Peace – Thanking, Accepting, and Using the Gift

Peace and Thanksgiving

And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Colossians 3:15 (NLT)
Accepting and Using the Gift of Peace

Peace is all around us if we make the choice to accept and use it as the gift granted to us by Christ.  How important and precious is the gift of peace? Just ask the tens of thousands of people who attended the “citizen’s party” event today at the Brandenburg Gate to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. They understand the meaning of the word peace. They along with the world stood in awe as 8000 lighted helium balloons released one by one for over 9 miles into the night sky over Germany’s capital at this culmination event.

I remember the day the Berlin Wall fell like many of you as we along with the world watched mostly from afar and saw the emotional impact of the crumbling of the wall that marked a very powerful symbol of the end of the Cold War bringing with it a sense of peace. We all watched in joy as family and friends reunited once again where forced separation occurred since 1961 when the wall was built to stop people fleeing the communist East. The emotions certainly ran high that day as the world watched peace come alive in motion.

I watched again today as the white lighted balloons that perched on poles that matched the height of the wall and stretched for the nine miles, individually, rose to symbolize the wall’s disappearance and thanked God for the peace He has given us. I began though to give further thought to giving thanks for peace and the erections of walls that often prevent it.

Two weeks from this Thursday the United States will celebrate Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately for many people Thanksgiving is not about  goodness and gratitude but the turmoil of stress as families and friends with many varying opinions, ideas, and just plain differences attempt to come together without true peace and thank God.   I recently read an article that said, “Thanksgiving is not about goodness and gratitude, but rather, family drama.”

Perhaps peace evades us because of the expectations that build up on this American tradition. The Norman Rockwell great family moment of peace and thanksgiving to God often come to mind but then the family doesn’t live up to it. A wall erects itself or perhaps the wall was built many years ago that blocks the peace between.

Whatever the issues are that create a wall between us and other people the Apostle Paul tells us that we as loving Christians need to work together despite our differences or our feelings and help each other. He tells us that by surrounding ourselves in love we will be lead to peace. This leads us to our focus verse this week as we look to being thankful to God for all He has given us beginning with the gift of peace.

And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Colossians 3:15 (NLT)

Peace and Giving Thanks

If we look to being thankful about only what we have been given and use that formula we will find peace and a happy Thanksgiving right? Well perhaps though maybe if we want to have true peace it is more about the attitude than it is the gratitude. As believers we can certainly understand that our attitude should be set right to find peace. We have all seen those who have received so much but yet are seemingly not thankful.

I understand that in some parts of Mexico, there are springs that are side by side that are both hot and cold. The local people have used them for years because they are great for washing clothes. The local women bring their clothes in, boil them in the hot spring water and then rinse them in the cold spring water. A tourist stood watching this one day and turned to the guide saying, “I’ll bet they are really grateful to God for these springs.” The guide however responded negatively saying, “No señor, there is much grumbling and complaining because He provides no soap.” Are we not just as guilty having been given so much but yet we always want more and here is where peace begins to evade us.

We so often have not an attitude of gratitude but an attitude of ingratitude which will not allow us to find the peace we need to move forward in life. This is not a new issue of humanity but one of old as we can look to the book of Luke 17: 11-19 to the story of the ten lepers. Nine lepers received a great gift but didn’t even take the time to say thanks. Because they failed to have an attitude of gratitude they went through life not realizing just how blessed they were.  We can still receive God’s great gifts with an ungrateful heart but look how more blessed was the one leper that went back to thank Jesus. He was able to learn just how his faith had played a major role in his healing and so he was able to grow in his understanding of God’s grace allowing him to have a greater relationship.

Peace is a gift of and from God. (John 14:27, Ephesians 2:14-15) We must first come to accept and use it ourselves before we can extend the olive branch to others. We can begin to find this peace by worrying less and praying more. It is through this that we will find that God’s peace will exceed anything we can possibly understand and if we will focus on God His gift of peace will guard our hearts and our minds. (Philippians 4:7) There is a story about a woman who learned to find this peace for herself one Thanksgiving so that she was then able to extend the attitude of gratitude in peace to others.

Amanda shuffled along the sidewalk as she walked in the November cool wind and entered the florist shop. Her life had been easy, just like a happy spring breeze. Then 5 months ago in the fourth month of her pregnancy, a minor automobile accident took away her life of peace. During this Thanksgiving week she would have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss. And if that wasn’t enough, her husband’s company is currently threatening a transfer to an area very far away from any family and friends. Then her sister, whose holiday visit she was so looking forward to, had just called to tell her she could not come. What had made all of this even worse was that her friend had infuriated her by recently suggesting that her grief was a God-given gift of maturity and would allow her to share her pain with others who suffer. “Had she lost a child? No! She has no idea what I am feeling.” Amanda boiled, “Thanksgiving?” “What do I have to be thankful for? She pondered. “Should I be thankful for a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended me? Should I be thankful for the airbag that saved my life but took the life of my child?

“Good afternoon, can I help you?” The flower shop owner asked startling her out of her thoughts. “I need an arrangement,” stammered Amanda. “For Thanksgiving?” asked Hope, the shop owner. “Do you want a beautiful traditional arrangement or would you like to challenge the day with one of my customer favorites that I call ‘Thanksgiving Special’?” Hope saw she had sparked a deep curiosity in Amanda and continued. “I’m convinced that flowers tell stories and that each arrangement explains a particular feeling. Are you looking for something that conveys gratitude this Thanksgiving?” “Not exactly,” Amanda blurted out. “I am sorry but in the last five months everything that could go wrong has and I am not feeling very grateful or full of Thanksgiving.”

