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Peace?!?! Now? Really?!?!

I was trying to post this last night - as I was meandering through my 2nd bout with covid. Grateful it is nothing like the first one! However, covid has a way of disrupting everything right?!?! It seems funny that this second week of Advent - we are talking about PEACE...Oh My! This is testing me! Haha!

This last Sunday - I was reading more of the book by Christena Cleveland - and I read a paragraph that became a gut punch for me. (Disclaimer: I do not for one moment believe that I have experienced even a portion of what she has experienced as an African American woman in this culture. But, having had her as my professor for an intensive concerning the power and racism that are found in the church and in institutions where patriarchy rules - this paragraph resonated in ways I cannot fully explain.)

“…Love and Fear form the basis of everything. In other words, every thought, emotion, and behavior come from either a place of Love or a place of Fear, because they are the driving fundamental forces in the world. This teaching brought tears to my eyes and filled me with hope because it meant that if Fear was loud in my body, Love could be loud too. As someone who had been held hostage by terror my entire life, I was desperate to be set free into the arms of Love…I would eventually uncover the Love that had to be buried beneath the fear.”(Cleveland, pp 62-63)

Hmmm…we had named our website Love More Less Fear for this very reason.

This quote took me back to a time where a dear friend was yelling at me through the phone for over 40 minutes – and everything she said was based in FEAR. Every choice she made was decided by her fear of the devil, fear of hell, fear of judgment, and fear of NEVER being “enough” for God…so she had to set me straight as well.

After I was reeling a bit with these new “Aha!” moments – you know – realizing that I was living in fear yet again – fear of others’ expectations never being met, fear of things real and NOT real, fear of paralysis, fear of more loneliness, fear of the process of facing and doing the hard work of healing and therapy (again), fear of never being a professor again, fear of never writing that book, you name it – I probably was going through all of it in my head. So

I got up and went to church.

The pastor started with a song, “It’s The Most Busiest Time of the Year.” Haha!!!

It was hilarious – we all were WANTING and possibly pretending that it was the most WONDERFUL Time of The Year,” but no one was buying it…honestly. So, she just sang what we were feeling. (And, yes, poor grammar alert – ha!)

It was difficult to hide the tears that were welling up and spilling down my cheek ever so freely as Pastor Joelle spoke about the lack of peace in our world, our country, and in our own souls. She wondered aloud at how we could embrace and BE PEACE. The tears kept escaping as she said, “Do not squeeze one more thing into this time. Allow yourself to say, ‘No!’ Maybe there is a holiday party that you could escape or one more gift that you really don’t need to buy, and might there be an expectation you could avoid?”

O.K. – so just being real here.

How are you doing with the “peace” conversation in your own life. Do you allow yourself the time to think about it? There have been quite a few things that have snowballed in my own life, and I have finally had to take notice.

First, I am leaving my current job in order to have more income, less stress, less trauma triggers and more flexibility in order to care for myself and others that are needing my attention. (This decision has been gut-wrenching.)

Next, I have decided to go back to therapy, so I am acknowledging to myself, and to others that no, I am not completely myself, yet. In fact, on most days I find that I am more broken and sad than I thought. Every time a pastor gets let go or a professorship opportunity becomes one more rejection, and then there is now one more diagnosis in the family containing the “c” word, and although we do not know all of the details, prognosis, and treatment plan yet, I am trying to come to terms with it all (more on this down the road – when we have more information, but we would all appreciate your prayers as to how to navigate.)

Truly, I am talking to more and more people who also find themselves reeling with too little resources to meet their needs, and far too little peace – you know – “the peace that passes all understanding.” Where is that pesky illusive peace anyway? Isn’t it supposed to be flowing so generously and easily in and through our thinking and everyday lives that people all around applaud and sit in wonder at it?!?!

It doesn’t help that we are consistently feeling the push to make a “significant” difference in the world with our work, our thinking and our productivity. Who decides what is "significant"?

I read something by Ben Cremer today that helped me understand the correlation between “hope” from Week 1 of Advent and “peace” this second Sunday of the same. Here is his quote: “…what we hope for is rooted in a desire for peace in all areas of our lives and our world.” O.K. YEP!!! I agree!!!

Ben Cremer then goes on to explain peace. “What is peace? Peace is not just the absence of violence. Peace is the proactive pursuit of opposing and dismantling the ways of violence. Peace is proactively seeking justice and flourishing for all people. Peace is actively resisting the ways of death in the world and insisting on the ways of love. Peace is what Christ brings into the world and calls us to reproduce ourselves.” Wow! PEACE SOUNDS LIKE SO MUCH WORK!!!

In fact – as we read through the scriptures presented in the lectionary for this week – and the understanding that this peace is related to collective repentance (changing of our minds) and therefore working toward this wholeness that God wants for all of creation – the peace that is continually “…insisting on the ways of love,” I feel a little relieved and a LOT grieved. There we go again – this feeling is not exactly PEACE-FULL! (For more of Ben Cremer’s writing, please go to the following link:

It is the difference between peace lovers and peacemakers in the book of Matthew and the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus wants us to acknowledge. Right?

Think about it – we have been singing about “peace on earth, good will toward men” for years, and here we are in 2023, with the most horrific scenes playing out in front of us on the world’s screen in the middle of the Advent season that heralds PEACE. It seems our politics are not in line with our faith. Our ideas of war and peace are not aligning with the teachings of Jesus? Do we really want to see and practice peace as Jesus asks of us? It is certainly not a popular idea at the moment.

Maybe we find a little more peace when we let go of a little more fear.

Maybe we share a little more peace when we embrace love instead of power.

Maybe we can agree that in order for peace to win – love has to outperform war.

I am working on many areas of my life with the help of mentors who know my history and my present. And, if I could tie up this blog by returning to the beginning of this piece and quoting again what Christena Cleveland said, “As someone who had been held hostage by terror my entire life, I was desperate to be set free into the arms of Love…” Yes!!! Yes!!! Yes!!! In ALL areas of our lives and world it is time to be set free into the arms of Love. Doesn’t that sound like PEACE?!?!

In fact – I am going out on a limb here to say that I think most of us fight wars daily because as Phil Keaggy says in his song, “There’s a little child in everyone’s heart…needing love…needing love.”

We live in a world where FEAR consistently trumps LOVE. And, yet… if fear is allowed to hold us captive – we will never see or practice peace.

Today – I HOPE for PEACE by letting go of fear…fear of insignificance, fear of powerlessness, fear of never being recognized as great, fear of … again, you name it. What is it for you?

Today – I HOPE and WORK for PEACE by receiving and giving love. . .letting love begin in me. Loving God – yes – but letting God love me, so that I can love myself, so that I can love you when I agree with you and when I don’t. Or, as Christena Cleveland puts it, let’s let LOVE be “…loud in our bodies!”

For if LOVE is LOUDER than fear – PEACE might be worth WORKING toward!

Pics from the fam:

(Thanksgiving 2023 - the Ulmet side gathered in Columbus minus Zea and Jeromy and Tanman.)

(A family truly divided. Haha! 4 and 4!)

(This is REALLY worth the read! This book might really surprise you.)

(Such a sad day for Ken and Mom and Amy...I guess I don't care as much...but if you know - you know. Ken had to work a 12 hour shift on this day...Wowsers.)

(First holiday party with Ken's chaplaincy team. What amazing people! Ken is STILL my fave - every day!)

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