A Letter to Anxiety ("Screwtape Letters" Inspired)

We’ve been exploring the habits of peace, the posture of peace, and many other principles to help us overcome anxiety. I hope you'll take some time to read or review.

As a part of the "Baffling Peace" series, I thought I’d add a creative work inspired by C.S. Lewis’ book the  “Screwtape Letters” to expose the ways our own anxious habits can be exploited by our spiritual enemies:

screwtape.jpg

To: Anxiety

Anx, your last strategy with Marta was a complete failure. Working through her loud aggressive neighbor to trigger her just made her pray for him! And not only that she sought the support of her church’s entire prayer team! We lost so much intel on that mission and were subject to be punished. I'm confident you learned your lesson so I won't talk more about this. In fact, I've written to congratulate you on the success of your counter-mission.

Well done! 
Your subtle and nuanced strategy to use social media, news, television and her own phone against her as a cover? Brilliant! The constant disturbances and overwhelming amounts of information did well to stretch her patience thin and weaken her spiritual immune system to your presence. She caused you little trouble in that state of mind. Less prayers that’s for sure. And good job waiting for her physical immune system to also wear out before prompting the tax agency to send the audit paperwork. Of course her taxes were legitimate but the audit sure did cause a scare. Your timing was impeccable! Her outburst was all you needed to get the foothold for the promotion: “Legal Ground Status” and all its great rewards! How are you liking your first host home so far? Nice huh? You’ll never wanna work from the outside again, trust me.

It is now my duty to help you in your mission to steal her health, kill her joy, and systematically destroy all her relationships to render her ineffective to our Enemy’s work.

Now Anx, I don’t have to remind you of your task to influence her to worry about big and small things from her past and future. It is in your nature to do this very thing. So instead let me warn you of a few dangers you’ll want to avoid along the way:

Prayer will invite our Destroyers. Like I said, you've learned your lesson from the recent fiasco. But you still haven't learned exactly how devastating Marta's prayer weapons can be to your tactics. Thankfully, neither has Marta. Keep it that way. Distraction will remain a helpful ally. So shut down any propaganda related to daily prayer, solitude retreats, living on less and fasting from food and media to fast to prayer and acts of service. Blech! Continue to leverage your partnership with Distraction to keep disrupting her so you’ll be able to do your work without our Enemy’s voice or her prayers disrupting you. The present tense is far too close to our Enemy’s presence, so keep throwing her out of it. This won’t be too hard, our Enemy’s voice is as gentle as a whisper and loud distractions come naturally to Americans.

The Enemy’s Book is a sharp weapon. Of course you have learned by now that His great book counters your mission at every point, so the best you can do is pervert its message or promote other less threatening reading materials. If she refuses to listen to you, whatever you do, distract her from applying it. If she persists past your attempts, resort to hyping up all the rules and traditions in her mind until she’s blind to the true point. If you can do this, it will be easy to influence her to worry about appearing religious in the eyes of others. Go ahead, make her into a legalistic Pharisee and earn yourself a throne! But from what I read about in Marta’s file this would take years to achieve. So initially, be realistic and simply attempt to ruin her from reading the Book for herself.

Community is a massive threat. You have barely tasted the dangers of community because Marta’s managed to stay largely uninvolved and inconsistent at her church. Of course, if you can, devise a strategy to influence her not to go to church at all. Tempt her to stay up too late on Saturday, strike with all your weapons right before service, partner with Bitterness or Judgment to tempt her to resent someone who attends there, or partner with Shame and convince her she doesn’t belong. This work will pay off; if she doesn’t go to church and listen to that Book or relate to those praying people, you’ll have even more room to tempt and accuse. If that doesn't work, attempt to divert her to go to the church where your cousin Fear-of-Man is worshiped. You'll have lots of room to work in that atmosphere. 

Praise is your poison. If your host, Marta, worships and offers thanksgiving to our Enemy, you’ll feel the pain. Remember what happened to Envy when his host started to sing in adoration of our Enemy every day, before and after work? Agck! Envy was so badly beaten. I’ve never seen an ally so devastated. So do what you do best: magnify her troubles so they appear bigger than our Enemy and you won’t have to deal with her worshiping Him. As long as she stands in awe of her fears, you won’t have to feel the shrieking pain of her praise. And Anx, I can’t exaggerate this: the pain is terrible! So do whatever you can do to keep her away from expressing gratitude to our Enemy or any of His creatures. But word of caution to you: be careful not to strike too hard or you’ll push her to get help. So be subtle. Slow and steady now...this is a marathon, not a sprint.

I’ve recently got word that one of your host’s friends is reading a book called, “Spiritual Warfare”. I’ve already called Bitterness to help you destroy that relationship before her friend has the chance to talk to her about what she’s reading. I’ve found a couple books that deny our existence and argue against our ability to exploit those who belong to our Enemy. Promote these resources, those might be your best tools for long term prevention. Trust me, you don’t want her learning about you. She can’t know that her own anxiety has been exploited by us. But if she does start to suspect you, just influence her to worry about it. Make her feel like a powerless victim. If she realizes the authority she has over you, you will be evicted. 

So again, good job earning that promotion. I know you’ll enjoy the benefits of having a host home. But, before you get too eager, remember, we already lost her eternally. You can’t do much about that, don’t bother. The blood of our Enemy’s son protects her so your efforts to move up the ranks to live in the suite of her spirit are futile. Our time grows shorter, so redeem what time we have left, stay focused, and spend your efforts towards your mission to influence and immobilize her mind, will, and emotions.

In this letter, I've begun to warn and advise you in regards to the dangerous weapons available to Marta. But I have yet to tell you of your greatest weapon: Me. Without me, her shield will snuff you every single time. But with me, ohhh I can help you achieve all you need to keep Marta from the realization that she is radically loved. Together we can bury who she really is and what she can really do against us. Together we can blind her to the hope of her calling. Together we can dull her senses to the rich access she has to our Enemy's presence. And while we can't win the war, together we can thwart her from winning many battles. So report back to me daily. Let's keep her on the sidelines of our Enemy’s Great Commission, we don’t need anymore trouble down here.

Your mentor,

Doubt

A Heart Full of Yeses

On March 6th 2017 I was talking to Jesus in my prayer journal. As I quieted my heart to listen to how He might respond to me, this message came to the ears of my heart. Will you examine this with me and hold fast to the good? (1 Thess. 5:21) Do you hear His still small voice in this as loudly as I do?:

<<I give My church the authority of an ambassador, the keys of the kingdom on earth. Your prayers agreeing with Mine allow My will to freely flow from heaven to earth. This is one aspect of what is means that My will come to be done “on earth as it is in Heaven.” Remember, “If My people pray”? I am not unwilling. But are My people willing to partner with Me; to join Me in My mission and build up the kingdom? I serve a lazy people who wish for Me to do all the work. And I have, it is finished, the foundation is laid. But I go to prepare a place; that place is a people and part of completion is their cooperation. Maturity only comes as My people learn to co-operate with Me in agreeance. This is why I said to go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them and teaching them to obey all I have commanded them. My presence is with you to accomplish much. I just need a body with a heart full of “yeses” and I can move mountains, highways, Red Seas and Jordans. This is My will and My way. When no one says “yes,” I do. The Word of God, the Amen, the Yes Lord, put on flesh and dwelt among men to move sin and death to make a way in the desert...to make a way to the Father, the Holy of Holies. I am the Way. Follow My Way. Say “amen” to the Amen. Come with Me and I will show you great and mighty things!>>

Thrive

As the sun rose over the lush forest valley, a hidden fountain sang its Morning Song over all the living things:

Come to the fountain
Oh come to the stream
Come to the waters
Oh come and be free

Thrive woke to the tune and stretched out her branches, “Another lo-o-vely day,” she said.

