World War I was thought to be the ‘war to end all wars’.
It was a bloody conflict that dragged on for years. Both sides were entrenched in the mud and blood across Central Europe in a stale-mate. Between the trenches lay ‘no man’s land.’ When either side called their boys to charge, it was a death sentence. The charging soldiers who emerged from the safety of their trenches would be mowed down like fresh blades of grass by enemy machine-gun fire. From 1914 to 1918, 9 million soldiers and 7 million civilians died.
One cold winter’s night early in the war the guns fell silent. In late December 1914, young men emerged from the trenches and greeted each other. The Allies and Germans met in ‘no man’s land’ in an unofficial truce. It was a Christmas ceasefire where men of goodwill but of opposing politics and heritage met in the most dangerous place in the world at the time, ‘no man’s land.’
Over the years, I’ve learned that Christmastime is much like ‘no man’s land’ for many.
Conflicts and turmoil within families have killed any spirit of goodwill or peace among kin. Practically all joy has disappeared as hearts sink and tensions rise among family members. The wounds are so deep that many refuse to leave their trenches. They remain alone on Christmas. Others attempt to endure with family by showing up physically while their hearts remain in the trenches. As bitter winter winds sweep through our towns, bitter spirits chill hearts and the soul shivers from lack of warmth and love.
Having personally come from a complicated and conflicted family, Christmas was a time of the year I wanted to skip usually. Although the situation has been healed and I cherish Christmas today, I understand what many are going through.
In his moving book, ‘Silent Night’, Stanley Weintraub captures the story of the Christmas Truce during WWI. Enemies emerged from the cold, wet trenches to meet in ‘no man’s land’. They erected Christmas trees, played games, exchanged pleasantries and mementos. For a few short hours sworn enemies became men of goodwill.
The Christmas Truce of 1914 began with one man’s courage and goodwill. History does not record this man’s name but his action spread up and down the enemy lines in Europe. One man of goodwill, took one step into ‘no man’s land’ and changed everything.
Perhaps you are dreading the days ahead and coming into contact with family or friends who have become enemies over the years. Maybe the wounds run so deep, you can’t possibly bring yourself to be in the same room. The trenches have been dug and ‘no man’s land’ is so frightening, why even go there?
What would it be like if you stepped out of your trench and into ‘no man’s land’?
What would have to change in your own heart to suspend your thoughts about the enemy and meet him or her as if you did not know them at all? Treat them as if they were a friendly stranger who just wished you a Merry Christmas?
Peace begins in the heart and is acted upon through the will in one person. One person makes one bold move and others respond. It is not about building consensus. It is about having courage. Sowing the seeds of peace will reap a harvest and potentially change the trajectory of a relationship.
“Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” – Proverbs 34:14
A Peace Promise with yourself:
An old hymn points out that peace is seated in the will and heart of the individual.
“Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow….”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” – Matthew 5:9
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” – John 14:27
In seeking peace with God, there is a blessing. In seeking peace with others there are more blessings.
Do you want to pursue peace?
The other day a friend casually ask me, “What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?”
I was caught by surprise by the question. Not because I couldn’t think of anything to be thankful for but, I was struck by another question that emerged in my mind. I must have appeared dazed to my kindly questioner because their smile turned into a puzzled look.
As my mind was flooded with memories, I stood paralyzed in thought and completely overwhelmed. The words left my lips as I mumbled, “Where do I begin?”
Thanksgiving is tomorrow. If you are on Facebook or Twitter, you’ve already noticed Thanksgiving themed posts streaming from the news feeds. Thanksgiving is taking over! In the midst of the turkey, stuffing, Black Friday and football, I think I found the real question behind Thanksgiving.
The real question behind Thanksgiving is NOT, “What am I Thankful for?”
The real question is, “Where do I begin?”
From the breath in my lungs to the love of my family and friends, where do I begin?
Is it that moment on a cool fall day when my face is warmed by the sun?
Where do I begin?
Is it for that moment when I get home from a long day and the love within washes over me?
Is it when I awake before dawn and realize I’m alive?
Where do I begin?
Is it when a friend passes through my life one last time before leaving this life behind?
Is it wrestling with my children on the living room floor?
What about the food on the table?
Is it the healing in a life of someone I love?
Where do I begin?
Is it for the calling on my life where I glimpse all of its parts masterfully woven together?
Is it for a loving letter from my mother?
The embrace of my wife?
The laughter of my children?
The chase that is my life?
Where do I begin?
The same place I begin is the same place I end.
The grace of my Savior, my brother and friend.
Where do you begin?
When Kathryn and I were dating, her grandmother (lovingly called ‘Mom-mom’) began experience catastrophic health problems. She had a series of strokes and ended up in a full-time nursing facility. Kathryn’s parents visited her daily and cared for her needs. Kat and I would go visit her on occasion. It was tough for me because I did not have a close relationship with Mom-mom at the time.
It was while she was in assisted living center and later, nursing home that God created a beautiful doorway to enter into a relationship with Mom-mom. We got to know each other more and more as we visited. She spent many months in the home as her condition would deteriorate then improve, and deteriorate again.
