Not My Words But His

From my seat at my wide, slightly dirty office window, it seems there are plenty of words floating around out there these days, and maybe you don’t need any more words to fill your ears. So this week, I offer you only the Father’s words along with some of my images of His creation. 

Psalm 46

Table Mountain
Lion’s Rump from Table Mountain (c) Carole Sparks

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah

Continue reading

Blessed Are: the Peacemakers

We return to that hillside somewhere in Galilee. “Large crowds,” Matthew says, from cities across the region and down into Judea, followed Jesus as he taught, proclaimed, and healed (Matthew 4:23-25). As we look back into the Gospels, we call his lessons on that hillside “The Sermon on the Mount.”

He began with an attention-grabbing list, an inside-out set of commandments designed to question everything the people had been taught. I imagined he paused between each one, giving it time to “sink in” before he continued. Continue reading

He Will Be Called: Prince of Peace

Five days until Christmas (as I write this), and the to-do list is getting longer rather than shorter. This happens every year. I have grand schemes of all the things I’ll bake, all the gifts I’ll make by hand, and the traditions on which we’ll follow-through. And every year, I do less than the year before. “Lacking” had become the theme of my Christmas. With my sense of lacking comes discontent: all the thoughts of how I should be better, how we should be doing more God-ish stuff and less simply surviving, how I should be making better memories for my children than rushing to finish the laundry so we can pack for trips to the grandparents. There’s little we can call “peaceful” in these days. (Although a teenager who likes to wrap presents does help.)

When the people of Judah lost their king to the Babylonian conquerors, they also lost their queen, along with all the princes and princesses. There were no literal princes in their courts, and no peace in their hearts. I imagine shalom, that ubiquitous Hebrew word for peace which means far more than “absence of war,” felt foreign to those trudging, defeated masses making their way toward Babylon. Continue reading

Because Peace is Powerful

As I write today, carpenters cut, pull, hammer, etc. in the next room. They also listen to the radio, sing, and have interesting conversations. (Confession: For writers, eavesdropping is a requisite.) It’s loud and dirty work, this renovation of our living space. I have hope (confident expectation) that, when they and the other tradesmen finish, everything will be better than it was before (after I dust at least ten times!), but this interim is…challenging, to put it nicely. Not surprisingly, I find it difficult to concentrate.

This morning while it was still quiet, I sat at my dusty dining room table, wiped yesterday’s dust off my Bible, and opened it to the end of John 16. Continue reading

The Power of Peace

The Muslim persons greets other people with As-salaam ‘alaykum, “Peace be upon you.”

The traditional Hebrew greeting is Shalom aleikhem, “Peace upon you.”

Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, hippies in America greeted each other with “peace.”

We used to live in a place where “Peace be upon you” was a standard, repeated part of our everyday interactions. We said it so often that it had no meaning. But even at its best, such a greeting offers only a wish for peace. It has no power and guarantees no outcome.

When Jesus said it, on the other hand, this phrase was profound.

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

Since the formation of the Hebrew nation, peace had been part of spoken blessings. The Lord told Aaron (through Moses) to speak this blessing over the people:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. –Numbers 6:24-26

Jesus’ peace is more than a
polite blessing or a wish.

With Jesus’ incarnation, the Lord turned His very literal, human face toward them/us and now, near the end of his time on earth, He gave them peace. Not just a blessing or a wish, not just a polite thing to say. This is real, almost-tangible peace that changes hearts. That’s why Jesus said He wasn’t giving as the world gave (not just a wish or blessing). Now they had the power to calm their hearts, to assuage their fears.

Imagine a grandmother on her deathbed. She has a sentimentally and financially valuable ring—one she inherited from her grandmother, one with more stories than you can remember attached to it. She places the ring in your palm and folds your fingers around it. Then, holding your fist closed with both hands, she explains how she wants you to have the ring. This is what Jesus did in that moment.

He didn’t loan them peace.

He didn’t let them look at peace but keep it for himself.

He didn’t let them take peace for a test drive and return it later.

Powerful peace was
permanently theirs.

No, powerful peace was permanently theirs. He’d been carrying this peace around with him all the time. Maybe it’s why people were so attracted to Him, why they inexplicably trusted Him. Now, He gave that peace to His disciples (without losing it for Himself). He folded their hearts around it and made it their own.

On that night, which culminated in his arrest in Gethsemane, I like to think this was a quiet, intimate moment. Jesus told the disciples that they didn’t have to be afraid. Why not? Because peace is powerful. If you’ve felt the real thing, you know it.

Later in the same conversation, Jesus returned to the subject of peace.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. –John 16:33

I’m thankful I don’t have to watch in confusion while Jesus is arrested, beaten, and killed. Even though the disciples ran, they did eventually come back. They didn’t leave the movement. Those nuggets of peace had already begun to work powerfully in their hearts.

We have the same powerful peace
that the disciples received.

My daughter had surgery last week. One of our friends was diagnosed with cancer yesterday. Our nation is still reeling from a mass shooting in Orlando. The presidential candidates snap at each other like two roosters in a cock fight. The world…at least my world…is full of trouble. It’s not the my-Savior’s-dead kind of trouble, but it can be overwhelming. On the outside, peace looks like nothing more than the wishful thinking of a polite greeting. But as believers, we have those same nuggets of peace in our hearts. Here’s the fantastically-amazing thing: Giving away peace doesn’t minimize it in the giver; if anything, it enlarges by dividing.

Let’s redefine peace as the power that comes from the presence of Jesus in our lives.

Then, let’s commandeer “peace be upon you” as an expression of our desire for others to know that same peace.

Let’s redefine peace as the power that comes from the presence of Jesus in our lives. (click to tweet)

I didn’t even touch on how His peace sustains me through these days. What does peace in a time of crisis mean to you? How does it affect your perspective on today’s world? Let me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!