I’m sitting at my desk listening to the wind blow fiercely through the trees just outside. I watch as agitated branches bend before the gale, and raindrops pelt the window. This weather is noisy and tumultuous, and I hope no branches come crashing down. Briefly it grows quiet, and branches pause their acrobatics. Then the wind takes a deep breath and blows vehemently again, chasing waves of rain that gust sideways across the field beyond the trees.
The mood of this cold, blustery day is an appropriate reflection of the world’s mood. There is turmoil and struggle, fierce battles among the elements and among the nations. There is passionate intensity interrupted only when opposing forces stop to take a breath or re-arm themselves. A wild and violent storminess has taken hold of the weather and the world.
I caught the world’s mood as I read the news on my phone this morning: Protests in Iran and China, darkness in Ukraine, hunger in Ethiopia – and all around the world. Even the World Cup is touched by the winds of controversy. Closer to home, our country’s mood is a stormy conflict regarding library books and human rights, guns and strikes. There are fierce conflicts about church groups and ethnic groups, about climate change and immigration waves.
I am tired of such stormy weather. I want a respite! Like the disciples in the story of the fierce storm on the Sea of Galilee, I want to hear Jesus’ voice command the turbulence, “Peace, Be still.” According to Mark 4:39-40, Jesus then turned to his frightened followers on the boat and said, “Why are you so afraid?”
Well, duh, Jesus! It’s pretty windy out here. If the wild winds outside my window are scary, the world’s stormy conflicts are really frightening. While some of them may seem far away, our own country’s storms whirl close at hand. Forces beyond our control could capsize our little boats.
This is the world we live in, and I don’t truly want to run away from the reality of it. That means I live amid the turbulence and storms. We cannot command the world’s storms to stop but we can choose how we live amid them. We can choose, not just to survive for ourselves, but to live for peace, for the healing of the world and its peoples. Living for peace means cultivating inner peace, becoming deeply rooted in the love demonstrated by the Prince of Peace in his strife-filled world. It also means living for peace and love, for justice and mercy through our actions.
Last weekend I had a brief respite from the world’s storms through the refreshment of a family gathering. My husband’s family has a forty year tradition of coming together at Thanksgiving in a cozy mountain lodge. We cook and talk, play games and talk some more, sing together and walk in the woods. We live far apart, but when Thanksgiving comes, we are reeled in – from California and Oklahoma, from Washington, Wisconsin and Iowa, from Kentucky and New Jersey. Those who were babies when the tradition began are now watching their own children grow up. We who were adults when the tradition began are now the elders, trying to remember which great-niece or nephew belongs to which niece or nephew.
However much our lives differ, we share a profound gratitude for the love that has woven us into family and for the privilege of retreating to a peaceful mountain refuge together. I wanted to remain there, insulated on the mountain!
But one evening I was reminded where I belong, and what purpose I have. I was filled with the hope and energy I needed for re-entering the stormy world and living for peace. Two of our family teens offered the mealtime blessing through music as we stood in a circle before dinner. They reminded me that I cannot remain apart from the world’s storms. They reminded me how I am called to live in the world.
This is what they offered
Yes. Let peace begin with me. Though I was refilled with hope and love through this family reunion, I live in a larger, strife-filled world . There is surely a justice-building, peace-making, love-sharing work that is mine to do. And there is that which is yours to do. Let us begin.
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