On one occasion, Kat and her parents were all out of town at the same time. They asked me to check on Mom-mom while they were away. I remember that she was in bad shape, confined to a bed and surrounded by machines. So, I sat with her and talked to her as I held her frail hand in mine. We talked about Kathryn. I told Mom-mom how much I loved Kat. I made Mom-mom a promise that day. I promised her that I would take care of Kathryn no matter what happened. A few weeks later, sweet Mom-mom passed away.
Our daughter carries Mom-mom’s name, Lillian (Lilly). I still carry Mom-mom’s kindness and words of encouragement in my heart to this day.
What if God in his perfect wisdom creates doorways through suffering to bring people into authentic relationship?
Would this change your view of suffering?
It may be easier to recognize severe physical suffering. Perhaps you’ve had a family member who’s had a stroke and lost function of a section of their body? Or maybe you’ve seen the suffering that terminal cancer causes in a good friend?
“Be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” (Unknown)
Walk through an entire day and you will come into contact with many types of suffering. In many cases suffering goes unnoticed unless you are connected in intimate relationship with a person. Also, suffering can have many layers and faces.
Loneliness, loss and depression are forms of suffering.
Losing hope is the worst kind of suffering.
Maybe it’s worth exploring suffering with spiritual eyes to see that when all the stuff we strive for in life is at the bottom of a trash heap, the only thing of lasting value is relationship. Suffering is everywhere! So, there are doorways everywhere to step through into relationship. I encourage you to consider what your life would be like if you stepped through a doorway. People have stepped into my suffering when I needed to be loved and supported.
Share your thoughts below!
Has someone stepped into your life when you were suffering?
Maybe you have stepped though the doorway into someone’s life?
I realize that in order to read this post, you must be on a computer or smartphone. I hope that when you have finished reading it, you will put away the device and look up. Is there anyone in the room with you? What are they doing right now?
Maybe you are by yourself right now. What is your best friend doing right now? How about your mom or dad?
Watch this video (it’s 5 minutes long and won’t be a waste of you time):
I don’t usually spend long hours per day on Facebook but, I do find myself mindlessly scrolling the News Feed several times a day. Particularly at night before going to bed. How do I so easily drift into this state of feeding on the news feed? Then, the question hit me;
Is ‘feeding on Facebook’ beneficial? (more…)
My wife Kat is my most trusted advisor. She is truly a Proverbs 31:10 wife. I admit that I don’t always listen to her advice, in many cases to my own detriment. However, years before we were married, she gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received from anyone. ‘Trust but verify’. Kathryn picked it up from someone she worked with in Austin. I pass it on regularly.
Kat is very pretty and pretty practical when it comes to working with other people. I have a tendency to over-trust or completely under-trust folks. This is to my detriment as well. Kat on the other hand has a balanced approach to working with people. This approach extends to me, our children and others.
“Trust but verify”
I don’t remember the first time I heard the phrase “trust but verify” emerge from her lips but, it stuck with me ever since. I apply it daily. I found it contains both grace and accountability. It has nothing to do with distrust but affirms a growing trust in a relationship.
If I ask my 4yr old son if he cleaned up his room and he says he did, I trust him that he actually cleaned his room and walk with him down to his room and verify. When we arrive, I see that his room is clean and affirm him with praise. “Well done son…. well done.”
When I’m advising or mentoring a friend or client, I’m constantly employing ‘trust but verify’, particularly if I’ve discovered that my friend has acted on bad advice in the past. Acting on bad advice is dangerous. Therefore, I take it seriously when someone presents something that just doesn’t pass the ‘smell test’.
In a new relationship, I have no idea if someone is making choices on bad advice or false assumptions. Therefore, I have to trust them but verify the validity of the underlying advice or assumption. Once I validate the information, I can affirm the choice or help correct it. Both contain grace and accountability.
Applied to me:
Personally, I appreciated when others apply ‘trust but verify’ to me because I value accountability. Many times my wife and others close to me have helped me see that my thinking was wrong or I simply forgot to do something I said I would.
11th Commandment (If there actually was one):
Thou shalt ‘Trust but Verify’!
Our small group met last night and one struggle that we all seem to share is saying ‘no’. We live in a culture that loves to say ‘yes’ to pretty much everything. So, saying ‘no’ in a ‘yes’ culture is tough. In fact, there is a guilt attached to saying ‘no’.
Truth be told, I’ve had to work to change my default response to a request from ‘yes’ to ‘no’. My default has always been ‘yes’. I’ve learned that ‘yes’ can get me into trouble. I continue to struggle with it. I want to please others. To much ‘yes’ ends up disappointing everyone.
When I say ‘yes’ to one thing, I’m saying ‘no’ to another.
“You can say no with respect, you can say no promptly and you can say no with a lead to someone who might say yes. But just saying yes because you can’t bear the short-term pain of saying no is not going to help you do the work. Saying no to loud people gives you the resources to say yes to important opportunities.” – Seth Godin
Let me give you a quick example. If someone asks me to help or volunteer for a cause and I say ‘yes’, I have now moved a portion of my time and energy away from one area of my life and committed it to another.
Understanding the limitations that time places on our lives is important in understanding why we need to say ‘no’.
‘No’ protects the most important relationships and priorities in your life. ‘No’ allows you to do what is important. Say ‘no’ and reaffirm the relationship. Move on.
Below are some links that may help you say ‘no’. Remember, this will take practice.
“Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:37)
Do you have trouble saying ‘no’?