Practice (#21)

Originally posted at

I am very guilty of spending most of the month of December focused on the idea of peace, the processes and details of peace.  To an extent that is the point of this project, to wrestle with a concept that seems so simple, but can end up being so incredibly complex.

Of course learning about peace isn’t the same thing as practicing it.  That is somewhere that I really feel that I fall short of achieving in the month of December.  There is always a lot going on, and this year I have a few more things than usual that I am giving my attention too.

I had hoped to be more socially engaged with the world around me, fighting the good fight and trying to uplift the downtrodden.  I was going to spend time with people who were not like me, and I was going to learn their stories so they could be shared.  Intentions that have not yet become actions.  I feel like I end up in this place each year, never quite happy with the steps I have taken to turn thought into action.

I know a lot of people who turn thought into action, and I introduced you to one of them last year who is buying land to build a home for a Nicaraguan family.  I actually dropped off a bunch of scrap metal to her just a few weeks ago, because she is still working towards her goal, striving to finish strong so that her beloved second family can find peace in a stable living situation.

This year, I want to mention someone else who works to bring peace throughout the year.  Her name is April, and she is a funny, energetic and exciting person!  She nearly always has a smile on her face.  I can think of just a few exceptions that I have personally experienced, and those moments are the ones that I want to tell you about.

April has been going to Nicaragua with our church for several years now, and during her first trip she decided that she wanted to sponsor a student as he went through school.  April picked a young man named Michael, and started sending a monthly check to NRN, the organization that administrates the sponsorship program.  When April came back the next year, she met Michael, whom they had written to several times, but hadn’t gotten much correspondence back from.  She was worried that Michael didn’t really like them, or wasn’t benefiting from the support she had been sending.  Regardless of the lack of feedback, April had been faithful to continue her support.

Check out the video below and you can see just how much April’s support meant to Michael.

Each check April writes is part of a cosmic re-balancing towards peace.  Those who have, giving freely to those who have not.  April sees the ledger swayed towards injustice for Michael, and puts her time and money into setting the balance aright.

April practices peace.

If you would also like to participate in bringing peace to Nicaragua, you can sponsor a student yourself at

Weary (#20)

Originally posted at

I’m still processing the end result of the Crush-Crushed series, so tonight we will take a break from that while I continue to learn what exactly should be taken away from those verses.  I’ve often started these posts before, but they never seem to lead anywhere, so I wanted to at least verbalize the process.  Perhaps someone else has some perspective for me, I would welcome it.

“Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble at heart.”  Matthew 11:29

I am pretty tired of writing about peace.  It is a burden, and it does take so much time to come up with something.  I think I am closer this year to giving up than I have ever been, as so many things are going on that it is hard for me to focus on this one aspect of life.

Is it just one aspect though?

If I have peace, will it not overflow into all the other areas of my life?

If I do not have peace, it certainly effects all of the other things I am trying to do.

The Bible describes those who are unrepentant as enemies of God.  We are not at peace with God.

However the Bible immediately follows that statement with this one…”but while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

While we were yet His enemy, Christ paid with His life to draw us back into a relationship with the Trinity.

So even though I am not at peace in this moment, the way is open for me to find it.  The door has been forever kicked open, the veil has been torn.

Crushed (#19)

Originally posted at

I asked you to meditate on Romans 16:20 (a) last night, which says “The God of peace will crush Satan under his feet.”

It turns out in my sleepless stupor, I made a typo.  The Bible says that “The God of peace will crush Satan under YOUR feet.”

I think I conflated two verses actually, bringing together the verse in Genesis that talks about the Man bruising the Serpents head, while the Serpent strikes at his heel.  That verse in Genesis 3 even has a fancy name!  The “protoevangelium” is the first verse to foreshadow the coming of Christ.  Even in the very beginning, God has a plan for restoration of his people.

So what does it mean practically when we read these two verses?

