“My desire to be informed is currently at odds with my desire to stay sane.”
This funny quote from David Sipress posted by a friend rings true. The evening news seemingly becomes more distressing day by day. When we already feel pushed to the breaking point by busy schedules and demands of caring for family members with exceptional needs, there is little reserve left to cope with added distress. This second week of Advent we celebrate the light of peace, yet peace can be hard to find within our world and within ourselves.
The irony does not escape me that as I was gathering my thoughts to write about peace, my newsfeed was filled with the story of yet another mass shooting. I was setting aside time to write about peace and instead found myself writing about more senseless death.
We cannot isolate ourselves away from the world, yet we can still cultivate peace. Peace within and peace without. Cultivating peace is an important part of the “desire to stay sane” written of by Sipress. We cultivate peace outside of ourselves by engaging peacefully with others, building relationships and displaying kindness to others. It can be as simple as helping someone in a small way. Anything that reduces turmoil ushers in peace.
When Jesus was traveling crossing the Sea of Galilee, he fell asleep and a storm erupted and threatened to sink the boat. When his disciples awakened him, the chaos ceased at his words, “Peace! Be still!”
At times our lives feel like that boat tossed about on the sea. We, too, need a break from chaos to find that quiet center. We, too, can say to the chaos around us, “Peace! Be still!” and claim for ourselves the peace that Christ offers. How do we do that? We can start by taking a short break for quiet meditation. It is an easy pathway to at least a moment of inner peace. When you have a few moments to be quiet and still, sit comfortably, take a few cleansing breaths and read what follows. Engage your senses in the experience of the moment.
Picture yourself lying on a grassy hillside under a night sky. It is early winter and there is a chill in the air, but you are warm, wrapped in a thick garment with soft layers underneath. Heavy leather boots keep your feet dry and warm, and the weight of them tips your toes outward to the right and left. Your hands are deep inside your pockets, your fingers curled against the soft fabric. The air is just cold enough that the tip of your nose is cool and your cheeks have a rosy flush. There is a soft breeze that rustles the dried grass on the hillside and carries the scent of wood smoke from a hearth in the nearby village. The thick grass underneath you makes a soft pallet that your body has warmed from your lying there. Through the grass, you can feel the solid ground underneath, supporting your body, gently sloping, inviting you to relax your weight fully as you look overhead into the darkness. The evening breeze has blown away all traces of clouds and the night sky sparkles above you, full of wonder and possibilities.
The moon and the stars give just enough light that you can see across the hillside and down to the village and you know that you are safe. A subtle movement nearby draws your attention and you turn your head, propping up on one elbow to see your flock. A brief count reassures you that they are all there, lying down in the grass with you. They are safe and at peace, gathered close to share their warmth and sleeping because they know they can trust you to keep watch. You look around the hillside and all is well, no movement save for the swaying of the grass. You settle back once more and turn your attention back to the stars. They are so bright tonight and you can see them so clearly. You start counting them, just as you do every night. It fills your time on long, silent nights of keeping watch and you have come to know the night sky very well.
But on this night you notice a new star. It is big and, and it shines directly above you, a beacon. You wonder where it came from, this new star that appeared so suddenly. What does it mean? It must be a sign of some kind. It is so bright, even in its silence you feel it calling you from the night sky. Even as you wonder what it means, somehow when you look at that star you feel a sense of peace, deep and still, and you know that it is a gift.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NRS)
God of Peace, bring your peace to the world that longs for reprieve. Where there is violence, let there be peace. Where there is worry and anxiety, let there be peace. Where there is a sense of “There is too much to do and I am never enough” let there be the peace of completeness and satisfaction. In our hearts, in our minds, in our souls, and in our world, let us embrace your message, “Peace. Be still.” Amen
Image Candle and Flame Reflection by Richard W.M. Jones (Self-photographed) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons