Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Savior's Perfect Peace

The light and life of the world, Jesus Christ conquered death and hell because of His infinite sacrifice. He gave His life for us that we may overcome sin through his grace and that we may live forever with Him if we choose to follow Him.

As we ponder this joyful news, we can celebrate the peace that His life provides:

• We remember before His birth, Isaiah proclaimed the Savior as the Prince of Peace.

• We recall that angels announced peace and good will towards men at His birth.

• We know that He before His death, He promised His disciples, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

• We know Isaiah said, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You,because he trusts in You.”

How do we experience peace in a world filled with trouble and tribulation?

• We believe that Jesus lives and loves us.

• We remember that He has the power to comfort and sustain us.

• We give Him our sorrows, pain, grief, and let Him strengthen us.

• We trust in Him and focus our hearts on Him, knowing He waits to hear our prayers, enfold us in the arms of His love and in His perfect peace.

As we seek to follow in His footsteps, we experience peace by learning of Him, living as He lived, and loving as He loved. As we become more patient, kind, forgiving, merciful, and generous, we discover that He showed us way to find peace. We discover that He is the Life of peace and the Light of peace. He is our peace. He is peace.

I feel peace when I remember Jesus:

• loved me enough to die for me.

• always waits to bless and help me.

• wants me to live with Him forever.

• prepared a way so that I can follow Him if I choose.

With Paul, I rejoice, "Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift."

© Carol Brown

Monday, March 29, 2010

Replacing Suffering with Peace

Although some suffering may not be eliminated in this life—including pain and illness, other suffering can be greatly reduced and even eliminated by the thoughts we choose. As we live mindfully, we can find peace amid the difficulties that we experience.

Buddhists teach that three negative traits or fundamental evils, which are called the Three Poisons, create human suffering. They include greed, anger, and ignorance.

Greed includes any pleasure that we seek that destroys our happiness, including stinginess, envy, lack of compassion, and pursuing anything in an unhealthy manner, including wealth, fame, sex, eating, and sleeping. We replace greed with generosity and gratitude. We can compare this to Christ’s temptations in the wilderness. After he had fasted for forty days, Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread, jump from the pinnacle of the temple and achieve instant fame, and to receive the kingdoms of the worship if He worshiped Satan. We know that Jesus sounded rejected all three temptations.

Anger includes hatred, rage, resentment, animosity, and aversion. If we truly follow the Golden Rule and if we seek to love others and we love ourselves, we can eventually eliminate anger from our lives. Paul taught the Ephesians, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour (brawling), and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted (compassionate), forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” When Jesus forgave those who crucified Him, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” He showed us how we can conquer this human tendency.

Ignorance includes delusion, not knowing our true nature, pride, and failing to recognize that every action has a cause and an effect. When we remember that we are children of the most high God, that everyone we meet is a child of the divine, and that we are nothing without God but that with Him, all things are possible, we reduce our ignorance. We live with understanding and wisdom, realizing that as when we serve others, we are serving God and that as we sow, we reap. Eastern religions would define this latter concept as the law of Karma. In his classic book, As a Man Thinketh, James Allen says, “Good thoughts and actions can never produce bad results. Bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results. This is but saying that nothing can come from corn but corn, nothing from nettles but nettles. Men understand this law in the natural world, and work with it. But few understand it in the mental and moral world (though its operation there is just as simple and undeviating), and they, therefore, do not cooperate with it."

Dr. Rick Hanson describes a situation that shows how avoiding or choosing the Three Poisons can effects our peace of mind. He said that after returning home from work and finding the home a mess, he could chose greed (becoming rigid in how we want things to do), choose anger (becoming bothered and upset), or choose delusion (taking the situation personally.) Or he could choose peace by ignoring the mess, picking it up calmly, or talking to his children about the situation and kindly enlisting their help (Buddha’s Brain.)

In The Art of Happiness, the Dalai Lama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize says, “We also often add to our pain and suffering by being overly sensitive, overreacting to minor things, and sometimes taking things too personally. We tend to take small things too seriously and blow them up out of proportion, while at the same time we often remain indifferent to the really important things, those things which have profound effects on our lives and long-term consequences and implications.”

