Peace in Self

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Imagine Peace.  Anyone driving behind me receives this directive.  What happens after that is up to them, but at least I have planted the seed.  The other day a man stopped me in a grocery store parking lot and commented, “I can’t even begin to imagine peace.  For my whole life there has been a war going on somewhere.”

I had to agree with him.  Nations wage war or threaten war against each other.  Groups within nations engage in bitter conflict with weapons, words, or both.  When you consider all this, it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to imagine a world free from conflict.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed, particularly if we define peace as “world peace.”

As a child in my school choir, I sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth and Let It Begin with Me.”  It was a huge relief when I realized I was not single-handedly responsible for creating world peace.  My job was to live peacefully, moment by moment, with the rest of God’s children (still not an easy task but much more doable than stopping war all over the globe).  My twelve-year-old self could easily imagine that kind of peace.

And I can imagine it now.  I explained this to the man in the parking lot.  I said, “I’m going to keep trying.  It’s my job.”  He shook his head in what seemed like skepticism or disbelief, but he was smiling.  I choose to believe he will try too.

I hope you’ll join us.

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Hope in Community

snow 2017

It’s been almost a year since I posted to this blog. It’s Advent season, however, and a few dear readers have let me know they are revisiting Waiting for Jesus.  I am truly flattered and inspired to return to this space.  Thank you, friends.

 

Optimism isn’t my strength.  I don’t consider myself a pessimist, but I’m pretty good at imagining a worst-case scenario or completely overlooking the silver lining.  Of all the Advent themes, HOPE is the most difficult for me to generate.  But hope floats.

Besides fire, I can’t think of anything less stoppable than water.  With a year’s worth of rain falling in a short, five-day period, Houstonians watched helplessly as the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey rose in every direction.  Homes, businesses, even lives were washed down the drain like last night’s bathwater.  But hope floats.

Before the rain had time to slow down, the heroes of hope began to emerge.  Anyone with a tall truck or a jon boat sprang into action and began moving people out of the water and onto dry ground.  Before long, our Louisiana neighbors came with their boats, and others flocked in from states even farther away.  Because hope floats.

First responders, city officials, and news crews worked around the clock with little time for food or rest.  Celebrities, sports heroes, even presidents raised money to help rebuild once the storm was over.  When people feel supported, hope floats.

Schools, churches, convention centers, even a furniture store housed people who had no other dry place to stay.  Donations of food and clothing poured in.  A few folks complained, but most spoke of their gratitude for safety, shelter, and basic needs met.  Hope floats.

Once the water receded and clean up began, everyone pitched in: the kid next door, the relatives from across town, the church people from all over the country.  Neighborhoods looked like war zones with debris piles as far as the eye could see.  Cleaning products, sheetrock, trustworthy contractors, and other necessities were in short supply.  Hope bubbles just below the surface sometimes, but it always floats again.

For days, there was no regular television programming, only news coverage with constant weather reports and seemingly endless video of displaced people, devastated homes, and submerged landscapes.  It was difficult to watch, yet impossible to turn off.  Houston has always been known as a large city with a small-town personality, but watching so many helpers, living in such close quarters, and sharing so many meals took our sense of community to “a whole ‘nother level.”  We even decided to alter the way we capitalize the name of our city, hoUSton, if only for a while.  When times are tough again (I hope it won’t be any time soon), hope will float up on a capital US.

Sometimes hope floats so high it spills over leaving extra that can inspire a World Series win or be loaded into a plane and sent to far-away places like Puerto Rico.  Hope floats, but it also flies.

Things are returning to normal for many.  Some will continue to rebuild their homes and lives for months or even years.  Some, particularly those who lost loved ones, will learn to live with a new “normal.”  My prayer is that the rest of US will continue to help and not become complacent in the comfort of our normality.  Hope floats, but it can always use a boost.

There was snow in Houston yesterday.  Social media was filled with pictures of children playing in the snow, dogs playing in the snow, a 290-pound defensive end playing in the snow.  The city was energized and more beautiful than we have seen it in a long time.  Hope floats down from the sky in fluffy white flakes.

It finally feels like Christmas.

A Christmas Wish

From last year, but it bears repeating.

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The winter solstice has passed, and we are on our way to longer days, shorter nights. It makes sense that we celebrate the birth of Jesus at about the same time as the world around us begins to grow brighter.

As we wait these last few days, I wish you hope.

I wish you love.

I wish you the joy of welcoming an infant savior into the world and the peace that comes from welcoming the adult Christ into your days.

Merry Christmas!

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But the greatest of these…

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1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most quoted chapters of the Bible.  It’s used at weddings a lot, but it’s actually part of a letter to the church.  The advice within is sound for any relationship, marriage or otherwise.  Maybe you can spend a few minutes today reading, or more likely, rereading the beautiful, guiding words of the apostle Paul.  Here are some of my favorite highlights:

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong…

2 …and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

8 Love never fails.

11 …I put childish ways behind me.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.

I hope you will revisit 1 Corinthians 13 and see which ideas speak to you the loudest today.  Be sure to share.  And love each other.

Love

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It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you.

-Mother Teresa

I’m not sure there’s much I can add to that.  May we love each other and the rest of the world unconditionally, this week and beyond.

In the Movies: Peace

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Once I realized the problem was not you but within me, I found inner peace and was able to harness the flow of the universe.

from Kung Fu Panda 2

I have never watched this movie, but I love how this quote shows the value of peace across cultures.  Do you have a favorite movie line or song lyric about peace?  If so, please share!

Let’s Rodeo!

bootsRodeo season is winding down in Houston.  A friend shared pictures of her girls having the times of their lives.  For the older daughter, the highlight was the concert, a performance by her idol, the current teen heartthrob.  It was the first rodeo for the younger daughter, and I’m sure she will remember every moment, from carnival rides to animal smells, from chuck wagon races to Daddy carrying her to the car at the end of it all.  At least that’s how I remember the rodeos of my childhood.

My Uncle Slim bought me a pair of suede cowboy boots for my first rodeo, and though I was only about 4 or 5, I felt pretty big getting to go out with the adults in my new boots.  We cheered for cowboys performing amazing feats from roping and wrestling to riding bucking beasts for an eight second count.  We laughed at clowns who could disappear instantly into barrels to escape angry bulls but would risk life and limb to save a cowboy if the need arose.  We shared popcorn and peanuts.  The musical entertainment was Jimmy Dean, famous for singing “Big Bad John” long before becoming the face of breakfast sausage.  He rode out, in the spotlight of the darkened arena, on the most magnificent white horse I had ever seen.

The rodeo has evolved over time, as most things do.  Events have been added: chuck wagon races, mutton bustin’, sharp shooters on horseback.  The musical entertainment is no longer limited to country and western singers.  On any given night you may hear pop, rap, R&B, Tejano, or rock and roll emanating from the revolving stage.  You can still get popcorn and peanuts, of course, but you can also find gourmet burgers, smoothies, and craft beers.  If you don’t have the best seats in the house, you can watch all the action on the jumbotron, and if you want to meet real cowboys, up close and personal, you can visit the Fan Zone for autographs.  It’s all for the best, I suppose.  It certainly gives the rodeo wider appeal.

Luckily, though, some things never change.  The cowboys, not rock stars, are still my heroes.  It still gives me chills to watch the American and Texan flags leading the Grand Entry and to see the crowd stand as they approach.  And I still feel pretty big when I put on my boots and go out to the rodeo.

If you have rodeo memories, Houston or otherwise, please share them in the comments.  I’d love to hear about your favorite events and performers!