Kate's Musings

Meeting the Church

Several months ago I began waking up early, before everyone else in my house, and sneaking off to Starbucks. After a few weeks of arriving five days a week at the same time, I became a regular. Baristas knew my name and order. And the other regulars welcomed me with nods and “good mornings”. 

The truth is, I was there to be alone. There is a sensitive balance, as a stay at home mom of toddlers, between your need to be alone and your desire to be with other adults (both of which happen rarely). So Starbucks trips allowed me to start the day apart from being needed, apart from the piled responsibilities and laundry, surrounded by familiar adults, and alone with books, writing, and the Holy Spirit. 

One morning I noticed that Craig, a semi-regular, was reading the Bible, and I commented something insignificant about us studying from the same source side by side. This struck up a conversation about faith that caught me by surprize. I was intrigued by what he mentioned so I asked if I could sit down with him and interview him some time. We set a day and got back to our studies. 

Little did I know, my Starbucks experience was about to change. Eventually, I got to sit down with not only Craig, but also Howard (another regular) and discuss the work of God in each of their lives. They are so very different, but they possess a similar mission: pursuing God. 

Here is what I learned:

Craig had his life turned completely around at age 25. He lived a pretty rough life, but didn’t know a better way. Soon after repenting and dedicating his life to God he attempted to surround himself with friends and roommates that shared his new-found mission. Then something happened.

He found that this new “church culture” was nothing like the Jesus who had saved him. Instead, they refused to associate with him at meals after discovering that he ordered the occasional beer. This rattled him in a severe way. Why is it that they fixated on self-defined markers of moral correctness rather than the work of God in his life? He decided that they didn’t really know the same God.

From that point on he made this commitment to himself and to God: No Golden Calves. 
He would not accept bowing before anything or anyone other than God. This meant carefully praying over and studying any new teaching he heard about God before acquiring it as a belief. 

As Craig shared his different experiences with church congregations he told me of many upsetting experiences in the process of learning what it meant to be a Kingdom Person. What baffled me, as someone who has served on a church staff, was that some of these experiences seemed harmless, if not helpful. For example, it offended him that upon visiting a church a man, not much older than him, approached him after the service and introduced himself as the Discipleship Pastor. The pastor then offered to get him “set up” with someone to disciple him. Craig never went back. Why? Because before getting to know Craig, someone assumed that because of a job title, he was to act as mentor to all that entered, not mentee. “What if God sent me to that church to teach him something?” Craig exclaimed!

I paused. 

I felt myself wanting to judge Craig, at first, as unteachable. But then, as I continued to listen I realized how wrong I was. He went to church to listen and learn. He found the sermon valuable for his own life. But the Church was only there to “serve” not be served. 

I know, I know, “It is better to give than receive.” But if you take a moment and think that through, you will find that in order to love someone, you have to both receive and give. You have to allow others the gift of giving by receiving. And to disciple someone in how to receive teaching, you have to be willing to demonstrate a listening stance. 

Craig could find no home in a place where he was not seen as valuable, where God’s work in his life had no weight against a man-given title. 

I asked him, “So what is Church to you? Where do you find community?”

“Here.” He said. “Here, and at that Smoothie King right there. At work, and at the grocery store.” 

He continued to explain that once he realized he was part of a the Monarchy of God and just a sojourner in this place, he discovered that there are fellow sojourners all around. He talked about his Kingdom citizenship the way a recently arrived immigrant may find themselves saying, “In my country…”

Breaking from his previous allegiances wasn’t and isn’t easy for Craig. He explained that a crucial part of learning to live as a citizen of the Kingdom is the need to unlearn the former commitments to political party and the “golden calf” of country.

He said that regularly hears himself saying or thinking something then catches himself with, “Wait. Why do I believe that? Who taught me that? This is the old me repeating something without really knowing it’s true.”

“No Golden Calves” meant not allowing others to become idols, but also not returning to old ways of thinking without bringing those thoughts before King Jesus. 

This intentional repentance of former worldview was empowered by prayer. 