In every thought, we choose peace or something else. The study of the brain reveals that the flow of our thoughts actually sculpts the brain. By choosing thoughts of love, kindness, patience, and goodness, we can retrain our brain until we not only find peace amid sorrow, but we can replace sorrow with peace.

© Carol Brown

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A New Heart

Simple, repetitive actions take about twenty-one days to form. Replacing hurtful habits with helpful ones can transform of our lives. They can create in us a new heart.

Consider how the following habits could transform our hearts and home:

• Offering heartfelt prayers throughout the day

• Choosing thoughts, words and actions that foster loving kindness

• Living in a spirit of integrity, purity, and goodness

• Expressing gratitude often

• Seeking the comfort and strengthening influence of the Spirit each day

The thoughts that we choose to hold in our minds determine what we say and do. Those things that we think, say, and do determine our peace of mind, our happiness, and our character. We can ask for God’s help as we seek to create good habits, and He will sustain us.

The prayer found in Psalm 51 will strengthen us to become all that God designed us to be:

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

For the next twenty-one days, consider creating a new heart by choosing one habit that will bless you life and then repeating it daily. It could be studying the scriptures or inspired literature, eating healthily, meditating mindfully, or serving humbly. It might be forgiving others, showing gratitude, or praying continually. It could be keeping a journal in which you record answers to prayers, spiritual promptings, or blessings received. It might be consecrating your life to God each morning and thanking Him each night for His countless gifts.

God promises us, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” As we give our lives to Him--including our sins, fears, worries, and concerns, God gives us a new heart filled with peace, joy, and love. We give Him so little, and He gives us so much in return.

© Carol Brown

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Power of Simple Prayer

One of the greatest miracles we can experience is approaching God in prayer. The
simple act of talking to God and then listening for His answers can give us comfort
amid distress and peace amid sorrow. I’ve seen the power of prayer heal the sick and the dying and cast out evil spirits. I’ve seen it save a family from calamity and comfort the weary. Prayer guided me to find a faithful man to marry. Prayer guided us each time we moved and when we made career, family, and relationship decisions.

Recently, I’ve been begging God to help my many friends and family members who are struggling with major challenges. Although Heavenly Father wants us to plead for His help, He also wants us to honor Him and express gratitude to Him as we pray. I need to remember that prayer is more than giving God a laundry list of requests.

Jesus challenges us to “watch and pray always.” Here are some ways that can help us pray continually as we seek to endure the challenges of living:

• When we see the beauties of nature, we can thank God for them.
• When we pass a lonely person on the street, we can pray for him or her.
• When we feel sad, we can ask God to comfort us.
• When we are happy, we can thank God for that gift.
• When we ask God for wisdom or help, we can listen quietly for His answers.
• When we feel overwhelmed with life’s struggles, we can ask God to carry our burdens.

Reading God’s word can teach us how to pray more effectively and often provides answers to our prayers. We can remember these verses as we seek for direction and encouragement in our lives.

• When we are afraid, we can remember Isaiah 41:10, which says, “Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (NKJV).
• When we feel discouraged, stressed out, or overburdened, we say pray, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind in stayed on Thee, because he trusts in Thee” (Isaiah 26:3).
• When we don’t know what to do, we can remember to “trust in the LORD with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding; In all our ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct our paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
• Before we ask for anything, we should remember to give thanks to God. “ We give thanks unto thee, O God; We give thanks, for thy name is near: Men tell of thy wondrous works” (Psalm 75:1 ASV).

When I was caring for my dying mother, I needed God’s help. No longer able to see or walk, my mother required constant attention. I also had three children living at home who needed me as well. I discovered that my silent prayers were answered, even though my burdens felt overwhelming at the time. As I look back, I realize that God gave me strength, wisdom, and courage to face challenges that were beyond my own ability to endure because I asked for His help.

