Restless Heart

Some years ago, our county installed a kayak launch in a park on the headwaters of TVA Lake Nottely. I decided to enjoy the amenity in a different way than other boaters.

I grew up in the country close to a river. Summer days fishing in the creek (only after doing my chores), camping under the stars near the swamp…I was Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Maybe a return to childhood is why I launched my skiff in the Nottely at dusk. I drifted downstream. The kayakers were gone but I was not alone. I lit my lantern as the orange glow sank into the western sky.

It was as though nature began turning up the volume. Peepers, bullfrogs, crickets, and other noisy insects competed for airtime. A screech owl and a lone whip-poor-will added to the chorus. Against the moonlit sky, bats darted about for supper. My presence convinced something heavy to splash nearby. I was mesmerized. I captured audio to share online, but I couldn’t capture the moment.

Recently, I came across the work of Gordon Hempton, a professional sound recorder. He struggled to describe the Amazon rainforest at dusk. “I begin to hear the insect patterns, and how each rhythm is a different insect, especially as the light weakens,” he said. “Oh my God! I realized this is the sound of the spinning Earth, like a huge clock. It’s just so elaborate and precise, beyond human invention.”

Cut to images of destruction and death in Ukraine. Mothers crying. Refugees attacked. Conscripts captured. Body bags. Smoke. Fire. Pleas for help.

The contrast is wrenching. The peaceful chorus of nature at dusk vs. the agonizing cries of humans at war. It points to the deep longings of a restless heart. God reveals much about us through contrasts, which draw out those longings. We desire peace, not war; love, not hate; safety, not danger.  We admire wisdom, not ignorance; beauty, not ugliness; sacrifice, not selfishness.  We cherish life, not death.

The contrasts stir your restless heart for answers.  Here is one. “He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:27-28). In Jesus, your soul has peace, love, safety, and wisdom. He sacrificed His life and makes beauty from ugly so you may enjoy a fulfilled life even when wrong seems strong. The hymnist mused about the music of the spheres, the birds their carols raise, and hearing Him pass in the rustling grass.  Then this: “Oh, let me ne’er forget, that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world.”

When the sublime and suffering on Earth point your heart heavenward, you find peace and meaning. “Thou hast made us for Thyself,” Saint Augustine wrote, “and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”

Faithful in Prayer

The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (Jas. 5:16).


War is horrible. What’s happening in Ukraine is no different. We have the technology to watch it unfolding in real time. That gives the illusion that we know everything that’s happening and why. We can know this: laying siege to cities, killing people, and destroying property are evil.

War doesn’t change. Ancient history records Assyrian King Sennacherib invading the land of Judah. His tactics were the same as Russia’s only without tanks, jets, and missiles. At one point, he sent a letter calling for surrender by Judean King Hezekiah. Hezekiah’s response was to remain faithful to God.

His response is worth considering as you pray for Ukraine and as you face your own personal trials. Hezekiah’s prayer (2 Kings 19:14-19) reveals the heart of a faithful believer.

(1) Hezekiah “spread it out before the Lord.” He acknowledged the problem was beyond his control, and took it to the Lord as an act of worship.

(2) “You are the God of all the kingdoms of the earth.” There is no place on earth that is beyond God’s reach or view. He has the power to intervene.

(3) “The kings of Assyria have devastated the nations.” It helps you to name the specific dangers that concern you.

(4) “Deliver us from his hand.” Jesus taught us to pray that the Father deliver us from evil. We are aware of evil because of the moral law embedded within us by a moral Lawgiver. He causes things to work together for good (Rom. 8:28).

(5) “That all may know that You are God.” May God make Himself known to a doubting world, and may His will be done.

This is not a formula to persuade God to fix everything that’s wrong, like forcing Russia to retreat from Ukraine. (To be sure, THAT would be a miracle). Rather, this is the posture of a believer who acknowledges the hand of Providence in human affairs. The believer who trusts that God will accomplish His purposes in the world is the believer who is faithful in prayer.

Enduring Insults

The 2022 MLB season is delayed by an owner-initiated lockout that ended after 99 days. After two years of pandemic, baseball fans just want it to be about the game. When players started anthem-kneeling in 2017 and Commissioner Manfred moved the All-Star game in 2021, fans longed for simpler times.

Those simpler times exist only in your memories of little league or neighborhood sand lot action. Even in 1945, times were not simple. That’s when an honorably discharged U.S. Army veteran signed to play for Branch Rickey, manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Rickey was an innovator. He introduced the batting helmet, pitching machines, and the farm system. He also introduced the world to his new recruit Jackie Robinson.

Rickey and Robinson’s meeting at Dodgers headquarters had the makings of a historic moment, not just for baseball. Robinson would be the first black player in the league. “I know you’re a good ballplayer,” Rickey said. “What I don’t know is whether you have the guts.” Rickey wasn’t talking about Robinson staring down heaters in the big leagues, but facing the threats to his life and attacks on his dignity. “I’m looking for a ballplayer,” Rickey said, “with guts enough not to fight back.”

Knowing it would not be easy or simple, Rickey shared with Robinson the words of Jesus. “I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matt. 5:38). By this Jesus put personal retribution and revenge out of bounds. Jesus knew about emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and self-management before Daniel Goleman popularized the terms. It matters because to lose control is to lose sight of your mission. When we who share the life of Christ are wronged, that becomes our opportunity to sacrifice our egos, serve others, and love our neighbor.

Robinson accepted the charge from fellow Christian Rickey and history celebrates the story. Eric Metaxas writes about Robinson, “With God’s help, one man lifted up a whole people and pulled a whole nation into the future.” All because a man of faith simply applied the words of Jesus to turn the other cheek.

War and Peace

Russia has invaded Ukraine. And we thought we lived in a world where blitzkrieg would never again change European boundaries.

Russian leaders ignore the message of a classic piece of their own literature. In War and Peace, Tolstoy weaves a tale of politics, patriotism, family, and the struggle of the human condition. In the end, the love and marriage of two young couples signal the hope of peace.

The nations try but fail to achieve peace.  After WWI, the feckless League of Nations watched WWII happen.  In 1945 after WWII, the UN began. Think of all the world peace since then! The permanent members of the Security Council cannot even bring themselves to be peaceful. Russia and Ukraine currently serve together on the UN Human Rights Council, but did that stop the clanking war machines?

So how shall we think about these things? Here is a framework for thinking from a particular worldview.

(1) We will always have wars and rumors of wars until the day Jesus returns. Wars are a reminder that this is a fallen, temporary world. “See that you are not frightened,” He said, “for those things must take place” (Matt. 24:6).

(2) That day may be immanent. Or not.  If the Lord tarries, it’s for the purposes of grace and salvation for those who believe. “The Lord is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

(3) We can work for peace on earth, but making a warless world is not the Christian’s ultimate objective. We have a higher commission, to rescue victims from the chaos of separation from God. To be reconciled to God is to be a follower of Jesus. He said, “Make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).

Join me in praying for the Ukrainian people bloodied by the claw of the Russian bear, and for those hapless Russian conscripts taken from their mothers. Pray “deliver us from evil,” that people and nations would know the peace of Christ.