Category Archive: Peace

New Life

Spring has arrived in all its glory. Don and I walk through the hilly woods near us and see blue lupen and bright orange California poppies in the fields. Paigey stops to sniff, picking up scents of deer and other wild critters.

Nature illumines my soul. As we begin to emerge from the cocoon of Covid-19 this past year, I feel hope in the new life of all around me. The 12-18″ wild, bright green grasses growing on the hillside. The trees crisscrossing over the dirt road on which we walk, giving us sweet shade beneath the warming sun.

We have a small back yard, but see the breadth and width of the nearby hills, with no houses between. Don and I often enjoy a light lunch as we sit on our patio watching flowers, squirrels, iceplant, and a great variety of birds. And when we look out between the large oak trees to the hills, I feel at peace.

God’s nature, always renewing, refreshing, the darkness of winter superseded by the glories of spring, bringing life and hope to a newly budding world, and heart.

I want to share with you this beautiful rendition of AMAZING GRACE, by a group called Il Divo. AMAZING GRACE was written by John Newton, a former slave trader who met the Master who changed his life and calling. Newton was transformed from a captain of slave ships to an abolitionist and priest of the Anglican parish at Olney, Buckinghamshire, England for two decades.

This song is one of many Newton wrote, but is his most famous, probably because it speaks to the marvelous grace of God that can change a stony heart to soft, a hard heart to one that is open to both receiving, and granting grace.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-norton-ext_onb&ei=UTF-8&hsimp=yhs-ext_onb&hspart=norton&param1=0a6ef5af-06c6-4c78-90af-877a4392b851_2020-06-18_cr&param2=ds_nag_may20&param3=ngc_22.20.2.57_wk25_2020&param4=1000&source=nag&p=il+divo&type=cr_ds_may20_wk25_2020#id=3&vid=a8ebd5953f837cb5a8f9bda275712176&action=click

What renews your soul? Is it God’s creativity in nature? Time with family and friends (in person)? Solitary time? Time spent alone with God and his Word? Let’s talk about it.

Peace and Goodwill

Advent – the Coming. As we await the arrival of Christmas this year, we focus on hope.

Hope has been elusive this year. Our culture is very much about “now”. We’re used to fast food, getting things we want right away. At Costco, in bulk! We get irritated if we have to wait.

And now we see waiting everywhere — the line around the corner at Marshall’s; another at Petco; still another queue of customers waiting to enter the bank. We’re being stretched with the current restrictions on our activities and on how many people can be in a store at one time, whether we’re waiting for groceries, Christmas shopping, or something else.

But Jesus gives us hope. Isaiah 11:1 promises that God still has a plan. A plan that was carried out by Jesus Christ when He came to earth to walk with us, to die a horrible death and return to life three days later. God will not forget us. He will have the last word.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

Isaiah 11:1

We can trust him. He is righteous, wise, just …

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him–the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord … with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth …

Isaiah 11:2-4

And a day is coming when He will make all things right.

  • He will end injustice (11:4) and will rule in righteousness, faithfulness, and be incorruptible
  • He will end conflict (11:6-7)
  • He will end pain (11:9), and
  • He will end ‘religion’ – there will be no need to teach others because knowledge will fill the earth (11:9b).

There is an element of hope as I realize that every day I’m one day nearer to that day of righteousness and peace.

I don’t claim to know what God is up to in our nation, our world during this anxiety-laden time. I do know He wants us to turn to Him in repentance and faith, trusting that He is good, that He has a plan that ends in ultimate glory for those who trust in Him.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the words to “I Heard the Bells” lost his beloved wife in 1861. The American Civil War began that same year. The following year his son joined the Union army to fight in the Civil War without his father’s consent. Shortly before Christmas 1863, Longfellow learned of his son’s war injury. The poet’s pen had been dry as he suffered the agony of loss and the depression accompanying the ongoing Civil War. But friends encouraged him to write a poem.

That Christmas morning in 1863, Longfellow heard church bells and wrote this poem.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

I wish you peace and good will during this Advent season. However you celebrate, whether alone or with others, be safe, be wise, and rejoice that the Savior of the world, born in a manager so many years ago, is alive and well and working in and through us.

