Peace be Upon You

Oh, my dear beloveds… will you humour me in a little exercise? Take a big deep breath in through your nose and fill up your lungs to the deepest capacity … now let it all out in a big ol’ sigh. I don’t know about you, but I needed that after the last few hours. The weather outside has been “frightful” here in the last day or so, and old man winter is certainly making his presence known in our neck of the woods. Normally, I don’t mind too much… but last night both my hubby and my eldest son were out driving in it. Late, after dark, alone. And as much as my dearests tell me not to fret, the all-season, I repeat, not-official-snow-tired-car with ABS brakes make me nervous to drive in … for fear I am the only woman driver on the road who will find the obscure patch of black ice and go crashing into a telephone pole. Or worse still, a rambunctious reindeer who recently escaped from a small town Christmas parade finds my son on his way home in said unsafe car…

Anyway, you get the picture. I worry a bit about bad weather. I worry a lot about driving in it. I think I am getting old. Grandma genes are starting to settle in. And there is nothing like a taste of old lady frailty (read anxiety) to rob you of that peace within. I know you know what I am talking about. Seems fitting that this second week of advent is “peace” week. A gentle reminder to me to attempt to bring my heart back to that state of peace. Especially as we anticipate the nativity scene… all babies wrapped in swaddling clothes, quietly sleeping amongst the barnyard animals. (All the moms out there recognize that this, too, is far from a realistic scenario… barn animals, people… and what newborn isn’t screaming for food in the middle of the night?) but the story of Jesus’ birth brings our focus to a unique place: Bethlehem.

Let’s look at it a little shall we? I did a little digging and here are some”fun facts” I dug up about “Bethlehem, in the land of Judah”. In Hebrew, it is called “Beit Lechem” which roughly translates as the “House of Bread”. Perfect for Christmas holidays, I’d say. Warm toast brings me peace! Bethlehem is home to approximately 25 000 people… both Christian and Muslim. Interestingly, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in the U.S. is home to 800 000 Americans… who probably see just as many tourists!

The proposed “exact spot” where Jesus was born is marked by a silver star, that leads to an underground grotto or cave. Of course, the surrounding area is the tourist mecca for those seeking Christian history. With a large market for trinkets and a chance to profit from the bus tours. Maybe as much as Bethlehem, PA. I’m guessing either would be a cool place to visit… (dreamily look off into the distance… House of Bread… Amish baked goods…) Still, the Middle East has been far from a “symbol of peace” in recent years. Or the U.S.A, for that matter. Which brings us back full circle.

As you continue on in your Advent journey of faith, may you be prompted with thoughts of peace this week from the only One who gives true peace. And may your anxieties be comforted … even as you drive along the icy roads of life.

Photo: wiirocku Tumbler

Seasons of Change

Perhaps there isn’t enough snow on the ground to be discussing changes in season. Perhaps I’ve jumped the gun in talking about something that hasn’t yet happened. Especially since the weather was so warm today. Still, for some reason, this is what’s been on my mind. And I’d like to think that what I share here is beyond me and serves its purpose on a bigger scale, so I am going with it. Perhaps it’s a mood swing and I’m just self-talking at this point… dragging you all down with me. Maybe it’s the surroundings. The walls are closing in. There is a tree just outside my front window that is totally void of leaves already. A blank canvas preparing for a dark winter. Last week we chatted about the harvest and the busyness of that time… and the joys that went along with reaping. And then comes winter. In Canada, we are blessed (or cursed?) to enjoy four, very distinct seasons. We understand (and are often teased about) our endless winters. Still, how can one appreciate the warmth of summer if you haven’t felt the bitter cold of winter?

Photo by Simon Berger on Pexels.com

I’m sure many of you have heard of this thing called SAD that people often suffer from during the onslaught of winter. SAD or “Seasonal Affective Disorder” causes about 14% of the general population to feel slightly depressed, isolated, fatigued during a seasonal change. The symptoms can be more serious, but most of us feel those “winter blues” when we are tucked up inside. I suspect with COVID the feelings of isolation and fatigue have been compounded in recent months. I’ve felt it too. Sadness (and I’m talking about the emotion here) is a God-given feeling. We don’t want to think of it that way — I mean, why would God want us to feel sad? And yet, Jesus himself wept for others, felt lonely and discouraged. It’s like experiencing the summer without the winter again. We must go through the seasons of life to truly appreciate “the other side”. Do you agree with me, here? Or maybe it’s just me and the mood I’ve been in this weekend. Maybe ya’ll are experiencing a joyous season right now and you are regretting diving into this post. Sorry if I’ve brought you down.

