Tag Archives: peace

A better gift


Have you ever found yourself wanting more or wishing you were more like someone else? It might be the way they look or their ability to think quickly. Maybe you admire the sense of peace that seems to characterize their life even in times of turmoil.


Paul wrote a letter to the church in Corinth about this (1 Corinthians 14). It seems people were more than a bit contentious about the manifestation of spiritual gifts and which should be most highly prized. We see this today when we hear ourselves say things like, “I want more money, a better house, and more elegant vacations. I want people to admire my creative crafts. I want to be fit. I want to be the smartest.” Or this…”I just want to be happy. Nothing is more important than that.” For sure, these reflect more of our desires than our gifts. But Paul links the two: “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.” (Vs 1,12) The wise counsel for us is this: Since you have desire and passion for your life to be marked in a certain way, focus your greatest desires on encouraging others and building them up. Follow the way of love.


Prophecy sometimes refers to predicting future events but it also, perhaps more often, refers to seeking and speaking wisdom and godly instruction in times of uncertainty and the very real problems that perplex our lives. In this sense, prophecy speaks the truth and purpose of God for our lives. I think we would all find it beneficial to use this as our filter when listening to political candidates who are “speaking into the air” and also in the ways we engage in the lives of others close to us. Follow the way of love and seek to desire wisdom concerning the events of your life. Eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit that God longs to bestow upon you.


It seems life is full of chaos and random disappointments that frustrate our happiness and fill us with fear. Our thoughts and actions seem driven by the insecurities and fears that threaten to overcome us. But that is not God’s design. He wants more for you and me. And he provides more for us. . . if we will just seek more of him and the spiritual gifts he longs to share.


What are these spiritual gifts? The bible describes a long list  related to prophecy (speaking God’s truth), serving others, teaching, encouraging, giving,leading, being merciful, healing, faith, and more. Unlike our natural talents and skills, spiritual gifts are given to us so we can participate with God in fulfilling his plan.


So what shall we do? Shall we continue to seek riches or fame or comfort and happiness? Of all the gifts that you might desire, have you asked God to reveal the gifts he intends specifically for you, the ones he desires you to seek and use in order to follow the way of love and build up those around you?


Seeking God’s way in this troublesome world makes sense of the chaos in our lives. It brings purpose and meaning to the mundane. It speaks peace to the turmoil we experience. It’s okay to seek gifts. Seek the higher ones that God offers you today.


For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.
1 Corinthians 14:31


The battle for who’s right


There was discord and disagreement.  A battle over whose voice would prevail. Finger pointing and plenty of blame to go around. Who’s right and who’s wrong. Words that should have been left unsaid were spoken in frustration and anger. It seemed everyone was keeping score. Does it sound like a political debate? Or a recent business meeting, or maybe a family gathering?  It seems that wherever two or three gather together there is room for disagreement. Everyone wants to be heard. Truthfully, we’d all like to have it our way.


It’s a scene that has been played out to various degrees over the centuries and is plenty common today in our communities, our businesses, our homes, and sometimes even in our churches. It was the situation when Paul was writing the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 11). There were disagreements over whether men and women should cover their heads or not, disagreements over the length of hair, even disagreements when they came together to commemorate the Lord’s Supper. Paul reprimanded them for their divisive behaviors, offering really good counsel – for them – and for us today:


Everyone ought to examine themselves… (V 28)


What does examining ourselves do to a disagreement? Examining ourselves checks our motives. Do we want to understand the other person as much as we want to be understood? Are we seeking a wise and just resolution to the problem or do we just want to be right? Is it our intent to build understanding or to attack? Are we interested in peace or just giving someone a piece of our mind? (Be careful, we all only have so many pieces!)


Examining ourselves also checks our behaviors. I spent decades of my life working in crisis deescalation situations. One of the key lessons learned was to examine our own body language: our posture, our muscle tension (relaxed, not clenched), our tone of voice, facial expression, and words. The louder the other person became, the softer we would speak. Examining our behavior defuses a fueled situation. It speaks calm and compassion, first to ourselves and then to others. It’s one thing to be firm and stand our ground and quite another to belittle another person.


