Anna Update: “I shall not want”

“I shall not want” is the second line of Psalm 23. Sunday morning Anna and I read the lectionary and Psalm 23 was the psalm for the day, along with John 10:1-10 as the Gospel reading. As we read those two passages together one word stood out, pasture.

Psalm 23:1-2

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;

John 10:9

I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he(she) will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

That word pasture seemed to be saying something to us Sunday morning so we looked further. The Greek word is νομὴν and it means pasturage, fodder, food…one shall not have want for the needful supplies for the true life.

John 10:9 is the only time we know of that Jesus uses this word νομὴν, pasture. I wonder if He specifically said pasture to harken back to Psalm 23. Those good young Jewish men that Jesus was training surely would’ve picked up on it. As Anna and I, along with our kids go this this tragic experience one thing is clear, we are in the pasture. We are covered. There’s enough food, there’s enough space, the Shepherd has our back.

Psalm 23 talks about the green pasture in verse two. The Greek word for pasture that Jesus uses means to not want, and verse one of Psalm 23 talks about not wanting. It’s almost like David is saying pasture twice in two different ways in verse one and verse two of Psalm 23.

The reality is we are all living in the green pasture. We may not know it, feel it or believe it, but it’s true. Verse three of the psalm goes on to talk about how amazing life is in the pasture if we will dare believe we are already living there. The shepherd is leading, restoring, guiding. And apparently this is all going on while David is walking “through the shadow of death.” (v 4)

From the beginning of this famous psalm, David proclaims that the Lord is his Shepherd. He has no other shepherd. He has no other master. His allegiance is to God alone. He believes God is holding him. Shepherd is an intimate metaphor. A shepherd lives with his flock and totally cares for each one of the sheep. I’ve heard that a shepherd literally lays down on the ground with his sheep.

As we continue to walk through the valley of the shadow of death Anna and I are choosing to fear no evil, knowing beyond a knowing that we knew was possible, that God is with us. There is no want, we are covered. The Shepherd has us. And part of his “having” us is having you walk though this valley with us. We have each other, and in having one another somehow we mysteriously have God.


Anna Update: Tired of waiting

We are tired of waiting. Anna and I wrote on this blog at the beginning of the journey three years ago that we believed we were being asked to wait.

 Isaiah the prophet speaks about waiting in a passage that is familiar to many:

“But those who wait upon the LORD will renew their strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.”Is 40:31

Often the verse is seen on a picture much like this one:

The verse that gets less notice is perhaps spoken in the same breath by Isaiah,

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Isaiah 40:29

Anna and I, along with our kids find ourselves in verse 29 desperately wanting to live in verse 31. We desire to have our strength renewed. We want to be compared to an eagle. We want to run, to not be weary. We want to walk and not faint. The reality, however, is that Anna can hardly walk right now due to physical pain. She has nearly fainted on a few occasions getting from one place to another in our home. Anna dreams of running one day again, unsure if she ever will.

We feel like we have waited on the Lord, as Isaiah instructs at the beginning of verse 31. The word from the Lord three years ago to wait was real, and yet here we are still waiting. I get it, God is not a “do this and you will get this outcome” God, but I sure want him to be, we want him to be. Instead, we find ourselves  living verse 29 day after day. Anna barely having the strength not to faint, not sure if the promises of verse 31 will come.

That is where we are today, waiting.

Isaiah ends verse 31 with the words, “They will walk and not faint” We’ll take even Isaiah final promise at this point, a shift from fainting to walking.


Anna Update: “We do not know what to do…”

A few days ago Anna and I listened to a teaching on Jehoshaphat from 2 Chronicles 20. Neither Anna nor I were very familiar with this story, but since Jehoshaphat was someone in the Bible who was up against a battle he could not fight on his own, we thought we would see what we could learn from his approach. We were surprised by the “strategies” of Jehoshaphat.

In the scene of the story Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, is up against three armies at once. There is no way he and his army can defeat even one of the armies, much less three. When Jehoshaphat realizes there is no hope he turns to God and begins to remind God of who God is and what He has done. That’s an interesting strategy, reminding God of who He is and what He has done in the past:

Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. 7 Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8 They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, 9 ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’

Then Jehoshaphat makes this incredible statement of trust:

For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (v 12) What a posture of humility and trust, “we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 

After Jehoshaphat‘s prayer, a prophet speaks up and says this to Jehoshaphat and all of the people of Judah in earshot:

This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow go down against them. 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.”

