Tag Archives: peace

Surveying the Terrain: The Way Up Is Down, Pt. 2

In this post I would like to expand the thought process I shared last week. This will be a high-level approach, with not much detail. I hope with this that it will provide an overview that will lead to more in depth exploration and discussion.

The way up is out
The way out is through
The way through is down

Looking out over the Silicon Valley

The way up is out.

Progress. Improvement. Development. Increase.
Not an exhaustive list, but enough to point out that as a species, humans are upwardly focused. This is all good, except when we try to go up with sheer effort. It’s no secret that the greatest gains and largest strides of improvement happen when we think outside of the box or take an outside perspective. To do this involves appreciatively setting aside our accomplishments and trusting the process, even when out looks nothing like up.

The way out is through.

Stepping out is probably the most difficult aspect of this process. It goes against everything in our nature. For the most part, our survival depends on security. Moving outside of our comfort zone challenges the very notion of security. For this very reason, we need to go through this process in order to see security for what it is, what it does, and what it hinders us from doing. Walking through will bring us face to face with our values, passions, commitments, and messages. This will be painful. It may feel like it will never end. Our demons will scream louder than our angels. You may even die to things you never thought we an issue. Just when you think you can’t go through any further, you will find out that you are not alone in this process. The community gained on the journey will make the pain of the process worth every tear.

Looking up at a trail descending to a rocky stream

The way through is down.

We relate the negative with going down, negative thoughts, actions, relationships, and events. The reality, though, is that no one is immune from negativity. The negative provides the opportunity for us to ask questions that can give us a deeper understanding of ourselves, our relationships, and our world. This depth of understanding gives us the foundation to realize a depth of living we never thought possible. Few would say that personal and interpersonal depth is negative or down, rather positive and the source of life’s highlights.

This thought process has come full circle. It gives us a view of the terrain ahead. Having walked through this process a time or two, I don’t wish it upon anyone, but discovering its benefits, I do encourage all who are not willing to settle with whatever the world gives you to embrace this process.

I would appreciate your thoughts.

Grace and peace,

Joining the Procession of Peace

I think the Triumphal Entry is one of my favorite events in the gospel narrative. There is so much going on, so many layers, and so much drama. But, as I was reading it this week, I saw a simple principle nestled in among all the layers. Praise is a pathway to peace.

sunrise through the treesWhen they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Mark 11:7-10, NIV

Regardless of the political environment and expectation surrounding this event, the people acknowledged Jesus as their Messiah, their deliverer, and the one through whom they would experience God’s peace. This caused them to erupt into spontaneous praise.

Praise reveals what our hearts hold true. That sense of fulfillment, even completeness, that fills us as we praise might be the most appropriate definition of God’s shalom (peace). Shalom is wholeness and contentment in God’s presence and providence.

The crowd in this story quickly let their expectation of a warring Messiah rob them of the peace they had tasted when they worshiped Jesus as the Prince of Peace. Even when God betrays our expectations, let’s remember Paul’s encouragement.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28, NIV

Grace and peace,


An Advent Reflection for December 6, 2015, the Second Sunday of Advent

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
(John 14:27, TLB)

frosted leavesJesus shared these words as his life here on earth was drawing to a close. These words also form a book-end with the greeting the angels gave at his birth.

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace,
good will toward men.”
(Luke 2:14, KJV)

As I think of peace this Christmas, I can’t help but seeing the end from the beginning. The angels foretold of the peace that Jesus would bring and the good will that all humanity would enjoy as a result of his life. This peace on earth and good will for humanity did not end when Jesus’ earthly life ended. He gave us the Holy Spirit, God’s Spirit of love and peace, that now lives in us and empower us to be God’s agents of love (good will) and peace in our day to day world.

My prayer is that as we establish our lives on the hope of Emmanuel (God with us) we would discover the peace emanates from that same source, the gift of God’s-self in every moment of our lives.

Grace and peace,

Taken by a Sunrise!

Three days per week I get to drive my daughter, Lydia, to Fremont High School. As the days shorten, the sun is usually rising as we drive. The sunrise is at our backs as we drive to school, but when I head over to my office, the sunrise is right in front of me. It is always a gorgeous way to come to work! Most mornings the sunrise is brilliant oranges and yellows. This morning I was treated to a show of blues, grays, and pastel oranges. The photo doesn’t do it justice. I saw colors I’m not sure I have ever noticed before, particularly a blue that was like a pale robin’s egg blue with hints of aqua. There was also a pale peach color, warm, soft, and reassuring. As you can tell, I was taken by the morning sky!

Taken by a Sunrise!

This sunrise reminded me of a passage I read earlier this week.