As we seek to live in meekness and obedience to God, forgive others, reach out to the needy, and listen carefully to God, He will direct our lives for good. The power of simple prayer can heal broken relationships, strengthen us when we are weak, and give us courage when we are afraid.

Jesus counseled his disciples to “watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man (Luke 21:36). Paul said, “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers” (Ephesians 6:18).

Satan does not want us to pray. He wants us to become so busy, distracted, or overwhelmed that we forget to maintain a strong relationship with our Father. Simple prayers unlock the powers of heaven and allow us to access God’s wisdom, strength, and comfort. John Bunyan, the Christian writer and preacher who lived almost four hundred years ago, said, Pray often; for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge for Satan.”

© Carol Brown

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Creating True Peace

When Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize, he said, “[Hanh’s] ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to world brotherhood, to humanity.” I agree.

Hanh’s books, including Creating True Peace, describe ways that we can change our thinking, speaking, and acting in profound and powerful ways. Hanh shows us the simple ways that we can transform our lives and create peace on every level—personal, family, neighborhood, community, nation, and world. He teaches us that peace is possible.

He describes the Five Mindfulness Trainings that help anyone experience greater peace, regardless of their spiritual beliefs or cultural background. His teachings are simple and beautiful.

The First Mindfulness Training is reverence for life. He challenges us to show greater reverence for life and to not condone killing in the world. Of course, the Christian equivalent of this teaching is “Thou shalt not kill.” Each of us can do more to encourage nonviolence in our communities and in the world. Violence and peace cannot coexist.

The Second Mindfulness Training is generosity, which motivates us to share our time, talents, and material means with others and to “prevent others from profiting from human suffering.” Truly, as we give, we receive. As we share love, we receive love. As we create peace, we are blessed with peace.

The Third Mindfulness Training is sexual responsibility, being faithful to our spouses and doing all that we can to protect children from sexual abuse. Although I have learned firsthand that we cannot always protect those we love from sexual predators, we can teach children to avoid any dangerous situations, to learn self-defense, and to report any abuse that they see or experience.

The Fourth Mindfulness Training is deep listening and loving speech. As we listen carefully and compassionately to others, we can better understand their needs and pain and can help to alleviate it. Hanh tells us that in our families when we feel angry, rather than speaking unkindly, we can leave the situation, practice mindful breathing, and return to resolve the conflict when we feel calmer.

The Fifth Mindfulness Training is mindful consumption. Not only does Nanh challenge us to eat healthy foods in moderation, but he urges us to avoid anything that brings “toxins into our consciousness.” He explains that when the average American child finished elementary school, he has watched about 100,000 acts of violence and 8,000 acts of murder. As we protect ourselves and our children from violence and pornography, we can experience greater peace. Hahn suggests that we put a warning label on our televisions as we do on cigarettes: “Warning, watching TV can be dangerous.”

This short description doesn't begin to describe the depth of Hahn’s wisdom. He shares hundreds of simple but life-altering ways that we can create peace in our lives here and now. He tells us that “practicing peace is possible with every step, with every breath.” He provides us with tools that will help us bring hope and compassion into our homes, communities, nations, and the world.

“True peace is possible,” he says, “yet it requires strength and practice, particularly in times of difficulty.”

© Carol Brown

Monday, March 15, 2010

How to Find Peace

Life can be difficult. Those we love may lose their jobs. Family members may become chronically ill. Dear friends may suffer with cancer or other critical illnesses. Personal injuries may reduce our mobility. A daughter or son may be raped by a neighbor. Trusted friends may betray us. Those we love will eventually suffer and die.

Even though we--or those we love--may suffer, we can still experience peace. Here are a few ways that enhance our peace of mind even when times are tough. Note how these ideas begin with mindfulness or positive thinking.

Allow yourself time to feel your sorrow.
After you have sufficiently grieved, release your pain to a Higher Power.
Become aware of your thoughts.
Eliminate your toxic thoughts.
Count your blessings.
Focus on the positive.
Love yourself.
Smile more.
Enjoy the simple beauties of life.
Surrender your unsolvable problems to a Higher Power.
Serve someone.
Forgive someone.
Allow God to enfold you in the arms of His perfect love.

