The peace that Christ gives is to guide you in the decisions you make; for it is to this peace that God has called you together in the one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15
Do you ever have a hard time making decisions? I do. The thought that peace could guide me in making my decisions is surprising. When I’m wrestling with alternatives and trying to predict all possible outcomes, I feel anything but peaceful. St. Ignatius of Loyola had some suggestions about the discernment process. One suggestion was that people ask themselves what decision they would wish they had made if they were looking back from their deathbed. This perspective is very helpful, when I remember it. What decision will bring me peace of mind in the long run? It isn’t always the easy choice, but when I go with my gut, I know that I’ll have no regrets, even if things don’t turn out the way I want them to.
For example, one Friday at work, right around quitting time, I made an off-hand joke with two co-workers, sort of at their expense. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but it nagged at me. I was afraid that I had offended my co-workers. I tormented myself all weekend, wondering if I should apologize or let it go. Finally, I saw that whether or not I had offended my co-workers, I had offended my own sense of common courtesy. I apologized first thing on Monday morning, and both co-workers assured me they hadn’t given the matter a second thought. Maybe they did and maybe they didn’t. In any event, I felt at peace, and knew I had made the right decision.
Prayer: Lord, may your peace guide me today.
Reflection for sharing: How can peace help guide you in making decisions?
Lord, I have given up my pride and turned away from my arrogance. I am not concerned with great matters or with subjects too difficult for me. Instead, I am content and at peace. As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me. Psalm 131: 1-2
It was a busy week and promised to be an even busier weekend. The project I’d finished didn’t bring satisfaction. Instead, it brought dread. Now I had to contend with the mountain of things I’d put off to tackle once the project was done. That ever-growing to do list was waiting, daring me to tackle it. To top it off, the week had been an emotional roller coaster due to the health and personal challenges facing of several loved ones.
Worn out from the pressure I put on myself to get a handle on everything, I knew I should address my feelings. I didn’t want to. The process seemed time consuming and unproductive. It would keep me from accomplishing all the work I had to do. Luckily, it became clear to me that I couldn’t afford not to take the time. So, challenging as it was to “turn away from my arrogance” in thinking I could power through my to do list, I stopped. I journaled about what I was feeling and laid it all at God’s feet…the good, the bad, and the ugly. Next, I asked Him to show me what He wanted me to do. Only then did I sort through my overflowing in-box. Yes, there’s still a lot to do. But my heart is quiet about it. I don’t have to get it all done today—or even tomorrow. Reality is always manageable when I let go of my pride.
Prayer: Lord, melt my pride with your love.
Reflection for sharing: How does arrogance contribute to becoming overwhelmed? How can humility bring peace?
Happy are those who work for peace; God will call them his children! Matthew 5: 9
Not all of us are called to settle disputes between nations, or to mediate legal disputes. We may or may not be in a position to take part in peaceful demonstrations. But all of us can work for peace in our own little corner of the world. Whether we step in to settle a quarrel between squabbling children at home, patiently listen to all viewpoints during meeting, or stop second-guessing a decision when we are at war with ourselves, we are working for peace.
We work for peace when we treat others and ourselves with respect and simply hold our tongue until we cool down enough to express ourselves without lashing out. If you’ve ever tried it, and you are anything like me, you know restraint until cooler heads prevail can be a lot of work. Removing ourselves from the situation, working through our anger in a safe way, and then addressing the conflict in a reasonable way is easier said than done. Every time we pray for patience in a heated moment, we are working for peace and we are more in touch with what it means to be a child of God. We may not look like the winner in the middle of a confrontation, but we have given ourselves and the other person the gift of dignity that all God’s children deserve if we have not given in to provocation.
“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” John 14: 27 Jesus, God’s only begotten son, invites us to receive the gift of peace and share it with the other children of God.
Prayer: Thank you God, for your gift of peace.
Reflection for sharing: How are you being called to work for peace in your life today?
