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Fullness of Life Through Freedom in Christ

Galatians 5:1: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” 

If you’ve ever seen the movie Braveheart, the first image likely to come into your mind is  Mel Gibson’s blue painted face screaming, “FRRREEEEEEDDDOOOMMM!” as he rides into battle to bravely defend Scotland.  And if you’re a proud American, you likely proclaim that our country is great because it is free.  Our beautiful National Anthem even resounds this triumph with the concluding words, “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”  No matter how many times I’ve heard it, those majestic lyrics are enough to bring me (or any other patriot) to tears.  

It’s amazing how much strong emotion is brought on by the word and concept of freedom.  And rightly so- for it is the inborn desire of every person to be free. We yearn for the ability to think, speak, and act without hinderance or restraint; to not be governed by a foreign entity; and to not be imprisoned or enslaved to any person or thing.  

The quest for freedom takes form in many aspects of our lives.  This is evidenced by advertisements aimed at helping us find financial freedom, or advertisements informing us how working at home allows freedom in schedule setting or travel.  We even seek freedom in our physical appearance, choosing clothing, accessories, and hairstyles that reflect who we are as a person. And when it comes to relationships (or even our appearance), we might lean into phrases like, “I’m free to be me.”  We go after freedom in every category of life because it brings relief, joy, and peace.  Some might even say freedom is the foundation for life itself.  

As much as I enjoy the freedoms of this country, or believe in the benefits of financial freedom, or value the right to self-expression and healthy relationships, the truth is, these are not the freedoms I really need.  They are the freedoms I love and enjoy…but they cannot save my soul.  

Galatians 5:1 tells us it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  This freedom is twofold: 1)Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are forgiven. Meaning, no longer can Satan (or anyone else for that matter) accuse us before God.  Our sins have been paid for in full, and for those who are in Christ, we can stand before God Almighty, uncondemned, covered in His grace. And 2) We are no longer slaves to sin; sin has been dethroned as our master!  Instead, we become servants to Christ. If you find this unsettling or confusing, take comfort in Romans 6:22 which says, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”  

It may seem paradoxical, but a life lived in service to the Savior of the world is the life of true freedom.  There is no lasting joy to be had when we are in slavery to our sin- for this is a slavery that leads to death.  There is however, infinite and eternal joy found in living obediently to Christ- for this is a servitude that leads to life.  

Indeed, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  This freedom is the entire theme of this website as well as my book, Remade: Living Free.  I humbly invite you to join with me in the pursuit of understanding the depths of this freedom given to us by the God who loves us immeasurably.    

S’mores and Beyond: A Camping Tale

I want to go on the record to say that I fully acknowledge stereotypes are just that- stereotypes.  Most often, they aren’t reflective of reality.  

However.  

Sometimes circumstances provide evidence for the establishment of said stereotypes.  Packing a vehicle for a one night camping trip with 5 women is one of them.  

Everything from the number of group texts regarding who was bringing what, to the crazy amount of clothes and gear crammed and overflowing (albeit somewhat orderly) in the back of an SUV was classic.  (It’s possible there were also a few randomly stashed bottles of wine in there as well.)  I  just smiled as I watched my husband lovingly bite his tongue when it was my turn to stuff my things into the vehicle.  And I’m still laughing at the memory of my friend saying, “I don’t know how we could’ve brought less!” as we headed for the highway, ready for camping adventure.    

I have to be honest, I was a little hesitant going into the trip.  After all, we were tent camping in Michigan in early October…and I hate being cold.  But some things are worth the cold, and this was certainly one of them.   (I’ll also give my husband credit here because he was emphatic that I not back out!)  I’m so glad I listened to him.  Had I not, here’s what I would have missed: 

