Peace is the Greatest Gift We Can Wish for Ourselves and Others

11443622705_f7a84acb78_zIf God’s peace is in our hearts, we carry it with us, and it can be given to those around us, not by our own will or virtue, but by the Holy Spirit working through us. We cannot give what we do not have, but if the spirit blows through the dark clouds, and enters our hearts, we can be used as vehicles of peace, and our own peace will be thereby deepened. The more peace we give away, the more we have. –  Madeleine L’Engle, in the foreword to Seeking Peace

For Christmas, I have gathered some posts about peace. May your heart receive the gift of peace at this season .

1.  From Plough: Christmas in the Emergency Room by Curtis Meier

The writer works as a nurse in a British hospital. Names have been changed to protect privacy.

The Acute Medical Unit is a high-octane environment, a tangle of clinicians engaged in the frantic battle to save lives. End-of-life care has never been its forte. On a cold, dark October evening, an eighty-four-year-old man named Mark lay in the electric profiling bed adjusted so far forward that his chin dropped onto his chest every time he nodded off. The relentless struggle to breathe had exhausted him, and the increasing roar of the CPAP machine forcing air into his lungs confirmed that his efforts were flagging. Arms and feet purple from continuous blood samples, Mark looked like he’d been through a war. Intravenous fluid cascaded down a line into his arm. The all-too-predictable progression of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder had taken its course, and Mark was on the final lap.

Mark’s daughter Clara sat by his side, changing the damp towels on his forehead and adjusting the fan on the bedside table. They didn’t want me to call his wife. “She has dementia,” Clara explained, “and it would be too much of a shock.” I called the outreach nurse. Sally was on call for all wards of the hospital that night and I wanted Mark to be on her list as I didn’t think he’d last until tomorrow.

Later in the evening, Sally and I arrived at Mark’s bedside simultaneously. Both of us were surprised to find the chaplain there. Neither of us knew who had called him but guessed it had been Clara. The staff regarded him coolly, as if he’d just jumped out of a time machine from the Middle Ages to remind us that “the end is near” in a sonorous bass voice. Standing in the midst of a world where clinicians expend every option in a persistent attempt to save life – or at least prolong it – a man who comes to help someone prepare for death is an outsider. Sensing this, he was fidgeting and slightly uncomfortable. We all exchanged awkward formalities, our invisible worlds clashing. Then Mark tore off his oxygen mask.

It was difficult for him to be heard over the alarms beeping at him to replace his lifeline, but his voice was clear and crisp between gasps. “Could we sing ‘O come all ye faithful’?”

His words were a bomb in the unit, but everyone knew the unspoken code: a patient’s wish should be respected. It felt zany and out of place singing that particular song in that room. The two atmospheres collided like cumulonimbus, producing a near-audible thunderclap that sent vibes across the unit. The frantic pace dropped off for a moment. People looked. Some joined in. But our little corner was bright with Christmas cheer. It was as if the benevolent Spirit of Christmas Present had stepped out of Dickens’ novel and was sprinkling everything with magic from his torch. I’m sure there were a few Scrooges whose hearts were warmed.

“Sing choirs of angels, sing in exultation!” rang out louder and stronger – and we could practically hear them singing along! The whole room was filled with their glorias.

It was a moment I wished would never end. I have relived it in my thoughts many times since because it gives me hope that the spirit of Christmas can break in anywhere and everywhere. Let it in! Risk giving it a day-pass into your workplace. If it feels out of order then it is all the more urgently needed.

2.  From The Hurt Healer: a wonderful post about Peace:

Give me peace. Give me quiet. Give me a place of silence that I may restore and renew my mind, body and soul.

“Quiet is peace. Tranquility. Quiet is turning down the volume knob on life. Silence is pushing the off button. Shutting it down. All of it. – Amir” ― Khaled Hossein, The Kite Runner

It’s not that I don’t enjoy being busy at home and at work. I love my life no matter how hectic or whatever the challenges a day brings. And it’s not that I don’t enjoy noise. I love the loud squeals of children playing or the blast of joyful music. Vitality and vibrancy are essential to my life. Sometimes though my senses overload with commotion. It’s time to search for peace.

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls. Mother Theresa

Actually, it’s amazing how difficult it can be to find a place that it perfectly quiet. Living in the countryside as I do, it is calm and serene. Yet even in the dead of night there will be a rustle of wind in the trees or the slight bubble of water from the river. It’s not total silence but there is a tangible tranquillity and stillness.

I have grown to love periods of silence and solitude. However, I also know just how torturous being alone with only your own thoughts can be. Throughout the seasons of my twenty year battle with depression I fought with the constant need to fill my personal space with as much noise as possible. It didn’t matter where it came from as long as it was loud enough to distract from my inner turmoil.

Abandoned by my mother and abused by my father had left me with a broken heart and a chaotic mind. My biggest fear at that time was to be left only with myself – a truly terrifying thought. Abusing alcohol was the only way I could manage to drown out my despair, but that was never going to be the solution. Peace of mind can’t be found in a bottle.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 NIV

My mission for peace came when I started on my journey of recovery. In the midst of my struggle to overcome depression and alcoholism I sought serenity of mind, body and soul. It was faith that initially guided me on my path to inner-peace and so to healing. With healing came a soothing calm, a reassuring tranquillity and the ability to ‘just be’. Today I am at peace with myself and I seek that sense of serenity with a passion.

Silence has a regenerative power of its own. It is always sacred. It always returns you home.  Barbara De Angelis

As with most things in life, I have learnt the importance of balance. Life should neither be too noisy or too quiet. The more I am comfortable with and able to immerse myself in times of silence, the more I appreciate and enjoy times of busyness.

At the end of the day though, I need to find some solitude.  Just a few minutes of stillness has the power to physically and psychologically rejuvenate and refresh. Whether it’s through reflective music, contemplative reading or meditative prayer, I take time to come to a place of peace. Peace of mind. Peace of body. Peace of soul.

What about you? How do you find your peace?

Photo credit.


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