She stooped to greet the droplets at her toes, “Hello Dew, how do you do?”
Dew gleamed.

She lifted her leaves and waved, “Good morning Sun. It’s good to see you.”
Sun beamed.

She reached up to the sky, “Good morning Rainshower, would you be ever so kind?”
Rainshower bowed and poured out her favor.

“Why, thank you!” she cheered.

Every day Thrive greeted Dew, Sun, and Rainshower. And every day Dew, Sun and Rainshower greeted her back. Dew refreshed her roots, Sun warmed her leaves, and Rainshower washed her anew. Every day rang with the same gifts and gratitude, the same new mercies. And every day the hidden fountain sang the Morning Song over all the living things:

Come to the fountain
Oh come to the stream
Come to the waters
Oh come and be free

That is, until every day became one sad day.
On that day, the Morning Song still sang, but when Thrive greeted Dew, Sun and Rainshower, they did not greet her back.

“Rainshower! Oh Rainshower?” she called.

She waited.
And waited.

Night came, and then the morning.

“Oh Dew? Where are you?” she asked.

She waited
And waited.

Night came, and then the morning.

“Sun, dear Sun,” she sighed. “It’s so very hot, and I’m so very dry. Can you hide away a while?”

She waited.
And waited.

But Sun only shone hotter.

The dirt cracked under her feet. Her branches slumped. Her leaves withered.  
She wanted to cry, but no tears fell. She was dry inside, so very dry.

“There is no water in this dry desert land,” she groaned.

A voice came like a mist and sang a gentle tune, How can you be sure?

“Hello? Who’s there?” Thrive twisted her trunk, searching for the source of the mysterious melody.  She recognized that voice, she heard it every morning.

“I see that you are dry,” said the voice.

“Of course I’m dry. Rainshower is nowhere to be found. And Dew is all gone too.”

“Have you heard my Morning Song?”

“Oh I knew I recognized your voice! You're the one who sings the Morning Song, aren't you?"

"Every morning."

"But I don't understand. The waters all around have dried up and yet I still hear your song about coming to the waters. Dew is gone, Rainshower is empty, Sun is harsh and your Morning Song just reminds me that I'm so thirsty. It’s not fair.”

“Why haven’t you come, Thrive?”

“Come? Come WHERE?”

“To the waters, Thrive. Why haven’t you come the waters?”

“Well, how would I do that? I don’t see any water!”

“Come.”

Thrive paused, unsure.

“Your roots are light and loose now. You’ll find that you can lift them up and walk. Come with me to the waters.”

Real water? Could it be?  Hope began to rise within her but the thought of leaving the only soil she ever knew seemed too risky.  "I don't know," she whispered.

"You need water and I know where it is. Come now, let's go."

Thrive was dying of thirst. If she didn't get water soon, would she survive? Desperate, she flexed her roots and shook the old soil to the ground. “Okay, I’m not so sure about this, but here I am. What next?” she asked.

“Right this way,” the kind voice said.

She lifted her dry roots and stomped one in front of the other. She trekked under the moonlight, over the dusty earth, until the hills began to glow in twilight. The sun rose over the dry forest valley and the hidden fountain began to sing over all the living the things. The song resounded louder than ever:

Come to the fountain
Oh come to the stream
Come to the waters
Oh come and be free

I'm getting close, she thought. She quickened her pace and chased the tune until the sound of a rushing stream began to harmonize with the melody.

“Water!” she gasped.

The fountain surged with white rapids into a beautiful blue stream. The strong current cut a deep narrow path through the territory and overflowed on the shoreline.

“Welcome." This time the voice came straight from the source of the stream, the fountain.

Thrive stood in awe.

“You’ll have all the water you need in this place. Come, settle in on this shore, be nourished by my voice, take in the waters of my words every morning and every night.”

She stretched out her roots, dug them into the cool rich soil, and guzzled in the waters.
Her trunk softened, her branches lifted and her leaves grew back - thriving.

We might be like Thrive, good at celebrating goodness when it’s good, but tired and confused when good gifts run dry. We were made for a fountain deeper, truer, and more steadfast than our circumstances. His name is Jesus and His words are life.

Let’s take a minute to read slowly, even if you've read this before - pause and take in His words now:

"Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers."
-Psalm 1:1-6

"This is what the Lord says: 'Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.'”
-Jeremiah 17:5-8

#bafflingpeace,

 

 

                                                                          
 

Photo credit: Weejohnmurray, "Stream" at Flickr: http://bit.ly/2l9v0h7 Used with permission.

Six Habits of Peace: How I Broke Up with Anxiety

Let me tell you a story about a girl named “Rhythm” who lived with a guy named “Anxiety”. They lived in a loft in the middle of a city in the state of Mind. I’ll start the action during their evening meal, here we go:

Rhythm inhaled another bite of Adrenaline Alfredo.

“I cooked up some Cortisol Crisp for dessert,” Anxiety shouted from the kitchen.

“Thanks, Anx. I’ll eat it while I finish up my work in the office,” she replied.

She scoped up the last spoonful while she sent off the final report and crossed off the last item on her to-do list. Burrrpp. Anxiety’s cooking gave her heartburn, but it always helped her get stuff done.


He is such a good roommate, she said to herself. He considered her best interest; warned her about potential peril and protected her from possible problems at every turn. He numbed her sad emotions and kept her hopes safe-locked under reality. He served her well, she thought, though she admitted some of his habits were a bit odd...

Every night he played her a broken record of her brokenness and every night she studied the lyrics so she should not, would not, could not repeat the broken. But that broken record only ever knew how to repeat itself.

Anxiety cataloged her every fear for years. When his records grew so large she lost room to store precious things, like love, joy and hope, she began to moan. And when her friends stopped calling due his compulsive habit of over managing her calendar, even Anxiety heard her groan.

Rhythm was gasping for air. Restless and stuck. She tried to imagine a new life but struggled; her imagination only knew how to plan for the worst. In the searching however, a brave new decision struck her mind like a gong and the ring of freedom resounded between her ears. Rhythm reached for a pen and wrote it down in big bold letters:

“I’m moving out.”

She held it high and read it aloud, “I’m done with Anxiety, I’m moving out...today."  

She smiled...then bit her lip and frowned. Hmmm, but where will I go?  
After some research she found an advertisement online:

“Peace’s Palace: Located at Philippians 4:8 Blvd. Fully furnished, wide open floor plan with open picture frame windows overlooking streams of hope and new mercy’s sunrise. Peace welcomes all who share her love for the Prince of Peace to live in her quarters rent free as long as tenants are willing to part with their old furniture to embrace her very own decor: truth, goodness, honor, right-living, purity, love, and everything excellent and worth praising.”

She rolled her eyes, “Pfft I might be tired of Anxiety but I’m not naive.”

"Peace's Palace? Rent free? Yeah right!"

* * *

Can you relate to Rhythm?

I can.

