Monthly Archives: April 2013

Patience

Peace Through Holding It

How many soap-opera episodes or movies have featured as a plot point someone speaking up during a wedding when the officiant asks objectors to “speak now or forever hold their peace?”

Have you ever been to a wedding where that question was asked and answered?

If you have I really want to hear from you.

Anyway, what does it mean to hold our peace?  From preliminary research, it appears to mean the rough equivalent of holding our tongues.

Throughout scripture, there are many exhortations to stay silent in order to demonstrate our wisdom!  This appears to run counter to our human nature, to marshal every supportive argument we can when people come against us or attack.   We want to show all the proof we can that we are right and the other person is wrong.

Ask yourself how many of these interactions you have had in your life that have turned the other person around?  I am finding it hard to think of many examples.

I was struck today in reading Psalm 109, in which David asks for help, vindication and brutal defeat of an enemy.  If you study the Psalm and commentary on it, you’ll see that it really should not be a model for the everyday believer dealing with adversity in life.  I frankly would be terrified to pray such prayers.

However, one thing I did notice and plan to apply is how in the first verses of the Psalm, David asks for God to NOT hold his peace.  He asks God to take the situation and administer His justice to it.  His list of requests is grim and exhaustive.

I mention this Psalm only for its contrast to what we humans are told to do throughout scripture, which is (generally) to be quiet, to hold our peace. We see Jesus Himself remaining silent in the face of His accusers.   But this does not render us powerless.  As we pray for strength to hold our own peace, we can simultaneously ask for God NOT to hold His.

Does this mean we will never speak on the topic being disputed?

No.

It simply means we invite God into the conflict to direct resolution.

We may be wrong or we might need to compromise.

Or maybe we need to hold fast.

But first we should hold our peace.

“Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise.”  Psalm 109:1

All the Best in 2013!

Julie

Patience

Peace Through Fighting Words

”Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Isaiah 26:3

When was the last time someone “pushed your buttons?”

How did you respond?

Were you able to escape without saying things YOU regret?

Or did you let loose?

Or some variant in-between?

The things we care about the most, or perhaps the sources of our deepest pain leave us vulnerable to people who may intentionally or unintentionally set off triggers inside of us.  When pressed in this way, we might respond rashly and justify it later by saying the person was deliberately trying to set us off or provoke us, or perhaps spoke out of turn.  Maybe the person is passive aggressive-the type of person who cloaks jabs and digs and references in otherwise polite conversation.

Then, there may be things that we consider to be “fighting words.” The law defines these as “words which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.”

Think about various curse words that upset you to hear-or racial epithets-or insults directed at our family members or to God.

What are fighting words to your ears?

What do you do when you hear them?

To cultivate peace in our spirit, it’s important to pray for help in responding appropriately to these words.  In the case of obscenity or racial epithets, perhaps the best response might be walking away or explaining you choose not to to be around people who speak in that way.

For other, more personally directed “fighting words” keeping silent when we hear them or saying very little in response might be a huge effort, especially with the “send” key being so readily available on our computer keyboards.

Before email, we had to at least muster the courage to pick up the phone to chew someone out.  Now, it’s become easier as our fingers fly and we can even proofread our responses for maximum stinging impact.

(Yes I’ve done it-recently).

So for myself, I am working on the “no response” method.

To not respond is a response in itself.

This simply means that to respond through a conscious decision not to respond or engage, at least for a time. When this is impractical, attempt to just get five minutes to take a walk, breathe or pray.

Doing this tends to put you more in control of the exchange and, most importantly, gives you an opportunity to invite God into the dialogue.

What is down in the well of our hearts is often revealed when we hear “fighting words.”

Don’t be discouraged if you find you have anger in your heart.

It just means you need God’s peace and God’s timing to come to resolution with the other person.  You may also need to ask for forgiveness or grant some.

For me, I have also seen in recent days that I need to be praying for right responses to other people each day since it’s a quality I lack.  Each day I pray for peace, harmony, and prosperity in my home and family.  I now see that I need to add to the list the ability to just shut up!

