An Open Seat, Just For You

This week’s post is written by a special guest: my daughter, Rheannon. She is a freshman in high school this year, active in a local service organization, theater, and her church’s youth group (as well as Freedom Fellowship which she talks about in the post).

Many of these thoughts have been circulating in her mind for a long time, but the sermon we heard at our church yesterday brought some clarity and focus. I hope these words will encourage you as they have encouraged me. 

Yesterday at church my preacher talked about the kingdom of God, and how hard it was to understand how church was really supposed to be. He spoke about how the kingdom is not where you are comfortable – church is not the place where everyone looks like you, thinks like you, believes what you do.

Church is where you are different, and challenged, and uncomfortable.

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This picture was taken at Freedom Fellowship, a satellite church of Highland. I’ve been going to Freedom for six years – longer than I’ve been at Highland. Every third Saturday night, Freedom does a special worship service and serves communion. Since I’ve been going, I’ve stood at the end of the line and given a hug to the people passing through the line.

I have always felt the closest to God in those moments. I’ve felt the presence of God on earth every time someone new passes through and return the hug for the first time.

Freedom’s ten year anniversary was a HUGE event – a big neighborhood party. Everyone who had been at Freedom in the beginning spoke about all the special things Freedom offered, and shared their favorite memories. Terry St. Pierre spoke about communion and how it started. Then, he talked about my hugging and how much it had affected the people who experienced it.

Then, we broke bread. And I gave hugs like I had been doing for almost half my life.

The woman featured in the picture had been going to Freedom for a couple of weeks at that point. I’d seen her in worship, uncomfortable at first, and then getting into it as the weeks went on. Every time I saw her raise her hand in worship, it brightened my day in amazing amounts.

I believe God put her in Freedom for a reason. I believe God sent her to Freedom to experience his love.

I believe she was sent to feel how worthy she was in the kingdom.

This would be the second time she had taken communion at Freedom. The first time, I’d given her a short hug and let her move on quickly like I did with a lot of newcomers.

That night, though, I gave her the biggest hug I could manage. I tried to relate to her God’s limitless love for her.

And I received more from that hug then I gave. She gripped my neck and gave everything right back to me, and I’ve never felt more blessed.

Because God’s kingdom comes when people give up their safe zones for the unknown without fear. God’s kingdom comes to earth when we allow ourselves to love without boundaries.

I believe that Freedom is the closest I will ever come to heaven on earth, simply because there is no judgement and no hate. Freedom gives me a chance to experience things churches strive for.

We welcome everyone.

We do not judge.

We do not leave anyone out of what they want to be a part of.

We do not assign certain jobs to certain people based on sex, or race, or social status.

Freedom is a place where the things others people say and believe no longer hold any truth or importance and you can believe what God believes about you and be affirmed by dozens of people that know how important you really are.

Today, we’re celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who fought for equality and respect among all people.

One point made in church yesterday was that a big part of the civil rights movement was the assembly of church. MLK was invited to talk with many churches, to have dialogue with the people who believed what he believed and who wanted to help.

Church has always been important to people who wish to bring peace among humans. Church is the place that people could be together and not be afraid.

And suddenly, church seemed to stop being that place. It began to become a place where we pretended to be perfectly okay to fit in. Church became a place where I no longer wanted to be.

But Freedom Fellowship? That’s where, at my most uncomfortable, I felt the most peace. Freedom is where I began to believe in the power of church again.

And there will always be an open seat, on any pew, on either side of the auditorium for anyone who wants to be there.

There is always a place at any table, inside or out, where anyone can sit and share a meal before worship starts.

There is always a place in God’s kingdom for anyone who has ever existed.

There is always a place for you.

Update: I forgot to give photo credit to Zach Snyder. The photo was taken on Freedom Fellowship’s 10th anniversary celebration.

What Churches Are Doing Right

“Why does preaching always talk about the badness of humanity but not the goodness of humanity?”

It was an interesting question. My daughter, age 15, is an aspiring preacher, herself. She has noticed that the sermons that seem to have the greatest impact are the ones that talk about what we are doing wrong as Christians and as the church.

Our conversation went on to talk about the balance of convicting people (which will often come across as negative) with acknowledging the good that is being done (which will often come across as positive).

Her follow-up question was, “Why don’t we hear more of those acknowledgments?”

