From pole to pole, there is peace

“He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire. “ ( Psalm 46:9 )

Part of verse 9 from The Message says God “Bans war from pole to pole.” Can you imagine it all. No wars in Ireland or Pakistan. True shalom in the Middle East. No conflict of military action in Iran, Iraq, or Afghanistan. Harmony in Serbia, Croatia, Czechoslovakia, and all the other countries emerged from behind Soviet Russia. No violence on the African continent. Brother/sisterhood spanning South America. Authentic smooth sailing in and amongst the tropical islands. Peace in the far east among the nations of China and Japan, all the nations that surround it. And here in the United States the Pentagon hangs a “Gone out of business” sign on the door. It would be a miracle!

We do not think about all the places where tranquility is not a day in and day out routine. And let us not get started on the small conflicts that too often erupt between neighbors and fill the newspapers of the local and regional sections.

And if the truth be told, God has banned all wars. Not every one has listened and got the message.

May you gentle reader do everything in your power to work for and bring about peace, where ever you are. Selah!

You got trouble!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 )

I am reminded of the lyrics of the song from The Music Man, “Ya Got Trouble.” It is the moment in the story where “Professor” Harold Hill the traveling music salesman is trying to convince the “good folks” of River City that they need a marching band. And naturally Harold is there to sell them the musical instruments.

In the gospel of John Jesus is telling his disciples that they have trouble too. But Jesus is not trying to sell them a “temporary do it yourself” the solution. Jesus is saying he is the solution! Jesus says that in him, that is following the example of his life, there is peace and a cessation of trouble. Jesus does not promise the troubles will go away, but within his love is healing and restoration from troubles.

Now the story of The Music Man is interesting. “Professor” Hill says that the children do not have to take lessons to learn how to play the instruments. He claims the knowledge will come naturally as they think about and hold the instruments. That is because Harold is not selling the lessons, just the instruments. And in the past, after closing the sales “Professor Hill” takes off leaving the towns people and their children with instruments that they cannot use.

Jesus does not do that. He walked with his disciples, teaching them. And Jesus taught the people of the towns he visited, healing them and blessing them. Jesus was not a “one time only” salesman who left after “selling people” on him. When Jesus did leave, he sent/left behind the Holy Spirit to continue teaching and inspiring the people. Jesus said there are many lessons we need to learn, and gave/inspired countless writings throughout many generations to teach us.

Yes, we have troubles; here, there, and everywhere. But Jesus has solutions and a remedy for every trouble. And he is involved in every aspect of the troubles being overcome. May you gentle reader listen to our Lord Jesus and in him find the solution to your troubles. Selah!

Some of this and some of that

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)

My daughter brought home a copy of a recipe that has been in my recipe box for many years. Her copy adds an extra ingredient that mine does not. It makes the finished dish a little different than my original, but it is better for the adding of the addition. If you know our family at all, you would not be surprised that it is a dessert dish.

I made the recipe with the addition, and it is baking in the oven at this writing. The extra ingredient adds a new taste to the dish, and gives it a slightly different look. But the intent is the same; a yummy sweet chewy confection that should be eaten sparingly and savored with each bite.

Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, suggests a recipe for the church that includes all types of people giving all kinds of service to the church. Just like in my recipe, the different types of leadership need to mix and swirl together forming a cohesive church that serves all the needs of the people. No one leader type is more important than the other. And yet taking out or having one less leader type is not going to cause the downfall of the church. This is just as in my recipe; not having the extra ingredient did not mean the original dish was not tasty. The extra just makes it more delicious. In the same way having many leaders contributing their skills will make the church even better.

No one dish, no matter how succulent and savory will satisfy feed all of creation. We need all types of churches with all types of leadership over a long period of time. In fact one could see we will need to “cook” and create churches until the Second Coming when the Grand Master Chef makes over creation to perfection. For now each cook stumbles over him or herself doing the best possible with the ingredients available.

May you gentle reader enjoy the faith and worship group you are a better of savoring offering created and offered up to the Divine. Selah!

The year that changed the world

“God looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God.” (Psalm 53:2 NRSV )

I was thinking recently about the impact that Christ made on the culture and times he lived in. Christ’s way of living and caring for people was radically different from those of his peers. And I was reminded by a sermon I heard recently that the prophets who prophesied previous to Christ’s coming tried to tell the people of their times that such a leader was coming. And I thought what a difference it would make if Christ had come to our contemporary society, and how his message of loving, caring, and salvation would make such a difference. Because, I thought, it sometimes seems that don’t carry that message of caring and redemption with them.

