Christian Living

True Success Includes Peace & Joy

So today I came across this gem of a verse in my reading (not that the Bible isn’t full of great verses–I even love the genealogies because they showcase so clearly that God cares about and treats us as individuals). Romans 14:17-18 says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval” (NIV).

Quick context: Paul is talking about the importance of unity and not causing a weaker brother to stumble. That’s where the eating and drinking comes in: the kingdom of God isn’t about eating/not eating meat sacrificed to idols or drinking/not drinking wine.

Why do I love this verse? Because this is the opposite of what we often get caught up in. Anyone who serves God in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit is pleasing God and receives human approval. Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten focused on crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s, spiritually speaking. In other words, if you focus on the outward expressions, following the rules and such. That’d be my hand you see raised.

I like clear directions. I like to know I’m fulfilling expectations. I like knowing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. So sometimes I get caught up in judging my progress (or lack there of) based on whether things have changed outwardly. Before I became a believer, I read my Bible religiously. It didn’t make a lot of sense and I was afraid I’d go to hell if I missed a day, but I did read it.

But empty actions aren’t the point of Christianity. You can look pristine on the outside but if you don’t have righteousness, peace, and joy, you’re not pleasing God. You’re like the Pharisees in the New Testament who Jesus compared to whitewashed tombs that were beautiful on the outside and unclean on the inside.

It’s easy to judge others based on that “empty actions standard” too.

I also super love that Paul included peace and joy on that list of what the kingdom of God is about. As Christians, I think sometimes we get focused on the righteousness part (which is gifted to us in Jesus anyway) and forget about peace and joy. Especially joy because joy, at least to me, feels pretty optional. Maybe it’s our puritan roots or something, but it definitely feels like a luxury to have joy and maybe just a little bit evil to have zest for life in a broken world. Stop for a minute and imagine what your life would be like if it were characterized by peace and joy.

I don’t know what you thought of but what came to mind for me was less fear, more childlike wonder, more room to just be without having to do, more space for “island time,” less worrying about my issues and other people’s problems…. just lighter.

And that is winsome to people. Peace and joy and righteousness are attractive and win favor. I love that the Bible clearly says “this is how to get men’s approval.” Proverbs 3 has a similar exhortation. We can get caught up in chasing fame and approval. But chasing it by changing ourselves or dressing a certain way or acting a certain way only works for a moment. Peace and joy and righteousness are the long-term solution.

Obviously, that peace and joy part is as impossible for us to muster up on our own as it is for us to muster up some righteousness of our own. It is “in the Holy Spirit.” Getting the peace and joy means surrendering to the Holy Spirit so He can work His fruit in us (Gal. 5:22). I also really like that. When I do remember the importance of peace and joy, I can get caught up in trying to make myself have them. But God says right here that finding my own peace and joy is a dead end. It’s always nice when someone saves you time by telling you when you’re headed the wrong direction πŸ™‚

So! It’s actually a good thing to long for peace and joy. We should have them if we’re believers–it pleases God. We don’t have to plod through life–we’re allowed to want zest, to really be present. We’re allowed to want to stop worrying or being fearful. It’s our job to cultivate them, day by day growing in surrender, growing in our relationship with God.

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Christian Living

Immersed in God’s Love

You have to work to immerse yourself in God’s love. That’s one of the things Beth Moore talked about in one of her studies–I’ve forgotten which one at this point πŸ™‚ It struck me though. Sometimes we don’t see ourselves as beloved. We’re just average–why would God love us that radically? Or we get comfortable with God’s love like an old T-shirt we hardly notice we’re wearing anymore.

God’s love can change everything.

It can change how you view every moment. Because if God’s love is so radical that He sacrificed Himself/His son for you, you can trust Him with now. You don’t have to worry about the future. You don’t have to worry about whether you’ll have money to pay your bills. Compared to how priceless His sacrifice is, money pales. Not that hard to come up with money. A lot harder to give your life.

And His love gives us a foundation to trust God when He tells us the best way to live. Our Creator (who knows how we’re designed to live) and Savior (who sacrificed Himself for us) is not going to tell us to go play in the street! His laws are for freedom’s sake, not to make us weighed down. Hypocrisy is what causes laws to weigh us down.

Obviously, I’m not saying that it’s easy to obey God–because it’s not. Sometimes I don’t want to obey. Frankly, there are times when I do it because I trust God and I’m not gracious about it. It’s much more a resentful “I hope you appreciate this” kind of obedience πŸ˜‰ But God’s ways always get us closer to where we really want to be.

And I think sometimes we get a mixed-up view of God’s love based on bad experiences we’ve had in the Church. Which is sad because God’s love is the antidote to the wounding and confusion that comes when His children treat us poorly.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God and that is what we are.

