Pursuing Peace

When I think of the word peace I imagine something like this:

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or this:

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I rarely imagine this:

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But the Bible tells us again and again that we must pursue peace.

We don’t have to look far to understand this truth. We eat and create dirty dishes daily. What if we didn’t wash dishes? Ever. Actually, I don’t need to imagine. I can just think back to my first apartment the summer after my sophomore year of college.

Three boys had lived there during the school year. One had never done dishes. Or thrown away opened cans of food. Apparently the landlord was too scared to clean for us, too. (Ew!)

Cleanliness requires effort. Peace does too.

“Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it,” (Psalm 34:14).

To have spotless dishes, we wash them with soapy water. To have peaceful minds, we bathe them in the truth of the Word.

–> Are you pursuing peace or hoping it will just happen to you?

When I am anxious, I need to make an effort to open my Bible, find time alone, and pray. It may not change my circumstances, but time with God definitely changes me.

Lord, give us energy to pursue Your peace and the discipline to immerse ourselves in Your Words everyday. Amen.

Wilted

Remember my beautiful plants from a few weeks ago?

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Here they are today:

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After only a day or two away and without watering, they’ve wilted.

Some travel and circumstances have left me feeling the same. I’m tired. Tiny challenges discourage. Insignificant decisions overwhelm. Small stuff makes me sweat.

My plants and I need some Water.

“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters…” (Isaiah 55:1).

I’m pretty sure the petunias will perk up after I give them a drink. I need some rest, but I also need the spiritual refreshment of God’s Word.

How often do you read your Bible? How often do I?

Click the link above to read all of Isaiah 55 and ask questions. Who is speaking? Who is the audience? What do these words say to you personally? What else comes to mind as you meditate on this passage? Don’t simply read it. Drink it and let fill you.

Time to water my plants. And yes, they’ll probably need more water tomorrow. That’s okay–so will I.

Lord, refresh and nourish our wilted spirits with Your Word. Amen.

Lemonade Stands and Free eBooks

Sitting out on the curb on mom’s green and white striped tri-fold plastic lawn chair, I yelled at each passing neighbor, “Lemonade! Lemonade for sale!”

20120725-160931.jpgPhoto Credit: Free Digital Photos.net

An upside-down laundry basket held the pitcher and cups. My best friend sat beside me. I was in business.

In some ways, I’ve never shut down that sticky, sloppy stand. Being an entrepreneur is fun, exciting, and hopeful. But in all my ventures so far, I’ve found one pursuit that is thrilling.

“Preach the word of God…encourage your people with good teaching,” (2 Timothy 4:2 NLT).

No, I’m not a pastor or even technically a preacher. But nothing makes my heart race more than discussing, sharing, and teaching the Word of God.

It’s why I blog. It’s why I am part of Bible Study Fellowship. It’s why I wake up early and study and listen as much as I can throughout my day. God is Life and His Word is life to me.

But now I’ve gone from blogging to gushing (I told you this was still sloppy, sticky work.) Whether you understand the joy I’m describing or are simply curious if you can find it yourself, I invite you to enjoy a free ebook Thursday, July 26th.

Simply go to Amazon or click here for a free copy of Up To Know Good Daily Inspirations. In it, you’ll find over 150 refreshing encounters with our relevant God.

It will be more thirst-quenching than the neighbor kid’s lemonade. I promise, or your “money” back! And if you like it, please share some refreshment with a friend!

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Q4U: How do you give refreshment to others?

uprooted

BEFORE:

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Fourteen bushes once lined our home. Three remain.

Most were tall and leafless. A couple of others were partially alive, but bare wooden tentacles interlaced with the leafy branches. Not pretty.

AFTER:

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Now there is bare space. It needs cleaning and renewal, but at least the obstacles to replanting are gone.

I even took the leap and bought myself a few pretty plants for the rest of this season.

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While I still have a very low interest overall in landscaping, I’m desperate for beauty around me and life within me.

What are you uprooting? How are you bringing beauty into your life?

At the start of the summer I felt the Lord saying one word repeatedly to my soul: rest. As I take time to be still, I do not always see beauty. I’ve noticed unproductive thought patterns, unhealthy words, and ugly feelings. My first step: uproot them!

Like my bare flowerbeds, areas in my thoughts need cleaning, planning, and replanting, but even in the process I see splashes of color through a verse, a conversation, a song.

