Learning to Live in Peace and at Peace

It's a peaceful setting for sure but what about inner peace?Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be recognized as children of God.—Matthew 5:9 (New Jerusalem Bible)The long, arduous spiritual journey can be summed up this way: All of life—from beginning to end is to be marked by peace. Being at peace is truly a mark of authenticity for those that are on the journey to God. It has taken me many years, several positions in my work and some failed relationships to realize that peace and living at peace is our ultimate goal in life. Where there is no peace--there is no real life.As I look back on my life and through the decades of my journey, seeking peace was not on my list of priorities. I, like so many around me, sought power and control; affection and esteem and security and survival. Family, work and friendship became venues for me to seek what I thought I needed. I thought a position would give me peace. I now see that I was programmed by my culture to live a certain way and that by living in a certain way--I would eventually get what I was searching for in life. I was wrong. I though being liked and accepted would cultivate peace inside. I was wrong. I though finally arriving at a vocational position would offer me all that I really wanted. Again, I was wrong.In this beatitude--this statement of a healthy attitude about life, we again see Jesus defining for us the core truth we can embrace to bring us to experience peace.To think that the heart of God and the intentions of Jesus would be that I could experience peace—the great shalom of God—allows me to re-think everything in my life. That God would seriously desire for me to live at peace and to be at peace opens my heart to God in a deeper way.The Hebrew word for “shalom” means far more than mere peace. Shalom is about our well-being; a state of being that is not at struggle, conflict or discord with ourselves and with other people, institutions, systems or organizations.This kind of well being is cultivated in at least five main ways.

  1. Peace with our past. As we mature, we realize that we have collected bruises, nicks and wounds and each one of these is a part of our story—our narrative. But experiencing peace means that we do not have to be defined by our past or be a victim of our past. Experiencing peace in our past requires knowing the true story of our formation; forgiving those who wronged us and gaining the insight and strength to overcome parts of our story that could have swamped us or sunk us.  As I work with people, I find that it is our past where most of us really need to do the work of being a peacemakers. Something has happened in our past that we seem to get over and we succumb to the power of a past that holds us in its grip rather than being transformed from our past.
  2. Peace with our body. Our bodies are the address of our soul. To survive, forget ahead and compete, we may discover that we have abused our bodies—and may not have honored them. To have peace with our bodies is to accept our physical limitations; to accept our DNA and propensity towards certain physical challenges. To realize that we are what we eat and for the body to be at peace, the body needs the things that will nourish it—not harm it. To be a peace with one's body is to live the healing we so deeply need.  I am 18 months into a journey with this being core and central for me. My intentional work here is fascinating, motivating and filled with wonderful curiosity.
  3. Peace in our minds. Our minds seem to be the place of perpetual committee meetings where we hear old voices telling us; shouting at us and sometimes condemning us. Learning how to quiet the mind is a spiritual exercise that nearly every religion on earth addresses. Jesus described an inner room where we can go to intentionally say “no” to the voices that never seem to leave us alone.   Voices that snarl their jeering, rejecting and condemning tones undermine our efforts to have inner peace. We learn, hopefully, how to shut the door to these voices and listen to the Voice that tells us who we really are and what our true identity is all about in life.  This particular area is key in the work of caring for someone's soul. If our minds are not at peace--then we are not at peace.
  4. Peace in our relationships. The sum of all Christian Scripture is very clear here. We are to pursue peace in relationships. We are to engage in peaceful behaviors that move us from one position to another, more life-giving way to live. We move from competition to cooperation. We move from being divisive to be one that joins in the work and lives or others. We move from insisting on our own way and position to yielding to the perspective and insight of others. To move towards forgiveness--even when  we have in fact been wronged is at the core of being at peace.
  5. Peace with God. All of life is about learning to live at peace with God. As we experience this peace—this marker of a true relationship with God—we realize that this key and most primary of all relationships is the one relationship that anchors all other relationships. To be at peace with God is to learn how to be at peace with others—even our enemies—even those who speak ill against us. To experience the peace of God on a daily--day to day basis is at the heart of a healthy relationship with God.

 It’s far easier to list these main areas where we need to experience peace than to actually foster peace in each one. Yet, this really is our journey.  Choose one of the above areas this coming week and see how by your attention and focus people, events and circumstances may come to mind that need your attention. In my most recent sabbatical, my attention was drawn to two particular people that I knew I needed to pursue; say some words that might bring healing and resolution. These people surfaced in my own heart after weeks and weeks of quiet, rest, pondering and wondering. During the closing days of my sabbatical, I went to each one and asked forgiveness--owned what I could and sought to bless them by telling them how important they were to me and how much I valued them. It helped. And to my great surprise, I believe they were helped by my peace-making actions.[tweetthis]Making peace and experiencing contentment in life is truly an Inside Job. Peace does not just happen.[/tweetthis] When we do our inner work, we are cultivating the peace we desire and want.When we live at peace and in peace—we discover who we really are. We gain a sense of our true identity as the children of God. Some people say, I have my mother’s eyes. Some say, you might look more like your father than your mother. To look like and to be a person of peace is to possess the highest hallmark of the spiritual life. For when we are at peace—we are truly in God’s presence.

