Bonnie Gray is the soulful author of Whispers of Rest and Finding Spiritual Whitespace. An inspirational speaker and retreat leader, she has touched thousands of lives through storytelling, visual arts, nature, prayer and meditation. Bonnie’s writing is featured on Relevant Magazine, DaySpring (in)courage, and Christianity Today. She lives in California with her husband and their two sons. Visit Bonnie at www.thebonniegray.com and connect with her @thebonniegray on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
Peace is hard to come by.
Peace was a quiet quality that I've always longed for as a little girl. I felt it at night, when everyone was asleep and the house was still. If I was facing a problem, that's when I did a lot of my thinking. I'd figure a way out.
My peace was often found in asking God to help me find a solution.
Another way I found peace was journaling. I'd write and write, until I felt peaceful. But, these moments of peace were elusive and fleeting.
I've been learning that the perfect peace that God talks about in Isaiah 26:3 goes deeper:
"You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in you."
This verse was given to me when I was eight years old, as a reward for jumping rope the longest at a church picnic -- inscribed on a wooden plaque. It was one of my few possessions, so I always put it on my desk. I've looked at that verse all my life, but never really quite understood what perfect peace was.
How can peace be "perfect"?
It wasn't until I went through my life-transforming journey to create space to feed my soul and rest -- to make room for spiritual whitespace -- that I looked up the original Hebrew for "peace".
The word is "shalom".
Shalom means a putting back together. Like pieces of a garment, sewn together to make a whole. Or puzzle pieces gathered together -- found after being lost -- to fit together to make a whole. And I began to understand.
I've often found peace by knowing what to do. Or finding a solution. But, the truth is, not every problem has the solution we hope for.
Most of life really is a journey to experience God -- when we deeply experience our humanity and our stories.
Faith is not given to us to avoid life.
Faith is given, so we can hear the Voice who gently whispers,
"Come to me, weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matt. 11:28
Perfect peace is experienced when I place my trust in Jesus. He is the One who is putting all the pieces back together again. Not me.
God is putting me back together. Making me whole. Complete.
But, I need to let him.
Christ being born in us -- in the quiet places where we long for perfect peace. Birth is a messy journey, but it is real.
Perfect peace is a Person. Jesus.
It's human nature to want editorial control of our lives.
But, Advent calls us to stop. To make room for God's story to take shape in you and me.
To say, as Mary once did -- Let it be to me. Just as you say.
Listen. The Christmas Story
When Mary first heard the news that she was chosen to carry God's son, she experienced anything but peace. "How could this be?" she asked.
Doesn't her question echo our questions? How can this be?
She would be unwed and pregnant. Mary had plans of her own for her engagement, wedding and first year of marriage. Her plans were changed in a way that looked extrememly unfavorably. Dangerous. Threatening her very peace -- and her family's.
God's reply to Mary and to us through the angel Gabriel was radical encouragement --
"Nothing, you see, is impossible with God." ~ Luke 1:37 MSG
Do we actually believe that God can do anything?
Mary could have responded with --
"Not this way...'
Instead, Mary believed --
"Yes, I see it all now:
I'm the Lord's... ready to serve.
Let it be with me just as you say."
~ Luke 1:37 MSG
It dawned on me. What Mary saw wasn't how things would work out.
Mary had no idea what was up ahead of her -- giving birth with no friends or family around, returning to raise Jesus among rumors and innuendo, and seeing her son die unexpectedly at 33, hung as a criminal.
What Mary did see was that God would fill in the blanks. She was willing to be that space for His story.
Today, you and I are invited to be that space for God this Christmas too.
Will we fill in all the blanks?
Or will you let God write His story using ALL parts of yours?
This is the Peace of Christmas, God knows the way.
Receive. God's Advent Whispers For You
Perfect peace isn't found in forgetting. Shalom peace is a putting back together. Wholeness. Real. Complete.
God whispers --
I love all of you.
I am your peace.
Without Jesus, we are left to only hope that things will change for the better.
Together with Jesus, we can experience perfect peace because His love makes us better.
God knows you and He knows the way ahead. He is your peace. And mine.
Respond. Share Your Heart
What is God telling you to do today? What leap of faith do you need to take, as Christmas approaches, to let God be your perfect peace?
Pray. Our #OneWordAdvent Prayer Today:
Dear Heavenly Father,
This my one word prayer: peace.
I can't see ahead. I don't know what to do.
Here are all my fears and my questions... (share yours).
I want to experience your perfect peace.
Let it be with me. Just as you say.
Hold me, God, so I can hear you whisper to me, "You don't have to know the way. I do."
In Jesus name, Amen.
How is today's devotional speaking to your heart?
Who can you share today's encouragement with?
Pull up a chair. Share a comment below.
For encouragment, read Bonnie's book Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Yoru Soul to Rest named by Crosswalk.com as one of the Best Books for Christian Women in 2014.
Give the gift of rest to a friend for Christmas. Order Bonnie's book and receive some free gifts until December 31, 2016. Click here.
Bonnie Gray blogs at Faith Barista, serving up shots of faith in the daily grind. She has been named Top 6 Notable New Religion Authors by Publisher's Weekly and writes for DaySpring (in)courage, Revelant Magazine, spotlighted by Christianity Today and Catalyst Leadership. A UCLA graduate, Bonnie served as a missionary, ministry entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley high-tech professional. She lives in California with her husband, Eric, and their two sons.
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Let go of the busyness and stress of the holiday season and open your heart and mind to peace by experiencing the joy of Jesus' birth as you use 12 Advent Prayers! Finding quiet time during the holidays will help you reflect on the reason for Christmas and preparing our hearts to celebrate Christ's birth. Let us know in the comments how you are preparing your heart!