How many times have I said it?
"Peace be with you."
"And also with you."
It occurred to me today that these words from the liturgy are so much more than just words. They are a blessing, and a heartfelt prayer. Made in the image of the God who speaks life in being, who said "Let there be light!" and there was light, our words have power. When we speak peace over each other, we are declaring it to be so. And when we say "amen," we are asking God to let it be so. "This thing we just said, God - this blessing, this wish for peace for our brother, or our sister - please. Let it be so. Let them be at peace." At rest. Healed. Whole. Well. Completely and utterly their ontological selves. Who they were always meant to be.
I haven't always thought about it that way. But it is what we're saying.
The last reading in Beth A. Richardson's The Uncluttered Heart this past week was about being a shalom bringer - the kind of person who brings the fullness of God's peace to people - and I'm pretty sure I met one yesterday.
I tend to steer clear of the holiday crowds, but my laptop bag got swiped last week, and with it (unless it is buried in the untidy-ness of my room) the cable that attaches my camera to the computer. So I went to buy a new one.
An older gentleman, new to the store and a bit overwhelmed by the phone ringing and all the people asking for help, nevertheless went out of his way to help me. After looking everywhere he could think of, he found someone else and asked him about it. "Oh," came the answer. "We don't carry that kind of cable here. You might try this other store." The gentleman who'd been helping me look for the past 5 minutes turned to me and said genuinely, "I'm so sorry. I hope you find one. Thank you so much for your patience." And then he smiled, reached out and touched my shoulder, and wished me a good evening. And he meant it.
I walked away feeling incredibly cared for, and at peace.
Maybe it wasn't a big deal to him. Maybe he's a Christian and behaving that way comes naturally as a result of the work Jesus has done in his heart. Maybe he was simply a kind person. I don't know. But in the middle of a crazy workday, he took the time to see me - not as yet another consumer who needed something, but as a person - and to wish me well.
It mattered. It made a difference to my day. And it made me wonder: how many dozens of opportunities do we have each day to make that kind of a difference, in His Name?
God, make me the kind of person that leaves others feeling that cared for, the kind of person who speaks your peace into the lives of others. Amen.
And friends - may grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2) Amen.
As previously observed, I love Advent. Currently serving at a non-denominational church that doesn't follow the liturgical calendar, I find myself missing the rhythm of it, especially this time of year. So I decided a couple of weeks ago to do what little I could about it: I bought a book.
My friend Amanda and I are reading The Uncluttered Heart by Beth A. Richardson. It's a daily devotional book that starts the first Sunday of Advent and runs straight thru the 12th day of Christmas. Only 4 days in, I can tell already that it is going to be a sweet few weeks with the Lord. (If you're interested, check out Beth's book and the associated website: unclutteredheart.org - it would be fun if all of us read it together - and every reading stands alone, so you can just hop in, and catch up later.)
So the first week of Advent is about hope....
It was a couple of weeks ago when I wrote about how I was looking for something. I think, in retrospect, that maybe what I was looking for was hope. I hadn't quite realized that I'd lost it. I knew I felt a little stifled, purposeless, not-quite-myself - but I hadn't realized how hopeless I felt, and that hopelessness was ultimately at the root of the deep sadness I felt. Then, this past Sunday, the first Sunday in Advent, I sat down and I read about hope. And I skimmed through the discussion guide and noticed the question: "what are you hoping for this week?" I danced around it. Finally admitted that I was afraid to verbalize what I am really hoping for. Realized this was probably a problem. And went to church.
I had the privilege of worshiping in another country this weekend. I went home over Thanksgiving to visit my family out East and drove back through Canada, and stayed with one of my bestest friends, Cheryl. Cheryl is on staff at a very large church in Toronto that was founded with a huge heart for missions. (My kind of church.) :) This particular morning, they had a guest teacher: born in Wales, missionary to South Africa and several other places, now living in Canada, probably in his 70s, and not a single worry line in his forehead visible onstage. The joy of the Lord shines from within this man - and his passion for seeing the lost come to Jesus pervaded every word of his message.
And it was contagious.
As I listened to him speak about the heart of our Good Shepherd for His lost sheep, and the privilege that we have in being his agents that we so often forsake in what John Stott calls "our guilty silence" - simply not speaking of Jesus - I realized (again) that I have to teach.
It's an interesting grammatical construction that - "I have to..." I could have said "I must." And indeed, I must. It's what I'm called to do. But I have it.... it's been given to me. Teaching. The desire to teach. I'm stifled because I'm not doing it. As a worship leader, I got to teach a little bit. I've missed that. I do teach, here and there. In conversations with people, through letters/emails I write, etc. But that's just like icing on a proverbial cake, you know? The real cake is seriously teaching. Maybe even - dare I say it? - preaching.
I know this isn't new. I've known this for awhile. I've written about it here a number of times, I'm sure. But I've been so stuck in the rut of daily routine that I started to forget that this current daily routine wasn't meant to be a pattern for the rest of my days, but is rather still just a stopping spot - a place to fuel up and ready myself for the next stage of the journey. I wasn't supposed to put down roots so deep that I settled in too comfortably - but I'd started to do that, in spite of a niggling feeling that something didn't feel quite right. I'd settled for "this." I let go of the vision. Proverbs 29:18 says that for lack of vision, people perish - and I've felt the truth of that these past few weeks. In context that verse actually means that without the revelation of God's Word we'd all be dead (and it goes on to say that he who has the law is happy) - but the truth is we need God's word over our lives too. His written Word and His Son are enough - but the God who made dolphins to swim faster than they should be able to and bees to fly when they shouldn't be able to also made us, and has specific plans for us, and we need to be in communion with Him to know what they are. He designed each of us uniquely. And troubled Himself to arrange our moments and our days so that in interacting with each other we would learn and grow and change and become ultimately even more like Him. His design is incredible.
And it was no mistake that His design landed me in Canada on Sunday, hearing a man of God who'd been to South Africa. He didn't even talk about it - but he'd been there. He'd been where I'm going someday. And he believed in the importance of bringing creativity to the mission field, and went out of his way to mention it.
Somewhere out there is a place that fits me, I am sure of it. Or maybe, given this wanderlust, there are several, lol. I don't know where they are, or what they look like, or how I will get there. But I know that I will.
Because on Sunday, I got my hope back. I'm not even sure, really, how it happened. It just did. God gave me hope.
One of Cheryl's friends asked me if I'd been not listening to God or if I'd just been waiting for the pieces to fall into place. It was a good question. It seems I keep forgetting what God has said until reminded (tho being able to search my own blog for themes does come in handy for that; now if only my handwritten journals had that feature, lol!) - but really, I think I've just been waiting. And it feels like maybe that waiting is very close to an end now. Maybe.
It's Advent. The season of waiting. But it's only a season - and that for which we are waiting - it's just around the corner. Jesus is coming. He came, and He's here - and He's coming again.
Spera in Deo.