I heard a speaker last night who talked about “peace”. He travels the country and documents what people think peace means and what they are going to do to achieve it over the next year. The speaker was, photographer, John Nolter and he is the founder of “A Peace of My Mind”. On the website www.apeaceofmymind.net, “Holocaust survivors, refugees, artists, former prisoners, teachers, immigrants, veterans, and more share inspiring stories of compassion, forgiveness, and transformation in a series that celebrates our common experience and sense of community” (www.apeaceofmymind.net). He made me begin to think about what peace means, is, looks like, and what am I going to do to have it. As I thought about a “peace of mind”, I thought about what brings me peace and the lyrics of this song came to mind:
“When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well, with my soul“.
“It Is Well With My Soul” is a hymn written by Horatio Spafford. The song writer had just lost his 4 daughters in a ship wreck and a son a few years earlier to pneumonia and yet he found a way to have peace in the midst of the storm. I am assuming that he understood that peace many times comes from the belief that there is a God, by whatever name called, in control of all of this! I believe there is little we can do besides to live right and righteous; to stand for justice; to serve others; and to recognize our Blessings and good luck have nothing to do with our individual intelligence, skill, or power, but are due solely to the unpredictable goodness of God. I also choose to belive that when bad things happen, there is a greater plan that I can’t see yet so I have to trust God. I can choose to sit in sorrow or to find peace. With that understanding, I can have hope, light and peace in my soul – a supernatural peace that surpasses natural understanding; a peace that allows me to say, it is well with my soul.
John Nolter said there are many things you can do to increase peace but he highlighted three.
- He said we have to listen to each other. We have to listen without talking! We must have conversations ”face to face so we can walk side by side.” We have to have difficult conversations with people who are different from ourselves.
- Even if those conversations get hard, we have to stay at the table. If you stay at the table long enough and if you are willing, you can reach consensus. Too often, people leave the table without understanding. Stay at the table, ask questions and then, listen for answers.
- Finally, forgive. Forgiveness is not for the other person. Forgiveness allows you to move forward. You can sit in anger, hurt or disappointment and get bitter or you can choose to forgive and get better. The choice is yours!
In a time in our country where there seems to be more division than cohesion, more misunderstanding than understanding, and more finger pointing than hand holding, it is important for us to be clear about what peace is, and how will we know when we have it.
With this in mind, what does peace mean to you? What are you going to do to bring more peace this year?