PEACE–MUCH MORE THAN A VOID

By Lisa Huddleston

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6, NKJV). 

Last week I received an email invitation to an exhibit called “23 Years Without War Since 1000 AD.”  In the body of the invitation the gallery stated, “To us peace is the normal state of being.  But peace is a state of absence–the absence of strife and discord–the absence of war.”

Really?  Is that all that peace is?  A void or an absence?  That declaration struck me as sad and untrue–especially in the time of year when we celebrate Peace on Earth and the incarnation of the Prince of Peace.  Surely peace is more than a vacancy.

As I’ve pondered this startling statement, I’ve come to believe that peace is in fact the complete opposite of a void.  Rather, peace is a filling.  Just as he came to fill a manger with the Bread of Life, the Prince of Peace came to fill empty hearts that really are shaped with a proverbial “God-shaped Hole” deep inside.  His peace that passes understanding fills and then keeps filling until it overflows the saturated heart and reaches out to the world.  Peace is here to fill a void–it is not a lack but a surfeit! 

“For a child has been born–for us!  The gift of a son–for us!  He’ll take over the running of the world.  His names will be:  Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness” (Isaiah 9: 6, The Message).  Fill us, Lord, and make us wholly whole!

THANKFUL FOR POTLUCK

Tacos? For Thanksgiving??

By Lisa Huddleston

“Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thess. 5:18)

Like many of you, I have been texting, emailing, and calling relatives over the past few days working to find the best times and optimal ways to get us all together for a meal on Thanksgiving Day. Part of the annual logistics for this awesome gathering is planning the menu so that we don’t have too many duplicates and everyone can contribute a dish that she or he likes to make and that their families like to eat. Right at the beginning, let me say I am thankful for the many ways to connect with those I love. Email has simplified this task greatly, and our meal is planned. It will be a Potluck Extraordinaire, as usual. Way too much food and way too many cooks in the kitchen.

As I have pondered this huge feast, I have laughed as some have moaned over the absence of a favorite dish or shown some distaste for what their addition to the meal will be. I have had to promise my eldest that I will make his favorite later in the week and have asked some to make a little less than maybe they would like to in order to avoid too much excess—but it promises to be delicious, and I guarantee that no one will leave hungry.

Along with my inward chuckles, there is a growing awareness of how appropriate a potluck Thanksgiving meal really is. After all, isn’t life a potluck? Don’t we have to accept some things that aren’t exactly what we would like and don’t we have to manage our relationships with the bringers (and Giver) of those strange dishes with thanksgiving? (No, Mom or Mom-in-law or sisters or brothers-in-law or fiancés or girlfriends, I’m not saying that anyone is bringing anything strange! It’s just a metaphor.) But that’s life, and that’s what potlucks are all about.

And therefore, I am thankful for turkey and dressing (both northern and southern style) and cranberries (fresh and canned) and deviled eggs and pies and tea (sweet and un) and anything else that makes its way onto our buffet for this Thanksgiving meal. Just as I have learned to be thankful for jobs that turned out to be more than expected, out-of-the-blue calls for help, surprise guests, not enough bedrooms and couches that “sleep good.” I am thankful for misunderstandings set right, boundaries that make good neighbors, sore muscles, and junk yard dogs that live in my house.

Heavenly Father, your will for me in Jesus Christ is sometimes surprising but always good. For the whole potluck called life, I am thankful.

PREACH IT, PREACHA!

By Lisa Huddleston

“When Peter saw he had a congregation, he addressed the people” (Acts 3:12).

What a loaded statement!  At least three things jump out at me from this simple segue from Peter’s and John’s encounter with the crippled beggar to Peter’s sermon from Solomon’s Porch. 

Peter saw that he had a congregation.  There are many times when we fail to see our congregation.  We think our actions don’t matter or we feel that no one is watching.  Times when we lose our temper, let our emotions control us, or become so self-focused that we are blinded to those who are looking to us as examples.  Look around you–do you see your congregation?

Peter knew who his congregation was.  Peter and John were on their way to the Temple for prayer, as were the other “Israelites” who were gathered in astonishment to see the formerly lame beggar “dancing and praising God.”  Peter knew his audience and addressed them appropriately.  He called them “Israelites,” he referenced Moses and the prophets, and he reminded them of Yahweh’s covenant with Abraham–which was fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Peter spoke their language.  Do your words and actions convey what you hope they do?

Peter knew what he had to tell them.  If you see your congregation and really know who they are, what is the message you have to share?  I see people all the time who want to be speakers or writers or have some kind of impact on their culture, but they haven’t yet discovered what they have to say.  Peter had walked with Christ.  He had made huge mistakes and learned great truths.  He had seen the risen Christ, and he knew exactly what he wanted to say.  He was ready when he saw his congregation, and he didn’t hesitate to share the Good News.

Do you see your congregation?  Do you know who they are?  Do you have your message ready?  If not, what can you do to answer these questions affirmatively?  If so, address the people, and preach it, preacha!

YOU CAN’T HURRY LOVE

"Does this new collar make me look fat?"

By Lisa Huddleston

It’s a rainy, chilly, gray, November day, and, no, Dottie, I do not want to wander aimlessly around the soggy yard waiting for you to do your “business.”  In fact, I’m not really convinced that you have any business to do.  What I really suspect is that you enjoy tormenting your weak-willed, adopted mother by making me follow mole trails and cats all through the muddy, soupy grass.  I am cold and ill-tempered and highly impatient.  It’s only 9:30 in the morning, and we’ve already made this happy trek at least three times with only sporadic success.