Joy to the World!

What are your plans for Christmas? How can you make it a special time even if not with those you usually join for time together?

Paradigm Shifts

What’s the paradigm behind your world view? I’ve been wrestling with this these past months. I wonder if you have been too.

In this time of tensions within and outside our nation, pandemic fears, destruction of life, property, animals, and finances through fire, flood and violence, we see different paradigms at work.

  • The paradigm that we are in control of our lives. (2020 has shattered much of that one, hasn’t it!)
  • That politics, OUR politics, whatever they may be, has the answers we need to right the wrongs in our world.
  • That we are subject to external circumstances that control our lives; or
  • That God is sovereign over our lives, nations, world. His Throne is still occupied! He gives us freedom to choose our behaviors and responses to the world around us. He loves us with an everlasting love, to which we must choose how we will respond.

It seems to me that if we go with either of the first three paradigms (and there are others), we lose hope when a) we lose control over our lives because of illness, election results, loss of loved ones; b) our politics fail to provide the answers we seek; or c) the external circumstances we believe control our lives are unfavorable to us.

Our paradigms, our belief systems, affect our lives. And we can’t change our lives until we change the paradigms. We come to faith through a host of life experiences, education, and belief systems we have learned from our childhoods. These help form the lens through which we see the world.

  • Think of the woman who hates men because her father abandoned the family when she was a little girl, pushing them into poverty and insecurity.
  • Or the one who was abused as a child and doesn’t trust anyone, always fearing the raised hand or voice.

Pastor Rene Schlaepfer spoke last night about the shape of the gospel–a bell curve from weakness to power. Christ’s death looked like an absolute tragedy, a picture of complete weakness. But it was in reality the ultimate in power because of His resurrection from the dead three days later.

A gospel shaped paradigm gives me a pattern for my life when I realize that I can expect both crosses and empty tombs (perhaps figuratively, perhaps literally). If I expect only crosses, I can’t rejoice in the empty tombs. If I expect only graves, I fall into despair.

It changes how I see my future, because my future is in the hands of my loving Father who has promised never to leave nor forsake me. The apostle Paul said it this way.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 

II Corinthians 4:7-11

And, changing my paradigm gives me power for life, because God is strong when I am weak!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

II Corinthians 12:9

Pastor Rene said one way to get this gospel shaped paradigm into our heads is to expose myself to a new idea over and over, for example:

  • “God loves me and has already given me eternal life.”
  • “I know life has its crosses but they lead to resurrection.”
  • “I can trust the God who loved me enough to send His Son to die in my place, who knows my past, present and future. And one day I will worship at His feet, rejoicing in the grace He’s given me.”

Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

I’m working on my paradigms. How about you?

Fear

We arrived at our drive-in church service early last week, as we always do, to get a spot from which we can hear and see our pastor teach. The precious old hymns of the faith were uplifting.

Then Pastor Tim began to speak.

“As the elders and I prayed together this morning, each of the seven prayed about the fear people are feeling in these days of insecurity! Each of the seven. And I thought, ‘this needs to be addressed.'”

Fear is prevalent in our world, with the coronavirus, political divisions and hatemongering, ongoing fires, a country divided, and many unknowns.

  • What will be the results of the upcoming election, and how will those impact us and our society?
  • When will our current fires get controlled, and how many more fires will begin before fire season ends?
  • Will I, or someone I love, become ill with Covid-19? Will someone I love be hospitalized and die while I can’t be with him/her?
  • Will my child be able to learn remotely? And when will our children, and we, return to a more normal life?
  • When can our children return to Sunday school, Kids Club, and other after school activities?
  • If I teach remotely, will my teaching be effective?

Tim had a sermon prepared; but he set that aside and spoke to us about fear instead. He said that in the Bible, we’re told not to fear 365 times – that’s once for every day of the year!

Tim reminded us that if we live in fear, we cannot be a light to those around us. And if we don’t check anxiety, it runs us! Meaningful words for me.

II Timothy 1:7 tells us “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” Fear is not from God and we need to rebuke it in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Oh, fear can be a warning; but God never meant for us to live in fear for the future.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. 