I really love that verse! God lavishes His love on us. He’s not stingy. He’s not grudging or resentful. He lavishes love on us. I think if we really understood and reveled in that fact, we would have a different perspective on our lives. We would see obstacles as opportunities. Plateaus as preparation for growth. Pain as opportunity to be held by God.

I know I would have a different perspective on stressful things in my life if I were 100% steeped in God’s love. I know because when I’m stressed and I take time to meditate on God’s love, the way I look at things shifts. And when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. Beliefs change decisions, decisions change actions, and actions change our lives.

So what does it look like to be steeped in God’s love? I think it’s like tea. If God’s love is the tea bag and we’re the water, we want the tea to permeate us. And that takes time and exposure. As with any growth, a great place to start is to ask God to grow you in this area–to show you where you’re weak and what steps you can take to grow in those areas. Another helpful item is to keep verses handy. Do a Bible search on God’s love–there are thousands of verses about it! I have verse cards (a spiral bound book of 3×5 cards), and I write down verses that strike me in my journal. I read through one or the other (or both) almost every day to remind myself of truth.

I also think taking time to meditate on God’s love makes a huge difference. As I said, my perspective shifts when I take time to remember how much God loves me and all the ways He’s reminded me of that fact. That’s another piece–ask God to show you His love. God’s love is very specific to each individual. The things that remind me of His love might not remind you of His love. I’ve had experiences where I’ve prayed for something and the way God answered was lavish. For instance, I really wanted to see a bear while we were in the Smoky Mountains and instead we got to see a Mama bear and her two cubs (from a safe distance). It was so cool seeing how God answered my request in something so small and unimportant in such an abundant way! Anyway, ask Him to show you His love in the ways that make you feel loved and then meditate on those things.

God’s love can change everything in your life.

How are you getting exposure to God’s love over time?

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Christian Living

More on Scarcity

I’ve been thinking more about scarcity this week. We ended up recording our podcast episodes on the topic in the midst of having our car’s engine die, needing to bake our MacBook (for the nth time), and finishing my first complete draft of book one in my fantasy series (and not having money for an editor). It’s been a stretch. Today is a “preach to my soul” sort of post.

It’s so easy to point to money or time as the problem. If I just had more money, I’d buy a better car or replace the engine without stressing. If I just had more time, I could get more done. If I just had more _____. What goes in your blank?

But circumstances aren’t the problem. The more I grow, the more I agree with Jon Gabriel who said, “There’s such a strong cause and effect relationship between what’s going on in the inside and how my outside is manifesting that that’s the only direction I look.” Our beliefs determine how we respond to circumstances and, over time, those choices determine the shape of our lives.

So what does it look like as a Christian to get rid of scarcity?

I think we have to start with who God is. Without that foundation, there’s no room for anything but scarcity. If I’m responsible for providing for myself, it’s scary when we don’t have money to buy necessities. If I’m responsible for providing for myself, it’s scary when there’s not enough time or money for whatever I’m worried about.

But when we start with God and His care for His children, we live in an abundant world. A world where God creates enough resources for us–whether that’s flat-out miraculous creation (just ask missionaries about that one) or provision through a job or provision through some other unexpected means.

After all, the essence of scarcity has to do with the future, with projecting the amount you have and the amount you need and getting trapped in the distance between those two.

I wonder how the disciples felt in Matthew 14:16 when there’s five thousand people and they tell Jesus to let the people go find food and Jesus tells them to feed the people. Did they freak out? Did their hearts race as they compared the amount of money they could pool together and the number of people? Not to mention the distance between them and any food. Or did they dismiss Jesus’ instructions as some kind of mystical teaching moment (a la martial arts masters: “A whole wave knocks you down, the spray just gets you wet.”)? Or maybe they realized Jesus was setting up for a miracle.

Even when they brought the five loaves and two fish, it wasn’t nearly enough. In fact, the gap between what they needed and what they had to meet that need was enormous.

But that’s the God we serve–He’s all about growing us, increasing our faith, making us into the people He’s designed us to be. He’s also the God who created the universe out of nothing. Proverbs talks about how God allows the wicked to collect money to give it to the righteous. In Psalms, there are verses about God’s abundant provision. He’s the owner of everything that exists. So when we look at our need, we need to look at what God has instead of what we have. And from that perspective, why would there ever be any need to go into scarcity? It’s as silly as a child whose loving, engaged parents are billionaires worrying about money.

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Christian Living

Taking the Easy Road

This past week on our podcast we’ve been talking about simplicity. I think this is the time of year when we lose our New Year’s goals–they fall to the wayside, or we get discouraged by how little we’ve accomplished in the past month, or they’re still hanging out in front of us, something to aim for when we get time (if we get time). Although there are many reasons for this loss, I think overcomplicating can be one of them. Sometimes, when we set our goals, we make them more difficult than they need to be.

