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This is a tough one.  From my local community to book club meetings, I hear people talking about wanting peace, wanting things to be better.  Then in the next breath they want to put someone “in their place.”

Peace.  It has to be more than a buzz word.  And it has to be for everyone in every place.

A friend is going through a divorce, and I felt for her right away. I’ve been through it, and it’s not easy. I’ve thought about what to say to encourage her, and decided that it wouldn’t help to go into detail about my own saga. It boils down to one thing.

If it didn’t stay, it wasn’t a blessing.

Better days are ahead instead.

A man can leave, taking away the blessing of an intact family.

But my son is a blessing that stayed. My dog (God rest) was a blessing that stayed. My humble/wonderful house is a blessing that stayed. Even my car (despite five recalls, still running – knock wood) is a blessing that stayed.

There’s something else that happens when you go through dark nights of the soul. Once you get to the other side, you really appreciate the good things and kindred spirits that stayed in your life. And you find that those hardships helped you earn your stripes in the boot camp of life.

Peace of mind is a blessing I earned. A positive attitude is a blessing I earned. This unwavering laser focus on what’s beautiful, uplifting, encouraging, magnificent, fantabulous in life. It’s all good. All the time.

I didn’t have it in those tumultuous times during a stormy marriage, or a job that sucked the life out of me, or situations that weren’t good for me.

In days past, I didn’t fully appreciate the simple blessings in life, like a beautiful sunrise. A peaceful home. Food on the table. Restful sleep. Friends you can count on. A cat on the couch.

Take the “no” out of nostalgia and put the “yes” in yesterday. If it brings you down to think of the pain of the past, put it behind you. Let it go. Move forward. Trust that God knows what He’s doing.

There are things that happen in a lifetime, but a good life is built on the good in life.

And no matter that the storms may come. Remind yourself: you don’t live under a dark cloud. You live under the silver lining.

If peace is a place, where is it?
Do you know it when you find it,
like the Northwest Passage
or the Cape of Good Hope?
Can it be detected only in solitude,
or can others come along?
Do you know it only from the absence
of its opposite? Does peace scream
“Here I am!”?
Does it steal upon you in moments,
like a hummingbird buzzing against your palm,
or does it descend in a wash, like rain?
Can you live there?
Has anyone ever known it,
known it like the scar on the heel
of their hand, like a song sung by heart?
Is it blue (a color that isn’t really there),
like calm seas; does it live in winter,
cracking and thawing like birthed icebergs?
Will I ever find it? — Is it just outside
the reach of my hand or
hovering above my head?
Or will I only see it, minutes before I go,
like a mole I always had but never noticed?
Or is it a destination?

nitish-meena-37745The little boy was three-years-old, and, apparently, his job was to examine all the minutiae of life very carefully, like a pint-sized forensic scientist  – gum wrapper on floor, display of succotash by the register, even his own shoelaces. It came as no surprise that he’d meander very slowly, like a sloth on a speed bump, out the door of the grocery store.

We were stacked up behind him and his adoring mother with our carts, our own kids in tow, but we were patient. He looked around, he lingered, he investigated. All the while his mother looked at him adoringly, as if he had invented time itself. “Isn’t he something?” she asked the lady waiting behind her, who nodded graciously.

When you love someone, you find a way to overlook their faults. It never occurred to this young mother that everyone else might not find her toddler’s molasses-slow stride to be endearing. Those things didn’t even register in her mind.

There’s been a lot of discord in the world lately, with those of different viewpoints finding themselves at odds. Sometimes it seems people are acting like petulant children, not hearing anyone else’s voice at all. I’ve been deep in Scripture lately, seeking some solace.

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. Ecclesiastes 7:8 NIV

Keeping things in perspective, thinking about compassion and mercy.

You help them stay calm when trouble comes…

Every line of this Psalm gave me peace.

The Lord will not leave his people. He will not leave them without help.

Sometimes you find comfort in passages you’ve read a thousand times. Perhaps if we all read the Good Book and pray together, wherever we are, we’ll remember we’re all family.

Justice will return and bring fairness.  And those who want to do right will be there to see it. Psalm 94:13-15 ERV

Often, when I go for my hour of Perpetual Adoration on Friday, there’s already someone there — a little Vietnamese gal who spends so much time in the chapel, I’ve dubbed her “the lady who lives there.” She is a devout soul, spending hours on her knees. But the other week, she actually sat down and nodded off. I have no doubt that she woke full of self-recriminations, but I wanted to tell her not to. It struck me that there might not be a better place to rest than in God’s own presence.

