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Christmas Card P.P.S. – Peace

Oh, what peace we often forfeit! Oh, what needless pain we bear! 

All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

The nonreligious Christmas card we sent out to friends and family this year included a wish for love in every home and peace in every heart during a joyous Christmas season. Those are gifts I would  wrap up and give to many people if it were possible. Maybe the next best thing is to share what has brought love, peace, and joy to my heart and home. I began with love yesterday in Christmas Card Post Script  and continue today with some thoughts about peace.

Most people want peace. Interestingly, peace is often defined as the absence or lack of something or even freedom from something. World peace means a world without war. Peace of mind means freedom from anxiety, fear, confusion, frustration and worry.

Peace is often paired with quiet. During busy days of holiday preparations, moments of peace and quiet can be precious and few. Homes full of children,TVs and telephones are rarely quiet. Malls are crowded with people and filled with seasonal music, songs like Let it Snow, I’ll be Home for Christmas, Sleigh Ride, and Its a Marshmallow World. Maybe what our hearts long for is a Silent Night!

I am looking forward to a silent night on Christmas Eve. We will be sleeping at my mom’s house where I usually wear earplugs to quiet the frequent train whistles. On Christmas Eve, there are no trains. Ah, peace and quiet. Sometimes military leaders declare ceasefires for observance of Christmas. This year, the leader of the Philippines  is seeking to give the people a “stress-free” Christmas season by declaring a ten day ceasefire from guerilla warfare. Let there be peace on earth!

While most of us are not dealing with the horror of war, our lives are far from stress-free. Can we have peace in the midst of stress? Yes. Today a friend whose brother recently died and whose daughter has begun a battle with cancer told me that she still feels calm and peaceful. I have experienced peace in very difficult situations in my own life at times. At other times, I have been a wreck. What makes the difference?

Oh, what peace we often forfeit! Oh, what needless pain we bear! 

All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

These words from the hymn What a Friend we Have in Jesus ring true in my life. Centuries before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the prophet Isaiah foretold, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)  On the night of his birth, angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14) With the coming of Jesus into the world, God was offering reconciliation of sinful people to himself. Friendship. Freedom from the fear of death. Peace.

God’s Word on Peace:

Psalm 29:11 – The Lord blesses his people with peace.

Isaiah 26:3 – You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.

John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (Jesus to his disciples)

Romans 5:1 – Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Philippians 4:6,7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Perhaps you have seen a bumper sticker that says NO JESUS – NO PEACE. KNOW JESUS – KNOW PEACE.

If you know Jesus as your Lord, Savior, and friend, you have the opportunity to take EVERYTHING to him in prayer and know peace. If you have been going through life wanting peace without knowing the Prince of Peace, as an ambassador for Christ, I implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.(2 Corinthians 5:20)

 

 

 

 

 

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Transformed

In 1991, I sat riveted in my theater seat watching the tragic defeat and death of the Beast in Disney’s original movie and telling myself that surely a happy ending was still coming. In another seat, a little girl sobbed as she watched the character die while Belle’s heart broke. The child had no hope of a happy ending, and even we who expected it experienced a moment of asking, “Is it too late?” The Beast’s future was not the only one at stake; the cursed castle’s humans-turned-to-objects feel completely defeated and hopeless until the magic begins and love’s transforming power lifts the Prince and them to restored life.  The curse is broken and evil is defeated.

That child’s tears remind me of a story told by a friend of mine. She was sitting with her young grandson during our church’s Easter musical.  The tot paid close attention as Jesus died and was laid in a tomb.  Then, as he watched friends of Jesus weeping, he whispered to Grandma, “They don’t know that Jesus is alive.” It’s just a few moments before the scene changes from the Friday burial to the confusion of Sunday’s empty tomb and then the truth of the Resurrection.  An angel proclaims, “He is not here; he has risen!”

I cannot remember a time in my life when I did not know the story of Easter.  With the simple faith of a child, I’ve always believed that it happened.  Easter mornings in our little country church were the highlight of the year.  Joyful people dressed in new clothes filled the pews. Easter lilies graced the sanctuary, scenting the air with their fragrance. The organist pulled out all the stops as we sang “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”.  After all, the Resurrection of Christ rocked the world and is the only reason why we mortals have hope of eternal life with God.  As Jesus said to Nicodemus, the man who would help Joseph wrap his dead body and lay it in the tomb, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

I flourished in that church among God’s people and made my statement of faith as a young teenager, saying in part, “In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Lord, he has come to us and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the world to himself.”

After high school graduation, I went off to college where I was separated from my church family.  I did not get connected with a local church or group of Christian students.  Life happened, as they say.  By the time I finished school, my heart had been broken several times. I had wandered off of the path a bit and almost given up on some of my dreams.  I was under a spell of discouragement.

Then my Knight in Shining Armor rode in. He offered me patience and understanding, and our friendship quickly became love that led to marriage. We had children and he worked hard to provide for our physical needs and to continue to support me emotionally.  But I needed more than that.  I needed Transformation.

As sure as the Beast was trapped in the curse for being selfish and mean, I was trapped in a dead-end life of perfectionism,  self-centeredness, and anxiety.  We were going to church and I still believed what I had accepted as a child, but I was powerless to find peace in my heart, and I allowed my mind to wander wherever it desired. I needed the Risen Lord’s love and power in my life.