Well…Paul addresses the brotherhood of Christ at the top of the paragraph, so we know that Satan will be crushed, by the God of peace (Jesus), under the feet of His people.   In some sense, God has already done this through the work of the cross.  In another sense, Satan is still making an impact on the world today, and there is plenty of his work to crush.

So I think this verse is a call to arms!  A call for us to be ready to march when God asks, so that we may crush the true enemy under our feet.   We march, Satan is crushed.   It all seems so simple.

Simple, that is, until you try to relate it to the world we are living in today.  What does it mean to march together as Christians?  What would that even look like?  Should followers of Christ take up arms to free people from the bondage Satan has placed them in?   If we focus on a global conflict such as Syria, is Jesus asking the Church to eliminate the “bad guys” on Jesus behalf?  Are we to stand up against the works of Satan in this world, using everything we have at our disposal, including violence?

It seems like we are back to where we started.

Lets look at two more passages.

Are you familiar with the armor of God described in Ephesians?  Read the passage if not.  Note that it speaks specifically about our enemy not being an enemy of flesh and blood, but one of powers, principalities, and rulers.  Also take a closer look at verse 15;  “and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.”  God tells us to crush Satans head, while wearing shoes of peace.  So…The God of Peace, will crush Satans head, under our shoes of peace.

Last passage.

This section  of Romans tells us that we are more than conquerors as we fight against powers and principalities, but it also shares the example of Christ with us again.  Christ, who gave himself up for us all, asks us to believe that no matter what happens, we can not be separated from his love.

Read the list again…”35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? ” – “38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I think we are being asked to march, peacefully, no matter the cost to ourselves, because absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God found in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Where will we march?

There is more here…but I’m struggling to condense it into a coherent thought.  Perhaps more tomorrow.  

Crush (#18)

Originally posted at

I, and others who have been a part of this project in the past have struggled with our own role in trying to truly become peacemakers.  I have started so many posts about resolving international conflicts, advocating for a little force now to stop a disaster later, but I have never been able to finish those posts.  I have spent tens of hours across the three years I’ve done this trying to reach a conclusion I can believe in, but each time I have started, I have failed, and badly.  Why does this concept confuse and trouble me so much?

A dear friend sent me some Bible verses a few days ago, and I read over them several times, hoping to find some strand of truth to grab onto to anchor myself in my internal debate.  Try as I might, I wasn’t connecting with those verses in a meaningful way.  Or at least not in a way that felt complete and fully developed.  There was still a mental connection missing for me.  How could a God of peace allow such terrible things like what is going on in Syria or the South Sudan to continue?  How would a peaceful God resolve an international conflict?  Where do you draw the line of peace?

I sat down tonight, dreading the commencement of my now daily task, and once again couldn’t get started.  I distracted myself enough to run out of internet (again) and then curled up under the covers of my bed.  I drug my phone up and scrolled to the section of scripture my friend had sent days before, deciding it wouldn’t hurt to look again into the Bible for wisdom.

Romans 16:20 (a) The God of peace will crush Satan under his feet.

The God of peace will crush Satan under his feet?  What kind of paradox is this?  How can a peaceful God crush anything and still be considered peaceful?

After processing for a few more minutes I finally realized that I’ve forgotten who the enemy is.

The battles I keep wanting to fight are battles against flesh and blood, as if there truly are human beings who we could eliminate to set the world back into proper order.

The enemy isn’t a person, or a group of people, who can be stopped by killing them.  People who do ill towards others are only a symptom of a broader problem.

“The God of peace will crush Satan under his feet.”

Meditate on that with me tonight.  Tomorrow we will unpack it.

Fit (#17)

Originally posted at

He is preparing a place for me…

Sometimes you don’t fit
You aren’t aligned with the world you are living in
The masses flow in one direction, and you’re cutting across stream.
You surround yourself with people who are supposed to be like minded,
but you discover that you fit more like a floppy sock on a hand than a glove.