Nine Attitudes that Lead to Happiness Now

What makes us happy?What makes a person happy?  That's a question, men and women through the ages have tried to answer. We, like those who came before us, try to live a life that will marked by happiness and contentment.  But how can we find some assurance that the way we are living will actually bring us happiness?Following Jesus is about the transformation of our attitudes about life--those inner dispositions that rise up within us from time to time as we live our life; do our job and raise our family.  Jesus was concerned with the inside--knowing that we'd be concerned with our outside world and the outer markers of success in life. He will not allow his followers to camp out in the suburbs of the Kingdom he is ushering in.  He wants the Kingdom to be birthed within each heart. [tweetthis]The Beatitudes are nine needed attitudes to find happiness in this life--right now. [/tweetthis]His Beatitudes --nine statements about the inner life of his followers focus on nine specific attitudes that followers of Jesus need to cultivate to truly be happy and to really live in the blessing of God.One of the best ways to understand what the Beatitudes of Jesus are about is to realize that the beatitudes are about our attitudes. The transformation of our attitudes in life—those inner dispositions about life, our self and God. Each of the nine attitude statements offered us by Jesus reveal a shifting of the tectonic plates of our soul. These nine attitudes challenge our long held and often fortified beliefs about what really makes a person happy.  We have long held and closely maintained systems that have shaped our own understanding of how a person finds happiness. Many of our beliefs are cemented in our ideas about security, position, money and success.  Yet, Jesus turns our programmed systems of belief on it's head. Each attitude shows us a whole-other-way to live.happinessThere is a specific call to action in each of the attitudes. We are told to BE the attitude—not just hold to a certain belief. When we become the actual attitude that Jesus describes—then the blessing comes—then our happiness is anchored in something more real that circumstances, temporary events or nice geographical settings such as mountain vistas and sandy beaches. Happiness is not circumstantial not is it related to positions we find ourselves in at any particular moment. True happiness and blessing is inside—and reveals to us a Kingdom within each heart right now.When we cultivate the attitudes of Jesus, we sense a shifting inside:

  • We discover a true sense of happiness and well-being.
  • We discover our programmed way for happiness that is shaped by culture both in the church and around us in the world.
  • We find a whole, new way to live that begins on the inside and centrifuges to those around us.
  • We learn to live with a new foundation, authored by Jesus and lived out by the early church—modeled by the early church fathers and mothers yet, ignored in our current state of affairs.
  • We live less obsessed with our daily crisis and challenges and live in a Kingdom perspective of the wider, greater dimension than just self.
  • We see in a whole other way of looking at life, self, and the world. In holding to the larger story, we tolerate the smaller story of trials and tribulations right now.

The first four beatitudes focus on our exaggerated and embellished view of life as we see it on our own. The first four attitudes are dispositions within each person. These are the lenses through which we look at life, other people and ourselves.

  1. Blessed are the poor—reveals our obsession with security and what security really is.
  2. Blessed are those that mourn—shows the necessity of giving up that which we clinch and crave and learn to relax in the letting go of what we hold most dear and vital in life. Inner freedom comes as we let go.
  3. Blessed are the meek—lays the foundation that by giving up control in life we learn to receive all that God desires to give us.
  4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst—uncovers the deep desires for what will gratify us—but never satisfy us.

The need for security; our propensity to hold tightly what we think we know and value most; our issues of control and the deep desires for what we think will satisfy us and our “rights” to pursue the fulfillment of self are confronted with a clarion call to live in a whole, other way is foundational to living well in the heart of Jesus. The Beatitudes show us the way.The next three Beatitudes flow from the first four attitudes being transformed. As we cultivate the right inner attitudes, then we are ready to extend our lives for the sake of others.

  1. Blessed are the merciful—shows our need to accept others no matter their circumstances and to realize their Belovedness—not just our own.
  2. Blessed are the pure in heart—reveals the holiness of everyone and everything and to observe the mystery of God in our dailiness, events and world around us not just the epiphanies.
  3. Blessed are the peacemakers—shows us that peace flows first from within us and is our inside job to cultivate and then give to others.

