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I’ve been thinking a lot about peace lately.  I suppose that’s because it’s been in short supply.  At least in my own heart.  So I’d like to share my thoughts with you. They are a result of conversations with wise and trusted friends.  And time has proven them to be true.

God really has very little to say about our happiness.  It would seem that it’s not a big concern of His.  Now that may seem a bit harsh, but when you think about it, it’s really peace we’re after.  We are a pretty tough people, and I think if we just have peace, we can handle just about anything.

Here’s the good news:  God has a lot to say about peace. He offers it repeatedly.  This topic was even among Jesus’ last words:  ”My peace I leave with you.”

Well, that’s all fine and good.  And I believe it.  But how do I get from here to there, from a place of unrest to rest?  I think it lies somewhere in the principle of “not thinking our way into a new way of acting (feeling) but acting our way into a new way of feeling.”.  In other words, imagine how you would act if you were at peace. In the doing of it, the feelings will follow.

This is not pretending.  It’s not denying truth or wearing a mask.  Instead, it’s putting on the truth, as putting on a jacket when you’re cold.  You are not denying that you’re cold; you are doing something about it.   The Bible says that we are to “strive to enter into His peace.”  Now there’s a contradiction in terms. But I think this may be what the writer is talking about. There is an element of choice and determination involved.

But there’s more.  I don’t believe peace is possible because it’s a nice thought or wishful thinking.  I believe what God said about it.  So as I live my day-to-day life as if it’s true, it’s really God that I’m actively trusting.  And I can truthfully (and happily) report that, so far, it’s working.  And here’s something else:  I’ve found myself smiling a lot lately.  Yeah.  It seems that once I was at peace, happiness naturally followed.

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There are many things that could be attributed to chance.  Or circumstance.  Or the generosity of others.  Or our own wits.  I don’t doubt that these things play a part in the events of our lives (though I’m still wondering about the chance bit).  But what if I attribute a good thing to God?  Am I being naïve?  Am I simple-minded to call something an act of God when there is a perfectly rational explanation?

The way I see it, He is the originator of everything.  Whether directly or indirectly, it all comes from His hand.  Makes sense if He’s the creator, don’t you think?  I see spring bloom again after a long winter, and I thank Him.  I see someone recover from an illness and trace the medical community’s knowledge back to God’s design.  I’m grateful for the things that we have, knowing God provided the skill to perform the job which pays the bills.

But why?  Why not just let it be, live life, and trust in the explanations that are so evident?  I could do that.  I could study how the planets came to be, how weather patterns change, how different personalities conflict or harmonize.  And I do find those things very interesting.  But, to me, magnificent as they are, they seem a bit shallow if they end there.

I want more.  I want to go further, to see where all that came from.  There is a song by Ceili Rain that says, “I know that You’re out there because I long for You.”  I know that’s circular reasoning, but there’s truth in that.  We’re not thirsty for no reason.  We thirst because we need water, and that water is available.  We hunger for the same reason.  Food is necessary to life.  So is hunger.

And so we hunger for God, each in our own way, some more aware of it than others.  But I believe it’s true.  It’s simple, it’s mysterious, and it’s satisfying.  Call me naïve, but I’m going to continue to live this way.

 

 

 

 

 

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How many times have you gritted your teeth and determined to stop doing that thing you want to stop (or start that thing you know is right)?  How many times have you faced the shopping mall and told yourself you’re not going to buy another overpriced outfit?  How many alcoholics have said NO just before downing that next drink?

The DARE program says this is all it takes.  They tell us that if we just Say NO to Drugs that is enough.  Is it?  For those already battling the addiction, it is not enough.  There has to be something more.

The word YES is beautiful.  It demonstrates a conscious choice to do something positive.  And when used to choose the negative, then at least it’s done with determination and not merely gravitation toward an old unwanted habit.  But we can say YES to something better.  We can choose the park over the mall, and we can choose sobriety over a life ruled by another.

But there’s a bigger picture.  What if we said yes to something that encompassed more than just the issues before us?  What if we said yes to a whole new way of thinking?  What if we had a change of heart?  Instead of living by mind-over-matter, what if we could live by a 180-degree turn of our very soul?

I wonder if this is not what Jesus meant when he told a very prominent ruler that he “must be born again.”  Paul told the Roman church that “to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”  I wonder if focusing on behavior is not “setting the mind on the flesh.”

I think life and peace sound much better.  I think if I let Jesus change my life and not just my behavior, it makes for a much more cohesive way of life.   A change of heart.  Consistency.  And I think that if I let Him change my heart, I can then choose not only better behaviors, but better attitudes, like forgiveness-over-bitterness, or contentment-over-jealousy.

I’ve seen it happen.

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I think there is more than one way to look at this tried and true marriage vow.  We all know the usual way, that we will continue to love and be faithful in spite of our spouse’s illness.  It’s commendable.  It’s decent.  It’s expected.

But what if I’m the one who’s sick?  I think I should be able to expect certain things of my spouse, if not practically everyone around me.  I’m sick, after all.  I deserve pity and pampering.  I should be able to be grouchy or feel sorry for myself and not have to think about anyone else.  My illness is about me, not them.

And here’s the point:  I – ME – I am to love, in sickness and in health, even if I’m the one who is sick!  This is revolutionary.  This changes everything.

I’m not advocating a life of pretending.  I’m not asking anyone to downplay their pain, or to hide their needs.  What I’m calling for is thoughtfulness of those around you.  Yes, I’m expanding this beyond marriage.  Why not extend this to our children, our parents, our friends and neighbors as well?

If I am sick (and I have been very sick), I can still bless others.  I can ask about their day, I can write notes of encouragement, I can pray for them, I can still be useful, and I can probably still be cheerful.

There’s something that happens when we do this:  we feel better.  There’s something about dwelling on our problems that makes them worse.  There’s something about focusing on others that helps us forget our woes for a bit.

Try it next time you find yourself “in sickness.”  After all, if you’re married, you promised!

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