Changing our thoughts can change our lives. We can begin our journey one day at a time or one moment at a time.

May your find peace in the journey.

© Carol Brown

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Forgiving the Unforgivable

Some injuries may appear too difficult to forgive: being terribly abused by a parent or spouse, being tortured or raped, or being critically injured by an assailant. And, some of these atrocities are too difficult to forgive—alone.

Jesus forgave the unforgivable. He asks us to do the same. He said, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." He also taught, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” He taught us to pray, “Forgive us our sins as we also forgive everyone who sins against us.”

So how do we forgive an someone who grievously injured us? How do we forgive when forgiveness seems impossible? That’s when we need the help of a Higher Power. We need to ask for help.

Erin Merryn did just that. Viciously molested by her older cousin throughout her children and violently raped by a friend’s father, she suffered for years. She writes, "Although I have traveled down dark roads at a very young age, I have come as far as I have because I am not alone. God has been holding my hand through it all. When I could not find my way through darkness, He carried me. When I cried myself to sleep, He rocked me in his arms. When I doubted he was even there, He forgave me. He has given me the strength to share this chapter of my life with you. As it says in the Bible, 'I can do all things through Him who strengthens me' (Phil. 4.13). I live and breathe and rise above the evil through the strength and courage He has given" (Living for Today p.-87.) Her blog inspires anyone who has suffered to experience the healing power of forgiveness.

Some wonder why they should forgive those who have no remorse or who have never apologized. We forgive because that powerful act frees us from bitterness, anguish, and misery. It allows us to become whole. Malachy McCourt said, “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

Erin Merryn, who was so terribly abused, has forgiven her perpetrators. Empowered, she speaks throughout the world about raising “awareness of abuse in order to end the stigma and the silence.” She also advocates the adoption of Erin’s Law, which would require teachers to instruct children about safe and unsafe touch and about the importance of telling their parents, counselors, or a police officer if they have been raped or molested. Erin has turned her suffering into strength.

Jesus taught,“With God all things are possible.” He also said, “All things are possible to those who believe.”

If there is any good thing today that you find too difficult to do alone—including forgiving an enemy—ask God to help you. Believe that He will. I promise you that He will help you. He loves you infinitely. You are His precious child.

© Carol Brown

Monday, March 8, 2010

Creating a Balanced Life

As we discover ways to live a balanced life, we experience greater peace. Any good thing when done in moderation can enhance our peace but when done in excess can detract from it. Consider the following activities that many of us juggle on our journey through life:

• Working

• Eating

• Sleeping

• Caring for family members

• Cooking, cleaning, doing housework and yard work

• Serving friends, neighbors, church members, community

• Meditating, reading inspired literature, praying

• Running errands

• Shopping

• Pursuing hobbies

• Exercising

• Commuting

• Watching television

• Talking on the phone

• Texting, emailing, using the Internet

• Watching television

• All the other activities that are a part of daily living, including self-care, paying
bills, etc.

Let’s consider some ways that enhance our peace of life by helping us balance our lives in a healthy and self-nurturing manner:

• Delegating or reducing activities that steal your peace of mind

• Deciding what things are most important in your life

• Slowing down whenever possible

• Taking time to enjoy the journey

• Saying “no” to requests that you know are wrong for you

• Creating a life plan that best utilizes your talents and best suits your needs

• Including a few moments of meditation into your daily schedule

• Deciding to adopt a healthy, self-nurturing lifestyle

• Choosing friends who inspire you to live peacefully

• Asking God to help you discover your unlimited potential and to help you develop it

In his book All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Robert Fulgham wrote, "Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced life--learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some."

Creating a balanced life frees a person to become all that he or she can be. As we reduce or eliminate activities that detract from our peace and add activities that enhance our physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being, we discover that we are freer, happier, and more energetic. Today, review those things that matter most in your life. Put yourself on your “to-do” list. Discover the joy of living a life that is more serene, more balanced, and more whole.

