Archives for posts with tag: peace

Do you ever feel like pursuing peace would just take too much time? Like you don’t have time for peace?

> I don’t have time for a diplomatic response – it’s quicker to be direct (blunt), even if that might hurt someone’s feelings – they should just get over it.

> I don’t have time to solve this problem right now. I am in the middle of ____ so I will just a) ignore it, or b) silence it by exerting my authority, or c) yell and hope everyone else shuts up and gets scared away so I can get back to my own little world.

> I have too much going on, too many distractions, too many expectations placed upon me to stop and deal with this unrest going on inside. If I try to stop and center in on God’s move and God’s Word, or to try to seek God about what is going on, I’ll just fall apart. I don’t have time to fall apart. So I’ll just distract myself a little more so I don’t have to deal with what’s really keeping me from being at peace in my heart.

Do any of these seem familiar in your life? Unfortunately, all of them are somewhat familiar in my own life. I write an email, it scenario A. I’m making dinner and the kids fight, it’s scenario B. At any time it could be scenario C, because honestly – is there ever a time I don’t have something happening? But if I don’t MAKE TIME to sit with Jesus and open my heart to Him and His Word, everything else will fall apart.

We are on week 3 of our church Month of Dedication – as we’ve set aside time in this month before Easter to think a little bit about what it means to live at peace in a decidedly unpeaceful world, and how Jesus came to bring us peace as we are reconciled to the Father and redeemed for His purposes in our lives. [You can download the free eBook PDF here.]

My plan was to blog through a couple times a week, but then my kids’ spring break hit, which translated to zero hours to myself, unless you count early morning or late at night, and frankly, my brain doesn’t work very well in those hours, so trying to share any thoughts from those moments probably wouldn’t have benefitted anyone! But we have continued to follow along in the booklet as a family, as planned — my husband and I, and my 7 and 10-year-old kids. We have also used the booklet as the basis for our home group discussions during this time.

One thing I have learned, besides the great insights in the booklet itself, is that change doesn’t happen overnight. Doing this family devotion together hasn’t automatically made us get along better. My kids still fight. We all still tend toward selfishness and want shortcuts, even at another’s expense. We all still seek what we need in negative ways because we don’t know how to ask for it in positive ways. But if we are faithful in the little steps, steadfastly pursuing a course of action, small changes do take place that move us toward healthier outcomes.

A few examples:

  1. We have developed a common language of peace. This book was written for adults, so in doing it with my kids, I have to translate as I go – to bring it to their level. But now, when my kids fight, we have a shared language – a shared experience of learning together that can be a foundation toward positive changes.
  2. In doing this with them, I am more intentional to my responses toward their bickering. Instead of the not-so-lovely-but-quicker scenario B I described above, one day last week I just stood before them, said “move away from the table and do as I do.” They stood up, moved into a clear space, and we did breathing exercises together! Then I pressed my hands together and prayed out loud a prayer of repentance for my own impatience, and times I have acted in anger. I asked God to help me to be more peaceful in the future. I led them through a process of praying their own prayers, talking about how we can’t change anyone else, so complaining and blaming is useless. Unless I can accept responsibility for my own actions and my own part in the conflict (be it inaction, impatience, anger, mistakes, or not dealing with my hurt but allowing it to spill out as aggression), I can never be at peace within myself, and I can never work toward peace with others.
  3. Again, scenario B, instead of yelling and sending them to their rooms I sat down with the kids. We held hands. We talked. We forgave. We prayed together. And I said, “We’re all hungry right? And that is making us cranky. Me included. But if I have to stop making dinner to break up your fights, it’s just going to take us longer to get to where we all want to be, which is eating, so can we please work together and try not to fight? Can you please stop asking other things and telling me what the other one is doing wrong so I can finish making dinner and we can stop being cranky?”

Making the peaceful choice often does take time – because usually what will bring peace requires some action. It requires a little extra effort of me. Teamwork involves training. Often I want everyone to just go away so I can fix it myself. I will make it, I will clean it, I will plan it and do it. In the moment, that might seem like the quickest way. But in the long run, that strategy leaves me lonely and over-worked. Bringing someone else into the process – teaching them skills – is more work for the moment. But it means less work and more enjoyment of being and doing together in the long run. To teach is to empower – not just so someone else is equipped and can find the blessing that is working hard and being proud of your work and the joy of blessing someone else. But also if I can empower someone else, then I will NOT end up lonely and over-worked; I can end up surrounded by partners and having that elusive time to be peaceful with Jesus and work on whatever He needs to work on with me, and do what brings me life instead of just what I have to do to live.