What stands out in the story to Anna and me is that it’s not about power, it’s about position. “Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you.”  

So Jehoshaphat and his people took the advise of the prophet and got into position, the position was worship:

And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem bowed before the Lord, worshiping the Lord.

Their next strategy seemed like madness:

And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying:

“Praise the Lord, For His mercy endures forever.”

As we read further in the story we realized that God wasn’t asking Jehoshaphat and his army to get into position to fight, He was getting them into position to worship and watch God fight the battle for them. The three armies that were coming against Jehoshaphat ended up fighting each other and Jehoshaphat and his people were rescued.

As you think about Anna and are family during these hard days, consider worshiping with us. Our understanding of worship is that it is way beyond singing. Worship is anything that shifts our focus from a problem or situation to God. Gratitude seems to be the most practical “action” of worship these days. Worship with us. Echo these words of Jehoshaphat alongside us, “we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 

We remain grateful for you.

Anna Petree Update

You may have seen the update on CaringBridge. Moving forward, we will have more updates specifically about Anna’s health on that site. I will use my blog in the coming weeks to do my best to communicate our spiritual journey through this unknown season. For now, see the bottom of this post or CaringBridge for Anna’s health update. Here is where Anna (we) are experiencing “real time” spiritually this Good Friday of Holy Week:

The most notable Gospel story, by far, that keeps coming up over and over again these past three years for Anna is the Sick Woman.

Jesus went off with him, followed by large crowds jostling at his elbow. Among them was a woman who had a haemorrhage for twelve years and who had gone through a great deal at the hands of many doctors (or physicians), spending all her money in the process. She had derived no benefit from them but, on the contrary, was getting worse. This woman had heard about Jesus and came up behind him under cover of the crowd, and touched his cloak, “For if I can only touch his clothes,” she said, “I shall be all right.”

The haemorrhage stopped immediately, and she knew in herself that she was cured of her trouble. At once Jesus knew intuitively that power had gone out of him, and he turned round in the middle of the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” His disciples replied, “You can see this crowd jostling you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”

But he looked all round at their faces to see who had done so. Then the woman, scared and shaking all over because she knew that she was the one to whom this thing had happened, came and flung herself before him and told him the whole story. But he said to her, “Daughter, it is your faith that has healed you. Go home in peace, and be free from your trouble.” (Mark 5:24-34)

This story resonates so deeply with Anna. As you picture and pray for Anna today perhaps you could see her hand in this beautiful rendering of the Gospel story below. Even in her weakened state Anna is reaching out her hand to touch the hem of her Savior’s garment. Join us as we pray in unison for physical healing through these dark days between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Screen Shot 2020-04-10 at 11.54.53 AM

Friends and Family, (Actually just family, as we consider you part of our extended family)

We want to update you on Anna. She is not doing well. She has been steadily declining the past few months, and especially the past week. In spite of 18 months of consistent chemotherapy, her scan in January showed that the cancer has continued to spread to additional parts of her body.

So what does this mean? Put simply we are suffering. Anna is suffering physically and emotionally. The kids and I are suffering as well, along with her parents who moved to our neighborhood in January to help. And what does “forward” look like, we have no idea. We are doing our best to be surrendered to whatever God has,  but we do ask that you continue to pray with us for Anna’s physical healing.

As I spoke with Anna this morning she said, “this is not lost on me that I am experiencing this level of suffering during Holy Week, especially on Good Friday. Jesus suffered so much! Jesus understands my pain and He is suffering with me, as me, in these dark hours.” One of the beautiful graces of God in the past few days has been how Anna has seen herself more and more in different Gospel accounts, specifically the paralytic man being lowered through the roof. Know that she sees each of you as the friends who are lowering her through the roof to the feet of Jesus right now.



Ultimate Rest: “Into Your Hands…”

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” (Isaiah 31:15)

Resting into what God is doing in our lives is not easy. Most of us know, or think we know, how this moment, the next hour, today, this month, this year, and the entirety of our lives should play out. As followers of Jesus we tend to prefer the prophet Jeremiah over Isaiah when he says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

That is a wonderful promise that Jeremiah proclaims, however, we do not know what to do with a leader and a King who would suffer and die. As we find ourselves staring at the cross of Christ on “Good Friday”, it so often still doesn’t make sense to us. We want to follow this Jesus, but we don’t want to suffer. Yet, it is suffering that causes us to trace our lives after the example of the suffering King.

