Category Archives: Peace

When it Feels Wrong

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He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.  He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him  But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”  Mark 8:31-34

I think I would be like Peter, “Say, what?  The Messiah is going to have to suffer?  He’s going to die?  Oh, no, no, no Jesus, you’ve got it all wrong.  I’m investing my life in you.  You’re my shining hope.   You’re going to throw down the establishment.  You’re going to make everything better.”

I just have this mindset that suffering means something is wrong.  I’ve been on this life long quest to live the right life, a safe life.  And to me, that means a life where I don’t make mistakes and I avoid suffering.  Because, again, suffering would mean that something is going wrong. It would mean that Satan is winning, that worse is sure to happen.

It would mean being out of control.  After all, how could being sucked into a vortex of chaos be part of God’s plan?

But when Peter tried to tell Jesus something like this, he got rebuked.  Jesus called him out in front of his bros, said he was “Satan.”  Ouch.

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God just sees things in a whole different way than we do.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how one of the attributes of God is peace.  Peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit. (Gal 5:22)  The famous blessing of Numbers 6 says, “May the LORD show you his favor and give you his peace.” (Num 6:26 NLT)

And I’ve thought, “How can God be peaceful?  There’s so much bad going on all the time.”

But then I realized that God isn’t afraid of the bad things.  They grieve him deeply, but he doesn’t fear them.  Because he is stronger than evil.  Because he can stop it at any time.  Because he knows his plan, which is good and unfolding as he intends.  Because he knows he will win.

God really is peace.

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And I saw that this peace extends to me.  I am never outside of God’s control, never out of the reach of his hand.  Chaos cannot sweep me away.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  Ps 139:9

Okay, confession here.  I love to read romances. There’s a frequent theme — a female character who is beautiful but bratty gets pursued by a male character who has such a force of love for her that no matter what she does, he’s not deterred.

Of course this is fiction.  I could do a lot of damage to my marriage by being bratty.

But it’s not fiction when it comes to God.  My little fits and snits aren’t going to scare him away. He doesn’t think, “Sheesh, this girl has issues!   Let me go hang with someone else instead.”

No!  His heart’s desire to hang with me — and with you!  He will never turn away.

And that is why Jesus had to suffer and die.  It was part of his plan for you.  He pursued you, and nothing is going to deter him from sticking to you like glue.

It just doesn’t feel like love, sometimes.  It doesn’t feel like things are going right.

Here’s what we think it should feel like– the song from the Lego Movie.

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And it’s so hard to not be like prideful Peter when it doesn’t go that way.

We just had an outdoor service on one of the coldest days of the year. It was preceded by a men’s campout the night before, where the guys had to endure rain and temperatures in the thirties!

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We planned to have piping hot chili for our fellowship lunch.  I fussed and slaved over cooking my chili.  I heated it in the crock pot, and then once I got to the location, I got out our special extension cord with multiple outlets and plugged it in so it wouldn’t get cold.

There was just one thing.  There were at least 7 other crock pots of chili and soups.  Some of them were cold when they got there, and had to be heated up.  But there weren’t enough outlets on the serving table.  So we had to unplug the warm ones and plug in the colds ones.

Then we started church.  I tried to focus on worship.  But I kept getting nervous.  What if the crock pots that were unplugged were getting cold? It was 38 degrees, and windy!  Would there be anything worse than eating cold chili on a cold day?  So I brought a couple of the crock pots, including mine, into the kitchen to plug them in there.  I had to set them on a narrow ledge by the sink.  In the process of arranging them, my crock pot fell in the sink with a loud clatter, dumping out a sizable part of my wonderful chili.  Ack!!

It reminds me of my life.  I try so hard to make everything perfect, and my efforts can actually make things worse!

It would be easy to complain about the things that were challenging about our outdoor service.  I do need to apologize to the moms who brought their little children.  I thought that would work, but it was too cold for the babies.

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Ken feeding a cold Elena.

But as I kept rehashing the things I wished had gone more smoothly, it occurred to me that maybe there was a reason God made the coldest time to be the days of our men’s campout and outdoor service.

Maybe God’s thinking wasn’t our thinking.  Maybe he wanted us to see that happiness isn’t based on living our comfortable routines, but on something deeper.

Maybe we needed for our chili to spill and our fingertips to get numb to learn that we could find joy anyway.

