Passing the Peace

Passing the Peace

Yesterday in our community group at church we lit the second candle for Advent, the peace candle. Mark and I shared some thoughts about peace and the group entered into discussion. It didn't take long until the word forgiveness was spoken as something that keeps us from experiencing peace. 

I shared something I'd written awhile back, about my own journey with peace.

It seems to me we are divided over more than unites us. I find myself wondering who needs to be heard, what stories have been stiffled, silenced and ignored that have brought us collectively as  "the church" to where we are today. 

We disagree and "unfriend" one another due to hot words spoken about race, gun control, the lgbtq community, refugees and immigrants. I feel torn inside as I read it all and then decide to sign off social media, only to return because I believe something more is possible and withdrawing feels like resigning in hopelessness.

The word that returns to me again and again in the midst of the turmoil that marks the larger narrative of our days is peace. It seems so obvious, and almost cliche to speak that we need it.

Truth is often obvious, simple and sitting right in front of us. The devious and destructive nature of evil in our world is that it so often takes truth twists and distorts it some and we lose sight of it.

My need for peace became profound a few years ago when circumstances in my life left me starving, grasping and pleading for it. On Sunday mornings our pastor would conclude the service, "Peace be with you." and in unison we would say, "And also with you." I felt the lump in my throat and the angst in my heart as I stood amidst people acutely aware that peace was eluding me and others around me. I became obsessed with figuring out how to make peace, facilitate peace and talk about peace in my relationships, while also praying for God to provide it. For me this is my sin, my addiction, the driving force within me that is tied to my fear of being controlled by someone or something that will betray me.

Recovery from addiction is painful, often requiring the intervention of a loved one.

I am very loved by God.


So ironic at some level that my addiction would be surfaced in the context of being unable to control a peace process for myself and a team of people I loved.

When I ran out of ways to try and make peace happen I was left to sit with my heart and wonder about what it meant for the peace of Christ "to be with me, and also with you."

I cannot offer what I do not have.

My intervention, staged by God himself, came with so many circumstances reeling beyond my control that friends sat nearby tearful and speechless because it defied explanation. 

My personal experience in some ways parallels what I see on a grander scale today. Madness. Mass shootings, terrorism, racism rally's, rejection and judgement of brothers and sisters in Christ, venomous spewings from one side of the church being hurled at the other.

As people are objectified and vilified we no longer have to hold their humanity or our own. The distance we create keeps us feeling powerful, barricaded and without a need for Jesus or the peace He purchased for us.

The peace of Christ is mine because of the work of Christ on the cross. I had to sit and wonder for myself what was it was that kept me from experiencing that peace. In His wisdom I believe God forced my hand and left me with only Jesus to provide the peace that hurt, brokenness, loss and betrayal had left me feeling. And, in doing so I found that peace was no longer tied to my circumstances.

The fuel for division and destruction is fear, distrust, and a loss of control. We resist the true surrendering of our hearts because we fear what will happen and mistrust those we perceive to have power and therein we refuse, grasping tightly any shreds of control we believe we have.

Peace be with you is a common greeting found in the New Testament and in making it part of our practice today we engage in training our hearts and minds to practice peace, if we take it to heart and don't speak the words lightly. 

Truly passing the peace means I look into your face and eyes an consider that the cross of Christ is between us and from there we can be at peace.

It is about the cross being enough.

What would it mean if we personally engage our own hearts and put the cross between us? What could we confess? What could we forgive? Would we experience that Jesus is indeed enough and through Him we can be mutually be at peace?

We passed the peace in our group at church yesterday morning, holding a prayer candle and feeling the light and warmth from it, one by one we looked into each others eyes and spoke the words,

"Peace be with you."

"And also with you."




A Scandalous Yes

A Scandalous Yes

The sound of rain drops hitting the darkened window next to me were the first signs of life outside of myself this morning. Overnight the weather turned, from 83 degrees and mostly sunny yesterday to an expected high of only 57 degrees today and a rainy start.

How quickly things can change.

I spent a little time this morning thinking about Mary and how quickly things changed for her, how a conversation with an angel completely disrupted and altered the path she was on and where she was heading.

Can you imagine the changes for her?

Can you imagine the conversations held behind her back?

Can you imagine the ones she had with her close friends, with her parents, with Joseph?

Can you imagine the losses, the people no longer interested in her or being in relationship with her?

Can you imagine how it felt to know people thought she was lying.

Can you imagine how it felt to be a disappointment?

Can you imagine?

