Advent week 2: PEACE

Peace.

It was a frequently used term in the 60’s and 70’s, we use it politically for any anti war efforts, we ask our children for it paired with quiet, but do we really know what it is?

Merriam-Webster defines peace as:

1: a state of tranquility or quiet: such as

a : freedom from civil disturbance

b : a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom

2: freedom from disquieting or oppressive

thoughts or emotions

3: harmony in personal relations

4: a- a state or period of mutual concord

between governments

b- a pact or agreement to end hostilities

between those who have been at war or in

a state of enmity

5: used interjectionally to ask for silence or

calm or as a greeting or farewell

Oxford dictionary says:
1: Freedom from disturbance; tranquillity 2: Mental or emotional calm.
3: A state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended.

When the Bible says Jesus is our peace, what does that mean and what does that look like?

Silent Night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright?Doesn’t feel like it.

Amidst sirens, bickering children, people honking at each other, cell phones dinging, news of natural disasters blaring in the background, allegations of numerous counts of misconduct across the nation, arguing of political stances, I’m overwhelmed.

I’m overloaded and over stimulated. I’m overly tired, and over taxed in my daily duties. Like you, im just trying to get by and make through the day.

How can I, how can we, find peace in today’s culture? The kind that endures all these things?

Jesus.

No Eye Had Seen

No eye had seen and no ear had heard. Angels on high proclaimed His birth.

It happened quietly, with no audience, the one and only son of the Most High came down without fanfare, without a palace, without a title to begin His earthly destiny from the cradle to the cross.

The world in solemn stillness lay, unsuspecting of His coming, most unaware of His presence or purpose. But He came that evening. Perfect peace.

His blood would ultimately be the source of our peace, as He freely let it spill to cover our sin.

Galatians 4:4-5

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

Sweet little Jesus boy, they made you be born in a manger. Sweet little Holy child, we didn’t know who you was. Didn’t know you came to save us Lord, to take our sins away…

Mine Eyes was blind, we couldn’t see…

We didn’t know who you was.’

Robert MacGimsey 1934

We really didn’t know who He was or why He came or what He would do. Lamb of God, Son of man, Emmanuel- God with us.

John 1:14

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

God WITH us,

and God with US.

To bring peace, the kind that covers and endures.

The kind that only God can give or bring or be. Peace. Emotional calm, freedom from oppression, free from sin, free from fighting, free from civil disturbances, free from unrest. Calm hearts, calm minds, calm interactions and relationships. Security and order, rest and agreement, end of hostilities.

Peace.

Emmanuel. God among us, to bring and be salvation. The only everlasting peace. That peace is ours when we trust in the Lord Jesus.

Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This why He came: to be our hope, our peace, our salvation.

Isaiah 9:6

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

As we go through this second week of advent, let us be thankful and mindful of the peace that endures, because of the blood of Jesus.

Lord thank you for your hope, your mercy, doe coming to bring salvation so we could be reconciled to God, through Your blood on the cross.

Kyrie Eleison, ‘Lord have Mercy on us’

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Advent Week 1 : Hope

Hope.

It’s something I thought I held within my own grasp. Something I had to cling to, to muster up, to produce even. Hope is something you have, isn’t it?

When imagine hope, I imagine the scene from Lord of the  when they’re in the battle of Helms Deep. Every year, around Thanksgiving we watch the whole trilogy of Lord of the Rings.

In this scene, from The Two Towers, a group of Nordic like people, the people of Rohan; men, women, and children, are holed up taking refuge in this rock called Helms Deep. They’re surrounded by the dark forces of Sauron. Orcs, trebuchets, trolls; thousands are descending upon them. And as they were told to look to the east at the break of dawn, there shining over the hilltop came a furious riding thunder of men and horses lead by Gandalf the white. They came as defenders. And there is was: hope.

Yes we are LOTR fans, and Star Wars too. We’re fun like that. But when I watch that scene, I cry, not just because it’s a moving scene, but because I know that feeling of relief and God providing another way…

Hope saves, comes to the rescue, conquers, carries, and provides a way out. Doesn’t it?

