‘Peace on earth, good will toward men.’ That’s a good start right? It’s The Season and I feel a tradition to write the obligatory Christmas letter. I get it, and at least I started out with a Christmas card greeting. And, Peace can be a subject of Christmas. As for this letter, I’ll paraphrase Peace to include Joy as well. They may not be exactly the same, but both are in the same family, cousins, and they are both genetically similar accept for a twist or two in their DNA. Now, I’m not perfect at what I’m about to write about; for that matter, no one is perfect at this subject because being flesh and bone we make mistakes about Peace and Joy. You suffer some times when Peace seems to be hiding behind a tree somewhere, not to be easily found. But that said, let me tell you what I believe about Peace and Joy.
First, I think it’s overwhelmingly possible for Peace/Joy, when we apply the Gospel to our daily lives, to be constant companions; constant when we don’t forget to keep them front and center in our lives. In the past I’ve had Joy and Peace drop by and spend some time with me, you know, kind of visit for a few hours or days. Jane and I first learned of the Peace of God years ago when the radio station went through some pretty heavy duty stress. Going through this past year has reinforced our feelings about Peace in ways we had not experienced before. Currently, the financial stress found in all the economy has affected the giving environment and has presented new challenges for us, but we have been through that before. However, even more evidence of the Peace of God was found during Jane’s Guillain-Barré experience. It left me a bit more of a ‘slow thinker’ if you will. Since March 21st, I’ve tried to slow down some of my hurry, my push, to stop and enjoy the moments more than before. Before, it seemed that Joy sometimes had other things to do. In the hustle and bustle of life, I kind of forgot to check the back lot for her– see if Peace was still hangin’ round the house somewhere. You see, during those weeks and months that Jane was so sick, one day at a time became all I could deal with. One day is all we had at that point. Thinking about the past or future was of no value to me then. All my planning, work and stability was taken away. I just made the most out of the moment. And while I saw some really grim stuff, at the end of each day was a Thanksgiving for another tomorrow. That’s when Thanksgiving moved in to stay. And do you know who travels with Thanksgiving? Yep, Peace and Joy. Move right in; make themselves at home, with the arrival of Thanksgiving.
They all three moved in and stayed around for a while this time; they stayed in the guest room of my mind. People have done so much for us, said so many kind things, prayed for us. Our health care givers were so encouraging and compassionate. Great Peace took a comfortable chair, sat down, took up residence. Why? It seems to me that it was because I stopped ‘taking thought for tomorrow.’ Ours became a day to day experience. We found so much Peace and Joy it brought Comfort to Jane and me both. It actually made a lot of sense to me afterward. (Now this is the important part!) God inhabits the present. My mental and emotional trips to the future were of little good and unnecessary when God is in your now! Jane and I have always encouraged one another to live in the now. Our imaginations are usually very emotionally exaggerated and typically the future doesn’t turn out to be what we imagined anyway. Most are thoughts that never have any value, no substance, no reality; they are empty and sometimes horrible, vain imaginations. If left unchecked they dominate our lives even when in reality they do not come to pass. God is in the Real!
God lives in reality; it is in the real that He is always present. My imaginations are usually me managing and predicting events, kind of making me god over some future before it happens. In God’s economy tomorrow will take care of tomorrow. Leaving today and worrying about tomorrow walks away from God’s moment and enters into our imagined future. I’ve discovered that it’s not Peace and Joy that visits us occasionally and stays but a few days, it’s us that visits and then leaves to imagine other days and focus on other things. His today interacts with our today each day. His Grace is a day to day experience. Today is enough. There’s enough God in today, and knowing that permits us not to have to move on to the future so much. Living in the present is where you hear the voice of God, where you witness the leading of the Spirit of God.
Have you ever noticed how Jesus lived in just the single day? As you watch his ministry you see someone that had time for all kinds of people, had time to listen and share with each person. He was led by the Spirit of God each day. He was not living way out in front. He took his own advice and did not ‘toil or weave’ but lived each day like God was present with him. We will not be 100% successful at ‘taking no thought for tomorrow’ but we can do better than we might think. Trust and obey is a motto we’ve used, but being faithful to this Gospel and this Faith has a deeper Trust and Obeying than we commonly live in each day. Can we really put our lives in the hand of God? Can we trust and believe like we really should? Well, at least I think we can improve. I think so because as we experience God’s Grace guess who shows up to reinforce that? Yep! Thanksgiving, Peace, Joy. I’m trying to take a deep breath now and slow my day down. I want to notice today’s opportunity and not rush to tomorrow so quickly. Not easy for us in this culture, but doable nonetheless.
There were long days in Chicago, 24 hour days where each hour presented a new focus unlike Jane and I have experienced before. And, I’m not sure, but it felt like there was a deeper Peace to be found there. The Joy of each moment overpowered the terror of the moment. And, in the middle of that, Thanksgiving was easy to find. It moved into the hospital room with me. I had a chair in the corner to live in. I’m not sure where Thanksgiving, Peace and Joy slept, but I can tell you each morning as I woke from a couple hours sleep, all three stood in that room, ready to be daily companions. They had moved in to stay and I liked it!
Scripture says live like this: ‘whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things…and the Peace of God shall be with you. (Phil 4:8) It’s True!