Tag Archives: inner peace

Longing for peace in the rubble

making rubble
Kirkuk car bomb, Feb 2011

Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace—
      in peace because they trust in you.
Trust in the Lord for ever,
      for in the Lord God
      you have an everlasting rock.
For he has brought low
      the inhabitants of the height;
      the lofty city he lays low.
He lays it low to the ground,
      casts it to the dust.
The foot tramples it,
      the feet of the poor,
      the steps of the needy. Isaiah 26:1-6 (NRSV)

Lofty cities are laid low.

I admit it, I long for the day when the feet of the oppressed walk freely over the rubble the high flyers have made of the world. Poor Iraq. The Congo. The Pacific garbage patch. Nuclear waste stored all over the country. Isaiah seems to be hearing the lowly trampling the dust of what has become of the 1%’s work. He hears the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy, on their way to God’s city. I admit to longing for the trampling.

I am not sure that God will fulfill my vengeful dream. And I am pretty sure my true self does not truly dream it, anyway. It doesn’t matter so much what the end will be when the rubble of our city is piling up on the oppressed right now! Pondering some future repay is less important than pondering whether we have any capacity to dig people out of the rubble piling up outside the door. We don’t have time to worry about how to get even with who did this to us!!

It makes us feel low

I still remember Parker Palmer On Bill Moyer’s Journal saying that his personal depression was mirrored in and mirroring the depression of our financial system. At our breakfast table yesterday we were wondering if we were feeling the same way about the persistent deterioration of our school system and the pernicious political philosophies that have a foot on the necks of the poorest people in Pennsylvania who are our neighbors and who attend our public schools. The feelings were alarming.anti rubbleI know many depressed and distressed people right now. Their number seems to be growing. They amplify the regular distresses that face the church. There was rubble making in the church last week – sexual immorality took a toll; financial issues oppressed people; fear drove people to be self-sufficient, wary and critical; people like Parker Palmer had their feelings overloaded.

I am a bit like Palmer. When my alarm bells go off and my feelings are overloaded, I need to keep my mind on God. I need to consider whether I am being too “apocalyptic” when times are hard. I need to wonder whether I should or should not be quoting 2 Timothy 3:

“There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, (etc)… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God– having a form of godliness but denying its power….They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over the weak-willed, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires.”

Seeing the rubble, feeling the despair, naming the problems form a good first step toward digging out of it. But a good prophet, like Isaiah, does not let it stop there.

When Isaiah’s city was being brought low, God gave him a vision of the city whose walls are God’s salvation. When we were pondering our sorry state the other day, my visionary friend, Joshua Grace, said, “Something wonderful must be about to happen.” That’s the spirit (and the Spirit)! I’m not so old yet, but I am old enough to know that bad times (like a personal depression) are often the beginnings of the next great time. If we can just keep our minds on what God  is going to do (God who makes something out of nothing, after all!), we can have some peace in the midst of our rubble!

Brokenness: Does peace precede or follow rebellion?

Sometimes I feel like a Buick on a broken road

I have been pondering a quote from Gene Edwards in Celtic Daily Prayer for the last few days. It is about being broken. I took the word “broken” to mean being “useless,” like being broken down at the side of the road, or being broken off from the vine, like Jesus warns us not to be.

Is it possible to know if there is true brokenness in a man? [sic – sorry women] I think so.
Such a man is not in rebellion toward anything:
1) nothing in his circumstances,
2) nothing that has to do with what other people inflict upon him,
3) and certainly not anything that God chooses to lay within his life.
He is at peace in all three circumstances.

Not rebellious?

Edwards says that the broken man is not rebellious. He is at peace with his circumstances, not rebelling against what other people do to him and certainly not rebelling against what God has brought to him.

As a result of pondering this, I have been feeling more rebellious.

