Posts Tagged ‘peace’

Home Is Everywhere.

Story and photos by Skyler Cumbia.

Not often do we think about what home means. It means different things to different people, I suppose. To some, it is the house they grew up in. To others, it is the state they are from. And yet to others, it is wherever their shoes reside.

During the past year or so, I’ve struggled with defining “home” for myself. Whenever I returned to the States from being in another country, I would have so many mixed emotions. Only now have I begun to sort through those feelings. Even so, it is still hard.

Home Is EverywhereI almost feel I have done a disservice to people by telling them my at-the-time feelings. It’s hard to relate deep-down feelings associated with a trip; nor is it easy to simply share your soul with everyone you pass in the hall at church. Had I not truly learned valuable lessons, it would have been easy to relate every feeling and facet of my trips, but because of incredible and personal things God showed me, it was difficult to do them justice.

We are similar to trees. Their trunks, along with every branch and twig, are visible to the observer, but the most important part of the tree is underground, unseen. Like trees, as we grow spiritually, our roots grow. To share some of those spiritual lessons and personal experiences is like exposing your roots for all to see – vulnerable and uncomfortable, even painful.

Home Is EverywhereMany have asked me to recount the most memorable moments of my time abroad. I tell them some cool stories or list some pretty wacky foods that I ingested, but who am I to say that one thing I did was more important than another? No act of service is seen as greater than any other, in God’s eyes at least. But in man’s eyes there is no lack of praise for one like me – world traveler, teacher, missionary, etc. People are quick and ready to pat me on the back and wish me well, but what I’ve found to be true over the past year is that I am no better than the smallest GA giving her 25 cents to the missions offering. In the grand scheme of things, God doesn’t care about how many countries I’ve been to, what crazy foods I’ve eaten, or how many people I’ve prayed for. He cares about the motives behind my actions. As stated in 1 Corinthians 13, “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” God only cares about the love for Him and for others that I demonstrate every day. I can travel all over the world and do all of these things, but if I don’t truly love God and love others, I will never be effective.

Here are some important things I discovered while abroad.

Home Is Everywhere1. We can never pray enough. We have a tendency to become “regulars” at the drive-thru of prayer. We expect God to know our order and then we just leave. He wants to have a strong and hearty relationship with us, not one based on sides and sauces. One way to build this type of relationship is to ask God questions. Unlike humans, God does not get tired of our endless questions. He wants to have in-depth conversations with us. In my experience, life becomes clearer and more meaningful when I talk to God often. Sometimes I don’t even say “amen” because I feel like it allows the conversation to continue throughout the day. “Amen” seems so final.

2. Love appears in ways we do not expect. I learned that love isn’t always as it appears. In my blog, I described an experience I had with a child in Haiti. In that story I related the amazing ability of God to completely change my view of that little boy. I learned love can be found anywhere. And often it’s not the act that defines it, but the absence of action. When we are called to love those who are hard to love, it is nearly impossible to turn straight to love. First we have to stop being annoyed by them. We have to create the absence of that emotion before we can put anything else in its place. We’re often overwhelmed with God’s commands and don’t know where to start obeying. Well, that is one place to start.

3. Peace can exist anywhere, and in any situation. We can be surrounded by agitating events and still be at peace. In the same way, we can be in a relaxed environment and not feel at peace. Peace is a state in which we are aware of life’s difficulties, but are also keenly aware of God’s presence and we intentionally trust our past, present and future to Him.

So, one last thought.

We would do well to remember where our true home lies. Sometimes I think we put too much stock in our physical environment. Our setting often dictates our attitudes toward others and life in general. If we allow God to control our response to our surroundings, we can feel at home anywhere. In the process of discovering this, I struggled with knowing where my true home was. I knew where I was from, but these countries had also become such a part of me. I finally had to realize that none of these places is my true home. Heaven is my home. My true and final resting place.

But while I am still roaming this earth, home, to me, is anywhere my feet and my family – biological or spiritual – reside. Home is where God is. Which is, well … everywhere.

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Story and photos by Jeannie Dortch.

The silence in me will love the divine silence.—Eckhart Tolle

My husband and I live far from the city in a community mostly inhabited by trees. Our nearest people neighbors are not visible, and, most of the time, silence is the loudest noise we hear. It is a peaceful existence in a place where we moved after our children were grown.

Walking regularly on our property brings me great joy and has offered me special moments to notice how similar and dissimilar we are to the trees that surround us. They are full of differences and idiosyncrasies too, but reside in close proximity with less enmity than we humans usually experience among ourselves. Lessons in getting along abound.

A community of peace speaks out.

A lonely leader

I have noticed that trees grow in harmony with their neighbors, no matter the species. Short, tall, fat, thin, bushy or gnarled, they touch rather than shove, bowing to accommodate when necessary. The only dominance, that of height and size, comes naturally. Pride is not an issue. Some are able to bend in adverse circumstances while others rely on their roots to keep them secure in turmoil.