I saw so many things that inspired me.  Brian having his quiet time in the chilly early morning.

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Bill going above and beyond to cook a hearty breakfast.

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Graham preaching when he was frozen to the bone and had to wear a blanket.  Here he is leading a prayer.

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Nate manning the little camping stove and heating a pan of water so everyone could have hot drinks.  (Wish I had a picture of that.)  I could go on and on.

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Cairo was a trooper too!

You know, even though it was challenging, everyone was cheerful and looking for ways to serve.

It was like the Grinch who stole Christmas.  No matter what, we still had a joyful time being together.

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Sometimes God doesn’t have things go like we think they should.  Sometimes it feels wrong.

But we can let Jesus’s rebuke to Peter be one to us as well.  Get behind us, Satan!  No complaining!  No faithlessness!  No just thinking of the concerns of men!

Let’s seek to have God’s mindset.  Let’s seek to have his peace, as we trust that he is in control, and know that he is committed to us.

When we do, just like what happened with the outdoor service, we will be stronger.  We will find deeper joy.

 

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Rest for the Soul

Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.  Mark 6:45-46

Sometimes you have to get away to recharge. Ken and I just returned from vacation in New Mexico.  Some of the vacation was busy and filled with relatives, so it wasn’t necessarily quiet.  But it was nourishing to be loved by so many, and it was peaceful to be on the vast prairie of my family’s ranch.

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When Ken asked what I wanted to do on the last weekend, I said that I would like to be somewhere beautiful where I could be quiet and reflect.  So Saturday afternoon Ken and I went to the top of the Sandia Mountains outside of Albuquerque.  There, we hiked to a place with an amazing view, and prayed out loud as we took in the majesty of God’s creation.   It was just what I needed to process the many things I’ve gone through in the past couple of weeks.

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The next morning I arose early, moved a chair to sit outside of our second story hotel room and had a long time with God while I watched the sun rise over the mountains.  I wrote down everything I was thankful for.  I connected with scriptures.  I could feel the tight places in my heart begin to relax.

It’s good to go on vacation and get away.  But we need more than that.  We need time in quiet places where we can be restored.    Jesus made this a priority.  I don’t know how he managed to stay up at night and pray when he must have been dog tired after teaching people and taking care of their needs all day.  But I guess he knew what he needed rest for his soul more than he needed physical rest.  Surely we are the same.

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Psalm 57 — Finding Refuge

Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me . . .

This is how Psalm 57 starts, which is the next psalm in the  series I’m writing on the Psalms in chronological order.  Psalm 57 was written by David when he was holed up a cave, hiding from Saul’s soldiers.

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I imagine it was real downer to be there, stuck in the dark, cut off from the world.

So as David started praying to God there, what did he pray first? Did he catalog all the ways that God should work?  No, he begged, “Have mercy on me.” He wanted this so much, he said it twice.

This challenges me!  I’ve been going nonstop since before Thanksgiving.  I have a backlog of unprocessed emotional baggage; feelings screaming for attention.  I want to whine and fill God’s ear with requests.

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But instead, what I need to do is get on my knees, put my face to the ground and remember who I am before the Lord.  The only real thing I can ask for is mercy.

Let this illustration burn into me, the one Jesus gave about a Pharisee and a tax collector who went to pray:

The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  Luke 18:13-14

I am such a Pharisee!!  It’s so much about me.  I am so preoccupied with trying to  do the right thing so I can feel good about myself.  More than that, I am so focused on praying for what I think should happen.  I exude pride, not humility.

David goes on to write, “for in you I take refuge,” And then says, “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.”

Oh, this is what my heart craves, a refuge.  But even though I know that it can be found in God, it doesn’t click.  So I’m trying to understand how David could so completely and confidently find a safe place in God.

And as I meditate on it,  I’m realizing that David wasn’t just seeing God as a haven.  He was putting his trust in the God who had a solid history of always protecting and caring for his people. Look at this passage in Deuteronomy 32 and how it describes God’s actions towards the Israelite nation:

He (God) found him (Israel) out in the wilderness,
        in an empty, windswept wasteland.
    He threw his arms around him, lavished attention on him,
        guarding him as the apple of his eye.
    He was like an eagle hovering over its nest,
        overshadowing its young,
    Then spreading its wings, lifting them into the air,
        teaching them to fly.
    God alone led him;
        there was not a foreign god in sight.
    God lifted him onto the hilltops,
        so he could feast on the crops in the fields.
    He fed him honey from the rock,
        oil from granite crags . .

