As I sit here to write a reflection to share about Peace on Earth, thoughts begin to swirl yet my fingers are frozen, unable to begin to take those thoughts swirling above my head and pluck them out, one at a time, into a practical order and begin to type to take you through the first in-person event since January 2020.
The FIRST in-person event since January 2020… no pressure, though, right?
It feels surreal to have had this event come and go.
To have so much anticipation for in-person sharing to be back and then, after a few hours, it’s all but a memory in our minds and hearts. Scrawlings on pages in our journals of reflections we can look back on, beautiful images immortalize the unfoldings, and yet, just like that, it came and went.
There are moments I wish I could freeze time…
In the spaces of imaginative prayer where everyone is externally still and silent, their minds and hearts are vibrant and alive as they connect with their Creator.
When ‘ah-ha’ moments of insight over connection to The Divine feel like a million light bulbs all instantaneously lit up, illuminating what had previously been just a flicker.
When people gaze kindly and lovingly upon another sharing their personal experience of our group shared experience and hearing how each moment impacted people differently.
It’s often these moments I desire to take a longer inhale, as if inhaling takes in all the wonder and magic of the moment, and hold it in a little longer, like savouring it, before releasing, knowing it’s not mine to hoard but mine to witness for that brief moment.
Peace on Earth felt like a whirlwind.
Mixed in with the ‘I wish I could freeze time’ moments were moments of checking the time to make sure we were on track, switching between playlists, hoping what I was saying was landing for people, and being hyper-aware of all the details (like the cooler that would kick on and off, creating a buzz I was sure would be distracting yet went un-mentioned by anyone in attendance).
I often consider myself a facilitator, not a host.
I make the plans and I execute and I facilitate your experience.
To me, to host feels like that warm-cozy, set-aside-everything-you-are-doing-and-make-people-feel-welcome kind of thing. Not exactly my strong suit. In the nerves and the to-do list of the day, hosting feels outside of my realm. Facilitating what I planned out for you and holding space for you to be and share, that’s much more my comfort level. Thankfully, my friend Ashley is one of the most welcoming people I know and she greeted each person as they arrived. The community who showed up for Peace on Earth are also the ‘hosting’ type. Laughing, chatting, connecting, and making each other feel welcome was lovely to witness as people made fast friends through initial conversations, intentional sharing, and even chatting over drinks as our time together came to a close.
Our time together flowed seamlessly from one practice to the next. From stream of consciousness journaling to shake off the ‘new experience’ jitters to checking in with how we are arriving this day and acknowledging the loving presence of God. What I call simply ‘checking in’ is one of my favourite things to do when I begin sessions of spiritual direction and it was such a gift to share it here. When we check in, we find our baseline of arrival, and then we can notice when thoughts, feelings and heart shifts as they come. When they do, we have the opportunity to go, ‘hey God, what is this? Are you connecting to me here? Are you inviting me into something deeper through this experience?’
Reflection came next and it was woven into sharing about the topic of Peace. We explored our own understandings of peace and how we see it live out in our daily lives, then we learned about the words translated as peace in the Bible and the weight of what they mean: Peace is actually wholeness, completeness and restoration. We explored examples, considered what peace lived out in our lives would look like; we looked at Jesus as one who came as Prince of Peace and what it means for us to be peacemakers. As sharing about the topic was happening, those in attendance sat in stillness and openness, listening, and noticing, and then they would write their reflections. It was, what I call, spacious time. No rush. No right answers, no shoulds; just exploration with the one who invites us into it.
As journals closed we engaged in a simple breath prayer practice. As we inhaled and exhaled, we said ‘Prince of Peace, Awaken me to Peace’. Simple. Beautiful. Removing the fluff of the ‘right words’ or the preconceived ideas of prayer that we all show up with and stripping it down to something simple that speaks to the desire of our hearts and the intention of our exploration is a beautiful practice.
A slow flow movement practice followed. What I love about movement, aside from the many benefits that ripple out into our lives, is how movement can mirror the lessons we are learning. As we opened our practice I shared, “As we show up on the mat, it’s a practice. It’s a daily showing up on the mat and noticing how we arrive. Listening in. Moving with intention. When we look at showing up as peacemakers in the world, it’s the same thing. It’s exploring the places we are showing up, the needs of others in our space, our own capacity, and being authentic with others and how we can co-create with God the Peace on Earth Jesus brought that we can so quickly forget about.”
