Chasing Peace

I was never good at the childhood game of ‘Tag’. You know the one: A group of kids on a playground decide to play Tag. One person is ‘It’. That person has to chase the other kids until they can tag one of them.

“Tag – now you’re it!” you shout.

Being ‘It’ when you can’t cross the athletic line is not fun. Everyone else is faster, so I chase, and chase, and chase – but tagging someone feels unattainable. I gasp for breath and keep on chasing. At some point I don’t want to play any more. I know that everyone is glad I’m ‘It’. They have a better chance of never getting tagged. Every single person playing feels just out of reach of my hand. My best scenario is that others will get as tired as me, or bore of the game, but until then – I just keep chasing.

Sometimes chasing peace is like a game of tag. I chase after it but it seems just out of reach. I chase and I chase and I chase, but I can’t quite find it. I try different strategies, different methods, I envy others who seem to have more of it.

I long for peace in a world that offers chaos.

It’s exhausting trying to chase Peace.

In high school I blithely sang the song “I’ve got Peace like a river, I’ve got Peace like a river, I’ve got Peace like a river in my soul….” And I did. We sang the song loud, with energy, gusto; all of us missionary kids, all of us sure of our salvation and our peace. We were young and didn’t have to chase Peace. We knew it well, knew that it was accompanied by no less than three guitars, loud, and innocent.

Peace was in our long walks in mountain settings. Peace was in our prayers and petitions. Peace was not elusive, it was ours for the taking.

But high school was a long time ago and my world has grown increasingly complex.

And I realize I’ve tried to chase Peace. Tried so hard and so long, like I tried to catch another during my childhood games of tag. But I think I have it all wrong. I don’t think Peace can be chased.

20120811-074139.jpgI think Peace is more like chasing a butterfly – as long as I frantically chase it, it will be just out of reach, but the minute I stop, give up the chase and relax, it comes and sits on my shoulder.

And I realize that Peace comes through rest.

 

Peace comes through obedience.

Peace comes through trust.

Peace comes through service.

Peace comes through gratitude.

It’s there for the asking, but it can’t be chased. As I release my right to Peace, as I learn how to rest in where I am today, Peace comes.

The Little Church Around the Corner

We were walking back from a bookstore in NYC where the motto is “18 miles of books” when our daughter said “I have something special to show you! It’s less  than a block from here.” We had already walked over 45 city blocks on this crisp day after Thanksgiving – what was a half block out of our way?

We took a right on 29th Street just off 5th Avenue and immediately knew this was something special. A beautiful little church sat there – away from crowds and chaos, beautiful and hallowed. We walked into a small sanctuary with old benches facing the cross and altar and beautiful windows and woodwork carvings all around, but there was more. Walking up to the front and taking a sharp left we found ourselves in a tiny chapel, set apart and empty. A prayer kneeler stood at the front with the Book of Common Prayer lying open. Stained glass windows reflected the light offering a glimpse of another world.

It was perfect. As close to perfect as we can find in this world.

Someone had told our daughter about it – said that it was the ideal place to come to sort out thoughts and ask for peace when the city feels too overwhelming, too distracting, too much. She was right. 

It was difficult to remember that the Empire State Building was a block away, that millions of people lived and worked steps from this place, that here in this massive chaos that is New York City there is a place of such visible peace.

When life feels too overwhelming, too distracting, too much —  it’s important to know where to go to sort it all out. When we need to catch a vision and live life above the noise and beyond the crowds, when we need a “slipping away in a boat on the Galilee” moment, where do we go? Can we find a place that offers respite and quiet? A sanctuary where we can hear God?

This is what I long for this season – to find places of quiet that remind me of what Advent is and how I am called to live. A little church around the corner to offer a glimpse of another world. A place and space set apart offering me the eternal even as the temporal calls so insistently.

Today and through this season, may you find your little church around the corner, your space and place of peace that offers you rest and comfort — an invitation to set aside what seems urgent and spend time on what is it important.

Stop – Think – Comment

My morning walk from subway to office is five blocks. It’s just long enough for me to be lost in my own thoughts before entering into my institutional setting. Today I took a side street and passed a large truck parked opposite a sporting goods store. There were two people unloading brown boxes while another was going over inventory.

I passed them without notice when the wording on one of the boxes caught my eye. The words in black lettering were bold and commanding.

