Christian Living

Messing Up Our Own Lives

Sorry it’s been a couple weeks! Computer problems have been a big issue for us lately.

Let’s talk about suffering. A couple weeks ago on Epic Every Day, we spent the whole week talking about suffering. It’s gotten me thinking about the suffering we bring on ourselves….

Frankly, the past couple weeks have been rough. My computer finally gave up the ghost, so much of our time has been spent trying to come up with an affordable solution in the face of another set of major car repairs. A solution that includes being able to run my writing program. Something that seems impossible right now.

And I haven’t handled it well. Not being able to write has thrown me in stressed out mode. And money is a weak spot for me. Probably why God keeps giving us opportunities to practice.

Anyway! it’s not suffering as some would call it and I have definitely dealt with worse things, but I wanted to use this week as an example. When the computer and the car happened on the same day, I felt so frustrated. So discouraged. So tired of fighting with “things” just to do the important stuff. Obviously, we prayed about the whole situation. But that hasn’t stopped me from worrying and spinning in my brain.

Somewhere in the midst of thinking about suffering, I had this vision of what it would look like if the computer/car situation was easy. I would pray to the God of the universe who owns/made everything and loves me as His dear child. And then I would wait expectantly. I would be excited at this new opportunity to see God work. I would not worry that things might be impossible. I would not worry about juggling finances. I would not worry about losing time on my writing projects. I would just trust.

That might be where joy comes in.

Sometimes, we get so fixated on the solution we want that we miss out on what God’s doing. For example, this morning I went to write this blog post and realized that I didn’t have my wordpress password (it was in the other room). Rather than writing it in Word or Google docs or my e-mail, I just moved on to the next thing on my list. There were numerous solutions but because I was so focused on one solution, I waited hours to solve the problem.

I wish it wasn’t true, but sometimes, we bring suffering on ourselves. We take stressful circumstances and increase our suffering by not trusting God. We close our eyes to ways God is working because it doesn’t meet our expectations. We agonize over things that God has already solved or answered. Holding things with an open hand means leaving room for God to work the way that’s His best–not my best.

So when you think about your life, is there anywhere you are making things harder than they need to be?

Blog_ Messing Up Our Own Lives

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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 šŸ™‚

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 šŸ™‚ 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 šŸ™‚ 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’sĀ 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 inĀ Frozen,Ā 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? šŸ˜‰

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:Ā “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 stayĀ 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 hadĀ (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 hadĀ 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 basisĀ 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,Ā 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? InĀ The Abundance Code,Ā 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 withĀ 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 butĀ becauseĀ of stress.