But what’s a foolish dog owner to do?  You are still very young and a novice at house training.  When you whine anywhere near the vicinity of the back door, we all jump to do your bidding, cooing, “Good girl,” with every step and allowing you to drag us wherever your little puppy heart desires.  Yeah—you’ve got me where you want me, and you know it.  I’m just saying, you aren’t fooling me for a minute.  I know it, too—for whatever that’s worth.

So, really, what can I do but jump at your bidding and slog around the yard hoping and praying for you to do what you do best—better in the yard than in my house!  Yep.  It’s a lovely day at the Huddleston Animal Farm, and some animals definitely are more equal than others.  (But isn’t she a cutie-pie?)

OH, GO TAKE A HIKE

By Lisa Huddleston

I finally took that walk in the woods I’d been planning for weeks.  It was Sunday afternoon, and I had several hours free so Chuck left his football game, I set down my knitting, and we headed out.  I was shocked!  How had I missed it?  The leaves I had been planning to enjoy lay in crunchy piles around our feet so noisy that we couldn’t even carry on a conversation.  Where had the color and beauty gone?

Before you give me the benefit of the doubt and say that we all are busy, I must confess to you that I live in a small cove of pasture that cuts a deep horseshoe right into the center of said woods.  I live right in the middle of it and still I had missed the opportunity to take a stroll amidst the once-a-year coloropoly.  My disappointment weighed down each step as I trudged through the leaves trying to make the best of it. 

Surely, the woods are still beautiful.  I dearly love the ancient trunks and the scratched, bluish-brown sassafras bark, the acorns in their caps, and the wild holly, but it feels like an eternity lies between now and when the autumn colors will return.  My heart ached and groaned like the wind in the trees.  Why did I wait too long?

Unfortunately, the leaves are probably the least important thing I’ve missed lately.  Friends have moved without my taking the opportunity to wish them well, it’s been ages since I’ve visited with my sisters, and I missed a webinar today because I thought the time meant CST when it really was EST (as the email clearly stated).  And the list doesn’t end there.  Notes I haven’t yet sent.  Phone calls I really should make.  So many good intentions buried like the acorns in a sea of dried, dead leaves.

After our woodsy walk, we attended a memorial service for a dear friend we had not seen in quite some time, and one of the men who shared his memories confessed that he also had not taken the time to express appropriately his deep thankfulness for his departed friend. The lost opportunity had jarred him. He had written four other friends that week to let them know how much he appreciated them, but he realized that he couldn’t recover the chance he had missed. 

And I guess that’s the best we can do.  We can’t recover spent time.  Once gone, it’s gone forever.  However, we do have 24 new hours each day.  Hours that we can choose to spend in appreciation for the beauty around us, in thankfulness for the blessing of true friends, and in awareness of the passing of each valuable moment.

As I write it is 11:45 a.m., CST.  I have half a day ahead of me.  Some of those moments are already planned, but many still lie in vaguery and good intentions.  May I see the opportunities more clearly and may I access the time I’ve been given to love, to rejoice and be glad in this day, as the Lord leads.   Amen.

LOST IN TRANSITION

By Lisa Huddleston

Chuck and I just returned from a weekend in Panama City, Florida, spent watching his brothers participate in the Ford Ironman Florida triathlon.  Bart had already finished one Ironman about 7 years ago, but this was Jon’s first time to compete in the grueling and prestigious event.  We were a little less worried this time around since we knew that Bart had lived through it once before; but, it was still mind-blowing to consider all that the athletes were there to put their bodies through–633 women and 2,277 men there to swim 2.4 miles in the ocean, to bike 112 miles, and then run a marathon (yep, 26.2 miles)!

On the morning before the event, Chuck and I walked down the beach from our condominium to the Ironman location to look around.  I was tired out by the 3 or 4 mile hike through loose sand, but I toughed it out and managed to stroll around the area looking at bikes, clothing, running shoes, and so on.  There was a lot of cool stuff, but one t-shirt really drew my attention.  On the front were the words “Lost in Transition.”  I knew enough about the Ironman to get its meaning.  “Transition” is the term for the area where athletes change clothing and get what they need for the next event.  Shuckers peel them out of wetsuits, volunteers slap on sunscreen, and athletes slip into appropriate shoes as quickly as they humanly can.  But the transition tent looks pretty chaotic and stressful for all involved.

Thus my attraction to the shirt.  Of course, there are many metaphors to pull from this weekend’s event.  Many, many ways to see truths that not only apply to the Ironman, but also to life.  But I’m in the stage of life where it’s the transition that can really pull me down. 

Get it?  It’s the transition times that are so rough on so many of us, because too often we arrive there without bringing what we need.  Sure, preparation is vital to smooth transition–but how can we prepare for the unknown? 

Just like the Ironman competitors, we can talk to those who have gone before us, and we can get the help we need.  And we can ask lots of questions.  How can I train for what’s coming?  What kind of equipment is best for the next event?  Who can help me shed my old skin?  Is there anyone who can protect me from getting burned by foolish mistakes? 

To make a transition as smooth as possible, it pays to be ready.  Even then, confusion may take over from time to time, but perseverance and preparation pay off in the long run. 

Have you finished your swim?  Then get on your bike.  Finished pedaling?  It’s time to run.  Just keep moving through and don’t get lost in transition!