Quiet Amongst Chaos

Quiet Amongst Chaos

I was in Plano (Dallas area), Texas last week for The Fellowship Community’s National Gathering. The first morning there I went out for an early run, using exercise as a way to get to know the area. I found a route from the hotel to Grace Presbyterian Church, which was hosting our event. Ducking off from the hotel locale’s busy and loud arterials, I found myself in a lovely Plano neighborhood. All the homes were red brick, with stand-alone red brick mailboxes on the parking strips. Lawns and landscaping were well-cared for, and few cars were parked on the street. It was very quiet. The sun was coming up, birds were chirping, spring flowers were out and almost nobody was awake yet. Lovely. Zen-like.

After traversing the neighborhood, zig-zagging around a nice park and finding the church, I changed course and headed back towards the hotel. I was quickly back on the arterials. Coming down Park onto Preston, I re-entered reality. Three lanes in each direction, turn lanes, lights, cars moving fast, trucks everywhere and the general roar of morning traffic. Three police cars had pulled someone over to the side in what looked like a possible drug bust. Horns honked. Chaotic.

I couldn’t help but think–this contrast IS our world, externally but also internally. We want to live in the peace and quiet, not the cacophony. We want our souls to be full of the peace of Christ, calm and attentive…but everything about our culture pulls us toward chaos. We want our interior life to influence the exterior, yet usually the opposite happens. So what does a follower of Jesus do?  Probably at my worst moments, I yearn to simply escape. But that’s not really an option most of the time. We live in the world, where we are called to be salt and light, to make a difference. So how can we not just survive, but thrive in life and ministry?  Here’s a few current things that have been on my mind recently:

  • Get off the news cycle. I’m not saying ignore what is happening, just have some control over how much and when you take it in. If you are constantly on tv and news feeds and getting updates on your computer and getting texted with “breaking news” (have you noticed that more and more things are labeled this way to provide a sense of urgency?) then you will be checking news about 20 times every day. It’s too much. It’s more of an addiction than it is staying informed. Choose when and how you will get updated, with some limits that allow you to focus on other things. The world will go on if you aren’t the first one to see every story.
  • Take Sabbath. Drew Hyun, pastor of the Hope Church NYC family of churches in New York, spoke at the conference in Texas about “slowed-down spirituality.” This is how he described the life rhythm that many of us end up living: work, work, work, work, work.  Regardless of the location, or whether it’s vocational, home life or community involvement, we so easily slip into that drumbeat: work, work, work, work, work. But the rhythm God made us for, and gifts us with, is more like this: rest, work, rest, work, rest.  Rest helps us work better, love God more deeply and pay attention to the people around us. Sabbath isn’t given as an option, though it is a great gift. And as Drew said, it’s not simply about taking a day off, which I can easily reduce it to. Sabbath is actually living a day unto the Lord. Enjoying the things that bring peace and delight and reflection and worship are the ways to live out sabbath.
  • Breathe in Depth. For me, receiving water from deeper wells usually involves reading. And not just any reading, but reading people who imagine and think and reflect well.  Reading good books. I’m reminded that Eugene Peterson used to actually set an appointment in his calendar for reading: Friday, 9-11am, Dostoyevsky. If it was on his calendar, just like an appointment for coffee with a person, it would happen. Would it refresh you to calendar some consistent time with novelists like Dostoyevsky or Wendell Berry or Wallace Stegner or Marilyn Robinson?  Or poets like Mary Oliver or Gerard Manley Hopkins or Denise Levertov or Christian Wiman?

There are all sorts of practices to choose from, these are just the ones on my radar right now. You undoubtedly have others. The key is that all of them require intentionality. Without that, we’ll end up on the busy arterial every time instead of the quiet neighborhood street…not just externally, but internally. It was the early church father Irenaeus who wrote “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”  Fully alive people need quiet souls.

Peace of Christ,

Dan Baumgartner

Dan Baumgartner is the senior pastor at The Cove in Santa Rosa CA and serves as Secretary on The Fellowship Community Board.