Today is a guest post from someone very special to me – Lauren Allen, the oldest of our two daughters. “Listen” to what she has to say about something many of us are pursuing – Peace.
Peace…the very word elicits a sense of calm and reminds us to take a deep breath. Peace as defined in Merriam-Webster is a state of tranquility or quiet.
As I write this I am sitting outside on a glorious day, 66 degrees with a slight wind, and to top it all of it’s the beginning of a 3-day weekend. All of these smack of peace.
My question for you is: how do you pursue peace in your own life? In the middle of a busy week with looming deadlines and family obligations, are you at peace? Even better-after a long week if you were to stop and sit, would you be at peace? If peace is a state of tranquility and state means a way of living, are you living at peace? Right now I am not speaking to whether or not you are at peace with people but are you at peace with yourself?
I follow a lot of blogs and at the beginning of the year many of them were picking a word for 2014. Now, I usually run the opposite way when there is a band wagon but this one resonated with me. After wracking my brain for a while I found my word….peace! The last two years of my life have been wrought with anxiety and I have worked so hard to fight the anxiety in my life; I fought it so hard that I had allowed it to control my life.
How do I practice peace? I seek peace personally by assuming all blame and deflecting all blame. Let me explain that paradox.
On most days, I have an excuse for everything, as such I can explain every bad decision or rude comment I make. This, at the base of it, allows me to not be at fault. Yet in the process I can weary people and even cause them to not trust me. In my desire for peace and my belief that people are so vastly important, I have taught myself (note: still teaching) to not come up with an excuse; I need to own my mistakes, even ones with valid explanations.
I also deflect all blame, this may be more for my sanity than actually being nice to people. If someone cuts me off in traffic I automatically think they didn’t see me or their first child is being born and need to get to the hospital. If someone is rude to me at work I try to remember their home life, maybe their kids are a rough week or maybe it’s the anniversary of their spouse’s/kid’s death. In these actions I am made aware that life is so much more encompassing than me alone. This eliminates a great deal of hurt feelings/anger/etc. that threaten the balance of peace in my life that I strive for.
Another thing I do is go on walks outside, especially when I am at work. My office is located on a beautiful property in Southwestern Michigan with many walking trails, which is perfect for exploring. For me personally, being outside calms me down immensely. The beauty of creation reminds me of the Lord’s care for me as well as reminding me that no matter what is going on in my life and the world-the grass will continue to grow, the birds and frogs will live…and life will go on.
I suggest that you do one thing today, at least, that brings you peace. Whether that is a good cup of coffee, a walk outside, a nap, a good book-whatever it may be.
The practice of peace, begets peace.
. . . what I have argued for, is to make the terrain we live in a little more familiar, slower, quieter, and peaceful. If I could pour calm in my pots I would. If by them I could make people a little happier, feel a little more as friends and family, or be a little more tied to community and God, then I would. – Ron Newsome
This quote comes from my cousin’s husband who is one of the most at peace people I have met over the years. He is a former helicopter pilot that served in Vietnam and now he and my cousin live in a beautiful part of east Alabama and he makes beautiful and very functional pottery (check out his Facebook page here).
“If I could pour calm into my pots I would.” What a thought. He, like many of us, realizes that a good dose of calm is what most of us need. We often live frenzied lives rushing from one thing to another and not even noticing the people around us nor the wonders and beauty of God’s creation all around us. What is worse, all that frenzied running around produces little but stress, anxiety, shallow relationships, and a deep sense of discontentment in our lives as we know something is not quite right.So why do we do this to ourselves? Pride, trying to please or impress others, the expectations of our culture, or maybe sometimes we just don’t know how to live a life of peace.
Now, don’t get me wrong, having peace in your life is not about retreating from life. It is more about choices. It is about centering your life on Christ and resting in him. It is about noticing and engaging with the people around you and truly building community. It is about looking on God’s creation with wonder and amazement at His creativity. It is about creating margin in your life. One of the best ways to start developing that sense of contentment is to first take your eyes off of yourself and place them on the Lord and others. It is amazing how things change when you change your perspective.
So, why not change? What is all this frenzied running about really gotten you so far? What is stopping you?
Now, one of my favorite closings of Paul’s epistles:
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holt Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:14
Good Saturday afternoon! It’s a chilly, cold, wet day here in Indiana, but you can see the promise of spring in the green shoots starting to appear in the flower beds, robins everywhere, and most of the snow has melted away.
More and more, I am being impressed with the power of words to build up or to tear down. Often, your words are a part of your legacy – you can either cause deep wounds that leave scars for a lifetime or you can speak words of grace that stay with others for their lifetime and even beyond in those that they touch.
I came across a poem today about Dietrich Bonhoeffer that speaks of the lasting impact of his words. I hope it impacts you as it did me.
EASTER SPOILS 2012
This is the end – for me, the beginning of life. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer (from his last recorded words)
Words to a prison friend, spoken in haste.
Gestapo men had come to transfer him,
Low Sunday, sixty-seven years ago
Today. The next morning, he’d be hanged with others.
No question who was strong and who was weak.
A room of prisoners praying, when the door
Burst open. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He went
But only after saying his goodbyes,
Stealing a few more minutes as a man
Might steal his own possessions from a thief.
Words can survive the worst, which is love’s trick;
Can, on occasion, be the love they praise.
On this distant Easter night, the world still writhes
In its uneven pain. Wakeful, I hear
Bonhoeffer voicing love’s contingency,
Love’s need, the thousand ways love dies and dies
And may live on in something someone says.
– Charles Hughes
What will be the legacy of your words spoken to others?
Over the years I have come to better appreciate the power of words. Time and again, when I have worked with organizations, the employees often tell me “I only hear from them (their managers) when I make a mistake, I wish they would say something when I do a good job” or “I wish I knew how I was doing, no one ever says anything about my work” or “I worked extra hours this week trying to ship product on time and no one said thank you” and so on.
One mark of a leader is a good vocabulary that they use well and often. This particular vocabulary uses words and phrases such as the following:
Great job, I particularly appreciate how you did ________.
I’m sorry, I failed to ________.
I was wrong. You were right.
Great insight! Excellent idea!
Would you help me to ________? We need your input on ____.
I am glad you are a part of XYZ Organization, you make a difference!
I appreciate your hard work and dedication – you are a great example to the others.
You have worked long enough for the day – go home and be with your family.
You have earned your vacation and you need to take it – XYZ won’t fall apart while you are gone.
Stay off email at night!
Here, let me help you.
You know, you did not do so well on ____, but I know you want to do well and I want to help you.
And finally one big addition to your vocabulary – laughter. Learn to laugh and to let your staff know that it is good to laugh!
You can change lives with your words – literally. So speak words of truth, grace, and peace to those you lead and see how it causes them to flourish.
“A gentle tongue is a tree of life, . . .” Proverbs 15:4
“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Proverbs 16:24
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” Proverbs 25:11