Monday, February 04, 2013

peace starts inside

Sunset in my neighbourhood
This week I showed a video in class from some monks at the Monastery of Saint Antony in Egypt.  Father Lazarus talks about different kinds of silence: one kind of silence is when we go into a garden or enjoy a walk in a park and have a bit of quiet.  That's nice, but it is temporary and it is mostly external.  A deeper type of silence is when our minds are not frantic and our thoughts are not in turmoil.  This silence, this inner peace, is something that is possible no matter where we are, whether alone in the stillness of the desert or in the middle of a noisy crowd in the heart of New York City.  Oh, to have a mind that is a peace, that is calm and ordered, that thinks good and honourable thoughts and does not worry.  It is a struggle, indeed, but it is possible to have moments of inner peace.

I read Psalm 139 a few days ago and found 5 distinct markers along the psalmist's journey to inner peace.  I offer them here.  Keep in mind that these are not a definitive road map but simply some guidelines that might be helpful as we work towards being more peaceful, inside and out.  Some may find one more difficult to implement that the others; our struggles for inner peace are all unique.  But wherever we are, at whatever stage in our life, it is always possible to take a step closer towards the Prince of Peace.

1.  Invite God into my internal dialogue; be open and transparent before him.
God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand.  I'm an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I'm thinking.  You know when I leave and when I get back; I'm never out of your sight.  You know everything I'm going to say before I start the first sentence.  I look behind me and you're there, then up ahead and you're there, too - your reassuring presence, coming and going.  This is too much, too wonderful - I can't take it all in!  (Ps. 139:1-6, The Message)

2.  Acknowledge that nothing is hidden from God, that all my thoughts are known to him.  This is not cause for shame; his pervasive presence brings comfort, relieves my isolation, and lightens the dark places.
Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you're there!  If I go underground, you're there!  If I flew on morning's wings to the far west horizon, you'd find me in a minute - you're already there waiting! Then I said to myself, "Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I'm immersed in the light!" It's a fact: darkness isn't dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they're all the same to you.  (Ps. 139:7-12)

Downtown Montreal
3.  Thank God for his marvelous creation: me!  The intricacies of my body (which are beyond my comprehension) speak of the intricacies of God's care and thoughtfulness in all areas and times of my life.  Though I many not comprehend it, it is good because he created it.  Trust the Good!
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother's womb.  I thank you, High God - you're breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration - what a creation!  You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; you know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.  Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I'd even lived one day.  (Ps. 139:13-16)

4.  Point my thoughts toward God and turn away from thoughts of despair, hatred, pride, and self-reliance.
Your thoughts - how rare, how beautiful! God, I'll never comprehend them! I couldn't even begin to count them - any more than I could count the sand of the sea.  Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!  And please, God, do away with wickedness for good!  And you murderers - out of here! - all the men and women who belittle you, God, infatuated with cheap god-imitations.  See how I hate those who hate you, God, see how I loathe all this godless arrogance; I hate it with pure unadulterated hatred.  Your enemies are my enemies!  (Ps. 139:17-22)

5.  Be open to correction, embrace learning, look to the Spirit to guide, humbly submit to God's discipline and training.  Don't resist transformation!
Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about; see for yourself whether I've done anything wrong - then guide me on the road to eternal life.  (Ps. 139:23-24)

The video of Father Lazarus and the monks of St. Antony can be found here.

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