Prayer was perhaps the most recurring topic in our hour-long conversation. I was convicted when he told me how frequently, intentionally, privately, and openly he prayed. He invited others to pray with him in many different settings. He brought all of his desires before God in prayer and witnessed miraculous provision and correction. 

Prayer was also a common theme with my other Starbucks friend, Howard. Howard could not be more different than Craig. Howard is a mystic. He embraces the unknown of God and in return has found that God will meet him to comfort his worries, and challenge him to trust fully in God’s love for him. 

As I talked with Howard and we shared with each other about the painful seasons in our life, during which God always came near, there was an ease about our conversation. 

I kept thinking back to Craig’s response to my question about where he finds community and where he gathers with Church. “Here.” 

The beauty of the Body of Christ is that we need both Howard and Craig. We need those who will seek God relentlessly for truth, and those who will sit in wonder of God’s mystery. We need them in our coffee shops, construction companies, hospitals, AA Meetings, and library story times. We have to be ready to “go to Church” wherever we are, learning from those who are seeking God along side of us, without paying mind to status or longevity of membership. 

God is at work in the lives of those around us, and if we listen and look, we will see Him and be changed. I now know this to be true first hand. 
 

Copy Cat Faithfulness

Copy Cat Faithfulness

I am convinced that we are all prone to mimic more than we listen. (Thank you Jesus for being the LIVING Word, our example!) So, when I think about my kids and their young budding understanding of God, I ask myself: What is it that I want them to see in me? If I want them to receive the love of Jesus for themselves, then I need to receive it for myself. If I want them to confess their wrongdoings before God and their community, I have to value those for myself. If I want them to choose pleasing God and worshiping him alone, then I must let them see me disappoint others as I do the same.

Easter People

We are a paradox people.
We look at loss of prizes,
But by our cries of desperation,
God Almighty rises.

The world in search of power,
Sometimes within our titles,
But those who are the remnant,
Are found kneeling for survival.

“Hosannah” is the battle cry,
Not vengeance but request,
That God himself would save us-
He alone ease our distress.

We do not march with fear,
But with holy recognition,
That without his saving grace,
Ours is a hopeless condition.

He climbed the hill stripped naked,
Spat on and disgraced.
He gasped for breath and whispered
On his murderers, God’s grace.

All man considered holy,
Was finally exposed,
As fruitless acts of godlessness-
Stem of thorns without a rose.

Unprepared in a borrowed tomb,
His body lay in death.
Scattered were those close to him,
Confined to sabbath rest.

How could one rest without him?
Impossible endeavor.
Uncertain of the past,
And uncertain of forever.

“Hosannah” in her rising.
“Hosannah” in her care.
She gathered what she needed.
For death she was prepared.

Her heart already broken,
She clung to what she knew.
The air escaped her grieving lungs,
“Hosanna! Where are you?”

“Alive” was her answer.
The lips of angels reached her.
The start of something beautiful,
This world’s first Christian preacher.

This truth brought hope and fear,
It was Jesus that she needed.
Overwhelmed she wept until,
“Mary,” her King greeted. 

This tomb was meant for death.
This garden marked with sadness.
But God restores the shattered,
And gives us hope of gladness. 

If you are entering this Easter
Carrying burial preparations,
Certain evils can’t be changed,
No faith in restoration-

Set down your baskets and behold,
Christ, on whom you can rely.
He greets, by name, the mourning,
Feasting with those whose lips deny.

“Hosanna!” We are here.
We’re blessed because you hear us.
Though evil tempts with worldly gain,
We’ll chose to have you near us. 

Rejoice for he is Risen! 
Our King is risen indeed. 
His Spirit expanding his Kingdom,
Through those still in great need.

He will meet you when you seek him,
His expectations gracious.
His table has a place for you,
For the desperate, seats are spacious.

 


We are Easter People. The Kingdom of those reborn by the resurrection. 

Gather your people.

Raise your glasses. 

The Toasts of Easter Feaster

(Based on the 4 cups of the Passover Meal.)