1)  Some really great food- including a fantastic doughnut.  If you know me at all you know that I love to eat!  And I really love doughnuts.  So when the first stop of our trip was a quaint pumpkin patch, I was beyond pumped to see a sign for homemade doughnuts and apple cider.  And oh man!  I’ve had some good doughnuts in my day, but this was by far the best ever!  Later that night we also had a truly first rate camping dinner made over the fire.  Everything everyone contributed was superb.  In and of itself, the food was great.  But as we all know, the enjoyment of food is only intensified by the company you share it with.  Which leads me to my second point…

2)    Laughter and camaraderie. This probably goes without saying, but the conversation was constant and covered everything from parenting and careers to music, food, social media, and everything in between.  I loved that we could go back and forth from light-hearted trivial topics to real life problems so seamlessly.  That kind of camaraderie is such a gift and I’m beyond blessed to have these women in my life.  They are intelligent, funny, hard-working, loving, and genuine.  They’re also the kind of women who encourage and inspire me to do great things. 

Speaking of which…

 3) An epic hike.  Sometimes hiking trails turn out to be a little longer than you think.  And sometimes it’s also possible to get lost on those longer-that-thought trails.  What we thought initially would be a 5 mile hike turned into well over 13 (possibly 15, depending on who’s watch you consider most accurate).  I will say, a unifying factor in our friendships has been the love of exercise in general, and running in particular.  Thankfully, we have all cultivated the physical and mental stamina produced by long distance training and racing.   So when a 2 hour hike turned into 3, 4, and then 5 hours, I found it pretty impressive that we were all physically capable of this task (especially considering the serious hills involved).  But even more, I was proud of our ability to stay calm and positive throughout the entirety of the hike.  Although dinner was started a little later than originally planned, I’m so glad this was our story to share- and laugh about- together.  

In summation:  If you ever get invited to a girls-only camping trip…Go!  Without hesitation.  And by all means, bring an ax (no matter what your husband says or how ridiculous it may seem).  But most importantly, stay present and enjoy every moment, even if it includes a crazy detour; I guarantee you and your friendships will be better for it in the end.  

5 Emotion Coaching Strategies for Parents

Under normal circumstances, parenting provides a plethora of opportunities for growth- both on our children’s part as well as our own.  Under Covid 19 circumstances, those opportunities multiply by about 100.  However, often the word “opportunity” is not the word that comes to mind in the midst of frustration and aggravation.  If you have found yourself becoming short-tempered or easily irritated with your children (or have questioned your ability to parent in general), I assure you, you are not alone!  

As parents, we will definitely blow it from time to time.  But, the more we begin to see the opportunity that lies in the midst of the difficulty, the better we will become at responding to our children.  Whether we realize it or not, every mess, tantrum, and broken moment provides an opportunity to teach our children emotion regulation and to build connection with them.  Below I have outlined 5 Emotion Coaching Strategies (as identified by John Gottman) to implement the next time the opportunity presents itself.  

  1.  Be Aware of the Child’s Emotion 

Before you respond to your child, take a moment to breathe and ask yourself, “What emotion is my child likely feeling right now?”  If your answer is “anger,” ask yourself a second question: “What might be behind that anger?” For example, could they be feeling left out, discouraged, or hurt?  Our capacity for empathy (and thereby patience) increases when we take the time to first recognize the emotion being experienced by our child.    

  1. Recognize the Emotion as an Opportunity for Intimacy and Teaching  

As you know, our children were not born knowing how to respond to their emotions.  It is part of our job as parents to help guide them in this process and teach them the skills to navigate their feelings.  And as I said above, when we’re able to take the time to teach, it builds connection in the relationship, which is a huge bonus.  

  1. Listen Empathetically and Validate Your Child’s Feelings   

One of the best things we can do is to listen with the goal of understanding.  It’s easy to get swept away into problem-solving mode- but don’t go there too quickly! Letting our kids know we understand how they feel is powerful! Empathy and validation are superpowers when it comes to interacting and communicating with our children.

  1. Help Your Child Verbally Label Emotions

 Let’s be honest- sometimes this is a hard one, even for adults! Our kids will need help with this occasionally, and that is to be expected.  Having a list of feelings (or a face chart of feelings) available can be a great way to help them put a label to what they’re feeling.  Helping your child identify their feeling is a valuable skill that will serve them for the rest of their life!  

