peace: puzzle

Every Thanksgiving and Christmas growing up we had a puzzle. I guess I have always been pretty analytical because for as long as I can remember, I have loved puzzles. I am not sure what it is about them.
Maybe it is the fact that it keeps me busy for a while.
Maybe it is the the frustration of it all.
Maybe it is the beautiful pictures of wagons and snowfalls and pumpkins...surely that is not it.

Maybe it is seeing chaos turn to something beautiful.

The Greek word for "anxious" finds its root in a word that means "to divide or separate into parts."
It makes perfect sense.

Those times that we get stressed out about the future,
the times we get nervous about paying bills,
the days we worry about our health or the health of a loved one,
the moments we fret about the job we are unhappy with,
the seconds we spend thinking about why he or she left...

we have separated life into parts.

I have learned over the past few years that somehow everything is connected. No moment or circumstance can stand alone. The more I am aware of that fact, the truer it is. Something had to happen to allow another something to happen and so on.

My life is a testament to that truth.

But there are moments when the connection between the past and the present and the future is cloudy at best.
I love puzzles.
So, I try to figure it all out. I want to know how yesterday led me to today. I want to know what the combination of the two means for my future.
But more often than not, the pieces do not quite fit.

So, I stare at the pieces...
focusing on them...
concentrating on them...
distracted from everything else...
distracted from the present...
distracted from the puzzle.

That is when I get anxious.
When I make life about the pieces and less about the picture in the puzzle.
When I am distracted from the the truth.

That is when I lack peace.

Just as "anxious" finds its root to mean "separate into parts",
"peace" finds its root in "to join".

We are all searching for peace. We want purpose and meaning to our lives. We want to know we are where we need to be. We want to feel the serenity and calm.

We want it all to join together.

Peace, though, does not come from trying to make it all fit.
Peace comes from knowing that it DOES fit.

Peace is not seeing the pieces of the puzzle, but seeing the puzzle in the pieces.
Peace is accepting that while today may not fit with your yesterday or your tomorrow, it fits in the big puzzle of life.
What if we lived life with this awareness? How would it change your perspective on your seconds? On your moments?

Peace came on Christmas day thousands of years ago.
Because when He came, it made it all fit together.

Peace be with you.
True peace.


joy: invest

Shepherds? Really?
That was the plan all along?

Ever think that there had to be a better way to let the world know about the birth of Jesus? I understand the fact that a massive text message would be highly impersonal and technologically impossible at that time, but there had to be some other way.

Shepherds were famous (or should i say INfamous) for their storytelling. Their stories were, at the very best, embellishments of the truth. It reached the point that a shepherd's testimony, even an eye witness account, was not admissable in a court of law.

And God chose them.
To share the good news.
To announce to the world that Peace had come.

While the shepherds were not highly valued by society, they played an important role in the economic and spiritual culture of their town of Bethlehem.

They raised the sheep that were sold for sacrifices.
They raised sacrificial lambs.
They "kept watch over their flocks".

As they are guarding the sheep, angels tell them that they have glad tidings of great joy...for all people. The angels have a message, they have the good news of great joy...and they tell the shepherds first.

Because the shepherds have already invested.

See, the shepherds know about sacrifice. They lay down their lives for their sheep. In this case, they would raise a lamb until it was fully grown and acceptable for sacrifice. They fed, protected, cleaned, led these sheep for years...only to sell them to die.

And we wonder why God chose the shepherds.
If anyone understood it...
if anyone "got it"...
if anyone invested...
it was them.

Because of their investment, they understood joy.
Because of their joy, they wanted to tell the world.

But their joy would not come without knowing what it is to sacrifice.

Many of us go through life never really knowing joy. We grow bitter when things don't go our way. We get bored when it is not how we want it. We start to call things mundane and irrelevant. We may be physically present but soulfully absent.

Because we have never known joy...
because we have never invested.

We think joy is found in victory.
I would say true joy is found in sacrifice...in investment.

That is why He chose shepherds. They had invested. They had sacrificed.