I had felt hopeless and I didn’t know the way out, I didn’t know the way through. I had all but stopped walking and was almost choosing to despair. I was saved, meaning I was secure in my salvation, but then why did I still feel helpless and hopeless?

The struggles we have as a family are not ones that have an end in sight, or a season to endure. They are ever present and will be part of our lives because they’re the way our brains work. I hadn’t accepted or fully understood that concept yet. The disabilities our daughter faced seemed like a thousand trolls and orcs chasing us with arrows and clubs. It was scary. And this was no movie, this was life. My life.

I was surrounded by darkness and because it had been so dark for so long, I stopped seeking the Light…

I’ve written this and shared this story before. The story of how Hope found me…

As I sat in my car yelling at God for not being there, not showing up, not making a way OUT that’s when the light broke through, and it grabbed me. It was a palpable experience, not a weird out of body or ‘I heard God’s voice’ or anything physical. This was heartwork happening.

I did feel my heart quicken, beating faster as the scripture of Romans 5:3-5 came to mind.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

The Lord was showing me a way THROUGH…He was showing me that HE was my Hope, that I was weary and tired and it wasn’t up to MY strength, it was dependent on HIS strength and ability, one I could fall back on and rest upon. He would do the heavy lifting as I lay there and simply LET HIM.

Hope, had me. Hope HAS me…

What?!? This was like a rush of new information and good news! It wasn’t up to me!? I didn’t have to keep being strong? Good, because I didn’t have anymore strength to pretend or to fight.

I surrendered that night. And Hope scooped me up and carried me through.

Enough strength for one day at a time. New mercies every morning, which sounds cliche, but finding my keys, a hot cup of coffee left by my husband for me to start my day, a particular song that came on the radio, these small mercies made it bearable as we continued that season to drive 2 hours one way to therapy Monday-Saturday to try and help my daughter. I needed those small mercies, and I wanted to recognize them. My endurance slowly began to increase. The stronger I became the more I was able to grab back on to Hope, to cling with whatever strength I had. Today, I cling to Him with all my might. Hope. His name is Jesus, and as we enter this first week of advent, He can be your Hope too.

Long ago, in the darkness a baby came into the world. In a barn. So simple. No warm palace, no regal entrance. Lowly shepherds were the witnesses to this seemingly unremarkable event. And yet, the match was lit, and the darkness didn’t seem so dark anymore. His presence, Emmanuel, God with Us, means we don’t have to rely on ourselves. We shouldn’t rely on ourselves. We are weak, weary, unfit, and unable.

He is strong, mighty, perfect and able.

This first week’s reflection on Hope, He does make a way through, He carries us, and rescues us from ourselves. Right now. Today. This season of Hope can be new, it can break through.

Let Hope have you.

Read Romans 5 the whole chapter

Lord let those that are hopeless let you have them, let us reflect on your goodness and how strong and able you are as our only Hope. Amen.

Accusations. What side are YOU on?

In this current cultural landscape

and climate of accusations carrying so much weight, I’ve been pondering some practical applications of ‘accusations’ in my own life.

My first re-evaluation (give it a minute and read the whole thought):

“There are two sides to every story.”

The second thought that I’m re evaluating and that keeps me chewing and chewing:

“People’s perception is their reality.”

Ok. Now you’re ready to enter my thought process typed out and splayed before you. Proceed with an open mind and and open heart.

Earlier this month I had a conversation with someone I’ve been struggling to forgive for some things that happened awhile back. I care about this person and their family, and I’ve been praying about when to approach and confront, in the spirit of love and forgiveness. It was really the Holy Spirit compelling me to speak up, and let’s just say it was really difficult for me to obey but I did. I had to share my accusations of how I didn’t feel our family was loved well, and how I felt let down.

I was expecting a completely different response than I received. I walked away confused, a little disappointed, and questioning my perception of what had transpired. I was even beating myself up and thinking I had no right to feel hurt in the first place. My thoughts are both my strength and my weakness. I tend to overthink things and over analyze my own words to death.

