Peace of the Lord

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Every Sunday, I sit and worship and wait patiently to hear these words “May the peace of the Lord be always with you!”

I know these words by heart and I can say them to myself at any time. But, I like hearing them repeated in the glorious and peaceful Cathedral sanctuary. I am focused, obsessed and desiring to obtain that peace from God.

This is my favorite season of worship as I relive the long, torturous, and dusty road to Calvary. A horrific journey for Jesus who wishes to grant us grace and peace. A journey that is both tragic and triumphant.

This Lenten season I am writing for myself. I am writing for anyone who cares to read. I am writing for God. I am writing.

Peace…

God’s voice in the trees…

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I hear the trees.

In the mountains, our home is surrounded by the lush green foliage of pines, oaks, maples and elms. As the wind picks up speed, the trees rustle and move as though God has breathed a sigh and all of nature quivers with joy.

There is a special peace that comes when I take the time to sit and wait for nature’s call to my soul. Absent the cacophonus sounds of city life, there is the melodious chorus of birds, crickets, and the subtle flap of a hummingbird’s wings.

For a minute, my soul is calm and refreshed.

For a minute God speaks and calls to me.

I feel the presence of God and know that love surrounds me. It is the same for you. It only requires a willingness to listen.

Be still and know that He is God.

Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Psalm 96:12

Sometimes there are no answers…

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This past week has been a hard one for people of faith.

In the one place you expect sanctuary, respite, and acceptance is the Church. This was not so in South Carolina.

Nine precious people were overwhelmed by extremist hatred and paid for it with their lives.

It doesn’t make sense. There are no answers. God did not cause this.

I do know this…

Hate will not win. Darkness is overcome by light. Love never dies and God still sits on His throne.

I look for a brighter and better tomorrow but I won’t forget the sacrifice of so many.

“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 (NIV)

Tough Memories of Heroes – Lent 9

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My Dad was a Prisoner of War in Nazi Germany. It was an important part of his legacy.

As the pilot of a B-17, he was shot down over Stuttgart and parachuted into a lake where he treaded water until the German military arrived. Any soldier who swam to shore would be beaten or killed by waiting citizens. This was the reality of war.

My Dad did not start talking about his war experience until late in life. I think his sons, grandsons (one of whom is a Naval Commander) and friends wanted to know his story. It was dramatic and cringe-worthy and was difficult for me to comprehend. War is just so horrible.

This was a big part of my Dad’s life; a life lived well with significant highs and lows. The war was a low point for a man who was never defeated in spirit.

However, I really didn’t want to hear about it. I didn’t like to hear about my Father in danger.

I am proud of my Father’s heroism and his military skills of survival. But, I liked the Dad that I knew personally. You see, my Father was one of the most fun-loving and joy-filled people that I ever knew. He had a wicked grin and a lovely sense of humor. He delighted in pranking his children and pulled some funny, funny tricks over his 91 years on this earth. There are so many stories that I can’t begin to share them all. Suffice it to say, there was rarely a dull moment around my home. He was the life of the party and the person we all wanted to be around. He was a magnet for people and they clung to him in love and laughter.

Dad had seen the worst in people including some horrid atrocities that come with being a soldier in combat. He had seen death in so many ways and did not relive those moments often.

Lent is like that for me. I have to force myself to walk through the awful process to get to the resurrection on Easter Sunday. I don’t want to consider the beaten, spit upon, abused, and mocked Jesus. That’s too hard. I don’t want to think of the blood, sweat and tears of Jesus. It is simply too painful to ponder. But sometimes, we have to remember in order to understand and appreciate the never-ending gift given to us through the shed blood of Christ. Sometimes we have to go through the worst to get to the best.

My Dad’s laugh resonates in my heart. My Lord’s sacrifice blesses my soul. The grace of Jesus Christ keeps me safe.

I am grateful. Eternally so…

“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.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 16:32-33

Oh sweet peace… Lent 6

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“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

Oh sweet peace…such an illusive thing in this world.

When Jesus speaks to His disciples, He knows the future and He knows that true peace will not be something found in this world but only through Him. Jesus is the One who sacrificed His life for us ensuring an eternity covered under grace and love. A glory-filled and peaceful future. This verse still speaks to us today. It rings true and is comforting.

