people

But when the volume and activity level is so loud it’s impossible to achieve the peace our soul craves.

As you go through the Christmas season and you begin to feel the stress and tension creep up on you, I encourage you to remember this one verse.

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David wrote,

…Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.
Psalm 62:1

It’s hidden in the presence of God where peace flourishes. It’s hidden in that space where we thrive because it’s how God created us to live.

You may think, “Life back then was simpler, easier, quieter. They didn’t have all the of the expectations, traffic, stress we have today.”

David had a lot going on. His life was busy, stressful, fast-paced and loud.

  • He was a warrior and military leader in Israel who had to hide in caves, and run for his life from a crazy king for about 15 years.
  • In fact, its said that David wrote this Psalm while someone was attempting to dethrone him
  • He was king of Israel and undoubtedly the most influential and affluent person around with a role that carried more responsibility than we could imagine.

Not to mention, David also had,

  • 19 sons and one daughter
  • At least 8 wives!

Can you even imagine how loud, busy, hectic David’s life was?! Yet somehow, with all of the demands on his time, all of the people needing his attention, all of the people demanding decisions, all of the children needing affection, David made the time to escape from the chaos and find rest in the presence of God.

He was intentional about it.

David had discovered the value of quieting his soul and coming into God’s presence. He didn’t see it as a duty or obligation. He didn’t demand anything from God.

He learned the value and necessity of intentionally creating space for his soul to rest in the presence of God. This is so important for us to get right.

David knew the outflow of his life came from the inner state of his soul.

David knew his ability to experience peace depended on his ability to create a peaceful soul.

David knew that peace isn’t something we can find, purchase or work to achieve.

David knew that true Peace is found in the presence of a Person.

If your soul is loud and stressed and chaotic, it will bleed into your relationships and all of the areas of your life.

Instead of imparting peace, you’ll impart anxiety. Instead of imparting a calm presence, you’ll impart chaos. Instead of connecting with others, you’re relationships will be strained.

If King David could develop a calm soul in the middle of the craziness and chaos of ruling a kingdom, I think there’s hope for you and me.

But how? David doesn’t give us “three easy steps to having a quiet soul”. He doesn’t teach on “five keys to creating peace in your heart”.

When we’re stretched and stuffed and over-scheduled and our lives are loud, we only see the “to-do” list. We can’t see anything beyond the chaos of our life.

Throughout Scripture, throughout Jesus’ ministry, He gives us an invitation. It’s an invitation to declutter our souls and come to Him. In the midst of the packed schedules and holiday craziness, God offer us an invitation. He asks us to make a choice.

This Christmas, don’t miss the invitation to come.

Receive God’s invitation to be present with him and find rest for your soul.

Give yourself permission to pause long enough to find rest in God and experience the refreshing that only comes through time in His presence.

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Luke 2:13-15

 

Clearing the Clutter to Make Room for Something Better

The holidays have passed. The kids are back to school. The Christmas décor is sagging, reflecting the hurried pace of the last few weeks. Sigh. Time to pack them away for next year.

It’s ironic that in the rush of the preparation for the big day (Christmas), the peace of Christ can seem illusive and slightly out of reach – lost in the crowded malls, long lines, overcrowded schedules and unrealistic expectations. The voice of God that should be preeminent this time of year can too often seem distant – drowned and muffled by the voices telling me to “go”, “do”, “eat” and “spend”.

The week after Christmas is one of my favorite weeks of the year because the pace of life slows down dramatically.

This year in particular, our family made a conscious decision to hit “pause” to create space to rest, reflect, refresh and enjoy relationships.

No schedule. No commitments. I didn’t cook. Didn’t do laundry. Didn’t clean our house. I bought a ham, a palette of Cup of Noodles, made sure we had cereal, juice and milk and called it good. (In case you’re wondering about vegetables, there are a small handful of freeze-dried peas and carrots in every cup of noodles.)

Don’t judge me. It was only one week.

As the pace of life slowed and our scheduled enjoyed some much needed breathing room, I began to realize how easy it is to substitute activity for relationship. Spending a lot of time with someone doesn’t guarantee that you’ll truly see them, intently listen to them and authentically connect with them.

Could the same can be true regarding our relationship with God? Can we become so consumed with our Christian activity that we overlook the necessity of pausing long enough to hear His voice? Stopping to appreciate the nuanced beauty of His creation? Lingering to enjoy His presence?

We can go to church, serve in ministry and even read the Bible, yet still fail to see Jesus, hear His voice and connect with Him intimately. Time with God isn’t a box we check off every day. It should be a delight, not an obligation. Yet, when our schedules scream it can easily be reduced to a task in a long line of duties and expectations.

In a culture that values how fast we run, how much we do, how full our schedules are, Jesus, during His ministry on earth, modeled something quite different for us. He exemplified an unhurried life that valued and delighted in spending time alone with His Father. The book of Luke gives us a glimpse into how Jesus handled the delicate tension between the demands of His schedule and His relationship with His Heavenly Father:

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:15-16

Jesus was unquestionably a busy man whose time was in great demand. He also possessed God’s perfect love and intense compassion for people, feeling the weight of every need, every heart break and every loss. Yet, He wasn’t driven to meet every need and demand.

Jesus’ schedule wasn’t dictated by the circumstances surrounding Him. He made time alone with his Father His first priority and that is what fueled the rest of His decisions and charted the course of His day.

The clutter of activity and over-commitment wearies our soul but doesn’t take us very far. 

Jesus knew this.

Jesus knew that He couldn’t meet every need and make everybody happy.

Jesus knew that true worth and value are found in intimate relationships, not in big crowds, productivity and packed schedules.

He knew that clarity for his life could only be found through spending time in the presence of God.

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Jesus knew that clarity and rest are only found when we create space for the presence of God. 

Jesus knew that to hear the voice of God, you had to clear away the noise and clutter.

And Jesus knew that it’s in the silence, in the space, where God begins to transform us. 

This year, let’s make a commitment to pull away, create space, be present and listen to God who’s desperately longing to speak to us.