The spaces between your fingers are empty, as you try to grasp anything you can to find connection, protection.
You long to be tightly wrapped in a loving embrace. A glove would let you retain your dexterity, allow you to do the things you were meant for, while protecting you from damaging attacks of the outside world.

Sometimes you don’t fit. You can’t find a place to call home.
You see those around you finding peace, finding happiness, finding love.
You’ve sought those things before, but seeking, you haven’t found, and when you knock all the doors remain closed.

You’re perspectives are so unlike those around you, that you aren’t even sure you are looking at the same thing. You’ve searched for your niche, the place you fit the best, but instead of finding a fit, you find all of the places you don’t.

You aren’t the best at anything. There is always someone better than you.

You aren’t even sure what you are looking for, you just know you haven’t found it.

I’ve always heard that Jesus had gone ahead to prepare a place for us. I imagined a mansion, full of all the treasures I felt I had earned. Piles of gold laying around, resources aplenty, an endless supply of material goods.

Now I know that none of that would make me happy.

Instead, today I found hope in the place being prepared for me. It isn’t a mansion, it isn’t money, resources, honor.

It is a place that I will fit. I’ll no longer be out of place, for the place has been prepared for me. Jesus is preparing a place for me, and when that time comes, I will fit perfectly.

I will be at peace.

Farmer II (#16)

Originally posted at

I’ve heard stories of a man named John Chapman since my first days in school.  Legend has it that he would travel around Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Indiana in the early days when they were still territories and not actually states, and plant trees.  He is known for being a bit eccentric, but we still speak of him more than 100 years after his death.  I live in the city where he is purported to have died, at the age of 70, which apparently was quite the accomplishment back in 1845.  In many ways, his legacy continues far past his life, and there is a festival that bears his name each year in my home city.

I am speaking of the man known now as Johhny Appleseed.  Like folk heroes of old, he is credited with accomplishing some astonishing things, but unlike Paul Bunyan and Babe his faithful blue ox, John Chapman was a real person.  Johnny is known for planting apples wherever he went, scattering seed to the wind, so trees would spring up everywhere he went.  Mr. Chapman was more deliberate in his approach, planting seeds inside of fences he built to protect them, and selling these orchards to settlers for homesteads.

One part of the legend of Johnny Appleseed does appear to be true though.  He cared deeply for nature and the animals that share our planet.  Perhaps we are passing into legend again here, but it is said that he would extinguish a campfire, rather than allow insects to be burned up in it.  He also became a vegetarian in the later years of his life.

Mr. Chapman seems to have believed in living a life at peace not only with the earth around him, but also with the people he met, .  As he planted and cared for apple trees, he also planted and cared for people.  It is said that befriended settler and native alike, sharing his knowledge with them.  He forsook the comfort of the riches that he earned in his life (at the time of his death, John Chapman owned more than 1200 acres of land) in favor of travelling to plant trees and share his messages of peace.   He planted seeds of peace that grew throughout his life, and into the decades following his death.

In fact, they believe that one of his trees is still alive, 176 years later, in a small town in Ohio.

I hope that as I endeavor to plant seeds of peace, I am as willing to be as uncomfortable as John Chapman was.  I hope that I am willing to forsake the riches I earn, in favor of a legacy that honors the Prince of Peace, whom we honor in this Christmas season.  I may never plant a tree that grows apples, but I hope that I am planting seeds that will grow fruit, and leave a lasting legacy.

Thank you for your example Johnny Appleseed, perhaps one day I’ll be known as Joshie Peaceseeder.

Could somebody maybe come up with something a bit cooler sounding though?  Please?

Farmer (#15)

Originally posted at

“I have things to do, and people to see.   I don’t really have time for this whole project this year.”

I really do have things to do, and people to see.  Maybe more so than any other year, I find myself trying to balance work, personal work, work I’ve promised others, rest, sleep, and relationships.  It has been a bit tricky to say the least.  I have not been successfully fulfilling all of my commitments the last few weeks, and to an extent it bothers me that I have chosen to spend time on this project every day.