While examining ourselves is a practical and helpful discipline toward resolving disagreement, there’s an even more effective approach. Jesus said that wherever two or three gather together in his name, he would be there also. Jesus, with his authority, grace, wisdom, love, and power is ready to present himself whenever we invite him into our discussions, whether they be about politics, business, or who takes out the garbage. We learn to follow the example of Jesus when we invite him into the fray of our disagreements. When he is the head, we have fewer battles about whose idea prevails because the matter is submitted to him first, and we seek to follow his example in building understanding and unity.


When do we examine ourselves? Paul instructed that we should do this before taking communion. Actually, each and every meal invites us to quiet ourselves before God, to humbly confess our wayward ways, and ask him to bless us with his presence. We could gain a greater sense of peace and harmony if we’d learn to examine ourselves whenever we meet with others, especially when disagreements abound.


The battle over who is going to be right, especially over trivial matters, is better shifted to who is going to behave rightly. Let’s find many opportunities to invite Jesus into the business of our daily lives, and especially into our relationships. And may peace be yours to enjoy and share.


The desires of your heart


Do you find yourself pondering how “unfair” life is or growing tired of waiting for answers? Psalm 37 is a good read. It contrasts the ways of “evil” with those of “goodness.” And it speaks about the fulfillment of your greatest desires:

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (V 4)


What is it you most want? What does your heart really long for? Can these really be yours to enjoy? What’s “the catch?”


God does indeed offer us the desires of our heart WHEN:
We delight in him.
We commit our way to him.
We trust in him.
We wait patiently for him.
We stop worrying and fretting.
(Psalm 37:1-8)


We know what it means to delight in things. There’s that sense of pride of ownership and accomplishment when we attain something we’ve longed for. There’s the joy of beholding and enjoying the fruits of our labors. There’s the sense of strength and satisfaction that all is well when we are safe, comfortable, and surrounded by friends.


Can your delight in the Lord compete with all this? Could, would, and do you delight in the Lord in the absence of all this? When the total of all you’ve lost seems to outweigh all that remains, does your delight in the Lord shift the balance to the delight in his goodness?


Delighting in the Lord comes from knowing for sure in whom we have believed and being fully persuaded that he will keep that which we’ve committed to him until the last day (2 Timothy 2:12). We always obey what we’re fully persuaded to believe. If we don’t follow the Lord, it’s because we aren’t fully persuaded it’s worth the cost or the effort. If we do follow him, it’s because we know that all the suffering, loss, sorrow, and hardship is worth it in the end; that his promises are both true and fulfilling. Who can’t commit to such a promise?


Delighting in the Lord comes from trusting in him, confident he will accomplish what he desires in us, that he will complete what he has begun. Maybe it’s hard for you to trust God when there are so many unanswered prayers. But trusting comes from being still before our great God and waiting patiently for him to reveal his plan and his blessings. We can’t delight in the Lord when we worry and fret about our circumstances because worry is the opposite of trust. Worry leads to regret and regret feeds bitterness; bitterness leads to anger and anger to wrath and all kinds of evil. And none of this leads to peace.


Isn’t peace the greatest desire of your heart? Peace with yourself. Peace with others. Peace from your struggle to be well. Peace to enjoy life. Peace to understand and fulfill your purpose in life. Peace with God, the fulfillment of our deepest desire, to know him more and to fully enjoy his presence.


Delight today in God’s generous love, his amazing grace, his tender mercy, his awesome power, his faithful promise, his perfect plan, his patience in long suffering, his lasting goodness, his endless joy, his offer to bring you into his family, and his eternal inheritance. Grow your delight in the Lord by committing, by trusting, by being quiet before him, by waiting patiently, by giving thanks often, and by resting in his presence.


And in your moments of meekness and delight, enjoy great peace from all your struggles!


What’s eating at you?


The doctors said the Graft Versus Host Disease symptoms could return at random anytime during the next ten years as the new host DNA grafted cells continue to fight with my host cells. Well, it did come back. While a maddening nuisance, it’s not medically significant. It’s like a thousand ants nibbling at the skin from the top of the head to the sole of the feet. In a moment of respite, I’m reminded of other things that “eat” at us all.