Considering the first part of our “week three” in the booklet, I want to bring to you today a few questions:

> Are there conflicts (current or potential) that I am ignoring because I hope they’ll just go away?

> Are there steps I need to take now to keep a small issue from becoming a big issue later?

> And going back to the scenarios at the start of this post, is there an area in which you’ve been unwilling to take the time that might be needed to help you pursue peace in your life?

It’s never too late to take a step in the right direction! Whether you’ve been keeping up with the study or not, today is a great day to take a step toward peace.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

It is Saturday afternoon… my Sabbath, as a Christian, starts this evening. I have been at the office all morning, and I am not sure what state the house will be in when I get home, but I do know that my dad invited my brother and sister-in-law to watch the Ducks cream Nichols in college football… What will my Sabbath look like? Will I be ready?

The game should be over well before Sunset. I have a plan for what to make for dinner, and for tomorrow’s lunch, so that tomorrow really will be a Sabbath of rest and ceasing from normal work… a time devoted to family and worship and prayer and God. As I rush to finish my work that I must do before church starts tomorrow morning, and as I am about to rush home and see what I ought to do before Sabbath begins, while also being social with my family.

As I try to prepare my heart for Sabbath, I am reminded of two things.

First, the challenges of living in a household with others who aren’t totally on board with your idea of Sabbath. Since moving to Eugene, Oregon last January, we have been living with my parents. It has been a total blessing, and of course, a challenge in some ways. We have different priorities. If the Sabbath can’t totally be a complete household commitment, then we must find ways to keep it in our hearts. One professor in seminary, who taught me a lot about Sabbath, said, “Start by keeping it yourself, and once you have the principles settled in your own heart, it will be easier to bring others along.” (Something along those lines anyway!) That is advice I will take to heart today. My husband and I have not really celebrated a dedicated Sabbath in several years, so this is something we will learn together, we will have to teach our kids about, and perhaps, my parents might join in as well. We plan to invite others to join us a couple Sabbaths a month, starting in October. Judgment of others, and frustration at not getting it right does not have a place in my Sabbath. If that creeps into my heart, my heart will not be at rest, and Sabbath will become an area of performance instead of a gift to God from my heart, as I receive the blessing of Sabbath he wants to give me. So, whatever I find when I get home, and to whatever degree we are able to keep Sabbath tonight and tomorrow, I will be content.

The second thing I am reminded of is an article I read by Lauren Winner, who in part of her exploration of Christian Sabbath keeping, quotes a woman named Nan Fink who converted to Judaism later in life, when she met the Jewish man who became her husband.

“On Friday afternoon, at the very last minute, we’d rush home, stopping at the grocery to pick up supplies. Flying into the kitchen we’d cook ahead for the next twenty-four hours. Soup and salad, baked chicken, yams and applesauce for dinner, and vegetable cholent or lasagna for the next days lunch. Sometimes I’d think how strange it was to be in such a frenzy to get ready for a day of rest.

Shabbat preparations had their own rhythm, and once the table was set and the house straightened, the pace began to slow. “It s your turn first in the shower,” I’d call to Michael. “Okay, but its getting late,” he’d answer, concerned about starting Shabbat at sunset.

In the bathroom I’d linger at the mirror [examining myself] stroking the little lines on my face, taking as much time as I could to settle into a mood of quietness. When I joined Michael and his son for the lighting of the candles, the whole house seemed transformed. Papers and books were neatly piled, flowers stood in a vase on the table, and the golden light of the setting sun filled the room….

Shabbat is like nothing else. Time as we know it does not exist for these twenty-four hours, and the worries of the week soon fall away. A feeling of joy appears. The smallest object, a leaf or a spoon, shimmers in a soft light, and the heart opens. Shabbat is a meditation of unbelievable beauty.”

