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 🙂

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.

Blog_ True Success Includes Joy & Peace

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

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

How to Get More

Who doesn’t want more, right? More peace? More joy? Steadier finances? It sounds like a marketing pitch, doesn’t it? 😉

I’m perpetually reminded how good we’ve got it as Christians. There’s a podcast I listen to regularly where the caster talks about seeking peace. He’s already ruled out Christianity so he spends a fair amount of time looking.

So why don’t we have it? That actually was a question that consumed a good portion of my college years. God says He wants to give us joy and peace, but I felt like I just had stress and survival all the time.

I’ve come to believe what moves us along that spectrum of joy/peace to stress/survival is surrender. See, on our own, we can’t redeem ourselves and we live in a broken world. The results of sin are always miserable–whether it’s our sin or someone else’s. Lifestyle diseases are rampant in our society. People are so busy they don’t have time for relationships with God or with others. But we’re told that we need to do it all on our own. We’re like messy rooms trying to clean ourselves–we don’t even know what clean looks like or feels like, so how are we supposed to get ourselves there?

This morning I was reading back through my journal–the one where I write down what God says to me. I’ve been reading through it daily for almost two years now, reminding myself over and over of what God’s taught me. This quote re-struck me: “The primary reason [God] asks us to surrender everything to Him is to make room to receive what He wants to give. Try as we may, we will never bring anything to God and leave empty-handed unless we forget to take His gifts home. God’s nature is to give.” ~ Beth Moore, Stepping Up: Psalms of Ascent, 169.

God is a God who gives good gifts (James 1:17).

I can’t give myself good gifts, just like I can’t make myself a millionaire. I mean, obviously, I could work hard and do my best to earn that much money, but so many things are outside of my control. The market could crash tomorrow and leave me bankrupt. A war could come to our country and destroy my finances. There are loads of things that could happen that I can’t predict or prepare for.

When we surrender, we leave room for God to give us His best–the best that He says is “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20, NIV). I want that. I want more than whatever my mind can come up with. I know I have limits inherent in my thinking, limits I don’t even know are there. But God doesn’t have those limits.

I’m firmly convinced that the solution to getting more is to give God more. Mindset has so much more to do with reality than we realize. Any area of my life can be transformed simply by surrendering it to God and then letting Him give me more. Any area in your life can be transformed simply by surrendering it to God and then letting Him give you more.

So where are you lacking peace or joy or enough-ness? Have you surrendered it to God? Are you content to stay in that place for the next twenty years or do you want more?

Christian Living, Uncategorized

Peace in 2017

Wow! Last week of the year. I can’t believe that it’s the end of 2016. I love getting to the end of a year and getting to start fresh–I know we get a fresh start every day but there’s something special about starting a brand new year. If you haven’t done the work of organizing your year, it really, really helps! One new thing I’m doing is to write down my top five goals for the year and read them out loud every day. It’s definitely helped me to stay focused on what I want to accomplish instead of getting sidetracked by the day-to-day junk.

Anyway! This week I was struck by what an amazing thing peace is. We hear a lot about peace at Christmas–how Jesus came to bring us peace with God–but I wonder if we’re so used to hearing it that we don’t really listen anymore. I know I get that way. I happened to be doing Beth Moore’s Living Beyond Yourself study on the fruit of the Spirit, specifically on peace, this past week.

She defines peace in several ways but one that I really liked was “the absence of fear and turmoil” (p.107). Thinking about 2016, we had some pretty stressful bits. I love this idea that even during the crazy–because of Jesus’ birth, life, and death–we can have true peace. I love that we can move through anything life throws at us without fear and turmoil.

I think it’s easy to forget how really awesome that is–especially if you’ve grown up in the Church or spent a lot of time around other Christians. I’ve been reading a lot of secular books lately and found myself grieving for the authors… there’s just such a tangible lack of peace. One of the vloggers my husband follows has talked about how he’s perpetually busy on purpose because he falls into depression anytime he has time to think.

It’s a sad state of affairs if you have to cram your life full to hide the fact that you don’t have peace. Why do so many people not have peace? I really liked this section where Beth Moore talked about the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:1-15) and how there are prerequisites to having peace(p. 103).

Just like the boy brought all he had (five loaves and two fish), we have to surrender all we have, even when it seems inadequate for the situation at hand. Also, like Jesus had the people to sit down, we have to put ourselves in a position of trust and rest. This one is really hard for me. I tend to ask for God to intervene and then keep checking on/trying to intervene myself when I feel like He’s taking too long or not doing it the way I want it done.

As we move into 2017, we all have a choice: are we going to do the work of surrender and trust or not? It may not even make any difference in our circumstances on the outside but it’ll definitely change how we handle those circumstances.



