I have read more than once of how people in Europe, generally speaking, have a greater handle on relaxing and savoring the ambience of the moment compared to those of us in the USA. The utter devastation of the big wars, something most Americans cannot even begin to comprehend, resulted in some cases in a determination to celebrate the moment whenever there was a moment of peace.
Most conservatives, of which I am one, decry the mentality that would sooner accept a government handout than look for a job. But how often do we realize that there are also some Americans who drive themselves relentlessly, even ruthlessly, in a self-imposed and unnecessarily severe work ethic which precludes taking a time out for rest, relaxation, recreation, and soulful reflection.
It is one thing to struggle when necessary for SURVIVAL. But quite another to drive and push in order to procure the myriads of material things that many of us have grown to believe we need and must have—items far beyond the basics of food, decent shelter, and adequate clothing.
To clarify, please understand that I really enjoy material things—and I have an abundance of them, although many are of the vintage shop variety purchased for a little more than a song: things the trendy crowd would sneer at superciliously. But I am not, and never have been, willing to sacrifice a lifestyle of savoring the moment in order to obtain myriads of “things”—and certainly not “high status”, flashy, grandiose things which mean absolutely nothing to me in contrast to a better way: the timeworn, gracious, contemplative, and appreciative quality of life.
We Christians should understand and appreciate God’s mandate to “Be still, and know that I am God.” Quite apparently, it runs against the grain of human nature to “be still”, and when it comes to noise I know I can contribute volumes. But God calls us to a lifetime of poised stillness—an inner attitude of restful quiet while we work or socialize, and as we defend God’s truth in our words and actions.
Too frequently we leave the serenity factor to the New Agers. They are great at focusing on tranquility and peace; but theirs is a false, demonic “peace”—a counterfeit of the true peace that only the One True God can give through His Infallible Word—and through quietly savoring each moment He gives us.
Our nation is in the midst of a vicious political/cultural season, with evils of immorality and the horrendous demon of anti-Semitism on the rise. Frequently we must speak and act to project the truths on which we stand. But to speak and act with an attitude of genuine inner serenity—that is the challenge, one of which I too often fall short.
There are times when we must (and will!) be visibly, viscerally angry. For instance, I am livid over the Obama-via-Samantha Powers dissing of Israel at the UN on 12/23/16—a day of infamy—and I express this anger with every opportunity. Yet I must cling to the understanding that God is in control; He must be the very center of my being as I speak, act, and even as I express my abject anger.
In view of national and global chaos, I pray I will never forget the better way—to be still and know that God is God. For my husband and me, the “better way” translates to treasuring the simple joys: time spent with family and friends, birds at the feeders, the drip-drip of melting snow from our rain gutters during a January thaw, these ever-stretching daylight minutes since the darkness of winter solstice, and ever-present scenes like the one above—a fantasia of ice and snow photographed from our patio.
Meanwhile, I’m wishing you a New Year blessed with tranquil islands of solitude and serenity, for savoring the better way.
Margaret L. Been, 1/22/17