The first toast is the toast of Sanctification. Now is a time to raise your glass and share a way you have been sanctified this year. Do you feel set apart by God? How so? How has God assured you that he is still active in your life?


The second toast is the toast of Salvation. What have you been saved from? Maybe it's a bad habit or sin that you are no longer enslaved by. Maybe it's a toxic mindset that you have been freed from. Maybe God spared you from a consequence you deserved. Tell us, how has Jesus saved you?


The third toast is the toast of Redemption. God makes broken things beautiful and revives dry bones. What has God redeemed in your life this year? Did you have any truly terrible things made beautiful by the presence of the Creator? What has been turned around in your life this year? What has been mended?


The fourth toast is the toast of Hope and Restoration. This is the toast of Kingdom still to come. We raise our glasses and say, "I believe God will make all things new, and once again, mankind and God will walk together in the garden." Proclaim your hopeful expectations. What do you long for that you know will come to pass when Jesus returns?

In a final toast, raise your glasses all together and say, "We praise you, Jesus. You are our King, our Savior, our Redeemer, and our God. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come. Hallelujah!"
 

Holy Week Activities for All

Over the years, we have compiled several different interactive ideas to assist you (and your family and friends) in celebrating nd worshipping during Holy Week.

I have them listed with child and family activities first, If you are looking for adult-only activities, scroll down to the Remembrance and Worship Section. 


 

Kids Activities for the Week 

 

Palm Sunday Reflection for Kids

Ask your child: Have you ever prayed for something and felt mad at God when he didn't give you what you want? Name a time you didn’t get what you want.

Read this to your child: It is hard to not get what we want. The Israelites had been waiting hundreds of years for the Promised One of God, the Savior, to come and rescue them and be their new King. When Jesus came everyone was so excited because they thought that God had finally sent them the messenger they had been waiting on! They were so excited that they threw their expensive coats down on the ground to keep Jesus’ donkey from walking on the dirt. It was like they rolled out a red carpet for their favorite celebrity!

In only one week some of these same people turned against Jesus, because instead of doing what they thought was best, Jesus did things God's way knowing it was better for everyone. Jesus taught hard things that made a lot of people mad because it didn't line up with their own plans and desires. But Jesus made a very special promise to the people who chose to trust him. He said that all who trusted in him, and believed in his power and goodness, could ask for anything and he would make it happen!

The important thing to realize is that God is not working to give everyone their way, but instead to give us everything we need to do things his way. And his way will always be the best way for us. So when you pray, always believe that God is POWERFUL and God LOVES YOU!

Action: What are things we can pray for this week that would help us do things God’s way instead of our way?

 

Clean Hearts Activity

You will need: 2 disposable plastic or paper cups per child, glue sticks, sand (or dirt or brown sugar), and water.

Give each child 2 cups. Have them use glue sticks and sand to make the outside of one cup dirty, and the inside of the other cup dirty. Encourage them to keep the opposite parts of the cup as clean as possible. When they have finished ask them if they are thirsty. Bring water over and ask them which cup they want to drink out of. As they decide, ask them: which cup is cleaner to drink out of? Did you notice that the one that looks clean isn’t actually clean? Wouldn’t it be best if your cup was clean on the outside AND inside?

Read to them: Matthew 23:25-28. Explain that it isn’t enough to just obey rules, or not get caught breaking them. Jesus has called us to have clean hearts- something only he can do for us.

Ask one of them (or you could depending on age and maturity) to pray that Jesus would make all of your hearts clean. "Thank you, Jesus, for giving us a way to be good in the eyes of God- by taking our punishment so that we could have your reward. You are the only one who can make us clean on the inside."

 

Anointing Devotion

Ask: What are some of your favorite, most valuable things? What is something you would NEVER throw away? (Hopefully they will answer with a favorite toy, food, or device).

What would you do if you saw your friend who also loved her ________ about to throw it away? You would want to stop her! (This question can be adapted. Example: - What if Mommy decided to throw away all of our _______?)