Fast forward a couple weeks. Another instance came up where my husband and I were on the other side of the hurt, and the accusations came at us this time. I would have initially responded a little self protective, a little defensive, and may e even a little argumentative. But my first response was sadness. My first question was “How??” How has I let my friend down? How did I hurt? How could I have loved better? I’m not quite sure because this situation hasn’t really been resolved yet, but it’s been rolling around the corners of my mind, I’ve been chewing it like a cow chews it’s cud. Here’s why.

Pulling in my two thoughts from

earlier: every story has two sides, and perception is reality…I’ve now been put on both sides of this situation, in two very separate set of circumstances. I can see how the person I ‘accused’ may have felt even though I chose to respond differently. The reason I choose to respond differently is because I know exactly how the person who has ‘accused’ us feels. Hurt. My friend feels hurt. Whether I tried to hurt or love or not hurt and didn’t love enough… my friend feels hurt. And I don’t want that.

I wonder how much more healing would or could come if we were able to change our perception and perspectives more often.

I wonder if we could and would love each other better, with the sacrificial love of Christ.

I wonder how I can love my friend who I clearly hurt better.

I wonder how the hurt I feel can be healed in the situation where I feel let down.

I wonder if the person I accused can gain better understanding and how can it be better resolved.

I know the simple answer to all of these is Jesus. I just don’t know how He’ll do it.

But I know He can and will.

I’ve learned that when we STOP and put ourselves in someone else’s position, it can provide understanding and help us love them more. I want to love more.

Before I ‘accuse’ again, these thoughts are going to help me process. I hope they help you too.

Waste Not Want Not … (or something like that)

What’s it for? The sorrow? The pain? The suffering? Some may argue (and that’s they’re prerogative) that sometimes suffering has no ‘silver lining’ or reason, or purpose. Sometimes it just sucks.

When sorrows roll like sea billows, and they roll you hard under the waves, can we really say ‘It is well with my soul?’

A number of years ago, when we were under some waves, barely treading water, a friend told me ‘Nothing is lost, nothing is wasted’. That no matter what brand of suffering I would experience and to however high a degree, it would not be lost or wasted, that Christ would always somehow in someway redeem it.

These words have brought me such comfort and continue to help me even now. It had such an impact, I ended up co-writing a song with some friends about it. Reflecting back on the character and mercy that the certain sufferings I’ve experienced over the years have produced, and as I choose to be thankful for the mercy and grace of my Lord Jesus this Thanksgiving, I leave with with the lyrics:

God Our Hope

There is no easy answer

to the pain that we bear

This world has been broken

And life isn’t fair

In the midst of the sorrow

To One thing we cling

Our God’s ever faithful

For this reason we sing:

Nothing is wasted Nothing is lost

Our pain is redeemed

By the power of the cross

Our Hope gives us purpose

In Hope we’re secure

Our Hope is named Jesus

Our Hope will endure- God Our Hope

 

I can’t promise a ‘Happy’ Thanksgiving, but I wish and pray for a Thankful and Blessed Thanksgiving…

You Don’t Have to Have Hope this Holiday Season (when you’re too weak to hold on)

I’ve heard it from hundreds: I just can’t.

Whatever the trauma, whatever brand of suffering is yours, you’re weak and unable to hold on anymore. It’s hard. It’s oppressive. Nobody seems to quite understand what you’re going through.

We hear it especially in this season of perpetual hope, and joy, and peace. Problem is we don’t feel very hopeful, or joyful, or peaceful…

Friends and family try their best to be uplifting, saying ‘Hang in there’ or ‘Just hold on, it’ll get better’. Even as parents we tell our kids, ‘Hold on’ while we finish something up. The customer service people on the other end of the phone say ‘Please hold’, as if the please makes it easier to keep holding on.

Holding, hanging, requires some bit of strength. Some absolute to maintain a grasp. So what about when you’re so depleted and weakened you don’t have ANY strength? What about that?!?!

Sometimes we find ourselves in a place where we still have a bit, we can hang on, and we do. Other times were so strengthened and we are able to help offer strength to others. It’s not that we are strong enough to save ourselves- it’s that we haven’t yet been in a situation that strips us of our strength, OR we’ve already been there and have been built back up. The later are those who know and can relate to that feeling of hopelessness.