Suffering is not so much about physical pain as it is about giving up and losing control. The more I look at the cross, really look at it, I see Jesus our leader giving up and losing control. Just days before, Jesus was experiencing the opposite of rest in the Garden of Gethsemane begging his Father to chose another way. However, in his next breath we see Jesus surrender yet again, “not my will but yours be done.” 

Maybe that is the rest Isaiah and Jesus have been inviting us into all along. A way of living our life in a posture of saying, “not my will but yours be done”, a posture of surrender. With this posture we can still be  very clear about our dreams and desires, but ultimately we can open our hands and echo the words of our fearless leader King, “not my will but yours be done.” Jesus modeled this level of rest to us when he breathed his last and said “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Oh that we might be able to join Jesus in this posture of rest and trust on this side of Heaven, for we know that rest awaits us in Eternity.

Do We Actually Want Rest?

Many followers of Jesus know Matthew 11:28-30 by heart. At least the first part,

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

It sounds amazing! Most of us identify with the words weary and heavy-laden. We live in a culture that almost prides itself on being weary and heavy-laden. We tell one another stories about how busy we are, how tired and overworked and important we are. Weariness happens to us just by association, and we also allow it to happen.

I like the sound of Jesus’ voice here. His words echo like cool water on a fresh burn after touching something hot. Many of us hear his words and we want what he is offering, or we think we do. Some of us even cry out to Jesus begging him for this rest He promises,  yet way we structure our day, our week, our month, our year in such a way that it doesn’t fit our plea. Eugene Peterson’s version of verse 28 is quiet the invitation from Jesus, “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.”

How often do we really come to him and get away with him really? If we want what He is offering, this almost unimaginable rest that our bodies, minds and souls crave, then we have to accept the invitation. We have to actually carve out time and space in our day to get away with him and him alone.  Jesus goes on to say,

“I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” (v 29) If I am reading this correctly, Jesus is actually going to be the one who teaches us how to rest. We certainly need that! We need to be taught how to rest.

The unforced rhythms of grace. What a great translation! Eugene, or should I say Jesus is offering something incredible here. It is a rhythm that we can lean into or reject. Jesus is offering us rest, offering to teach us how to rest. Will we take him up on his offer?

How Do We Learn to Rest?

Several times over the past few years I have heard a comment like this from someone who knows me well. , “Shawn, I’ve noticed that you rest well when you are off work. How did you learn to do that?” That was quite a statement to me, a guy who comes from generations of work-a-holics. I can only say that because I am a recovering work-a-holic myself, and my dad has confirmed that as far back as he knows our family has seen work as primary.

Clayton Christensen, a Harvard professor, business owner in his book How Will You Measure Your Life , says this with regards to making work our primary focus: “The danger for high-achieving people is that they’ll unconsciously allocate their resources to activities that yield the most immediate, tangible accomplishments. This is often in their careers, as this domain of their life provides the most concrete evidence that they are moving forward.” No wonder we do this! Who doesn’t want proof that we are moving forward?

Back to the question from my friend, how did I learn to rest? It was a great question. How does a man whose tendency is to work all the time (not just at a job but around the house, on projects, etc) make time to rest? Well, it started slow for me. I began by taking an hour here and an hour there to schedule something that I wanted to do. Yes, I scheduled it and still do. I eventually moved to 4-hour increments of a day once a week. Four hours of no work at all. At this point a couple of little kids came on the scene for Anna and me. You would think that rest went out the door at that point, but I (we) stayed with it. In fact, as our kids got older I began scheduling a day off for our family, an actual Sabbath day. It wasn’t always Sunday, it was the day of the weekend when we could most likely take a full 24 hours to rest. Practically, it stated in the evening of one day and ended the evening of the next.

I was enjoying each of these experiences of rest so much that I decided to take it a step further and plan a weekend once a year when Anna and I could get away and rest. That turned into two then three, and most years we now do a quarterly two nights away. Along with that my wife and I began to look six months in advance to when we could get our kids away for a week to rest and play together. Then after that, again as our kids have gotten older, we have looked for a week when Anna and I could get away for at least seven days together to rest without our kids.

So how did I learn to rest? I just did it. It is one of the best decisions I even made (and am still making). Rest is a gift from the Lord. One that we can all receive.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
In quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)