[The star] went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. They went into the house and when they saw the child with his mother Mary, they knelt down and worshiped him. They brought out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and presented them to him. Matthew 2:10-11
There used to be a downtown diner named “The Manna-Fest-Station.” It sold organic food and beverages and was a favorite spot of former hippies. I was reminded of that place when I was thinking about the Epiphany, which means manifestation. The Epiphany celebrates the revelation that Christ came—not only for the Jewish people—but also for all nations. This is marked by the visit of the Magi, wise men who, although foreigners, made the journey to Bethlehem to find Christ. When they found him, they worshiped him and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Although there might have been traces of incense mixed in with the aroma of organic food at the diner, there was no gold or myrhh. Still, a place providing healthy nourishment in the middle of a bustling, grimy city calls to mind the Nativity story. The baby Jesus was placed in a manger…in plain English, a cattle feeding trough. Later, when crowds asked the grown Jesus to give them Manna like Moses had done, Jesus said he was the true Bread from Heaven, come down to nourish us. Jesus came to feed hearts hungry for peace and love.
The wise men found what they were looking for because they were willing to travel outside their familiar territory. They even asked for directions and wisely accepted valid information and disregarded Herod’s manipulation. Above all, they were willing to follow the star that shone in the night sky. We are wise if we are willing to do the same, to venture outside our comfort zone, ask for guidance prudently, look for the light of truth when we see it manifested in the midst of darkness, and follow where it leads.
Prayer: Lord, lead our hearts to you.
Reflection for sharing: How can a deeper manifestation of Christ in your life nourish your heart today?
A child is born to us! A son is given to us! And he will be our ruler. He will be called, “Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” Eternal Father,” Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
Throughout the Christmas Season, we’ve been celebrating the fact that a child has been born to us. Let’s think about what Isaiah had to say about this child. He said the son given to us would be our ruler. Who is it that we are inviting to rule our hearts? He is a Wonderful Counselor, that is, an exceptionally wise advisor. If we are confused or uncertain, our Wonderful Counselor can guide our hearts. Our God is Mighty and can provide us with all the power we need to follow His plan for our ultimate good. Our Eternal Father loves us so much He chose to share our humanity by being born of a human mother. Because He is also Eternal, He will be with us always. The ruler of our hearts rules as a Prince of Peace. If we long for serenity, we can find it as we surrender to His loving will, because Jesus told us that His peace was His gift to us.
Prayer: Welcome, Lord. I open my heart to you.
Reflection for Sharing: Which image of Christ most closely answers the longing of your heart as you begin the New Year: Wonderful Counselor? Mighty God? Eternal Father? Prince of Peace?
The Lord is in his holy Temple; let everyone on earth be silent in his presence. Habakkuk 2:20
What else is there to say?
Prayer: Gently breathe in God’s peace. Gently breathe out all else. Shhhhhhh. Listen.
Reflection for sharing: What did you hear in the silence?
Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
Although sometimes I wish there were more hours in the day—I don’t really want longer days, I just want to accomplish more. God often reminds my heart that I have exactly as many hours in a day that everyone else has. I will be able to get done all that I am meant to get done within the 24-hour period at hand. That does NOT guarantee that I will get done all that I want to get done. The truth is, there’ve been days when I finished everything on my to do list, figured I hadn’t put enough on there to begin with, and quickly added more! So it’s safe to say that the problem is not with how long the day is, but with my over-ambitious attitude.
Of course we all have days when circumstances seem to gang up on us, but if that becomes a way of life, we need to stop and look at how we contribute to the pattern. It isn’t always easy to see our part in creating or perpetuating never-ending busy-ness. That’s why it is so helpful to stop, look, and listen to what God offers us—but it seems hardest to do when we need it most! I think it was St. Francis De Sales who said we should pray for half an hour every day unless the day was going to be very busy…on very busy days, we should pray for an hour!
God never asks us to do more than we are able to do and I can’t believe it is His will for us to run ourselves ragged. How effective can we be if we’re worn out? Jesus offers us an ever-available oasis in a sea of activity. To gain perspective, all we have to do is take the time to accept his offer.
Prayer: Lord, help me accept the rest you offer my mind and heart.