In 1993, we were living in North Dakota.  I got up the courage to go to our church’s women’s retreat with a group of ladies I barely knew.  During the weekend, I got caught up in the love that these women had for Jesus.  It wasn’t just religion, it was real relationship.  I prayed, not for what I wanted, but for God to take over my life.  The Transformation began.

Back in Ohio a few years later, I joined another group of godly women in Bible studies that took me deep into the Bible.  I began to understand dying to self and living for Jesus.  The happy ending is coming.

Jesus proved that he is able to overcome death and darkness.  He promised that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life.  It’s not a fairy tale.

“Mud Church” in Wyandot County, Ohio

He Lives!  He Lives! Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. 

He Lives!  He Lives! Salvation to impart. You ask me how I know he lives.  He lives within my heart.

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…and he brought her to the man.

We’re celebrating the April 1 wedding of our son Eric to sweet Amanda.  Adding to the joy is the appreciation of how our family and hers have easily connected in friendship.  We look forward to the future that the newlyweds have together.

As Providence would have it, this wedding was completely unforeseen, for it is the second time Eric has been a groom.  I have great admiration for Eric and profound thanksgiving to God as I remember the dark tunnel that my son passed through on his way to the glorious celebration of today.  By God’s grace, truest friends and precious family members have supported and prayed for Eric and now rejoice with us in the love he has found.

Here we are with our new daughter-in-law and two sons in the spot where the couple made their vows to each other.  I took this photo along today as I visited a 1st Grade Class with a Winners Walk Tall lesson.  Earlier in the year, I illustrated the  lesson on Reaching Goals With a Plan by sharing Eric’s life story of working hard at school to graduate from high school and college, of practicing instruments to reach his goal of a music career, and of making friends at church and school who helped him become the man he wanted to be.  Now, I wanted to share this marriage milestone, but felt that if I left out the heartbreak of his life I could miss an opportunity to acknowledge sadness that some surely live in. The Lord gave me these words to truthfully fill in the gap:

This picture is from a happy day, but there are times when life’s not that way.

Eric got married once before, but the two had trouble and got a divorce.

It made us and Eric oh so sad.  But he didn’t give up;  lots of faith Eric had.

Then Eric met Amanda and friendship grew.  They fell in love and soon they knew

that they never wanted to be apart – that they loved each other with all their hearts.

So they became husband and wife, and promised to love for the rest of their life. 

 

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Many Dangers, Toils, and Snares

What’s your greatest fear?   A survey circulating on Facebook asks this question.  Touched by the honest answers I’ve read, I decided to consider my own response.  I’m not tormented by aerophobia, acrophobia, or  arachniphobia (fear of flying, heights, spiders). I’m OK in small spaces and in the dark.  I’m far less afraid of public speaking than most people.  I’ll admit to being a little cynophobic, not wanting dogs to lick me, bite me or knock me down.

Despite four decades of driving without a ticket or accident (except for backing into a parked car in 1992 – fear of lying?), my heart pounds at the prospect of driving in a big city.  Maybe I could do it if it was necessary – maybe.  Currently my husband who likes to be behind the wheel enables me to stay in the passenger seat.  It is a little embarrassing to admit that while we were anticipating his heart surgery, my fear of metro area driving was right up there with my concern for him.   Nevertheless, I wouldn’t call Driving Phobia (no Greek word?!) my greatest fear.

Actually, its things that I have no control over that frighten me more.   At age 9, I learned about SIDS and feared my baby brother would die.  As a young mom, I feared that the loud, low-flying plane would crash into our house.  Hearing that a tire had flown off of a semi and caused a tragic accident made travel more ominous.  None of these freak events occurred, but we all know that bad things happen to all people.

I still remember the neighbor boy coming in my house to tell me that my pet cat, Blackie, was hit by a car.  I can still hear the voice of a dear friend on the phone saying that a classmate had been killed in a crash shortly after our graduation.  And I will never forget the knock on my dorm room door the day Mom came to tell me that Dad had passed from cancer.

So, what is my greatest fear?  I’ve dreaded the possibility that one of our sons could be involved in a tragic accident, and I have worried that it could happen while my husband is out of town working, leaving me to get there and deal with it alone.  That is one of the worst situations I can imagine.

But, you know, I don’t worry as much as I used to, and I can testify that Grace has brought me through many dangers, toils, and snares.  Not only that, but when I’m willing to cast my anxiety on God in thankful prayer, fear is replaced by peace – just like He promised (Philippians 4:6-8).  My biggest challenge may be to overcome the fear of losing the things that I’m so thankful for.  I need to remind myself that things of this life, while important, are temporary.  There is a place and time coming that will not include sadness, pain and death.

But, what if I am required to go through many years without the person who knows me intimately and loves me so well?  Actually, my Lord Jesus answered that question on November 17, 2011, after my husband came through emergency surgery.  That night, as I was thanking God, I asked him, “But what if I had lost him?”  The Lord said to me, “If it had gone the other way, he would be with me and I would still be with you.”  Perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18).  My peace of mind comes when I believe what God has said.

 

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