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I really, really like it when everyone is getting along, smiling, playing nicely. I long for our family to look like the ones in Norman Rockwell's paintings. I want my Facebook posts about all the good things happening in our lives to be perpetual and ongoing. They are true, you understand, but sometimes the pretty pictures only last for a short time. Then, we're back to reality. I love it when the grandkids (a.k.a. Pearson cousins) exclaim with delight when they see each other's cars coming down our driveway. My heart is so full when I watch our children laughing, hugging, and even joking with each other about something Steve and I have done to confuse/baffle/entertain them. I admire the way our in-law children contribute to the family dynamics and endure hearing our "stories of the olden times" again and again.

I want to serve dishes that at least most of them will enjoy, and I hope to select gifts that will satisfy a need or desire. When I think about all of these things, I realize that I spend a great deal of my time being a PEACEKEEPER. My goodness. I should apply for a job at the United Nations.

Their definition of a peacekeeper goes something like this -- "Peacekeepers protect civilians, actively prevent conflict, reduce violence, strengthen security and empower national authorities to assume these responsibilities." In military terms, peacekeeping means maintaining an already-established truce. I work hard to prevent conflict, and when grandchildren (whether it involves siblings or cousins) disagree, I do my best to reduce violence. Are any of you fellow grandmothers out there nodding your head? How many of you can think back and easily name the person who was always the peacekeeper in your family when you were growing up? My mom fulfilled that role, and I'm guessing your mom did, too.

Peacekeeping is a good thing, isn't it? Well, it is until you realize that Christians aren't asked to be peaceKEEPERS but peaceMAKERS. And there's a difference.

Peacekeepers will go to great lengths to avoid conflict. They don't want to rock the boat. They will steer clear of a conflict in order to keep everyone (acting) happy. A peacemaker, on the other hand, is proactive. He or she "is someone who is willing to resolve both outer and inner turmoil in order to establish peace with others and within themselves." (Quote from blogger Kaitlin Garrison). If we take that to the ultimate conclusion, we realize that Jesus was the epitome of a peaceMAKER. He was Himself THE mediator between God and man. He was constantly challenging false teachers, confronting sin, asking questions of His disciples, all for the purpose of bringing them to a true relationship with God which brings lasting peace. Jesus was called "the Prince of Peace" in Isaiah 9:6.

Look at the difference in these phrases in Phillippians 4.

7 "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

9 "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."

As you know, I don't claim to be a Bible scholar, but it appears to me that "the peace of God" is a gift and a byproduct of a relationship with Him, while "the God of peace" refers to one of HIs wonderful attributes. I'd love to read your thoughts about that.

Anyway, during this Advent season, I've been thinking a lot about peace. That is, as we know, what God sent His Son to earth to bring, wouldn't you agree?

Don't worry. As I approach our family gatherings this Christmas season, I won't be deliberately stirring up conflicts in order to gain a stronger layer of peace, and I don't plan to break one of our Cousins Camp rules which states: "Don't poke a bear." :) But I don't think I'll wear myself out trying to be a peacekeeper either. It is not my job to make everyone happy. They have to find that for themselves. I'll do my best to serve delicious food and select nice gifts, but I'm going to free myself of the task of meeting everyone's needs. I will endeavor to accept each of them as the person God made them to be, and I'll pray they will extend the same grace to me. PeaceMAKING emerges as a long-term goal that is worth working toward in 2022 and beyond.

Matthew 5:9 -- "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."

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