Sunday grace

There is tension in the world and I’m very uncomfortable with it all.

My enneagram number is Nine, categorized as the peacemaker, the one who avoids conflict at all costs, who just wants everyone to get along. If Nine were symbolized as an animal, it would be a golden retriever, wagging its tail and wanting to be friends with everyone.

I’ve distanced myself from the news and social media after days of too much information, dark threatening words, and anger that morphs into hatred. I want everyone to get along.

But that is not the world where I live. It never has been. Conflict existed the day Cain met his brother Able in a field. There were wars and rumors of wars since people groups settled into their own communities and discovered that their neighbors were not like them.

I’ve listened to podcasts and read blog posts about the racial divide. I’ve heard sermons and people of all colors give opinions about the direction we need to go. No one has the answer, though some think they do.

I was a child when I first became aware of integration in my small corner of the world. I remember the first time I saw a black couple sitting in our family’s favorite restaurant. They were dressed in their Sunday best, like we were, and I thought they must have been to church, like us.

I once worked for a company whose staff were mostly white. Phyllis and I were at opposite ends of the building, but we found each other and built a relationship. We met early in the morning and in the break room for coffee, talking about our lives, our children, our faith.

I remember the difference in our hair texture and the contrast of her skin next to mine. It didn’t matter to either of us. We shared a kinship and we were friends.

The one and only son of ours went to college. He roomed with a young man named Michael. He was our son’s best man at his wedding. He stayed at our house and with great delight rode Sweet William’s lawn tractor. He calls me his other mother. Michael is African American.

We used to visit the church where my son and his family attended when they still lived in our city. The first time there, I noticed the diverse races, how they shared in ministry and worship responsibilities. We were welcomed, and I loved the atmosphere of acceptance and the brother/sister-hood of the family of God.

The people who live in the house next door combine four different cultures in their veins. I feel sure they were hand-picked by Jesus to be our neighbors. We’ve adopted each other and they call us Aunt Peggy and Uncle Bill. They are a gift to Sweet William and me.

A woman younger than me lives nearby. She was born in another country; she is bi-lingual. She came to the United States, studied for citizenship, and is currently working to complete her college degree. She is a daughter of my heart, and I love spending time with her. When I ask her to pray, she does so in her native language, and I listen for words I recognize.

People I love are different from me.

I’ve checked on my friends during the chaos of demonstrations and riots. I’ve also message people who have police officers in their families. I’m concerned. Society can turn on the winds of public opinion, naming and blaming, dividing rather than healing.

I want to listen to people’s stories, try to understand what it’s like to live as a minority. I’ve checked out books from my library by black authors, reading to see and hear and be sensitive to the pain.

I pray for our president and leaders. They have an unspeakably difficult task. They will never be able to please all the people. There is no simple solution.

When Adam and Eve chose to ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they got what they desired – the knowledge to create good and to destroy viciously. Pandora’s box opened, and they were no longer led by a peaceful and loving spirit. Thy exhaled the breath of God and inhaled something else. We still breathe the same air.

As I walk among my gardens, I see weeds popping up. It is a continual fight to keep them from taking over what I’ve worked so hard to make beautiful. I deal daily with the curse of the fall of man. It is a fight to keep peace and love in the world when sin is always present.

There is One who gives peace in the conflict, One who calms the storm of our inner turmoil. On the night of Jesus’ birth into our world, the angel army proclaimed peace on earth and good will to men. I think the angels knew it was full out war in the heavenlies.

As Christ’s ambassadors, we are called to be peacemakers and to love people. We are called to be comforters and encouragers. This is our battle cry.

Jesus compels us to love our neighbors, to go the extra mile, to show kindness and compassion, to love justice and show mercy.

We need love to invade our hearts, our homes, our city streets, our nation’s capital. This is a costly love emanating from God the Father who sacrificed Himself for the hearts of the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. This love is active. It takes risks.

God’s love changes hearts. Jesus is the way of peace. Let us pray to walk with Him, invite others on the journey and breathe in the life-giving breath of His Spirit.

Sunday grace.

The heavenly host

In light of yet another senseless shooting, this time in California, I wonder how long until it comes to my back yard.

Why are we surprised when evil raises its ugly head?  Since time began on earth and even before, there was conflict between the Force of good and forces of evil.  It is first recorded for us in Genesis, and the ongoing rumblings of war march through history.

What does any of that have to do with Christmas?  A lot.  Let’s take a look at a little town called Bethlehem on the night Jesus was born.

The shepherds in the field on that night were in the right place at the right time to get a personal message from the Almighty.  Caring for lambs most likely headed for temple sacrifice, they were hoping for a quiet night.

Instead they got the surprise of their lives.  An angel broke into their silent night proclaiming the most astounding news.  Good news!  News of a Savior, Christ the Lord.  Lying in a manger.  This was quite a proclamation to men who were not used to rubbing elbows with the upper crust of priests and kings. They were simple folk simply doing their job.

Before they could fully comprehend the message, suddenly a massive group of heavenly beings appeared.  A multitude of the host of heaven.  But these were not as we often picture them on Christmas cards or in our pageants.  They were not a sweetly-singing celestial choir but rather an army of the troops of heaven.  A heavenly knighthood.  They were prepared to do battle.  We don’t know if they sang or not, but their mission was to war as needed.

Angel warrior

Lucifer and his minions used all their efforts to thwart the plan of redemption, ready to devour the Child, this One who would one day rule the nations with a rod of iron.  The sweet little infant Child in a manger was the greatest of threats to the kingdom of darkness.   And they would do anything to keep God’s plan from being completed.

I wonder if they were surprised, just like the shepherds in the  field. Surprised by the Lord’s host, those who were ready and willing to serve because their Captain lay as helpless babe in a feeding trough.

Through the earthly life of Jesus we read of angels intervening, bringing messages, coming to strengthen and help, doing God’s bidding.  Until at the end of His life, at the last breath the God-man cried, “It is finished.”  And satan was defeated!

There is an enemy, and it is not your neighbor, your spouse, your co-worker, your in-laws.  We must recognize this and fight the real foe.

As children of the most high God we will be in the thick of the battle, called to be courageous, to fight the good fight of faith, to stand and when we have done all, to still stand.

Take heart, child of God.  The battle is not ours but the Lord’s.  We are not in this alone.  The Captain of the Lord’s host, Jesus Christ himself, has come to take over.  And. He. Is. Victorious!

And when it is all said and done, we who are on the side of the Lord, we win.

And that is something to sing about.


{Revised and reposted from December 2014}