© Carol Brown

Friday, March 5, 2010

Freeing Yourself from Destruction Thoughts and Emotions

In his book, The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, Dr. Christopher Germer teaches us how to eliminate toxic thoughts and emotions by replacing them with healing, peaceful thoughts. He suggests that we meditate daily on the following thoughts:

May all beings be safe and free from harm.

• May all beings be peaceful and happy.

• May all beings be healthy and strong.

• May all beings live with ease.

Sometimes he simply says:

• May all beings be happy.

• May all beings be free.

Dr. Germer recommends that we acknowledge and accept our negative emotions, release them, and eventually replace with these healing attitudes. He shares stories of clients who suffered with post-traumatic stress, insomnia, anxiety, and depression who experienced great healing with these thoughts.

Dr. Germer suggests that we begin asking that “we” be safe and free from harm.” We can then extend this meditation to our family, friends, neighbors, and eventually, even our enemies. The mediatation word “may” suggests that we accept the will of a Higher Power as we ask for this blessing, realizing that we may not be able to change difficult life circumstances but that we can change our attitude about them. The author explains that this meditation may seem easy at first, may become more frustrating and difficult, and will eventually become purposeful as we continue this habit for several weeks.

Our western culture teaches little about true self-compassion, but often promotes either selfishness, hedonism, or addiction. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn how to better care for themselves so that they can better love others. Jesus did not ask us to love our neighbors instead of ourselves. He asked us to love others as we love ourselves.

He adds the following meditations:

• May I love myself just as I am.

• May I be truly happy.

• May I find peace in this uncertain world.

• May my happiness continue to grow.

•May I have happiness and the causes of happiness.

• May I live in peace, without too much attachment and too much aversion.

• May I be free from sorrow.

• May I be free of physical suffering.

•May I care for myself with ease.

•May I love and be loved.

•Dear one, may you be happy and content.

May these ideas give you greater peace today as you deal with the stresses and challenges of life.

© Carol Brown

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Peaceful Thoughts

The following are some thoughts that can reduce stress and enhance peace. Consider meditating on one of them today.

• This, too, will pass.

• Perfect love casts away all fear.

• I can do all things through Christ Jesus, who strengthens me.

• I choose peace instead of this.

• I would rather be peaceful than right.

• I love myself and others unconditionally.

• Today, I radiate compassion and loving kindness.

• Don’t worry; be happy.

If you have a few minutes, please enjoy this amazing video. It reminds us that "this, too, will pass" in an unforgettable way.

© Carol Brown

Monday, March 1, 2010

Becoming Peace Bringers

I just finished reading the book, Messenger, about the amazing poet, philosopher, and peacemaker Mattie Stepanek. In the book, Mattie's mother, Jeni, describes the life of her son, who suffered from a rare form of muscular dystrophy which eventually took his life when he was thirteen.

Jeni had lost her first three children to this cruel disease, and her account of losing her children, her marriage, and her health as she became ill with the rare disorder is a story of heroism and faith. Mattie's love of life combined with his courage to endure suffering and sorrow is heroic. As I read Jeni's memories of Mattie, I felt inspired to seek after peace in simple and yet significant ways.

Mattie said:

"We need to make peace an attitude --want it, be a peace seeker.

"We need to make peace a habit--live it, be a peace maker.

"We need to make peace a reality--share it, with people around the block and around the world, even people we disagree with. That's being a peace bringer."

At Mattie funeral, Jeni received permission from the Catholic Church for her best friend, Sandy, to read Mattie's "Psalm of Tad 358" instead of a psalm from the Old Testament. Mattie wrote:

Lord, You have
Saved me from sadness,
And lifted me to light
All my life,
I have been haunted
By the darkness,
Only my dreams gave me sight.
But my Savior
Has now turned me
Back to light
No longer do I dwell in shadows....,

May God give us the strength to be peace seekers, peace makers, and peace bringers in our hearts, homes, and communities.

© Carol Brown