Are you ready to face it? Photo by kristen leigh on Unsplash

Okay, maybe I’m not sorry for leading you down this lonely path. The Bible talks a lot about seasons. Metaphors for not only in sharing the gospel but for spiritual growth. I’m sure many of you will quote Ecclesiastes back to me at this juncture in our discussion… for there is a “time for everything” and a “time for every season under the sun”. And you would be right. You know I love a good learning curve in this journey of life… and I truly think God gives us one every now and then to keep us moving forward. Growth only happens when seasons change. The “dead” of winter is the waiting period where everything slows down before the big growth spurt of spring. That tree outside my window seems bleak right now, but it’s working on the energy it will need to burst forth with blossoms come April. I’ve been around the moon enough to know this. You have to.

I heard a quote that made me think a bit. I don’t know who said it, but it’s pretty deep:

“Sometimes God doesn’t change your situation because He’s trying to change your heart.”

Unknown

Part of me doesn’t like it. I’m stubborn and don’t want to have my heart changed. I don’t like to think about what could be. Unless it’s good for me. Or easy for me. But. Seasons change. Winter will soon be here and there is not much I can do about it but drag out the heavy boots and coats and embrace the wind. Face the ice and snow head-on and dream of warmer days to come. Will you join me and strap on the winter tires as we trek down the road together? Until next week, my friends!

You are “Here”

Welcome back to another week of the weird way I think. Can I start by saying I appreciate you reading my quirky little posts? It helps to know that someone, somewhere, thought about the same things I think about and took time to comment. It gets noted in my heart. Today is a rainy, chilly day in the depths of October. The weekend, though, was beautiful — and we reveled in the warmth of a delightful fall Saturday and Sunday! Guess life is about balances, eh? We met friends (yeah for meeting friends again!!) and found a new walking trail to explore with the dog. Which is where I start my muse for this week. Have you ever been to a new location and about to start out on a journey and you consult the official map board posted at the entrance? They have them in the mall, provincial parks, large buildings, amusement parks… those signs that say this trail is 45 minutes long and loops around the pond, or your favourite shoe store is next to the donut shop on floor 2, or the five public washrooms are located here, here, here and here and here, but there is only one that is family friendly, and it’s back at the entrance….

One thing that all those map signs have in common is the “you are HERE” spot. That red dot or arrow indicating the location you are standing at right now. The central location you currently understand — and the spot in which you navigate the rest of your journey from. That little dot is your orientation. It’s your point of beginning. It’s also sometimes your final destination! The goal you want to get back to after the day of exploring. And so I began to muse… where is “here” in life? Where are you “at” right now, compared to the big map board of your journey? Big questions. Perhaps big answers.

My searching didn’t help much in answering the big questions of life. I did find a little tidbit of random information, though, about the “@” symbol…. commonly called “at” in modern day computer language… originally penned by medieval monks, the symbol became standard in commerce in the 1800’s to mean “at the rate of”. It wasn’t until 1971 that a computer scientist named Ray Tomlinson needed a way to connect his computer programmers to one another…and “randomly” chose the obscure symbol on his typewriter. The rest is email history, as they say! Bloggers will tell you it’s where they are “@”. Okay. Moving on.

Let’s go back to where we are at. The “we are here” dot. Are you happy where you are? I think about this a lot. I like to set goals, but I find I rarely meet them. Am I content? There’s a big theological discussion waiting to happen.

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”

Philippians 4:11

What did Paul mean when he says that he has learned to be content? Was he financially secure with investments to keep him happy well into retirement? Or was he simply sharing thanks for the gifts the Philippians sent him? Does it mean we can’t ask for more? Should we be striving for more? The verses before remind us to “present your requests to God” and “think on things that are noble and true”. I don’t know. I am HERE. On this dot. Yes, I can be content here, with God’s help and blessing. Perhaps this is where He wants me to be for now, in order to serve a greater purpose in His plan that I don’t know about. I’ve been thinking about Hannah — who wanted a son so bad it ached. Was it wrong for her to pour her heart out to God in prayer? Was it her faith that God would answer her prayers that led to Samuel’s birth? Should she have been content to be greatly loved by her husband and not need more? Her husband thought so.

As usual, I don’t have all the answers to such questions. I struggle with them too. Yet, I think it is important to take note of the “you are here” dot in life. To look at the big board and figure out if you can go around the pond and still make it back to the “you are here” dot in time for lunch. Or should you wait here and not go to the donut store on floor 2? Are you looking at the map, my friend? Are you staring at the possibilities with excitement? Or are you learning to be content “@” home base? Where people know where to reach you. It’s all part of the journey, and worth the muse.