THE REST OF THE STORY

Beep … beep … beep … beep …

Ring … ring … ring …

BEEEEEP BEEEEEP BEEEEEP

“I’m sorry. I didn’t understand your response. Please select one of the following options.”

Technology. I can’t live without it. Most of the time, it seems, I can’t live with it. But cell phones, iPads, and Wi-Fi are only the surface of planet stress. Inside me, things are melting and molten.

Last September, Marilyn and I spent a few days with our Navy son, his wife, and their two little boys who celebrated their birthdays the same week. They live in military housing in Virginia Beach. Suddenly our quiet Saturday was interrupted by fierce whacking and thumping. And it wasn’t hurricane Hermine.

“What is that?!” I asked. “A navy helicopter?”

“No, it’s just our washing machine upstairs,” my son answered.

WHACK … WHACK … THUMP … THUMP

And then there’s Lancaster County, Amish country in southeastern Pennsylvania. Hanging outside tidy farm homes is freshly washed clothing flapping in the autumn breeze. People who live remarkably simple lives survive somehow without washers and dryers. They do laundry the ancient way: by hand. It’s simple clothing, too. Bland, we’d say. And modest.

As I write this, Marilyn and I are returning to Phoenix from two days at Disneyland with our kids and grandkids. It’s exhilarating, exhausting, and expensive. It’s the UnHappiest Place on Earth, where we stood in one 90-minute line after another, and I saw countless children crying. I heard one mother yelling at her little girl, “Shut up!”

Not like Lancaster County. We drove there after church to spend a couple days in Amish paradise. Providentially, the sermon we heard in our kids’ little Baptist church in Norfolk was from Pastor Todd’s text on Jeremiah 6:16.

This is what the LORD says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”

Riding the historic Strasburg steam railroad slow and easy on a sparkling September day through verdant fields of Amish corn and tobacco, I had to reflect on this ancient passage about ancient Amish ways. No technology. No stress. And likely no anti-depressants. Yeah, I take those.

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-3-31-14-pmLancaster County, Pennsylvania

I heard a news report a few years ago that doctors had found an ancient way to treat depression: spend a year working on a dairy farm in Minnesota. I didn’t have time for that, so I chose to take medication.

Look at the text in Jeremiah one more time. Right now say no to all the distractions. Turn off your phone! Or put it under a pillow in a closet. Take a deep breath and read this slowly and softly to yourself.

This is what the LORD says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”
This is what God says.

The passage in Jeremiah calls us back to the ancient ways, not Amish ways exactly, but Jesus’ ways. He is the way, the truth and the life, the One who offers us a kind of peace the world will never give us. Jesus calls us out of our crowded, stressful lives, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

“Come to me,” he says, which implies we can choose not to come. Every moment of every day is a crossroads, an invitation, a choice to come to Jesus or do life your way. It’s the ancient present human story of two trees: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Doing life God’s way or my way.

“Enter through the narrow gate,” Jesus said. “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14).

Back to the passage in Matthew 11, Jesus says it this way, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (vs 29-30).

Be gentle? Be humble? What?! Like Donald Trump? No, never!

Like Jesus? Yes, always. “Learn from me,” he says, “and you will find rest for your souls.” It’s the rest of the story. It’s what our souls long for, that deep inner peace no matter what happens around us.

Yet the Jesus way is so counterintuitive, especially when you feel trampled. Or during an historically hostile presidential election. Everybody’s screaming. Nobody wants to let it go and trust God, and many Christians I know spend more time watching the news than reading their Bibles.

But Jeremiah tells us to “ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”

I’ve spent my life preaching about grace and rest. My mantra has been Jesus plus nothing. For me, it’s not just about theology, and it’s certainly not been an excuse to live like the devil. It’s been a life saver for my troubled soul.

Yesterday at Disneyland, I was so stressed just trying to find where to park. So I said to myself, “Be still, oh my soul,” and as we walked to the shuttle bus at the other end of the ginormous parking out, I started singing an old chorus with a melody I think was written by a nun in a convent. It has one simple line:

The joy of the Lord is my strength
The joy of the Lord is my strength
The joy of the Lord is my strength
The joy of the Lord is my strength

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