I lived in the habitation (a.k.a. habits) of Anxiety...though I didn’t know it at the time. I nicknamed him “realistic,” “problem solving,” “diligence,” and other euphemisms that kept me steeped in denial. But the truth? Well the truth was I spent a great deal of my time dwelling on the should-of, could-of, and would-of’s of my past, calculating what was missing from my present and trying to avoid the inevitable mishaps of my future. By grace, God helped me realize I was living with Anxiety (not “reality” or “diligence”) and that this chump was not worth the expensive rent...at all.

How kind is God that He commands me “not to be anxious for anything”? How thoughtful of Him to insist I break up with Anxiety and finally let go? How generous is He to invite me to live in His presence of Peace with all the new furniture of truth, honor, right-living, purity, and love?

Jesus paid the rent in full long ago. He signed the paperwork in His blood and wrote my name on the deed.  Peace’s palace was as good as mine, but I couldn’t begin to experience the benefits of living there until I abandoned Anxiety’s cramped corners and actually made the move into the habits of peace.

Once I took the plunge, I found Peace’s Philippians 4:8 advertisement lived up to all it promised. More even. And let me tell you, the freedom freaked me out at first. Feeling light felt weird. I realized that I liked the freedom and that made me nervous. I didn’t know Peace could be a permanent dwelling place and feared I’d be kicked out. But Peace remained generous as long as I remained under the roof of its habits. This amazed me.

Hmmm. You don’t believe me. That’s okay, I get it. I didn’t think it was possible either. So let me show you what it’s like. How about a tour around my new place? Come on in, make yourself at home:
 

Photo taken by Denard Jones (otherwise known as "Poppie" around here)

Photo taken by Denard Jones (otherwise known as "Poppie" around here)

1. Truth: Instead of mulling on lies about my identity, now I savor the truth about who God made me to be as an image bearer of the Creator. I turned from calling myself names and began to embrace that I’m adored and invited by God to participate in His royal love-work on earth as it is in heaven. I’m learning to stop looking for proof of my worth in my actions and am now free to focus on Christ’s actions on my behalf. His empty tomb is proof enough. Look with me, the view is awesome.

2. Honor: Instead of rehashing the disappointing dishonorable things about the people around me, I learned to rediscover the honor in people. Many make this rediscovery easy, some make it excruciating, but God makes it possible. I am learning to join Him in His vision of people’s worth while I also learn to magnify the honorable acts of God in spite of humanity’s mess. When I started to look with Him, my perspective enlightened and those streams of hope snapped into focus.

3. What is right: Instead of making endless mental notes of what is going wrong in the world, and in my world, I now sketch lists of what is right and what is being made right. There’s something powerful about writing it down. And when it’s hard to write about what's right in horizontal places, I dwell on the vertical righteousness of Christ...endless material there. 

4. Pure: Instead of compulsively measuring my motives to determine whether or not they are pure, I take delight in gazing upon the purity of my Savior. I’ve learned to rush under the shower of God’s forgiveness to receive His purity so I can walk in Him anew. Peace’s palace is clean, the air is fresh. Take a deep breath, it’s pure freedom up in here, can you smell it?

5. Lovely: Instead of having imaginary arguments with others in my mind after a disagreement, now I envision reconciliation - yes, I actually daydream about it. Love always forgives. Forgiveness is a quicker reflex and blessing those who curse me is now a joy. It felt awkward at first, but have a seat with me here long enough and you’ll find it’s your favorite seat in the house too. Healing hastens in this loveseat and ohhh it’s so strangely comfortable.

6. Good, Excellent and Praiseworthy: Instead of choking on media reports that expose people’s faults, I inhale inspiring stories. The Scriptures, biographies, nonfiction, fiction, articles and movies that help me see the good in life are a part of my weekly diet. With fresh eyes then, I’m able to keep my head up when I read the headlines. I’m learning to dig for what God had in mind when He made the world and reported that His work was good. I’m learning to taste and see His goodness everywhere, in the mundane and even the muddy. He is still a good God; I believed that in my head when I lived with Anxiety, now I believe it deep in my guts. God is good.

* * *

Okay now, back to our gal Rhythm. Would you believe it? She called Peace and made the big move!

Anxiety fought to keep her with him. He called multiple times every day trying to get her back, “I’ll keep you safe, come home,” he grovelled. “Peace’s Palace is a mirage. You can’t trust that so-called Prince of Peace to protect you, everything will go wrong without me! You’re so dumb, you really believe you can stay on top of things without my help? What will people think of you? What will they say when you’re late?...when you trip?...when you lose?”

She struggled at first to hang up when he’d call, but she found strength in the palace of Peace. Now whenever Anxiety rings she doesn’t even bother to answer. She lives free in a brand new rhythm - a wide open space where she enjoys new mercy’s sunrise every morning.

What about you?
Where does your attention go each day?
Where does your thought-life make itself at home?

Are you tolerating the poor living conditions of Anxiety?
Is today the day you choose the habits of peace?

If so, pack a prayer and move out today...

"God of Peace, I admit I’ve made anxiety my home. I confess it is a shabby place to dwell, and is not the safe place I hoped it to be and I want out. I want You. I abandon the habits of anxiety. Thank You for inviting me to move into Your dwelling of peace to remain with You. Renew my mind and refresh my perspective. Refurnish my focus and help me embrace all the habits of peace that You’ve granted to me by Your kindness. I make myself at home with You, Prince of Peace. Please make yourself at home in me. Yes, be Your full self, God of Peace, right in the center of my mind and heart. In Jesus name, Amen."

#BafflingPeace,



                                           
 

Thanksgiving Countdown

Saturday October 17th we begin a 40 day countdown to Thanksgiving Day.

Instead of a good ole paper chain, we fashioned a make-shift tree in our dining room. Each day we plan to lift one leaf off the tree to write one thing we are grateful for on it before we relocate it to the bottom of the trunk. By day 40 we will have a bare tree and a pile of grateful leaves to read during our Thanksgiving feast. 

I free-handed the tree and our kids painted and colored leaves from a template I found after googling "leaf template". We taped everything up with painter’s tape and hope it's still standing tomorrow. The little chalkboard sign is my favorite part, squeal... 

Will you join us? Here are two ways:

1. Make a countdown tree of your own. Enjoy it at home or at the office. Send photos! I want to see your creations!

and/or…

2. Comment with one new thing that you are grateful for on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag: #ThanksgivingCountdown

                                


 

P.S. Giving thanks has been scientifically proven to elevate personal happiness and overall well being. Join us and get your happy on ;)

Open-handed

My five year old strained her eyes in pain and raised her hand to show me where it hurt.

“Ouchie, did you get a splinter?” I asked.

DeCelie nodded.

“I’m sorry sweetie. Mommy has tweezers at home that will get that right out.”  My words were meant to comfort, but I realized as soon as they left my mouth she wouldn’t agree...

Her tears welled...then wailed.
It was a long drive home.

 

She shuffled in the house tear stained. I offered her a warm water and baking soda hand bath to draw out the splinter gently. However, the thought of that was even more intimidating to her than the tweezers so I simply told her to let me know when she was ready. As soon as I started to find something else to do she found her brave resolve.

“Okay, wait wait...I’m ready,” she said choking back her fears.

She held her hand out to me and her muscles tensed. Just as I moved in with the tweezers - she snapped her right hand over her ailing left hand to block my efforts. Her eyes widened and flailing screams of “owie’s” and “ouchies” swallowed the air.