People fret over the grass being greener in other places. This is not a concern in the community of trees. They flourish right where they are, scattering their seeds and letting nature do the rest. The woods are a mixture of young and old, lovers, loners, and leaders, those from big families or small, in and out of fashion, as well as in or out of others’ business. Whatever traits I see in them, however, they all seem to reveal God’s glory and display the work of His hands (Psalm 19:1).

How easily trees adapt to their surroundings, accommodating space in the most efficient way. Just this simple observation reminds me to be less selfish and shortsighted with others.

Help us learn from nature, O Lord, from the natural community you have placed around us. Busy lives steal our ability or desire to contemplate the messages you send us through trees. How can the world say, “Where is God?” when you live and demonstrate your love and justice in every plant and creature on earth, including ourselves.

When the sun reveals its majesty at daybreak, it fills me and the woods with promises of new growth, a grace free for the taking. I absorb God’s love, the trees take in His light, but all of us receive our sustenance from the same source.

Mornings spent in the woods affirm the timeless lessons in the Bible. The circle of life is mimicked from season to season in each tree’s growth rings. None of us escapes death. But God has filled the Earth with nature to whisper the wisdom of living amicably along the journey. Like a lover who carves his beloved’s initials within an etched tree heart, God has inscribed all our names on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16), a reminder that everyone and everything is His.

Below are more inhabitants of the author’s community.

A community of peace speaks out.

Fear of letting go

A community of peace speaks out.

Popping buttons

A community of peace speaks out.

A nose for news

A community of peace speaks out.

Fashion conscious

A community of peace speaks out.

The bone yard

A community of peace speaks out.


A community of peace speaks out.

Sick or well

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By Mary Hiteman. Photo by Paul Bickford.

Through God, we love deeply, so hurt is strong.
When tragedy happens, His tears do fall.
We ask why? And where are You? We are too numb to feel.
We’re shocked & we’re angry & we cry. . .and we heal.
          Suzanne Shonnard

June 28, 1998 – do you remember where you were? I don’t remember, but Suzanne Shonnard does. She attended First Baptist’s first Prayers for Healing Service that afternoon. Her mother was scheduled to have surgery the next day to remove a brain tumor. She remembers praying with desperation—could her mother be healed overnight? She felt glued to the pew, arms tightly crossed, staring at the floor while nervously shaking one foot. She didn’t want to be disruptive, so she did not shed one tear because she knew she would end by sobbing. Something happened to Suzanne that night during the Healing Service. The message of hope inspired her, the music comforted her, candles were lit, and most importantly, there were prayers for healing. She did not want to leave the service—she felt a bit strengthened and closer to God, and she was finally able to take a deep breath.

Suzanne Shonnard

Suzanne Shonnard during the monthly Prayers for Healing Service at First Baptist.

According to Suzanne, that’s one thing the Prayers for Healing Service does—it gives you a chance to catch your breath. In the midst of a crisis, you are in a place where you don’t need to be strong. Each month someone shares an intimate story of healing. You hear scripture and prayers and feel the presence of God. You find out what others have done when the moments of peace wear off and the anger, loss and fear poke through. It’s a safe place where prayers are offered for others, where others will pray with you and for you.

Suzanne has become the moving force behind this on-going ministry. She recruits speakers and musicians for each Prayers for Healing Service. She arrives two hours ahead to set up the Chapel. She serves as one of the lay readers of scripture. As she participates, her faith is always strengthened by each Healing Service.

Back to June 28, 1998. Her mother died too quickly from the cancer, but Suzanne will tell you that no matter what happens, God is by your side all the time, with His arm around your shoulder – whether you feel His presence or not – He is there and always promising: “It’s OK, I’ll take it from here.”

In January, 2011, Suzanne felt His presence in a new way. She was facing some surgery of her own. At that month’s Prayers for Healing Service, she walked to the kneeler in front of the Chapel and received prayer. On the Wednesday before the surgery, she was prayed over by the Catalyst Prayer group (whose mission is to pray for FBC’s leaders). She was hesitant and a bit embarrassed on both occasions, but the experience of having folks pray with and for her was very humbling and very powerful. She went into surgery surrounded by the peace and calm of God’s presence.

Editor’s Note: Join Suzanne at the next Prayers for Healing Service, July 10 at 5 p.m. in the Chapel.

Mary HitemanAccording to one wise five-year-old, Mary Hiteman, associate minister for the Weekday Preschool at Richmond’s First Baptist Church, “is the boss of the school who tells us Bible stories each Monday after she says good morning to everyone at the front door.” Mary has led the preschool for 29 years, under its motto: “It’s ok to have too much fun!” Her other great blessing is being a grandmother to Hayden. They both enjoy gardening, camping at the “rivah,” vacationing at the beach, and reading.

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