I guess on average it takes me an hour or two to complete a post, if we include the time I spend thinking about it, thinking about starting to write, starting to write, and then finishing a post.  For someone who only has a 24 hour day, it feels like a lot of time to spend on something that I am not getting any material benefit from.  Even if all I did with that extra two hours was sleep, wouldn’t that be at least something material?

Many aspects of this process are very much like work, and for me to stand here and say that I am reaping a harvest of peace right now would be for me to lie to you.  I fell asleep last night mid-conversation with someone, and had to apologize when I woke up in the morning.  I find myself leaving work a bit early so that I have time to work on posts, which costs me my hourly wages, and a bit of standing in my job.

This is the way I find myself thinking, if I do not make a deliberate choice to focus on the hidden, but very tangible benefits of this process.  I am not reaping a harvest of peace right now.  I am planting the seeds of peace so that I may one day reap that harvest.  A farmer doesn’t harvest his crop and then do the work after he has received all of the benefit, but instead does the work hoping that he will one day harvest what he has planted.

Today I am a farmer, planting seeds of peace for my future.  Tomorrow, I hope to feed the nations with my harvest, filling them with the future harvest of today’s hard work.

I will not change the world tonight.  I will not change the world tomorrow night.  Perhaps if I faithfully continue to plant, I will find I’ve grown the resources to change the world in the future.

So if you have been struggling along on this journey with me, I ask that you keep planting in faith that we will one day harvest the peace we seek.

Samaritan (#14)

Originally posted at

Even if you haven’t been a part of the church ever in your life, you have probably heard the story of The good Samaritan.  Just in case you haven’t ever had a chance to hear it, I’ll quickly paraphrase it for you.

A man is beaten and robbed, left for dead on the side of the road.  Many people pass by, seeing his plight, but ignoring it.  A priest crosses to other side of the road, a levite (a member of a tribe of Israel dedicated to doing the work of God) sees, but passes the man by.  It isn’t until a Samaritan sees the man that someone takes pity on him and helps him.

The Samaritan man provides first aid, and takes him to an inn, where he provides for the mans costs, and promises to pay any additional debt the man acquires when he passes back through.
Jesus ends the story there with a question for those who listen.  Who was the beaten man’s neighbor.   The answer obvious.

There is a lot of cultural symbolism going on in this story, and biblical scholars can really tear it apart into it’s various components and teach some pretty incredible truths.  It is a simple story with a lot of depth.

I am not feeling particularly deep tonight, so I think I’ll skip most of the deeper points the story can make.

Instead, lets focus on what exactly a Samaritan is.  In biblical times a Samaritan was a half breed.  A hated race.  So our hero’s identity is that of someone who is hated, and it was often the case that the Samaritans would return hate for hate.   This man, he chose differently.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my personal responsibility to be peaceful, and just what that means in a world with so many injustices.

Do you think that perhaps the priest told someone down the road about the beaten man and tried to send help?  Or perhaps the Levite continued down the road just long enough to find someone to help him carry the beaten man home?  We are not told if this is the case, perhaps because it wasn’t the point Jesus wanted to make, but perhaps it was because their efforts were too little too late.

I think one of the points that Jesus was trying to make is that it is our responsibility to act, personally and directly act.  It isn’t enough to just promise to send help, if we see a person in great need, we should take direct action ourselves!  The Samaritan in the story has seen a person in dire straits, and has taken the actions that he can to set the situation right.  Someone in need entered his field of vision, and the Samaritan chose to act.

How many times have I passed someone in need by?  How big is my field of vision?

The internet has changed the world, it has given us great power.  It has given us the ability to witness things happening in real-time all the way around the entire earth.  If something happens, it seems that someone has captured it on film to share with others.  Our field of vision is limitless!