It is a necessary conversation to have. I hope wherever you live you can have this conversation with your family and with your church.

But it led me to think about this topic in a different context:

I have long stated that churches do a poor job helping addicts recover. I started this blog with the hopes of starting conversations, raising awareness, and providing insight into how “normal” people can help those of us who struggle with various forms of addiction.

But I have I forgot to mention the good parts? I have failed to point out that there are some good things going on in some Christian circles?

If I have, let me try to correct that.

Church offers a place of healing. One of the blessings of social media is to be connected with friends all over the country and even in some other parts of the world. That connection allows me to have a small glimpse into their places of worship. There a lot of churches out there who are intentional about being Spirit led. They are not focused primarily on tradition or primarily on show, but first and foremost on allowing God’s grace and mercy to flow through. Many pastors are learning about the pain their members are experiencing and speaking to that. If you have found one of these places, be grateful. If you are still looking, please do not give up. There are a lot of Godly houses of worship out there.

Church offers community. Many churches are learning how important it is to create community as opposed to padding numbers. Sunday school classes, small groups, activities, and service projects are becoming more and more popular. Which is great. One things most recovering addicts need is community. (Which is why the AA model has endured for 80+ years.) The community that is created does not need to necessarily address “Jesus and the 12 Steps” or some such topic. All community needs to do…is be community. This is also an area where home based churches are so powerful. People who have spent most of their lives in isolation are truly blessed by a community who knows them and loves them, warts and all.

Church provides guidance. And by guidance, I mean spiritual leadership. Mentoring. Examples of people living faithful lives even in the face of difficulties. It is much easier to get out of one’s self when there are others you can follow. Again, the guidance aspect of AA (sponsor-sponsee) is one of the reasons it has been around for so long. Churches are learning how important this is. This doesn’t have to be done formally (in fact, it goes hand in hand with community), but it just needs to happen. As people in recovery observe others, they learn that people can deal with the difficulties of life in healthy ways. I have been able to witness a lot of relationships between non-addicts and addicts that have yielded great results. Because both people just loved each other.

There is a lot that churches have to learn about dealing with addiction and recovery. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing anything right. So let me take this opportunity to thank the churches that have been instrumental in my recovery.

From Rochester, NY (Lawson Road Church of Christ and Hope Lutheran Church), to Pennington, NJ (Princeton Community Church), to Abilene, TX (Highland Church of Christ and Freedom Fellowship), I have been loved, nurtured, and carried to where I am today. My family has been shown extreme care and love as they dealt with all the consequences my addiction wrought upon our family. They have not gotten everything right. But neither have I. We are just a bunch of humans fumbling our way along this journey we call life.

And I have been able to witness a lot of the goodness of humanity along the way.

Baptizing Brandon

I baptized Brandon Sunday.

It was not something I was planning on. Brandon asked me about an hour before it was to occur. What an incredible honor to be asked to play a small role in a profound event in someone’s life.

Brandon is a new friend of mine. I met him a couple of months ago at Freedom Fellowship. He also started attending Highland Church and he attends the high school Bible class. So I get to see him quite a bit each week. Brandon is a good kid. He is kindhearted. He is friendly. He is inquisitive.

And he has Asperger’s Syndrome.

If you do not know Brandon, you may think he is awkward. You might even think he is rude. Because although he is friendly, he does not respond to social cues the way most people do. He may walk off in the middle of a conversation. He may change the subject of the conversation while you are in mid-sentence. He may blurt out answers to rhetorical questions while the speaker is teaching.

If you were to compare someone like me to someone like Brandon, it might appear that I have the capacity for much greater intellectuality than Brandon. It looks like I can process information quickly and abstractly. It seems I can understand nonverbal and verbal cues; I can read and retain facts and details well.

But Brandon has something that I desperately want: he loves God with all his heart. He is not distracted by all the things that pull my focus away.

Brandon is not overly concerned with what others think about him.

Brandon is always honest.

Brandon is not afraid to ask questions.

Brandon is not afraid to express joy and do things that make him happy.

Brandon is determined and will fight for what he wants; especially when it is something he deeply believes in.

I may know more about God than Brandon. But I do not know God as well as Brandon does.

_________________________

“God will take care of the babies and the fools.”