May God speak renewal to you through His lovely words. Blessings and beauty to you, dear one.
Song of Songs 2:10-14

Get up, my dear friend,
fair and beautiful lover—come to me!
Look around you: Winter is over;
the winter rains are over, gone!
Spring flowers are in blossom all over.
The whole world’s a choir—and singing!
Spring warblers are filling the forest
with sweet arpeggios.
Lilacs are exuberantly purple and perfumed,
and cherry trees fragrant with blossoms.
Oh, get up, dear friend,
my fair and beautiful lover—come to me!
Come, my shy and modest dove—
leave your seclusion, come out in the open.
Let me see your face,
let me hear your voice.
For your voice is soothing
and your face is ravishing.

Overspending the Time Budget

September through May time has schedule and organization. The rhythm and routine are reliable, though also restraining.

As June began, the blank space on the calendar gave an illusion of more time. We took family trips. I joined two Bible studies because I wasn’t leading one. I justified late nights (the sun’s up, why not me?).

I have overspent my time budget. The reality is there are still only 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week, and at best 31 days in a month.

A dear friend pointed out to me last week the tendency we can have to overspend our time because it appears we now have so much more of it. However, since God made time it has been the same:

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’…God called the light ‘day’ and the darkness He called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning–the first day,” (Genesis 1:3-5).

No wonder I’m feeling a little worn-out as July begins.

Have you been overspending your time this summer? How do you manage free-time?

I like the flexibility of summer, but I now intend to let the rest of this season be one of simplicity. I want rest and true rejuvination for my family and myself.

Whether its time or money, overspending is fun momentarily but challenging to pay for later. I have an evening, a morning. A day. May I live not foolishly, but fully.

God, be glorified in every minute. Thank You for rest, for fun, and for summer.

Photo credit: Myron Schaffer

Thoughts from Sara’s Notebook

Dear friends,

I’ve been away for a few weeks, so instead of the usual story and application blog entry, here are a few quotes from my notebook. Take a peek at what God’s teaching me–mainly through the book of Habakkuk. These are not proverbs! They’re just simple thoughts. I’m glad to be home again. Blessings to you!

“Satisfaction in simplicity

     comes from the extravagant luxury

           of knowing God intimately.”

“Remember, remember, remember–He loves you!”

“Nothing created ever truly supersedes the Creator.”

                                    “Lifeless objects cannot give life.”

“The Lord answers in love, even when we ask, ‘Lord, don’t you care?‘”

“Doing evil–even in the sense of being self-serving–appears very profitable in the short-term.”

“God’s ways are unpredictable.”

"God is the safest place to express confusion if we trust Him to bring clarity."

“Ministry for Jesus won’t last; relationship with Jesus is forever.”

“Those who resolve to rejoice in God will find strength.”

                   “God goes to extremes to rescue His own.”

                        “God cares more about my character than my comfort.”

“God has a very big yet very specific plan in motion.”

    “Lord, You love me. I love You. Let’s do this day together.”

 

 

This Small Girl’s Heart

Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

God, You see this small girl’s heart

blackened by neglect

             hardened by insults

                 broken by unmet hopes.

God, You have the remedy for this small girl’s heart–

a steady flow of compassion

soft Words of grace

healing hope of life together.

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you,” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NLT.)

God, I give you this small girl’s heart

knowing Your Justice

trusting Your Goodness

believing Your Kindness. Amen.

 

Pillow Fights & Gay Marriage

A friend told me a funny story after Christmas.

Her husband, son and daughter-in-law all worked together to awkwardly wrap and present her with a body pillow. My friend was surprised at the large, unexpected gift and asked her husband why he bought it.

Photo Credit: Phiseksit

“You mentioned after our trip this fall that you would like a body pillow,” he reminded her.

“No,” she clarified. “I said I had a good night’s sleep because the hotel pillow was like a body pillow. I didn’t say I’d like a body pillow.”

After a few laughs (and no pillow fight), the gift was set aside and later returned.

Recently President Obama made some remarks that people have cited as historical and evolutionary. He expressed his support for same-sex marriage and reasoned, in part, that it’s because he believes in The Golden Rule:

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets,” (Matthew 7:12).

Before this statement, Jesus told everyone that if they ask God for what they need, God will answer them like a loving parent. Then, they are free to go and do good for others.

The Golden Rule isn’t about mutual respect or civil rights. Jesus explained that because God takes care of us, we can care for others. When we turn our selfish wants into outward expressions of love, we are living according to God’s economy of societal justice described in the Old Testament.

 Q4U: What were your thoughts about President Obama’s statements on marriage?

