Peace for the World

As I’ve been thinking about resting and simplifying life this month I’m also surrounded by the almost panic of back to school events. From the stress of getting supplies to finding out the clothes from the previous year no longer fit to finishing up the assigned work and reading for the summer, everyone’s moving out of the relaxed pace of summer and into the busyness that is September and autumn.

But as I was thinking about the seasons some more, I got to thinking about what each season really makes me feel. Winter is a season of quiet, spring is full of excitement and new life, summer is happiness and then you’ve got fall which often makes me think about feelings of peace. I know, that sounds like it’s in direct contradiction to the thoughts I just expressed about the almost state of panic that people enter into during the transition from summer to autumn and as many schedules become quite busy. But there’s something that’s so soothing about the autumn colors and scents and temperature that speaks to a sense of peace.

However, God doesn’t care what season it is or what’s going on in your life. He shares peace in any and all situations and at all times of day and night. It’s not peace that only happens when life is going well or when you’re feeling like it, it’s peace that passes all understanding. It’s peace that God is willing to give you whether you feel like you deserve it or not. It’s peace that’s just a prayer away if you need it today.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” John 14:27

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Remember Again

Recently I’ve been thinking about the topic of remembering. I’ve been remembering those early back-to-school days, contemplating summers at the beach, about the joy of eating watermelon in a backyard on a hot summer day, of taking walks on warm summer nights, of summer Vacation Bible Schools, hymns of old and songs of new, and of Noah and of the rainbow that is a reminder on several levels.

A big part of our lives is centered around remembering. We’re supposed to remember birthdays, appointments, where things have been put, people’s names, songs we’ve heard, books we’ve read, things people have told us, the list goes on. But not only are we supposed to remember what goes on in our lives we’re supposed to remember what goes on in the lives of our coworkers, friends, family members, significant others and/or kids. We’re also supposed to remember what God has taught us. It’s not surprising that we find ourselves forgetting things and feeling overwhelmed, it’s a lot to remember, more than most people can remember (which is one reason I write a ton of stuff down and feel very little guilt about it).

Much of the Bible is about remembering as well from Noah’s rainbow to the 10 Commandments to the Psalms to the many genealogies to the stories and traditions. One thing that sticks out with many of the remembered events of the Bible is repetition. It’s one of the greatest tools for remembering and most challenging as well. Repetition as seen in both hymns of old and songs of today, in the verses of the Psalms, signs of the Cross and occurrences of rainbows continue to be present in our lives, sometimes bringing hope, other times bringing frustration.

As frustrated as some people get with the repetition, it’s a crucial part of our lives and an important way of sharing about God. Someone may not believe or understand the first few times they hear something, but as they hear it repeated again and again they can reflect on it and learn from it and let God speak to them through it. Sometimes it’s exactly the reminder that we need to pick ourselves up, or turn ourselves around. If they can repeat the same lines throughout the book of Psalms, why can’t we repeat the same lines in the spiritual songs of today?

So the next time you’ve got a song stuck in your head, take the time to consider what the words are really saying. Thank God for the reminder and take a minute to discover what He may be trying to tell you.

Reminders from God

Sometimes we get so caught up in life that we forget to stop and take a moment, or we’re so focused on one direction that we can’t see the way God is trying to lead us.  Let’s take a look at some of the reminders in the Bible:

There’s a lot we can’t see, and a lot to hope for:
“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”  Hebrews 11:1

Use your words wisely:
“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”  Proverbs 15:1

Live with joy:
“I will be filled with joy because of you.  I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.”  Psalm 9:2

If God can forgive and be merciful, can’t we?:
“But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love.”  Nehemiah 9:7b

God saves us, leads us and teaches us:
“Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.”  Psalm 25:5

God is generous, gracious, and loving:
“Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.”  1 Timothy 1:14

We belong to God, and are to worship Him:
“For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship…”  Acts 27:23 ESV

Choose patience:
“Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.”  Ecclesiastes 7:8

Don’t give up:
“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”  Philippians 3:14

Each of our days include thousands of interactions, experiences and relationships, each with the potential to teach us something, help us heal in some way, make us a better person, put us in a position to help someone else, or reveal another aspect of who God is to us and who we are to Him.  It’s up to us to be open to where life takes us and where God sends us, and to pay attention to what’s going on around us.  What has God shared with you recently?

Partnerships in Creation

Over the past week I’ve been watching a family of bees make a home in the building next to my office window. I’ve worked out of this office for several years and haven’t seen them build here before, but this year they found the spot and decided to build there. They’re very small creatures and have found what looks to me to be a smaller hole to work with, but apparently they can fit quite a few of them in there at one time, so there must be space.

Today as I was watching them get started in the morning for the day’s hunting and building activities and whatever else they do it got me thinking about partnerships, us and nature, and nature and God. One of the things that has been talked about since humans really started growing and building homes is that we’re displacing the animals of nature, some of which have gone extinct as a result. As I’m watching this family of bees work I realized that the animals are doing their best to work with us, but we’re not giving them the same respect.