There may be a good intent behind this statement. But there a couple of problems with it: first, it is not in any way biblical. It is a made up statement to reassure humans who cannot completely wrap their minds around God’s great mercy and love. Second, it actually comes from a too narrow view of baptism—thinking it is only about erasure of sin. There is much more to baptism than that.

Is baptism about salvation? Yes.

Is baptism about claiming the identity of Jesus follower? Yes.

Is baptism the pledge of a clear conscience to God? Yes.

Is baptism a ritual that unites us to a great cloud of witnesses? Yes.

There are some people who know a lot about baptism when they go into the water. But none of that is a requirement for baptism. Every biblical example of baptism we have is of people being convicted and desiring a closer relationship with God. Did instruction follow? Sure.

But the point of the act of baptism was a person responding to the call of God on their life.

Some of the most beautiful baptisms I have witnessed are those where the person putting Christ on in baptism has an understanding of their relationship with Jesus that I doubt I will ever have.

There is also another issue with that statement: It is ridiculously arrogant. It assumes that because we are (what has been deemed) normal we are somehow better than those who are deemed abnormal. It ends up being a way we can serve as gatekeepers to God’s Kingdom. “Yeah, you may not be as good as I am, but God will have pity on you so come on in.” In other words, it leaves us in charge of determining who is or is not a “fool.”

And that is a dangerous position to put ourselves in.

_________________________

There are people who are different. And I don’t mean the surface differences of gender, ethnicity, and age.

There are people who have severe physical disabilities.

There are people who have severe mental health struggles.

There are people who are addicts.

There are people who cannot communicate the way most others in our society do.

And their faith is no less real or profound than anyone else’s. Their spirituality does not suffer because of those differences; at least, no more so than anyone else’s.

I guess what I am trying to say is this: instead of thinking that someone lacks the maturity and depth of your faith because they are more limited than you in some way, ask how they may know God more because of those perceived limitations.

Does God take care of babies and fools? Sure. (After all, he is taking care of you and me!) But God does not call them by those names.

God calls them sons and daughters.

We Don’t Do Death Well. And That’s Okay.

The following is an adapted version of what I shared at Freedom Fellowship a year ago during Holy Week (the post was originally published on April 3, 2015). I had been teaching a series on the Gospel of John. John’s story is written to a group of people 2 or 3 generations after Jesus died. They have never seen Him and now all those people who were eyewitnesses are dying. John’s Gospel is written to tell the story of Jesus in a way that new generations of people could learn who Jesus was and is—much like we tell family stories of our grandparents to our children. For example, though I never met my grandfather physically, I know him because of the stories. I think that is in part what John is trying to do with his Gospel.

Shortly after my brother, Robert, passed away, my cousin and her husband, Gretchen and Jeremy, finalized the adoption of three wonderful sons. When an adoption becomes final, the family has the option of changing the children’s names. Gretchen and Jeremy decided not to do that. At least, they chose not to change their first names, but they did change the middle names.

For years, Jeremy had been saying he wanted a son named Joe Bob. For years, Gretchen said they would never have a son named Joe Bob.

When the time came to select middle names for their children, Gretchen asked Jeremy if “Robert” could be their oldest son’s middle name. She wanted to honor my brother by using his name. It just so happens their oldest son’s first name is Joseph. So Jeremy gladly agreed for his middle name to be Robert. Jeremy and Gretchen now have a son named Joe Bob. (It’s actually Joseph Robert, but it counts!)

And my brother would love that! That is exactly the kind of thing that would make him smile ear to ear and laugh non-stop.

We pass on the memory of previous generations through stories and names and talking about them. It is how we can remember those we no longer get to see. It is how we teach future generations about the people they have never been able to see face to face.

_________________________

We don’t do death well. I think, nationwide, we are getting better at it. I appreciate what Hospice care has brought to families who are suffering. But overall, we don’t die well. We adjust our diets, we exercise like crazy, we buy creams and ointments, we have created an entire field of medicine dedicated to making us look younger, we tan every way possible—from sunning, to sitting in lamps, to spraying it on.

Or we don’t do any of those things. We smoke, drink, eat whatever we want whenever we want, and scoff at the idea of exercising. And then we avoid the doctor because we are afraid of what she or he might say.

We don’t do death well.