  1.  Setting Limits While Helping the Child Problem-Solve

Remember, all of our emotions serve a purpose.  If your child is feeling angry or frustrated, this last step provides resolution for the problem at hand.  Teaching our children to think through solutions is such a valuable gift! Asking them to identify possible solutions teaches a needed skill while giving them a sense of empowerment and capability.  However, children also need to be taught appropriate limits!  When we  collaboratively guide them in the problem-solving process, it is a win for everyone.  

Adapted from Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman

Mission Minded Parenting

To say there’s a lot of scary stuff happening in the world today would be a massive understatement.  Especially if you’re a parent.  Be honest, how many times in the last week alone have you had the thought, “I can’t believe this is the world my child is being raised in.”  We fear for their physical, mental, and emotional health in the wake of a worldwide pandemic.  Even more so, we fear for their safety in public as daily headlines remind us of existing evil in our world.  Truly, there is so much fear- and such a weight of responsibility to protect those little lives we love so much.

But there’s another fear that keeps me on edge when it comes to my kids.  Perhaps even more so than the ones mentioned above.    

Colossians 2:8 says, “Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.”   When I look at the world now, this is what I worry about for my kids.  I know this is not necessarily a new thing; the enemy of this world has been hard at work, tricking and deceiving ever since the Garden of Eden.  And here’s the thing about deceit: it’s incredibly subtle.  

I don’t worry about my kids not knowing right from wrong.  I’m absolutely confident they can recognize sin in the light of day.  My concern is for how they will respond when they meet a lie dressed up to look a lot like truth.  Because that is all around us.  A twist of Scripture here, something that sounds right over there.  It can be easy to slowly drift from truth to something that merely resembles it.  I am by far less concerned with an act of disobedience in the face of knowing truth than I am with them being deceived away from it. 

And just as I have a responsibility to protect my kids from viruses and strangers who intend hard, I have an even greater responsibility to share the gospel with them.  To help them learn sound doctrine, and to cultivate a home environment that models the love of Christ. 

My kids are now 11 and 9 and I know the influence of the world is coming hard after them- as it will for your children.  Along with fervent prayer, here are a few ways we can intentionally lean in to the above mentioned responsibility and privilege of parenting.  

Maintain Connection: This takes many forms, but specifically I’m thinking about the element of time.  Kids feel connected to their parents through the investment of time spent together.  Extended time on the weekends or vacations are great, but even more important are the daily connections.   Look for ways to hang out with your child- just be where they are! Common interests always help, but even if it’s not your thing, if your kid is into it, get into it with them!  Take an interest in their interests.  When our kids know we care about what matters to them, they are more likely to view us as trustworthy…and as someone whose influence they are likely to accept.  This is key.  Connection increases influence! 

Bold Conversations:  Of course we want our kids to maintain their innocence for as long as possible, but we also cannot be naive.  Often kids pick up on far more than we would like to think- whether from peers, the media, or overheard conversations in public.  We absolutely cannot shy away from talking about issues addressed in Scripture.  This includes (but is not limited to): sexuality and marriage, creation, how we speak, and how we treat others.  Trust me, it is never too early to begin these conversations.  Bold conversation might also look like talking over song lyrics or television and movie themes.  Additionally, bold conversation seeks out theological discussions.  These discussions should teach our kids to view life through the lens of Scripture and the character of God.  Which leads to my next point….  

Encourage Questions: Absolutely ask your kids about what they’re learning in their youth groups or church services.  This is a great springboard for discussion and can be a way for you to learn with them.  Within bold conversations, ask them what they think about the topics in light of what they know to be true of God and Scripture.  This cultivates critical thinking so that they will not blindly (and lazily) accept the teachings of the world. And as questions go both ways, be sure to let them know they can ask you about any topic they wish.  And when their questions get hard- and they will get hard- you can seek theologically sound answers together.  