I cringed with empathy. Her efforts to protect herself had backfired, now the splinter was smashed down even deeper into her skin. I waited for the throbbing wails to dissipate before whispering...

“Sweetie, you gotta trust that momma does not want to hurt you. I only want to remove what is hurting you. I will do so as gently as I know how...you just need to trust me. Keep your hand open wide. Hold still, sweetheart. Let me help.”

My words came out sounding a lot like times in my life when the Spirit of God has reminded me...

The massive splinters of the heart wedge in deep.

We were meant to be whole but these splinters divide and disrupt. We know we need our Heavenly Father so we hold our hearts up.

“It hurts, Lord,” we cry.

He reminds of His word - sharp and incisive to remove the division between soul and spirit.

He reminds us of His word to extract bitterness and mend with forgiveness.

He reminds us of His word to take complaints and balm up with praise.

He reminds us of His word to steal anxieties and salve with peace.

He reminds of His Word who wore flesh, so that we could wear His heavenly healing. Jesus.

But... ohh how we wail!

Deep down we know that living with our heart-splinters will lead to a deadly infection, but we still try to escape the pain of their removal. Afraid, we try to protect ourselves only to find that we only know how to drive our pains in deeper.

One way or another, sooner or later, we all learn that our every effort away from the Lord is self-sabotage.

By grace we need to learn His way...

This time before hovering the tweezers over DeCelie’s hand, I demonstrated on my own hand what I’d be doing to help. And after this example she found her exhale, held out her hand, palm up, and received the tweezers.

No self-protective maneuvers.
No screams. No flailing.
Tense...but willing.
Open handed.

Demonstrations make all the difference…

At the cross, Jesus demonstrated His love for us.

He opened His hands wide, palms up, and received the nails to remove our sin.

“It is done,” he cried.

Because of His demonstration of love for us on that cross, we can learn the way of trust.
Because He took on our pain to take it to the grave, we can see that He is for us, not against us.
Because He died, we can die to self-protection and live in His protection.

Tense...but willing.
Open handed.

I held the tweezers up to the light to show DeCelie that the splinter had been removed. Her lips curved across her face rejoicing that it was out...that it was done.

Amen.
It is done.

So may it be done in our lives - yes, may His already finished work, be completed in us.

Will you pause 5 minutes to rest “open-handed” and thoughtfully consider these questions?...

  1. What is one “splinter” in your heart right now that God desires to remove with His love?

  2. Are you guarding yourself from His hand of grace that seeks to remove it? If so how? Why?

  3. How does the truth of God’s loving demonstration at the cross assure you of His heart for you in that matter?

Are you ready to open your heart and let Jesus apply His work at the cross to your need today?

Grace & Peace,

 

                                     
 

 




Photo credit: Amrit. "Hands Open". Used with permission: http://bit.ly/1Ix0gLH


Twirl Your Anxiety into Peace

Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing....Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.
— Ann Voskamp
“Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I've ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing.... Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.” ― Ann Voskamp

I made a wrong turn and sighed. My jaw stiffened. I was already running a few minutes late, this wasn’t the day for detours. As I looked for a place to turn around I saw her. She wore a yellow beanie and a crimson red skirt and was literally twirling along the sidewalk as she walked. Her red skirt floated with the graceful momentum. 

She sure wasn’t in a hurry.

At the sound of our car approaching, I assumed she’d snap back to an adult self-consciousness. But as we passed her she proved unconcerned and actually began skipping. Her child-like joy could not be quenched.

Delighted by her delight, I kept spying on her in the rear view mirror. She wasn’t listening to music and while I admit I suspected it at first, it was clear she wasn’t high on a substance. But she was certainly high...high above the grey sighing clouds above.

Her journey was light. Her burden was easy.
Then I remembered.
In Christ, so was mine...

Yea, I was running a little late - (shrug). Under my heavy sigh, I guess I was concerned what others might think if I was tardy. But I couldn’t change being late and I couldn’t change how others might react to that...I could, however change my perspective.

So I followed the lady in the yellow hat’s lead and began to delight in the journey. I regained God-consciousness. And I began to notice His creation - all the vibrant colors around me...the fiery orange-pink trees, the yellow leaves carpeting the road, and the grass that appeared even greener in the muted morning light. I sighed again...this time, releasing angst to inhale peace. This was a sigh of thanksgiving...a blissful sigh to delight in all that God has given.

And all this beauty?

Well, I almost missed it.

* * *

Take a moment to pause and learn the lesson from the lady in the yellow hat...

  • Describe what might be under the small sighs that weigh down your perspective today.
  • What can you be grateful for and enjoy, even now...right where you are at today?


Enjoy the journey,
 

                                                            
 


p.s. (Photo Credit: Stanley Zimney, "Leaves in Bokeh" at Flickr, http://bit.ly/1AEkoul. Used with permission. Text and layer added.)

Anxious? Practice Peace Like This...

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:6-7

Thought I’d take some time here to practice this verse out in some of my own situations…

SITUATION 1:
I sign up for the #write31daychallenge, a national blogger-ma-jiggy that challenges participants to post everyday for 31 days straight on the same topic. The moment I realize I will need to back down from posting daily in order to rightly prioritize family time and maintain a healthy balance, I notice my anxiety levels raise. Ironically, my #31day topic? Peace. And thus this situation was a perfect opportunity to practice all that I have written so far...

PRACTICE PEACE IN PRAYER:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and..."

  • "Petition": Father, I see it’s best to say “no” to writing and editing today to give my health and family proper attention. My pride can’t handle backing down from a challenge. So please carve out my pride, Lord, and help me walk in humility.
     
  • "With Thanksgiving": Thank You Lord for a family that desires my time and attention. Thank You that I can still finish all 31 days of the writing challenge...31 different days of the week...but nevertheless. Thank You for giving me words to write, a reasonable amount of time to work, and a husband who encourages me forward in the process - he’s such a gift!
     

SITUATION 2:
All three kids are out with me at the grocery store - right before lunch and right before nap-time because (well, not even the need for milk could justify this risk) it just happened. Isaiah is already starting to make his strange growling/dinosaur noise as we enter the store. Anxiety begins to rise...


PRACTICE PEACE IN PRAYER:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and..."

  • "Petition":  Father I need a renewed sense of humor about this alien-like noise that comes out of my one year old. And God, please grant me grace in this moment to consider Your opinion of me as higher than all the strangers who might pass judgement on me and my boisterous bunch. And Lord, please help me share Your grace with my girls who will be more prone to arguing about who gets to help put the jam on the conveyor belt at check out...
     
  • "With Thanksgiving": Thank you that I don’t have to raise and milk a cow to get milk. Thank you for the convenience of a grocery store. Thank You for a car, three car seats that fit and gas to get here.
     

SITUATION 3:
I wake up and look at the clock. It is 8am. I blink with astonishment.The kids usually wake me up by 7am. But here I am...up at 8am and everyone else is still sound asleep. What good news! Then I remember it is Tuesday and suddenly it is bad news. M.O.P.S. is today! I look forward to M.O.P.S., but with the late wake up, I only have 45 minutes to get all four of us breakfast-fed, bathed, dressed and out of the house! Anxiety begins to rise...


PRACTICE PEACE IN PRAYER:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and..."