“We move in a way that mimics our expanding understanding of Peace. The slow part being our expression of our own self growth. Our own time learning. As we learn a new idea about peace, we lean into each new idea with Jesus, holding space with God, listening, learning. We learn something new and again, we sit there with God to explore this new thing together. Each shape being a lesson in Peace. Then, as we flow, it’s like putting that peace out into the world. Peace is ACTIVE! It is reconciliation, it is equanimity, it is wholeness, it is lived out IN COMMUNITY. It is lifting others up and acknowledging the wholeness within them as one made in the image of the Divine. Each time we flow it’s like we are going out into the world and living this out! And so we move. We breathe.”
As we found our rest, it was beautiful to be able to anoint each individual as a peacemaker with an intentionally selected oil. Imaginative prayer followed the movement and anointing and it was a really powerful time for many. Imaginative prayer is one of my favourite practices. I read scripture and so naturally I can imagine myself present to what is unfolding around me. It’s been one of the most life-giving and fruitful prayer practices in my life that I’ve really intentionally engaged with the past couple of years. To share this with others, for me, was one of the biggest highlights.
Those attending were invited to imagine God present with right where they were and were invited into conversation. They would ask God, ‘What would you like me to call you?’ and they’d imagine the response. From Wonderful Counsellor, to Mighty God, Father Everlasting and ending with Prince Peace, attendees were invited to engage in conversation with God, after first noticing what they were physically experiencing, thinking or feeling as the name was read out. For some, the title Mighty God felt big and almost uninviting, to others, Wonderful Counsellor felt safe.
Before closing with a prayer and blessing (and a gift), we took time to share as a group. I love the connection that sharing creates. The question was simple, ‘What is something you want to remember when you leave here today?’. From individual experiences to lessons and definitions, people shared and one person’s sharing sparked another’s remembrance of something they, too, wanted to remember. Each person took a turn while we all listened lovingly and intently. We acknowledge each person as a divine image-bearer, as one who has value and worth, and the words we share from our experiences are valuable to hold space for.
A closing prayer and blessing where we felt our connection was capped off with a gift as a reminder of peace, a wooden peace sign ornament. And not just one, two, so you could share this gift of peace with another.
As mats were rolled away and journals were tucked into bags, as kombucha flowed and conversations continued, I recall looking fondly at the people connecting with friends new and old and feeling that ‘heart full’ feeling. What a gift to have held space during this season and to share my passions with others. What a gift to set aside logistics and ideas of ‘how this event went will help me plan for the future’ and just steep in that moment.
To steep in moments of presence with the Divine is truly one of our greatest gifts. We remove the habit of doing and sit in the moment of just being with God. We spend time just being with the one who made us, who loves us, who WANTS to spend time with us. To be acknowledge the presence of God with us in those moments of pause at what is happening around us, to marvel at the co-creation that happened, that is a gift like no other.
To those who attended, my gratitude overflows. I am grateful you allowed me the extreme privilege of guiding you through your morning and your exploration of Peace. I am grateful for the donations we collected for Wahbung Abinoonjiiag. I am grateful. Just so grateful.
I leave you with the blessing I shared at Peace on Earth:
In this moment
May we remember peace.
As we reach out our hands and touch another
May we be reminded of the extension of peace as active and collective.
May we remember that our extension is an extension of the love of God through us for all others.
May the connection to our own hearts remind us to cultivate daily a connection to God and self so we can love our neighbour well; In profound ways that drip with the love of God and Peace of Christ as he came to bring healing, restoration, reconciliation, wholeness.
May we remember our wholeness and the wholeness of every person we meet as we honour each and every human as an image bearer of the Divine.
May we release our doubt of wholeness into the hands of the one who created wholeness itself.
May we release our small idea of peace into the hands of the one who arrived to embody peace.
May we awaken to the peace we have received, the peace we have to give, and the peace we are able to share in community as image bearers of God.
May the peace in our souls be a remembering of our connection to the great mystery of God that finds our wholeness not a dream of one day but a reality of our current loved and lived experience.
All photos by Jamie Mae Photography.
Venue is Low Life Barrel House.