Raising kids to know Christ in a world that is diametrically opposed to Christianity requires great intentionality and courage.  But we must make this our mission above all else.  May it ever be our goal to lead our children to the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  That way, when they hear a lie that resembles the truth they will not be deceived.  They will not be taken captive by philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition.  Rather, they will have the mind of Christ. 

Pursuing Peace Part II: Relationship Mini-Series

Day 6:

Frequently Give Grace:  “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:7

This one might be a game changer in our everyday lives.  Actually, there’s no might about it.  It is a game changer.  Why? Because grace has a way of creating freedom and safety in relationships; of softening our tendencies to criticize and resent; of reminding us that we also are imperfect sinners in need of God’s tender mercies.  

This thing called grace shows up in our relationships when we assume the best of the other person, rather than the worst.  When we look for the beauty rather than the flaws.  Isn’t that refreshing?  Isn’t that what we would want someone to do for us?  It’s easy to let our feelings of annoyance rise up when our expectations have not been met.  The critical wheels in our minds can go from zero to sixty in no time flat.

But what if we paused. 

What if we instead allowed for a gear shift in our thinking and in our posture towards one another?  Undoubtedly, choosing to believe the best in others fosters peace.  I can tell you with certainty that when I choose to assign a positive intention rather than a negative, I can feel the difference.  Irritability is replaced with love and compassion.  Resentment dissipates.  When I view those around me in light of their strengths instead of focusing on their shortcomings, it’s a new game. 

I challenge you and myself to let grace be our go-to rather than criticism.  Of course there is a time to speak the truth in love, but let’s rethink our default settings.  Let’s be generous benefactors of the grace so freely given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.  

*For more on this topic as it relates to parenting, check out my previous blog post Grace in the Good Work of Parenting 

Pursuing Peace Part II: Relationship Mini-Series

Day 5:

Cultivate Humility Through Service: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:45

Sometimes pursuing peace in our relationships looks a lot like servanthood.  And let’s be honest, this runs pretty contrary to our nature.  Sure, there are times we may be filled with goodwill and service towards those we love, but what about the times when we’re not really, ya know…feelin’ it?    

Somehow I think I know the answer to that question.  And in case I have any doubt, Jesus’ words in Mark 10:45 make it pretty clear- the Son of Man came to serve.  Sometimes I just have to let that really sink in.  Who am I then to think that I am here to serve only myself?  If Jesus washed the dirt covered feet of his disciples- including the one who would betray him- I think this says something about my role in serving those around me.  

Because here’s the truth: serving changes our hearts.  It naturally disposes us to a greater affection for the one we’re serving.  Perhaps not right away.  But over time, the more we serve, the more out hearts will soften.  Why? Because this is God’s design!  He created our brains and emotions to work together in such a way that it is almost impossible to not increase our affections for those whom we pray for and serve. 

Our relationships improve when we bring ourselves low.  When we consider others better than ourselves.  When we consider others’ needs before our own.  Whew, talk about a simple concept with a difficult execution!  But please know, this is not possible in our own strength.  Pray for the Spirit to give you a spirit of humility as you serve those in your life- whether your spouse, children, family, friends, co-workers, or a stranger.  

Then, keep your eyes open for opportunities to serve.  Trust me, there is no shortage!  Challenge yourself to ask the question, “What can I do for you today?”  Or, consider how you may pray for those God places in your everyday path. 

May we all pursue peace with others as we intentionally serve in faithful love.

Pursuing Peace Part II: Relationship Mini-Series

Day 4:

Maintain Boundaries: “Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.”  Exodus 18:17-18

Boundaries.  Whew, that’s a popular word in my therapy office.  Over the last 14 years I have taught people to set and maintain strong physical and emotional lines (boundaries) with the people in their lives.  This looks like many things.  Physically, it may be telling someone “no” regarding physical affection.  Or, it may look like speaking up when someone is in your personal space.  

