29 March, 2015

The Work of Peacemaking

Cross posted from FortyFaithful.blogspot.com
The call to peacemaking from Matthew 5:9 befuddles me.  Perhaps this is a verse that only applies to those who have the personality or giftedness of peacemaking.  Surely this is one verse that I can discount as "does not apply."  But then I began to think and remember:
Those long days of work and picking up my two elementary age children who were arguing and needing peacemaking well before we found our driveway!  I remember those same two living life as teenagers and the peacemaking that occurred in our house!  Then my memory took me back even further to my parents and our household.  By the time I was in junior high school I was the remaining child in my parents home.  There were disagreements in those days too.  I found peacemaking was easier than "walking on egg shells."  So perhaps I have some experience in this field after all...

But I'm pondering as to whether this call to peacemaking is deeper than the circumstantial situations I've described.  I wanted to know how truly interested Jesus was in peacemaking.  Upon the birth of Jesus it was announced in Luke 2:14: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.  In John 18, when Jesus was about to be arrested, Peter drew his sword and struck a high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear.  Jesus went into peacemaking mode and stopped Peter and commanded him to put his sword away.  Then in Luke at the death of Jesus, He becomes the peace-giver granting favor to the repenting thief on the cross.
At His birth, in His life and in His death Jesus lived peace-making and peace-giving.  So how can I?  How can you? How do I offer peace to the world in which I live.

It seems to me that I can only offer peace when I, myself have accepted God's peace within my own soul.  For you see what I have realized is that in my life I have had many peacemaker roles.
...to my parents
...at work
...to my children: Nick and Sarah
...to my brother/sisters
...in the church

But these roles have mostly focused on simply 'getting through' conflict and NOT resolving or addressing the deeper brokenness of each relationship.  True peacemaking and peace giving are at their core: genuine, difficult and oh, so worth it.  For it is in the difficulty of finding the peace that our own inner peace can be restored.  J. Ellsworth Kalas states it this way, "But how exactly does one make peace?  Nearly all of us claim to want peace...Since peace is so universally admired and presumable so universally sought after, it must not be that easy to achieve, else our human race would have won the goal several millennia ago....Most of us realize that we have conflicts within our own person - angers, resentments, bitterness, and fears."  Let's do the work of peace in our own hearts and lives.  For it only then that we can truly accept Jesus' peace into our own lives and offer peacemaking to the lives of others.

One of Jesus last great lessons occurred just before His crucifixion and is found in John 14:27.  Jesus is speaking to his disciples.....us:
Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts by troubled and do not be afraid.

He's offering us a life of peace, He's offering us healing for our damaged emotions and our damaged selves.  Can we accept His free gift of peace?  And then begin to share peacemaking in our everyday worlds?

I've written a few times about our family's journey into the world of addiction and recovery. In simplest terms this means that as one of our members become addicted so did our lives as well.  A sickness took over our family and each member in it experienced the illness in a different way.  Each of us was hurt, wounded and suffered differently.  And for the last 4.9 years we have chosen to work toward healing.  Each member of the family is working to find recovery.  It has taken many tears, prayers, and so much honesty that my heart has ached at times.  We have found that the only true peace, and therefore our ability to offer peacemaking, has come from the most hurtful but brutal honesty with each other.  For once those old places of woundedness were touched...the healing peace was able to come in.

This peace business is not for the light-hearted.  It is not for those who would prefer to keep their honest feelings hidden.  But it is for those actively seeking peace and seeking to become peacemakers.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9

Be brave.  Be a peacemaker today.  Be a peace giver.

15 March, 2015

Lord Have Mercy

Being a southern girl, the term, "Lord have mercy" has been in my vocabulary since the day I was born.  Every time I hear it there is a southern drawl attached and quite possible the slow shake of one's head.  It seems to be a grandma's favorite expression.  And perhaps it's akin to "Bless his heart". Both of these expressions come from deep wells of emotion where exact words seem incomplete.  Lord have mercy.....Bless his heart. And so I begin ponder Jesus' words in Matthew 5:7
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."

I've struggled with this word, mercy, for a week.  Reading and reading and trying to get my mind around it.  Jesus is instructing us to be merciful, to show mercy and that I understand, sort of.  But my dilemma is the how.  How do I live a life offering mercy.  Webster helped a bit, mercy is defined as:
lenient or compassionate treatment; compassion shown especially to an offender.  This definition helps me societally, politically and educationally in application.  But Jesus' call to us in this verse from the Bible goes much further.  It states for us to show mercy so that we receive mercy and this is where the truth gets real.  These words not only tell me to show great mercy to others but they also scream that we are in need of mercy....we need and will need "compassion shown to an offender".

As I explored the mercy word all week, one of my exercises was to search the Bible for this one word.  Over one hundred verses appeared but what struck me were several New Testament verses.
  • As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”Matthew 9:27 
  • A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”Matthew 15:22  
  • “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water.Matthew 17:15  
  • Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”Matthew 20:30 
  • The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”Matthew 20:31  
And then one final verse from Matthew:
  • “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." Matthew 23:23 
The first group of these verses all reflect people in deep, deep need.  They each have cried out to Jesus after having exhausted all other means of healing or hope in their lives.  They are blind, they are suffering, they are sick both physically and mentally.  The two blind men sitting by the roadside when hearing that Jesus was going by begin shouting to Him for mercy.  And even as the crowd told them to shut-up and stop screaming for Him, they screamed all the louder....have mercy on us.  These people knew their condition.  These people knew their inability to help themselves.  No self-help book was going to ease the pain they were suffering.  No education, no job, no relationship, no church membership, no sporting event, no bank account, no country club membership, no political party, no career....they needed mercy and only mercy for their conditions were broken and bleak.

