When was the last time you felt truly at peace?
I’m in a stage of life where there’s pretty much constant chaos. There’s always more to do than time to do it. You might be in a similar boat, where the demands of life are constant. Maybe you’re working a million hours a week, or caring for other people – children, parents, a spouse – maybe there’s not enough time in your day for your to-do list. But maybe not. Maybe your schedule is way too empty, or you’re feeling isolated or even bored – trying to find ways to fill the days. Just because your pace of life is quiet, or slow, doesn’t mean there’s peace in it.
That’s a mistake we often make. Peace isn’t the same thing as quiet. I can be quiet and be VERY stressed out. In fact, I’m really good at that. Peace isn’t being still, or slowing down, or even being calm. It’s deeper than that.
One of the most commonly read Scripture verses during the Christmas season is a prophecy from Isaiah written more than 600 years before Jesus was born about the coming Messiah.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
When the Messiah would come, he would be called the Prince of Peace. And when the angels announce the birth of the baby to the shepherds they say, “Peace on earth, and goodwill to all people.” The promise of peace is woven into the promise of the Messiah. The Prince of Peace has come.
So… you might ask… where’s the peace?
WHERE’S THE PEACE?
Things are supposed to be different now, right? Peace on earth and all that! At one point toward the end of Jesus’ life, he is celebrating the Passover meal with his disciples, and he tells them that he is leaving. He’s going to be betrayed and killed. The disciples are confused by his words. They don’t understand what’s happening, but Jesus comforts them telling them not to let their hearts be troubled. And he tells them that after he leaves he’s going to send them an advocate – a helper, someone to be with them.
Then Jesus says this, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.”
Peace was the greeting of the day. When you met someone or took your leave from them you wished them peace. Shalom. Hello… goodbye… peace be with you. Jesus is preparing to take his leave, and wishing them peace, because this is what they do… but he’s not doing it in the same way the world does. He’s not just wishing them peace, like, “Peace out. See ya guys.” He is actually going to leave them peace. HIS peace. The peace of Christ.
Peace is listed as one of the fruits of God’s Spirit, because it is a result of being in the presence of God. When God is present there is peace. Jesus comes into the world, Peace is now on earth. Not yet everywhere, but it is here in the person of Jesus. The presence of Jesus on earth is the walking, moving, living, breathing Kingdom of God in the world. In the presence of Jesus people experience all the good things of the Kingdom, love, peace, healing, salvation….
But it’s still kind of encapsulated – embodied in Jesus.
When Jesus leaves, he gives us his Spirit. This is really the game changer. God’s peace is present throughout the world now – it’s here in the Spirit of God – and it’s accessible – we can experience it.
There’s a special kind of peace at the ocean for me – something about the fact that it’s constant. It’s always there. It’s vast. It’s unknown in so many ways. It’s also powerful. I find the ocean to be a great place to recharge. When my battery light is flashing red, I often find myself craving the ocean, a place where I can go and experience that peace.
I love to listen to the rhythm of the waves crashing on the sand. And the waves never stop. They don’t take a break, or close down for maintenance. I’m not on the shore right now, but the waves are. They are crashing. Relentlessly. And that’s how God’s peace is.
Maybe you can’t feel it right now, but it’s there. And it’s accessible to you.
CONNECTING WITH GOD
The first thing we have to figure out is where we are.
The ocean metaphor works for me, but what works for you? And where are you in relation to that peace?
Always start with an honest evaluation. There’s no point in being dishonest with God or with yourself. You’re not fooling anybody. And don’t judge yourself! Wherever you are, whatever picture you’ve come up with in your mind, however near or far away you feel… Know that God invites you into his peace
One of God’s greatest desires for us is to tap into that peace. I believe that’s part of our calling, to connect with the sacred rhythms of peace that are built into God’s creation – like the tides. Like the seasons. Like the rhythms of day and night… all of them echoes of God’s invitation into his peace.
There’s no “one size fits all” way to “connect with God” it looks different for everyone. Whatever road you have to take will be unique for you. But let me give you a road map that might help.
I keep coming back to the ocean metaphor, but nature truly is a great way to connect with God. Get out into God’s creation. You don’t have to hike a mountain, you can take a walk through your neighborhood, but get some sunshine. Notice the trees and flowers, even the potted ones. Listen for birds. Watch the clouds. Soak in God’s creation – his good creation.