  • "Petition": Father, (exhale), You know I do not need to worry about whether or not my hair is a hot mess and the kid’s teeth are all brushed before we go. But You know I’m more than kinda worried about that right now. I need You to once again take the approval of mankind from the pedestal of my heart. 
     
  • "With Thanksgiving": Thank You Lord for the extra sleep. I feel good. Thank You for waking me in time to go. Thank You Lord that I even know to go...for bringing Jessica into my life to invite me to M.O.P.S. last month. I’m so thankful for the new moms I’m getting to know and the time we have on Tuesdays to rest and grow together. Whether we’re looking cute or clunky, thank You for the resolve to go today to be blessed and be a blessing.
Photo credit: Andrea Laurita

Photo credit: Andrea Laurita

What are some recent anxiety-rising scenarios of your own?

Some might be somewhat trivial, like the above three situations. Some are more terrifying, like the day my life changed forever...

But no matter the issue, in “every situation” we can practice prayer in place of anxiety. Because of our peace with God
 our response can still rise above the rising anxiety to practice prayer and R.S.V.P. to the peace of God...

PARTICIPATE:
Let’s practice this week! Send me your own "situations" (tell me if you prefer to be anonymous)...I’d love to post some on the blog. Let's encourage each other.


#bafflingpeace,

 

                                                                  
                                                                 


Inspire Your Heart to Prayer

These quotations inspire my heart to fervent and more frequent prayer, so I thought I'd share. Now it's your turn...

ADD INSPIRATION:
What quotes on the topic of prayer, (thanksgiving, adoration, confession, repentance, request, etc...) would you add to this bunch? Please comment below to contribute, I'd love to hear from you. 

SHARE INSPIRATION:
Pin and/or share the banners created below. Pass on the love.

"Prayer does not fit us for the greater work, prayer is the greater work." -Oswald Chambers Inspire your heart to prayer. www.chereehayes.com

"Prayer does not fit us for the greater work, prayer is the greater work." -Oswald Chambers
Inspire your heart to prayer. www.chereehayes.com

"Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be turned into a burden." -Corrie Ten Boom Inspire your heart to prayer. www.chereehayes.com

"Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be turned into a burden." -Corrie Ten Boom
Inspire your heart to prayer. www.chereehayes.com

I think the reason we sometimes have the false sense that God is so far away is because that is where we have put him. We have kept him at a distance, and then when we are in need and call on him in prayer, we wonder where he is. He is exactly where we left him.
— Ravi Zacharias
We must begin to believe that God, in the mystery of prayer, has entrusted us with a force that can move the Heavenly world, and can bring its power down to earth.
— Andrew Murray
The fervor of the Holy Spirit makes my prayers dear to the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit conforms my prayers to his design. These truths are amazing and comforting. Because the Spirit works through my prayers to do his will, I do not have to know all the answers or emote just the right feeling for God to use me. I do not have to say everything right or do everything right to have all things turn out right. The Spirit takes these burdens from me. The Holy Spirit uses fallible prayers offered in faith to accomplish God’s perfect will.
— Bryan Chapell
My father prayed because he had a good Friend with whom to share the problems of the day.
— Corrie Ten Boom
For prayer is request. The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted.
— C.S. Lewis
Somehow proper prayer must put more trust in God’s will than in human wants; otherwise failure to get the things we want will force us to doubt either the power of prayer or the ability of God.
— Bryan Chapell
"Thanksgiving is worry's Kryptonite." -Matt Chandler Inspire your heart to prayer. www.chereehayes.com

"Thanksgiving is worry's Kryptonite." -Matt Chandler
Inspire your heart to prayer. www.chereehayes.com

"God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything He knew." -Tim Keller Inspire your heart to prayer. www.chereehayes.com

"God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything He knew." -Tim Keller
Inspire your heart to prayer. www.chereehayes.com

"It is good for us to keep some account of our prayers that we may not unsay them in our practice." -Matthew Henry Inspire your heart to prayer. www.chereehayes.com

"It is good for us to keep some account of our prayers that we may not unsay them in our practice." -Matthew Henry
Inspire your heart to prayer. www.chereehayes.com

Angry? 3 Reasons to be Gentle

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:5

God’s nearness is both our reason and our ability to be gentle.
I see three specific reasons that empower our ability…

 

1. THE CROSS
The word translated “gentle” here can also be translated as “reasonableness” (yes, I know I couldn’t believe it was a word either) or “considerate”. And I see it’s true...isn’t it reasonable to share God’s grace when I consider that my just eternal penalty for sin was buried in a tomb? If Justice Himself did not withhold His gentleness to me, His very executioner, how could I withhold my gentleness to others?

Because the Lord is near through His enduring work on the cross, we can make our gentleness evident to
in-laws, telemarketers, and our cranky children...

2. THE RETURN OF CHRIST:
The Lord is also near through His promised return...yes, He’s right at the door. Vengeance is the Lord’s. He will wage war against all the sin and death that have caused my tears. He will bring perfect and final peace. Justice will reign on the earth forever. So I don’t have to toss and turn, losing sleep striving against those who have wronged me. God’s got this.

Because the Lord is near through His promise to return, we can make our gentleness evident to our parents, our loud neighbors, and our angry bosses…

3. THE SPIRIT:
He knew that it would be hard to wait for His return. So before He ascended to heaven, He promised His spirit, the Helper - to comfort, guide, convict, remind and witness through all who believe. The Lord is now nearer than ever before...living in hearts, by grace through faith. The Spirit allows me to bear the fruit of gentleness. So now instead of fighting for my own kingdom’s defense, I have the power to seek His kingdom first. I can spend my energy living out my prayers for His will “to be done on earth as it is in heaven”. I do not need to burn calories trying to avenge myself. And when I forget and waste energy, God’s spirit patiently persists to teach me to rise above offenses.

Because the Lord is near through His spirit, we can make our gentleness evident to our siblings, forgetful waiters, and frantic drivers...

Angry? Three Reasons for Gentleness

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:5
 

“The Lord is near,” is both our reason and our ability to make His gentleness evident to all. So let’s remember...

1. Let’s remember His nearness in the cross. Do you see Jesus there bearing the bloody beams...patient in betrayal, silent before His accusers, and forgiving His executioners?

2. Let’s remember the nearness of His return. Do you see Him ready to ride on the clouds... to trumpet in triumph, to stand victorious over death, and to feast in joy with us forever?

3. Let’s remember His nearness in us...the Spirit of God, living in our hearts. Do you sense Him in the center of your being, reminding you of grace, convicting you to forgive, and shining through you with gentle mercies?

Let’s lean into His nearness and show the world by our gentle, reasonable, considerate manner that indeed Jesus died, He’s returning, and He peacefully reigns in our lives by His Spirit.

#bafflingpeace,

                                              

Photo Credit: Punch[Day2]* by Chapendra @ Flickr: http://bit.ly/1ywSNHE Text and layer mine. Used with permission.

Hurting? Find Healing

In pursuit of baffling peace in our relationships, we are looking at 4 practical principles present here in Philippians 4:2-5:

1. "Fighting? Seek Mediation if Needed"

2. “Resentful? Find the Common Ground”

Now let’s unpack,
3: “Hurting? Find Healing...