An emotional boundary may be saying to someone, “I feel belittled when you use that tone with me.  If you continue to speak to me this way, I will not remain in the conversation.”  Sometimes it looks like acknowledging the limits of what we can do in a 24 hour period of time.  If this is you, don’t worry- you’re in good company: even Moses needed his father-in-law to point out that he was taking on too much!  

I bring up this topic because boundaries are necessary in all of our relationships.  Without them, emotional chaos inevitably ensues.  With them, we experience peace. 

So how do we do this in a practical way?  First, we determine our personal boundaries.  If you’re a person who frequently feels overwhelmed and stressed because you have a hard time saying “no,” then maybe it’s time to start using that word more often.  Perhaps you need to set some boundaries with a person in your life who is chronically disrespectful towards you.  Take a moment.  Allow yourself to pause and reflect on where you need to set (or strengthen) some boundaries.  

With clear boundaries in our minds, we can then communicate them.  This can be uncomfortable, especially for those prone to people-pleasing.  Trust me, as one who hates conflict, I get it.  But learning to communicate assertively- that is, in a clear, direct, respectful manner- will only improve your relationships with others.  If you happen to err on the side of communicating aggressively, pray for the fruit of gentleness as you communicate your boundaries.  

God has given us the amazing capacity for both relationships and communication.  Ask the Spirit to guide you as you establish and communicate boundaries.  Inviting him into this process is one of the best ways we can pursue peace with others.

Pursuing Peace II: Relationship Mini-Series

Day 3:

Freely Forgive: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13

This is a tough one for sure,  Trust me, I’m not pretending this is easy.  But so often our hurt hearts turn into bitter, resentful hearts.  When we’ve been wronged our anger feels  so justified- and often it is. But the question we must ask ourselves is, “How long am I willing to live and operate out of this emotion?”  As we consider that answer, let me offer a few points of consideration to address the common barriers of forgiveness.  

1) Forgiving someone is not equivalent to saying the wrong actions were permissible.  We are never to call sin “good” or “okay.”  Because it’s not.  But what we can do is acknowledge the pain and injury it caused.  We can even verbalize this to the person who hurt us.  And then we can say, “I forgive you and will not hold this against you.”  

2) Forgiving someone is not always equivalent to the restoration of trust.  I’m thinking of extreme examples on this one, but as a therapist of 14 years I thought it was important to mention.  In our day to day lives, most often we will be able to rebuild trust (or set boundaries as needed- more on that one later), but there are some instances when trust is not safe or healthy.  For example, if someone has abused you in a physical, emotional, or sexual way, forgiveness is absolutely  essential to your healing process.  However, that does not mean it is wise to place yourself in a situation where that abuse could happen again.  

3) We must remember that we are forgiven by God.  Sometimes we struggle to forgive others because we think the hurt is too big to forgive- that is doesn’t deserve to be forgiven.  Which is precisely the point of forgiveness!  It is undeserved.  When I consider how unworthy I am of the forgiveness of the God of the universe I can’t help but think,  “Who am I then to withhold my forgiveness?”  I did nothing to earn Jesus dying in my place.  It was a free gift of love.  Remember, God in Christ forgives you.  Lean on this truth as you seek to forgive those who have wronged you.  And remember, we don’t have to do this in our own strength…in fact, we can’t!  Pray for the Spirit to grant you peace as you forgive; and as you forgive, you will be filled with more peace.

Pursuing Peace Part II: Relationship Mini-Series

Day 2:

Discernment in speech: “A time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak.”  Ecclesiastes 3:7

If you’re familiar with the late great Kenny Rogers then you likely know this popular refrain: You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run.  The Gambler was so wise.  There is indeed a time for everything, and this applies to how- and when- we engage with others.  This in turn correlates directly with our peace. 

As to the how, everything we say and do should be covered in grace and truth.  And let me be clear: we need both.  Speaking truth without grace will win over no one, and will only make us appear harsh and unloving.  Yet, grace without truth leads us to have relationships founded on shifting sand.  Jesus’ interactions with others was a perfect mixture of grace and truth.  So much so, that they could not be separated from one another.  As we read the words of our Savior, we can learn from and follow his great example.    