With great power, comes great responsibility.

Those who take responsibility for others needs, will act.

Those who walk by, are forgotten.

Silence (#13)

Originally posted at

I couldn’t bring myself to write yesterday.

It isn’t because I didn’t have anything I wanted to write about, but rather because I didn’t know how to write it.  I suppose in a way, I still don’t how to write what I want to write.

My newsfeed was full of the news that yesterday, the rebels in the city of Aleppo were nearly wiped out.  The conflict in Syria is incredibly difficult for me to figure out.  Rebels and Pro-government forces have been fighting for so long, and so bitterly that neither side is necessarily better than the other.  While it is true that Pro-government forces have used chemical weapons, guided munitions, and artillery bombardments in an attempt to destroy those who are rebelling, those who are rebelling don’t have clean hands either.  Many rebel groups are known for their direct links to organizations we would consider terrorist organizations.  Pro-government forces regularly bomb hospitals and schools.  Rebel forces hide in those places…drawing the fire upon the innocent.

The conflict in Syria is hard to unravel, especially after nearly 5 years of fighting.

No one has clean hands.

My thoughts are filled with what-ifs…what if the UN had found a way to effectively intervene and de-escalate this conflict early in the first year?  What if our own government had enforced the red-line it set to keep chemical weapons off of the battle field?  What if the Russians had not joined the fighting?  What would have happened if Russia and China had not blocked a security council resolution with their invincible vetoes?

What if I had started writing about this sooner?

What if I had found my way there as I feel called to do?

There is plenty of blame for all sides, including myself.

As I watched videos of those who were in the rebel areas say goodbye to anyone who would listen, as they told us they honestly did not expect to live through the next few hours, I can’t even describe what was going on in my heart and in my head.  How could this be?  What could I have done?

(An example is here)

I tried to write for a while, but I couldn’t.

I lay down in my bed, safe from harm, and fought back an overwhelming sense of depression.  A feeling of total failure.  A feeling of loss.  I couldn’t speak.  It was too much.

Yesterday was my moment of silence.

Checkmate (#12)

Originally posted at

Politics is anything but peaceful, but I see something coming that I feel ought to be addressed.

You’ve likely heard that President Obama has asked the intelligence community to look into recent computer hacking and its impact on the past election.  One of the most important things to a democracy is knowing that the advertised results of an election are the true results, so the integrity of an election is an important thing to guard.  There are countless countries in Africa that are in a constant state of turmoil because their election results can not be trusted.   They go through conflict after conflict simple because voting results can’t be trusted.

So, whether you agree with a single thing President Obama has done in his 2 terms or not, this is an important thing he is trying to do.

Unfortunately I believe we have been out played.

In chess you win the match by forcing your opponent’s king into a situation from which there is no way to escape to safety.  It requires delicate maneuvering and strategy to achieve this, but once your trap is set, there is no recourse.  The game is over.  The king is helpless, defeated.

We are in a political situation that has brought our country to the brink of a great divide.  Both sides are at fault, we share the blame.  Our country stands at the top of a terrible drop, teetering, poised to fall.  Our opponent has put us in a situation that seems inescapable.

I don’t know if our election results have been manipulated, but half of our country is unhappy with the current results.  They are perhaps predisposed to believe there was cheating.  The other half believes the election to have been won fairly, and will fight bitterly to defend their victory.   It doesn’t actually matter if the results were hacked by our opponents, they only have to convince us that they were, and there will be open war on our streets.

Perhaps results were affected by hacking.  In which case, our democracy is in danger.

Perhaps hacking didn’t successfully result in actually changing the outcome of the election, but it is far easier to plant evidence that it did, than to actually do it.

We may not be in checkmate just yet friends, but we may have only one way of escape.

No matter what side of the politic argument you fall on, please decide now, before the government concludes it’s study, that you will not respond in violence.

Pledge now to seek peace and unity in a disastrous situation.

We may have just one move left.