But then I thought, contemporary society has recognized and incorporated Christ in ways that it has not realized. The most immediate example I could think of was the way we count the passing of the years. Christ’s birth set the standard for the years; of course, many scholars say that it is a few years off. And it is no longer stated Before Christ, but Before [the] Common Era. And Anno Domini meaning the Year of the Lord has been replaced with CE meaning Common Era. But these changes have not been adapted by all people. And for many, many years BC and AD were the standards.

But think about; even though the change was made to accommodate non-Christian anthropologists and others, the numbering of the years stands. Even though they may not recognize the significance of that “pivotal year”, they have by taciturn agreement accept that SOMETHING happened that changed how civilizations reckon time.

So I am comforted that even in the midst of violence, suffering, and war there is an undercurrent of acknowledgment of Christ. We all know that there is something within us and far beyond us that is greater then ourselves. How we name it and how we acknowledge differs greatly, to the point that the actions of some try to work against it. But it is there.

May you gentle reader be wise, beyond the wise of those who claim perfect knowledge. May you seek God, seeing the Divine for what it was, what it is, and what it always will be. Selah!

From heaven, with love

“To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.’ ” (John 3:27 )

A story, not unlike Aesop’s Fables:

Many ages ago, gentle reader, the birds were receiving from the heavens their voices and their feathers. The peacock, wanting to get the best of everything, pushed to the head of the line and demanded first chance at all the colors and amount of feathers that he could get. And the Divine, knowing the peacock’s vanity would catch up with him, decided to allow the bird to have all he wanted.

The dove patiently waited for his turn, and said he was satisfied with what the Divine gave him. Meanwhile, the peacock preened and pranced around displaying his magnificent colors and feather. Many of the other birds were mesmerized by the sight of such a creature, and just stood around and watched. Because the dove had been so patient, the Divine allowed the dove to be first to pick the voice he wanted.

When the peacock finally got to the line for voices, there were no light twittering bird voices left, and so he had to take a voice that screamed and whined. And using this voice, he complained to the Divine that it was not fair that such a magnificent bird got such an awful voice while a dove with plain colors got a soothing “cooing” voice. The peacock demanded that he be given the best voice to go with the best plumage.

The Divine reminded the peacock he had decided what was more important to him, and the dove had settled for what was available to him and that would not be taken from him. All the other birds had accepted what was given to them according to what they considered to be important. So the peacock would just have to learn to live with the choices he made. But, as we know, the peacock can sometimes still be heard complaining.

God knows the heart and spirit of all of us. With love and compassion, God calls us to the place and tasks in live that best suit our natures. If we place ourselves in the Lord’s hands and accept what the Lord’s feels is best for us, our lives will be in accordance with God’s plan and desire for all of creation. But if we insist on our own way, we may get it but it may not satisfy us and we may lose more than we win.

May you gentle reader, as John the Baptist and the dove did, settle for the place and life calling that the Divine has given you. Selah!

Holy Name Tags

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35 )

In my younger years I was pretty shy. (I have mostly gotten over that.) It was hard for me to introduce myself. And even now I have to take a steadying breath before I introduce myself in a large group. So when I first saw name tags that said “Hello, my name is . . . “ I thought they were the greatest thing in the world. When I get one of those name tags, I am loathe to throw them away because it seems like such a wonderful way to break the ice. No need to say your name, the tag says it for you and in such a friendly way. At an event or meeting that awkward preliminary introduction is done for you and you can move along in the conversation assuming a common interest because you are both at said meeting or event.

By implication then, loving Christ and our Lord God is that same sort of introduction. If you love your fellow person in a pure and unconditional way, you must be a disciple of Christ and therefore have a great deal in common. The awkward introduction is made for you and you can assume a kinship that makes for a safe, secure, and yes, peaceful community.

But this sort of introduction is so dependent on being a loving, care person. In order to rest assured of being known you have to show forth a caring and compassion that cannot be mistaken for anything else. To do otherwise is to misrepresent yourself and to live contrary to Christ’s example. If you profess to be a Christian but do not live up to the name tag, you are sullying the name of Christian. That is why I cannot understand how Christians can wear that name tag but not “love one another.” And if a person shows forth Christ-like love, compassion, and caring, they show the name tag even if it may not read as we expect it to.

