A PIECE OF PEACE

By Lisa Huddleston

“It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Parakletos will not come to you” (John 16:7).

 No, Jesus wasn’t promising a parakeet to his followers.  I have had a parakeet more than once:  Pedro bit my earlobe and wouldn’t let go, and Simon/Simone only loved my husband, dive bombing me whenever she could.  Neither experience was a pleasant one.  And, yes, I realize how ridiculous the previous sentences are—especially in light of what I really want to discuss.  But, my pinball brain tends to bounce sort of like a parakeet too bored in a cage.  Up and down.  Back and forth.

Today a dear friend called to discuss my previous post and the horrifying tragedy of Newtown, CT.  She reminded me as others have that immediately following Jesus’ arrival on earth there was terrible slaughter of innocents.  Mothers cried with broken hearts then as now.  Fathers helplessly watched as horror unfolded.  And Jesus knew their pain.

Why is that a comfort to me?  How does it help to know that innocent children have died before and before and before?  It should make it worse to know the enormity of the suffering.  But it helps me to know that the One suffers with us.  Our God is our Parakletos.  Our Come-Along-Sider.  Our Comforter.  Our God-With-Us.  We are not alone in our tears.  Never are we alone.

Even trapped in a wire cage with gifts of limp parsley and nothing but a mirror to talk to.  Bouncing up and down in boredom or rocking back and forth in despair.  The Parakletos is here.  For our benefit.  For our comfort.  For our loneliness.  To counsel, to protect, to help.

Amen.

FEAR NOT

By Lisa Huddleston

Are you kidding, God?  Fear not?  Have you watched the news lately?  You’d have to be nuts to “fear not.”  Babies are being shot in their schools.  Nearly 1000 people have died on our roads here in Tennessee alone.  Mayans say the world ends on the 21st (although I haven’t heard from any Mayans personally).  The fiscal cliff is about to pull us all over the edge.  And the depression monster is trying to push me under water again and I can barely breathe.  Fear not?  Really?

The only way I can think of to fear not is to escape.  Now escape can take many forms.  Some decide to conquer evil head on.  They write bills banning whatever they can blame the evil on—guns, cell phones, drinking, and so on.  (That’ll show ’em!)  And those who are against those bans take equal vengeance on their fear of losing their freedom.  Either way—fear wins.

Others escape by burying their tinsel covered heads into the holiday busyness.  Retail therapy can be good for the soul!  I can testify to its benefits.  But the distraction is temporary and the new becomes old in a blink.  Or parties!  Too much punch will erase your fear but just until the buzz wears off.  Or just solitary sipping—still temporary and much less socially acceptable.

Of course there are more permanent means of escape and sadly many do choose these routes during this season in particular.  Yet permanent is a relative term.  Eternity is a long time.  Even longer than permanent.  So even in escape “fear not” is a daunting command.

So here we are.  Okay, here I am.  Maybe you feel just fine.  But I am stuck.

“Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord was born for you in the city of David” (Luke 2:10.)

But, God, I am afraid.  I’m looking, but I’m still afraid. I know that I am part of “all the people” and that you were born for me in that little town of Bethlehem.  I believe you, but I am afraid.  Please, give me comfort.  Make me fearless.  Swaddle me in cloths of great joy that repel the fear and keep me safe.  Swaddle my family and my friends.  Swaddle the babies who sit in classrooms and those who lie too soon in manger-like coffins.  Swaddle the parents who are alone.  Swaddle the evil in our hearts and wrap our arms to our sides so that we cannot cause harm.  Then maybe I will not fear.

Help thou my unbelief.

The beautiful piece attached to this article is called COMFORT, by Kim Thomas.  Peace.

I WILL CHOOSE JOY

By Lisa Huddleston

“I will choose joy.  I will choose joy. …”  Man!  Why is this so hard to do?  It’s more than a mantra.  It’s more than a chorus.  And it’s tough.

Some days are harder than others.  I feel guilty even complaining.  My life is easy.  So much more so than many others’.  Yet, I am not right this minute feeling joyful.  Instead, I’m tired and b***** (rhymes with witchy.)  I do not want to take my car to the shop.  I do not want to do laundry.  I do not want to exercise or cook dinner or even get dressed.  I will do all these mundane things—but I will not do them with joy!  (Place stubborn foot stamp here.)

Or will I?  Is it really a choice?  Ugh.  I know that it is.

This past Sunday my pastor preached about hope.  He chose Psalms 42 and 43 as his text, and I’ve pondered, chewed, mulled over and just maybe digested these words all week long.  “Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.”

Right now, I could list the reasons my soul feels disturbed within me—and right now they feel like pretty legitimate reasons.  But am I willing to go with the rest of the words?  Yeeeeeees . . . ?  Ok.  Yes.

As Pastor Jim preached and as these truthful words so clearly detail, praise is the answer to despair.  And praise is a choice!  Like hope.  Like joy.

Come on, dear old soul of mine.  Hope in God, for you shall yet praise Him!  It’s inevitable.  You know it’s true.  Hope!  Praise!  Choose joy!  You can do it, dear soul.

“I will choose joy.  I will choose joy.  I will!”  (Just another cup of coffee or two and I will.  Promise.)