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 🙂 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.

Blog_ Peace Is Here

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Christian Living

Camp & To-do Lists

My kids are at camp this week. It’s been weird. You parents out there will understand when I say I almost don’t know what to do with myself 🙂 It’s the first time we’ve gone this long without seeing them and having so much time to ourselves is just plain weird. Fun! But weird.

Being out of my normal routine has definitely thrown my body for a loop so I’m sleep deprived. I don’t know if it’s the stress of trying to get a ton of things done while the kids are gone or what. For some reason, I had visions of hours of extra time–practically adding up to entire days of being able to work on projects and still go on dates with my husband. I forgot that we still have to eat, the dishes still have to be done, and I still need to do my regular self-health things like doing my quiet time every day and Tapping every day, etc., etc.

Basically, I had a to-do list that was a mile long and I still haven’t gotten through it even with my kids gone.

I was complaining to God about the situation when it hit me that I put way too much emphasis on my to-do list. I’ve actually gotten significantly better at to-do lists over the past year (thanks to JB Glossinger’s Sacred Six). I often complete my to-do list for the day. Things don’t fall through the cracks as much as they used to. And I don’t freak out as much if something doesn’t get done.

I think it’s that whole having extra time that’s been throwing me. I put all this emphasis on completing things this week. My husband and I are in the midst of starting a podcast and we’ve been trying to finish up our website and random other details. This week seemed like an ideal time to get them done. It’s hard to do though when we only have one functional computer.

Anyway! I was thinking about how I use my to-do list sometimes. Maybe you can relate. When I get stressed, I clamp down on the things I can control–housecleaning, what I eat, my to-do list, etc.–as a way to handle the stress of the things I can’t control. It’s funny how the more in control I try to be, the more out of control I feel. Have you ever experienced that?

I was raised to believe that getting things done was the epitome of success. Having a completed task list was this unattainable goal that I always thought would make me feel confident and at peace. But now that I’ve had several months’ worth of lists that are completed, I’m realizing it’s just a list. It’s just a tool, not a measurement. It’s similar to when our house first started being consistently clean. I thought it would lower our stress levels (and it did). I thought it would add to my peace but that never happened.

Peace comes from submission, from the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. It doesn’t come from our circumstances–clean houses, to-do lists, financial security, resolved relational conflicts, etc., etc. It’s God’s work in our lives that brings peace. It’s submission to God’s way of doing things–building where He builds (Ps. 127:1-2). Calm circumstances are nice but, like Elsa in Frozen, we bring our own storms with us. Only God can calm the inside.

Christian Living

Self-Control is saying “Yes”

So who got the “Self-control is saying, ‘no,’ self control is saying, ‘that’s enough'” song in your head when you read my blog title? Oh, well, I did 🙂

I’ve been working my way through the week on self-control in Living Beyond Yourself. I have to say, I’m enjoying it way more than I thought I would. Not that it’s a bad topic, but sometimes I get frustrated with the shaming that often comes in Christian circles over lack of self-control.

I loved that Beth Moore talks about how self-control isn’t something we can develop because it’s fruit of the Spirit. We can practice surrendering to the Holy Spirit, but we can’t get more self-control, if that makes sense.

But the main thing that hit me was that a lot of the time, self-control is about saying “yes” to something more important. We do need to guard what’s been entrusted to us, to put borders around our calling (2 Tim. 1:14). We do need to create margin and space for us to be able to be the people we’re called to be and do the things God’s prepared in advance for us to do. Like I’ve said before, if we’re rushing and too busy, we literally don’t have space in our lives to love. And putting borders up does mean saying “no” sometimes.

In one of this week’s lessons, Beth Moore contrasted Samson (Judges 13-16) and Daniel (Daniel 1:1-21; 6:1-28). Samson’s life was characterized by a lack of self-control. He indulged himself all over the place, despite being called to keep a Nazarite vow. Daniel was characterized by self-control. He refused the king’s food and had a rich spiritual life as well as living in such a way that nobody could find anything wrong and he could tell the king that he’d never wronged the king–pretty amazing!!

The thing that really hit me though was how Samson’s lack of self-control weakened him. I don’t know about you, but the times when I lack self-control are often when I’m feeling overwhelmed and want a break. Twelve-step isn’t joking when they talk about “HALT” and not making decisions when you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. I let myself lack self-control and instead will binge read or some other activity to try to manage my stress.

