On a Mission of Peace

Yesterday here in the US we took the time to remember the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice and died in the line of duty to their country. It’s a solemn and serious day, one that many suffer through because we reached an unavoidable situation where it was necessary to fight and go to war and put their lives on the line. Don’t get me wrong, I know that some people only can listen when they’re practically smacked in the face by the strength that can only be stated through violence/the military. I fully support the soldiers past, present and future, and their families. But I wish that we didn’t have to resort as often to violence and war.

So as I was working on my weekly devotional over the weekend, I ran across a couple of verses that spoke not only to the real work of the men and women of the military (the men and women of the military are typically known as those who fight, but what they’re really doing is working towards peace for more people), but also to how the large percentage of the rest of the world who aren’t in the military can help us advance peace in the world too.

“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5-6

Romans 15 is an encouragement to choose to live in harmony with each other. I really think it is a choice, it’s something we could easily skip (and many do), but I think that we would all find we enjoy life more when we’re working together on life rather than fighting or being stuck in our own ways and not considering the needs or health of others. We’re also reminded that it’s our opportunity as followers of Christ to be the ones to start that journey and turn things from potentially adversarial to supportive. But because of that relationship with Christ we also have some extra tools when it comes to making peace:

“But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:17-18

James 3 lays out a whole lot of ways we can create better, healthier, happier, more peaceful relationships, using the wisdom and heart we get from God. It is a lot to take in or try to do all at once, so I would pick one or two and start with that and work up to adding more in, or if you like more variety in your life you can pick 7 and alternate through them on a daily basis each week. Even if you just picked one and worked on it for the rest of your life, you would be making a positive impact on the people you connect with and helping to create more peaceful communities. What will you do to honor our military and advance peace in [your corner of] the world?

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A Life of Mindfulness

One of the things I enjoy about Lent is how it encourages us to really be mindful about our lives and what goes on in them, where we go, what we say, how we live, the choices we make. People talk about the importance of taking time to meditate, and I certainly believe that quiet time can help you work thoughts or problems out or just help to find a little peace in all the chaos of life today. But some people struggle to find time to meditate and some struggle with the concept of sitting and being still and quiet. Which is where being mindful comes in.

Being mindful means that you’re attentive and aware according to the dictionary. Mindfulness is an opportunity for anyone to be more present in the moment, to be more conscious about what’s going on around them and what they’re doing and how they’re treating others, to think more before speaking or acting, and to be more appreciative both to the universe/God and others.

While most of us have (many) more tomorrows in front of us all we’re promised is the moment we’re living now. Being mindful can help you enjoy today and all yoru days more thoroughly, to make better decisions that will serve you both presently and in the future, to invest in the relationships that add the most value to your life, and make decisions that will positively impact the people and world around you. It can also help you be more even tempered and more at peace even with the chaos of the world and all the commitments we take on.

If “right now counts forever” as Dr. R.C. Sproul said, what are you doing with your right now? Is it something that you want to look back on forever? Will it help you build a better tomorrow? Are you working for more peace in your life and the world? What are you doing with your day today?

Peace for Christmas

One of the things that has always amazed me about the Biblical Christmas story is the amount of peace Mary has around the whole situation. It’s entirely likely that she was a teenager when she had Jesus (historically that’s when they often married). Today we’ve got a bunch of TV shows that show teenage pregnancies, and we’ve all been teenagers at one point in time, but imagining what it would be like to not only a mother but the mother of Jesus at that age is more than a bit intimidating. And yet after talking with the angel and hearing everything she seems remarkably accepting and at peace about everything.

It would take an incredible amount of trust and faith in God, yourself and in your partner to step into that situation. It’s not clear what Mary’s family thought of everything but the Bible does share about Joseph’s initial struggle with it, and the story as far as the participants is different than it may have been because of the forced trip to Bethlehem. But if you remember one of the key figures in Mary’s life, her cousin Elizabeth, was not only supportive, she was given a baby by God as well (John the Baptist).