As one of those people, I’m here to tell you – you don’t. You don’t have to hold on, to hang in, to muster personal strength that isn’t there. Nope.

We don’t have to worry about finding hope or searching for that which we seemingly cannot find. It’s already found us. Rather, HE has already found us and is right here waiting to scoop us up and hold on to us. He who knows we are too weak and too diminished to even lift our head much less our arms.

He comes as that rescuer on the hovering helicopter, lowered on the line, looking for those who need rescue. Those who cannot rescue themselves, those who cannot wade the flood waters to get to safety. While we’re a tuck on a tin roof, while the waters rise, the wind blows at unfathomable speeds and there’s nothing- nothing- to hold on to…

He swoops down, and grabs us, hooks us in tightly to his rig, holds us like an eagles talon holds its prey, and caries is to safety. What’s out part in this?? What do we do to be rescued?

We don’t fight it. We let Him.

He is Jesus. He is Hope Himself.

Whatever is the trauma or brand of suffering that’s made you weak – it cannot compete with the strength of Hope. It’s not always feasible to grab onto or hold onto or hang onto Hope. But it’s always, ALWAYS possible to allow Hope to grab and hold onto you.

I quote this verse all the time. Because it’s true. Because I love it.

Romans 5:3-5

Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Amidst the hustle and hype and busy days ahead, I offer you this attitude and change in thinking:

Hope has me.

That’s it. Whoever you are wherever you’re at, whatever it is you’re going through. Hope is here hovering over you, waiting for you to allow Him to scoop you up. Let Him.

#HopeHasMe

#HopeisHim

How can we do (grace/love) Better?

Yes. This is a real thing. No it’s not isolated to people who expect too much or are too needy or who don’t extend grace. It’s not that we’re easily hurt, or that this is just our cross to bear.

Hidden Illness, non apparent disabilities, neurodiversity… the families they affect and how our churches play a role.

It’s not just me, or a couple of other families, or even a handful of other families. In a private ADHD parents support group on FB with members of around 10,000 3 questions regarding

-What the evangelical church’s responsibility should be for families of kids with ADHD and other non apparent disabilities

-What their experience was at church (open ended, no bias mentioned)

-What they wish people at church would know about their child

The response was overwhelming. You guys, I received over 202 comments all sharing their individual stories and situations and experiences.

It was sad.

It was heartbreaking.

It was IS real.

I’m not going away, I’m not going to stop talking about this. I’ve not been through the hellish journey that brought me to Hope over these last 11 years to simply shut up now.

Hope has me, and He reminded me through this experience that others need to be reminded too.

Grace is real. It is concrete. It’s solid as a rock. But there are real families out there that don’t know that, and when they come to church and we don’t show them love, we so t include their kids, we don’t show up to support them, we aren’t loving them as Christ commanded us to. Someone HAS to go after these people, someone has to love these people. Lord, who? Raise up willing servants Lord, raise up willing hearts.

When are we going to practice what we preach and listen and open our eyes to what’s happening around us??

When are we going to roll up our sleeves and get involved, dig in, and get dirty like Jesus did?

When are we going to get it?

We don’t have to experience exactly the same thing as those we’re ministering to. It helps, but really we just have to be willing to see they’re hurting and need more.

It starts with sharing posts and blogs like this one. It starts with being willing to even have finished reading this post.

I’m sad, and disappointed, and honestly surprised at how easily people like me with messages like this are dismissed. I’m not writing this to condemn or accuse or judge. I’m writing and screaming from the rooftops to create awareness, to open eyes, and hopefully open ears. Because this isn’t MY message. It’s what God has placed on and in our hearts, and it’s the journey He chose for us to walk through with Him.

What have we become?? DCTalk answered that question 20 years ago…

Self indulgent people. Even in the body of Christ.

So. How can we do better???

I ask you as my friends and family:

HOW CAN WE DO BETTER???

Dear Washington D.C., Do YOU think You’re Mentally Healthy?

In recent months, we have suffered great loss and much tragedy from these mass shootings. Heartbreaking, frightening, completely devastating. What has bothered me in the midst of this heartbreak is the constant blame given to ‘mental illness’ as the main reason and underlying culprit of these horrific attacks. Not gun owner responsibility, not the actual reason why these individuals had possession of firearms, not investigating what really happened, not even the fact that some people are just evil. Because evil people, mentally healthy evil people, exist. They do.

