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I Will

So her husband, Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. Matthew 1:19

We left off our study of new beginnings with a cliff hanger of sorts.  There sat Jonah on a hill wishing he were dead.  And God reminding Jonah that He cares for all people of the earth, especially the ones “who cannot tell their right hand from their left.”  Thank goodness for that because there are many days I feel and act like one of those foolish people!  If left to being helped out of my fiery pit by unloving, sleepy Christians, I would surely find myself in the depths of hell.  But for God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  And those that submit themselves not only to their will but do so out of love.

So, we leave the Old Testament with many more stories of new beginnings than I have shared.  And with hope that Jonah finally grasped God’s message of works without love is empty and useless.  But here’s the thing about our guidebook for life, the Bible, God’s holy Word, there’s 1000s of connections back and forth between the ancient stories in the Old Testament and the newer history of the New Testament.  Which leads us to the first new beginning we encounter in the book of Matthew.  Another Noah.  Another servant of God who is the way maker for the world’s new beginning.  The connector from the old ways to the new.  A man who, like Noah, was considered “righteous” and faithful to God.  But first, let me share with you a modern story of another righteous man who helped shepherd in a new beginning for one small child.

Epworth’s Children’s Home received this first-hand account from a foster parent in 2017 about his experience in becoming a foster father:

“Our family has been fostering a boy since October 2017. Yesterday our foster child had a court hearing to determine what step to take as far as his custody goes. I haven’t shared a lot about the whole foster experience because I have been afraid, to be completely honest. Afraid because fostering has been a lot harder for me than I thought it would be. Not because the child is difficult – it has been hard because of my heart. Ever since he came into our home, I have been terrified of becoming too attached and having my heart broken when he would eventually leave our home. I have been terrified of giving him all of my love, my energy, my grace and my compassion. I was sitting in the courtroom listening to the different parties discussing and debating the best course of action for the child’s future, when I started shaking. I began to realize this is the moment! The moment I decide to completely expose my heart to the potential of pain, or keep my walls up. It was absolutely terrifying! I started hearing a small voice inside that I could no longer ignore, and it was telling me to fight for this child. I realized I was willing to do anything for him.

“My walls started to crumble around me. Then I heard the judge call my name. He wanted to know if I wanted to adopt this child. I wanted to scream “Yes! He is my son!”, but I think I said something a little less dramatic like, “Yes sir, we are working on becoming licensed for adoption for this child.” I then heard the judge say that he is ordering termination of parental rights and opening this case for adoption. The weight of this decision is not lost on me, but it was one of the most powerful experiences that I have ever had.”

But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:20

Joseph was our Lord’s foster father.  As a devout follower of the Mosaic Law, he had every right to not only publicly shame Mary for her “adultery” but also to have her stoned to death!  Before the angel even spoke to him, however, love, kindness, compassion took over and he decided to quietly divorce her.  Think of how Jonah would’ve responded.  Surely God would’ve had to intervene to save Mary’s life from Jonah’s anger.

After Joseph obeyed God’s urging to complete his marriage vows to Mary, his troubles surely were not over. Like Noah, he would’ve faced public humiliation.  The knowledge of Mary’s pregnancy in the small village of Nazareth would have spread like a wildfire.  And yet he stayed the course.  He stayed faithful not only to Mary but to God.  He didn’t, by all accounts do it begrudgingly like Jonah.  He took up the mantle of “foster father” and protected his family, raised his son as his own.  His new beginning was as father to someone else’s son.  An earthly role model.  A shepherd, like Noah, for what was to be all of humanity’s new beginning.

Joseph and the unnamed servant girl who helped Naaman (2 Kings 5:3) also have a lot in common.  They were faithful.  They had a heart for God.  They stepped up to help when they could’ve taken a different path.  Their small steps were a gift to many.  And they both are but a few lines in our history.  Joseph’s last mention of him doesn’t even use his name.  Jesus is 12 years old, immersed in the teachings at the temple and his parents are frantically looking for him.  His mother chastises him and says, “Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you!” (Luke 2:48)  After that, Joseph fades away.  Most likely, he passes before Jesus begins his adult ministry.

