Tag Archives: peace

God Be In My Head

God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at mine end, and at my departing.
–Sarum Primer, 1558

God be in my hands when I pull the blanket up over my silly son’s head, just the way he likes it.

God be in my feet when I’m tramping across campus to another rehearsal.

God be in my eyes when I’m driving to the grocery store late at night to buy eggs to make cookies because I said I’d bring them to class tomorrow, and there’s no time in the morning.

God be in my words when it’s an hour past bedtime and my daughter is still wide awake.

God be in my mind when I’m doing my taxes and wondering where the money will come from.

God be in my waking, which comes too early.

God be in my sleeping, which comes too late.

God be in my head when I fold socks and underpants and shirts in silent prayer, and forgive me this one night for being too busy to fold my hands.

Advertisements

Shhhh.

Silent.

Quiet.

Still.

Peaceful.

Not synonyms, although there is quite a bit of overlap to their meanings.  I am finding that not-talking is not the same as quiet, and that silence is no guarantee of stillness.

I come from a rich tradition of words – beautifully crafted, mentally stimulating, deeply expressive words.  Words to explain, to clarify, to enlighten, but also words to shape, to influence, to steer.  Sometimes words that obscure, words that camouflage, words that sanitize.  And when the evangelical movement is having a bad week, its strength is its weakness, and this facility with words becomes weaponized – barbs and rebuttals and shotgun blasts of language that leave gaping holes in targets and observers alike.

Let me be clear – I don’t want to cut myself off from this tradition.  As long as I have mental capacity and breath in my body, that breath will be voiced in words that make sense.  I simply am not wired for “God is good, God is great, Hallelujah (repeat 47 times)” – I am wired for words.

I think, though, that I might do well to take a cue from my musical life, where the rests are nearly as important as the notes.  If there is no silence, the notes quickly become a barrage of noise.  The quiet passages are necessary for the loud ones to be appreciated, and the softer melodies have beauty all their own.

I need this quiet.  I have come from so many years of noise – church services where I am cowed into unresponsiveness because of the deliberately constant noise.  (God forbid there be “dead air” on a Sunday morning.)  My “quiet times”, not too surprisingly, have come to reflect this constant motion, and my prayers and reading are so full of words that there is no space left for listening.

I want to find out what is in the silences, and perhaps more importantly, what is not.  I need stillness more than I need words sometimes.  Now if only I can get myself to stop talking…

Ecumenical Monday

Mondays are my least restful, least peaceful day of the week.  I hit the ground running when I wake up, and by the time I put in my work day at one job, take my daughter to her cello lesson and my son to Cub Scouts, get home at 8 p.m. and wrestle them through homework and baths and stories and tooth-brushing, and then spend another couple of hours dealing with emails from all three jobs while I’m pushing the laundry through as fast as possible …

… well, I don’t even get to sit down without working until about 11:30 p.m., and quiet restful meditation is a fast-fading memory.

So I think that on Mondays I’m just going to roll with it.  My gradual exit from the fenced world of conservative American evangelicalism has given me the sneaking suspicion that maybe, just maybe, a few non-Baptists (and dare I think some non-Christians?) might have some darn good insights on faith.  Instead of bashing my tired head against my Kindle trying to get all inspired by George Fox and Hannah Whitall Smith and other people in interesting hats, I’m going to write about something from another faith tradition or lack thereof (including, like today, morally-questionable motorcycle-riding lunacy).  Today’s thought comes to you courtesy of novelist Erika Lopez, who was – entirely coincidentally – raised by a pair of lesbian Quakers:

“We all want to be remembered but we’re not going to be.  Even Bette Midler and Zsa Zsa Gabor will rot and eventually become obsolete like some sort of movie star during the Egyptian age.  And if you do happen to become remembered, you will only become chipped stone with pigeon s*** all over you like a statue of Marcus Aurelius.  No one will remember how good your chicken was or that your house smelled like strawberry incense or throw up.  None of that will matter.

No one has any pull, and I realize no one’s opinion of anything really matters more than yours until they figure out how to stay alive forever.”

There’s probably something slightly wrong with me that I find this thought so comforting.

Go To Sleep, Brain!

Be still and cool
in thy own mind and spirit
from thy own thoughts,
and…thou mayest receive
God’s strength to allay
all blusterings, storms, and tempests.
                 — George Fox, 1658

At 9:30 on a Tuesday morning when the kids are at school, I don’t have to be at work for a couple more hours, and I’m savoring the quietness in my rocking chair with a cup of tea, I ROCK at being still and cool.  When it’s almost midnight and my brain’s keeping me awake, not so much.