Praise the Lord, my soul.
Lord my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
(Psalms 104:1-3, NIV)

Whether we acknowledge it or not, God is amazing! God’s handiwork is magnificent! God provides it for our enjoyment, encouragement, and as a vehicle for our praise. I already touched on the enjoyment piece above. The aspect of encouragement comes from the fact that we can hold these images in our minds as memorials to God’s greatness, faithfulness, and love. Even though we can’t see a sunrise at will, we can remember and gain confidence that the same God that created this glorious sunrise lives within us and through the Holy Spirit reveals Christ to us. We just need to pause, remember, reflect, and allow God’s loving words to settle in our hearts. This is why the Psalmist reminds us to “Praise the Lord, my soul.” Praise opens our awareness to the beauty of God’s creation and the greatness of God’s love, setting us on course to receive the grace made available to us if we, again, pause, remember, and reflect.

Grace and peace,

A Family Marked by Peace

Blessed are the peacemakers...A few months ago, I was at a Day Retreat organized by Josh Pinkston for the Foursquare pastors in our area. The focus of the retreat was prayer and meditation. Only four of us came. As we gathered, we took prayer requests. Then we dispersed to pray. As I looked over the prayer requests, including my own, they all seemed to embody a Beatitude, which provided a beautiful focus for prayer. Oddly enough, I found some blank notecards in my Bible. For each of the prayer requests I wrote down the Beatitude and a sentence or two of affirmation and encouragement. My prayer request was to be an instrument of God’s peace. This is what I wrote for myself.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
(Matthew 5:9, NIV)

“God’s presence is peaceful, but not comfortable. Peacemakers find themselves in places of conflict and by being present, expressing God’s peace, work to establish the kinship of God.”

In my study of the Beatitudes lately, coming to this one brought back a flood of memories from that Day Retreat. The thing that stood out to me the most that day, and still does, is the idea of the kinship of God. This produced a sort of “if – then” formula in my mind. “If peacemakers are called God’s children, then God must be a God of peace.” This equation can also be flipped. “If God is a God of peace, then God’s children must be peacemakers.” This is where I find my heart. I want to be a peacemaker.

“There is no way to peace, peace is the way.” – A. J. Muste

Peacemakers are traditionally defined as, “a person who brings about peace, especially by reconciling adversaries.” I would like to redefine what a peacemaker is as one who creates an environment of peace. Peaceful environments can naturally bring about a resolution to conflict. Otherwise we are left with less than peaceful means by which we try to establish a conflict reduced situation based on contingency and condition. Not exactly peace.

Last weekend, at the VLC Family Camp, getting kids to settle down and go to sleep in the cabin is always a challenge. At one point, our three younger children, who were seriously over tired for a day full of play, all started to melt down. I realized that Autumn and I had become ping-pong balls in the middle of their chaos, so I went over to one end of the room and sat on the floor. A few moments later, Lillian, the youngest, walked over to me sobbing and sat down on my lap. She calmed down and was soon in bed. The tension in the room was deflated, which allowed Autumn to help get the next two kids situated in bed. When we choose to not feed the conflict, the conflict will begin to resolve itself.

One other example that I have come across that demonstrates peace through kinship is Father Gregory Boyle. He is the founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, CA. Their purpose is to “provide hope, training, and support to formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated men and women allowing them to redirect their lives and become contributing members of our community.” The driving philosophy within the organization is “kinship.” Upon entering the Homeboy program, each person begins to understand that the person working next to them are their brother or sister, even if they are formerly from rival gangs. The environment of peace established by Father Greg and his staff empowers this concept of kinship, which translates to changed lives and renewed futures for those who work through this program. Here is a TED talk from Father Greg telling the story of kinship. Make sure you have tissues nearby!

Peace is one of those ideals that humanity strives after for millennia, but striving doesn’t produce peace. Only peace produces peace. Peacemakers don’t make peace; they are peace!

My hope is that people of peace establish environments of peace where the kinship of God can flourish through the act of being peace, a family of peace.

Grace and peace,

Compassionately Bold

golden mushroomI am always amazed how God can speak through simple and familiar stories. I was reading in Mark’s gospel how at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus cast a demon out of a man in the synagogue. (Mark 1:21-28)  It says the Jesus spoke harshly to the demon. I can’t help but believe that it was deep compassion for the man that Jesus chose to silence the unclean spirit. Love makes us do bold things.

While thinking about this passage, I felt God say to me, “Speak harshly to your demons, but kindly to yourself.” It’s not everyday that we are invited to speak into the lives of those around us, but we are well aware of the things that we struggle with personally.

It just might be me, but I often take my struggles personally. Instead of saying “I messed up,” I would say, “I’m a bad person.” This is not what Jesus sees or says. We can act loving to ourselves by being bold against the things that trip us up.