But no. The initial reports always blame mental illness and attach it to these criminals who have committed heinous crimes. That furthers the stigma we are so desperately trying to educate people away from. Granted- there are some extremely ‘mentally ill’ individuals that exhibit criminal minds or behaviors. And yes- there should be better resources and options to treat them or help them or keep them and everyone else around them safe.

So, you think it’s ‘them’ and not you? You think you’re mentally healthy? Think again

How about these statistics:

Almost 50 percent of Americans (46.4 percent to be exact) will have a diagnosable mental illness in their lifetimes, based on the previous edition, the DSM-IV. And the new manual will likely make it even “easier” to get a diagnosis.

-Robin S. Rosenberg, Slate.com

That’s staggering. Our culture continues to talk about ‘mental illness’ as if its a severely handicapping disease that only affects a very small percentage of people, people that we should be ‘afraid of or wary of, or careful around’. These people are regarded as less than worthy, not the same as, of lesser importance- and it’s NOT ok. With the new DSM-5 manual, this percentage will increase, and more and more people will be considered ‘mentally ill’.

What is NOT adequately acknowledged or understood is the actual high percentage of people – people you know- who SUFFER from some kind of disorder or possible diagnosis that falls under ‘mental health’. People who don’t identify as mentally ill, but ARE nonetheless.

Do you get anxious about particular things or nervous about certain circumstances? You may have anxiety.

Do you get irritated when things get out of order and changed or messed up from the certain way you prefer? You could be suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder.

Have you experienced some type of grief and are having significant difficulties in getting back to everyday life? Maybe you are experiencing a circumstantial depressive episode – depression.

Do you have trouble focusing, you have lots of nervous energy, and you like changing things up frequently? You might have ADHD.

Do you see my point?? We ALL have SOMETHING going on however mild or severe it may be. 46.4% of us have a diagnosable issue. If we keep attaching mental illness to criminal acts and regarding mental illness as a horrible, scary, frightening thing- where is that going to lead us? We demand equal rights and protection for every other group imaginable. We demand understanding and tolerance and education, and acceptance, but not for ‘mental illness’. Why?

Why, when these horrible things happen, why can’t we look at the individual and not the disorder? There are a GREAT many emotionally unstable people who shouldn’t be carrying guns, but not all of them have ‘mental illness’, and not everyone who has a ‘mental illness’ is emotionally disturbed.

Evil exists. It exists everywhere. Mental illness does NOT equal evil. Is this really a gun issue? Is it really a bunch of ‘deranged people’ that are committing these horrible acts? Or are these seriously evil people, who may test as mentally healthy? We would argue that Hitler was mentally deranged, but in his time, would he have tested as ‘mentally ill’? There have actually been many studies and comprehensive medical and psychological biographies done on the evil dictator – most of which have concluded, ‘that he suffered from nothing severe enough to take the blame for his crimes’.

-Erica Goode, ‘Insane or Just Evil? A Psychiatrist Takes a New Look at Hitler New York Times -Dr.Fritz Reidlich, author, ‘Hitler: Diagnosis of a Destructive Prophet’

https://mobile.nytimes.com/1998/11/17/science/insane-or-just-evil-a-psychiatrist-takes-a-new-look-at-hitler.html

Are President Trump and Hilary Clinton mentally healthy?? We know that BOTH would be accused of being ‘mentally ill’ and yet those were the two who we selected to represent each party in the race for the highest position of leadership in our country.

I’m tired of the stigma. So I’m speaking up. I’m speaking out. I’m disgusted by both the right and the left and everyone else who adds to the problem of blaming ‘mental illness’ for criminal and unlawful activity. If we had better understanding and better treatment options available and better support systems – maybe this wouldn’t be a problem. Maybe we would be emotionally healthy. I’m the end- it’s a heart issue, not a law issue. People will use whatever they can as weapons to enact evil. Our only Hope is to change hearts…

So Stop it. Stop the stigma.

#stopthestigma #splintersofHope