Ahh, that is my lovely dream I pursue in Sabbath – a place transformed, that I might have a heart transformed. A peace in which to better appreciate my blessings and love on those I share my life with. As much as I can, I will settle my spirit into quietness tonight, and meditate on the beauty and gifts all around me.

(Reading List Theme 1.4)

Prayer is communication with God. This communication goes beyond the words we say, to the motivations of our hearts, and the kind of lives we live. Being joyful, considerate of others, prayerful instead of distressful, simple instead of complicated, fixing our minds on what is true, honorable, and right, pure, lovely, and admirable, excellent and worthy of praise. Then we will have peace. Sounds simple, right? Just run through the list, and *poof* – all my cares blow away like a pile of dry leaves in the autumn breeze.

Maybe not.

This is a good time for me to be reading this passage, because last night I was more surrendered to the worrisome questions around me than the peaceful Holy Spirit within me. I think my prayers sometimes reflect more a tornado than a peaceful breeze. Instead of watching my cares be taken away by the Spirit, I watch them cycle around and around me, causing havoc and destruction on the territory of my heart. “What about this? What about that? How long do I have to do this? Should I be doing that instead? Will this dream ever be fulfilled? What if you have a different dream? I love this part of my life… but it also frustrates me, and I feel guilty for it. Should I surrender to this situation, or do you want me to fight it? Where should I go? How come so-and-so gets this, when I only get that? I know this is working now, but what about later? How do I get ready for later? What am I missing? I am unhappy. I shouldn’t be depressed; I should be filled with joy…now I feel guilty again…”

It’s exhausting just to write it. Why did I do that for a few hours yesterday?

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for what he has done.” Simple, not complicated.

**God, I need to be a good mom and wife. Please help me to be patient, loving, attentive, firm when needed, compassionate when needed, and know when to draw the line. Thank you for the amazing gift of my family. I would not trade them for anything in the world.

**Lord, we need to provide for our family. Help me to be content, as Paul was, in every situation, whether with plenty or with want. Help me to sort out my wants from my needs, and surrender the wants, to focus on the needs without anxiety. Thank you for the way you have provided jobs, and the space to live with my parents for a season. Thank you that you will provide greater income when the need arises, and when it is your timing for us to move out. Thank you for always providing for us. Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for providing our daily bread. I would like to know where our bread will come from in the future, but thank you that your grace is sufficient, and that I can do all things through you who gives me strength… I can even surrender the certainty of the future.

**Lord, I need to stay focused on what is important. Help me to hear you, be led by you, and prioritize appropriately. Thank you for showing me how to live, when I take the time to listen instead of just talk. Thank you for being the center of the tornado, the eye, the calm spot where I can find peace amidst the tumult around me.

Ah that feels much better. Maybe it IS that simple. Maybe prayer is not about receiving all the answers, and learning what is down the road, but finding peace for the journey. Finding joy, the ability to be thankful, and the awareness that I BELONG to Christ Jesus (1 Thess 5:18).  The fact is, I don’t know the future. I may have a sense of God’s leading, his personal promises, and the dreams I feel he has put in my heart, but I don’t know what will happen. I can pray for what I want, but I won’t always get it. Sometimes God has something better for me, that I’ve never considered. Sometimes what I think I want is not what I need, or even what I really want. In everything on my list, I won’t always get a “Yes” from God. But when I pray according to HIS WILL, I will get a “yes!”

I need peace. God says, “Yes, I can give you that.” I need to have my character shaped. God is eager to help with that. I have physical needs. God will meet those needs in his own way, though it may not be the way (or when) I would choose. God says yes all day long, when I ask according to his will.

My mom is leading a Bible Study on thankfulness at our church, based on Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts. In the video for the small group study, the author says, “Every time I surrender to stress and worry, aren’t I advertising the unreliability of God? That I really don’t believe?”

Yikes! I think she is right. If I BELIEVE God is the eye, the peace in the storm, the center of my heart, and I KNOW this to be true based on his great faithfulness over the years (both to me and to those in the Bible)… then why do I surrender to worry? I probably realistically can’t avoid worry, but I should not surrender to it when I feel it rising. The only way to re-center myself on God is to thank and praise him, to get my eyes back on him and not on the unknowns in my life, or my feelings of fear, failure, and frustration. “Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil 4:9)

Amen.