And I have to be honest, I don’t know how. I don’t have the answers. I could try to make some up. I could come up with three points that all begin with the same letter, or I could use “death” as an acronym to spell out the five steps to dying well.

But that would not be honest. Because I don’t know how to do death well.

In fact, the reason I started this post with a story that involved my brother, Robert’s memory is because his death is the one that still shows me I don’t know how to do death well.

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But his death has done something else for me, too: it has given me an ability to sit with other people who also don’t know how to handle death.

In John Chapter 11, Jesus goes to the village of Bethany 4 days after Lazarus has died. When Martha comes to Jesus, He tells her something incredible. It is one of the “I Am” statements found in John’s Gospel:

I Am the Resurrection and the Life.

Jesus is saying two things to Martha but she is only hearing one. The thing Martha is not hearing is that Jesus came to do a miracle. Jesus is asking her if she believes He is the resurrection, partly meaning now, and she is answering that she believes, but in the future. And that really is okay.

Martha believed Jesus, mostly. But she saw death the way we all see death: as final.

And that leads to the second thing Jesus is saying: in Him, there will be life forever. But resurrection requires death. At the Highland Church of Christ this past Sunday, Nika Maples said, “If you want to follow Jesus out of the tomb, you first have to follow Him into the tomb.”

Physically speaking, as humans we can do nothing to avoid death. We can push it off. We can stretch out the average life span. We can, and should, keep looking for cures to terminal illnesses. But ultimately, death will come to us all.

But that is not the end of the story.

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This is Holy Week. Today is Good Friday. The day the Savior of the world died. Tomorrow, Holy Saturday, is the day of waiting, darkness, maybe even despair.

But Resurrection Sunday tells us that the story does not end of Friday or Saturday. We will face death. We will face loss. We will wonder and doubt and ponder and sit in disturbed silence.

But one day, we will realize that pain is not the end of the story. And we will celebrate.

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I want to point out something else about the story of Jesus with Martha and her sister, Mary: even knowing what the end of the story is going to be (Lazarus being raised back to life), Jesus still wept. Jesus knew what He was about to do. He also knew that physical death was not the end of the story. But still He wept.

Because death is hard. It always has been. It always will be.

So we will grieve. We will mourn. But we will have hope because the I Am is the resurrection and the life.

We don’t do death well, but that’s okay.

Because we have been called to life.

The Prince of Peace

PAUL

In 1859, Phillips Brooks, the author of O Little Town of Bethlehem, became a rector at a church in Philadelphia. He stayed in that city for a total of 10 years. The early years of that time were during the Civil War. Brooks was a staunch opponent of slavery and spoke out against it often. People describe him as a man of giant stature—both physically and in the strength of his convictions. Yet he is also described as someone that no one could be completely upset with, either; I guess because of his overall humble spirit.

In 1865, as the Civil War was coming to an end, Brooks took a year-long trip to Europe and the Holy Lands. On that trip, Brooks saw the city of Bethlehem; listen to this description:

“It was the sight of Bethlehem itself, one feels very sure, that gave Phillips Brooks the impulse to write this hymn. He was then rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity, in Philadelphia, and had spent a year’s vacation traveling in Europe and the East. “After an early dinner, we took our horses and rode to Bethlehem,” so he wrote home in Christmas week of 1865. “It was only about two hours when we came to the town, situated on an eastern ridge of a range of hills, surrounded by its terraced gardens. It is a good-looking town, better built than any other we have seen in Palestine. . . . Before dark, we rode out of town to the field where they say the shepherds saw the star. It is a fenced piece of ground with a cave in it (all the Holy Places are caves here), in which, strangely enough, they put the shepherds. The story is absurd, but somewhere in those fields we rode through the shepherds must have been. . . . As we passed, the shepherds were still “keeping watch over their flocks or leading them home to fold.” Mr. Brooks returned in September, 1866, and it must have been while meditating at home over what he had seen that the carol took shape in his mind.”

“Somewhere in those fields we rode through the shepherds must have been.”

Can you imagine living in a place consumed with war and hatred and racism and slavery, and then riding through the same fields where the shepherds who first learned about Jesus were? A person who had taken a stand against the evil of his day and had lived close to some of the bloodiest battlefields of the war looked out over the city where our Savior was born.

