Be still and know that I am God! Psalm 46: 10a (NRSV)
What if we can’t be still? What if we avoid meditating because we don’t like being still? What if we read our Bibles and talk to God, but have trouble listening in stillness to what He might be trying to tell us?
There are a number of methods people use to still their minds: repeating a word or phrase, focusing on an inspiring image, playing relaxing or uplifting background music. These techniques can set the stage for quieting our over-active minds, but a tool is not the event itself. What happens when the technique doesn’t bring the desired result?
I suggest that honesty is the best policy. If we feel fidgety or resistant, why can’t we bring that to God? What if we just surrender completely to His care? He knows us better than we know ourselves. Maybe humbly offering our resistance to Him is just as pleasing to Him as a meditation perfectly executed in our own eyes. It costs us something to carve out time to be with God when we’re itching to get on with our day. That can be a sincere demonstration that “we know that He is God.” Maybe knowing God is not so much about being able to “still” ourselves on command, but about becoming open to His supreme presence and power.
One translation of the above Scripture verse is, “Stop struggling and know that I am God.” That means we can even stop struggling against our own resistance to contemplation. We can abandon ourselves to the care of the Author of Peace.
Prayer: Lord, You are my God. Empower me to be still and know You.
Reflection for sharing: What helps you “be still and know” God? If you struggle with being still, what can help you surrender your struggle to Him?
There an angel of the Lord appeared to [Moses] as a flame coming from the middle of a bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire but that it was not burning up. “This is strange,” he thought. “Why isn’t the bush burning up? I will go closer and see.” Exodus 3: 2-3
When God saw Moses coming closer, He called to him from the burning bush. What if that had happened today? Moses might have been busy texting or checking his Facebook page and missed it.
Moses was watching sheep when God spoke to him. No doubt it was easy for him to notice the burning bush. There probably wasn’t much else going out in the pasture.
It’s more of a challenge for us today. So many things demand our attention and so many distractions are literally at our fingertips. How do we make room for God to speak to us in our busy lives?
It might start by us looking at our priorities. If God really is our Creator, wouldn’t it be wise to carve out at least a few minutes each day to connect with the Source of our being? Earning a living, family responsibilities, exercise, and chores: it’s a long to-do list for most of us. Spending time with God might seem like one more demand. It might be tempting to rattle off prayers or rush through our “quiet time” so we can check it off our list, but that misses the point. I’ve done it.
On time I tried to meditate but felt the pressures of the day nagging me.
Okay, God, I thought. I’m here. I’m listening. What do you want me to do?
I felt the answer in my heart.
I just want you to be.
Yes, but after that, what do you want me to do?
I just want you to be.
I know, but after that…
I don’t remember how long it took me to settle down and let go of the split-second timing my agenda seemed to require. I do remember coming away feeling relaxed and refreshed. Whatever I got done or didn’t get done that day, it all worked out okay—and I was in a lot better frame of mind.
Spending quiet time listening to God isn’t for His benefit, but for ours. Let’s not have our burning bush be the point where we are so worn out that we have no choice but to rest.
Maybe what He wants to tell us is we don’t have to try so hard.
Prayer: Lord, slow me down today.
Reflection for sharing: Who or what helps you settle down and listen?
May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. 1 Cor. 1: 3
Grace and Peace! What more could we need or want?
I don’t know about you, but when I think about it, so much of what I’ve wanted–or think I’ve wanted–can be traced back to grace or peace.
Grace has been defined as favor (love), mercy and good will. How much of my effort has been aimed at being approved of, accepted, appreciated? When my self-esteem is anchored in God’s grace, I can make choices without wondering what others might think.
What about peace? How often have I tried to get my own way so I could feel secure? But when my heart’s at peace, my serenity can’t be stolen away by circumstances. When my mom was very ill I was afraid to lose her. I wanted to pray for her recovery, but still, when I saw how weak she was, I couldn’t help wondering if maybe God wanted to call her home. By grace, it occurred to me to pray for her peace, whatever the days ahead might hold. I prayed for her peace in recovery but also that, if it was time to leave this earth-life, her last days would be filled with serenity. I believe that prayer was answered. Shortly before she took her final breath Mom smiled and said, “Oh, Barbara! It’s all one and it’s beautiful.” Grace and peace. What more did she need? What more do we?
Prayer: Lord, open our hearts to your grace and peace.
Reflection for sharing: How can grace and peace enhance your life no matter what circumstances you find yourself in today?
And may God, the source of patience and encouragement, enable you to have the same point of view among yourselves by following the example of Christ Jesus… Romans 15:5
Patience doesn’t come naturally to me. I’ve tried forcing myself to be patient with little lectures: You need to be patient…Patience is a virtue…Just be patient…It doesn’t work. The more I pressure myself to be patient, the more impatient I get—with myself.
Then one day I came across an anonymous quote: “It is a mistake to think that patience can be acquired by will-power; patience can only be acquired by letting go of self-will.” That changes everything. When do I get impatient? When traffic, people, or situations beyond my control interfere with MY schedule, MY idea of how things should be going. There’s enough self-will in my attitude already. Adding more by willing myself to be patient just adds fuel to the fire.
What a difference when I can let go of my agenda. Stuck in traffic? That’s okay. God knows all about it. I’ll get where I need to be when I need to be there. Someone doesn’t see eye to eye with my plan? It’s all right. Maybe there’s more than one way to achieve a common goal. Too much to do and too little time? Puh-leeze! God gives me all the time I need to get done whatever He has in mind for me to do on any given day. Maybe it’s ego urging me to do more than is reasonable in any particular set of circumstances.
Come to think of it, I can’t recall any gospels where Jesus rushed around to get things done or insist that people do things his way—and his “to do” list included saving humanity! What enabled him to take circumstances in stride? Maybe it had everything to do with how he often went off alone to spend time in prayer to His Father, the source of all patience.
Prayer: Lord, help me relax and trust You to provide everything I need to do what you have in mind for me to do today.
Reflection for sharing: How will letting go of self-will help you relax and patiently accept life as it comes today?
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?