When I’m at odds with someone, rejoicing in the Lord is the last thing on my mind. But as I’m learning to put this practice in motion, I’m becoming more and more convinced that it may be the most effective antidote to relational discord. Let me show you what I mean…

Right after seeking help for Eudia and Syndyche, an exhortation to rejoice in the Lord followed with the reminder that the Lord is near appears. At first it seems disconnected to the relational advice before it. But as I looked closer I began to see it more as a prescription for healing their discord...and the relational discord I’ve faced too.

I have two huge reasons to rejoice even when I hurt or feel hurt in relationship:

1. Rejoice because the Lord is Lord.

In the middle of relational tension, small or big, I can get so wrapped up in with anxiety about who, how, why and what exactly went wrong that I can neglect to see the One who is right. God is right. The Lord always is. So instead of mulling over all that went wrong...or numbing over the pain of the relational tension...I’m learning to shift my perspective and spend some time rejoicing in God. Once I catch my mind stewing over a past conversation or some hypothetical situation, I’m learning to pause instead to count all the ways the Lord fills in the voids of that interaction. Recalling His faithful works and His loving character line by line frees my soul...slows down my anxious heart rate and eases my clenched jaw into a song of praise. The Lord is Lord and in Him there are millions of reasons to rejoice even when a relationship is all tangled up.

You and I have another huge reason to rejoice in the midst of conflict...


Hurting? Find Healing

2. Rejoice because the Lord is near...

COMING SOON

We were reminded before entering chapter Philippians 4, that we are citizens in Heaven, and that one day the King of Heaven will make all things new. Envy, competition, misunderstandings and false judgments - will be erased. Insecurity, past wounds, present fears, and false humility - will be thrown into hell. On that Day, all those who have believed will see Him as He is and be like Him - full of love. Perfect love. We will be with Him just as we were made to be - forever.

This is hope. See that ugly sin that drove our enemies to wound us? That is the same sin that God is committed to wiping away. He'll wipe away the tears that resulted from those sins too. Yes, God has the last word over all relational suffering. He will come to establish the healing of all the nations. This gives us reason to rejoice even now as we patiently await His return.
 

WITH US NOW

We rejoice that the Lord is near - coming soon to wipe out sin and death for good. But we also rejoice that He is even nearer...living in our hearts by His Spirit. One day we will be completely transformed when we see Him in His glory. But this day we are also being transformed by His Spirit from glory to glory.

We rejoice because the Spirit of God is in us to make that coming day apart of our every day. So we draw near to the Lord who is near. We seek His Spirit to fill us up so that we can bear witness to the beautiful relational unity that is ahead in the kingdom of God. For the “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” and...pause for effect, “...gentleness”...

...which leads to our next point, found in the next verse, Philippians 4:5: “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Later this week, we plan to dive into the implications of this verse to learn how we can be gentle in a world so full of rage.


But before we do, let’s practice all the above in a situation we might be hurt and anxious over right now…[click here.]

*Photo credit: Starlights_ "Johnny Cash Hurt" @ Flickr, http://bit.ly/1x1NKhb.
Text and layer mine. Used with permission.  

Hurting? Find Healing Part 2

This exercise is based on a principle my mentor taught me, the gist of which goes something like this: Release debtors. But to experience true healing, we must also receive the Lord’s wealth in place of the wound remaining. In other words, if we only forgive someone for lying to us without receiving that God is true and never lies to us -- the wound left by the lie will go on untreated.  Until we really believe what we have received, we will try to treat the wound in other ways - going to other “saviors” for wholeness. So instead, we learn to savor the Lord’s truth as salve for the lie-wound so that He can be all He is in that hurting place. The same goes for forgiving our own debts. Until we learn to receive the wealth of the Lord in place of our debts, we will continue to rely on other remedies to soothe our shame and regret.

I’ve personally found this exercise to be both humbling and healing, I wonder if you’ll find it helpful as well...

Hurting? Find Healing (exercise for relational hurts)

First, note a time when you were at odds with someone, maybe it’s a time that often haunts you with anxiety - or you can apply a tense relational situation that has recently occurred as you read on...

1. CONFESS & REJOICE: List all the ways that God is who you were not in that situation. (i.e. Confess: I didn't listen, I was defensive, I was bitter, and passive aggressive - Rejoice: but the Lord listens to us, God's Son is silent before His accusers, God is forgiving, God is slow to anger and forthright in His word to us.)

2. LAMENT & REJOICE: List all the ways that God is who they were not in that situation. (i.e. Lament: they were dishonest, self-serving and judgmental - Rejoice: but Jesus is the truth, humble servant and even though He has every right to judge He seeks to show mercy instead.)

3. RELEASE & RECEIVE: Now reflect on your list...

A. Release personal debts of sin. In their place, receive the truths of His character, savor them as you seek to believe in His sufficiency to take the place of your insufficiency.

B. Now release the specific sins of others. In their place, receive the truths of His character, savor them as you seek to believe His sufficiency can cover their insufficiency.

-Search for Scriptures that emphasize the aspects of His character that counter the specific wounds of your heart - meditate on those passages until they reach past your mind and fill your heart.

-Ask Him to heal and fill in the voids left by both your sin and the sins of others against you so that He might be found sufficient in place of all human deficiency.
* * *

This is my prayer...

"Lord I have not shown love like You. Thank You for Your forgiveness. Please make me more like You. Fill me with Your all sufficient love and character. Where others have wounded me, I release them to Your merciful judgement and care. Please, heal all my wounds with the truth that You are for me what no one else, myself included, could ever be...You are humble servant, merciful judge, quick to forgive and a kind listener. You are more than enough for me. I believe that...can you help my unbelief? Where I go to other people and things to fill in those gaps instead of to You and Your all sufficient friendship - oh Lord, forgive me. I surrender those things to You. Remind and guide my heart to rejoice in You alone. Let it be in Jesus Name. Amen."

#bafflingpeace,




 

                                                            

P.S. Much deserved photo credit: Starlights_ "Johnny Cash Hurt" @ Flickr, http://bit.ly/1x1NKhb. Text and layer mine. Used with permission.  

P.P.S This post was also shared with Holley Gerth and her friends, join them by clicking on the cute couch:

                                                          

Resentful? Find Common Ground

In pursuit of baffling peace in our relationships, we are looking at 4 practical principles present here in Philippians 4:2-5. We’ve already unpacked #1 "Seek Mediation" here, now let’s jump into the second one...

2. See Your Common Ground: 

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Philippians 4:2-4

We are reminded here that Euodia and Syntyche, while they seem to be emotionally divided, they are in fact spiritually connected together. They are “fellow workers”. They have both labored hard for the same God and the same gospel. Their names are written in the same book of life...by the same Author of it. These women were united to Christ. And whether they liked it or not, in Him, they were also united to one another. They are not the only ones who needed these reminders...

IMMORTALLY IMPORTANT:
Words like “fellow” aren’t exactly our go-to adjectives to describe someone we resent, but the Scriptures urge us to think of our brothers and sisters in this way. We are “fellow” - equally together and written beside one another in God’s great book of life. And get this...we are not only to regard our brothers and sisters as “fellow” but also as "more important" than ourselves (Philippians 2:3, found just a couple chapters before our passage of study).