I get it, it’s not fun to watch the rabbits eat all of your plants, or have the deer run across the road where you’re driving, or have the bears and raccoons get in your garbage, or have the bugs take over spaces where you’re actively living. But I think many of those are signs that we’re not even trying to work with them on letting them have space to exist too.

But this family of bees has been a reminder and a reassurance that God takes care of all of His creatures, big and small. Maybe it’s time that we start working with God on not only how we can help nature thrive while we live where we live, but also work on partnering better with the other people that He’s created and put in our lives. Why fight and have someone be a loser when we can work together and everyone wins?

“”Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”” Matthew 6:26

Signs from God

Lately I’ve been thinking about signs, maybe you have too. There’s the commercial on TV right now about signs that people are seeing that seem to very clearly say that they should quit cable, and the commercial starts with someone wishing there was a sign for them regarding this decision they have to make. Sometimes I think we ask for those signs, not seeing the signs that are already in our lives and hearts. There are a couple of really clear signs in the Bible that I wanted to share about, signs that remind us of some important truths about life and faith.

One of the earliest signs is the sign of the rainbow. This is a sign God places in the sky from time to time to reaffirm the commitment and promise He made to Noah that He would never destroy the earth with a flood again.

The second sign to remember in the Bible is the sign of the cross. The cross is a sign of God’s love, a sign that He doesn’t give up on us and is willing to sacrifice what’s near and dear to Him for us.

While we can put the sign of the rainbow in our lives by creating pictures of it, there’s something special about seeing it appear in the sky without any influence from us. The cross isn’t something that often appears in nature like this, and we’re given the task of reminding ourselves and each other of that gift of love.

The third is a sign we see present throughout the Bible, and that’s the sign of dreams.  There are quite a few examples of dreams from Jacob to Joseph to Solomon to Daniel to Joseph (Jesus’ father).  We know from research today that there are many things that can cause you to dream, from what you eat to what you watch and listen to, but one of the things that has always been able to cause dreams is God.  It’s one of the trickier signs to watch for, but still one to learn from.

So this week as you go about your journey look for the signs that God puts in your path, signs that show He’s walking the path with you and has good plans for your life.

Resting In God

As we move deeper into summer, many of us are getting into the swing of things being done differently, having a different schedule, and generally feeling more relaxed. It amazes me that something as ordinary as a season change can bring about such noticable differences in us and our lives.

But what I wanted to talk about today was that one tricky word in there: relaxed. We can get so caught up in life that we forget what it means to relax, and some of us aren’t interested in doing things like yoga or meditation which are both techniques that are known to help people focus and relax. If that’s you and you feel like you’re not resting and don’t know where to begin, I invite you to consider the words of Br. Nicholas Bartoli, and Psalm 23:1-3a respectively:

“Christianity enjoys a rich and ancient tradition of the practice of contemplation, some form of which can be traced back to the Desert Fathers and Mothers who retreated into the solitude of the desert. Saint Gregory the Great described contemplation as simply “resting in God.””

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength.” 

There’s no better place to begin your relaxation than by resting in God, and all it takes are a few quiet moments before or after your daily devotion time. You may not change the craziness that is the world out there by resting in God, but you’ll feel a whole lot better about yourself and your life if you make it a regular practice in your life.

Fighting the Good Fight

With Independence Day a few hours away here in the US, I was thinking about what that day means and what it’s all about, and a big part of it is the battle that the new nation (the US) went through with Britain to separate from them. Often we think about our spiritual lives in terms of things like hope, peace, patience, love and eternity. But there’s the other side of it that we don’t like to think about but often is our reality: the challenges we face on a regular basis. Sometimes those challenges are fairly innocent and easy to manage, but others really test us, maybe even causing us to metaphorically ‘go to war.’

The good news is that God goes with us whether we’re enjoying a walk through His creation or fighting for our lives. God is just as capable of fighting as He is the loving and the healing. The Bible is filled with many stories of battles, in fact that’s a big part of what the Old Testament shares, whether it’s of the Israelites in battle or of other battles and conquerings that affected them. There’s certainly reference to the military in the New Testament with the centurion and his servant that Jesus healed as well as Cornelius (also a centurion) who had a memorable interaction with Peter.

And then there’s one of the more famous passages in the Bible, the Armor of God, which talks about God equipping us to fight against the devil and the evil that he would throw against us. It’s a reminder that as much as we humans fight a physical war here on earth, we’re also fighting a spiritual one up in Heaven.

So this Fourth of July, Independence Day, do something to help the good guys win the fight, whether donating to a veteran non-profit, praying with someone who is struggling, donating to the local food pantry or even something as simple as sharing encouraging words on social media.  What will you do?