One of the things I’m trying to do regularly is to ask this question Tim Ferris recommends: “what if this were easy?”

This is a great question because it changes my perspective right away. What if it were easy to design our website? Or to get healthy? Or to eat dinner every day? Or to (you fill in the blank)?

My first thought is to get someone else to do it πŸ˜‰ Today I was making hot chocolate for lunch (50% eggs so it totally counts!), and I asked myself what it would look like if it were easy. A cook came to mind. Β The same thing happened with our website–my first thought was to get someone else to do it. And that’s not a bad idea.

Rory Vaden talks about how if we’re going to multiply time (do the things today that get us more time tomorrow), we have to start by asking whether it’s something that needs done at all. If the answer is yes, we should ask if someone else could do it. If so, delegate! If you can’t delegate for whatever reason, getting expert help is a great next step. Maybe read a book or take a class. The difference between having a paid wordpress theme and a free one has been night and day–for the first time, I can call the makers and get help if I’m stuck or if the theme isn’t working properly.

Not having to do the work or having someone handhold me through the process are both easy ways to do something–especially in contrast to bumbling my way through something I’m not familiar with.

Asking what it would look like if something were easy can jump us to the end result. It’s kind of like jumping to the end of a maze and working your way back to the beginning–sometimes it’s easier that way. With our podcast website, we talked about what would be easy for us (not having to program or customize!), and then found a theme that was drag and drop. I could wax rhapsodic over how easy it is compared to what I was doing before!

Anyway, sometimes we get stuck because we don’t know what easy looks like or we don’t believe easy is possible. Imagining an easy end result shifts that mindset and gives us the clarity and focus to figure out how to get from here to there. It’s a beautiful thing!

What if what you’re working on today were easy? What would that look like?

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Christian Living

Ditching the Scarcity Mindset

Wow! I can’t believe it’s been weeks since I’ve posted. I’m afraid much of January has been a blur due to a loss in our extended family and posting our New Year’s class for Epic Every Day. I’m sorry I didn’t give you guys a heads up.

Anyway! January is over πŸ™‚ So let’s talk about the rest of the year. I’m reading Brene Brown’s book,Β Daring Greatly,Β right now. Love it!! So worth reading if you haven’t read it! In chapter one she talks about scarcity and how we tell ourselves there’s not enough __ from the moment we wake up in the morning (“I didn’t get enough sleep last night.” “I don’t have time to do x.” “I’m so behind!” “I’m too tired to x.”) until we go to bed at night. Even just now I was reading the news and thinking about how many wars the USA is involved in. It’s easy to get caught in “there’s not enough safety.”

I often get caught in the trap of thinking that if I just had more time or just reorganized my schedule the right way–in other words, if my circumstances changed, I would have enough. I wouldn’t be in scarcity because there would be enough time, energy, money, etc., etc.

However, Brown argues the answer isn’t based in circumstances. (If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time or listened to our podcast, you know this is one of my favorite realities.) Circumstance solutions don’t fix heart problems. If we’re stuck in scarcity mode, we’ll never have enough money to feel secure. Instead, we need a heart change. “Wholeheartedness” is her term (deeply explored in her book,Β The Gifts of Imperfection) for being enough–being able to be vulnerable and believing in your worth, “facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks, and knowing that I am enough” (Daring, 29).

I love that idea! Being is something that no one can ever take away. You can lose your job but if you are the asset, you can find/create another job. You can lose relationships but if you’re the asset, you can create other relationships. No matter the circumstances, you have the ability to bounce back because of who you ARE.

Working on scarcity is one of my goals for this year so I’ve been trying to reframe my thoughts. Instead of telling myself I’m behind, I tell myself that I’m starting from where I’m at. Instead of waking up and thinking how tired I am and how little sleep I got, I thank God for the amount of sleep I did get and remind myself that I have the opportunity for sleep in 15 hours or whatever it is πŸ™‚

We all have a choice about every day. We can start out with the glass half-empty and spend the whole day lamenting our circumstances. Or we can revel in our being-ness–that we get to be God’s trust fund children, that we have a heavenly Father who loves us and take care of us, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, that we are who we are. Being who God’s designed us to be instead of living in scarcity gives us room to thrive.

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Christian Living

Climbing Last Year’s Mountain

Sorry guys! I know it’s been a couple of weeks. We’ve been sick again. It’s hard to get back into a routine after such a long time of being out of it.

I love New Year’s! I love feeling like I can let go of the failures of the previous year and start over with a fresh slate. No mistakes in it. I find, however, that I can get discouraged when I make my goals because I want to be further along than I am. It’s a time to look at the mountain and re-realize I haven’t climbed it. That’s not always true, and often, I forget to congratulate myself for the mountains I have climbed. But sometimes, it feels overwhelming just looking at the next year’s goals and seeing how similar they are to the previous year’s goals.

