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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Making sense of the noise

Sometimes peace is not the absence of noise, but rather the "ordering" of the chaos within the noise so we begin to hear clearly and find the answers we seek. John F. Kennedy may have said the following about the absence of war, but it bears truth we all need to consider: "Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures." He might have been talking about how nations and peoples stop fighting against each other, taking up the stand of peaceful resolution to their issues, but it is this idea of peace being a process of gradual change, the removal of barriers, and the erecting of new structures in their place which really tells us a great deal about true peace. It isn't the absence of movement or thought - it is the "putting into right order" the actions one takes or the way one begins to consider a matter before them.


Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come.  And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One. Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy. (Philippians 4:6-8 VOICE)

Peace often comes when we begin to look beyond ourselves. In the chaos of our actions and thoughts, we find it hard to find order.  We don't realize the very thing we might need to actually "know peace" is to look beyond what we have been trying to keep "in order" within our lives all under our own power or ability.  Order is often the result of a process - no change occurs until the process is fulfilled.  Many of us have garages.  Ever notice how they can go from being orderly to cluttered and scattered with all manner of "stuff" in kind of short order?  In the most literal sense, the garage became a "dumping ground" for stuff we didn't know where else to place, along with all the stuff which actually has a place in the garage.  The shop vac has a place and a purpose in the garage. The wrenches on your workbench had a place and a purpose in the garage.  Yet, when these are out of place, "disorder" is what we are looking at when we gaze upon the clutter in the garage.  Add to the clutter things like the last two weeks of newspapers which have not made it past the back door, or the quickly shed ten pairs of shoes which have collected on the stoop and you have increased the disorder!

The "clutter" or "disorder" of our lives is often something which took a "process" to accomplish - why would we think it wouldn't take a "process" to get us back to a place of order? In some sense, we kind of lift a prayer to God, expecting him to wave some wand of "peacefulness" over our lives and all these things which took time to actually get so "out of order" in our lives to somehow just fall into place.  Disorder isn't the absence of order - it is the "putting in right order" the things which should remain, getting rid of the stuff which should have no place there, and then using what has been place in right order in the way it was intended to be used.  In the sense of the garage, I need to take the shoes to the closets and the papers to the dumpster!  The wrenches on the bench need to be hung on the pegboard, the "pieces" of life which collected there need to be put onto their shelves or in their drawers, and the shop vac needs to clean up the debris left behind when all this is said and done!  In the terms of my life, I may need to be as intentional about the "right ordering" of the stuff I have allowed to build into utter chaos in order to be able to find that stuff useful in my life once again!

As I often teach, all action begins with thought - we just don't "do" stuff without some kind of thought.  It might not be the thought we just considered, but trust me on this one, we considered it at some point down the road and even now, those thoughts have the potential to put into action some kind of response on our behalf.  This is why it is so important to find peace in our thought life - getting the stuff out of there which doesn't have a place, setting in right order the stuff which does actually serve a good purpose, and then using the stuff we call thought in the way it is intended!  It is a process of gradual changing of the way we think, erecting new patterns of thought, until one day we see the evidence of the strong structure of ordered and peaceful thought!  Yes, God can settle our minds in an instant, but if all the clutter of chaotic thought remains in the recesses, we will be tripping over discarded shoes and unread newspapers for a long, long time!

For right actions to emerge, we begin with thought. What we "consider" matters.  That which is considered is acknowledged as useful - it serves a purpose, so we give it "credence" in our lives.  Sometimes we give stuff credence which really has no purpose - we have acknowledged it as important, but in reality it is something quite unnecessary or even harmful to us.  We need to do more than just take a casual approach to what we acknowledge as truth - we need to test it and allow it to show the true value in it before we just acknowledge it and make it "truth" we adopt in our lives. To consider also means we spend time examining the object or issue before us - we don't just gloss over it, but really examine every "nook and cranny" of the matter.  As a nurse, I can do a quick, down-and-dirty assessment of my patient. It might allow me to begin to give life-sustaining actions which are important at the very moment (such as when I see you have difficulty breathing and administer oxygen).  Not every immediate action should become the "pattern" by which we act each and every time.  Sometimes we just need to do a more thorough examination of what is in front of us (or in the forefront of our minds) and find out what "really" is at the heart of the issue at hand.  Oxygen may cause you to "pink up" a little, breathing a little easier, but if I never realize you have pneumonia because I don't listen to your lungs, I could just be masking the real issue!  Remember, peace is not the absence of noise, it is the right-ordering of the chaos so you make sense of the noise!  Just sayin!