“Stay awake,” said Christ
but surely he knew
how bodies give out, go limp,
sag as if in a warm bath
feeling secure, safe,
safer here than anywhere, ever,
before his presence in monstrance
and wafer.
To sleep before the Lord
is the sweetest of sleep.

The sleep of angels.
The sleep of saints.

Under God’s watchful eye
the soul and body rest,
ready to rise — like bread,
like spirit, like new day breaking.

 

Have a peaceful Christmas everyone!

 

photo-1444116877118-6da0ed3c879aCross my mind, Lord,
when all I see
is a hard road and a heavy load.

Cross the bridge with me, Lord, 
so I can leave the past behind and clear my mind.

Cross my heart, Lord,
I’ll hold fast to the last.

I wrote this prayer a while ago, but didn’t post it, because I thought it seemed hokey or old-fashioned. Today, when I came across it, I had a different perspective and thought it had a simplicity to it and now I appreciated it more.

It’s amazing how your view can change over time, and how words can be spun in many directions.

One of my favorite t.v. programs is “House Hunters,” a series that follows the process of buying a home. On a recent episode, a realtor pointed out that the “vintage” house’s “original molding” kept it “true to the era.” She said that there were some “restored” features, but updates were done sparingly, so as to “keep its character.”

And it made me wonder…why has no one has come up with a way to spin aging in our youth-obsessed culture? We could market our later years with direct mailings, touting the joys of “moving more slowly in a fast-paced world.”

The things normally considered negatives could be re-jiggered with clever copywriting. You, too, can embrace your “Mirth Markings” (formerly laugh lines) and highlight your “Silver Crown” (formerly grey hair.)

For me, the best part of growing older is that you eventually come to realize how important peace is in your life. In younger days, it may have been about the late-night hang-outs and life in the fast line, but now? A quiet night in with a good book and a warm cuppa makes it all worthwhile. Maybe these really are our “golden years!”

God said itToday, this nation experienced the worst mass shooting in our history, and the whole world is in mourning. A man with an assault rifle entered a gay bar in Florida and began shooting. According to the FBI, he may have had leanings toward extreme Islamic ideologies.

There’s so much to say about this event. I started this post, hoping to remain calm and keep a reverential tone in order to pay my respects those souls lost, but as I listen to details on the news, I feel myself simmering.

There are so many reasons to be outraged.

I’d say, “don’t get me started,” but don’t look now. It’s too late!

A semi-automatic rifle? Why in the world are such weapons available commercially in the state of Florida?

Attacking people because they’re gay? What does that have to do with anyone else’s life? How does one lose anything because someone else found love?

Doing this in the name of religion? There’s no way in the world that God would sanction this crime against humanity.

Trying to instill fear in the name of a terrorist group? I hate to break this newsflash, but it’s actually having the opposite effect all across the country.

At the Tony Awards ceremony tonight, actor Frank Langella said this in his acceptance speech: “When something bad happens, we can use that moment to define us, to destroy us, or to strengthen us.”

We join hands with the world in prayer today, for the souls to rest, for the families to heal, and for those seeking peace to find consolation.

holidays 2011 017There’s an unusual custom that, I believe, only happens in my town in New Jersey, and it may seem strange to some of you, dear readers.

Every year around Christmas, we hear the sound of police and fire truck sirens, continuously blaring for hours, several nights in a row. At first, all of the neighbors think, what the heck happened? There must be a serious fire in town, with that many sirens roaring for that long. Hope everyone’s okay!

But one by one, we realize, oh yeah! It’s Santa, sitting atop the fire truck, rolling slowly down the block and wishing us all a “Merry Christmas!” over the loudspeaker. Our dedicated firefighters and police officers accompany him, honking and waving. Just generally sending boisterous and blazing holiday wishes our way.

It strikes me that this is a particularly New Jersey way of sharing good cheer during the holidays: loud, intrusive, rolling through the neighborhood like we own the place, yet full of good cheer!

It’s the way it’s always been around here, but sometimes I wonder, how does everyone else do the holidays? I’ve always imagined that, in other, more mellow states, Christmas must be low-key and tasteful. Mistletoe hanging, fireplace burning, carols playing. Maybe some egg nog pouring. 

Of course, at the heart of it all is the peace that passes all understanding. With all the wrapping and rushing, the traffic and tinsel, it’s easy to forget that God’s love is the gift that we’re honoring at this time of year.

Well, no matter how you and yours celebrate, here’s wishing your holidays are filled with warmth, laughter, and loved ones!

Merry Christmas, All!

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