Editor’s Letter October 2012

“Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee because he trusts in Thee…” (Isaiah 26:3)

It was Charles Swindoll, pastor, author, educator, and radio host,who said,“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” There is a world of potential wisdom in that observation. I live in the season of reflection—looking back over decades, really, of pushing hard to control, or arrange, things that really weren’t mine to dictate. Hence, a lot of circumstances that could have been joyful simply were not because I focused on my fears and insecurities, rather than embracing unfamiliar tasks as opportunities for growth. What most of us think we want is a nice little predictable life, and we would prefer that God not rattle our comfort zones too much. Walking by faith is fine as long as it doesn’t require a great deal of—well—faith and uncertainty.

God, on the other hand, doesn’t much do “predictable.” He is rather fond of parting seas, feeding the multitudes from a small, brown-bag lunch, shutting the mouths of lions, turning the world upside down with a disheveled band of fishermen whose credentials would not impress anybody, and basically doing whatever is impossible. He did say, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9a). No matter how many times He proves that He keeps His promises, fear has the capacity to paralyze us when we face a challenge—and so we cling to the status quo.

When First Lady Deborah Bryant described her initial reactions to her husband’s political aspirations, I so identified with her feelings that I could almost finish her sentences for her! I compared her anxiety to my days as a piano major when I suffered such stage fright that I could not ever enjoy performing because I was never convinced that I was prepared enough! In her first days in the limelight, one door after another opened for Phil, but all she could see were discomfort and fear and the nagging notion that she did not have what it takes. There came a degree of relinquishing control on Deborah’s part, and, by God’s grace, she has learned what tasks are hers and what tasks are God’s. Great joy came with that realization! To see her function in her role today, is to see someone completely at ease and quite comfortable in her own skin.

It is a theme I run across often in interviewing people for stories. God reaches down and gives a charge to a mere human, and, like Moses, we are prone to say, “Actually, Lord, I can’t do this. Would you call someone else?” In those holy moments, however, when an ordinary man or woman is willing to go where God leads, it can be downright inspiring and exhilarating, and larger than life. In our “Salt and Light” section, we spotlight two very different, and yet very alike, people who risked a great deal to be a part of something they felt God was calling them to, in a day when it was very difficult. Dr. Ollye Shirley and Mr. Jack Reed, Sr., will be honored by Mission Mississippi at their Racial Reconciliation Banquet on October 25 at the Jackson Convention Center. It was a delight for me to speak with both of them in early September. As I read a little on the history of each of them, it occurred to me the whole out-of-the-comfort-zone thing that characterizes so much of God’s work in this crazy world. There is almost always some discomfort involved, and the process of being “used” by God is rarely without pain. I heard Beth Moore say recently in my Bible study that we are called to trust God where we are. This place—this crazy, fallen, extraordinarily wonderful, and often just as extraordinarily terrible place that we live—is precisely the place where we are called to practice our faith. As Beth said, it’s a painful place to get to, and it’s also a beautiful place to stay when we realize that God is indeed with us in the struggle. Enjoy.

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