God is like a bird that shelters its young. That bird would also be committed to feeding its young and fiercely protecting them.

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So David knew that God felt a loving responsibility and obligation toward him.  He knew God would be there for him.  THAT is how he took refuge in God.

And that is how I can take refuge in God as well.  By learning to believe that God is faithful to me.

As the psalm goes on, it helps me to realize this.  Here is what David says next.  I’m listing several translations of this verse:

I call upon the God Most High; to the God who completes what he began in me. ISV

I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. NLT

I cry out to God Most High, to God, who vindicates me. NIV

I will cry to God Most High, To God who accomplishes all things for me.  ASV

No matter which translation is correct, they all say that God would act on David’s behalf.  I love this thought.  God’s not going to just sit in heaven.  He’s going to get up and do something for his people.

What really helps my heart is knowing that it is God who is doing the work, not me.  When I work, I make a mess of things. How wonderful it is that I can come to God and know that he WILL work his good purpose in spite of my mucking about!

It reminds me of this verse:  “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  Phil. 1:6

But the thing is, for God to work, I have to first humble myself, as David did.  I have to stop thinking I know how things should be done.

I have to vacate my own refuge, my own way of trying to control and make the world safe, and make God my refuge in every way.

It’s sort of like the story of the three pigs.  I need to leave my house of sticks and go to the house of bricks!

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I tend to be overwhelmed.  I think about all that’s going wrong, all that needs to change, all that needs to be done.  On one hand, I come up with plans to fix it, and on the other, I despair because my efforts seem to have bungled things.

How much I need peace!  The irony is that I need a refuge because I haven’t made God my refuge.

When will I learn that true peace comes from humility, not performance?  It comes from surrender, emptying myself before God, and having faith that he will work.

“And that is what we should seek for — to go on our faces before God until our hearts learn to believe that the everlasting God Himself will come in to turn out what is wrong, to conquer what is evil, and to work what is well-pleasing in His blessed sight.”  (Andrew Murray, Absolute Surrender)

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God is Enough

You have wearied the Lord with your words.

“How have we wearied him?” you ask.

By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?”  Mal 2:17

Basically, the Jews were complaining to God about the prosperity of the wicked.  They whined about the injustice of it all:  Why would God lavish his blessings those who weren’t following him, and scrimp on his blessings for them?

It’s so easy to feel like we’re being shortchanged.

And it’s so easy to point our fingers at the sins of others.

I was in Walmart yesterday.  A mother was pushing one of her children around in the cart, while her other child wandered the aisle, looking at merchandise that interested him. When it was time to move on, she told the child in the aisle, “Let’s go.”  But the young boy kept on looking at the things on the shelf.  “He’s not coming,” the kid in the cart informed his mom in an annoying tone.  That child wanted to be sure his mom knew that his sibling wasn’t obeying.

Isn’t that the way we are?  We want to be sure that God knows how wrong others are.  We can see the injustice so clearly.  “It’s not right” we rail.  “They need to be fixed!”

And yet, like the Jews, we can be blind to the things we need to fix in our own characters.   “In their own eye they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their own sin.”  Ps 36:2

The only person we can really change is ourselves.

A few weeks ago, someone called my attention to some ways I had wronged them, and some shortcomings in my character.  I got very upset.   I wanted so badly to stew, and dwell on the unfairness, the shortcomings in THEIR character.  But I knew I had to use this instead as an opportunity to do some deep self searching.  It took a Herculean effort to pull my attention back to myself, and pray, day after day, to be able to see and change the things I needed to change.  Slowly, over time, with a lot of grace and help from God, my eyes were opened and I grew.

So I know how tempting it is to give into bitterness, to look at others and not myself.

For me, just like in Malachi, the bitterness also takes the form of envy.  I catch myself longing to have what others have.  Or, I should say, what they appear to have — no trials in their marriage, no problems with their kids.  They seem happy and successful at their jobs.  They look vigorous and attractive.  Their life seems smooth, without challenge.

And to make myself feel better, I point out their flaws, “They drink too much.  All they care about is things.  They’re arrogant.  They’re shallow and worldly.”

