Anxiety/Worry, Faith/Spirituality, Trust

Everybody just calm down…

I’ve been trying something new lately. In the morning, before I get out of bed, I put on a 6-10 minute mediation and spend some time getting mentally and spiritually prepared for the day (it doesn’t hurt that I also get to lay there for an extra few minutes…I’m a mixed bag of motives). This morning, about a minute into this practice, my time was hijacked by a persistent cat trying to claw its way into my daughter’s bedroom. It was the equivalent to a person knocking and knocking without pause. My cat, Sunny Day, is adorable and cuddly and extremely old and this morning, very annoying. I tried to continue to focus on the words of the meditation and the music and allowing God’s spirit to enlighten me, but all I kept thinking was that I wanted to strangle my cat and scream at my daughter to just let her in already! Eventually I had to quit and go open the door. It felt useless to lay there and fight it. I gave up.

Instead, I went to my spot on the couch, in an upright position (curse you, Sunny Day!) to do some reading. Per usual, as I was reading Brene’ Brown, she just happened to be addressing the importance of cultivating calm and stillness of mind and heart; meditation. I think most of us can agree that there are great benefits of doing so. Having just written a bit about just such a topic a few days ago, I was especially intrigued by something the she pointed out about one of our biggest obstacles to actually following through with this practice: fear. She points at that “if we stop long enough to create a quiet emotional clearing, the truth of our lives will invariably catch up with us. We convince ourselves that if we stay busy enough and keep moving, reality won’t be able to keep up”.

The truth is, that even though I know the importance of quieting myself and being still before my God, the very idea of “creating an emotional clearing” for Him to speak or soothe gives me much anxiety. In trying to incorporate a practice to help me less anxious, I end up feeling restless and jumpy because I so do not like to be still. Why? Because I am afraid. Afraid of what He might say if we get alone together. Afraid he might tell me to “go” do something or “stop” doing something or worse, do “nothing”. Just let Him take care of it and just chill out for a half-second.

I have a friend (and it’s probably not you, but it might sound like you) who says that when she is home alone, she turns all the TVs on because she hates it when it’s quiet. She can’t handle it. She’s terrified of silence. So as she cleans or works from room to room, her mind is consistently distracted and occupied with other people’s problems, drama, or scandal. She can focus on someone else’s junk and intentionally leave no “clearing” or space for silent reflection on her own life. I can be guilty of that in my own ways. Endlessly searching for a decent song on the radio while driving to my next appointment, 3 minutes away. Laying in bed, scrolling through Netflix to find my next new series to occupy my mind until sleep comes. Scouring websites to find an essential oil that will help me lose post-cancer weight (there isn’t one, btw…). You might be able to throw in a couple examples I haven’t even thought of!

My point is this: do not be afraid. Do not be afraid to slow down. To get un-busy. To be alone. To be quiet in your own home, in your own head. In order to do this, it is imperative that you choose to believe that God loves you, knows you and longs to just “be” there with you. God isn’t waiting to get you alone so He can shame you or lecture you. Most of us do that to ourselves pretty effectively when we slow down enough to reflect on our behavior or attitudes. But God is not like that. He is kind and gentle of heart. And though he may bring to mind a stronghold (some character defect that “holds you strong”) he wants to relieve you of, He is always gracious, generous, and forgiving. We don’t have to be nervous about being alone with Him. You may very well hear a tender whisper telling you you are OK just as you are. That who you are today is enough. That where you are today is exactly where He intends for you to be. Take it one moment at a time and He will be with you.

It occurs to me that most of my attempts at quiet reflection are similar to my time in bed this morning, with Sunny Day relentlessly pawing at my daughter’s door. Life is distracting. As they say, “the struggle is real.” We can’t control whether random thoughts, unwelcomed emotions, or self-accusations come pounding on the door of our mind when we try to shut them out. All we can do is keep getting back to the business of ignoring them and putting our energy into focusing on what we love, what we are grateful for, and that God hears and sees us. He cherishes us. In doing that, we let go of fear and embrace the “peace that passes understanding”.

In Isaiah 30:15 God says to His people, “When you come to me, you will find rest and safety. When you are quiet and trust Me, you will find strength.” Remember that we are His people too.

Anxiety/Worry, Faith/Spirituality

“I’ll be peace”

In the 90’s there was a movie that came out called “What About Bob?”. Anyone seen it? I saw it approximately 5 times, at the dollar theatre, in college. And I have probably seen it at least 5 more times at home and with my kids since then. One of my favorite scenes is when psychiatrist Richard Dryfus comes raging into his 10-yr-old son’s bedroom where he and Billy Murray (a patient of Dryfus, operating on more of a 10-yr-old level) are laughing and rough housing. He yells at them, “I want some peace and quiet!” At first they freeze, stifling their giggles, and then one of them says, “Ok-I’ll be quiet.” And the other, with a smirk, says, “I’ll be peace.” 😂

I was remembering this scene as I was reflecting on the longing I have for peace. I want to “be peace” too. Naturally, I had to look it up, and my favorite definition is “freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.” The reason I was ruminating on the idea of peace was because the last several entries I have read in my daily reading all mentioned it repeatedly. Apparently, I am not the only one who wants/needs peace.

I do think, though, that I may desire it at an unreasonable level. I mean, there is no end to list of areas I wish peace could reign. I want peace in my heart and head (peace of mind, serenity if spirit). I want peace within my home (among my children, God help us, and my spouse). I want peace with my friends, my clients, my co-workers, store clerks and fellow drivers. I also want all of those same people to have peace with each other. And for my kids to have peace with all their classmates. I want peace between me and God and I want everyone I know and everyone they know to also have peace with God. Do you think I am being unrealistic? Maybe just a touch.

But honestly, I don’t think I am alone in my wishing for peace. In fact, that seems to be the dominating desire of God’s heart as well. If you recall, the greatest commandment in the Old and New Testament is “Love God. Love People.” Love is at the very root of peace. God sent Jesus to this world to live and to die so that we can finally be at peace with God himself. Jesus made it possible for us to be one with God again, taking on himself the sin that once separated us. Freeing us to live in harmony with God.

You may have heard someone point out that the words “do not fear” appear 365 times in the Bible. Once for every day of the calendar year. It doesn’t sound as cool, but the word “peace” actually appears approximately 429 times. Once for every day of the year and then some. Why? Because I am not the only one obsessed with having, giving, promoting, organizing, and communicating the significance of living in peace. God definitely was. And this is just my opinion, so take what you like and leave the rest, but I believe you can sum up the theme of the entire bible with that one word. Peace.

God has put that same desire in us. Think of all we do to acquire peace. We pray and meditate. We too often medicate. We take vacations and get massages and take yoga classes. We pay psychologists and listen to speakers and pastors and podcasts. We read self-help books and bibles and horoscopes. We even fight wars and sign treaties. Some of these things work for us and some don’t. But our desire to be right, to be at peace, with ourselves and our neighbors and our God is something we were designed to want.

So I guess I don’t have to feel bad for my preoccupation with peace. I think I am in good company. I realize I am barely scratching the surface of the fullness of this beautiful word. But I hope it prompts you to contemplate your level of peace (with yourself, others and God) and what legitimate and illegitimate ways you have been trying to obtain it.

-Peace out, my friend ✌️ (that’s slang for “Grace and peace to you”, for anyone over 40 or without teenager children)