I don’t doubt that the President’s remarks are historical, but I fear that more than a pillow fight might erupt if we continue to give God what we think He wants rather than listening to Him with sincerity.

In the context of Jesus’ words, He tells us think about our wishes only so we have a clue how to act for others in light of His Word–the Law and the Prophets.

Will we take the time to know His Word fully so we can give good gifts to one another?

God, please give us a hunger for Your Word and Your ways that we could live truly selfless, loving lives toward one another. Amen.

Gimme Ten More!

Kathy stepped aside and let the occupational therapist march into her house. Suppressing a salute, she led her back to the room where Mom sat. Days earlier Kathy’s mom had suffered a stroke that paralyzed her left side.

Photo Credit: Ambro

The OT wasted no time in putting Mom to work. Kathy watched the no-nonsense woman bark out orders to Mom, “Gimme ten more!” The command came with every new exercise, and Kathy watched in agony while Mom obeyed with obvious pain and effort.

Furously taking notes and fighting tears, the Lord gently broke in and said, “Watch me work.” So she put her paper and pencil down and watched more intently. Soon, she sensed the Lord saying, “The OT knows Mom CAN and MUST do these exercises if she’s ever going to walk again.” 

Then the point of the Lord’s living parable clearly came through. The Lord knows we CAN and MUST exercise our faith muscles if we’re going to be strong enough to stand with what’s coming. The Lord is saying, “Gimme ten more” with each trial – ten more faith muscle reps.

In silent submission, Kathy softened to the truth and resisted confronting the OT.

How often, Kathy said later, does God give us opportunity to push through and get strong, but we so often want to quit. Instead of stopping when the going gets tough, sometimes we need to listen and respond to His encouragement to “Gimme ten more!”

I’m not suggesting God is mean or militant. He’s definitely kind, but He’s also Good. If we’re going to be seriously up to know good, we will have our character exercised.

Q4U: How is God exercising your character? Will you give Him “ten more”?

It’s easy to tell ourselves to give up when we start feeling uncomfortable, but what’s to be gained by staying spiritually flabby and immature? Instead, let’s grow and be truly fit for the calling God’s given us.

Lord, forgive me for being such a wimp sometimes. Today I commit to giving You ten more faith muscle reps whenever You ask. Amen.

–Many thanks to my friend Kathy for sharing this living parable and bringing glory to God in the words she speaks and life she lives.–

What Do You Want Me to Do for You?

Every Wednesday in our weekly routine my daughters and I encounter the same man. He wears a black and red jacket with a cap bearing an unfamiliar insignia. He has tattoos on his face and usually carries a sign asking for money to help his children.

The first week, it was easy to give him a small donation. The second week, I only had a granola bar to offer. The third week, another contribution. But something happened as time went on. Week by week I gave a small food or money gift, but six weeks later, I got annoyed and didn’t give him anything.

As I accelerated past him through the familiar intersection, guilt overwhelmed me. Why was I annoyed? Because this seems to be his way of life? Because I wanted the money or snack for myself? No, I was irritated because of what he revealed in me: an unwillingness to ask.

Unlike me, scripture records another man on the side of the road who knew Who and how to ask.

One day, Jesus walked with a crowd into Jericho when a blind man yelled for His attention. “Stop it and be quiet!” the crowd said to hush him up quickly, but the blind man persisted, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus asked them to bring the man to him. Jesus posed this simple question, “What do you want me to do for you?”

The blind man was face-to-face with One able to help him. He didn’t waste time explaining his life story, asking for a little food, or even begging for a blessing. “Lord, I want to see,” he replied.

Direct, bold, and effective, he spoke fearlessly and full of faith.

Seeing through his dirty, dusty exterior, Jesus immediately grants his request. “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”

With nothing to offer Jesus but faith, the beggar stated his greatest need and desire – sight!

Do Good – Keep a few extra dollars or snacks in your car to hand out when you have the opportunity. Don’t judge; bless.

Back in 2010, the tattoo-faced stranger I met was thankfully in his usual spot the next Wednesday. Despite a rare green light, I slowed the car and got his attention. I don’t know his story, but I know he asks. My prayer is that he will be blessed, and he will ask Jesus to meet his deepest need – sight.

My prayer for myself is that I will ask. Blind, dirty, dusty and with nothing to offer, may I be fearless and faithful. When I can’t articulate my deepest need, I borrow the prayer from the blind beggar:

Lord, I want to see! Amen.

Q4U: How do you react when others ask for help?

originally posted April 15, 2010