The thing is, God says this pervasive attitude makes him bone weary and dog tired.

Wait! God can’t get exhausted with us, he’s long suffering.  It’s true. God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.  (Ex 34:6)

But one of the few things that gets old with God is a lack of faith.  It was the same with Jesus when he was on earth.  “You of little faith,” he would say.

That’s the root of it.  We don’t trust.  We don’t believe that God will take care of us.  We don’t believe that God is enough for us.  And then we start wishing for greener grass.

We say, “Where is the God of justice?  We need more blessings!”  And then we rant, “Why don’t you do something about all of these people who are messing up the world?”

But God doesn’t need us to be his magnifying glass of what is wrong in others.  He needs us to study ourselves, identify the veins of discontent, root out the pockets of mistrust.

I just got a new pair of prescription glasses for the first time in ten years.  When I put them on in the store for the first time and looked in the mirror, I almost wished I hadn’t.  I could see all kinds of things I didn’t notice before — grey hairs springing from my crown, fine wrinkles and large pores.

It’s the same way when we look closely at ourselves.  We’ll find things that don’t look as good as we thought.

But we love God, so we WILL look.  We don’t want to weary him.  We want to refresh him with our faith, make him smile!

And the next time we’re tempted to say, “I wish,”  or “Why” or “If only,” we’ll strive to remember that God is enough.

Things will go wrong.  It will seem like evil prevails.  It will seem like we fail.   But in God is our complete sufficiency.  Let us totally rest in him.

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Peace in the Striving to Give Our Best

“A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty.

“It is you priests who show contempt for my name.

“But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’

“By offering defiled food on my altar.

“But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’

“By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible. When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty.

“Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”—says the Lord Almighty.  Mal 1:6-9

What does it mean to give our best to God?  This passage paints a very emphatic picture of the importance of giving our first fruits, and how it is seriously wrong it is to offer less than our best to God.

My problem is that passages like these can be a guilt trap for me, a snare of legalism. I can start thinking that I need to be giving more to God. And it is true. We really do need to make every effort to enter through the narrow door.  We need to work as if working for the Lord.

But we can’t get on the performance roller coaster, and feel up or down, or that we’re doing well or poorly, because of how we are giving to the Lord at that particular time.

So how can we be motivated to be excellent, and still find peace? How do we find contentment if we are constantly striving to do better?

Maybe one way is to simply accept our lot as servants.

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’  Luke 17:10

There’s something beautiful and fulfilling about pouring ourselves out for the one we love. As the hymn says, “His service is our sweetest delight.”

Another way is to just focus on loving God. If I direct my thoughts and heart to loving Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, a wonderful feeling washes over me, and I cease my unrest.

But what I want to talk about most here is the peace that God supplies.  To address this subject, I want to remind everyone that God’s heart for  his people is one of “hesed:” which means “covenant loyalties.” In the Old Testament, we can see how the Lord stuck with His people over and over again, acting on their account, having patience with them, meting out consequences for their stubborn waywardness, but then bringing them back to Him once again.

So Malachi reflects one of God’s last prophetic expression of hesed.  He is basically saying, “I’ve been committed to you, but have you been committed to me?”  After a history of rescuing them, God has now  brought his people out of Babylonian captivity, back to Jerusalem. They should be overflowing with thanks, ready to serve Him wholeheartedly.  But instead, they bring Him diseased offerings.

Doesn’t this sound like all of us? God has done so very much for us.  But we can’t seem to reciprocate in kind.

This quote by Douglas Coupland really resonates with me: “Now—here is my secret: I tell it to you with an openness of heart that I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray you are in a quiet room as you hear these words. My secret is that I need God – that I am sick and no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.”

I relate to this quote because I also reach the point where I can’t do the things I want to do.

It’s such an irony. We must give our best to God, our first fruits. Yet we are like the Israelites, who continually sink back into blind selfishness and only give a pittance.

And then we need God to help us give.

I want to share a story from this past weekend. Ken and I went down to visit an old high school friend who was having a hard time and needed some encouragement.  Many years ago, Ken baptized this friend, but after a short time, the friend left the Lord. We hoped to be able to rekindle some spark of this friend’s faith.