And yet we remember him each Christmas for his shepherding, protecting, and faith.  We should all add a bit of thanks to Joseph each day we pray in Jesus’ name.  Because like so many faithful servants of Christ, He obeyed out of love.  He didn’t ask or require that “thanks.”  He didn’t harbor ill will for having to endure hardship.  He put his head down, his hands out and his heart lifted and said to God, “I will.”

I want to share with you the rest of the letter written to Epworth Children’s Home by the foster father:

“I will end with this. This is especially for you guys and fathers. If you feel God tugging at your heart to become a foster parent, listen! There will always be a reason to not become a foster parent, but if your main reason is that you are scared your heart will be broken, then you especially need to do it. Foster children need someone who will be heartbroken over them. They need someone who is going to stick by them when things get hard. They haven’t experienced that. They need someone to love them and be gentle with them when they come over and hit you in the face with a maraca and break your glasses (not that I have ever had that happen, that is completely hypothetical, of course!). They need someone who is going to be faithful to them and strong for them in their weakest moments. I am by no means perfect in any of those, but I am strong in my faith, and it provides me the love, strength and grace that I need. Fostering has made me more dependent on God, in everything, and that is good. Ultimately, I am a foster child who was adopted into His family, and I am fully loved.”

Amen.

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New Beginnings

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Genesis 1:2

Before Christmas I was listening to an episode of White Horse Inn, a podcast by reformed theologians and pastors.  The episode, titled O’ Holy Night, focused on the beauty and glory of what happened that first Christmas night.  They started by explaining how Mary was, in effect, barren, empty.  God used her barrenness like He did the universe to create something new, something out of nothing.  It was the reason a virgin was selected to show how God is the great Creator.  

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”  The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.  Luke 1:34-35

Each time I hear or read of a connection that weaves through the Bible from the beginning to the middle and to the end I find myself having an “ah, ha moment.”  Barring heading off to theology school and learning about all these connections in a short time span,  I hope to keep hearing about the Grand Story and all its connectedness throughout my days.  It’s like coming upon a complete sand dollar at the beach or a beautiful, out of place flower in an otherwise barren landscape.  You, at first can’t believe your eyes; then you stoop down to look closer.  And then you pop up looking around to tell someone – because it might not be true unless you can verify it.   You want to share the moment, the beauty, the awesomeness of it all.  Meanwhile others pass by seemingly uninterested or unseeing.

About a month ago I had the opportunity to attend a weekend workshop by Nancy Guthrie on biblical theology.  For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s taking a theme found in the Bible and tracing its path from Creation to Consummation (typically Revelation).  It helps us to see the Grand Story of God and all the tiny threads that create one massive character profile of our Creator.  And how all stories lead us to Jesus.

I decided for this next series to take up the challenge Mrs. Guthrie gave us that weekend.  To start looking at chapters in this thousands-year old story as one through various themes.  And who could resist starting the new year with the theme of New Beginnings?  

We live out our own lives through a long series of new beginnings.  From the creation of our very being to our entry into society and from there taking on new challenges whether school or jobs, a marriage or even a marriage to the church we look toward tomorrow for that new step.  

If we are blessed to live a long life, we will find ourselves with new beginnings in our families and as we reach retirement.  And for some, new beginnings may be what it takes to remove ourselves from addiction, abusive relationships, broken marriages, and even criminal behavior.

In the next few months, we will walk through a number of new beginnings found in the Bible.  Beginnings, like Noah that needed just one small family to see the entire Earth be reborn.  Beginnings like Rahab’s that started out of selfish need and God turned to good.  And beginnings like Jonah who ran as fast as he could from starting new but God, when He selects you for change won’t let go.  And quiet new beginnings like that of Onesimus who sits in the background of the letter by Paul to Philemon.