You wouldn’t want to just let someone throw away something that is really expensive or really special, right? That would be a waste! Well one of Jesus’ followers decided she was going to get rid of something very, VERY expensive, and Jesus told everyone that she did something really great. Let’s listen to the story and see if we can find out why she did it.  Pray that God would help you understand this story so that you can know him more.

Read: Matthew 26:6-13 in The Message. 

Points to encourage:

  • Mary chose to show that she honored and valued Jesus even if it cost her!
  • Because Mary decided to honor Jesus in her heart, her actions ended up being an even bigger deal than she realized. If we honor God in our hearts, minds, and actions, we can be used by God for BIG things!

             

How Jesus Prayed Devotion

Pray with your kids: God, help us learn from Jesus’ words and actions so that we can understand your will for us. Holy Spirit, help us all focus and be alert as we hear your Truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Read: Matthew 26:36-46 in The NIV or The Message.

Ask: What do you think Jesus was feeling?

What did Jesus do when he had to make a choice between what was right, and what was easy?

  • He prayed honestly to God about how he felt, but didn’t doubt that God’s way was the right way.
  • When he knew the right thing was the hard thing, he chose to do it anyway and take courage in God’s faithfulness.

Aren’t we so glad that Jesus did the courageous thing? Because he decided to trust that God’s way is always best, we are able to do the same! We can pray to God when we are scared to do what is right, and God will give us strength to be brave like Jesus.

Ask: What are some things that God asks us to do that are hard or scary?

Pray with each other that God would give you strength to be like Jesus, even when it is hard.

 

All-Ages Tomb Activity for Good Friday

This Activity can be used for younger children as well as teens and adults.

You will need: Pens, multiple small pieces of paper, and a shoebox covered in paper to represent the tomb.

Have everyone (including yourself) write down the ways they have disobeyed God. For younger kids you may use this time to help them understand what sin is. It can be in our hearts (envy, greed, and selfishness) and in our actions (lying, cheating, violence). For older kids and adults, let this be a time of prayer and reflection. Consider including songs that reflect on the cross. Make sure that everyone participating knows that these sins will not remain private, and that whoever is leading the activity will see what is written.

Put all of the pieces of paper in the shoebox as a representation of the tomb. Read Isaiah 53 together and thank the Lord for taking on all of our brokenness. For younger kids, explain that Jesus died because he took on the punishment for all of our sin and with his death the power sin had over us was buried in the tomb. Close the box and put it somewhere visible as a reminder that our sins have been buried.

This activity will be completed with more steps on the next two days. 

 

Continued Tomb Activity for Saturday

Tonight before bed, whoever is leading the activity should take the box and open it.

For each sin, write down a corresponding gift of new life.  The list of the Fruit of the Spirit is a good place to start (Galatians 5:22-23).

For Example:

Sin: I lied to my friends and family.

Gift of New Life: You have forgiveness and freedom to live a life of truthfulness!

Sin: I have been mean to my siblings.

Gift of New Life: You have forgiveness and freedom to live a new life of kindness!

Leave the box opened and empty, like the tomb, for everyone to see tomorrow. Throw away or get rid of the sin papers. Take the Gift of New Life papers and do something fun with them. You may write them all of colorful paper (color assignments for each person) and integrate them into your current family traditions of an egg hunt. Or maybe you will have them spread across the table at breakfast, or hang them on each child’s mirror or door. However you choose is best for your family or friends, make sure you take the time to talk about and praise God that he not only took the consequence for our sin, but has given us New Life and freedom and power to live in a God-honoring way.  


Remembrance and Worship

 

Maundy Thursday- A Call to Commune. 

Four suggestions for you or your community:

Read the story of the Last Supper in Luke 22 and John 13, contemplating the significance of the event for both the original audience and for the Kingdom of God.

Invite your close community over for dinner and wash each others feet in remembrance of Jesus’ actions. Read the above sections to each other and discuss the ramifications of Jesus’ command.