Then there’s the when.  Discernment is truly needed in this department!  With our spouses, children, and on social media, we have to carefully choose our battles.  As discussed above, in our homes both grace and truth must prevail.  But, there are times when we must discern what to make a topic of conversation and what we can let go of (at least for a time).  For example, if it’s a week I’m honing in on my daughter being responsible with putting away all the things she leaves scattered throughout the house,  I might choose to not also engage her in the battle of practicing the piano.  That battle can be fought another week.  

And now a special word about the when of social media.  I know it is beyond tempting to comment on posts we disagree with.  We want to tell people how wrong they are and how right we are!  We get emotionally charged and want to really lay it out there.  Snarky, sarcastic comments flow freely in our minds ready to be unleashed with every scroll.  But man, this does not lead to peace.  That momentary satisfaction will likely only result in more discord and warring.  A few weeks ago, I was in the beginning stages of writing part I of Pursuing Peace, and I was so tempted to make a comment on someone’s post.  I initially resisted the temptation but then scrolled back up to go for it.  But then I thought, “Seek peace and pursue it.”  I had to ask myself, “Is making this comment on facebook going to lead me to peace with this person? To peace within myself?”  The answer was a hard “no.”  So, I left it.  

For sure, there will be times and places to have hard discussions about difficult topics.  Pray for the Spirit to give you discernment as to when to boldly speak with truth and grace, and to know when to be silent. 

Pursuing Peace: Part 2 Relationship mini-series

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

In my previous post I talked about the idea of pursuing peace by pursuing a mind governed by the Holy Spirit.  As we seek Him through prayer, worship, and the Word, we will be filled with His fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.  All of these are invaluable as we are also called to live at peace with one another.  

Let me just say, this is hard stuff.  Sometimes it’s much more pleasant to focus on the vertical relationship- to fill our hearts and minds with God’s truth and love.  How easy it would be to just stop there!  But as we know that faith without works is dead (James 2:17), we know that it is not enough to just know and feel the peace of God, but to live it out- that is, to live peaceably with others.  

While this blog series is certainly not an exhaustive list of how to pursue peace in relationships, here are 6 truths to apply when interacting with family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and even random strangers on social media. 

Day 1:

Refrain from Gossip: “A perverse person stirs up conflict, a gossip separates close friends.” Proverbs 16:28

It seems so innocent.  You hear something interesting about someone and you just want to share it with someone else- what could be so wrong with that?  Let me assure you…plenty.  Part of our sinful nature is to judge, scrutinize, and take pleasure in the misfortunes of others.  Sadly, we often get a small dose of guilty pleasure when we partake in gossip.  But oh, that’s so ugly, isn’t it? 

I don’t know about you, but whenever I engage in gossip it leaves me feeling full of both regret and disappointment in myself.  There is definitely not peace within, and I have done nothing to build up my relationship with the person who was the subject of my gossip.  The Bible repeatedly warns us to refrain from gossip and to use our words for the edification of others.  Committing to the use of only helpful words of encouragement is a step in the direction of living in peace.   When tempted to gossip or use hurtful words, ask yourself, “Are the words I’m about to speak helpful to pursuing peace with others?”  Above all, pray for the Spirit to guard your lips and to give you an increasing measure of self-control.

Pursuing Peace: Part I

During this year’s summer vacation it became more apparent than ever that I had turned a corner.  And honestly, it’s one I never thought I would see.  Ever since the start of junior high cross country conditioning in August of 1994 I have been a runner.  That means for every overnight trip I have ever taken during the last 26 years, my running shoes have gone with me without fail.  My husband of 16 years will vouch that running has been part of my agenda on every trip we’ve taken!  (This also means that for 16 years he has been annoyed by the way I tie my shoes to the strap of my duffel bag.)       

