Today I Saw God

Carry with You Peace and Hope

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At first glance it's easy to see that Paul is a senior citizen, maybe a senior, senior citizen even. He has a cane, hands that are gnarled, and what hair he has is snow white. All of this is taken in at a glance as you walk up to the information desk at Reston Hospital, but then, just as you lean on the counter to ask your question, you look into his eyes. Paul's eyes twinkle – really twinkle – and they look into yours with joyful expectancy, as if he can't wait to answer your question.

This particular day I needed room information about a person in the ICU. It turned out to be rather complicated. Paul and I spent about fifteen minutes together during which time he made multiple phone calls on my behalf, all the while assuring me we would find the information I desired. The entire time he was kind, calm and helpful. As I told him goodbye and began to thank him for his help he stopped me and said, "It is I who was privileged to help you. Go visit your friend and I pray that you carry with you peace and hope."

Wow. As I walked toward the ICU I reflected on his words, peace and hope. What would it mean to live remembering that I carry with me peace and hope? Sometimes it is natural in life to pick up fear and anxiety; they are the by-products of a broken world. But what if when we encountered situations that naturally lead to anxiousness we remembered we have a generous supply of peace and hope? My new friend Paul reminded me that even in the most difficult of times we are not without the ability to find hope and peace and that the words found in the letter to the Philippians are true, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Paul was a special servant to me this week and I am so grateful for his reminder that carry with me the peace of Christ wherever I go.

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Sermon Response: What is so Compelling About Twilight? ~ by Wendy LeBolt

Who in the world would title a sermon "Experience Peace" in the middle of the Christmas Holiday season? I mean shopping and baking and decorating and entertaining guests…well, you get my drift. I think Tom Berlin must have a different sort of peace in mind.

I have a confession to make. Just to buck the whole rush around business I ducked into a movie theater last week. Took myself to the last Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn, part 2. No academy award winning acting there, but I love a great story. I felt a bit guilty taking a couple hours off when there was so much to do, but you don't notice this in a darkened theater where great characters' stories compel you. Time is suspended.

Many adults I know say What is the attraction for young people in all these vampires and werewolves? Aren't they dark and evil and bloodthirsty? And this saga comes on the heels of the popularity of Harry Potter, whereonly magic and sorcery can overcome theforces of darkness. What is it that attracts so many, and not just young people? I'd say, part of it is the supernatural. I think we're drawn to the question of body and soul, of temporal and eternal, of life and death and the what's next. It's a struggle we try to resolve in our seeking of peace.

An interesting twist in Breaking Dawn is (Spoiler alert: if you are still intending to see it, stop reading now.) the "imprinting" of Jacob, the werewolf on Renesmee, the half human, half eternalchild. He has been drawn to her even before she was born and cannot be pried from her as she grows. He is pledged to love and protect her, and it's not something he has chosen. It seems to have chosen him.

Tom might not be pleased to know that this came to my mind as he spoke yesterday of our imprinting bytheGlory of God. Marked with indelible marker, embossed even, God's hand print, individually on each of us.

All of a sudden I am wondering whether those two movie hours really were "wasted" time. After all, the movie reaches itsheightin the showdown where "witnesses" have been gathered to testify to the truth that this half human-half eternal child is not to be feared but to be embraced. That instead of a threat to the known order, she may be its invitation to a future of peace, where all people are welcomed. The climactic moment hinges on Alice, a character gifted to be able to reach out to the forces of darkness, and she does so by showing them a certain future, unless by their free will they change their intended course.

Does that sound like fiction to you? Does it sound like a story you know? Perhaps the Christmas story? God's story? Millions have read the Twilight trilogy and are coming in droves to see it portrayed. Is it really so remarkable that they're drawn to it?

All is resolved and the final scene is played in a peaceful meadow, a symbolic location through out the saga as it ends in "forever." The title word "Twilight" appears on the screen.

I see something in it I have never noticed before. There is aback lighting, almost a dripping of light, from a cross through the first and the last "t." And onethroughthe "l" which seems to dip its head.

I guess we all see something different in the stories that compel us. Even when we sneak away for a couple hours on a busy Friday before Christmas. Perhaps there was more peace there than I realized.

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What is Peace?

"What is peace?" That was one of the questions asked in the video Monday night at Evening in December. It made me think, how would I describe peace? I turned to the dictionary online for an official definition. It said, "cessation of or freedom from any strife or dissention." Almost, I thought, but there's something missing in that definition. Then I went for the old-fashioned approach and pulled out my big ol' Webster's Dictionary. It said, "freedom of the mind from annoyance or distraction; state or condition characterized by tranquility; silence, stillness." Those are a bit closer to how I would define peace but there is still more to peace than what these definitions describe.

When I think of peace I think of "the peace that passes all understanding." I think of the remarkable calm I feel when I have laid my worries at God's feet and, like an eraser on a chalkboard, God wipes all my anxieties, fears, worries and dis-ease away. And once it's gone, it never returns. No matter how hard I try to bring those feelings back they really are gone forever. It's a feeling of freedom and it's hard to define.

I did a search on the word "peace" in the Bible and found that it occurs 249 times in the NIV Translation of the Bible. I found the word peace in some very familiar scriptures like John 16:32-33 where Jesus says, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" and in Philippians 4:6 -8 where we are told of the "thepeaceofGod, which transcends all understanding" that "will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus". So it seems that peace, the peace of God really, is a state of tranquility and calm where the worries of the world are overcome by a deep, deep assurance of an everlasting love.

But where does peace come from? In that same video, people were asked that question and almost every person who answered that question said, "from within." I had an uneasy feel as they continued to answer. I kept thinking "that's not quite it." While peace is something we feel, it does not originate in us. It wasn't until the very end that a gentleman truly articulated where peace comes from. He quoted John 14:26-28, "PeaceIleavewithyou;mypeaceIgiveyou.Ido not give toyouas the world gives. Do not letyour hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." Peace indeed comes from Christ. In fact Isaiah tells us that the Prince of Peace was born on Christmas Eve: "And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, MightyGod, Everlasting Father, PrinceofPeace." (Isaiah 9:5-7)

So, what I believe is that to have real peace, a peace that passes all understanding, I must first look to and follow Christ. I latch on to the promise that I will find it when I seek it with all my heart. I know that if I focus on finding moments of tranquility where it is just God and me, God will meet me there. If this Christmas, you are like me, and you are searching for peace, I hope you will find it in some still quiet moments with our Lord and Savior. Take some time whether it is in the morning, in the middle of the day or as you lay your head to rest, and slow down enough to consider the gift of Christ. I pray that this Advent Season will be a time when the God of hope fills you with all joy and peace as you trust in him to give you more than you ever could ask or imagine.

Peace be with you!

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Enjoying the Peace of Advent by Barbara Miner

When I was a little girl my parents had a decoration that looked like the one to the left. I loved it when it was time to get out the angels. Sometimes my mom would let me light the candles after dinner. They sat on the dining room table and I would sit and watch the magic of the angels spinning around as the heat from the candles rose. As they spun they made little chiming sounds. Sometimes I would sit there until the candles burned down, watching the light, the spinning angels and listening to the chimes. What I did not realize then was why I enjoyed it so much. I was enjoying a time of peace; supper was over, the rest of my family was occupied with other things, and I could just sit and enjoy a simple pleasure.

Today when I find myself feeling overwhelmed at all of the things I need to 'do', especially in this time of Advent, I close my eyes and remember that quiet, peaceful time when all I had to do was watch the angels spin and sing. I remember the joy of gazing into the light of those candles and just being and I remind myself that it's still possible. All I need to do is slow down and focus on the light of the season.

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