I’m learning two strategies to manage this type of stress. The first is to ask myself why I didn’t climb my mountain. I have to admit this type of introspection isn’t always that much fun. Sometimes it’s because I’m afraid to fail or I’m paralyzed by indecision over the best way up. Sometimes it’s because circumstances outside of my control kept me from climbing it. For example, several years ago my doctor told me I had to start sleeping 12 hours/night or I’d end up with an auto-immune disease. I tried doing a sleep study and following their recommendations but because the sleep doctor didn’t address my nutrition or my PTSD around sleep, I didn’t make any progress. I didn’t know what I didn’t know (and probably neither did the doctor).

In 2017, I learned about sleep on a cellular level and what I needed to do nutritionally to set myself up for good sleep. I also worked on my PTSD around sleep. Lo and behold, I’ve been sleeping through the night consistently for the past few months. For the first time in my whole life, I fall asleep quickly and easily, sleep until morning, and then wake up. I used to have sleep days like that two or three times per year and now they’re the norm. I love that kind of progress! But it didn’t come until I started dealing with the root problems instead of trying to treat symptoms.

The second is to give myself some grace. We can get so focused on accomplishing our goals–especially us people who are into personal development–that we forget to give ourselves grace. Success isn’t about perfection–it’s about getting back up when we fail, working on our projects when we can even if it’s not as much as we would prefer. It’s about doing our best with the circumstances we’ve got. Maybe I don’t have brain power to write one day–I don’t need to cudgel my brain into submission. Really, I probably just need a break and that’s okay. If I do force myself to write, it’s not going to be good quality and it’ll just reinforce a belief that writing is hard and not fun–work. That’s not the kind of writing I want to do! I love authors who obviously have fun with their stories–it makes the story fun to read. No one needs to read work that makes them feel bleh.

So, as we all start to execute our New Year’s goals, I challenge you (and myself) to implement these two strategies. Let’s ask ourselves why the goal hasn’t already happened and then address the issues that come up. And let’s give ourselves grace.

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Christian Living

Peace Is Here

I find it ironic that Christmas is simultaneously one of the busiest seasons of the year and the time when we celebrate peace. I’m not sure if we can celebrate peace when we’re running from one thing to the next.

Merriam-Webster defines peace as 1) “freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions” and 2) “harmony in personal relations.” A lack of hostility between governments or freedom from civil disturbance are other definitions in their list. Those first two though–those are the ones we’re all looking for.

Can you imagine what that’s like? Take a minute and imagine you were sprinkled with fairy dust and from this moment forward you don’t have fear or anxiety or stress. Imagine what your life would be like. You have harmony in your relationships. What would change? What would be the same?

Peace in the middle of a world gone crazy is a gift beyond measure. On our podcast, we often talk about how stress shuts off our reasoning brain and creative problem solving selves. Stress begets stress–the more stressed you are, the less well your circumstances go and then more stressed you get.

It’s easy to think that peace will come when we get our circumstances right. If we just had more time, less things on our to-do lists, fewer activities on our schedule, it would translate into less stress, right? I know I lived in that place for a long time. I was so convinced that peace would follow if I could just get ahead. I worked harder and harder, trying to attain peace. Like a donkey chasing a carrot, I really thought I could get peace if I worked more.

However, that’s not how peace comes. At Christmas, we celebrate the fact the Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6-7), came down to earth and became a human man so that He could bring peace between us and God. His blood is what allows us to move from being God’s enemy to His beloved child. Peace came because God injected peace into a broken world.

In Gal. 5:22-23, Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit and peace is in that list. In other words, peace is impossible apart from the Holy Spirit. We can run on our hamster wheels until the cows come home but we’re never going to get anywhere.

I also love Col. 3:15 which says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” We see there and in Is. 9:6-7 that peace is connected to submission to God’s rule. This is why we’re passionate about reminding people (including ourselves) that we need to align with the way God’s designed us to live. There is so much peace in just doing what God calls us to do when He tells us to do it. My life used to be full of chaos. Chaos in my relationships. Chaos in my living space. Chaos in my schedule. Stress was my middle name for a long time πŸ™‚ But as I’ve learned the CSC’s (being calm, surrendered, centered, connected, and complete), I’ve been able to align with God’s design, to surrender and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Obviously, I need reminded daily that that’s the road to success (and that’s a huge part of why we do our podcast!), but there is so much more peace in my life than there used to be.

So as we’re celebrating holidays, rather than getting swept away into the busy-ness, let’s hang onto God’s rule. Peace is possible even in the middle of crazy circumstances. We don’t have to wait to find it–peace is now.

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