May you gentle reader proudly wear the name tag of Christ’s disciple, and may you be greeted in love and recognition by your fellow brothers and sisters. Selah!

Laying Down Cover

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8 )

In this instance the writer of 1 Peter does not advocate love because it is the highest action that humanity can do, but because it is the act that humanity can accomplish which will do the most to atone for its missteps. Hear this passage the way it is written in The Message. “Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. “ (verses 7-8)

But Paul in I Corinthians 13 says “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (4-8a) And if we would love in this way, the “multitude of sins” would be outweighed by the purity of our love.

May you gentle reader love like that, and may you be so loved. Selah!

Weary are the days apart from the Lord

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ” (Matthew 11:28-30 )

I think, but I am not sure, I am part of the working world again. After many months of unemployment, I think I landed a job. It sort of took me by surprise. I went in for what I thought was a job interview, and turned out I was hired on the spot. But I am not sure about the job; that is, it does not seem quite real. Maybe I will feel different after my first paycheck. For right now though, it is more like a waking dream than a solid reality.

However, if it is real, and I am once again employed it means I am part of the working world and subject to the “weary and burdened” of working. Gone are the easy and light burdens of keeping house. Not that I did not work hard keeping house, but I did that on my own schedule. It also means the time available to me to write is shorter too. I will have more to do and will need to cram all of it into the same 24 hours that previously gave me the opportunity to take my time and do my daily tasks well and complete.

It is my hope and prayer that this time around I can do a better job of managing my time, and avoid the weariness and weighed down feeling. However time alone will tell. May you gentle reader use your time well, and dwell with the Lord letting the wisdom of the Holy Spirit guide your steps and schedule. Selah!

Property of . . . . .

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1 )

Have you seen those t-shirts and sweatshirts that say “Property of _____”? When I first say one, I had to wonder if they had actually taken it from that place/institution. But I quickly realized it was a “gimmick” for selling the shirt. Depending on what the shirt said, the wearer could pretend they were from or the property of just about any where.

In a sense we should all be wearing a t-shirt or sweatshirt like that, and it should say “Property of God.” We are God’s because the Divine created us. God stooped down to make the first human being, and we all trace our descent from Adam and Eve. (How that lineage is traced is quite another discussion.) We are also God’s property because Christ laid down his life for us. Christ paid our ransom from sin. At least that is how it is supposed to be.

But some of humanity’s t-shirts or sweatshirts may need to say something else if a member of humanity has “sold out” to evil or sinning. We may not know someone personally who seems to belong more to evil and those powers/principalities, but we have heard enough stories of such people that we know it happens. Those individuals or groups are still God’s, but they have been in collusion with the fallen Lucifer to steal what is God’s creation and put it into service for evil. And where there is evil, there is no peace.

We must remember as we go through our days that we are God’s property and ministers for the Lord’s work. Where we put our priorities and what we work for must reflect who we belong to. May you gentle reader proudly wear the garments of work and intent that proclaim who owns you. Selah!

Live the Faith

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7 )

There are different seasons in the Christian life and discipline. Sometimes we are called to intensive devotion that results in strict disciplines and practices. We pray frequently, read and meditate on scripture, fast, do many good works, and meet often with others in worship. Other times the pace in slower and our contemplations take place within gentle and light disciplines. Sometimes we are in a season of learning, taking in a great deal of information and teachings. Other times our intake is experiential, learning through small voices and common everyday interactions.

In the same way, living out God’s shalom can be an active and busy burden interceding and confronting places of conflict and violence. I think of the experience of the Christian Peace Team that deliberately goes to places of violence to be a symbol of peace and a deterrent to conflict and war. Living out God’s shalom can also be creating and living in a place of peace where relationships are in harmony and each person holds the others good as sacred. Once that shalom is assured one does not need to struggle to live, but lives gently and easily.

The difference is living within a Christian community or context. I remember the years I spent as a student and working in the bookstore. You knew the people you encountered everyday held to the same principles and values that you did. Christian practices came easily because woven within the day was times for worship and contemplation. Everyone held sacred the other’s good, and there was gentleness and compassion. It was a close and safe world. But in some respects it was not the real world. I miss that world, but I know I have become a stronger person for stepping outside of it.

It is my hope and prayer gentle reader that you have places and times of utter shalom where the outer world fades away and God’s abundance surrounds you. May these times strengthen you such that you remain rooted in the faith. Selah!