What does it mean to be a person of peace?

What are the characteristics of peace-filled people? How do they show up with others? Assuredly, there are many traits that could be entertained, but let me suggest five that not coincidentally use “peace” for their acronym.

Presence
Equanimity
Amicability
Calmness
Empathy

Presence. A person of peace is not continually distracted, but rather stays in the moment. In conversation, others feel attended to and important. In a world where all of us have ten thousand internal and external distractions, those who can set those aside and become present are a gift.

Equanimity. A principal construct in Buddhism, equanimity has to do with mental evenness, even in the midst of turmoil. It must not be thought of as disinterest or aloofness, but rather I tend to think of it as unflappability.

Amicable. Amicability is characterized by friendliness and a desire for goodwill. Even in the midst of conflict or disagreement, it is evident that amicable people desire the best for others, whatever that may be.

Calmness. A person of peace possesses calmness, which is similar, but not identical to equanimity. In a calm person’s presence, people perceive a sense of settledness and tranquility and the freedom to catch their breath.

Empathy. An empathetic person is able to communicate emotional withness to others by attuning to their emotions, thoughts, and actions. Empathy is not demeaning or simply feeling sorry for another, but a desire to join with another.

Do you desire to be a person of peace? Be present to others. Seek to be calm, kind, and even tempered with a desire to love and understand.

John 14:27

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”-John 14:27

The disciples remained anxious, unclear about what was going on. Jesus had been a mystery to them, but in those last few hours the mystery deepened. None of us can blame them for their confusion and anxiety.

Jesus had been working to reassure and comfort them. He offered these amazing words: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” As Hebrews, they were familiar with the notion of peace, of shalom. Shalom was often used as a greeting or a blessing, yet Jesus told them “my peace I give to you.” He wanted them to understand that true peace was found in him and would continue by his indwelling spirit.

Is your heart troubled? Do you live in fear? We have heard Jesus’s words about not being afraid, yet we do feel afraid sometimes. Then, we add shame to fear. What if the way we are thinking about peace is “the way the world give peace?” If our sense of peace is disconnected from the reality of the Spirit, it is no wonder that we are afraid. But if we realize that Jesus gives his peace, by the Spirit, would we think differently?

Jesus, you promise peace, yet so often, I don’t feel it. I wrestle with fear and shame. Help me to know your peace, energized and upheld by your Holy Spirit, who will never leave me or forsake me. Amen.

Do you need a resolution?

Do you still need a New Year’s resolution? Let me offer a suggestion. Listen with generosity and curiosity to those who think and believe differently than you do. Read and listen to things “outside of your camp.” Do not pass along angry, hate filled rhetoric. In fact, when you find yourself drawn in to it, turn away to something whole and beautiful. Build others up. Seek to be an agent of reconciliation where it is possible, and a person of peace where it feels impossible. Each and every one of us can choose to pursue wholeness or disintegration in how we live and relate with others. Which will you choose in 2020?

The Pause

Write 31 days, day 17
Writing Prompt: Pause

“What happened to my day?” I wondered aloud as I walked through the nurse’s station at quarter past four. How could it possibly be this late? The day was not particularly overburdened patient-wise, but I’ve been at my desk for over nine hours, minus the brief visit with my wife over lunch. Patients were seen and reports were written, but without a break to catch my breath.

Normally, I take time to pause. Before the workday starts, I sit in the corner chair, eyes closed, and ponder Christ’s presence. Later in the morning, or perhaps mid-afternoon, I take a walk. A slow walk. I saunter. Amble. I listen to the leaves and watch the birds. I feel the breeze upon my neck or the sun upon my face. I breathe. Life is better when I am not hurrying through it.

For consideration: take five minutes to pause today. Or thirty. 

In the Little Things

Write 31 days, Day 10
Writing prompt: How

Each day, every one of us faces the question, “how will I choose to live today?” Some of us approach the question with intention, though most of us, I suspect, simply drift through our morning routines. Let me suggest, though, that even if we never have consciously considered this question, it still shapes us. We choose whether we will take a shower, surf the Internet, or greet our spouse with a kiss. We choose whether to walk with our shoulders back or staring at the ground. We choose whether or not we will think poorly of those who believe differently than we do.

For me, it has been beneficial to intentionally consider how to approach each day. Borrowing from Chuck DeGroat, I ask myself “how can I be an ambassador of shalom today?” or from my friend Curt Thompson: “am I living as an outpost of goodness and beauty?” I firmly believe that we can make the choice each day, indeed in each circumstance, to strive toward wholeness and peace or to degrade toward bitterness and division.

Last night, when I came home from work, I was irritable. Perhaps 20 minutes later, Heather asked me if I needed anything because I “seemed short.” She was right, and I told her so, but it was for no reason I recognized. It helped me to own that emotion and ask myself, “how does my attitude toward my wife, my son, and my dogs press toward shalom?”

None of us will get this perfect. We are all broken. Yet our imperfections do not disable our capacity to strive toward wholeness. I pray that more and more people will strive to embody truth, goodness, and beauty in their daily routines, and that those choices will push back a little bit of the darkness.

Reflection:
What daily rhythms help you to live toward wholeness?  How can you stretch toward deeper wholeness this week? 

I wish to enter every conversation,
whether in conflict or commonality,
whether with friend or foe,
with an overwhelming peace
grounded in the knowledge
of the steadfast love of God,
remaining present to whatever
the Spirit may bring about.

Radiate

Indwelling Spirit,

I am aware of so many sinful tendencies within myself,
self centeredness,
lusts of the flesh,
chasing distractions.
They crowd out the God-life.
I end up pursuing ten-thousand things that do not glorify you.
I live for self and fail to love.
Life becomes about satisfying my passions
and fulfilling my comforts.

So overwhelm me with your Holy Spirit
that I am left with no option
but to radiate peace, goodness and beauty.

At the Well

This morning, I was reflecting on the story of the woman at the well from the fourth chapter of John’s Gospel. Sometimes, I find it beneficial to slow down, savoring the story. I think we can learn a lot by stepping into the story and taking a look around, trying to imagine what people were sensing, imagining, feeling, and thinking. When we recognize that these stories are not just flat words upon a page, but real life and blood people, it can deepen our understanding. Today, I tried to envision the woman’s experience and wrote a story. I hope it is edifying. 

With the noonday sun cresting in the sky, she began her daily trip to the well. Working in the sun’s oppressive heat was a small price to pay to avoid judgmental stares and whispered accusations. She walked down the familiar path. Though she had walked this narrow trail a thousand times, she kept her eyes trained a few feet ahead, only glancing further along every few moments. A world-wise woman understands how important it is to be aware of her surroundings.

As she drew nearer to Jacob’s well, she looked up again, this time seeing someone sitting nearby. She debated whether to turn back, but she knew from experience that the man she was living with would be angry if she came back without a full jar. In her mind, she weighed the risk of encountering an unknown stranger against the guaranteed sting of a slap across her cheek. They needed the water. With any luck, she could avoid any interaction.  Continue reading “At the Well”