“May the Lord lead us where we go,
And may the peace of God which passes all understanding,
keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord
At Ridge Church School, where I went to Primary school and Junior High, we were taught to say this prayer each day after closing, before we went home. As a child, I barely understood what this prayer meant and mostly I (we) would rush through it, in a hurry to get out of class. For me and probably many others, this was merely a recital, a daily ritual we participated in without much thought or meaning. It has taken over ten years for me to fully grasp and understand this prayer, especially the second line in depth.
The peace of God which passes all understanding.
Oh what a wonderful thing it is to have!
Looking a few years back on my life, I never imagined I could ever find such peace; peace in the midst of storms, peace when there was turmoil, peace that surpassed my understanding because if you know me, then you know I am a worrier, an A1 over thinker and the embodiment of anxiety. But thank God for His peace.
You are probably wondering what the peace of God has got to do with The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, which is a service of Christian worship interspersed with the singing of Christmas carols, hymns and other music to celebrate the birth of Jesus. During this festive season, I bring to you my own version of the nine lessons and carols:- the 9 most important lessons I have learnt in 2015 with the peace of God, though not a lesson, being one of the most precious gifts I have received this year.
“My peace I give unto you, it’s the peace that the world cannot give
It’s the peace that the world cannot understand
Peace to you, peace to you
My peace I give unto you”
This is a song we used to sing during mass in high school, also a meaningful prayer which I (we) used to sing nonchalantly. There are not many words I can use to describe this kind of peace as I do not understand it myself, except that it completely takes over and gives the worrying and wandering mind, soul and spirit rest. If you have never experienced this, then I pray for the peace of the Lord to be with you now and always.
This is also the year that I fully came into the meaning of my name, Dzifa. An Ewe name my mom blessed me with which translates directly into English as “peace at heart”. No surprise there. How can I bear this beautiful name I love so much and have a troubled and antsy heart? Receiving the peace of the Lord and having the peace that my name bestows on me become evident in my life has been a double portion blessing for which I am beyond grateful.
“We stand and lift up our hands
For the joy of the Lord is our strength…”
This kind of joy is also an inexplicable emotion because it is not the regular type that we create for ourselves which can be elusive and fleeting.
“…because Jesus gave to me
And no one can destroy it,
I have joy in my heart, deep deep down in my heart”
Now you know where it comes from. When the source of your joy is the Lord, you know it can never be taken away from you but when you derive your joy from people and objects, you know what happens when they are no longer there. This is another thing I am thankful for because I know that no matter what comes my way in life, no matter what I face, the joy of the Lord gives me the strength to persevere.
For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son,
That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life
John 3:16 (KJV)
This is probably the most common and I daresay most popular bible verse. Mention John 3:16 to any believer and they know what it says. We were all taught this in Sunday school/Children’s service and can recite it offhand but do we really place value on these words? This is the highest form of love that has ever been displayed, giving up your son who is pure and sinless, to die for the sins of others who may or may not appreciate this act. This year, I have learnt that whatever I thought or knew as love was actually far from the real deal.
…And the second is like, namely this,
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself…
Mark 12:31 (KJV)
To be brutally honest, for a very long time I did not love my neighbor(s) as I loved myself. I was selfish and self-centered because I felt I had looked out for others for so long and got nothing in return so why bother? And that is where I was wrong. Love has got nothing to do with expecting something in return. Of course we all expect to be loved and cared for, but our duty is to give love. If we all followed this simple rule then certainly there would be no unrequited love. I know not everyone is easy to love and some people make it even harder to love them, but you know, we try. Contrary to popular belief and what we see around us daily, love is NOT sex and it is NOT money. It is not cute pictures on social media with long captions and it is not matching outfits. We have strayed so far from what true love really is that when we don’t see any of these above mentioned things, then it can’t be love.
1 Corinthians 13:3-8 gives us the perfect description of what love is, 1 Peter 4:8, Proverbs 10:12, 1 John 3:16-18 throw more light on it. Kindly mark them down, find time to read and find out if what you know and call love is in line with these scriptures. In a world where scriptures are twisted and bended to suit us, I pray that our eyes shall be opened to see what it really is. There is also the tendency to become too familiar with the people around us so that we don’t show them love or appreciate them on the regular because we think they will always be there. We are not promised tomorrow so show love while you still can. I am thankful for God’s love which envelops me warmly and the opportunity to give and now receive this kind of pure love. I definitely love and appreciate people a lot more now than I ever have.
O give thanks unto the Lord,
For he is good: for his mercy endureth forever.
Psalm 107:1 (KJV)
It is so easy for me (us) to overlook all the things I (we) have and can be grateful for and complain about the things I (we) don’t have. A wise man once said the only reason we know we don’t have certain things is because we look around and compare ourselves to other people and most of the things we worry about not having are material things which probably won’t even be in season in the shortest possible time. When I first heard this I thought nah, I would know if I don’t have something but thinking further about it, I realized we do have everything we need, anything else is just a want. If I hadn’t seen Ama with that gold clutch, I would probably make do with my black one and not be thinking about getting a gold one too.
