Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Perfect Peace

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.

                        Isaiah 26.3

The Daily Mid-Term

A few days ago, while talking about the upcoming election and its final advertising/p.r. surge, my mom said, “I wish I could go sleep today, wake up on November 5, and find out who the new President is. I’m just so tired of it all.” She lives in a swing state and since I’m fairly sure she won’t vote for “that one” (i.e., my guy—the community organizer from Harvard), I heartily endorsed her idea and we both laughed. But I understand Mom’s fatigue. A lot of us—not only here in the States, but around the world—are tired of having to think so much. Watching the news or picking up a magazine was once a convenience, a pleasurable way of keeping atop world events. Now it feels more like a daily mid-term exam in political science, economics, social studies, and pop culture:

Here are six scenarios; decide what they mean; predict future outcomes based on them; and rank them in order of potential significance. BONUS QUESTION: Evaluate the source of this information for trustworthiness, relevance, and accuracy.

Disturbing Our Peace

1 John 4.1 reads, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” All of my life, I’ve associated this verse with religious leaders. But lately, I’m not so sure it doesn’t also apply to politicians, pundits, media figures, corporate moguls, social activists, and anyone else standing to gain from disturbing our peace of mind. Part of this near-constant exhaustion and anxiety comes from our inability to escape fear-mongers. I write this from a Washington DC hotel room. Yesterday, I counted five plasma TV’s between here and where my meeting takes place—five! As I tallied each one, I also noticed that every one of them was ladling out fear, horror, and pessimism by the bucket-loads. (Nobody wins anymore; everybody’s always losing—we’re all losing.) Every time I turned a corner and discovered another grim-faced talking head hanging on the wall, I felt my stomach knot up. But had I tested these spirits as John advises—instead of letting them test me—I’m fairly confident they would have scored as “not from God,” far below the passing grade for any serious time and attention.

Going Steady

This leads me to reevaluate another personal favorite, Isaiah 26.3. It says the person whose mind is steadfast (“stayed” in the King James Version) on God is kept in perfect peace, because he/she trusts in the Lord. Once again, I’ve read this verse to mean one thing all of my life: keep God top of mind. And while I think that’s still a valid reading, lately, I’ve got a different picture of how it works.

Instead of filling my overtaxed head with the unfiltered opinions of untried spirits, I’m learning to put them on hold long enough to try and determine what God thinks first. That decides whether or not I should attend to what these other voices say. And the ones that aren’t from God, who don’t align with His principles, aren’t worth my energy and emotional investment. What a certain governor of Alaska thinks isn’t enough to rock my world, because she doesn’t pass the “spirit” test. What any talk-radio or cable-TV buffoon thinks instantly vaporizes into the ether; he/she doesn’t pass the “spirit” test. Not from God? Not important. It’s that basic. Instead of going to bed, as Mom suggested, I’m going steady—keeping my mind on things that please God, and trusting Him. I’m going to be kept in perfect peace.

Try the spirits and see if they're from God...

(Tomorrow: Jailhouse Rock)


Cuboid Master said...

I agree entirely: Keep the principles of God as your standard and focus little attention upon what is not of Him. As you say, things not of God "aren’t worth my energy and emotional investment."

In our culture, people are easily swayed and manipulated by the media. The "cult of personality" prevails as people accept whatever is said by the rich and powerful -- including pundits without spirit.

I wish all news media outlets presented two positive news stories for every negative one they featured. Next to a horrific account of war, place an account of a young man helping his family out of poverty and a glowing report about a successful micro lending enterprise.

The truth is, God is at work in the world. All is not doom and gloom. There are wonderful people, organizations and movements doing great things. There is both disintegration and integration.

I'd rather focus on the good stuff than the ever-present negativity.

kkryno said...

I agree that focusing on the good in the world keeps us from losing our sanity altogether. When we only acknowlege the negative; we can be swept under the tide of dispair. I have a hard time keeping this at bay sometimes, and it is a daily struggle for some. I think that you're right about the constant bombardment of bad news, and gossip errode happiness for human-kind. That movement a few years back: (kill your t.v.) was more on-spot than I thought at the time!
Have a good night. I'll check back soon.

Tim said...

Hey CM and Vikki -- back on and back at it, and happy to see comments! Not much to add to your thoughts, both so good, except I often wonder what would happen if we DID turn off our TV's and radios the minute they went "bad"... if the ratings just dived into nothing within seconds. Are we as a species just so morbidly curious that we'd prefer to watch death, mayhem, and destruction above anything else? That just seems so wrong...