We will see how the character of God shows up each time – from beginning to middle and end.  How He keeps His promise to never leave us, to never forsake us even when we feel so alone.  And we will see how His will is always done and it is good.

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds;" Ephesians 4:22-23

My friend, you might be right on the cusp of a new beginning.  It might look terrifying.  It might look exciting.  You might not even realize it at all until you are in the thick of it.  Some of you are longing for a new beginning.  I can promise you this, God’s plan is at work.   He’s right there watching and guiding.  So as this new year begins let’s say a prayer to the Creator.  To help us hear and see what new things He wants of us.  And what old things He wants cast off.  He has a story to tell with you.  Let’s help Him publish it for all the world to see.

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Jesus

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. Luke 1:35

Dear God,

I wanted to write to you today and thank you for the amazing gift you gave me and all of humanity.  It was so thoughtful of you to think of us!  I really wasn’t expecting something so wonderful and life giving!  

I am of course, writing to thank you for Jesus.  For that little baby you breathed into Mary thousands of years ago.  For that little child who grew to be a powerful yet quiet man.  God clothed in skin who experienced all the hardships, joys, temptations, love, frustrations and miracles you have blessed this world with.  

I’m so sorry, however, that your Son had to also experience the pain of our sin.  When I think of His last days it brings me so much sadness.  Your gift to us was so beautiful and we destroyed it with a vengeance.  And yet you still love us.  So much so you raised up that gift of Jesus for awhile to teach us a few more lessons before He went home to you.

Heavenly Father, we are entering into a season that should be all about the gift of your Son, Jesus.   Help us, through your Holy Spirit, to remember that little baby, that man, who gave so much in order to cleanse us of our sins.  

Today, oh God, I’m so thankful for the salvation your Son brought to those of us who pronounce Him King of our lives.  Your gracious and mercy-filled gift to us is all we ever need.  I know this small note of thankfulness can never repay you for your kindness.  I look forward to seeing you one day so that I can thank you in person.

Your loving servant,

Kris 

I hope you have enjoyed these 30 Days of Thankfulness! I’m taking some time off from the blog to enjoy this most wonderful time of the year! God bless and Merry Christmas!

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Celebrations

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  John 2:1-2

Today is my birthday!  I’m not embarrassed to say I have reached the ripe age of 57 because, to be honest, it’s with the grace of God I’ve made it this far.  I love birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, Valentines’ Day, baby showers, you name it.  If it’s a celebration I’m in.   

Maybe it’s that my fellow celebrators have decided, like me, to take a few hours off from the trials and tribulations of the world.  For our annual celebrations, it’s also a way of thanking God we’ve made it through another year with His grace and provision.  

God certainly made us a people intended to celebrate.  In the Old Testament there are seven major festivals for the chosen people to celebrate.  That didn’t even include weddings and births. On top of that, the Sabbath, was in effect, a weekly celebration to take time and honor God.

For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. Isaiah 62:5

If you’ve never watched the show, The Chosen, you should definitely check it out.  There are so many great episodes but one of my favorites is the famous wedding in Cana.  To watch what Jesus would have been like at such a blessed time and see his disciples join the celebration really brought home the human side of Jesus.  

It’s unfortunate there are Christian sects who consider celebrations sinful.  They certainly haven’t read the same Bible I have which as we progressed through the events of the New Testament, we were given the opportunity celebrate our Lord’s birth, Easter, Pentecost, and baptism.  

Today I will rejoice that God took good care of me this last year.  I will celebrate in the knowledge that He is good and considers me one of His own. And I will thank Him that He is a God who loves to celebrate with His people the joys of life.

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Peace

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. 2 Thessalonians 3:16

For many years I was in search mode with my faith.  I kept searching for something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  At first, I thought it was to be accepted.  Then I turned to searching for joy.  I finally landed on the underlying need for all my searching – peace.  I  realized what I wanted each and every day was to wake up with sense of peace, go through my day with peace and lay down my head at night peace-filled.