  • I recognize that I have felt constrained by those who have adapted to my appalling circumstances to be as quiet as they are about what is appalling: gun proliferation, casinos, unbridled greed, the unjust justice system, horrible school leadership, rampant immorality, weak Christian leaders, my own laziness and lack of humble service, the list goes on.
  • I have been pondering what I have not dared to rebel against in what other people are teaching me through what they do or don’t do as my friend or comrade in covenant — when the price of their love is faithlessness, I need to rebel.
  • I also realized that I really need to listen to what God is asking of me. I don’t think I am really listening unless something in me needs to change, which inevitably causes me to rebel, at least initially. I have been reminded of James 4:4 – “Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

If something in us is not rebelling against the oppression of sin and death in the world, in our relationships, between us and God, we must be broken. If we are alive and operating, we are inevitably struggling against something.

Or needing brokenness?

At least that is how I was reading Edwards quote until I went back to revisit it again. I think I actually may have read it the opposite way from what was intended!

Is it possible to know if there is true brokenness in a man? [sic – sorry women] I think so.
Such a man is not in rebellion toward anything:
1) nothing in his circumstances,
2) nothing that has to do with what other people inflict upon him,
3) and certainly not anything that God chooses to lay within his life.
He is at peace in all three circumstances.

I think I have never really understood seeking “brokenness.” I suppose I understand the feeling of brokenness so innately that I don’t relate to being rebellious against God and needing to be broken. This may be a spiritual disadvantage, since it seems that so many people are having a perpetual negotiation with God about whether they want to be saved! One of our teams often offers a song during worship about “longing” for brokenness because they need it. Or maybe I don’t know this brokenness as well as I think I do, and I am hanging on to a lot of rebellion I need to get rid of!

What Edwards was really trying to say is that a person who has accepted his or her life from God and has chosen to trust the Lord in every circumstance no longer needs to fight what is going on as if they need to conquer it and control it. For a broken person, rebellion against the circumstances has lost its importance. Such rebellion no longer creates an identity or demonstrates value. Rebellion no longer means survival or shows power. A former rebel has inner peace, even if the world is raging in rebellion around her.

Or is it both?

As it turns out I think my original and my more accurate interpretations are “right.” In my case, I think the truth Edwards really meant to convey is the place to start. The love of Christ has broken our resistance. Resistance is futile. A life of trust is the only true option. To a large degree, I think I am experiencing the brokenness he prescribes; that’s where I met Jesus. But I hardly think a person can stay in a perpetual aspiration for brokenness.

If followers live in such peace with God, it means they will become well-known rebels in the world. Jesus has peace in his circumstances — he is peace; but everyone knows he is a rebel. He was killed as one. Jesus is at peace in any social setting, but when he shows up in one, his peace upends them. Even when Jesus is absorbing what people inflict on him, it is to the end of utter transformation. And though he ultimately does whatever his Father asks, it is not without exasperation and struggle. The peace that comes with our brokenness is, by its nature, a rebellion against what is broken.

It is always a little shocking to find out you saw something completely different than what was intended. But then, maybe not.

Intimacity

I would like to hear what you think about my new word: intimacity. (Actually, the word is googlable, but they usually mean intimacy.) I am working with it this way: intimacity is our capacity for being intimate.

During the Advent retreat, I had a moment of clarity on the prayer walk I was assigned to complete. I realized that I and the others I had been talking to were all struggling with getting to the place where we could connect. Most of us were relatively obsessed with it – clinging to life rafts of intimacy (even if they gave us splinters), chafing under the bits of our loneliness, restlessly scanning our horizons looking for moments when we might feel together, touched, or at least relevant. But one of the missing factors in our equations of connection was our own intimacity.

We need intimacy with God and others to stay in the process of growth. But intimacy is exactly what is broken between us. And we never seem to know why. At least I am often a bit foggy on just how I operate. I think we all have a tendency to think all our relationships just mysteriously happened. We might be a bit in denial about what we bring to the situation – namely our capacity for intimacy, or intimacity. Our ability (or usually lack of same) needs to be named. We need to develop.

If we ever get to figuring out what’s wrong or undeveloped with our intimacity, we often spend a lot of time and energy starting at the wrong place: with other people. We lay awake nights wondering why they broke up with us. We minutely (and often wrongly) list what is wrong with us, based on off-hand comments and body language. We dissect the lacks of our parents and how we adapted to them detrimentally. We flood our therapists with stories (thank God for Circle Counseling!) about how we are stuck and stumbling. But our broken relationships with other people are often symptoms of a core issue: our intimacity in relation to God.