I have learnt how to be thankful at ALL times, not only when the situation favors me. I have learnt how to be grateful for everything I have, for someone wishes they had a quarter of it. I have also learned not to focus on the things I do not have YET because surely, in due time, everything I need will be provided for and worrying about it won’t bring them to me anyway. Though I have always been grateful for the little things, I am thankful that this year I have learnt what it means to have a grateful heart at all times.
“…but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,
They shall mount up on wings like eeeaaagleesss…”
Oh how I loved it when my high school choir sang this song. It sounded so good in my ears but again, did I pay any attention to the lyrics or did I just sing along? Patience has never been one of my strong virtues. I was impatient and simply could not wait for anyone or anything! I could not even wait for an Instagram picture to load when the network was being slow and I can hear one of my girlfriends so clearly saying to me as always, “you don’t have patience kraa!” I would call it not having time for certain things, which I thought was cool but in reality, I just did not have patience. I always wanted things to be said and done hurriedly and looking back, it was as if I was always in a hurry but to go where? For a very long time, there was something I had been asking the Lord and waiting on him for. In my impatience, I could have used other means to get that but I decided to be patient and keep waiting on him because I know his timing is perfect. Just yesterday, I finally got it and it blew my mind; it was actually way bigger than I imagined and expected!
“Exceedingly, abundantly, aaabove all,
All you could ask of him,
Accooording to the pooower, thaaat wooorketh in you…”
I totally love this song ‘He’s able’ by Darwin Hobbs and that is exactly what He did for me. What He will do, if only you are able to wait patiently, will just simply astonish you.
He that is slow to wrath [patient] is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit [quick-tempered] exalteth folly.
Of course to go with my impatience was my quick temper, as the two go hand in hand but what is there to gain really from these two? I think there is a lot more to lose even. I am thankful that I have finally learnt how to be patient and to wait upon the Lord even in the direst situations.
Trust in the Lord with all your thine heart; and lean not on thine own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5 (KJV)
I have also learnt how to have complete and total trust in God, knowing that He is in charge of every situation. Instead of doing things my own way and imposing it on God to bless it (which mostly never work out anyway), I have learnt to inquire of God first and trust that whatever He says is the real deal because I believe and trust in him.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27:1 (KJV)
The strongest mental battle I have had to fight and thankfully conquer this year was fighting doubt and fear. Fear on its own is bad enough but coupled with doubt? It will destroy you. Fear will cripple you and make you lose out on some great opportunities just because you’re afraid to take a chance or make that move. Doubt will have you second guessing yourself every step of the way, losing confidence and the boldness to do what you have to. But what I have learnt is
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)
So as a child of God what business have I got to with doubt and fear? They have no place in my life so I had to cast them out! Thankful to be finally free from such bondage because trust me, they entrap and enslave you. I am (Be) a believer, not a doubter!
And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased,
One of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.
Luke 11:1 (KJV)
This is the year that I actually learnt how to pray & improve my prayer life. Yeah I have always known how to speak to my father in prayer but how many times did I actually pray? I would usually say some words in prayer mostly when I needed help from God and I thought praying then was the only way out but besides that, I could go weeks and months without actually spending time in prayer and saw nothing wrong with that. I wouldn’t pray when I woke from bed, not even:
“In the morning, early in the morning
In the morning, I will rise and praise the Lord!”
Which we were all taught in Sunday school as the first thing to do when you wake. It was rather a pleasant coincidence that this month was set aside as a prayer month in my church and that has cemented my efforts in prayer and what I had been building upon over the months. Another wise man said “prayer is a daily necessity for daily survival”. Just as we feed our bodies as many times in the day as we can, when we feel hunger or thirst, we need to feed our spirit man with prayer, the same way. I have learnt to not be casual in prayer because the results you get (in this case, answers to prayers) are directly proportional to the effort you put in (praying). Spend some time talking to your maker, whenever, wherever. He’s always ready and willing to hear from you!
Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
Proverbs 18:21 (KJV)
Another top top lesson I have learnt this year is the power of positivity (and negativity too!). We do not realize how much power our words carry, so we throw them about anyhow and speak recklessly. To ourselves, our spouses, friends and children. The power of positive thinking is probably on a par with the power of negative thinking; one will build you up and attract great things into your life while the other will tear you down inside and make you miserable. Tell a person a 100 things, 99 positive, 1 negative and I bet you they’ll forget all the positive things and ponder on that negativity for a long time. It takes a great deal of time and it is a daily battle to turn a negative mindset into a positive one because years and years of negativity will eat at you and kill you inside, little by little. I always endeavor to speak positively into my life and the lives of others, motivate and encourage them instead of picking at their flaws and tearing them down. I also completely steer clear of anyone or anything that even remotely smells of negativity because I am still working on myself and to be honest, no one needs any kind of negativity in their life.
I started this year feeling meh, with no hopes and expectations, no sense of purpose or direction but I have learnt! Learnt so many precious things that will stick with me forever. I am grateful for all the experiences I have had this year, they have, each in their own way contributed to my growth. I am grateful for the gift of life, of love, of family and friends; for knowledge and insight, for peace and joy and forever thankful for parents who took me to Christian schools which molded and shaped me from when I was very young. I still remember the memory verse in the form of a song that we were taught when graduating from nursery school:
“I can do all things, all things, all things… I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians four thirteen!”
May the joy of the Lord fill and gladden each heart this season and may his peace that surpasses all understanding forever be our portion. Amen!