I John 4:18-19

When Jesus’ disciples watched Him die in agony on the cross, they thought their world had collapsed. Hopes were dashed. They were in despair, depressed, downhearted. Their leader, the one they believed to be the Messiah, was dead. Hopes dashed. Reality set in.

But three days later reality was upended when there was resurrection, just as He had promised! Even though Jesus had told them He would rise again, they were shocked and, at first, unbelieving that this could be their Savior, their Messiah, risen from the dead.

How like us when we face critical times. God has promised never to leave nor forsake us, to carry and sustain us. But when things look darkest, we forget that resurrection is coming. Christ WILL take us home to be with Him, regardless of what comes before. We can’t SEE that, don’t KNOW that because we’ve not been there yet.

But that’s where faith comes in, doesn’t it? The disciples despaired at Jesus’ death. But they they were filled with joy at His resurrection. He had spoken truth, had been fully faithful in all He told them before His death.

It is critical that we seek our God during this very uncomfortable year! He who has told us to bring all our burdens to Him, is the One who sustains, upholds, rescues, and delivers us from fear. As we focus our eyes on Him rather than the problems around us, we can experience His peace in whatever situation He allows to come our way.

For I have chosen you and will not throw you away.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Isaiah 41:9b-10

How are you experiencing God’s peace in the storm around us? I’d love to hear about it. And if you are dealing with fear, I’d love to pray for you. May God bless you as you enter a new week with the Presence and Power of Jesus in all you do.

A Different Kind of Week

I felt a bit dizzy during the night Monday. When I wakened Tuesday I was quite nauseous. I stayed in bed until about 11, then Don prepared me a very light breakfast of fresh fruit.

Back to bed to sleep – for hours! It’s years since I’ve done that. At 4 o’clock I wakened, feeling like I was going to upchuck. I got up as slowly as I could and headed toward the restroom. I hit two walls on my way and barely made it before losing everything I’d eaten (or so I thought).

I called my doctor’s office at 4:50 to ask for advice. A nurse called back shortly. “You’re too late for office hours and urgent care won’t see you if you’ve thrown up today. You need to go to the ER and get checked out.”

I knew throwing up was one possible symptom of COVID-19, but I had no others.

“You don’t sound good, and I think it’s important you be seen tonight.”

“Do you really think that’s necessary?” I asked.

“OK. I’ll go.”

I dressed and told Don what the office had said. On the way I said “I really don’t want to throw up in your car, love.”

Don pulled into the ER driveway. I opened the door, and wallah – you guessed it! A kind man pushed me inside in a wheelchair while Don went home to wait (no visitors allowed).

Over the next five hours I was poked for blood tests (great job, hardly felt it), given an EKG, gave a urine sample, and was put into a bed and given two warmed blankets to cover me (later, a third was added). The nurses and aides were gracious.

At one point I overheard the woman next to me say “Thank you for being so kind to me,” and I prayed God’s blessing on her. I heard several “Code Blues” and felt it a privilege to pray for those individuals and the medical personnel caring for them. Of course I prayed for Don, at home waiting for news. I’ve recently been anxious over fires and riots and yet, in the ER I was truly at peace the whole time and so grateful for God’s presence with me.

From a wise mind comes wise speech; the words of the wise are persuasive. Kind words are like honey–-sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.

Proverbs 16:23-24 

I told one of my nurses I was praying for them, and he thanked me. “I really appreciate that,” he said. “I think this is the first year that people are really thanking us–oh, here and there people have, but as a whole.”

We were very thankful with the report that all my vitals looked good, no COVID, just vertigo. I left late that night with medication and exercises to help.

I’ve been very thankful for our medical personnel before, particularly when Mom needed care over the past year plus. But somehow when it’s you in that bed and waiting for results it really sinks in how much these men and women are on the front lines – doctors, nurses, phlebotomists, aides, registrars, cleaning staff.

Thank you, each of you, for treating me with kindness and respect, and ensuring you did all possible to check whether or not I had an infection or virus. God be with you, each and every one!

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Colossians 3:15