Reflection for sharing: How can I create time and space to rest with God—however briefly—today?
The Spirit has given us life; he must also control our lives. We must not be proud or irritate one another or be jealous of one another. Galatians 5:25-26
Don’t get on each other’s nerves? Don’t be jealous? Don’t be conceited? That’s a tall order. Who can do all that? It’s no wonder Paul introduces it by saying that the Spirit has given us life and must also control our lives. We’re human. We can’t do it on our own. But the more room we make for the Spirit in our lives, the less need we have to create friction with each other.
We don’t need to pump ourselves up with false pride when we recognize that we are precious and loved, just as we are. Why be jealous of someone else’s talent or status when we’re aware of and grateful for the gifts we ourselves have? How much irritation comes when we provoke each other by trying to prove that we’re right? As the saying goes, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” We can stand on our convictions and live out the truth without forcing others to knuckle under to our point of view.
How many times have we won the battle and lost the war? It’s easy to forget our goal – especially in the relationships that mean the most – when bickering about the day to day things (that we won’t even remember next week) gets in the way. When we are able to let go and let God, our perspective changes, and conflicts and pointless arguments can be avoided. Pausing to renew our awareness of God’s Presence in our lives can help us gain perspective that will enable us to let go of so much static in life.
Prayer: Come, Holy Spirit, and fill our hearts.
Reflection for sharing: What can I gain today by letting go of pride, or jealousy, or petty irritation?
We are honored and disgraced; we are insulted and praised. We are treated as liars, yet we speak the truth; 2 Corinthians 6: 8
It’s easy to hand over our self-esteem to the opinions of others. What would “they” think? What would “they” say? If we give “their” comments too much power, we can totter back and forth between getting swelled heads to thinking we’re not good enough. Public opinion—even if the public is only the people in our little corner of the world—runs hot and cold.
Max Lucado wrote a wonderful children’s story about a puppet town. The puppets spent their days putting gold stars or gray stickers on each other, sometimes for no other reason than the amount of stars/stickers already accumulated. As you can imagine, the ones with lots of stars were eager to get more; the ones with gray stickers withdrew and felt sad. But one girl puppet was at peace. When others tried to put stars or stickers on her, they didn’t stick! Her secret was to spend a lot of time with the puppet maker, who loved her just the way she was.
I love thinking about that girl puppet. She makes me want to spend more time with my Maker.
Prayer: Lord, may I bask in your unconditional love.
Reflection for sharing: What disturbs your peace of mind most: getting gold stars or gray stickers? What would it be like to let go of both? What would it be like to stop giving stars and stickers to others?
Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20: 22
Christ couldn’t have made it easier for his followers to receive the Holy Spirit. All they had to do was inhale. We receive the Holy Spirit; we don’t earn it. We can’t. It is pure gift.
It’s easy to get caught up in thinking we have to achieve our place in God’s kingdom, but what we have to do is accept the gift. We can’t guarantee the supply of air we need to live, much less control God’s Spirit. Just as God breathed life into Adam, Christ breathes new life into our weary souls. When we receive and say thank you, we grow spiritually. Our right relationship with Our Creator is renewed. We are freed from self-righteousness and pride.
We have an ongoing need to stay close to our source of life. We can’t just take a one deep breath and say, “Okay. Been there, done that.” After our initial reception, accepting the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives is a continuous process. After all, we can’t just take one deep breath and say, “Okay. Been there, done that.” Just as we inhale and then exhale, there is a time to take in and a time to give back out. But unless we first receive, we will have nothing to give.
It is common knowledge that breathing slowly and deeply is a great way to calm ourselves down when we are anxious or slow ourselves down when we are frantic. How much more powerful might it be if, as we inhale, we picture ourselves breathing in the Holy Spirit, and breathing out stress, self, and whatever is not of God. Let’s receive the gift and give thanks to the Giver.
Prayer: Thank you Lord, for the gift of Your Spirit.
Reflection for sharing: What happens when I spend a moment breathing in the Holy Spirit and breathing out stress?