So imagine my surprise on the first morning of vacation when my husband asked if I was going for a run and I responded by saying, “Oh. No. I hadn’t even thought of that.”  The idea of a morning run had legitimately not crossed my mind.  But you know what did?  Silence.  Coffee.  Reading a devotional.  Over the last several months this has become the desire of my early morning heart.  

At first I thought this shift seemed strange, but it occurs to me now that the end result of both activities is the same- peace that comes from communion with God.  

In those quiet morning hours there is a calmness that is unlike any other part of the day; for whether I’m running the familiar roads of my hometown or reading at my kitchen table with a cup of coffee, my attention is turned to the things of God.  Peace ensues. 

Like many things in life, peace does not magically appear out of thin air.  Nor is it only experienced in the absence of trials, or limited to those glorious early morning hours.  How is it then that tranquility and freedom from disturbance is achieved?  After all, that’s the million dollar question, right?  Everyone wants to know how to have peace. 

Thankfully, Psalm 34:14 provides some great direction.  The Psalmist writes, “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”  I love that peace is hidden there amongst the verbs: seek and pursue.  These are action words.  And in them we have an open invitation to peace.   

When I think about seeking and pursuing, my mind is drawn to intentionality and diligence.  This was certainly true in my life as an athlete.  Whenever I was going after a goal, my focus was singular.  Every choice I made was made in light of that one pursuit.  

Imagine how our lives would be different if we sought peace with intentionality!  Only, first we need to be clear about the ultimate source of the peace we are to pursue.  Romans 8:6 states, “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”   

The Spirit of God.  This is Who we are to actively seek if we desire true peace.  We are to pursue the Spirit.  

So what does this look like?  How is this theological principle displayed in a practical sense? Let’s look at 3 powerful avenues: prayer, worship, and the Word. 

Prayer.  This is simply a time to talk to God- to praise and thank Him for His goodness and love, to surrender burdens, to bring forth repentance, and to present requests.  Although I have designated certain times of day to prayer (while my head is still on my pillow in the morning, for instance),  I love that prayer can happen any time, anywhere.  God always hears us and He delights in the prayers of His children.  No prayer is ever wasted, no matter the length. 

So how do we seek the Spirit through prayer?  I’ve found the easiest way is to simply ask.  Lately, I’ve been praying for the Spirit to fill me with wisdom and discernment.  God’s Spirit provides counsel and guidance, and I pray for this in increasing measure.  I also pray for the Spirit to fill me with passion for God’s Truth, which is His very Word.  When we ask God to fill us with more of His Spirit, He certainly will!  I strongly encourage you to pursue the Spirit in this way as you pray.

Worship.  Anything we give as an offering to God is worship, and this can look like many things!  We can offer our abilities, talents, and money as worship.  Worship also looks like the intentional offering of our affections and adoration.  For me, this often takes the form of music that is focused on the character and  promises of God.  Engaging my heart and mind through praise fills me with peace given by the Spirit.  Consider how incorporating worship into your daily routine might also increase your desire for the Spirit- and in turn, fill you with peace.   

The Word.  Psalm 119:160 says, “The entirety of your Word is Truth.”  Consider also the words of Hebrews 4:12: “The Word of God is living and active.”  The Spirit continuously moves through the pages of the Bible as we read, teaching and convicting.  This is why reading the Bible is a constant source of refreshment and edification!  I have also found the more I know God’s truth, the more my love for Him increases (which in turns leads my heart to worship).  As you read the Word, pray for the Spirit to reveal to you the truth of Scripture so that you can know more of Him. 

This is the foundation of life and peace- a mind governed by the Spirit.  Although God generously bestows His Spirit upon us and freely gives us peace, we are also invited to seek and pursue.  Let us intentionally and diligently seek the Spirit through prayer, worship, and the Word.     

Reflection Questions: 1) What are you seeking and pursuing right now?  2) What has been the result of this pursuit?  3)  How might your life be different if you intentionally pursued peace through the Spirit?  

*Part II will focus on pursuing peace through the Spirit in our relationships…stay tuned!

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