What does this look like? It is a step-by-step, day-at-a-time process. Choosing daily to turn toward Jesus, allowing his presence to give us the boldness to walk forward in the way he is showing us. We may need help in doing this, and that’s ok. Or, we might not. The main point here is to have the compassion for ourselves that Jesus does so that we move boldly toward the freedom that we know is found in Christ. We may just have to speak harshly to our demons.

Grace and peace,

Embracing Peace at Advent

While preparing this week’s newsletter I started singing Christmastime Is Here from A Charlie Brown Christmas. The first verse goes like this:

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year

open handsAs I get older I seem to have become somewhat of a humbug. When I start thinking about the Christmas season a list of negative things immediately forms in my mind. I won’t bother you with the details, but suffice it to say, it’s a lot of mental and emotional work sorting through it all to get down to the good stuff. Sad to say, peace is one of the last things I think of when it comes to Christmas.

As I dig down deeper into the idea of peace, I realize that I’m dealing with a misconception of what peace really is. To quote J. Oswald Sanders, “Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of God.” Sanders is getting at a misunderstanding that peace is primarily circumstantial and dependent upon the lack of conflict. His solution, though, is one of presence. Presence requires openness. In order to receive God’s presence, we need to let go of our need for control and open up to the reality that God’s presence brings companionship and resourcefulness. Saying yes to God means that we are not alone and that solutions to what is stressing us are made available.

Peace is the product of making space. We can make space in time, place, and relationships, and space provides avenues of potential. Making space in our schedule allows us to breathe and connect with God and people and to become agents of peace in the process. Making space in the place we live allows us to be open to relationship and provides a place to be that agent of peace. Making space is our hearts allows us to be open relationally, to be Jesus in our world, loving God by loving others.

So, back to the song “Christmastime Is Here,” peace comes when we make space to experience all the wonder and beauty that surrounds us as we celebrate the birth of Jesus with those who are close to us in proximity and in heart.

“Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.” (Luke 2:14 CEB)

May you experience the favor of God’s peace as you open up to the presence of God and those who come close to you this Christmas season.

Grace and peace,

Embracing Peace from earlier this year.

Embracing Peace

This last Wednesday, August 28, 2013, marked the the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his now iconic “I Have A Dream” speech. For me the most memorable part of the speech is his dream that young children of every color will hold hands and play together. It is a beautiful dream with implications far beyond the issues of racial equality, as important as those are. I would like to apply his dream to the gospel.

This week I read this Twitter post by Jonathan Martin.

“The gospel is so bent towards the outsiders, the very moment we get too secure being gospel insiders we start to resist the gospel itself.” (August 23, 2013)

Martin_Luther_King_-_March_on_WashingtonDr. Martin Luther King, Jr. saw that when the children of different races came together to play, they didn’t see one another as outsiders, but rather together as one. The gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, is a message that God is near. It is a message of relationship and inclusion into the people of God. The Apostle Paul refers to it in Ephesians 6:15 as the “gospel of peace” for which we must be ready to carry with us wherever we go.

We will always be tempted to accentuate our differences to the exclusion of others. May we not resist the gospel in this way, but as agents of the gospel of peace, let’s pursue peace to the inclusion of others, who will then no longer be other.

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

Grace and peace,

A Community of Peace: Week 2 of Christmas Advent 2012

For this year’s Advent series, we will look at the themes of Advent, hope, peace, joy, love, and Christ, through the lens of community. Last week I wrote about hope, this week our topic will be peace.


As I think about peace at Christmas time, I immediately go to the passage in Luke’s gospel where the angels proclaim, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.” (Luke 2:14) But as I was thinking about it, I found myself asking, “What is this peace that Jesus brings?”


I believe that it has less to do with the emotional feeling of being at ease than it is the reality of living in unity with one another. I find in both Mary’s song and Zechariah’s prophecy (Luke 1) that through Messiah’s reign there will be an equalization of people. Everyone will have an equal standing in the kingdom of God, rich and poor, strong and weak. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians picks up this theme.


Christ is our peace. He made both Jews and Gentiles into one group. With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us. He canceled the detailed rules of the Law so that he could create one new person out of the two groups, making peace. He reconciled them both as one body to God by the cross, which ended the hostility to God. (Ephesians 2:14-16)


A community of peace is an open community. One that welcomes in those we don’t know and who may be different than us. And if I have learned anything from Jesus it is that openness requires change. If we allow God to change us then we will be more able to embrace others. I’ve also learned that being a people of peace begins with the relationships closest to us.


I pray we have the grace to give the gift of peace this Christmas.


Grace and peace,