Christmas: Know What Makes for Peace

November 30, 2009

Each year on the day after Thanksgiving, we transform the end of our living room into a manger scene.  This is the way it turned out this year.  It turns out to occupy a space of about 10′ x 13′ and uses figures from the 12″ Fantanini collection allong with various improvised landscape constructions.  Detailed pictures are here.

Our devotional thoughts this year spring from Luke 19:42 where Jesus is expressing his sadness that so many people did not know the things that make for peace.   They should have, but they missed it.   Likewise, as individuals and as a culture in America, we should know the things that make for peace, but we often miss it.  The essence of peace is a Person.

Consider what was prophesied:

For to us a child is born, . . . and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Consider what Jesus, himself, said:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Consider what was said about Jesus in reflection:

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility

I would very much like to be an instrument of that kind of peace.  It’s important that I start with me because there has always been a connection between the attitude of God’s people toward Him and the welfare of their land.

So, hopefully, as this scene in my living room will help me focus on the Person who is the essence of peace, perhaps the pictures will help you with your own devotional focus.  We are celebrating the coming of the God of the Universe in the form of a little baby who was fully God and fully perfect man and who provides a bridge for us as sinful people to have intimate fellowship with Him.  Wow!

Your Marriage Can Survive an Affair

November 28, 2009

Sadly, there are as many marriages broken by infidelity as ever before.  Happily, there are more resources than ever before to help marriages heal.  About 70% of those who seek counseling are successful in restoring their marriage.  I understand that the December issue of Redbook Magazine will have an excellent article,
“Could Your Marriage Survive An Affair?”

Glad I checked it out because it led me to an awesome resource that Peggy Vaughan offers.  Anyone interested in learning more about this topic ought to include Peggy’s web site.

It’s written from the point of view of people who have experienced it.  While the article that I wrote some years ago is written for counselors, I’m gratified to see the principles overlap.  I’m also interested to note that the dynamics of recovering from sexual infidelity are the same as those involved in recovering from alcohol/drug addiction and pornography.  It’s a lengthy process and it takes a lot of work, but it’s worth it to learn about integrity, transparency and trust at higher levels of reality.  Even the offended party can benefit from recovery from betrayal.  It’s a godly trait to be able to forgive without being naive (or stupid) and to negotiate a stronger basis for an intimate relationship.  Fortunately, God doesn’t require us to be perfectly perfect before allowing us to enjoy a secure relationship with Him.

Thanksgiving Roots Rather than Routine

November 27, 2009

I admit that I often fall victim to holiday routines.  Thanksgiving Day so often turns into highlighting the turkey, the football, the parade, and the relaxation.  But not this year.  Thanks to our friends, the Torp-Pedersons, who sent us a book, Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember by Barbara Rainey, our family reviewed the events of 1620.  That was the year when a boatload of people from England landed at Plymouth after 97 days at sea.  Sadly, their timing was poor.

Bad news . . . They arrived in November, in the dead of winter.

Good news . . . The Patuxet Indians who used to inhabit that area and who had murdered every white man who had ever landed in their territory had all died from a mysterious plague four years earlier!  But one of them, Squanto, was in England at the time, having been captured and taken as a slave.  He had returned to his land only six months prior to find himself a man without a tribe.  It was he who helped the new arrivals adjust and survive.  Interesting to me how God turns tragic situations into blessings.

Bad news . . . That first winter was so severe that half of the new arrivals died of influenza and other sicknesses. They had to ration the little food that they had.  Sometimes counting out kernels of corn.

Good news . . . An Indian named Samoset had learned English through contacts with English fishermen and was able to help the Pilgrims get settled and taught them how to plant corn with fish as fertilizer.  Another Indian named Massasoit helped prevent annihilation by seven neighboring tribes who were plotting to kill all the English.

Bad news . . . After making it through the first summer and celebrating a bountiful harvest and thinking they had enough food for the next winter, another ship, the Fortune, arrived bringing 35 new arrivals.  They nearly doubled the population of the new settlement but arrived with no food, clothing or other provisions.  Back to half rations!

Good news . . . When the planting season of 1623 came upon them, they learned a basic principle of motivation: Ownership increases productivity.  “Each family was given a parcel of land to plant for its own use.”  They produced enough corn to sustain them as well as all the people from the next ship, Anne.

Best news . . . They never lost sight of their God as their refuge and their provider.    They could have used many of their circumstances to justify their murmuring and complaining (like the Hebrews in the wilderness after the Exodus).  But they established a model for us to follow.  Recognize God as the source of all our blessings; thank God for the loving deeds He does on our behalf (even when we don’t understand all His ways); surrender our lives to His care.

I’m thankful that they chose to step out sacrificially to create a new civil government, originating with the Mayflower Compact.  I’m thankful that their lives demonstrate God’s providential care.  I’m thankful that God took the trouble to show himself to us in human form in Jesus Christ who through His death and resurrection provides the way for me to have a personal relationship with Him.