It is all disquieting but is necessary for our growth.

Ask God to help you with your weeding.

All the Best in 2013!

Julie

P.S.  Still feel the need to disclaim to the reading public I have not satisfactorily cultivated this ability in my own life.  I am still willing to examine myself and write on the topic, hoping that others can relate to me and not feel alone in struggling.  

Patience

Peace Through Zero-To-Crazy in 60 Seconds

 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Isaiah 26:3

One reason I “put off” starting work on any spiritual writing is that I was aware of the concept that when you say “yes” to something God is asking you to do, forces will come against you.

These forces include bringing you face-to-face with your complete lack of qualification to say anything spiritual because of your own weakness or immaturity.  So the temptation arises to simply cease the work.

As I began the series of blog posts about “peace,” forces were working to undermine that in my life.  Nothing all that unusual or out-of-the-ordinary, but some opportunities for testing were presented and I perceived lack in my own capacity to be a peacemaker.  And, truth be told, I perceived lack in my DESIRE to be a peacemaker in certain situations.

So it’s easy to simply put off more writing.

But then I looked at the counter on this blog.

I have over 20,000 hits on this blog.

I know it has helped some people.

And I know it has helped me to write it and explore the fruits.

So I am going to continue and re-commit.

There is power in consistency in working towards a goal.

There is power in refusing to buy into the messages that seek to throw you off-course.

So fixing back onto the goal to provide fruit cultivation for myself and all who read.

Today my mind is fixed back on God’s peace.

“Oh God, my heart is fixed…” (Psalm 108:1)

All the Best in 2013,

Julie

Peace Fruit

Peace Through Dry Morsels

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Isaiah 26:3

Continuing our journey through peace cultivation, we have reflected on how important it is to ask God for the holy spirit’s guidance through our lives.  If we are looking at HIS roadmap, we are less likely to be diverted by external circumstances.

One thing that divert our attention is attaining “stuff.”  We desire bigger homes, nicer cars, stylish clothes and physical comfort.  Or, maybe your needs at this point are more urgent-you need a job, food, housing or health insurance.

No matter what we are striving towards, it’s important not to fall into the trap of “if-then” statements. An example of such a statement would be, “If I get this job, I will have peace.”  At that point you are equating something here in this world to provide you what only God can and this is when we can lose focus.  While it’s likely that, in our example, getting the job will yield temporary peace, because now you have an identified source of income, you will have the parallel stress of pleasing a new boss, adjusting to a new schedule and meeting new people.

Likewise, if you finally get to take the vacation you wanted, you may feel peace once you arrive at your location, but what if your problems at home just follow you on your trip?  This can lead to feeling let down and shortchanged.

Trying to live your life with deliberate simplicity can heighten our spiritual peace.  If you can afford “more” try to see if you can remain content with what you’ve already got until you are sure that you aren’t looking to the “thing” to feel more peace in your soul.

Though I have not gathered much evidence to back it up, I think it’s a true statement that people who live simply have more peace.

“Better is a dry morsel and quietness therewith than an house full of sacrifices with strife.”

Proverbs 17:1

Peace Fruit

Peace Through Trust in Him

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Isaiah 26:3

I haven’t tied this blog to current events, because that’s not really my purpose here.  However, today, April 15, 2013 there was death and chaos and what was supposed to be a celebratory and invigorating annual event in Boston, Massachusetts at the annual running of the Boston Marathon.

We struggle at times like this to understand the “whys” behind events like these and reconcile them with our faith in God.  It can be difficult to maintain spiritual peace when we observe and hear about tragedies big and small.  Chaos descends and disrupts our sense of well-being   Can we really trust God no matter what happens?

Human words and philosophies and platitudes fail in situations like these.  We instead have to trust God’s word.  I found a few passages as examples:

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy.” Psalm 103:8  We trust that even in the midst of unexpected death and loss that there is mercy and grace.

