A Senior Moment
by Rev. Bob Johnston
December 11, 2016
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In many countries, especially Syria, peace remains only a forlorn hope.
As the government forces of Assad fight to claim the district of East Aleppo they continue to encounter desperate, albeit hopeless, resistance from opposition fighters. In this endless battle for the city, both sides have succeeded in destroying the very neighbourhoods and infrastructure they are seeking to possess. It reminds me of two children stubbornly pulling on some fragile toy figure, each determined to own it and, in the end, only succeeding in tearing it apart.
In the Christian church year, the second Sunday of Advent is centered on the theme of Peace. The word itself has been commonly defined as “an absence of war.” Yet, the concept of peace should also extend to our personal lives. The rapid on-rush of the Holiday season is a timely occasion to reflect on how we can find and maintain an inner peace amid the hectic busyness of December.
An acronym may help:
P E A C E
Prayer: As a secular counselor, I seldom had room in my psychotherapeutic tool kit for prayer with those seeking help. Changing vocations to become a pastor enabled me to make greater use of prayer with parishioners. In palliative care it was remarkable and gratifying to witness how prayer at the bedside of a dying man or woman often provided them with a sense of peace and reassurance to transition from this world to the next.
Definitions of prayer have been widened for non-religious people to include meditation and contemplation. In this pre-Christmas season of the year—or whenever we feel rushed or stressed ---will we take time to slow down our bodies and minds, shifting gears from doing to being? Through these spiritual disciplines we can find that sense of peace, even as the world hurries around us.
Enjoy: It has become a cliché to “live in the now.” Yet, like many truisms, there is validity in its wisdom. When we constantly second guess the mistakes of yesterday or fret over the uncertainties of tomorrow, we rob ourselves of the peace available for today. Will we take time to let those leaping flames of a fireplace hypnotize us into a peaceful state of rest? Will we really listen to the joyous carols and Christmas songs or observe the wide-eyed excitement of little children as they slide down a toboggan hill?
Accept: When we finally learn to let go of certain unrealized dreams or dashed hopes, we can accept the “good enough” reality of our present lives. From that acceptance can emerge an inner sense of peace. We may not hear from that estranged loved one; we may not be invited to that gathering; we may not get that job but---life is still ok. Our glass remains more than half-full!
Cloistered: If I were writing for an exclusively Christian readership, it would have been simpler to offer “Christ” as the hope for peace, both in the world and in our hearts. To truly follow the teachings of Jesus would lead to a life of practicing love, seeking inclusiveness and justice and offering forgiveness to those who have wronged us. There is much peace available in that formula. That is the deeper message of Christmas.
Jimmy Hendrix said it well: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace."
For the wider readership, I instead offer “cloistered.” When we find time for self-isolation, if only for a few moments, we exchange the world of noise, deadlines and confusion for a time of soul-enriching music, a good book or the solace of nature.
Effort: When peace eludes us, we can sometimes examine the roots of our unease and make an effort, if possible, to remove that source of peace-robbing stress. I t may mean improving or withdrawing from a relationship, redefining life goals, designing healthier living or changing jobs. While admittedly no simple task, the reward of finding a more peaceful future may make those efforts worthwhile.
Even when Christmas is well behind us, January will not automatically usher in any instant showering of peace into our lives or into our world. Yet, day by day we can make sufficient changes in our own life patterns to experience a refreshing taste of that elusive peace which nourishes the hungry soul.
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Saturday, December 10, 2016