I wanted so much to be a light for this friend, to show Christ by my life.  But instead I felt like a rusty sputtering machine, like all my gears weren’t working, and my spirituality just wasn’t flowing.

We had this awesome church in mind where we wanted to take our friend Sunday morning.  But it didn’t work out for us to go there, and we had to settle for taking him some place else.  And on Sunday morning, as I was feeling uneasy about the way things were going, I felt in the Spirit that it would be great for our friend to hear the story of the Prodigal Son, and I prayed  that the sermon message would be on the Prodigal Son.

Lo and behold, the message WAS on the Prodigal Son!  It gave Ken and I a great springboard to share with our friend, and talk to him about his faith.

You see, the point of all this is that when our offering to the Lord seems paltry, God steps in and makes up the rest.  He makes it clear to us that He is bigger than our efforts, and we can trust His working.

The Malachi passage above would be feel hopeless to me, except for one little verse, “Now plead with the Lord to be gracious to us.”  In our insufficiency, we can always petition for the sufficiency of His grace.

So in conclusion, we really DO need to strive to give God our best.  The prophet Malachi makes it very clear.  Every day we must renew the determination in our heart to be excellent. We must remind ourselves that He has been lovingly committed to us, and reciprocate.

But we must also remember that every day we will fall short.

And because God loves us dearly and fiercely, He’s not letting go of us when fall short. Instead, He expands His goodness to cover our lack.

We find peace in the realization that God fills in the gaps between our inadequacies.

For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.  II Cor 8:12

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Being Centered

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One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.  To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.  Mark 12:28-34.

What’s the most important thing to do?  We ask ourselves that every day.   Is it the housework, the job, bringing in more money, preparing for retirement, doing community service, taking care of our family, getting our children to do well?  Our competing priorities whirl in our heads, and we just go forward, putting out the next fire.

Jesus says here that what is most important is to love God with all our heart, and to love our neighbor.

But what does that look like, practically?  Being regular in church attendance?  Trying to live a good life? Reading our Bible? Remembering to touch base with a friend? Having a neighbor over for dinner?  Volunteering at the food bank?

And how do we fit that into our lives when we have a demanding job, a family to raise, classwork to complete, a house to take care of, errands to run . . . not to mention a body to keep in shape!

I think the answer is in learning to be centered in God.

I’ve been reading John 15.  It basically states the same concept, that the most important things are to love God and our neighbor.  But Jesus words it here like this:

Remain in me, as I also remain in you” and “Love each other as I have loved you.” (v. 4, 12)

Remaining is being centered.  See how Jesus describes it:

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. . .

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. . . . .

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. . .

This is my command: Love each other.” 

When we are centered in Christ,  it’s our lifeblood to be connected to Him.  And then we are LOVED, and we LOVE.  It’s all bound up together.

Being centered is  like breathing.  We inhale Him as our sustenance. We exhale into meaningful action.

And when we are not centered, all our efforts, all the things we accomplish, are for nothing.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

Being centered is fruitful.  It is life giving.

I read a great article on the Sabbath by John Mark Comer on how the Sabbath was created to center and revive us:

“The Sabbath has a life-giving ability to procreate — to fill the world up with life. No matter how much you love your job or fine-tune your work/ life balance, by the end of the week, you’re tired. Your fuel cells are on empty. But rest refills us — with energy, creativity, vision, strength, optimism, buoyancy, clarity, and hope.”

This is a great concept.  But I would take it one step further.  Having a relationship with God, having unity with Christ, having fellowship with the Spirit, brings rest, and can refill us continuously throughout the day.

We remember God.  We make space for Him in our heart.  And in that place, the Spirit bubbles up in us.  We are refreshed.  We are inspired.

Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  John 7:37

So here are a few practical ways I’ve found to be centered:

  • Take a deep breath and remember Christ is in your heart.  Hold him close and dear.  Do this many times a day.
  • Pray for strength and guidance often.  It’s amazing how often I try to gut it out, instead of doing this.
  • Spend time on your knees.  Be quiet before Him.  After awhile, everything will fall into perspective.
  • Read through Bible verses, or recall verses you’ve memorized.  It feels like the scales are falling off of your eyes.  You remember what is good and true.
  • Go out into nature, smell the flowers.  You will see God’s face.
  • Listen to music that moves you spiritually.  It communicates deep truths.
  • Express your thanks to God in specific ways.  It’s amazing to me how helpful it is to keep a gratitude list and add to it daily.
  • Slow down and focus on each person as if they are the most important thing in the world.