Do you find yourself getting frustrated at small things? We get frustrated with ourselves, frustrated with others, frustrated with things that don’t work, frustrated with the fast pace of life, and frustrated with the times we’re stuck in a holding pattern. We huff and puff,  sigh deeply,  clench our muscles, and frown. Sometimes words not meant to be said get spoken.  But it’s not like going into a full rage that requires anger management therapy, so it’s no big deal, right? Or is it?


Decades ago, I read a book on stress management by a physician who asserted that getting upset at small things is indeed a big deal.   Certainly, there is much damage that can be done by the big stressors in life:  death of a loved one, a serious illness, abusive and neglectful relationships, or chronic pain or nearly any big loss. But the doctor warned that it is the accumulation of small things that really attack our bodies. He described the chemical interactions that occur in the body and mind when we experience unproductive stress and explained how this takes its toll over the years. He theorized that each negative expression of frustration could actually shorten our life by up to thirty seconds.  If you find yourself getting frustrated ten times a day that’s five minutes. That’s an hour over the course of two weeks; more than a whole day over a year. Imagine, at the end of your life, wanting to have another hour or another day with your loved ones.


The doctor related that studies reveal even the memory of stressed events triggers these same chemical reactions. It seems the cells in our bodies are always listening to what’s going on around them and always ready to respond. This is a good thing because it allows us to react quickly to truly stressful situations. But when the response is unproductive such as negative thinking and worry, the effect on the body is harmful. Interestingly, the opposite is true. When our body is at rest and our mind contemplates positive thoughts, the chemical reactions have restorative properties.


The bible’s many warnings about worrying and thinking bad thoughts is not just about wasted time. It’s about negative affects on our minds and bodies. It’s time we discipline ourselves to think and act better. Demand less. Practice being calm in the face of frustration. Seek God’s presence in those moments and find the peace his perspective brings. Read scripture to regularly renew your mind. You won’t be perfect at this, but over time you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes in your life. And your loved ones will thank you.



The danger of ‘the last word’


Have you ever won an argument only to found out that you really lost more than you gained?


Having “the last word” of an argument isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact it might be just the first word of the next argument!  There might be a momentary feeling of satisfaction in winning the argument but it’s both a fleeting and empty gain if someone else had to be disrespected in the process. Think for a moment. If you win the argument but lose the respect, trust, and affection of the other person was it worth the ‘win’?


Even temporary relationships like the encounters you have while shopping and traveling have a bigger impact than we might think. I remember being in a restaurant when someone ripped into a waitress because the coffee was not hot enough. Is it not enough to stand your ground when requesting good service without having to resort to belittling or deriding another human being? (I’ve read that the ‘Sunday lunch crowd’ is regarded as one of the worst in this regard by restaurant workers…a point for somber reflection.)


Relationships aren’t meant to be battle grounds. Especially when we argue about such petty things, how a decision is made might be as or more important than the actual decision. The last one standing is not the victor. In fact, if someone has to lose in order for the other to win, the best part of the relationship may be lost. Great relationships are best characterized by cooperative and synergistic efforts that build each other up. And we don’t build something up by tearing it down. You can’t protect, preserve, defend, support, sustain or shield with words and actions that attack, offend, belittle, or disparage the other person.


Here’s the challenge. The next time you find yourself at odds with someone else, consider what is really important. Ask yourself how ‘winning’ this argument will affect the rest of your relationship with this person and future decisions. In our attempt to be understood, let’s make sure we are first attempting to understand what is important to the other person. We can do this by being people of peace who build up others, not tear them down. After all, don’t we so very much appreciate grace and forgiveness when it is extended to us that we should also be eager to extend it to others?


There is a line from a gentle Christmas song that would guide us well all year long in our relationships and especially or ‘arguments’:


Let there be peace on earth  –  and let it begin with me.


Make sure your ‘last word’ can live with all the words that follow.


Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”  Romans 12:18



Death rehearsal


CS Lewis wrote a letter to a friend about pain, fear, and death:


“Pain is terrible, but surely you need not have fear as well? Can you not see death as the friend and deliverer? It means stripping off that body which is tormenting you: like taking off a shirt or getting out of a dungeon. What is there to be afraid of? You have long attempted (and none of us does more) a Christian life. Your sins are confessed and absolved. Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave it with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.