Christian Living

Being a Good Receiver

So how’s everybody’s week been? Mine was…unexpected. In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m kind of a type A person. I like to plan far in advance and then stick with my plans. This whole culture of making plans on a moment by moment basis drives me a little crazy. Don’t get me wrong: I love being able to make spur of the moment plans via everyone’s cell phones but I don’t want to live that way every day.

Anyway! We had plans to be out of town but, because of factors outside of our control, we weren’t. Ironically, I just recently did the lesson in James about holding our plans with an open hand because only God knows what’s actually going to happen tomorrow. As I was grumbling about work stuff and having to reschedule/miss various things, I was reminded that I want to be a good receiver.

What do I mean by being a good receiver? In The Abundance Code, one of the presenters defined being a good receiver as being someone who, when given something, takes it and uses it to become stronger. A bad receiver becomes weaker when they get something–for example, the person who uses money to buy drugs. Less obvious are things like when I handle something with fear or resentment and the situation leads to sin or when God gives us a financial bonus and I put my security in money instead of Him.

I was reminded today that God puts the exact right things in our lives. He doesn’t allow something in His children’s lives if He’s not going to use it for something awesome. As I write this, I’m sitting at my desk, looking out my window at a grey, rainy day. It’s a far cry from the sun and sand I was expecting to see today. But it’s here for a reason. I’m here for a reason. And I have a choice to make: I can continue my grumbling and frustration or I can surrender and trust that God is doing something far more worthwhile than I can imagine.

It’s easy to get thrown when our plans don’t work out the way we want them to/expected them to–but we don’t have to stay thrown. We can move past that stress and into the peace of surrendering the situation to God. We can use those things to draw us closer to God. We can become stronger not just in the midst of stress but because of stress.

Christian Living

Loving Peace

So as I’ve mentioned I’m working my way through Beth Moore’s James study—I really can’t believe it’s been five years since I last did it! Time seriously flies. Anyway, recently I found myself wrestling/praying through these verses:

James 3:17-18 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. (NIV)

I want this kind of wisdom. Far too often, I feel like I have no clue how to handle various things in my life. I want God to tell me what the best thing to do is. The bit that hit me was the peace-loving section. Recently, I’ve had a couple people question the distance I have in one of my relationships in particular. Frankly, it’s not a popular decision to cut contact with someone. And, obviously, I’m not recommending anyone do that unless you’re in an abusive situation or you’ve spent a bunch of time praying about it and God gives you some clear direction. And if you haven’t tried to fix the relationship via the Matthew 18 stuff, I’d be hesitant to jump to cutting contact.

So as I’ve been praying about it, I’ve wondered if I’m not being peace-loving. It’s interesting how tempting it is to define peace as an absence of conflict. The advice I’ve been given (and that I think is given far too often in the Church) is to forget what that person did so that the conflict will be over.

One of the things I’m really passionate about is the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is when you let go of what the other person did. You trust that God will take care of the offense and you move on with life. It only involves you and God. It’s about your heart. Reconciliation is when both parties work to fix the relationship by each identifying and acknowledging the wrong they’ve done and working to not do it again.

If someone is not trustworthy, forgiveness doesn’t mean that you trust them. It means that you don’t hang onto the wrong anymore—praise God that through the power of the Holy Spirit we can do this! I love that we have a God who is faithful to right wrongs. I love that we can forgive people and move on with our lives instead of being stuck in the past by our bitterness. God’s way of doing relationships is just so amazing to me.

Anyway, as I was praying about what it means to be peace-loving in this context, something struck me: peace-loving equals loving true peace—not giving into denial or sweeping things under the rug. Peace-loving doesn’t mean an absence of conflict. Real healthy relationships require dealing with the things that actually happen. See, reconciliation is a process that requires both parties to own up to their mistakes and then to become better people—it’s a huge growth process. Being peace-loving means being willing to actually go through that process. Being peace-loving means acknowledging your problems—after all, wisdom from above is first of all pure. Like Jesus says, you can’t help someone with the speck in their eye unless you take the log out of your own first.

I’ve been told that holding out for true reconciliation is actually holding onto bitterness but, after studying this passage (and some others like Matt. 18, 1 Cor. 5 & 2 Cor. 2:5-11), I disagree. In my experience, if you “resolve” the conflict by pretending the problem wasn’t there or by taking all the blame for it, nothing actually gets solved and the conflict comes back up the next time a similar situation happens—probably because neither person is dealing with how they need to change.

Real reconciliation takes two. You can’t reconcile with someone who’s unwilling to deal with the problems. And real reconciliation is the kind of true peace that forces us to grow and leads to righteousness.