Monday, April 24, 2017

The Warmth of Peace

            I’d never considered warmth a by-product of peace. Not until this last Easter Sunday, April 16, when I attended Easter Sunrise Service.
            My husband and I rousted ourselves out of bed at 5:00 AM, (still dark here in the Southwest), dressed for service, hopped in our car and headed to the west side of our nine thousand-plus-foot mountain range.
            Now, for those of you who have never tiptoed in the desert, even an eighty-nine-degree day—like our Easter was—started out as a fifty-seven-degree night. And that was what it registered at the airport, in “the valley”.  At our nearly three-thousand-foot elevation home in The Foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, it was colder, and the sunrise service location—another 1,000-foot elevation rise—colder still.        
            As we stepped from our car in the pre-dawn light, the wind whistled across the hilltop setting. While I was grateful for the sweater I wore, I regretted my skirted legs being exposed to the cold. I looked at my husband who is generally HOT. He had his arms wrapped around his waist. “It’s cold up here! I should have brought a jacket.” He was wearing dress slacks and a long-sleeved, lavender (Easter egg purple) dress shirt.
            We headed to the outdoor seating area, and I snagged a front row seat. Not difficult since we were real early birds. The ushers were still carting out the hymnals, wheeling out the piano, and connecting the portable sound system. Determined not to miss the sunrise, we’d scheduled an early arrival. I plunked my purse on a chair, walked the short distance to the east-facing wall, and pointed my eyeballs toward the granite ridge in the not-so-far-away distance. While you could see the light effects from the sunrise that had already occurred on the other side of the mountain, the sun had still not opened the door on our side. It was cold. Chris and I huddled side-by-side like puppies. Some worshipers cocooned themselves in blankets. (They’d anticipated what to expect.)
            We waited. And waited. And waited.
            Then the first arc of the sun popped above the ridge and split the sky like a herald making a joyous announcement. Chris and I snagged our sunglasses, watched it elevate and glisten some more, and then took our seats to await the start of service. In spite of our efforts to gaze at it, it was too bright for even sunglass-clad eyes.
            But as the sun continued to rise, something sort of miraculous took place. Nothing you’d usually consider out-of-the-ordinary. A miracle that happens every day, even though I don’t take note of it.
            My face and cheeks responded first, absorbing the heat rocketing toward me. Then, like a gentle caress of a loving touch, the radiation seeped through my body and spread into my legs. You could feel the atmosphere heating around us, the molecules awakening from the motion-dampening chill.
            “Do you feel that?” I asked my husband at the same moment he whispered, “Wow!”
            “Isn’t that amazing?” we uttered in unison.
            Our bodies—once shielding themselves against the cold—relaxed, and we exhaled simultaneously. The experience gave new meaning to the miracle of creation, the faithfulness of God. The life-giving and life-sustaining warmth and peace of His creation and unfailing love. Like the prophet Jeremiah, I felt like singing out: 

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end; 
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness” (NKJV 3:22-23).

            Our worship would not be distracted that day by the temperature. In fact, it would be enhanced by it. If I had dressed for the cold, or wrapped myself in a blanket, I would have missed it. The sun’s rays and accompanying warmth drove home the truth of steadfast love, endless mercies, morning newness in the face of evening cold, and mind-boggling faithfulness.
            Why oh why do I continue to take it for granted?
            At once, joy danced with peace in my soul. And I could sense my husband’s soul dancing too. We were mesmerized and entwined by peace, love, and joy. Our bodies were warmed by it. Peace warmed our bodies and the warmth triggered peace.
         Before the first rousing Wesley Easter hymn vibrated the piano and celebrating voices, I was ready to proclaim the Hebrews 13:20 benediction:

“Now may the God of peace [wholeness; Shalom] who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
            It was one of those everyday miracles. One I hope I never forget.


Pursing peace as we press on in the race to glory…

See you next week!

May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).