Remember, though we struggle against things because we are afraid of them, it is often the other way round – we get afraid because we struggle. Are you struggling, resisting? Don’t you think Our Lord says to you ‘Peace, child, peace. Relax. Let go. Underneath are the everlasting arms. Let go, I will catch you. Do you trust me so little?’


Of course, this may not be the end. Then make it a good rehearsal.


Yours (and like you a tired traveller near the journey’s end), Jack

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III

Be kind – Be a peacemaker



Be kind one to another. Ephesians 4:32


Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God. Matthew 5:9


Such a simple concept: be kind. It’s one of the first lessons we learned as children. But even as adults we need reminders to “play nice in the sandbox.” I remember one motivational speaker talking about communication, giving the example of a ‘discussion’ he had recently with his wife. He shared with us, “And then I had this brilliant thought: ‘Say something sarcastic!'” It doesn’t take much imagination to understand how the rest of that conversation went, does it? And yet, it is so easy to say an unkind thing. How many times in the busyness of our own agenda do we say a careless thing that is hurtful to others? It’s so easy to do.


You know what else is easy? To say a kind word, to encourage someone else. It takes so little time to actually greet the person in the checkout lane, to compliment the worker in the aisle who is attending to their job, to let someone with fewer items (or the mom with three kids in tow!) go ahead of you in line, or to thank someone for helping you. This same treatment goes for strangers we meet throughout the day, and of course our family. I revel in hearing my daughter praise her children often. I suspect that too many people go through life thirsting to be acknowledged as a person of value and to hear an encouraging word. You may find it difficult to praise someone because they are so often acting in a contrary way. But take your time and watch for an opportunity to praise them, thank them, or just recognize them as a person of worth.


In the same manner, we don’t have to disagree with everyone, even if we are sure we are right. We really don’t have to correct everyone in our path about every little thing. Even if you believe you are right, consider the value of saying, “Perhaps you’re right,” or “Thanks for sharing your perspective.” God calls us to be peacemakers, to live in an understanding way with each other. Ultimately, this means we are to live in a manner that encourages others to become reconciled with God. But it starts by us creating relationships with others that reconcile us to one another.


“Be kind” might seem too simple a strategy for successful living. But consider this: Maybe your agenda isn’t what’s so important today. Maybe God’s primary agenda for you today is for you to be a peacemaker. Who knows – a kind word from you may be the vital drop of water needed to sustain and encourage someone who is dying on the vine, who may look fine on the outside, but inside is ready to call it quits. Be kind to each other. Bring peace to the world in the way you interact with those around you.



A quieter, gentler world



Maybe I’m just getting old. They say, “You know you’re getting old when any sound you don’t make bothers you.” But really, don’t you find life can be too noisy?! And does it seem to you that it is getting noisier all the time? Machines whirring, constant chatter, more and more people in a hurry and eager to beep their horns, and always – I mean always – something close by beeping some reminder at you. Then there is the ‘noise’ of fast paced living. Even in the absence of sounds, the level of activity itself seems ‘noisy.’


If you have encountered any sort of life changing trauma, be it cancer, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or some chronic pain, you know that even soundless tension can also register as noise and set your spirit on edge. I experienced this when I contracted Tinnitus. It was as if a switch went On that I could never turn Off. The ringing in my ears was and is like the whine of a jet engine that never goes away. Fifteen years later, I still long for “the sounds of silence.” Perhaps you’ve been in a situation where you’ve had to closely attend to medical routines, medications, or pain levels. So much mental focus becomes unbearably ‘noisy’.


If you endure such an experience, you might come to experience an appreciation for a quieter, slower pace of life. Some things that once seemed urgent become less important. It’s fine to want to be excellent in what you do, but it really doesn’t add any value if you sand the studs before you put on the drywall, if you know what I mean.