“As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.”  Psalm 103:15.  At times like this we are reminded that human life is transitory and that we should be ready to meet God any time, any place.  Just as a marathon runner trains diligently to prepare for his race, so we should prepare for our spiritual race to end of our human lives by building up our soul and spirit and telling others about Christ.

“The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.:  Psalm 103:19.  We can take from this passage that even when live seems out of control, God is still at the helm and supremely sovereign.

We don’t find our spiritual peace through the absence of tragedy in our lives.

We find our greatest peace when we can feel God’s presence in our lives in our darkest times.

We can pray for those impacted in Boston that they seek the peace that can only be found through relationship and trust in Christ and Christ alone.

All the Best in 2013,

Julie

Fruit of the Spirit

Peace Through God’s Permanence

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Isaiah 26:3

If you stop to consider the things that concern you from day-to-day, you will probably see that many of these things are of temporary importance.

You have a deadline of some kind coming up at work, or company is coming for dinner and you need to clean up, or your drivers license is getting ready to expire.  One year from now, you probably will not be able to remember what pressed upon your mind today.

Yet we often elevate these deadlines to gods in our lives, only to discover that just as soon as we meet one deadline, another emerges and we seem to just go from deadline to deadline.

Of course personal responsibility for our work and lives is of great importance to both our survival and reputation, however many of the things we agonize about are of little eternal value.  Personal possessions wear out, break, get lost or diminish in value.  Accomplishments in our careers are recognized and then often forgotten.  The vacation that was supposed to be the “experience of a lifetime” turns out to be overrated.

So many things clamor for our attention and this can lead to anxiety over what we may be missing.

As we prioritize our lives, we can cultivate peace by focusing on things that have eternal, permanent value.

Those are things that draw our attention to God.

Things that draw our attention away from God can be thought of as gods with a little “g,” and those are the things that we must view through the lens of impermanence.  As we live and enjoy the world and all it offers to us, recognize that “they are all vanity; their works are nothing; their molten images are wind and confusion.”  Isaiah 41:29.

All the Best in 2013!

Julie

 

Peace Fruit

Cultivating the Peace Within

 

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Isaiah 26:3

Who does not want a calmer, more peaceful mind?

Have your circuits ever been entirely overloaded with too many thoughts, anxieties and things to do?  As different forces in your life pull you in various directions, it can be difficult to know where to focus our attention.

But if we are cultivating our “peace” fruit of the spirit, we will know that it is during these times that we need to quiet our minds and focus on God and His mighty power to center our thinking.

Some people think that it is a stretch that the God of the universe would have time or concern with the thoughts of my overwhelmed brain and my particular to-do list.  That is one reason why our God is so amazing-He wants to be invited into those parts of our lives so that He can order them and our lives can reflect HIS glory and His peace.

Let’s invite God into our scheduling and planning and see what His thoughts are before we move forward.    So many personal development and “success in life” books talk about planning, committing and focusing.  All are necessary components to success, but unless we are on our God-ordained path it might feel as if we are spinning our wheels.

So if the chaos of your life is overwhelming, take some time to invite God in and show you what should disappear, be minimized or restructured.  With those things that are left, ask Him to show you how to better accomplish those tasks for His glory, with a design in mind of cultivating a peaceful spirit.

Tie all activities back to God and His purpose for your life.

“I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.  I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes:”  Psalm 101 2-3.

Peace Fruit

Peace Even Though All Your Stuff is Gone

“Having shod your feet with the READINESS OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE.”

Ephesians 6:15

In the last devotional we read about King Hezekiah crying out to God for healing, in spite of receiving a death sentence.

We saw Hezekiah’s deliverance  after he fervently prayed and sought God’s mercy.

Both the death sentence and the message of mercy were delivered by God’s obedient prophet Isiah.

We see Isaiah communicate both messages in a straightforward way, without much fanfare, eloquence, apology or hesitation.