Last year when we were at the height of the pandemic I found myself needing to be outside for much of the day. I’m sure it was a result of being stuck in the house so much of the time, but I would wake up in the morning, grab a cup of coffee, and immediately head to the front porch. I actually felt trapped in the house, and needed to be outside.
Nature is an excellent way to recharge – to find a holy space – to be in the presence of God’s peace.
But you can experience God’s peace inside too. Believe it or not – God can meet you inside.
Several years ago – as part of a Lent Devotional, my family created a “prayer corner” in our house. It was a fun little activity for them to do, they wrote scripture verses on paper and decorated them and taped them to the walls. They put some pillows on the floor where people could sit and put a couple of Bibles on a little table. They made a big sign that said prayer corner to set that space apart.
What started out as a fun hands-on project, something to do, ended up being a really powerful experience that created a holy space in our home.
Set apart a space. Make your own prayer corner. It can be a chair on your front porch. A spot by the kitchen window. Use your favorite seat, but add things to set it apart. Leave your Bible there with a bookmark. Write down a Scripture verse that gives you comfort or peace, and post it in that spot. Place a photo there that you love. Create a space that’s holy – that’s set apart.
Add a candle to your space.
I feel obligated to remind you to never leave a candle unattended, but I know you would never do that.
I grew up in a church where the worship service didn’t begin until the candles were lit. In fact, I was an acolyte for many years, which means I wore a robe with a rope tied around my waist, and I carried a giant candle lighter down the center aisle of the church at the beginning of the service. I lit the altar candles, usually with a fellow acolyte, then we sat behind the pulpit and played tic-tac-toe on the church bulletin during the sermon. But the service didn’t start until the candles were lit, because they represented the Spirit of God in the service.
It’s a simple thing, but it’s a symbolic way to invite God’s presence into your space and time. Light a candle while you have your morning coffee or take a time out. Put a candle in your prayer corner. Let it be a visual reminder of God’s presence in your space, in your life, and in the world.
Don’t forget about Scripture – the written word of God.
This might seem like an obvious one, but it’s something I have to be reminded of over and over again. I will be away from Scripture for a while, then dive back in for one reason or another and experience God’s presence fresh and new, and I’m almost always surprised by it!
I guess I’m a slow learner.
But every time I think… oh yeah! I forgot how good it is to experience God through Scripture!
And an easy way to get into Scripture is through a devotional. Check out my free Advent devotional HERE. It’s a simple way to spend time with God each day.
You don’t have to spend hours studying Scripture. These are short readings with some thoughtful reflection questions. You can do it in five minutes, tap into that peace, it’s like a quick recharge for your day. Print out the Advent Devotional and put it in your sacred space. Grab it the next time you sit down exhausted with a hot drink. Let God’s word fill you up.
CONNECT WITH OTHER BELIEVERS
Another way to tap into God’s peace is through the community of believers. Attend an event in person or online. Ask a friend to pray with you. Invite someone to coffee. Have a zoom call with someone. Maybe even find someone to do the Advent devotional with you.
“Hey, friend, I’ve got this Advent devotional, and I was wondering if you’d do it with me.” Now you’re spending time in Scripture AND having fellowship! Go you!
The Advent devotional includes a weekly rock painting activity you can do on your own, but it’s also great for kids.
Rock painting, you say? That sounds weird. But creativity is another way to tap into God’s peace. God is the creator. He created us to create, and when we create, we are reflecting God to the world. This is true for all of us, but especially for those who lean more towards the creative side of things. So, create something.
Writing – drawing – woodworking – cooking – playing music – knitting – crafting – photography – anything you do where you are creating can be a way to lean into God’s peace. And I don’t just mean stress relief, I mean the peace of God, asking God’s Holy Spirit to be present with you in that space. Being able to create is a gift from God.
These are just a few ideas for your road map – a few ways to move into God’s peace.
So start by asking yourself what God’s peace looks like for you – get that image or that place in your mind. Then ask yourself honestly where you are in relation to that place.
Then do something about it. If you’re already there – great! Glory to God. Keep on keeping on.
If you’re not there… start laying out a map, and consider including one or more of these things for your map…
- Get into nature
- Create a holy space like a prayer corner
- Light a candle
- Spend time in Scripture
- Connect with other believers
- Do something creative
- And most of all – don’t forget to pray.
May the peace of Christ rule in your hearts this day and every day until he comes again.