In a recent Bible study I did by Christian teacher Jackie Hill Perry on the book of Jude, she explained the two different types of Christian peace.  1) Peace with God  and 2) Peace from God.  

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.  John 14:27

During the Christmas holidays one of the great misunderstandings or misuses of Bible words are “peace on Earth.”   So many non-Christians (and probably many self-identified Christians) think this means no war, no strife.  But the “peace” we can be so thankful for is the peace we now have WITH God after we repented and entered into a life of submission to Him.  In effect, our relationship, which was fractured, is now repaired.  Secondly, the peace with get FROM God is the knowledge that He is in ultimate control of this world and we know our final place will rest with Him in eternity.  

Although it’d certainly be awesome if this world were to stop being at war with each other, if violence wasn’t an everyday occurrence, I know that the unrepentant man will always act for the passions of the flesh.  

Now that my search is complete, I am working every day to live in God’s gift of peace.  I  can easily fall into the well-worn paths of the world that I created but I’m forging a new road with His help. 

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The Spirit of Christmas

“Turn to me and be saved,
    all you ends of the earth;
    for I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn,
    my mouth has uttered in all integrity
    a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
    by me every tongue will swear.
They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone
    are deliverance and strength.’”
All who have raged against him
    will come to him and be put to shame.
Isaiah 45:22-24
On coming to the house, they saw 
the child with his mother Mary, 
and they bowed down and worshiped him. 
Matthew 2:11

Glory to God the King!  I praise you, God, and bow down to you in thankfulness for your covenant with us!  Your promise to deliver us, through your son Jesus, is the great gift for all mankind. 

It has really hit home to me this year about the idols so many of us rely on for strength and deliverance.  We cling to our routines.  We put our trust in government officials.  We place our joy in dining out, going to the movies, gathering with friends.  Our peace rests in financial security.  And God comes and reminds us that no idol can bring us any of these.  He is God and there is no other.

In a God-like way it’s perfect that we can see a light at the end of this pandemic as vaccines begin rolling out and we celebrate the birth of His son.  God is the savior of Babylon – for those who believe.   And yet so many, even Christians, fail to truly grab a hold of this truth.  

I was talking with my BSGs the other day about the “spirit of Christmas” and how many rely on an outside source to descend upon them for this feeling.  My own parents sit alone in their home without any sign of Christmas to be seen.  I asked my mother the other day why that was.  And her response was, “We just don’t have any Christmas spirit this year.” Now granted, they aren’t Christians either.  They are just two of millions across the globe who have chosen not to bow down and accept God as the Almighty.  One of the BSGs describes her brother’s family in much the same way.  They wait to be lifted by the outside world.  They wait to feel joy in the material.  They wait to find peace in routine.

It made me realize how, once I accepted Jesus as our deliverer, I no longer need idols to feel “saved.”  I no longer need idols to experience the joy of Christmas.  My “spirit of Christmas” comes from above and within and I’ve been holding on tightly to that gift. 

We are such comfort-seeking souls!  I think of a soldier at war during Christmas.  Laying in a foxhole or cave in a foreign land.  There’s no twinkly lights or Christmas tree laden with gifts.  There’s no Christmas ham and glazed carrots.  There’s just cold, and the distant sounds of gunfire.  And yet, the Christmas spirit still is there – in the small pocket Bible or the verses kept close to his heart.

This Christmas is not unusual in that there is strife in the world.  This Christmas is not unusual that many are in dire financial need.  This Christmas is the same as it was on that day that Christ was born – He has come to be our deliverer.  That’s all the Christmas spirit I need. 