Mary became a scandalous woman, really a scandalous young girl.

Scandalous and following God all at the same time.

I can imagine some of what it might have felt like for Mary, but only if I sit long enough to remember and feel where the context of my own story has left me feeling those things.

And, I suspect she never, ever was free from that story. It shaped her and changed her and the community she was from never forgot. She lived the rest of her life with the lingering scent of scandal, suspicion and rejection.

And, she had the most amazing experience of intimacy with God. 

The words remembered and recorded in scripture as hers in Luke 1

 “My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation."

Today I can feel the invitation to chose to lean into deepening intimacy with God, remembering that He has done great things for me. That if a young girl can chose to turn her face towards Him and say "Yes" to His call then I can do the same. If she could hold her face in the presence of accusations, disappointment, rejection and being misunderstood so can I.

If following God and being considered scandalous is the invitation then my answer is yes. 



Staying Woke

Staying Woke

The words came in a text from one of my older three children as part of their update for me on a political rally they attended where the police were called. The story being given by the media was not reflective of the actual happenings...#fakenews #staywoke.

The Urban Dictionary says the term "stay woke" is derived from "staying awake" it means to "keep yourself informed of the storm going on around you in times of turmoil and conflict."

Advent is about staying woke and it is not comfortable in many ways. 

Yesterday in the Sunday morning class my husband teaches at church we asked the question, "How many of you dread or hate the Christmas season?" and multiple hands went up in the room. When asked why we heard that December, Advent, brings with it memories of loss, pain and emptiness running alongside demands, busyness and expectations. 

I believe the Christmas season shines a light on the realties of what we hold in our hearts and carry in our bodies all year long. During the rest of the year we may be more easily able to avoid the feelings of loss, pain and emptiness. At Christmastime we have to work much harder to shut those feelings down because the music, the decorations and familiar traditions  all seem to stir up what we often prefer to keep quiet.

Christmas pokes at us to wake up and to "stay woke" to our actual lives.

When I stay woke what I find is that my heart is more aware of the ache inside to what simply defines Advent, "Come Lord Jesus."

Come...into my sadness, into my loss, into my hungry heart. Come to my table, to my family to my church.


Come Lord Jesus to the fearful places stirred by the threat of nuclear war with North Korea, to the ravaged halls of the public and private sector where the reality of sexual abuse and harassment screams loudly, come to our social media feeds drowning in division and discouragement. Come to the millions of people exploited by human trafficking. Come to the women daily being harmed by gender based violence, Come to the Rohenga who have no place to call home.


Stay woke friends.

Advent is here and the invitation is sacred to engage with Jesus from the depths of your heart and in doing so enter into the reality around us in our world that is so desperately needs the hope and love only the gospel can deliver.

And then remember that you are the message bearer, living and breathing and sharing the good news in every encounter you have today.

Present for Advent

Present for Advent

Presence started at midnight last night for me. Laying awake in the dark, despite having slowly sipped my peppermint tea and read a bit before bed as is my usual sleep time ritual. Awake and aware, at midnight and again at 2am and again at 4am, finally I gave in at 5am accepting that I was not going to enter Advent asleep this year.

Today it feels as if everything inside of me is awake to my surroundings, the music at the coffee shop reminding me that I grew up in the 80's as Michael Jackson's "Thriller" filled the space with sounds very "un-Christmaslike". The voices around me including the teenage girls giggling as they instagram their selfies, leaving me to wonder why they weren't in class somewhere.

The hustle and bustle inside my head is begging some space. I can feel it.

Advent, latin for "coming" or "arrival" technically begins on Sunday December 3 when we will light the first candle. For me, it begins December 1 as my heart and thoughts begin to anticipate Christmas Day.

I am choosing to hold today, and its very early beginning just after midnight for me, as a gift...likely the first gift of Christmas.

I do not want to live into the hustle and bustle that will slowly invite me to numb and escape ultimately offering less that my fully present self to the next 25 days.

Advent begins for me with thought, purpose and intentionality.


I moved outside to escape the noise and distraction of the hustling Starbucks. I pulled out my journal and spent some time remembering and reflecting.

As day one unfolds the pattern of choosing to quiet my heart and mind, entering my day aware that it is a gift and filled with choices that either leave me living wholeheartedly or simply moving unaware and numb or distracted and tense seems a good way to start.

"What we learn in Advent is to stay in the present, knowing that only the present well lived can possibly lead us to the fullness of life."                  Joan Chillister "The Liturgical Year"