Culturally, in the setting of the Lord's Supper, washing of feet was messy work. It was a task meant for only lowly servants. Consider a way you can engage in today's "messy tasks" for someone in your community. Offer to deep clean someone's bathroom or kitchen. Give the struggling parent some time away from their tantrum-ridden toddler. Get your hands dirty to show your neighbor love.

If your church community doesn’t have a service, attend a neighboring church and engage in the wider community of Christ followers.

 

Good Friday- A Call to Repent

Four suggestions for you and your community:

Make a bonfire with friends, reading the story of Peter’s betrayal, and confess your habitual sins over the year openly. Pray for each other as you remember your sins consequences on the cross.

Read over the crucifixion story, setting aside time to contemplate Jesus’ suffering for your sake.

If your church is not having a service, attend a church in your neighborhood that is hosting a Good Friday event. Take this day as a chance to remember with fellow believers from the Kingdom.

See All-Ages Tomb Activity above. 

 

Holy Saturday: A Holy Hush

For the past several years, our community has taken a “day of silence” where we don’t listen to music, watch tv, or have any other form of audio distraction on the Saturday of Holy Week. We remember the hush that the disciples must have felt as they fearfully reflected on the previous day’s events. We consider what our faith would mean without the resurrection and what our destiny would be without his death.

 

Easter Feaster

Plan a feast. If cooking is worshipful for you, then cook. If you don't have the money or know-how to pull off a feast, throw a potluck. If you have the money, cater. If you and all of your community lack both money and skill, bust out mac-and-cheese or hot dogs. Invite all the people. Invite the lonely and forgotten, and those you call close. 

At this feast, find a way for everyone to share a table or picnic blanket. Have the wine ready and as people finish their meal introduce the toasting time. (Based on the 4 cups of the Passover Meal.)

The first toast is the toast of Sanctification. Now is a time to raise your glass and share a way you have been sanctified this year. Do you feel set apart by God? How so? How has God assured you that he is still active in your life?

The second toast is the toast of Salvation. What have you been saved from? Maybe it's a bad habit or sin that you are no longer enslaved by. Maybe it's a toxic mindset that you have been freed from. Maybe God spared you from a consequence you deserved. Tell us, how has Jesus saved you?

The third toast is the toast of Redemption. God makes broken things beautiful and revives dry bones. What has God redeemed in your life this year? Did you have any truly terrible things made beautiful by the presence of the Creator? What has been turned around in your life this year? What has been mended?

The fourth toast is the toast of Hope and Restoration. This is the toast of Kingdom still to come. We raise our glasses and say, "I believe God will make all things new, and once again, mankind and God will walk together in the garden." Proclaim your hopeful expectations. What do you long for that you know will come to pass when Jesus returns?

In a final toast, raise your glasses all together and say, "We praise you, Jesus. You are our King, our Savior, our Redeemer, and our God. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come. Hallelujah!"

Doubt- A Poem About My Wandering Soul

Doubt 

Accusation fights me in a battle for truth.
You have saved me, yet I wonder.
You are the Way, yet I wander.

Was that really God? My memories weaken.
You are present, yet I wonder.
You call my name, yet I wander.

Perhaps this is all too crazy. I entertain.
You have given me life, yet I wonder.
You are the Truth, yet I wander.

Am I a fool, too far gone to keep believing?
You meet me in the darkness, yet I wonder.
You light me a path, yet I wander.

Don’t think, just escape. I whisper.
You offer me your strength, yet I wonder.
You never leave me, yet I wander.

This is too hard, I feel like fading.
You extend new mercies, yet I wonder.
You carry my yolk, yet I wander.

What is this? This place is empty. 
Was he ever here? I start to wonder.
Through the garden, I start to wander.

The flowers seem dim, and I am alone.
What has happened to my wonder?
How much longer can I wander?

“I have found you,” I hear softly.
How could you still love me, I wonder.
“From my love you cannot wander.”

He is the God who chases me.
How could I not follow him, I wonder.
Back to His path I wander. 

Along this path, I find life has color.
How did I ever doubt, I wonder.
Lord, from this life may I not wander.

The Shepherd leads the flock.
To him each sheep maintains her wonder.
He pursues all that wander. 