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He Provides

Listen diligently to me, and eat 
what is good, and delight yourselves 
in rich food. Incline your ear, 
and come to me;hear, that your soul 
may live;and I will make with 
you an everlasting covenant,
Isaiah 55:2-3
Jesus said to them, “I am the 
bread of life; whoever comes to 
me shall not hunger, and whoever 
believes in me shall never thirst. 
John 6:35

As so many of us prepare to enjoy delicious Christmas meals and beautifully wrapped gifts it’s easy to overlook that most of what we call “Christmas” isn’t necessary.  Stripped down, Christmas is about one thing – God’s promise to deliver us the greatest gift, His son Jesus.  

This year our “Christmas” seems a bit different.  We are missing family and friends.  But the promise I wanted to share with you is this, he always provides for us.  Even in times that seem bare, He provides.  In fact, the opportunity to truly appreciate what we do have is when situations seem the most difficult.  It’s lessons like that which Jesus passed along to us through His bloodline.

He will provide in the most God-like ways – a stranger lends a hand, a paycheck bonus comes at the right time, an offer of food from a neighbor when you need it most.  And the covenant agreement we need to uphold and hold on to is to trust in that promise.

I pray every day that what I write in this blog is what someone, even just one person, needs to hear from God.  And the other day I was thinking about which Isaiah verse to use for Christmas.  That day, my friend Betsy shared a story written by her sister for her local church.  As she read it, all I kept hearing was “He provides.”  I asked if I could share her beautiful family story here.  Betsy’s family bloodline has passed down some amazing lessons.  I hope you enjoy it!


A Privileged Life Growing Up   By Rachel Mueller

I’m the oldest daughter of an Episcopal priest.  I found growing up totally immersed in the culture of the Episcopal Church something very special.

This photo was taken July 2, 1953 for the Glendale California News Press  announcing that my father was to be the new rector of St. Luke’s of the Mountains, La Crescenta, California and it introduced our family to the community.  One of five and the oldest, you will see me pictured to the right of my father and holding my favorite Madam Alexander doll.  My younger two brothers and two sisters completed our family – yes, five children in six years, something my mother said raised eyebrows at our new church!  We lived in the large rectory, which was next door to the church and suited our big family perfectly. Apparently while constructing this new house, there was some opposition on the vestry to its size.  And supposedly the previous Rector said, “Well, who knows?  The next Rector might have five children.”  Perhaps the Search Committee went looking for a priest with five children to justify their new building.

Living next door to the church, we were very much aware of all the church activities on a daily basis.  There was always something,  be it the regular church services, a wedding, funeral or special events.  My father believed his family was an extension of him, so we were taught to answer the telephone properly; in my case “St. Luke’s Rectory, Rachel speaking” and to take messages in detail and often answer questions such as the times of the church services, or dates of meetings.  In a way our parents used us as extra employees — we gave out keys, opened doors, passed the cookies at vestry meetings,  set up the tables and chairs for parish events, washed the coffee cups after church on Sunday,  went with our father to visit people in the hospital, took food to orphanages, helped relocate refugees (first the Dutch Indonesians, then Cubans, and later Vietnamese), and helped load real sheep into our station wagon for the live Nativity outside the front of the church at Christmas.  Anything going on at the church was dinner table conversation, including who was sick and in the hospital, or just died, or had a baby.  The doorbell rang morning, noon and night with someone wanting something, or wondering “Where’s Fr. Sadler?”  It was a constant in our life.  The parish got to know us, and we quickly learned the names of all the parishioners.

In contrast to many clergy today, our father always wore a black shirt (not grey, or blue or some other color) and his clerical collar.  I don’t remember ever seeing him not wearing this “uniform” until years after he retired.  Even on his day off he was dressed in “the collar”.  He  was very active in our community which made him well known, which in turn brought great benefits to our family. He was usually the clergyman on stage at our school graduations, there to give the invocation or benediction, which made me very proud.  Everywhere we went folks would stop him to say hello and show us special kindness.  We were often invited to parishioners’ home to swim on hot afternoons.  We were treated to Disneyland when it first opened.  There were always special gifts of food and goodies at holidays – items that weren’t part of our regular family fare.

