December 14, 2015, I copied these words into my journal. They were from the book, The Rule of Benedict by Joan Chittster:
God is calling us to more than the material level of life and God is waiting to bring us to it. All we have to do is to live well with others and live totally in God. All we have to do is to listen totally in God. All we have to do is listen to the voice of God in life. And we have to do it heart, soul, and body. The spiritual life demands all of us.

These words stirred something inside of me. My heart felt the passion; my soul longed for this spiritual aptitude, and my body desired to taste and see God like I never experienced before.  My host-father used to say with a chuckle, “There’s nothing like a high from the Most High.” He grew up in the hippie movement in the 60s and found the way to God through Jesus Christ. He kept life simple despite the fact that he could have had a bigger abode than his two-bedroom farm house, a flashier car than his Chevy Trax, vacations to luxury resorts rather than trips to see family and friends.  There was always a deep peace within him, even as he drew his last breath in a body ravished by cancer. Perhaps, it’s an age thing, though I’d prefer to think of it more as maturity or growth, but possessing things has become less important to me. Instead, peace has become the riches I have begun to hoard.

The Peace in the Stillness

For someone who loves energy and the energy that comes from music, lifting weights, or the challenge of pushing my heart and lungs to work at their maximum, I appreciate also the silence, especially before the crack of dawn. There is something so magical and mystical about this time of the morning. I feel as if God is up waiting—waiting for me. And for that moment in time, it is absolutely perfect. He is so present.  My voice breaks the silence as I read aloud the sacred scriptures from the Bible. I love the passages when Jesus speaks, because I get to pretend I am He. Being theater-trained, it seems natural and fun to do it this way rather than succumb to slumber or boredom. When I pause or stop reading, I know God is trying to get my attention. I know He wants me to pay attention to something I have just read. I wait in the silence to allow Him to show me. I enjoy the warmth from the coffee and the mental stimulation that the coffee provides. Ah!  The perfect combination: coffee with God.  This is peace…the stillness. The house is quiet. I do not feel alone, although I am alone.  I love this place—this space.

Was that night when Jesus was born like this–still? I doubt it; there seemed to have been a lot of movement. Wise men and shepherds were on the move and, soon thereafter, Herod was looking for the baby Jesus. Perhaps, a baby’s cry broke the silence, announcing the miraculous birth, as the angels did to the shepherds: “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

The birth of Jesus brought the possibility of peace in the midst of imperfection, chaos and fear. Peace is the gift or the treasure.  This time of year, many of us focus on giving gifts. Whilst giving gifts is a good thing, we should seek to cultivate and share the gift of peace foremost. After all, there are now so many opportunities for us to do so, beginning with ourselves, family members and neighbors.

As a countdown ’til Christmas, here are some tips and ways to cultivate the gift of peace:

Dec. 21: Begin today. Start listening now for that still, small voice. Ask yourself what does God want you to pay attention to today? The answer should point to Him, or back to Him.

Dec. 22: Are you angry or upset with someone? Are you holding a grudge? Practice forgiving, though the feelings may still be raw. Mentally, decide to forgive, and allow God to heal your heart of the pain.

Dec. 23: Surrender. Is there something beyond your control? Do you feel you must control everything around you? If so, you are trying to fulfill an impossible task. Pray, but trust the outcome to God, no matter what.  God knows the future and has your best interest, including your loved ones, in His Hand.

Dec. 24: Distinguish between your wants and needs. God wants you to move beyond the material level of life in order to find the real meaning in living life.  Most of the time, what we need is not found ‘underneath the Christmas tree,’ so to speak.

Dec. 25: Create a safe and non-judgmental atmosphere at the dining table. Listen to each family member and choose your words well. Food and alcohol have the power to dull the senses. Be careful how much you eat or drink, lest you say or do something you regret.

It is important for us to be peacemakers to our neighbors. But in order to shine brightly in a dark world, we need to cultivate inner peace within ourselves first. There is a time for silence and solitude. I don’t know about you, but there are some things that I only want God to know. And there are some things that God only wants me to know but will only happen when I stop talking in order to hear that still, small voice. This Christmas give yourself the gift of peace. Remember, the gift has been given when you are in need of it the most.