Stop – Think – Lift

It was a reminder to those moving the boxes to think about body mechanics, properly using their bodies to not put a strain on their backs.

But I took a picture because with one change of the word you could use this in many areas.

Stop – Think – Decide; Stop – Think – Talk; Stop – Think – Discipline – In all of these we need a reminder to think before we act.

But the one I settled on was Stop – Think – Comment. So many of us are guilty of losing control of our brains when commenting, particularly on controversial subjects. We use anonymity to our benefit and, knowing the likelihood that we will be identified is slim, let all manner of speech spew forth.

How do we help each other in this area? Help each other make thoughtful comments that add to the conversation? I’m asking you because I am particularly impressed at those who comment on Communicating Across Boundaries. Whether agreeing or disagreeing, you all add to the conversation.

Is it because I’m not controversial enough or because in a smaller setting we feel like we know each other – we’ll see each other again tomorrow as we weigh in on culture, immigration, communication and faith?

As someone who has had too many times where my brain has disconnected from my words the paraphrased command on the box hits me where it needs to. I don’t want to be so self obsessed that I care nothing for others who are in conversation; whether I ever meet them or not is immaterial.

The Bible has some strong words for the tongue – and I’ve no doubt that these words from the book of James apply directly to comments on the internet.

“With the tongue keyboard we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth keyboard comes praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

James goes on to speak of wisdom – an apt ending to this chapter and a good ending for this post. There is false wisdom, assumed through letting all know who I am and what I stand for, a ‘selfish ambition’ is described by the author. And true wisdom – wisdom from Heaven; wisdom represented through peace and consideration, mercy and sincerity.

Stop – Think – Comment strikes me as the beginning of wisdom when it comes to online opinion and communication. What do you think?

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”

Shouts of Pain and Whispers of Redemption

“Is this place always going to cause pain?” This was the question I asked myself as I stared at the ocean from my car window.

I had come to this place because I had an extra hour of time before meeting a friend. It is a place I know well. And it is beautiful. On this day a pristine deep blue ocean reflected a softer blue, cloudless sky. There was a spring breeze and sail boats, newly launched after the winter, were anchored in the harbor. Benches lined the rocky shore, perfect to sit on and stare. You could stare all day at this beauty. A park with a gazebo was to my back, ocean at my front, heart was in the pit of my stomach.

“Why after all these years do I still feel pain?” I first discovered the park when we had moved to the area after living for over ten years overseas. I remember coming with a one year old and a four year old. They happily played on swing sets, slides and other playground equipment while I grieved a life gone. I felt a certain level of peace at this park when I brought them to play, probably because of the beauty, but it was still a place of grief.

As I revisited the park a couple of weeks ago it was like my grief had been buried there, ready to resurface as soon as I returned. It felt so profoundly sad. Tears filled my eyes. Like waves crashing on shore during a hurricane, it shouted of pain.

Why, oh why can’t I heal from this place? From that time? That time of disconnect and feeling ‘other’; that time of being told to pull up my bootstraps when I didn’t even have any boots; that time of trying so hard only to face rejection.

I got out of my car and walked towards the ocean, holding my arms close to my body for protection rather than cold. It was as if by doing so I could shield my heart just a little from pain I didn’t want to feel. I stared out at the ocean willing the beauty to wipe away the pain.

The place shouted hurt and only whispered healing. The place shouted defeat and only whispered hope. The place shouted pain, the beauty whispered redemption;

I don’t know how long I stood, completely lost in memories. A sigh woke me to my present and I realized I had someplace to be, someone to see.

And I had no answers.

I stood for a few minutes longer and realized that there is strength and healing in even a soft whisper of redemption. It was as though my questions were whispered out to sea with the waves. A whisper was enough. Enough to let me know it was okay to have no answers, okay to let the beauty wash over my memories and my heart, and with it to believe that pain is never wasted.

Recently someone with far fewer years than I wrote to me. As she worked through her grief in written words, she said this “I don’t understand the mystery of how Heaven and Hell can be involved in the same pain we face as humans, but they can for what Satan intends for harm, God uses for good. And I just have to trust that even when I cannot see it.”

Heaven and Hell involved in the same pain. These words of mystery shouted of redemption, for Hell may be strong but Heaven is stronger still.

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