Advent of Peace

Prince of Peace is one of the names given in Isaiah for the coming Messiah. Thanks to Handel’s oratorio, many of us know that verse by heart:

 

The Prince of Peace. Prince as in: chieftain, chief, ruler, official, captain, prince. He has authority. He rules. He is the last word. Strong’s shows the translation of peace is shalom. Shalom is peace, of course, but it’s more than that. It’s defined as completeness, soundness, and welfare. It means prosperity, tranquility, and “contentment with God, especially in covenant.” So you put those together and He is the one who has authority and dominion over our completeness. He is the chieftain, the protector of our peace.

But like the rulers of the day, who had a hard time seeing that Jesus was the Messiah–because he didn’t look like they thought he should–this chieftain of peace looks a bit different than what we think he should, or even, admittedly, what I want him to look like. He told his disciples before he died that his peace was different:

  “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you;

not as the world gives do I give to you;

Do not let your heart be troubled,

nor let it be fearful.”

But the key to this verse lies in the verse before, John 14:26:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit,

whom the Father will send in My name,

He will teach you all things,

and bring to your remembrance

all that I said to you.”

Jesus is telling them, “You will have peace, because the Father is sending the Helper/Comforter/ Advocate/Counselor to you, not to walk beside you, but to live in you. Not to bring absence of conflict, but to bring contentment in your covenant with God, to be the Keeper and Lord over the shalom within you. To steward the everlasting peace that comes from Me, not as fleeting as any peace the world tries desperately to find or manufacture.  Tranquility that allows sleep through a storm in a rickety fishing boat. Peace that passes understanding, that you will only understand in glimpses and moments, that will surprise you with its depth when you encounter it in moments of great external strife or battle, and when the deceiver tries to steal, kill, and destroy.” Shalom always comes in the presence of the Prince.

From the first time the people of this world heard the Messiah came, a bunch of ragtag shepherds in the middle of the night:

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

         ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.'”

The Deliverer had come, not with a sword to force peace on an unwilling, fearful people, but as a frail human, God in baby-fine skin and enrobed in swaddling clothes in a stable, gazed at with awe, love, and devotion. And Jesus’ words to his disciples 33 years later, are an echo of those the angels told the shepherds: “Don’t be afraid, peace has come.”

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Advent of Hope “The Light Shines in the Darkness and the Darkness has not Overcome it”

DSCN1227The first week of Advent is Hope. Who doesn’t want some of that? The Old Testament is full of the promises of God to His people.

Why? To bring them hope for the future. Hope was coming in the form of a baby.

I have been without hope. One of the parts of the depression I have dealt with this past year was the lack of hope. I had no hope that things would change. None. I would simply have to live like this in my situation and it would never be better. Never. It was awful. “Without vision, the people perish.” Of course they do–without a vision of a better way, a better life, a better faith, there is nothing to live for, no hope for the future.IMG_2914

No wonder Mary sang the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord!” What the people of Israel had hoped for, through the exile, return, the prophets, and the 400 years of silence–it was finally coming to pass. What He said, was really happening!

So many times this past year my prayer was simply, “I believe, help me in my unbelief!” It was all I had, the faith that hope was there, whether I could see it or not. And I would search for any gift from the Father–a sunset, a walk with a friend, any good and perfect gift, however small, from Him. For any flicker of light in the darkness. And the seed faith and hope that He was “A light shining in the darkness and the darkness could. not. overcome. it.”

So if you are without hope, or if you are hanging on to hope by a thread, or if you are full of hope, let’s usher in a week of hope with praise and thanksgiving! Thankful that hope is here. Hope is coming. Hope in the form of Jesus lives in you. Even if all you can muster is a tiny whispered “thank you,” shine that light in your darkness.IMG_0179

So expect the Advent of Hope. This is not exactly a traditional song of Advent, but quite appropriate for the Advent of Hope: “Come as you are…come taste the grace, there’s rest for the weary…rest that endures, earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t cure…” 

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These small beginnings

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…” Zechariah 4:10

A terrifying thing, a blank page, to one who hasn’t written in so long. But the tide of misty darkness, the fog of depression has lifted enough for me to want to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, for the first time in a long time. Years, perhaps.

COPYRIGHT__LARA_____RIGGS____

So write I shall, or attempt to at least, to regain that catharsis that often used to occur when this was a regular occurrence. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” translated onto a computer screen in the pre-dawn darkness.

Ann’s word come back, the reminder of gratitude for the One gave even the dark days that I now barely remember, not because everything is wonderful, more like waking from a dream and only having seconds of that state remain in your consciousness. And there was gratitude in that place of darkness, sometimes. Often, really. There often wasn’t enough energy within me to write it or record it, but I would look for the moments, desperately, for the seconds of grace filled-gifts that I could see, even dimly and recognize in my state.

Much of what I have left of those moments were captured on camera cards, to look back on now. Many others are lost to me now, but the value of them at the time (and in the present) is incalculable and stays with me—the reminder that in the darkest moments of isolated and sometimes unrecognized despair, that despite my feelings of abandonment, He was there, whispering my name, blowing in the wind. “You are not forgotten. You are known. You are loved. I am with you.”