The most important lesson I learned from my father was “God will provide.” So many wonderful things happened to us, I thought we were very wealthy.  It wasn’t until I went away to college that I learned what salary my father actually made.  I couldn’t believe it.  On paper we were poor.  But our lives were rich and much more interesting than those of my friends.   For example, we might suddenly have some homeless folks at the dinner table.  My mother would just say “Rachel, please set the table for three more.”  We often would never see those people again but the memory and lesson of hospitality remain.

 I could fill a book with stories of wonderful things that happened to us as a result of living in a family grounded in love, trusting that “God will provide” and accepting life as it comes; but enough for now.


And he said to his disciples, 
“Therefore I tell you, do not 
be anxious about your life, what 
you will eat, nor about your body, 
what you will put on.  For life is 
more than food, and the body more 
than clothing. Consider the ravens: 
they neither sow nor reap, they 
have neither storehouse nor barn, 
and yet God feeds them. Of how much 
more value are you than the birds!
Luke 12:22-24
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A Rescue From Fear

Do Not Fear

Easier said than done, right? If you have never been fear stricken with a perilous drive through a blizzard or holding a sick child with a fever of 104 or coming to the end of a bad week at work convinced that it will surely end with your firing, then you have not stepped foot in the world.

If you have never been afraid, terrified and red-face flushed with flop sweat because your mind has created a horrible, painful and untimely demise for you. Then you are a liar.

For those brave souls who attempt to climb Mt. Everest, they follow a well established route which has a safety line for most of the ascent. The climbers clip in and follow that line in order to keep clear of dangerous ravines and precipices. Without being connected to this line they can soon find themselves alone on a snow covered abyss. And the fear most certainly would set in.

Our human minds quickly and efficiently calculate all of the potential outcomes for every tense and treacherous situation and quickly arrive at the worst-case scenario. “That’s it, I’m doomed, it’s all over! I’m broke, everybody hates me! I’ll probably be dead soon”–yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. We’ve all done it. But we don’t have to. There is a safety line, a fail-safe connection if we can stay connected- -Jesus.

When Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem, there was an immediate pronouncement, a declaration and a promise made to all of us who believe. It was an angel, an Angel of the Lord proclaiming to the lowly shepherds. Things were about to change.

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good 
tidings of great joy, which shall be to 
all people. For unto you is born this 
day in the city of David a Saviour, 
which is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:10-11 

From that first day of Jesus’ birth, through the Old Testament, New Testament and continuing today and beyond, the promises of God were announced, proclaimed and delivered. The book of Isaiah is full of powerful safety lines of, “Do Not Fear.” Eight different times the author accounts the promises of God. My favorite is this passage:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am 
your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous 
right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

When I’m in one of those battles of runaway mind scenarios, creating a vicious downward cycle of worst-cases, that verse snaps me out of it and locks me back into the lifeline of hope and promise. 

Do Not Fear

I Am With You

I Am Your God

I Will Strengthen You

I Will Help You

I Will Uphold You

Done. I’m Good! Back on solid footing, clipped in to God’s safety line.

Let’s call it what it is. Fear is lack of faith. An absence of belief that God will come through for us. So we let go and attempt to create our own route up our mountains. Fear consumes, but Jesus revives and replenishes. And we need to grasp firmly a hold of that promise.

Fear can be that fence that you are told not to cross. It’s there for a reason, it’s a barrier, a boundary. Separation between protection and the unknown. Which can be good, right? Nothing wrong with a little healthy fear to keep you on your toes.  But when it consumes and sucks all of the life and oxygen out of it you, then it turns to evil really quick.

The answer to that careful balance is love. God’s love for us can be found in every situation. Good times, bad times, dark times and light-filled days of joy and peace. A safety harness that’s always there. All we need to do is clip in and buckle in place.