Therefore, they knew joy.


love: participate

this summer, meredith and i had a chance to go to a major league baseball game. it was the final game of a three game series between two division rivals who were both in contention for first place.

let's just say it got heated at times.

at different times throughout the game, a ground swell of noise would make its way through the domed stadium. it would happen and then people would stand.

like we were pavlov's dogs and the bell had rung.

there were certainly good reasons for this outburst of emotion and fist pumps:
a full count, 2 strikes with the tying run at second base, the final out of the game...

but as i looked around the stadium, everyone was not standing. people were actually sitting down. intense moments in baseball lore were happening and they sat through them. the moment was happening whether they stood or not, but

they missed the depth of the experience because they refused to participate in it.

i actually heard some "sitters" telling the "standers" in front of them to sit down because they couldn't see.
they were offended and even grew bitter because other people were excited and participating in what was happening.

because that is what happens when we sit...

we get offended.
we get bitter.

we think we are experiencing all there is, but the truth is we are not even close.
we may be in the stadium, but we are certainly not experiencing the game.
we may even experience part of it, but when it gets really intense, our comfort is more important.

it happens at concerts, too.
and theme parks.
and churches.
and in love.

the experience is the fullest when we participate.


hope: what-is

this year, Christmas is exactly four weeks from Thanksgiving Day. 28 days.

28 days to get your tree up and decorated. (unless it has already been up for a month)
28 days to put those moving fake deer in your front yard.
28 days to finish crocheting your stocking.
28 days to figure out how to thank your aunt for that sweater....again.
28 days to memorize every line of Elf or A Christmas Story.
28 days to shop.
28 days to worry about if he will like what you got him or wondering if she is even worth that much money.
28 days.

four weeks.

the "anticipation" in the air at this time of year is quite noticable....maybe "anxiety" is really more appropriate.
what would it take to get back to a spirit of anticipation and excitement?
what will it take to put things in perspective?

it is a latin word which means arrival.
it is an old tradition which is built upon the expectation of a coming Messiah..
the restoration of all things.
it is a period of...

four weeks.

each week has a different focus or theme:

this week, the first of four weeks, the theme is hope.

we, often, do not anticipate well because we do not hope well. we are anxious, nervous, dreadful perhaps because we have a lack or a misconception of hope. we miss the glory of the buildup, of the tension, because of that same lack or misconception of hope.

we view hope as something that comes from the outside of our circumstance.
from beyond the here and now.
from the what-could-be.

maybe hope actually springs up from the inside of our circumstance.
from the actual here and now.
from the what-is.

we want to be rescued from a situation and we, therefore, view hope as the expectation of that evacuation. we want hope to sweep in and save the day. what if hope actually saves the day from the midst of the storm rather than as a wind from beyond it?

the Jews for generations looked for a Messiah, Hope, to come in and save the day. they wanted Hope to be a source of political strength, an overthrow of the Roman government. others wanted Hope to cleanse the world of its unrighteousness through the destruction of all that was unrighteous. they all wanted Hope to come from the outside. they looked for Hope to come radiantly from beyond the mess.

but Hope came from within.

Hope was born into a family with a geneology that included great leaders and faithful men and women.
Hope was born into a family with a geneology that included prostitutes and liars and outcasts.

Hope was born into the world as the child of a pure woman.
Hope was born into the world as the child of an unwed mother.

Hope was born into the world as the child of a just man.
Hope was born into the world as the child of a man who wanted to do good, but could not figure out what good was in the midst of a bad situation.
Hope was born into the world as the child of a man who thought the answer was in a quiet divorce.

Hope was born in a stable.
Hope was placed in a feeding trough to sleep.
Hope was rejected because it was too late for a room.

Hope was proclaimed by many men and women and children.
Hope was proclaimed by these men and women and children who were known as liars and storytellers.
Hope was proclaimed by people whose testimonies were inadmissable in a court of law.

Hope came from within.
from within the messiness of relationships.
from within the struggle to do right.
from within the busyness.
from within the dirt and filth.

Hope has come.
not like we wanted it to come.

but like we needed it to come.