A few chapters later, Jesus uses the word mercy to a group of very knowledgeable, smart and Godly men.  These teachers of the law had given their lives to knowing God and His scriptures but yet they seemed to have missed the point.  It seems that they were relying on knowledge alone.  And He asks, where is your mercy?  Do you know you need mercy?

I've asked myself and I'm asking you today: which group are you?  Are you the blind beggar screaming out for mercy? Do you realize your own brokenness and need for mercy? Or are you standing in your church pew having missed the point?

Honestly and ashamedly, I've tended to live my life as though, "I'm doing OK".  I've been able to work out my problems and worries...or so I have thought.  But yet, there was a day that I can remember screaming for God's mercy.  When we come to the end of ourselves and recognize our true need we scream and beg for mercy only He can give.  Several years ago, while in a prayer time I suddenly found myself on my knees and then flat on my face.  Begging and screaming for God to have mercy on me and on my son.  Shouting out for God to take me, take my daughter, take my husband but please have mercy on my son.  My precious son who was caught in addiction and pain.  Our family was broken and past the point of no return...I knew not much else that day but I knew of my condition and my great need for healing and mercy.  And then, He stopped and looked at me and gave me blessed mercy.

 Lord, have mercy.  Lord, teach me mercy.

01 March, 2015

Meek? It's not my MyersBriggs!

Cross post from forty faithful.blogspot.com

In the final semester before my graduation from college, I can vividly remember creating a resume and preparing for job interviews.  Two questions stand out in my mind: What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?  It was those two answers that would determine my job opportunities or so I thought.  Then a few years later, in my second career move, my employer provided a staff opportunity to learn about our personalities.  The Myers-Briggs was administered and we each 'found' ourselves and our strengths and weaknesses.  Suddenly, I was able to explain my quirks and personality style (or at least some of my quirks!).

Over the years, Matthew 5 has often been that type of reading for me - a personality checklist.  I would read the verses to find myself.  And to further honesty, I'll admit to skipping verses that didn't apply to me because they were simply "not my personality."  So today we come to Matthew 5:5 - Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

My teachers from days of old, my parents, my brother and sisters, my friends from all days of my life have affirmed to me that I am not meek!!!  So how can this verse be a call to me?  How can I live this verse in my life?  And how in the world does any of this discussion have to do with the 40 days before Easter? What does meek even mean?

To determine the true definition of meek I investigated the original Greek word used in this verse.  The Greek word is Praus and conveys the idea of tenderness and graciousness, and can be accurately translated “meekness” and “meek”. But unlike those English words, the Greek terms do not connote weakness but rather power under control. The adjective praus was often used of a wild horse that was broken and made useful to its owner. 

Now this definition takes hold of me.  A wild horse that was broken and made useful to its owner...I can see myself as wild, strong-willed, undisciplined, fiery, full of life and wanting to be useful.  So the meek let the Father take control of their powerful natures, they let Him break them for their own good and for His usefulness, love and guidance.  The word 'meek' is indeed beautiful and powerful.

When did Jesus show such meekness? One Bible commentary sums up like this:
He displayed it [meekness] in two ways, both of which showed his power. In respect to his own person, he practiced neither retaliation nor vindictiveness. When he was mocked and spat upon, he answered nothing, for he trusted his Father. As we have noted, when he was confronted by Pilate, he kept silent. When his friends betrayed him and fled, he uttered no reproach. When Peter denied him, Jesus restored him to fellowship and service. When Judas came and kissed him in Gethsemane, Jesus called him "friend." And Jesus meant it. He was never insincere. Even in the throes of death, he pleaded, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing"(Luke 23:34). In all of this Jesus, meek and mild, was in control. He radiated power.
These are such strong examples of Jesus' meekness especially considering that they all occurred within the span of a week and are so very emotionally charged.  He practiced neither retaliation or vindictiveness - have I? Have you?  When his friends disappeared - he loved them.  Do I?  Even in a painful death He forgave and blessed those around Him.  Remember, “meekness” is not weakness but rather power under control.  God's power was fully revealed three days later.

Our world encourages us to be brash, at-the-front-of-the-line, speak up, demand what is rightfully yours, go after your dream - regardless of what it takes to get it, get your name out, let people see you, etc, etc.  But our goal is different for we have chosen to take the Jesus-like personality test.  Perhaps these Beatitudes are indeed the Bible's version of a Myers-Briggs personality assessment.  It is these characteristics that should define us and finally complete us and make us whole.  Our race is not to get ahead in this world but to inherit the next world...

"Father, I pray that I can stop trying to wrap the words of the Bible around me and instead insert me and my brokenness into the Word.  How often I miss the blessing You offer by simply living as though the verses don't apply to me or that they are not part of my personality.  Please Lord, mold me into your Word.  Stop my mind and intellect from trusting the world's opinion over You.  Open me up to understand the meekness and bridled power You call me to today."

In these 40 days leading up to Easter lets ask ourselves the following questions:
1.  When has meekness been evident in my life?
2.  How am I doing with this now?  Is this trait found in my life today?
3.  How do I make this more a part of my life in the future?

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