On the day of the birth of Jesus, the angel’s announcement, that proclamation to the sheepherders, was the promise we needed. The promise of salvation delivered to earth to keep the fear in check and prepare us for a life of abundance. Isn’t that much better than a life filled with our worst fears and imaginations?

There is no fear in love. 
But perfect love drives out fear, 
because fear has to with punishment. 
The one who fears is not made 
perfect in love.
1 John 4:18

Fear not. Grab hold of His safety line, because Jesus was born to bring salvation, peace and love to every one of us.

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The Addition of Peace

The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
    from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
Isaiah 25:8

As I write this, we are only a few weeks away from Christmas.  Around this time, we frequently see the phrase, “Peace on Earth!”  But like so many popularized snippets in the Bible the meaning can be confused when interpreted from a worldly point of view.  “Peace” so often means a lack of something – strife, war, noise, chaos.  But in God’s universe, it is an addition of something.

The misconstrued meaning of God’s peace

Having grown up in San Diego I had the fortunate experience of learning to sail.  As a Girl Scout, I started out in small, one-man sabots.  Eventually, I became skilled at sailing catamarans and larger sloops.  I’ve even been a crew member on an old sailing ship which sailed the 31 miles from Long Beach Harbor across the ocean to Santa Catalina Island.  What an amazing trip!  On many of those sailboats you’ll find what’s called a set of lifelines.  They run from stem to stern along the edge of the boat.  Its purpose? To be used as a last chance handhold before plunging into the water.

That’s how I see God’s peace brought into our world and more specifically my life. Peace, as brought about by the coming of Jesus, is not the lack of something, it’s the addition of our new lifeline. God promises throughout the Old Testament that He will send His messenger to wipe way our tears and to bring us salvation. And when Jesus arrived, so many people misunderstood His purpose. It was not to become an earthly king and conquer all our physical adversaries. He came to teach us that His ways are higher and His love for us so great. You see God doesn’t always want to change our circumstances, but He always seeks to change us. When we study how Jesus handled strife and chaos and follow in His ways we live in peace.

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.
John 14:27

This bringing of His Peace – the incarnation of Jesus – was more clearly defined for me this year.  About 11 months ago, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with uterine cancer.  I love my mother-in-law as my own mom.  She has taught me so much about Jesus and His ways.  She has shown me grace when I didn’t deserve it.  She has provided a warm and loving place for me to land when life has been too much.  I had been praying fervently for a more positive diagnosis.  

So that day, I went for a long walk through our nearby, secluded canyons and yelled out loud at God.  Yes, I yelled at the Almighty.  I pleaded with Him to not take her from me yet.  My heart, mind and soul were the opposite of peace.  And like the boat lifeline, He suddenly placed Himself between me and going off the deep end.  His Holy Spirit stood square in front of me and reminded me that death is not the end.  He showed me that when the day comes for my beloved mother-in-law to leave this world it would be a joyous one for her.  You see, she would be reunited with her own mother.  He showed me a picture of the two of them playing their favorite card games, teasing each other, and laughing their heads off.  And it made me smile.  It filled me with joy.  

I had accepted God’s peace.  There’s the covenant agreement.  He sent His Peace On Earth in the form of His Son.  And I accepted it.  I frequently try giving it back, but less and less as I place my trust more firmly in Him.

This year of 2020 had been very difficult for many.  As a Christian I have grasped a hold of God’s lifeline so often to stay in His peace.  It’s important for us to remember that God wants us to live in today, not yesterday or tomorrow.  So, when we dream blissfully about how much better 2021 “just has to be,” we make the mistake of missing out on how good God can be for us right now.  We miss out on the opportunity to live in His peace.

There has never been a year in the history of the world, after Eden, where there was not disease, strife, war, death and pain.  And 2021 will be no different.  But God’s promised peace is our lifeline.  It will guard our hearts and minds.  No matter the dark seas on either side, we can rest in the knowledge of His love and our eternal salvation.