The crazy thing is that that lack of self-control a) weakens me instead of helping me be less stressed/overwhelmed/tired and b)is a symptom of a different lack of self-control. I lack self-control in taking breaks and resting. If I’m healthy enough to push through my day, I do it until I collapse. I’ve been really convicted lately that I need to create margin in my life in order to do anything well. And part of creating margin, is being self-controlled about taking breaks when it’s time to take breaks.

So, self-control isn’t just about saying “no”–it’s about saying “yes” to the things that are more important. “Yes” to creating margin. “Yes” to our callings. “Yes” to following God. All those “yeses” actually end up being way more fulfilling and restful than a constant “yes” to whatever we crave on a moment by moment basis.

So how can you put borders around your calling? And what can you say “yes” to that you’ve been neglecting?

Christian Living

Fruit of the Spirit for Ourselves

Hey guys! How’s your year going? Everybody on track to work on their goals?

Somewhere recently (probably in Beth Moore’s Living Beyond Yourself), I read this great statement about how the Bible doesn’t address self-love in depth because it’s just not conceivable to the authors that a person could not love themselves.

It’s so interesting, isn’t it? We live in a world where a lot of people have self worth issues–and I’m not talking about pride issues or anything along those lines. I’m talking about honestly believing that you aren’t worthwhile or that the world would be a better place without you. Kinda makes you wonder what it is about our society that creates that sort of environment.

Jesus commands us to love others as we love ourselves. I’ve been thinking a lot about how intertwined those two things are: you really can’t love someone else if you don’t love yourself. But you also can’t love yourself if you aren’t loving others. Loving ourselves is that whole “put your own oxygen on first if the plan is crashing and then help others”–we need to take care of ourselves so that we have the resources to love others. On the flip side, truly loving others actually creates resources in our own lives.

Anyway! I was convicted that I don’t do a good job of applying the fruit of the Spirit to my own life–so often, I focus on how to be patient with others all the while being impatient with myself or on how to be gentle with others when I’m harsh with myself. I think that the same way we apply loving ourselves as a natural yin to the yang of loving others, we need to apply the fruit of the Spirit. God is patient with us–so why aren’t we patient with ourselves? God is kind with us–why aren’t we kind with ourselves?

 

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Learning Contentment

I actually wrote this last week. Reminded me how great God’s timing is–after a migraine (me) and puking (my daughter) yesterday, I needed to hear it today!

In Bible study this week the question was posed, “If you could have God change anything in your life, what would it be?” So what about you? What would you change? Stop and think for just a moment. I bet something popped right into your mind when I asked that.

Of course, my mind began running in tight circles round circumstances—broken relationships, a broken body, friends in trouble, various daily stressors—and then I was brought once more to the realization that my circumstances don’t need to change. Bet I shocked you there. My circumstances don’t need to change. Yes, some of them are uncomfortable or downright heartbreaking. Yes, they’re a reflection of life in a broken world and it’s right and good that I long for and pray for something better—for God’s redemption, for Christ’s return. And yes, I wholeheartedly believe (and have seen) that God gives us a foretaste of the perfect by redeeming bits and pieces in the midst of brokenness.

However, these are the circumstances God has put me in. They’re not some haphazard collection of things that just happened to me; they are the perfect life learning lab for me. I need these circumstances to grow. God’s promised that He works everything out for the good of those who love Him. I’m His child. I love Him, therefore, He’s working them out for my good.

But still, who isn’t worn out by the difficulties of life in a broken world? The more I thought about it, I realized that I want new circumstances, not because I just like change or because new is always better. I want what I think will be better because I believe better circumstances will automatically bring contentment and happiness.

But contentment isn’t about circumstances, it’s about character. I started wondering how hard circumstances would be if I actually loved each person in my life with God’s love. Would it really be that hard not to lose my temper at the guy who cuts me off in traffic or at my crazy kids? I imagine even a dash of real love would significantly change my perspective and my response to this lab.

In the end, once I’d sorted that out, I found myself praying for a supernatural change in my character, a Holy Spirit outflow of love, faith, and humility… for the fruit of the Spirit.