Sometimes we have to take big steps of faith in our lives, especially if we can see how important or beneficial it would be. I know we sometimes struggle with change because it can be easier to not make changes and change typically makes waves for us and others. But what if you knew that forward moving journey had a big payoff in the end? It’s a lot more encouraging and calming to know that there’s a definite good result in the journey.

If you’re not at peace with the journey you’re currently on it’s time to take another look at that journey, your attitude and the people in your life. Are you trusting God to guide you? Are you at peace with the decisions you’ve made for it? Do you have the support you need to move forward successfully? Why don’t you have peace at the moment? What would bring you peace in this situation and during this journey (other than to be through it already)?

Comfort and Joy

There are tons of great songs that are played and sung during the holidays, one that came to mind recently was ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,’ and especially the lines “Oh tidings of comfort and joy/Comfort and joy/Oh tidings of comfort and joy.” As much as we run around, as many parties as we attend, as large as our shopping lists are, as many decorations as we hang, as much food as we cook and eat, I still feel like there’s a sense of peace and comfort that surrounds all of it.

The first Christmas wasn’t any less stressful or busy than we are today, what with Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem and not finding a place to stay and having to stay with animals and place the newborn Jesus in a manger. But along with the joy that we feel with it, we also feel a sense of peace and comfort, probably because Jesus, the long awaited Messiah, has arrived. There’s no more waiting, no more questioning when, no more questioning if. He’s here. And along with Him comes the reassurance that all that was prophesied was true; that there is a Heaven, God does exist, and there is salvation available to those who believe.

The holidays also bring comfort because we typically get to be with those we don’t always see but miss. There’s something satisfying about having your family and friends gathered around, even if it’s simply getting coffee or picking out trees together, or only together for a weekend before they/you travel back home. And then there’s all the food that we only cook and create during these holidays with special cookies, traditional dinners, and breakfasts that don’t get made just by adding milk or popping something in the toaster. I think some of the Christmas foods are the very definition of ‘comfort foods’ for me.

What is Christmas comfort for you? Is it attending church and singing carols? Is it gathering around a roaring fire to tell stories? Is it bundling up to walk through the flurries with your significant other? Is it baking cookies and other treats you used to make with your grandmother? Is it reading the Christmas story and the Night Before Christmas? What is Christmas comfort for you?

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

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.

Reality Reflection: Peace is Possible

I heard the phrase “peace is possible” this week and it got me thinking because as much as I believe in the possibility of peace and hope for world peace some day, sometimes it feels like it’s more of a concept than a truly possible reality.  Like the difference of seeing an architect’s plans for a building on paper versus the building actually being built and being able to touch it and walk through it.  Both are “real” but the physical building seems more real than the paper drawing.

Also I think we’ve been hurt more than once by people who have great words and ideas but never follow through with actions, so we tend to be more distrustful when it comes to the intangible things of the world, like love, honor and peace.  This is especially painful and difficult when it’s the same person or group repeatedly who says great stuff but doesn’t follow through, like the drug user or alcoholic in our life who promises to change but doesn’t, or the boss who thanks you for your honestly good ideas and those ideas end up in the garbage almost before you leave the room.

So is peace really possible?

Beyond the few people who seem to thrive off of chaos and discord in the world, I think most people really would like peace.  We’re not talking about a world without challenges or anything to stimulate us, a “perfect” world, but a world where bombs dropping and genocide or civil wars or slavery aren’t the daily reality for some people.  For those who are so busy strategizing and putting energy into planning how to kill someone (or many people), why don’t they put their talents to work on how to kill cancer or HIV or Alzheimers or resolve world hunger and the need for safe and accessible water around the world?  There are plenty of issues in the world that will only be resolved with the help of great thinkers and people with specific skills, skills that are currently not being used for the good of the most people.

I think one place peace starts is with more people believing that it’s actually possible.  Because if we believe it’s actually possible we’ll think, act and react differently, which will create a ripple effect wherein other people start to think, act, and react differently too.  While one little ripple can’t be a tidal wave, it certainly can and does start one.  You may not see an instant change in your life when you choose to believe that peace is possible, but over time the little things will add up and it will be clear that life is better with peace than without.