So, to begin again, this blog about my never-picture perfect life. Still never picture perfect. Ever. That’s OK. Here are some things for which I am thankful. Many are part of what I’d call The Little  Things. Tiny things, easily missed in the busyness of life, but such sweet gifts. And sometimes, when the whole of life is too big or overwhelming, this is all I can understand or comprehend, little gifts, small moments scattered through the day or week to serve as a reminder to “Be still and know I AM.”

  • gratitude felt, and recorded on film, though unwrittenIMG_5534 DSC_0203DSC_0376                                              IMG_5742                   12112035_1280294798662883_9148772873613132558_n-2
  • Warm days of sunshine after dreary days of rain
  • Fog on the the fall colored hills
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    Finding beauty in the remains of summer flowers and the seeds that remain to feed the birds

  • A tiny, tiny Black-Eyed Susan discovered amongst the dead12189840_1286712651354431_2331890523772693044_n

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December Gratitude

IMG_0748It was a week of recovery from some sort of illness for the kids, working, and tech week for the Mini-Nutcracker. The dippity-do has been put away until next year and I am happy to say we have one Mini-Nutcracker under our belt. Here’s my gratitude list of the week:

  • Laura and Leigh for showing me the ropes
  • little angels making friends
  • piles of snowflake sugar cookies
  • quiet times of reflection by the Christmas tree with Ann’s Christmas devotional
  • finding this treasure
  • a new recipe four out of six of us really enjoy
  • long, healing conversations
  • patient mamas driving big and little ballerinas in the pouring rain, making cookies and costumes, and watching five performances, and enjoying each other’s company
  • seeing the sun after a dreary, dark weather week

 

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Thanksgiving Gratitude

A week of birthday celebrations, Thanksgiving, sick kids, and work. Here’s my list in pictures this week:

Birthday sunset

Birthday sunset

Thanksgiving baking

Thanksgiving baking

Cousins

Cousins

More cousins

More cousins

Outside cousins

Outside cousins

Sick kids resting together

Sick kids resting together

 

 

 

 

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Advent: an Invitation

Setting up the Advent wreath

Setting up the Advent wreath

It is one of my favorite times of year. I love Advent. Love. It. I love the oldness and the newness of it. The five candles in church. The ring of 24 candles at home. The Jesse Tree of printed ornaments that became the tree of homemade ornaments. The devotionals. The quiet time. The hymns. The Advent Book. All of it. Even the wiggly children, the songs sung off-key or with a nose flute or djembe, the arguments about who gets to light the candles and snuff them out. The dripped wax, smoky snuffer, candles burning out before the 24 days are over and having to be replaced. (Just keeping it real, people.)

The year the candles had a mind of their own...

The year the candles had a mind of their own…

This is an invitation to Advent. Make it look like you want. Go on Pinterest. Go to Michael’s. Go to the Catholic Bookstore. Make your own wreath or candle set. Or buy them. Find an online free download. Buy a book. Just read the Bible. But this year…between the parties and the presents, the family get togethers, the caroling, the trimming, the baking, the shopping…come and and be quiet and “Be still and know I AM.” There’s no better time to get to know Him.DSCN6431

Here is, really, one of my very favorite songs for Advent. I wish I could link it better, but click and listen to Jennifer Martin’s “O Come Be Born Again.” You can even download a free mp3. Here are the lyrics:

O COME BE BORN AGAIN
Baby born in Bethlehem
Come be born in me again
Since You don’t mind dirty stables
Here’s my heart not fit or able
To receive such majesty
Still, You humbly come to me

O come, O come
O come, O come, be born again

Chosen One who chose to be
Suff’ring Savior, Servant King
Since You don’t despise the broken
Here’s my life laid bare and open
To receive Your mercy
As Your Spirit calls to me

And all who struggle, all who sin
Come and become born again
Come and lay your heavy burdens
At the cross where alls forgiven
At His feet new life begins
Come, O sinner and enter in

O come, O come
O come, O come, be born again

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Birthday Gratitude

It started before church, with our own unscheduled personal version of Festivus “Airing of the Grievances” that included a dropped glass jar of cereal that was crushed to dust, two children crying and one mama left to vacuum up the floor while decorating two birthday cakes and getting the house ready for 18 24. After that beginning, I was wondering what on earth could happen next. What a beautiful day it turned out to be! A worship service that just got better and better, then part of our tribe over for lunch. We ate chips and queso, made corn bread and laughed over soup and sang happy birthday to two of us. Here’s my list for the week, with a heart overflowing:

  • warm soup and cornbread shared on a rainy day
  • brunch with Beth
  • kids everywhere!IMG_5094
  • boys jumping on the trampoline in the rain
  • girls talking about boys
  • adults sitting around the table, talking and laughing
  • a surprise from my husband in my worship playlist :)
  • taking the time to talk it out
  • girls in tights and ballet shoesIMG_5026
  • a hug and encouragement from a friend, who can’t know how much her words meant
  • taking a bit of time to paint
  • coming home to freshly cleaned bathroom and folded laundry
  • dinner with my parents-in-law
  • my dad surprising me by taking my daughter to rehearsal

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