C.S. Lewis put it this way in “The Weight of Glory”:

It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken...
— C.S. Lewis, Weight of Glory
...It is in light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit... Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.
— C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

 

Consider how this perspective would transform your words, actions, tone, and posture with someone you are less inclined towards right now. Imagine an interaction with a person whom you do admire...you know, someone you naturally see as more important that yourself. How do you speak to them? How do you listen to them? How do you treat them? How do you talk about them to others?  ...See how we defer to people that we regard (see, admire, perceive) as more important that ourselves? We are slow to speak and quick to listen. We are much more likely to give the benefit of the doubt. We go above and beyond common courtesies. We honor them in the presence of others. We boast of them behind their back.

Ohhh, God we need You - transform our hearts to regard all of our brothers and sisters as more important than ourselves. Help us to see how our common ground at the cross unites us and esteems our worth in You.

phonto (52).jpg

NO MATTER WHAT:
Even if the person you are in conflict with is not a believer - this principle still has some valuable traction. Likely, there is still some common ground you share with one another. Maybe you share common DNA, a common desire, or a common goal? ...I'm not sure, but no matter what - I am sure you most definitely share a common sin -- and this, if you’re like me, will only irritate you further until you see that your common sin leads also to a shared need...a need that was met by God’s extraordinary grace. When we stand at the cross, our societal standing in the world is no matter. At the cross, we all deserve the same death...a death that Jesus mercifully took in our place. A trade that God in Christ generously extends to all who believe, no matter what they have done. Do our hearts so extend His grace toward others?

MADE IN GOD’S IMAGE
No matter the case, with whomever you share relational tension - it’s true that you also share a common Creator. We are made in His image and His image upon us, sustained even the greatest fall. So may we seek God’s creative perspective on the people He’s put in our lives. May we see His plan and desire for all. And may we share His heart of compassion for all...even and especially those who have hurt us most.

WE NEED HIM:
We simply cannot do this apart from God’s power - we need Him.
So let’s pray:

Father in Heaven, You created us in Your image. We fell from its truest reflection in our being. Great was the fall. The brokenness we see in the mirror and in each other is blinding. We cannot see. Thank You for sending Jesus, Your perfect reflection, to pick up the broken pieces and recreate us. Continue Your work in us. Renew our eyes to see as You see. Enlighten the eyes of our hearts to perceive co-worker, boss, spouse, brother, sister, mother, father, in-laws, children, pastor, friend and enemy - with compassion. Help us to see the common ground we share as people created in Your image. Help us to see our brothers and sisters as “fellow” - united together by Your blood and written in the same book of Life. You overcame all that divided us on that cross. Let us stand in the victory You achieved. Grant us humility to embrace our true unity...to live as one, as we were made one in You.  We humble ourselves before You now, seeking Your healing sight to see as You see.
In Jesus Name, let it be.

Peace with Others

As we continue our exploration of the baffling peace of God, let's talk about peace in our relationships with others...

The anxiety that results from relational strife is just awful. And we know, 'cause we’ve all, in some way or another, been snubbed, lied to, accused...slighted, betrayed, misjudged, neglected or used. And (exhale)...we’ve also committed our share of similar offenses to others we wished we had loved instead. Both the wounds we bear and the wounds we inflict can keep us up at night - tossing and turning us out of peace.

Think about what causes you anxiety in relationships. If you’re like me, it usually has to do with the wrongs that have occurred within the relationship or in past relationships. The anxiety stirs over things I feel shame over...and things I fear might happen again. What if they lie to me like so-in-so did (fear)...or I'm such a bad friend, I'm sure I'll carelessly slight them again like I did that one time when...(shame)?  We already learned that shame and fear often hide behind anxiety...now I will propose that unaddressed shame and fears inevitably fester into harmful bitterness. 

What do you do when you feel afraid or ashamed? Usually the anxiety rises and people react in one of two ways:

"Flighters" usually barricade their hearts with self-protective passive walls. Silent treatments. Angry defensive self-talk. Avoidance.

While "Fighters", on the other hand, go into offensive mode, hurling self-protective angry cannons. Defensive speeches. And confrontational monologues.

Both "flighters" and "fighters" cultivate bitterness in their hearts through these strategies in an attempt to protect their own security. The irony, however, is that these strategies only manage to do the exact opposite. Bitterness does not protect us, instead it makes us vulnerable...

Ephesians 4:27 calls harbored bitterness a “foothold” - or in other words, an opportunity for the enemy of our souls to take further advantage in our lives. Let’s zoom in and unpack this word for a minute...

Peace with Others

FOOTHOLD:
A foothold, also known as a bridgehead, is a military term to describe the area near the end of a bridge (or any other area) that is controlled by an army. From the foothold, the army can strategize to move forward to attack. Once the enemy seizes a foothold in a battle they seize the advantage.

Can you see it? You’re spying from a far with your binoculars. You see the enemy advancing. They found a way into the city gates, they have set up camp (foothold) and are now plotting to steal, kill and destroy the entire village. Your first reaction is to sound the troops, to get the enemy off the ground before they can do any more harm. But is that the same way you respond when you spy out resentments, unforgiveness and other varieties of unresolved anger in your own heart?

No fight is against just flesh and blood. Our biggest enemy is an unseen one. When we harbor bitterness, we allow his forces to camp at the bridge of our hearts and minds. Our hearts and minds belong to Christ - we were bought by His blood, freed from fear and shame! We forget our freedom when we withhold applying the same blood of Christ to our enemies. When we harbor bitterness - our biggest enemy is allowed an inch. When we give him an inch...from there he’ll scheme to burn as many bridges in and through us as he’s allowed...yes, he’ll take a mile. Indeed, this is how the enemy manages to break down individuals as he breaks up families, friendships and churches. It’s arguably Satan's most common strategy to hurt God and God’s church.

No wonder the author “urges” unity. It is an urgent matter. So holy-alarmed, "fighters" and "flighters" take heed. Now when tension in a relationship threatens our security, may we lay down our self-protective-self-sabotaging defenses and pursue the protection of God's peace - the peace that "guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7). May we give no stance to the enemy by harboring bitterness. Instead we stand firm in the Lord by understanding the peace of God and sharing it by practicing His peace in our relationships. But how exactly...ya know, practically what does this look like?

I see four practical principles present here in Philippians 4:2-5. While these are by no means comprehensive, they are a great place to start…let's look at them one at a time:

1. Seek Mediation if Needed
2. Find Common Ground
3. Find Healing (part 1 and part 2)
4. Find Your Gentleness

Grace & Peace,


                                          
                                                          

Fighting? Seek Mediation

In pursuit of baffling peace in our relationships, we are looking at four practical principles present here in Philippians 4:2-5... (Peter piper, say that line 10x fast. Ha!)

We'll start with the first one today:

1. Seek Mediation if Needed: 

“I ask you also to help these women…” (Philippians 4:3a) 

In this context, over 2,000 years ago... Euodia and Syntyche were at odds and help was needed. In my context, on a weekly - if not daily basis...my daughters, Charis (3) and DeCelie (4), are at odds and help is needed. 

“I had it first.” 
“No, I had it first!” 

DeCelie snarls and Charis screams. It’s quite the scene. Tug-a-war mayhem ensues.

“Do you need an attorney?” I ask. 

I see their heads racing. I can sense how their bellies must burn with the resistant sting that rises when faced with the decision to choose humility. *They know my question means they will need to “pay me” for my “legal services” so they are learning to choose wisely more often. Thank the Lord, (and thank you, author, Dan Silk, for the creative mediation idea).