During Advent, we get another chance to see God’s great intimacity. God, who is so totally other than us, becomes so totally one with us – in our bodies, in our sorrow and sickness, in our unforgivenness and death! All the tender feelings we feel when we see Mary holding the baby should seem as amazing as they are – God just came out of her womb, vulnerable, open to the mother/father love he IS. The beginning of my own intimacity starts with reconnecting with the source of it. Trying to get there through endless attempts at human relationship repair is kind of backwards.

But I, and probably you, do quite a few things backwards. Just in our small group during the Advent retreat (which was actually rather intimate, even though we’d mostly just met), we all demonstrated our fear of being vulnerable. I know that the whole experience got me pondering how easy it is for me to resist the impending experience of lack of connection rather than resisting what I do to help create it. I am working on seeing my withdrawals and avoidances as sins against the call of the baby Jesus to be trustingly vulnerable.

We can share the Lords ability. Once he was born of the flesh. But what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Post-resurrection, our intimacity with God is even greater. The more we open ourselves to that Spirit-to-spirit relationship, discipline ourselves to receive the love, repent of the sin that has tangled up our relationship with God so far (mainly not being open and receiving), we have a chance to relax enough to explore how we can connect with all the people we would love to love, and would love to love us.

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The Heart of Good Dialogue

“Let the peace that Christ gives control your thinking. You were all called together in one body to have peace. Always be thankful.” Colossians 3:15 (International Childrens Bible)

After something like fifteen hours of intense dialogue this past weekend during the Discerning Retreat, I felt like I needed a silence transfusion. But that need did not diminish my joy over the radical thing I got to do. We were definitely called together in one body – for real, not just in theory. And we had remarkable peace.

Dialogue is not easy. It is easy to talk (or at least think of what you would talk about if you dared to talk); it is harder to listen. It is easier to speak inauthentically– playing a part, following a line of thinking; it is harder to take oneself and others seriously as expressions of God’s Spirit. In this day, it is hard not to succumb to the prevailing thought that “everyone has a right to their own opinion” and merely “agree to disagree,” as if that thought and action were somehow supremely moral.

In Paul’s thinking, I think he would say, “The good news is that everyone has a restored right to God’s word of truth.” And, “For the sake of living in the peace Christ gives I would gladly give up all my so-called rights.”

A partner came up to me after the retreat was over and was so happy that we managed not to fight. It was the first time she had been involved in our discerning process directly. She had never seen a group of believers talk about difficult things with mutual understanding, patience and hope like we did. Another person said a similar thing. She was amazed that we could disagree so well.

I hope they didn’t think we just had a remarkable affection for each other. That is true. But we have to agree on some basics things in order to disagree well — like the scripture that heads this post. We can’t accept what we discern as practical application of our faith unless we do agree on some foundational realities of that faith. As in the words Paul wrote to the Colossians above, we have to agree that the peace of Christ is more important than our latest brainstorm or our latest desire to rise to the surface. We have to agree that we have been called together in one body and that our fears won’t protect that or our brilliance create it. We do need to be alert for what can destroy us, and we do need to passionately exercise our gifts to be the body, but, at the bottom of it, being called together and lead by God is the basis of any discernment we might have.

I have to admit that when I entered the retreat time, I was at peace, but I was not very thankful, yet. I was more anxious about what was going to happen. The pastors ran out of planning time and wished there had been more; we didn’t get our logistics right and ran into last-minute glitches; significant partners were absent or indisposed – there is always something. But during the prayer walk in the neighborhood, about when I was buying old china from a neighbor’s yard sale (which Gwen actually liked, even though it did not match what she already had, as I’d hoped), I was moved with a great feeling of gratitude. It hit me.

I managed to let Jesus rule the situation. I let my joy over being called into the body and having a real one to live in rise to the top. I listened to the hearts of my prayerwalking buddies as they prayed. I admired the burgeoning neighborhood into which God has plopped us. I realized I was astounded.