In Isaiah 39, we read that King Hezekiah is healed from his illness and that people from everywhere have sent him gifts and treasures to acknowledge his miraculous recovery.  It seems like a genuine and heartfelt celebration.  When people come to see the King, he joyously shows his guests the wonderful presents he’s received from so many friends and well-wishers.  He holds nothing back.

I do not think Hezekiah was showing off to his guests, but instead he was showing how God’s mercy and abundance had rained down on him when he was close to death.

And then along comes Isaiah who seemingly always has some big pronouncement to make-“you’re going to die,” “you’re going to live,”-so we don’t expect anything less this time.

Isaiah asks the king what he’s shown to his guests.  The King replies that he’s shown everything and  held nothing back.

Isaiah then says words to the effect that everything he’s got, including his inherited treasures from relatives “shall be carried to Babylon.  Nothing shall be left.”  (Isaiah 39:6).  The prophet further states that Hezekiah’s sons shall be taken away to be Eunuchs in Babylon.

Imagine this scene…you are happy and rejoicing and along comes the prophet of doom.

(I imagine he wasn’t invited to too many parties and celebrations).

How was Isaiah walking out the gospel of peace?

As intimated yesterday, it was through obedience in communicating the message God gave him and trusting God for the rest.

And in Hezekiah’s response, we see evidence that bears out God’s faithfulness.  Hezekiah says: ” Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken.  He said moreover, For there shall be peace and truth in my days.”  Isaiah 39:8.

This is the peace that comes from the truth of the gospel.

All the Best in 2013!

Julie

Patience

Peace Through A Death Reprieve

 

“Having shod your feet with the READINESS OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE.”

Ephesians 6:15

In Isaiah 38, the prophet Isaiah informs King Hezekiah that he should get his “house in order” because the king would be dead soon.  Imagine having to be the bearer of that message.  Yet, Isaiah was obedient to God as he delivered the news.

Hezekiah then cries out to God for a reprieve and prays for God’s mercy.

Isaiah is then told by God to communicate to Hezekiah that God has heard his prayers and will grant him another fifteen years to live.

Hezekiah then gives praise and glory to God for giving him those additional years and says:

Indeed it was for my own peace
That I had great bitterness;
But You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption,
For You have cast all my sins behind Your back.

Isaiah 38:17

It is pretty easy to imagine the peace Hezekiah experienced when God heard and answered his prayer.

But imagine Isaiah, first having to communicate the dire message, and then having to withdraw it.

There is no account of Isaiah hesitating to deliver either message.

He walked, in peace to give both the dire and the pardoning message.

We cannot always choose our message, but to walk in the context of the gospel of peace, we must sometimes deliver bad news and trust God to deal with the final outcome.

Sometimes people ask us what the bible says about something and we know that the answer will be difficult for them to hear.  That should not make us any less willing to communicate the truth, knowing that often it will lead to earnest prayer and, many times changed lives.

All the Best in 2013!

Julie

peace

Peaceful Feet and Encouraging Words

“Having shod your feet with the READINESS OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE.”

Ephesians 6:15

Have you ever been faced with a situation where you felt unprepared?

I face those situations almost daily-where I have to pause, breathe, pray, think and speak while wondering if I am messing up!

But if my feet are rooted firmly within the gospel, I will always be ready to communicate some component off peace with Christ.  This does not have to be a complete gospel presentation.  It can be a well-timed word, smile or e-mail.  It can be an offer to help someone with something that is troubling them.  It can be praying for someone else.  It can be reminding someone that even though they may be experiencing difficulty, God has not abandoned them.

As we continue to walk through, experience and cultivate the “peace” fruit of the spirit, for the next several days when you are faced with a dilemma or difficult question, why not try “peace” as a solution?  The peace of Christ can heal any form of human suffering.  The healing may not always take the form that we would like or design in our own minds, but it is always there and possible.  And for believers, the ultimate peace of Christ comes when we see Him face-to-face.  We can get a taste of His Kingdom when we communicate the gospel of peace and invite others to join us there.

All the Best in 2013!

Julie