Apple’s choice for the iPhone app of 2017 was an app called Calm. According to a news article the app has relaxing visuals and sounds that are designed to help a person unwind, de-stress and calm down. It also includes some bedtime stories read by various storytellers. I hope parents aren’t giving their kids a phone with the app thinking that can replace them reading bedtime stories to their kids.

It is understandable an app titled Calm would be popular. Calm and peace are things we long for, but in this world so full of noise, conflict and tension, calm seems to be in short supply. This app appears to help some people, but it does sound like another time when people look to technology to do what only God can truly do.

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). We’re invited to be still, calm down, rest in the truth that God is on the throne. The world is often chaotic, but the Lord is still in control. Be still and know that God loves you. Be still and know that God will keep His promise to faithfully care for you.

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). Rest in knowing God is with us. He delights in those who have faith in Him. God’s gracious love brings quiet and calm to our restless, troubled souls.

I was with my dad in his fishing boat crossing the Columbia River Bar and it seemed we were bouncing around quite a bit. I wasn’t concerned because my dad was a very experienced and capable fisherman and I had total confidence in him. After we crossed the bar and got into a little calmer waters my dad said, in his typical low-key manner, “It’s a good thing we hit the bar when it was calm.”

People have different definitions of what is calm. My dad had gone through a lot rougher seas than what we faced that night, so to him it was calm. When we face trials trusting in the Lord, we can remain calm, no matter how rough it gets. Jesus took on the cross and emerged victorious. He can handle whatever storm comes our way.

Jesus and His disciples were in a boat when a storm hit. The disciples were anything but calm. They were sure they were going to drown. But Jesus wasn’t stressed. He was sleeping. (This is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. Maybe because I’m a fisherman’s son who can sleep through most anything.) They woke Jesus up and He told the waves, “‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm” (Mark 4:39).

Like Jesus brought calm to that stormy sea, He can bring calm to your life. And He can do it more effectively than any app. He can calm our fears and worries and bring a restful, quiet peace to our soul.


Dreams that keep you awake

“A million dreams are keeping me awake. I think of what the world could be.” These words are sung by P.T. Barnum in the movie The Greatest Showman. Barnum had a tough childhood, but he didn’t let his past or his challenges stop him from dreaming. He dreamed of entertaining people in a whole new way and went on to develop the modern-day circus.

In another song Barnum talks about coming alive and “dreaming with eyes wide open.” Sadly a lot of people aren’t doing much dreaming and, in a way, they are not doing much real living. They are frustrated with how things are, but they haven’t been inspired by God’s grace to dream of how it can be.

Last May I was in Cuba and I met some Christians there who kept on dreaming, even during years of persecution and struggles. They dreamed of one day being able to worship the Lord in freedom. They still deal with some restrictions, but compared to how it used to be, many of their dreams have come true.

In July I visited places where great dreamers walked 500 years ago. I was with a group that toured sites that were significant in the history of the Protestant Reformation and the life of Martin Luther. Luther and the Reformers dreamed of a church where people were not deceived into thinking good works could get them right with God. They dreamed of people being able to read the Bible in a language they could understand. They dreamed of a church where leaders served people instead of manipulating and using them. They dreamed of people hearing the good news that you can find forgiveness and get right with God by faith in Jesus. Those big dreams changed the world.

Do you have any dreams or have you let the trials of life and broken dreams of the past cause you to give up dreaming? In Acts 2, on the day we call the birth of the New Testament Church, it says, “… your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” The Spirit of God has come and set the church free to dream.

Sometimes the only dreams people have are of making more money and getting more stuff. Those are small dreams. Because of God’s amazing grace we can dream big dreams. We can dream of broken relationships being healed; people plagued by anxiety finding peace; those enslaved by addictions being set free; those who are apart from God coming to know Jesus and finding new life.

Pray that God gives you a dream “of what the world could be;” a “come alive” kind of dream; a dream big enough that it wakes you up in the morning, inspired by the thought of seeing the dream come true and witnessing what God can do.

The last dinner?

We didn’t know it was going to be our family’s last dinner together when we celebrated my sister’s birthday on this date 22 years ago. We had no idea she was going to die of a heart attack three days later.

Like your family, our family wasn’t perfect and not every family dinner we had was peaceful. But the last one was. I remember being thankful that evening for the pleasant time we had. My thankfulness increased after my sister’s death. I’m so grateful the last memories are good ones.

I was leading a Bible study at church after dinner that evening. There were other times when I thought I needed to do more work and more preparation and I didn’t think I had time for dinner with the family. I’m thankful that night I didn’t put work above relationships. I’ve certainly been guilty of doing that plenty of other times. It would have been a shame to have missed out on that dinner because I thought I needed to work a little more.

None of us knows if it will be the last dinner. We assume we will have many more opportunities to mend broken relationships, to share an encouraging word with a hurting friend, to create a pleasant memory, to let a friend know how much they mean to us. The Bible says, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

God gives great opportunities today to live and love and serve. None of us knows what opportunities there will be tomorrow. Since we are not sure about tomorrow, have that dinner with a friend or relative today and put work on hold for awhile. Play with those kids and grandkids when you have the chance. Call that friend when the opportunity arises. God graciously gives us this special gift of today, and He is willing to help us use and enjoy the gift to the fullest.