There are seasons of life that are busier and noisier than others and we all have to get through those and enjoy them the best we can. But if you find that life has become too noisy and hectic, perhaps it is time to make a list of how you can slow down. In business we used to ask, “What needs to stop and what needs to start?” “What do we need to do less of (or stop doing entirely because it just wastes time) and what do I need to do more of?” Try it. You’ll be glad you did if it leads you to slow down and enjoy a bit more peace in your life. And for ultimate peace, turn down the noise in your life and turn to God. Spend quiet time meditating on and memorizing His Word. If you are too busy for God, you might be too busy.


“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3



Let go – let God



A comedian once observed that “home is where you keep your stuff while you go and buy more stuff.” It’s a plague that affects not just the rich and famous; we all have too much stuff. Stuff crowds our lives and causes us to ask if we possess things or if they possess us.


Have you ever gone through your belongings and asked yourself, “Why have I held on to this for so long?”  Sometimes, we are reluctant to let go of the stuff that surrounds us. Like the monkey in it’s self-imposed trap, we cling to stuff we want only to find that it is the thing that possesses us. If you’ve ever thought, “I could never bear to part with ‘that'”, you know what I mean.


Sometimes it’s not things we cling to but relationships, feelings, and habits that have governed our past. We’re warned to “not let a bitter root grow up to cause trouble.” (Hebrews 12:15) But sometimes we cling to that bitterness, resentment, fear or other crippling emotion. Sometimes when things go wrong in our life, we clench our fists, desperately trying to hold onto things and control them. . . sometimes even things that hurt us and prevent us from experiencing peace and joy.


When you find your fists clenched (really or figuratively) it’s a good time to open your hands before God. We can only hold onto so much at one time. Let go of that which keeps you from experiencing God’s best for you. Let God replace it with His peace and contented joy.


An exercise you might find helpful when you pray is to hold your hands before you, palms down as you confess anything you are grasping that you need to let go in order to hold onto God’s peace.   Turn your hands palms up and feel your hands relax as you release your belongings and relationships and let God fill you with the grace and joy He freely offers you.


The position of our hands often determines the nature of our heart. Clenched hands seldom hold things of value. Open hands release that which is not really ours and frees us to receive all that God desires to put in them. Open hands are also free to hold onto God’s own hand as He seeks to reach out to us and lead us.


“I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “Do not fear. I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13



Live what you believe

Are you living the life you say you believe in?

One of the challenges God drove home during my journey with cancer is that I ought to really live what I believe: God IS a promise keeper, His Word really IS true and applicable in real life situations,  He really DOES have a purpose for us in all situations. You see, sometimes we say we believe (and I think we really do) but we don’t live with the power of that belief. It is like living with belief and unbelief at the same time.


If that has been your experience, be encouraged. The one does not deny the other. In Mark 9:23-25. Jesus says to the father of the possessed child, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes. Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” We too believe, but also experience aspects of unbelief: “Is this really God’s will that I be fully healed or is there a grander purpose in suffering?” It is not a doubt of what God CAN do, but how He will choose to work His will in this temporary time on earth.


What fears do you have that seem to counter your beliefs? That the road will be too hard, that it will seem unfair, that it will be a waste of time and effort, that His ways might not be as good as your ways? What choices do you have? Reject the truth because it doesn’t FEEL true? Or accept and believe to be true what ‘thus says the Lord’. We can still only accept this by faith, because there are so many questions that remain, and so many failings on our part to put into practice all that we believe; so many contrary feelings and physical responses. Where I am not ‘successful’ in applying belief to all areas of my life,  I have to remain fully persuaded that God will sustain me until the end at whatever level fits his perfect plan. . . and that in the end, I will find it worthwhile. . . that this present suffering will be measured and weighed and found incomparable to the glory He reveals.


What fears and pain do you face? You can turn them all over to God. He is bigger than any fear you can imagine. I believe coming to Him pleases Him greatly and will restore great joy to your soul, regardless of other circumstances. Practicing the discipline of entering and remaining in God’s presence is the antidote to fear. Seek His presence, His love, His grace, His peace.

Faith will sustain until hope is realized. God, my God, will remain faithful to His promises, whether I sense it in tangible ways or not. I believe this also for you.

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”  Numbers 6:25-26