The blusterings, storms and tempests are no joke.  Everybody’s got some version of them, and they come and go with distressing regularity.  But I think it’s telling that Fox starts out with the encouragement to be still and cool “from thy own mind.”  Not in thy mind, from thy mind. The worst noise comes from inside, not outside.

I can pretty much order anything else I want at midnight.  I can get pizza delivered.  I can order a Princess Leia costume on Ebay.  I can sit right in my own room and pick up a handheld battery-powered device and access THE ENTIRE INTERNET, including pulling up any episode of the original series of Star Trek to watch it in the middle of the night.  Google’s not helping me out here, though … I need stillness on demand!

At Peace With All Men

This year I rashly announced on Facebook that my New Year’s Resolution was as follows:  “So far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

I wasn’t counting on getting nine days into the New Year and having a conversation that made twenty years’ worth of hurts (that were supposed to be just faint scars by now, dang it!) come slinking back in again. The Bad Bee part of me wants to list them all, along with all the pithy rejoinders and profound insights I wish I’d had the nerve to say when they all happened.  Rebuttal!  Unassailable logic!  Pow! Pow! Pow!

And then Good Bee (see Rom. 7:21-25 for a more official version of Good Bee and Bad Bee) waves her hand and says, “Um … hey?  Peace toward all men, and all that?”

Bad Bee says, “But, but, how can I be at peace with someone who’s WRONG?”

Good Bee says, “Er … do you remember that one story with the Roman soldiers and the Pharisees and that whole mess?”

Bad Bee says, “Well yes, but I’m not THE SON OF GOD, for Pete’s sake.  And I’m, y’know, RIGHT!”

Good Bee says, “Tea.  Hot tea.  Then Philippians.  And maybe that Quaker devotional book you won’t shut up about.  NOW.”

And I, good and bad both, sigh and make a pot of tea and open Philippians.  I haven’t even gotten to the good bit in chapter 2 about humility when I am pinned to my chair by this verse, written by a man who is in jail – not just heartachy, IN JAIL:  “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.”

This verse is still simmering as I read through my Quaker devotional book in the section on sorrow.  Hannah Whitall Smith wrote to her friend Priscilla Mounsey 130-some years ago:  “Thy circumstances are lonely, but thy loneliness of spirit does not come from these, it is the loneliness of humanity.  Therefore, nothing but God can satisfy it.”

I close my eyes and let these words shift around in my mind, and I’m surprised to discover that the hurt of my heart keeps my mind focused, almost completely free of its usual “oh look a chicken” tangents.  The thought that keeps surfacing from the angry, frustrated fog is that there are two kinds of loneliness, and both are very real but easily mistaken for each other.

We do need people.  Community is important, and there are times when it is somehow always just beyond our reach.  This is normal.  But there is a separate loneliness, where we are aching for community – communion, perhaps – with God.  We need a closeness that human words and bodies and thoughts simply can’t achieve, and we ache for Him.  This is normal too.

The problem arises when we confuse them.  Relying on people, burying our heads in noise and meetings and play dates, can result in a peculiarly surrounded loneliness, if that core spot reserved for God is not filled.  But relying only on God, when maybe we need to get out of our chairs and off our laptops and find a human with real ears, can leave us wondering why God isn’t enough – when He is probably sitting right beside us saying, “I AM enough! Now go call Jen!”

And now, in the midst of all these percolating thoughts, up bubbles my verse from before, and I realize that my quarrel isn’t really with the man who flippantly dismissed my pain by rebuking me for not having more friends.  Would I have liked more friends in my dark valley?  You bet.  Was it my fault for not having them?  Hard to say.  Do I want him to understand it from my perspective?  Well, Bad Bee does, which is why she’s not allowed to talk right now.

The real problem is not just with one man, or even one church.  It is with the idea that the best defense is to hit the person who is suffering, and this is everywhere.  I can’t fix this by myself, and I don’t intend to try.  What I do plan to do, though, is ask myself this question every time these old hurts float up again:  “Can this hurt, this pain, this memory be used for the greater progress of the gospel?”

And already, in the still small corners of my mind, I can hear a quiet maternal voice whispering, “Yes, My daughter.  I can use it.”