Struggle is an integral part of life. Succumbing to despair over struggle is a choice. I don’t know if all encompassing peace will ever be attained in this lifetime; but, I rest my heart, my soul, and my hope on Jesus and I know that peace will come.

It will come…someday.

Quiet Please – Lent 5

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I crave silence. I crave a peace-filled moment.

Sometimes when I visit my parents’ graves, I sit on the bench and I am still. I sit and do nothing other than glory in the quiet and peacefulness. The occasional birdcall is welcome as is the gentle breeze on my face. But for the most part, I just sit. It is glorious.

Pretty soon we will celebrate Maundy Thursday watch. This is a time when we sit in prayerful silence in the sanctuary. It is a time to reflect upon the night that Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane; the night His disciples could not watch with him for just one hour without falling asleep. It was a night that Jesus spent alone in prayer with the Father.

I haven’t missed a night watch in over 20 years. Next to Christmas Eve Mass and Easter Sunday, it is my favorite day on the church calendar.

There is something so holy about sitting quietly and pausing from this busy life to seek the face of God. If you sit quietly enough, you hear the creak of the church, the scurry of feet, the groan of the building as it sways with the earth. And sometimes, just sometimes, you hear a still small voice in your soul saying it will all be right with the world. Jesus has overcome the world.

Somehow we are reminded that without a moment of silence, words can lose their meaning. That is the moment when silence really is golden.

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” Matthew 26:36-46 (NIV)

The Red Doors – Lent 4

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I love a red church door.

In the more traditional religious denominations, a red church door was considered a symbol of entering into worship, into the presence of God, through the blood of Christ, the sacrificial lamb of God.

The church has historically been a place of refuge from the evils of the world both real and perceived. It remains so today.

I urge you to find your red doors. The church is not perfect but it is a place of peace and a refuge from the highs and lows of life. It is a place to share joy, peace and love. It is a place of reflection.

Most of all, through those red doors you will find God waiting to wrap you in love and spread His never-ending grace upon your weary soul.

Enter in…

Veterans Day – Thou Shalt Love Thy Neighbor

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“I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.” John 13:34

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My father didn’t start talking about his war experiences until late in his life. I think he didn’t want to burden us with difficult memories but eventually opened up and I’m so glad he did. What a testimony to his family of a life well lived.

My Dad was a POW in Nazi Germany for many years after his B-17 was shot down during a military raid. While I think this experience had a profound effect on him, I don’t think it changed him at the core.

My father loved people. My father loved his family. My father really loved Jesus.

Dad led by example and he told the story of walking through deep snow with the frail and aged Nazi guards who were too weak to carry their own weapons. So Dad and the other soldiers carried their guns. They were not required to do so, they did it to help.

I have always found this story to be one of the most striking of my father’s war memories. Dad’s faith in Jesus never wavered and even in the worst of circumstances, he would use an opportunity to share the love of Christ with ANYONE.

On this Veterans Day, I thank Dad for his courage. I thank Dad for his loving heart. I thank Dad for teaching me about Jesus. Dad said that he survived the war through his belief that Jesus was standing beside him and giving him the strength to return home. I believe this and I am grateful to God.

I am sure my Dad is not the first soldier to have Jesus hold his hand and he won’t be the last. I wish this were not so. If we could only truly love our neighbors…

Peace.

A place of peace…

 

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Years ago when I was expecting my first child, the lamaze instructor was adamant that I find a place in my memory that was peaceful. It was to be somewhere that my mind could wander and calm my soul. It took me about a minute to pinpoint my sweet spot of undiluted happiness.

I was lucky enough to grow up with amazing parents. Not perfect, but wonderfully made and so loving to me. 

Our Miami home was located on a beautiful spring-fed lake with gentle winds that cooled our home. The back yard was impressive with a seawall overlooking the lake and shaded by a huge oak tree which served as the host for a large wooden swing.

This swing was my place of peace. Hours and hours spent with my Dad talking about everything and nothing. Quiet and solitude. His dreams for my future and my Dad’s memories of his past. It was absolutely heavenly.

While in a long labor, I kept my mind mentally on that swing. I was in a labor and delivery room but I could hear a soothing voice and a soft breeze. It made a difficult time more bearable.

To this day, I go there. I go back to my swing and I talk to my Dad. He’s not with me anymore but I know he waits and I am comforted. 

I know he waits for me with Jesus. 

Peace fills my heart and I am calm.