Encouragement

To those of you who doubt: you are not alone. The Good News, the Gospel of love, salvation, and life is for you. May Lent reconnect you with the greatest reality, the loveliest truth, and the hope of God's ever-present pursuit of his wandering sheep. 

Answer these questions:

How did I worship God this week?

How did I rebel against God this week?

In what ways will I commit to seeking His Kingdom purposes in this coming week?

The Journey Home- A Lent Introduction

The Journey Home- A Lent Introduction

This is the beauty of celebrating the Kingdom Seasons. The Church Calendar unites believers across the globe and past boundaries of time in the embrace of abundant life. As we reconnect with the redemptive Story of God With Us, we shake off the dust that buries us in ordinary times.

Anger, Division, and Forgiveness

When anger follows you

I know as a writer it is smart write “we” when I really mean “you”. But I am saying “we” in this post with complete honesty.

It is exceptionally easy to find something to be angry about. So easy in fact, we can easily avoid finding out why we are actually angry by just hopping on social media or turning on the news. We like to see ourselves as either the heroes or the victims and turn the people who make us uncomfortable into either wimpy idiots or aggressors.

There are things worth getting angry over. But at some point, it is important to zoom out and ask ourselves this question: How many seasons of my life can be defined by anger (angry at them for ___, angry at him for ___, angry at myself for ___, angry at her for ___, angry that everyone has disappointed me and will continue to)?

Follow up question: Have you considered that maybe part of the problem lies within you? Are we the common denominator?

 

Self Reflection

Through many different seasons, I found myself in the middle of  tense relationships. If you know me, you know that I love studying mediation. It’s my favorite topic. What keeps mediation from working? A refusal to self-reflect. If one party will not be open to the idea that they at least contributed to the conflict, there is no going anywhere. This refusal can come either by choosing to only acknowledge oneself’s best qualities or, through lying. This anchor of blaming others is a tricky one to unearth, because it seems SO MUCH EASIER to insist that you need an apology first.

We all need an apology, am I right?

We have all been wronged in some way by this broken world. We are just a bunch of people walking around with our hurt-turned-anger waiting on someone to apologize before we are willing to self-reflect.

You know what God says to us? “You’re Forgiven.”

“I forgive you.”

The other night, I snapped at Bryan over a we-were-both-too-tired-to-get-up-and-help-the-baby moment. When I got back in bed I grunted, “I am sorry I snapped at you.” He said, “I forgive you.”

That wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I was head-to-pillow awake, for what felt like hours, thinking about all the other things “I was sorry” for. “Sorry I got up and took care of the teething baby” etc, etc, etc.

In the morning I apologized again. This time I meant it. The truth is, I just wanted to be mad, but it isn’t healthy to be mad at a baby for having needs. I wanted my frustration to be validated by someone saying, “I am sorry.” But more than that, I want to be like Jesus. I want to be full of compassion, pouring myself out like a drink offering for the people I love; and when I do really get hurt by someone, I want them to be forgiven.

 

Division

It’s the hot button topic. We are a divided nation. What’s worse? We are a divided church: made to be one body torn apart by our sin. Much like division that can happen between two people, it is really hard to talk “contributions” when we find ourselves hurt and angry. I feel like this. I hear myself calling those on the other side names in my head, questioning their motives, certain that I have no fault.

Blame can feel good, but it actually doesn’t work as well as we hope. Blame doesn’t move you toward future success, it only ascribes labels to the past. We want the future, don’t we? We want something beautiful. The question is, do we want it with “them”? Do we want to be unified?

Much like any close relationship, if your motive in an argument is to prove you’re right, then you are fighting the wrong battle. Unity takes desire, effort, and a willingness to listen. Question: Do you have any of those to spare for the other side?

 

Good News

You are forgiven. You have contributed to the divide in some way, but you are forgiven.

