Thursday, April 7, 2011

#12 The Kingdom that Cannot Be Shaken

"My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I shall never be shaken.  Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I shall not be shaken. My salvation and my honour depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge."  Psalm 62

     Our world has been shaken. The people of Japan are still suffering from the consequences of the earthquake that triggered the tsunami that devastated their island just a few short weeks ago. Their land has physically moved geographically, and their coastline has changed. Some real estate no longer exists!

"Geophysicist Richard Gross of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, has estimated that the Japanese earthquake shortened the Earth's day by 1.8 microseconds. Gross also said that the axis of the Earth probably shifted about 6.5 inches, which affects  how it rotates, but not its position or movement in space ."(1)
      That earthquake did literally rock our world, and we learned of   
the terrible events that were transpiring as we were leaving the airport on our return from Italy. Strangely, we were already feeling a little off kilter ourselves after the events about which I wrote in my last blog and due to the jet lag. But, the end of our spring break trip did not not bring about an end to our season of tremors, any more than the tsunami signaled the end of troubles for the Japanese.
      Over the last month I have been feeling a little like I am living in a earthquake zone of my own-- not because I actually do, but because so many unusual things have been happening that are upsetting my world. My house is still standing, but the ground keeps shaking.
     I can't say when the tremors actually started because my life usually contains a fair amount of stress. But, somehow I am able to manage that stress and keep various aspects of my life in balance. Heck, I am supposed to be an expert in stress management! I helped research and write the original continuing education module, "Physician Stress and Burnout", that is taught to other physicians by the Texas Medical Association!
    But, knowing about stress and its consequences doesn't prevent it any more than studying about cancer guards one from getting it. The stressful events in our life have been enough to set off tremors that continue to rumble even today as I write.
     In my last post I wrote about the recent death of my cousin after his struggle with esophageal cancer, the difficult trip to Italy because of our daughter getting ill, and the sudden death of another cousin just a day before our trip. Since that post we have lost a dear uncle, whose funeral we attended yesterday, and another family member whose funeral was today. Those are a lot of losses in one month.
    The loss of Jason, whose funeral was today, is particularly poignant because he was the same age that my son Josh would have been had he lived--thirty-five. Additionally, Jason took his own life, just as my son did. I grieve for his father my cousin and for his son who struggled with depression. I know how his heart must ache.
     The anniversary of my own son's death is approaching, and it is usually a difficult day for me each year. I relive the events leading up to that day--what I said, what he said, what people did. I wonder if I could have said something different, could have prevented the outcome of that dreadful day, could have done something, anything to have kept Josh from taking his life. 
      But what could have been isn't what is. He is gone, and today another talented, brilliant young man has left this earth as well. A father and mother grieve, probably wondering the same things I did back then and do each year.
      Tomorrow I travel to the memorial service for the cousin who died last week. How I hope our life calms down after that for awhile, but there's no knowing that it will. There is no guarantee that my own house will keep standing or that my loved ones will behave in the way that I hope or expect.
      Scientists try to predict earthquakes, hurricanes, and the weather. They debate whether the earth is in a warming or a cooling cycle. But we don't live in a predictable world, no matter how much we try to deceive ourselves into believing that we do. We cannot control the seasons, the weather, the frequency of death hitting our families, or even our own schedules. Earthquakes happen; our world rocks. Change comes. God tells us that any created thing can be shaken, but that there is something that cannot be shaken:
" 22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
 25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”[e] 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”'Hebrews 12: 22-29

     These earthly events do shake us; they sift us like wheat, and the chaff is blown away. They also put us through the fire--the one that burns away the dross and purifies us. May we all give thanks to our ever-faithful Lord and worship the One Who is eternal and Who never changes--our God, our Rock, Whose kingdom is unshakable.

4" He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
   and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
   upright and just is he." Deuteronomy 32:4


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