You’ve seen it. The Keep Calm and Carry On poster. It was designed in England at the beginning of WW II. Despite not being well received at the time by the Brits, the Keep calm slogan has had a resurgence of popularity. You can get t-shirts, hats, posters, mugs all with the variations.
Keep calm I’m a Ninja.
Keep calm and swag on.
Keep calm and hug your dog.
And this beaut - keep calm and aaah, a spider!
For lots of us, this is the wrong beginning point. It is the wrong assumption to assert that we will be keeping calm b/c that means we have a modicum of calm to start with! Are you stressed out? Are you stressed out but pretending not to be?
For lots of us, we often don’t know we have another choice. Saying to keep calm is like saying, go lasso the moon.
So for those of us who have no calm to keep, let’s start at a different point. Let’s start from the point of learning about cultivating calm and still and letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle - wholehearted guidepost #8 of Brené Brown’s research.
Calm is maintaining perspective while managing emotional reactivity in the moment. First, we practice calm when we don’t over-identify with our emotions. Calm helps prevent the negative emotions from ‘carrying’ us away.
Second, Brené found in her research that calm people breath. People who are being calm and emotionally centered in anxious situations breath. So, play along with me - Take a breath. Now take a really good deep breathe. That is the breath of calm.
As part of your wholehearted journey, breath more and connect it with prayer. Before you answer a stressful question, breath and silently pray, “Help, Lord.” Before you send that email that is worrying you, breath and pray, “You’re here, Lord.” Lots of my pastor friends and I love that breath in Hebrew is ruah. Ruah also means spirit or wind - the breath of God, the spirit of God. Breath and spirit are connected. When we cultivate calm and still, we reconnect with God!
Now let’s define the next part of this - still. Still defined by the data is, ‘created by clearing the emotional clutter and allowing ourselves to think, feel, dream and question.’ It is quiet of the soul. We can get there through walking, singing, sitting silently in prayer, painting, trimming trees - where do you hear God’s voice the best?
Before it ever emerged in the research, calm and still were God’s ideas. Sabbath? - remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy - and to keep God’s people WHOLE. Sabbath rest and stillness free us from emotional exhaustion. They invites us to see that God’s love and presence are for us and to TRUST God has us even when sin and the brokenness in our lives say otherwise. Sabbath is countercultural in a society that values exhaustion as a status symbol. If we are seldom calm but often exhausted, we will struggle to hear God’s voice and discern God’s best for our lives and community.
Jesus prayed in stillness. The gift of still is we see more of God and less of the troubles. No wonder St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will” (12:2.) How do we transform our minds when they are packed with brain ants all the time?
On the cross, Jesus gives the gift of still - we don’t have to worry about our futures or our pasts, there’s forgiveness, second chances, new beginnings.
So, maybe the new slogan should be, “Create calm and carry God’s peace.” Amen