We heard the first two verses of the song already tonight, but listen to these last three:

  1. How silently, how silently,
    The wondrous gift is given;
    So God imparts to human hearts
    The blessings of His Heaven.
    No ear may hear His coming,
    But in this world of sin,
    Where meek souls will receive Him still,
    The dear Christ enters in.
  2. Where children pure and happy
    Pray to the blessed Child,
    Where misery cries out to Thee,
    Son of the Mother mild;1
    Where Charity stands watching
    And Faith holds wide the door,
    The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
    And Christmas comes once more.
  3. O holy Child of Bethlehem,
    Descend to us, we pray!
    Cast out our sin and enter in,
    Be born in us to-day.
    We hear the Christmas angels,
    The great glad tidings tell;
    O come to us, abide with us,
    Our Lord Emmanuel!

“No ear may hear his coming, but in this dark world of sin, where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.”

Sometimes, the peace that Jesus brings is not an end to the conflict we are facing. Sometimes, the peace that Jesus brings is that He is present with us in the conflict.

Let’s read Matthew 1:18-23:

18 So here, finally, is the story of the birth of Jesus the Anointed[a] (it is quite a remarkable story):

Mary was engaged to marry Joseph, son of David. They hadn’t married. And yet, some time well before their wedding date, Mary learned that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, because he was kind and upstanding and honorable, wanted to spare Mary shame. He did not wish to cause her more embarrassment than necessary.

20 Now when Joseph had decided to act on his instincts, a messenger of the Lord came to him in a dream.

Messenger of the Lord: Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to wed Maryand bring her into your home and family as your wife. She did not sneak off and sleep with someone else—rather, she conceived the baby she now carries through the miraculous wonderworking of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will have a son, and you will name Him Jesus, which means “the Lord saves, because this Jesus is the person who will save all of His people from sin.

24 Joseph woke up from his dream and did exactly what the messenger had told him to do: he married Mary and brought her into his home as his wife25 (though he did not consummate their marriage until after her son was born).And when the baby was born, Joseph named Him Jesus, Savior.

22 Years and years ago, Isaiah, a prophet of Israel, foretold the story of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus:

23     A virgin will conceive and bear a Son,
and His name will be Immanuel.

Can you imagine what Joseph must have been thinking? His fiancé, supposed to be a virgin, comes to him and says she is pregnant. Because Joseph was a good man, he was going to deal with it quietly. He wasn’t going to publicly disgrace Mary. He wasn’t going to stone her to death. But he was going to end their relationship.

Until the angel comes to him. And the angel says this is part of God’s plan. And Joseph willingly submits to the will of God. But understand this: the shame, the public perception, the difficulty did not go away. Joseph still had the same situation when he woke up that he had when he went to sleep the night before.

But now, there was a peace that he had been missing.

RHEANNON

I’m not known for having a lot of peace. If the average amount of peace in an eighth grader is 100 grams, I probably have 6. I’m not even joking; I am the most stressed person I know. I gave myself an illness because of this stress. If we’re gonna be honest, let’s just also talk about how the writer of this song was anti-slavery during the flipping Civil War and he seems to understand peace more than I do.

I also am a very impatient person. I can wait for something I want for maybe, maybe, thirty seconds. I’m not kidding, I am the second worst wait-er I know (the first is sitting in this room and is related to me, but that’s all I’m giving you).

So, of course, Paul over here decided I would be the best one to talk the bulk of the lesson.

Now I’m expected to ramble about those things for a half hour.

Thanks, Paul.

Peace is a hard word to understand simply because it seems like a foreign concept. I stress about school – there’s an algebra final tomorrow, my grades are almost all ending in 9, I didn’t read as much as I would have liked, my science teacher keeps talking about how the Sun could go out at any moment and we wouldn’t know until nine minutes later when we all die –

and family – Jordan’s annoying and I’m not allowed to hit him, I said something sarcastic and it was bad, I don’t want to –

and faith – church is really early in the morning, youth group has become awkward, there are going to be a lot of people, I don’t always feel comfortable being me –

and I stress about myself – the way my stomach sticks out slightly, the way my hair does this weird thing on top, my odd, if not unique, personality, my strange obsession with hugs.

Right at this moment I’m shaking in my boots because my peers are here and it’s a lot harder to be real at this time then it was last week.