This past weekend I wasn’t feeling well.   When I awoke Sunday morning in lowness of spirit, I went outside to lift my heart to God.   It was so comforting to stand in the back yard, listening to the hushed rush of the wind among the trees, feeling the damp cool air of fall, and thank God for what He has given me.  I didn’t want to petition Him for anything.  I just wanted to think of each person I love, each blessing I’ve received, and thank God for them.

I went back inside and read John 15.

And then I went to church.  This time, instead of  darting from person to person and thing to thing, I  immersed myself in the importance of each person.  And I felt the solid truth of it.  This was more vital than any “burnt offering,” than any of the busy tasks I could set myself to do to serve God.

I felt energy well up within me.

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  John 15:11

Being centered brings joy and life on the inside.  It replenishes us in the places we’ve been depleted.

It is something we can do all through the day, no matter how busy we are.

It is how we live out what is most important.

It is the way we were designed, to be connected to God, and fruitful through Him.

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Filed under Mark, Peace, Relationship with God

The Blessings in Finishing Last

But many who are first will be last, and the last first.  Mark 10:31

I so badly want to be first.  I want to be the Super Me, good at everything.

I realized this especially as I went on a short vacation this past weekend and spent time with family.

I wanted so much to serve everyone, say meaningful things to them, let them know how special they are.

I wanted so much to transform each moment into something golden, to savor the time.

But the reality was that I had several physical challenges.  I was tired.  I had a sore throat.  Some of the time my IBS was acting up.

How could I be Super Me when I was just trying to stay engaged, when the zing of energy and inspiration wasn’t there?

So I stayed in constant interaction with God.  Hour by hour, situation by situation, I laid my requests before God and responded to His promptings.  And He gave me direction.  He helped me to play with my granddaughter even when I longed to veg on the couch. He helped me to get out of bed and pray in the morning before everyone got up, to give and help when I was tired, to take the initiative, to say encouraging words.

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I guess I wasn’t Super Me at all.  I was Christ living through me.

And now I realize something really cool.  My plan is to do all kinds of awesome things for God and become an increasingly spiritual great person.

God’s plan is that I go through challenges that make me feel weak, even to the point where I can’t do the things I want to do, and I rely on Him more.

So at some point I will cross the finish line and receive eternal life.  But I’m not going to sprint all the way there with my wonderful deeds.

Nope.  I’m going to wallow towards the goal through the swamp of my challenges, pulling one foot out of the mud, and then another.

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Not first, but last.

How do I make peace with being in the swamp when everything in me screams that I’m failing if I’m not running full tilt?

How do I like myself when I don’t even FEEL like running?

Because it isn’t that I don’t like being stuck in the swamp, it’s that I don’t like the version of me who gets stuck in the swamp.

Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”  Romans 12:3

I need to be honest with myself.   I’m not Super Me.  I’m just a regular person with strengths and weaknesses.

And I don’t like the weaknesses.  I don’t like feeling useless and unproductive.

Coming home from vacation, I realized that I wanted it to be a succession of perfect memories

Instead I captured only glimpses, the peace on the beach with the wind blowing and the waves breaking cool against my legs, the beauty of sunflowers in the field, the laughter in my heart as my granddaughter tells me she’s having the time of her life.

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Maybe I am the same way.  I only experience  glimpses of the Super Me in my ordinary human life.

And that has to be enough.

Even before I went on vacation, I wasn’t feeling good.  I was super tired and foggy headed.  My IBS acted up.   Each day was one long series of pushing through.

And then, late in a listless afternoon, I listened to beautiful music.

It was amazing.  I had a deep sense of meaning and connection.  My heart felt restored.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength,”  Isa 30:15

I remembered that quietness can be just as meaningful as activity.

You know, it occurs to me that when Jesus said the first would be last, that didn’t mean that the people who are last won’t receive as many blessings as those who are first.  They ALL receive 100 fold, now and in the life to come!

I think if I’m not running on all cylinders, it’s a sign that I’m not doing things right, that I’m not in sync with God.

But I’m realizing that I can find God just as much in being last, as I can in being first.

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Filed under Diary, Humility, Mark, Peace, Self Worth