STOP!

Growing up, one of my absolute favorite shows was The Cosby Show.  I have watched every episode, most of them multiple times.  It was a formative show for me as I was growing up.  There were so many life lessons that were weaved into laughter and celebration.  It also brought many one-liners that have been heard over and over – like, “I brought you into this world, I can take you out”.  There were lessons about budgeting and dating, the importance of family and the celebration of togetherness.  But there is one particular episode that sticks out to me.  Lately, I have been thinking about it a lot.  It was aired back in 1988 and is in season 4, episode 18.

Rudy is a little girl and she writes a story.  The episode is called “Once Upon a Time”.  As she begins to tell her story, her family acts out what is happening.   There is an evil person, there are people being forced to do bad things (in this case, dancing into exhaustion), and there is a flower girl.  At the end of her story, the flower girl can’t take it anymore.  There has been too much fighting, too much evil, and too much punishment.  So she yells – STOP!  She does it with the determination of a little girl seeking peace.  And when she yells STOP!, that is the end of the story.  Cliff and Claire ask her what’s next and she simply replies – they stopped.  They ask her about the evil and the dancing and the like – she said, they stopped.  All just stopped.  She says that one day, she is going to be president of the world and will just get people to stop being mean to each other – just STOP!  The episode ends with Cliff and Claire watching TV with all the bad news reports (which sounds strangely familiar to watching TV today).  Cliff yells up to Rudy – hurry up and become president, we need you now!

It’s a cute episode and we wish it could be that easy.  We wish that things could change with the proclamation of “STOP!”  As adults, we know that is impossible.  Yet, there is something special about a child’s imagination. Jesus teaches us to become like little children – where our imaginations are boundless and we live with willing trust and true faith.  So maybe there is something to all of this.  Maybe Rudy was onto something.  

Today’s scripture is from Psalm 46.  For a moment, I will need you to bring your childlike imagination with you.  I will need you to hear this Psalm from the perspective of God’s power and majesty.

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
    though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
    God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our refuge.  Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord;
    see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
    I am exalted among the nations,
    I am exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our refuge.  Selah

I don’t know about you, but I hear this proclamation from God to “STOP!”  Did you catch it?  Let’s look at this Psalm for all that God has for us to hear and learn.  We are first told that God is our refuge and strength.  That, for me, tells me that we have a shelter, a place we can go.  We have a place we can run when it all seems out of control.  We are not alone in this craziness.  God has provided a refuge with open arms – and arms that are strong.  We do not have to be strong because we are resting in the arms of strength.  He will be our strength.  He will give us all we need to endure.  

Because God is our refuge and strength, we will not fear.  Fear is a tactic that is used so often in our world and we don’t even notice it is being used.  If someone can make us fearful, we will react the way they want us to react.  Fear gives power over to another person.  Fear transfers our trust and causes us to doubt.  When we allow fear to take hold of our lives, we have lost the ability to make good, sound decisions.  We will live in a place of reaction rather than action.  Fear takes hold and doesn’t let go.  That is what terrorism is about – instilling fear so that actions are based in that fear.  And reactions based on fear are often irrational.  But if God is our strength, our refuge, and our help in trouble, we have no reason to fear.  We are able to make sound decisions based on the strength of God and the power that lives in us as his children.  

That does not mean there will not be things to fear, though.  The Psalmist is clear about that.  The waters roar, the mountains tremble, the nations are in uproar, and kingdoms totter.  That sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  Sounds like hurricanes, earthquakes, fighting among nations and powers being overturned.  Sounds much like what we experience today.  It is as if God is speaking to us in our place and time.  God has a message.  In this middle of all of this…he utters his voice and the earth melts.  Maybe, just maybe he yells STOP!  In that proclamation, wars cease and weapons are destroyed.  There is no need for them because God has spoken – God is in control.  God calls for peace.

And then I hear a proclamation for you and me – it is also STOP!  We are told to be still and know that he is God.  What does it mean to be still?  It means to stop.  It means to be quiet.  It means to listen, to pay attention to God rather than our fears.  It means that things change when we simply stop.  When we do, we know that God is God and we are not.  We have nothing to fear because God is with us.  Just STOP!

Sounds very childlike, doesn’t it?  It may sound a bit utopian.  But I challenge you to think like this for a moment.  You may be thinking about how our stopping will not change the world.  If we proclaim “STOP!”, it doesn’t change the world.  But, what if it changes us?  What if stopping really does begin to change who we are?  What if it has an effect on our lives?  What if we stop living in so much fear?  That may just change us.  Being still may just be the key in calming our own lives.  Proclaiming God over our lives may be exactly what we need.  And if we change ourselves, it might make a difference for our little world.  And to change ourselves is really all we can do.  But big change may come when we simply stop, be still and know.  

Rudy may indeed have been onto something.  Maybe the key is to stop.  Stop living in fear.  Stop allowing others to manipulate you through fear.  Stop trusting in anything other than the Lord.  Stop spreading hate and judgment.  Just stop.  Be still and know God is God.  

I pray that God’s peace will fill your hearts today.  Know that when we follow Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, it doesn’t mean life is easy.  It doesn’t mean we are exempt from pain or struggles.  It does mean we are filled with HIS presence which is a refuge and strength.  We are, after all, called the children of God.  And he calms his children and provides life today and forever.  May we follow God together – and not in fear. May we simply STOP.

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