One of my favorite lines is, “But in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.” I absolutely adore this line. This verse gives me some of that peace I’ve been missing. I may not be meek, but knowing that close friends of mine can receive Christ makes me feel good. The line encourages me, because in this awful, terrible world, God still comes. He’s going to enter this world, no matter the condition.

I recently read a book about aliens who thought of themselves as angels who came to save the earth from itself by bettering the people they came into contact with. They ended up leaving because humans weren’t ready or something crazy. And this was the world God sent his son into. God still saves, even if people are defiant and resolute – God will come.

Somehow, we still get to experience the Prince of Peace coming into a world where peace is nonexistent and stress is the king. I am part of a community who believe in a Savior so powerful, I can stand here in front of my peers without having a heart attack.

Let’s talk about this waiting thing. Advent is about waiting. Hope for what is to come. Joy for when the waiting is over. Love for…something. Peace for knowing it won’t be forever that we have to wait. Peace for realizing that we have proof that our wait is not everlasting. Oh, yeah – love for having peace!

Anyways, like I said earlier, I’m not a good wait-er. I enjoy knowing. I even, don’t hate me for this fellow readers, I read the last page of the book I’m reading so I can know what happens. And if the last page isn’t enough, I’ll keep reading back until I get to a part that will explain what the ending was. I don’t do this whole, “Wait and be surprised thing.” Oh no, I will know the end.

Yet I love Advent. I enjoy the whole season, I like the messages, I love, love, love the themes. This begs the question, “Why is Rheannon a walking oxymoron?” Well, that’s because I don’t really have to wait for anything. Of course, I’m waiting for Jesus to return, but I’m not flipping out over it, mostly because I know He will come, which as much of an answer as I need. I already know Jesus has come and will return. I don’t have to wait for that, I have an easy time waiting for this particular thing.

Which makes me think, why am I not peaced? Honestly, Jesus coming back to save me should give me all the peace I need (all 100 grams), yet I still worry about anything and everything. I still hyperventilate when I think about this or finals or family disputes. I still cringe thinking about getting feedback after tonight and listening to people tell me, “It was good, but you could have done this…” or “Next time, you might consider….”

I’m sweating just thinking about this.

But I do believe in a Prince of Peace, in the Wonderful counselor, but it’s hard. I’m still learning how to find peace in God, still learning to make my own peace. It’s hard for me to imagine that I’m supposed to give everything up, that I can just let the hard things go.

I can try though.

PAUL

Jesus’ early life was filled with anything but peace. A scandalous pregnancy. Being born at the end of a journey miles from home. A king who wanted to kill him. Becoming a refugee to Egypt. Having to pick a home that seemed to be a safe distance away from people who might want to kill him.

Our world is not one of peace. There are conflicts. There is confusion. There is angry, fear-based rhetoric.

There is the reality of our own lives that we have to face every day. We sing about peace, we long for peace, we love peace, we want peace.

But some days, peace is the furthest thing from our grasp.

Yet Jesus had a father who submitted to God’s will. He had a mother who said, “May it be to me as you have said.”

We live in a dark world filled with hate, but we are people who love the light. Peace does not mean all of our troubles will go away. Advent does not mean that all the troubles of the world are resolved.

Advent means Jesus comes into this dark world to walk with us. Those of you who are hurting: Jesus is here. Those who are homeless: Jesus is here. Those who have tests tomorrow: Jesus is here. Those who are terrified someone might speak to them: Jesus is here. Those who want to drink or drug: Jesus is here. Those who think this life is meaningless: Jesus is here. Those who hate themselves: Jesus is here.

Jesus is here.

RHEANNON

I stand here in front of my peers, panicking in my head, but calm as a cucumber outwardly. I still look forward to learning more Algebra next semester. I’m still excited for school to start in the morning. I will still live my life normally, no matter what the Sun decides to do. I’ll still go home with my parents and brothers and listen to them and roll my eyes at them and love them.

I can talk to my friends because I know at least seven of them have been going “same” after all my stress talk, I can still talk to my Freedom peoples because they’re the greatest and the bestest. I can still talk to my dad because he’s the bomb-diggity and will encourage me. I can still talk to people who came to listen to me because after all my talk about being stressed they probably won’t be mean.

I can do all this, because God is the Prince of Peace, come to defeat the King of Stress.

Amazing Peace

by Maya Angelou

 

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Peace.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.