See, the other night, I didn’t want to hear that I was forgiven because I wanted to blame. And when I considered the evidence, I was NOT to blame. But, that conversation wasn’t about blame (no sense in blaming a baby), and I still needed forgiveness for my contribution. As I steamed while he snored I *eventually* brought my frustration to God. Slowly, my heart softened as His Spirit revealed to me that I should not serve my child as a “gift” to my husband. Bryan doesn’t “owe” me. I serve my children because God himself, entrusted them to me.

“... all things as unto the Lord…”

When I came to a place of humility before God, he exposed to me the reason why my contribution to the problem was not as small or meaningless as I wanted to believe. Revealing a root of damaging motives, he provided a correction that extinguished the flicker of future conflict. Then, he reminded me in a deeper way of the same thing Bryan said. “I forgive you.” And it was during that time, exposed by the Light, that I received the gift of peace, refinement, and closeness with God himself.

 

In Conclusion

Do I think there is a right and a wrong? Yes. Will I continue to try to speak up for justice and mercy in the best way I know how? Yes. But I commit to remembering that I am forgiven. Unity isn’t going to start with an apology. Unity will burgeon when we remember we are first and foremost forgiven.

Be willing to put aside claiming victory over fellow believers and, with a repentant heart, genuinely desire unity because God desires unity. Inaction is sinful when it is a response to a command from God.

 

Friday: Receive Peace

We pray to Thee, our Father
as Christmas comes again,
For peace among all nations
and goodwill among men.
Give us strength and courage
To search ourselves inside
And recognize our vanity,
Our selfishness, and pride.
For the struggle of all ages
Is centered deep within
Where each man has private war
That his own soul must win.
For a world of peace and plenty
Of which all men have dreamed,
Can only be attained and kept
When the spirit is redeemed. 
— A Christmas Prayer for Peace, By Helen Steiner Rice


Stories of Peace

Jesus calmed the storm, he healed the sick, he relieved the tormented. He united tax collectors and fishermen, men and women with one another. Crying out in our hardship, we wonder if he is still that Jesus. Hindsight is always 20/20 they say, and it’s true. We frame all of our stories within their happy endings and when we cannot see that ending, we deem our chapter a tragedy. But if there is a story of the provision of God’s peace, unrest preceded it. 

 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
— Matthew 5:2-12

These Beatitudes do not read, “Blessed is the one who gets it right, for they will find peace. Blessed are the winners, for the losers will be content beneath them. Blessed are the honorable, for they will not be questioned. Blessed are those whose lives are pristine, for they will be regarded with favor.”  But often in our prayers, those are the realities we are praying for. We want to be blessed with the ability to turn off the noise- freedom from the burdens of others that cloud our days. It doesn’t work that way, because the clamor and brokenness are within us. 

“And be yourself our King of Peace”

Jesus is our Peace. His peace is sufficient for today and remains for everlasting tomorrows. The lack of turmoil we beg for is worldly peace, one that quickly vanishes. The peace God can provide endures through even the greatest disasters. So, if you find yourself in a season of suffering, fear, sinfulness, or distress hear this: the Light of the World, The Prince of Peace, The Almighty God, The Wonderful Counselor, has come and is our Emmanuel, God with us. 

His presence is our peace because he imparts to us his righteousness. There is no greater peace than a right standing before God.There is no peace without righteousness. There is no righteousness outside of Jesus.

What better way to celebrate Christmas, than to allow him into your suffering, and trust in his eternal Peace? Your story will not be in vain. You will be called blessed because he can take your greatest fears and failures (drowning, sickness, death, and discord) and turn them into stories of victory. How beautiful to see the schemes of the Devil turned into narratives that proclaim his goodness and peace. How wonderful to know that in the moments when we feel so alone, that God can craft this very day, this very week, and this very life into the Grand Story of his redemption. 

This is the Gospel.

This is the Good News: one King for all mankind, one redemption story in which we all belong, one Kingdom under God. Lost in our own biographies of war-torn disfunction, Jesus came to reconnect us to the Light; and by doing so, offered us the rest of his story. No longer do we have to try to turn our tragedies into fairy tales, our hero has come. King of Kings, he is the Light of the World.