Sometimes they choose to “pay” for "legal counsel" by neglecting to choose...and sometimes they settle it together on their own:

“You have a turn, then I’ll have a turn”
“Okay. Thanks DeCelie. Alright, now let’s go to the (name the always changing imaginary place of the hour here)” 
And off they venture, like nothing ever happened...

I wish we adults could be as quick to settle our differences and move forward together. But it usually takes us awhile to get there. We often default to fight or flight mode and get stuck. Often times it’s hard to be heard while also truly seeking to understand the other person. Maybe all of our sincere attempts at communication keep backfiring. So after first trying to properly address things with the one person it involves, you might need to prayerfully pursue a mediator - someone to help you resolve what seems unsolvable. 

LIMIT YOUR NUMBERS:
You’ll be tempted to seek “help” from a large number of friends who will take your side and justify your position. But you know better...you know that’s really pride mixed with disguised gossip and will only sabotage your truest desires for the relationship - so you seek out one person or a trusted couple instead. 

WHO TO CALL:
Depending on your needs a “mediator” can be accessed through a helpful book resource... or maybe he/she is a professional at a reputable Christian counseling center...and if you belong to a church, there are likely leaders or couples available who would be honored to help. I’m not sure who you will find, but as long as you trust they can help you clarify root issues and seek resolution (as opposed to just saying that you’re right and the other person is wrong), you’re on the right track towards reconciliation. I applaud you for carefully making that call. I pray it yields good results. But even if nothing immediately changes in the relationship, your heart genuinely pursued peace - and that’s a beautiful change in you. Beautiful, indeed.  

WHEN YOU CAN’T MEET:
It’s possible that it is not appropriate to meet with the other person right now...it’s also possible - even likely - that the person you are seeking to reconcile with is not available or willing. In these cases, I trust you’ll find a counselor or mentor to serve as a different kind of mediator...a mediator between your own heart, thoughts and wounds. If you haven’t yet, I hope you’ll take that step towards support. 

TO THE MEDIATORS:
Maybe you are (also) the trusted friend or counselor that people often come to for advice. Thank you for accepting the often intimidating process of mediating conflict. Thank you for your service of compassion and support. Thank you for promoting peace, upholding truth, withholding assumptions, refusing to take sides and guiding with grace. Keep doing what you are doing. We appreciate you.    

THE MEDIATOR OF ALL MEDIATORS:
Let’s turn now to the mediator of all mediators. Will you pray with me?

Jesus - You made Yourself low, took the form of a bond-servant and laid aside all that you deserved to give us what we could never deserve. You paid our debts - forgave them all. You granted us peace with God through Your blood. How can we thank You Lord? We are humbled. In light of all this, we ask for the same mindset to be made true in us...that we too would lay aside our “rights” and forgive our debtors of their debts. It cost you everything to make us one with each other...so may we take this truth up in faith and walk out its reality in loving unity. Change our hearts. Make us more like You, Jesus. Heal our hearts. Make us whole like You, Savior. And Lord please...mend our relationships. Do what You do best, Mediator of all Mediators. Have Your way. Amen.

Live Either Way

That morning I stopped by the school nurse for a Benadryl on my way to class. That night I walked out of an elevator with my Dad on to Providence’s oncology floor for my first chemotherapy. Needless to say, the day was dizzying.

There was no one quite like nurse Nicole to help us transition. The glow of God preceded her. She wore plain scrubs. But her heart wore love like a ball gown. I couldn’t help but find out if she followed Christ. I asked convinced she’d either say an enthusiastic “yes” or admit to being an angel. Her smile answered before she could say a word. “I could tell” I nodded. (She still remembers the day. She says that after our exchange, I ordered a toasted bagel with cream cheese and yogurt.) Nicole continued to work the oncology floor that night with light...with gentleness. Goodness. Kindness. Patience. And all the other fruits of the Spirit. Yes, the Spirit of God wore scrubs that night and helped us settle in with peace...peace and cream cheese.

The next day they removed the tumor on my collar bone for a biopsy. Labs would take a day or two. They continued to monitor me in the hospital while we waited for the results. Meanwhile, I remember meeting more extraordinary nurses. I remember the love of family and friends who visited. I remember being tired from the chemo and the surgery. I can’t recall details from those days of waiting. But I can recall the moment when Dr. Smith came in with the results….

He entered quietly, his expression turned down, his body language hesitant and his voice sympathetic. “You have Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma,” he said. He sat down at my bed-side and explained further, “We are looking at about 8 months of treatments. We will continue chemotherapy. We’ll test you and see where we are at...and then we’ll start radiation.”

We had already received the bad news days before - I had cancer… “Something called lymphoma,” the E.R. doctor said. But from what I could tell from Dr. Smith’s demeanor this type of lymphoma was especially bad news. I had no idea how bad though, that is until one day I read a pamphlet that came in the pile of out-patient paper work...

I was at the apartment that my parents had rented to be in town and close to the hospital. I sat in the middle of the old couch as the autumn daylight faded behind me. I turned on the side table lamp and opened the pamphlet. If I had realized the news I would be uncovering that night, I might not have ever opened it. There should have been a warning on the cover. But it was too late. There it was...all the percentages of my poor chances of survival right there printed in pretty pie charts on the matte finished paper. My eyes grew big and I threw the sheet away from me. I shook my head while grunting out rapid denials “no, no...no..I’m not going to do this right now.” I inhaled deeply and exhaled with sarcastic nervous laughter. And then I just sat there awhile, staring past everything into the blank numb.

I looked back at the paper lying under the harsh light of the lamp. I reached for it and opened it again, this time braced for what I’d read inside. I read it carefully with my hand over my mouth, my fingers pinching my lips the way I always do when I’m focused and concerned. Then, with the numbness of it all subsiding, I contemplated my choices…

I had no choice in my diagnosis. But this day I had to choose how I'd face it. I could wait out this mortality-coin-toss, kicking and screaming. Or I could face this with the hope I really had...with all I believed. I realized at that moment, what only suffering can clarify: I really did believe.

I set the pamphlet aside and opened my Bible. The book that told me that no matter how the coin landed, I’d live - either way. “To live is Christ and to die is gain...” (Philippians 1:21). I’d continue on here in Christ for His glory...or move on to life after death to be with my Jesus. Whether through my healing or my death, I’d live...no matter what happened.

While relieved a great deal, my fear did not go away. I still had a very real fear of pain and suffering and all the unknowns. But I knew Jesus, the One who promised a future free from pain and suffering. I knew Jesus, the One who entered all pain and suffering to purchase this future for me. I knew Jesus, the One who was with me in the pain now...with me to comfort...with me to take all these bad things to work them together somehow, for my good and His glory. I didn't know what would happen. But I knew Jesus. And knowing Him surpassed all the glaring statistics I held in my hands.

I squeezed the pamphlet and placed it in my Bible to mark my spot.  These stats weren't complete. “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” I live either way.

My beliefs would be challenged in the many months ahead...tested and tried with what literally felt like fire at times. The basement of my soul would undergo a deep cleaning. My heart would be gutted, filled with the sufferings of the cross and stretched by its beams. I’d scream. I’d pound my pillow. I’d leave a puddle of tears. Every hope within me would be taken away, for what I could only assume to be forever. I’d begin learning how to rest in the one and only hope that doesn’t disappoint. And there, I would experience the surpassing value of only having Jesus. The journey would be long. Longer than Dr. Smith had told me…

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