Amanda immediately regretted her outburst and felt surprised when Hope said, “I have the perfect arrangement for you.” Just then the bell on the shop door jingled. “Hi Jenny,” Hope said. She politely excused herself from Amanda and walked toward a small workroom. Amanda watched as Hope quickly reappeared carrying a massive arrangement of green bows and long-stemmed thorny roses. But wait the ends of the rose stems had all been neatly snipped and there were no flowers. Hope asked Jenny, “Do you want this in a box?” Amanda watched with confusion for Jenny’s reaction wondering if this was a joke. Who would want rose stems with no rose flowers! She waited for laughter hoping that someone would notice the gross absence of the flowers from the thorny stems, but neither woman did. “Yes, please put them in a box, they are just beautiful.” said Jenny. “You would think after three years of getting the special, I would not be so moved by its significance, but it’s happening again. My family will just love this one. Thanks.”

Amanda stared and thought, “Why would there be such a normal conversation about such a strange arrangement?” Jenny left with her purchase and Hope pointed saying, “That lady just left with…” Amanda interrupted, “A flower arrangement with no flowers!” “Yes,” Hope said, “That is the special.” “I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet.” “But, do people pay for that?” asked Amanda. “Do you really want to know?” asked, Hope. “I couldn’t leave the shop without knowing. I would think of nothing else.” Amanda said. “That might be a good thing,” said Hope.

“Well,” she continued, “Jenny came into the shop three years ago feeling very much like you feel today. She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs, and she, herself, was facing major surgery.” “Oh my,” said Amanda as she continued to listen. “That was the same year that I lost my husband. I assumed complete responsibility for the shop, and for the first time, was spending the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel” Amanda asked, “What did you do?” “I learned to find peace in my circumstances and be thankful for the thorns.” Amanda looked surprised, “Thorns?

“I am a Christian, Amanda. I have always thanked God for the good things in my life and I have never thought to ask Him why good things happened to me. But, when bad stuff hit, did I ever ask! It took a long time to learn that dark times are important. I have always enjoyed the flowers of life but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God’s comfort. You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we’re afflicted and from His consolation we learn to comfort others.” Amanda gasped. “A friend read that passage to me and I was livid! I guess the truth is I don’t want comfort. I have lost a baby and I am angry with God.” She started to ask Hope to “go on” when the door jingled again grabbing both of their attentions.

“Hello Jim, shouted Hope as an older, balding, and rotund man entered the shop. She softly touched Amanda’s arm and moved to welcome him. He grabbed her up and gave her a warm hug. “I am here for twelve thorny long-stemmed stems!” Jim laughed. “I thought as much,” said Hope. “I have them ready.” Hope lifted a tissue-wrapped arrangement from the refrigerated cabinet. “Beautiful,” said Jim. “My wife will love them.” Amanda could not resist asking, “These are for your wife?”

Jim saw that Amanda’s curiosity matched his own when he first heard of the “Thorn Bouquet”. “Do you mind me asking, Why thorns?” asked Amanda. “In fact, I am glad you asked,” he said. “Four years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but we slogged through, problem by nasty problem. We saved our marriage, our love really. Last year, at Thanksgiving, I stopped in here for flowers. I must have mentioned surviving a tough process because Hope told me that for a long time she kept a vase of rose stems, just stems, as a reminder of what she learned from ‘thorny’ times. That was good enough for me. I took home stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific thorny situation and give thanks for what the problem taught us. I am pretty sure this stem review is becoming a tradition.” Jim paid Hope, thanked her again and as he left, turned and said to Amanda, “I highly recommend the Special!”

“I don’t know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life,” Amanda said to Hope after Jim left. “Well, my experience says that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure God’s providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, Amanda, Jesus wore a crown of thorns so that we might know His love. Do not resent thorns.” Tears began to roll down Amanda’s face. For the first time since the accident she loosened her grip on resentment and began to feel peace edge its way in. “I’ll take twelve long-stemmed thorns, please.” “I so hoped you would,” Hope said. “I will have them ready in a minute. Then, every time you see them, remember to appreciate both the good and hard times. We grow through both.” “Thank you, how much do I owe you?” asked Amanda. “Nothing, nothing but a pledge to work toward healing your heart and finding peace so you will be able to share it with others. The first year’s arrangement is always on me.”

Hope handed Amanda a card and said, “I will attach a card like this to your arrangement but maybe you would like to read it first.” Amanda silently read the card which said;

My God I have never thanked Thee for my thorn! I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorn. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear, teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed to Thee by the path of pain. Show me that my tears have made my rainbow.

We are each given the gift of peace no matter the circumstances. Can you accept the gift of peace and then use it? It is a great gift and it is a gift that we must be thankful for by first accepting it and then using it. We cannot positive think our way to true peace. Peace does not arise only from the lack of problems or good times. True peace comes from knowing that God is in control.

As we look to Thanksgiving let us all start with giving thanks for peace. If erected walls are blocking your peace make the choice to accept peace by making peace with the past and allowing conflicting elements to be decided upon by the ultimate peacemaker. Tear the walls down and celebrate with joy the value of the thorns.

Love in Christ,

E.J.

What are Your Thoughts? Join us in Discussion.

Do you struggle with the thought of unresolved issues and an upcoming family celebration? Have you thanked, accepted, and actively use the gift of peace that Christ has given us? Have you found the peace filled ability of thanking God for the thorns? Join us in discussion on this or other related topics on peace.

How God is working through your life?