Maybe always be thankful is even more the essence of discerning dialogue. Conversation with someone who is grateful for what they have been given and grateful for who they have been given to be is a pleasure. Their receptivity to God’s grace makes them the most able discerners. I long to be one of those kind of followers of Jesus.

Pursue it with a hobble, that’s OK

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful. 1 Thess. 5:23-4 – New Living Translation

Yesterday I woke up and my back felt a little better. I am slowly getting over my bidecadal back thing. So I felt a little foolish as I hobbled across the street, looking like some old dwarf from Middle Earth, to drop off my keys at my mechanic’s house — he had graciously offered to take my car in himself. Only I had not been to his house in so long that the wrong address I wrote down seemed plausible and I put the keys through the neighbor’s mail slot! We discerned this via cell phone when my trolley was about to descend underground.

So yesterday my body was not working so well and my inner workings seemed a tad whacked, too. So what is Paul telling me in the scripture above?

My trials are rather insignificant compared to those of others. My friends have chronic illnesses. They can’t get their weight down. They are locked in immoral sexual relationships. They have been betrayed or abused by people they love. They can’t find a job. Their dreams have been overrun by faithless comrades. Their cells aren’t as vibrant as they’d hoped. They’ve been sent into war. They can’t get along. Their refrigerator died and their Bubba Burgers spoiled.

Whatever Paul might be saying, they are having a hard time hearing anything but the alarm system in their mind going off.

I don’t know what God might be saying to them, for sure, or whether my friends will be listening at all. But I am hearing two main things from what Paul is saying:

1) The first is about God. God is the God of peace. God is our Lord Jesus. God is faithful. God can and will make me holy and whole, Jesus will come again. God is taking a lot of initiative.

2) The second is about my situation. Peace is an option. I am set apart for something good. All of me, inside and out, has a destiny because of what Jesus did and does and will do, not because I work that well. I can trust him in the middle of the mess.

And there is just a lot of mess. The leaders of the church felt knee-deep in it last night. It was interesting. I think that the more we talked about what a mess we were and everyone else, too, the better we felt. At the end of the conversation, I think we all realized that our backs were aching and our keys were locked up in the neighbor’s foyer — either God saves us, or we’re dead.

That’s realistic. And you know what? The more realistic we got the more courageous we felt, the more truth we told, and the more our laughter was freed up.

My body and mind feel a little better this morning. But I’m not sure that is the point. God will make what needs to happen happen. If I have to pursue it with a hobble; that’s OK.

Finding some peace

We have a strong city;
God makes salvation
its walls and ramparts.
Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter,
the nation that keeps faith.
You will keep in perfect peace
him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.
He humbles those who dwell on high,
he lays the lofty city low;
he levels it to the ground
and casts it down to the dust.
Feet trample it down –
the feet of the oppressed,
the footsteps of the poor.
Isaiah 26:1-6

This just keeps on happening, doesn’t it? Lofty cities are laid low.

I have to admit, I kind of long for the day when the feet of the oppressed walk freely over the rubble the high flyers have made of the world on their way to God’s city. I am not sure at all that God will give me my vengeance (or that my true self truly cares about it). It doesn’t matter, anyway, because right now the rubble is piling on the oppressed and I am wondering if I have any equipment at all to dig them out. There is not a lot of time to care about how to get even with who did this to us!!

Parker Palmer was on Bill Moyer’s Journal (old men saying wise things) this week. One of our friends told Gwen to record it. He said his personal depression was mirrored in and mirroring the depression of our financial system. It made me kind of alarmed. I know a lot of depressed and distressed people right now, and the number seems to be growing. Plus, so many bad things happened to the church this week – sexual immorality is uncovered, financial ineptitude discovered, a former lease goes to collection, weak people raise alarm (as they do when things are generally bad – they soak up and channel the feelings), people lose jobs, people hole up and act scared. I really began to think we are under general attack.

When Isaiah’s city was being brought low, God gave him a vision of the city whose walls are God’s salvation. I also began to think that a wonderful change must be about to happen. I’m not so old yet, but I am old enough to know that supposedly bad times (like your personal depression) are often the beginnings of the next great time. Now if we can just keep our minds on what God (who makes something out of nothing) is going to do, so we can have some peace in the midst of this mess!