The last two attitudes are about embracing suffering not ignoring it. Suffering is inevitable in following Jesus. He suffered—so will his followers. It cannot be avoided and our attitude towards suffering is important.

  1. Blessed are those who are persecuted—lays down a core truth that the followers of Jesus must move beyond self-interest and the daily obsessions with our own lives to the plight of others who are less fortunate.
  2. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you—helps us understand the role of criticism and rejection and helps redefine our true identity as the Beloved sons and daughters of another world.

 (If you're new the blog, you'll want to look back and scroll through earlier entries where I'm trying to give my voice to each attitude and Beatitude).

Re-Thinking Mercy

“Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.”—Matthew 5:7

Do you think she ever showed herself mercy and self-compassion?When we think of a merciful person, images of Mother Theresa squatting by a dying man under a bridge in Calcutta may come to mind. It’s rare to see a merciful person in politics, business or even church life. We live with a dogged tenacity “to get ‘ur done” and to press on in the tyranny of the urgent and competing demands of our lives to show mercy. We’re often too busy to show mercy—or what we even think might be mercy. We’re too pre-occupied with our own agendas to slow down and consider the plight of someone else. We may want to be merciful. But to WANT to be merciful and to actually be mercifully may be two different things.Here again, Jesus offers us a radically different paradigm about how to live life well. How to live well and how to be well—that’s our goal, right?At the root of the word “mercy” is the term “merc” which is an exchange. We get the English word, “mercantile” from this word. A mercantile is a place of trade where goods are exchanged. There is a giving and there is a taking and this is precisely the renewed understanding of mercy we need in our lives today. A merciful person is someone involved in both the giving and the receiving. Both are at the core of being a merciful person.How can you show mercy to yourself after a stressful day?Perhaps the greatest arena of need for us to explore how to be a merciful person is with ourselves. If we don’t learn how to show mercy to ourselves, we soon find ourselves living on empty and the “check engine” light is coming on in our souls. We simply cannot give, give, and give all the time. There must be a receiving. There must be a merciful exchange which says this: Those who give—must be given to. Because I have given a lot today-this week—now… I am going to exchange some time and care for myself. To live in this merciful rhythm is life and it is life giving.The single greatest violation I see in leader’s lives is right here! Most leaders, regardless of where they serve—violate the principle of this great, Sacred exchange. They give. But they will not learn how to receive—how to receive mercy for themselves. We’re confused here. We have few good models and we need help.[tweetthis]Being merciful is never a selfish act. It is a true exchange of understanding that those who give—must be given to.[/tweetthis]Showing mercy to oneself is the art of living in the rhythm of giving and receiving.

  • How will you give mercy to your body who has literally carried you through all the grueling tasks of today—of every day?
  • What would it look like for you to give mercy to your body---to care for your physical well being? I have to admit here that this is a insight that I am so glad to be waking up to. If I am what I eat—then I need to eat in a merciful way to show mercy to my body—to honor my body as the address of my soul.
  • How could you be merciful to yourself in your time and how you spend your time? Are you always in a hurry? How might you slow yourself down and give yourself more margin—more room for an interruption that will not send you into a implosion because some interruption occurred that you did not plan for this week?
  • What would mercy look like to your mind because you have called your mind to engage in spreadsheets, emails and texts matters all day long? How can you let your mind come down--and rest?
  • What would mercy look like to your emotions that have engaged all day long: anger, excitment, fear, angst, stress and so much more. How can you let your emotions relax and come down off the steriods of people, stress, stock markets and disappointments?

Mercy, when correctly understood, begins with ourselves. It’s just as Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The bottom line is that you matter! True love is living in the exchange of giving and receiving.As we first live with a recognition that we, ourselves need to give mercy to ourselves, then we find we are able, ready, eager and willing to extend mercy to others. It is an ebb and flow—a give and take. Both are needed and necessary.Most folks in leadership positions, however, are violating this exchange. They either don’t know about the needed, life giving exchange or they ignore it—thinking that they are the exception to the way life works.Mercy has no exceptions. We all need mercy and at the core of every living soul is the need to receive acts of mercy—a touch, a drink of cold water, a short respite under a shady tree where we are sheltered—if only for a short time.When we live this radical paradigm that Jesus offers us, the ripple effects begin to make waves around us. We are living well—and others will live better around us. We are showing kindness to ourselves—and that kindness radiates to those in our sphere of influence and even beyond.To be shown mercy is to be shown a better way to live than we are perhaps currently living right now. To be shown mercy is to be shown that life is an exchange. Healthy folks are not narcissistic. They give and take. As we live as merciful people, we live in a natural, God-ordered way of living that promotes life at the very core of our existence and the existence of every living thing.