In the Christmas season, there is much talk about peace — messages like: Peace on Earth; World Peace; May Your Year be Filled with Peace can be seen on cards, social media, storefronts, TV specials and area businesses. And yet, it is the most hectic, stressful, emotional time of the year for many. I have a friend who says he is so happy when Christmas is over, so that his wife will relax. A little contradiction to the season’s message, isn’t it?
There is one thing in the world that I refuse to do — shopping. I will climb Mt. Kilimanjaro before I will go shopping. Which means, I go without. I wear clothes that have been in the closet way too long. If I’m wearing something new, someone else bought it for me. If I absolutely have to purchase something, I buy it online. Should some catastrophe befall me and I find myself walking into a store, I walk straight to the item I need and straight out. There is no browsing, no handling, no curiosity. In and out. This means you will never find me in a store in December because walking in and out is not an option in this retail frenzy season. I went shopping yesterday. Many stores were involved. Peace could not be found in any of them and that’s an understatement.
We have this false idea that peace is tied to what is happening outside of ourselves. If that is the case, we are all doomed. Good news: if we will stubbornly focus our minds on a specific list of things, we will discover peace or more accurately preserve it within ourselves. (Side note: holiday shoppers have not perfected this practice.)
Stubbornly focus our minds on:
What is accurate. Honest messages about yourself and others get crowded out by messages that are not accurate. Like, I’m not going to make it. This is stupid. I can’t believe they are such terrible people. When we direct our minds toward accurate messages like: I’m not perfect and this will be good, I just need to give it a little more thought. This isn’t working out like I expected, what can I adjust here? I’m not understanding them, I wonder where they are coming from. Those messages alone shift everything and provide space for PEACE to grow.
What is worthy. Fostering honorable thoughts about our circumstances takes some intention. While holiday shopping, one thought could be: These people are out of their minds! Or we could focus on how everyone is looking for gifts to communicate they care -- definitely something we can all love. Worthy, honorable thoughts about what is happening around us bring PEACE to our own souls and possibly a few others.
What is gracious. Compassionate conversations with strangers and friends focus us on what we can learn about them. Wondering about the other person, their ideas, their ways, their experience (even if we have opposing ideas and experiences) pushes us toward PEACE.
What is the best. We have made a sport out of re-living our worst moments. They replay on repeat in our heads. I can’t believe I said that, did that, lost it like that. Everyone thinks I’m a terrible . . . mom, boss, employee. What is the absolute finest moment of our day? Let’s re-live that! Replay the choicest pieces of the day to preserve PEACE.
Things to Admire. Focusing our mind on things that are worth celebrating pulls us away from the all-too-easy trap of blaming, shaming, denouncing, and humiliating ourselves and others which is so prevalent in our culture. Training ourselves to look for things we admire and applaud (and verbalize them to others) will shift the experience for all of us to a more PEACEFUL place.
This list is only a part of a list the Apostle Paul wrote out for us to keep our minds focused and peaceful. Many centuries later Ralph Waldo Emerson agreed, “Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.” This Christmas may PEACE reign in your heart and mind because you became intentional about where you focused.