What might it look like to plan for peace this week? Peace in relationships? Peace at work? Peace in your mind or heart or soul? Peace in your home?
Is it something practical like planning ahead for dinner on a busy night to decrease stress or anxiety when that busy moment comes?
Is it crafting in little 5 minute moments (or 1 minute even) where you can just stop and connect with Jesus, notice how you’re feeling, and invite him in to whatever activity is taking place?
Is it choosing words carefully with your family member/friend/teammate in order to add peace instead of anxiety or conflict to a situation?
As I ponder what “planning peace” may look like (and why that brings joy) I’m struck by all the things that are the opposite of peace. There are many antonyms. It could be strife or discord in community. It’s a restlessness in our souls. Distress in our mind. Anxiousness in our emotions. It could even me a messy or loud house that feels in-peaceful.
While in one way that seems overwhelming to think of all the ways we can experience the opposite of peace, it also gives us many areas, big and small where we can start planning for it.
For me this morning, that planning starts as simple as believing peace may be possible this week. To trust that the Prince of Peace is on His throne and on the scene in my life. To hope that peace might settle in a little more into my soul, into relationships, into my work and my play… and that as it does, it might bring with it a little joy.
This blog has been a little neglected lately with so much of my time and attention taken in the last couple of years by a new job and grad school. Now that graduation has passed and I find myself with a little more time here and there, my hope is that I can return here more often.
Last week I had the chance to vacation in a town I called “home” for 9 years. Visiting with friends who have become like family, exploring favorite spaces (and a few new ones), and eating familiar foods was so good for my soul.
It’s also always a little weird going back to a place that once was home, but is no longer. Things change. People change. We change.
My favorite coffee shop that I would frequent on my days off is now closed.
The church where I served has so many new members and new staff.
The parks I frequented look completely different (or were seemingly impossible to enter for my now unfamiliar mind due to changes to parking and roads).
As I wandered along the Niagara River, a spot I visited probably over a hundred times in the not-quite-a-decade I lived there, I was overwhelmed by this concept of how places are just places YET places matter.
I found myself pondering the hundreds of miles I had walked along that path with friends. Conversation after conversation drawing each relationship closer. I thanked God for those friendships, some of which are still close and some with people I never really get a chance to talk to anymore, all of which have changed in some way since geographic location no longer allows us to quick meet up for a River walk.
I thought of my exchange daughter and the way this path was near her school. It runs past an ice cream shop where her best friend worked, where we shared many ice cream cones. I recalled the day, a year and a half after she left that, she came back to America without me knowing and worked with some friends to surprise me when she joined our picnic.
I thought about the thousands of prayers I prayed in the years I lived near this place and would walk here multiple times a week. Joyous moments, heartbreaking moments, hundreds of little seeds of hope planted in situations of my own or people I love. And as the sun began to set, I recalled hundreds of past sunsets and this truth settled in to my heart:
They are just places. They change. People come and go. Yet, the things that happen there, the memories, the slight little shifts in heart and mind (whether for the good or bad) do indeed shift us, shape us, form us.
That’s what THIS little place, this blog has done for me over the years as well. In some seasons I showed up here daily and others only a few times a year. But through time, through the writing and the sharing and the mistakes and the celebrations, this little space of the internet has shifted things in me, shaped me, formed me.
I’m not sure what it means to return to this place after nearly two years of neglect. I’m different. My life rhythms are different. I don’t know how often I’ll write and I fear saying I’ll come back here often and then actually not doing that.
But for what it’s worth today. I’m simply reminding myself that this place matters and I hope to start showing up here more often again to see how it grows me as I have grown.
To memories made and memories yet to be captured.
To processing life and sharing what I learn.
To not having all the answers but journeying through life in the hopes of stumbling into some together.
To reminding myself once again that there is joy and blessing to be found in this life and it grows when we share it!
By now most of you know I love Sabbath and talk about it a lot. I also know that there are times and seasons when it looks different. Sabbath looks different for me as a single woman than my friends who have toddlers running around or have kids in sporting events. Also, there are moments, like the couple of weeks I’m currently living in, where if I were to try to actually get 24 hours away from all work (my job, grad school, housework, outside commitments) I would actually be more stressed out and less rested.
This is where this concept comes into play: if work is necessary, consider if there is a restful way to do the work.
The kids still have to eat and the tasks still need to be done and crises still occur. Just because work is required does not mean we just give up all hope for Sabbath.
For me today, finding a restful way to work meant taking my homework to my favorite coffee shop in Lincoln. My normal Saturday routine involves doing my grad school homework with various house chores scattered throughout the day as my study breaks. I normally can get that all done by dinner and Sabbath until dinner on Sunday. However, last week and this week I have to work on Sundays. I did cut out some tasks or worked hard to get some of the housework done early. A block of 24 hours of rest is just not possible this weekend. (And forcing that feels WAY too legalistic.) I still can be intentional with my time in a way that leads my heart into rest even if my mind and body must still work some of that time.
Sabbath isn’t just a day, it’s also an attitude. It’s a way of life that says “I am not God”, a space to remember who I am and what is real. So, at times, I can trust God to bring that rest even while I work or seek it in the way I work.
I can find joy and delight in Him as I settle into a corner of my favorite coffee shop with a warm chai, a yummy breakfast treat, and sunshine steaming in the window while working on homework.
I can use study breaks to journal or read a favorite book instead of clean.
Maybe you can plan a fun, special, EASY meal in your work of feeding kids.
We can stop by a park between errands or pause work tasks to go for a quick walk.
Perhaps it’s the type of work that feels more restful. Last spring I needed to be at work on a weekend the day after graduation for RAs to turn in supplies and keys. I needed to be in the office but I didn’t have a specific task required besides being present and available when someone walked in. I used that time to redecorate my office, something that felt refreshing for me. Rest in the work.
I try, and hope I always try, to fight for space and time every week to step away in Sabbath. It’s important. It’s Biblical. It guards me against sin. It restores my joy. It strengthens me for the work ahead. I hesitate to even share this because the concept of “rest while you work” can easily feed or even justify our cultural push toward overworking.
But 24 hours for Sabbath is not always possible in this fallen world. It does not look the same in every season.
In those moments, we seek the attitude and mindset of rest and cling to truths like this in Exodus 33:14, where God says to Moses, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Sometimes we get to stop and rest. Other times God goes with us and gives rest along the way.
With all that in mind, what does rest look like for YOU this week?
As 2021 began my spiritual goals and hopes for the year all centered around knowing Jesus more. I wanted it to be a time where I intentionally focused on knowing this friend in new and different ways. This meant I spent a lot of time in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I listened to what he said, I read what he did, I saw how he interacted with others … over and over and over. (I read them each at least 8 times.) While I learned so much here are just a few recaps of what I learned about my friend Jesus or my interactions with him this year.
January – Jesus has authority … in his teaching, over wind and waves, over evil, in all things! Also, Jesus values JOY! He talks about it all the time!
February – I noticed where he spent his time. “To the river”; “the wilderness”; “walking along the shore”; “throughout the region”; “up on a mountainside”; peoples homes; the lake; “walking along”; “walking through the grain fields”; synagogue/temple; “sat beside the lake”, etc.
March – He is, even in His human nature so much more than I have thought Him to be. I know so little about my Jesus.
April – God goes before us/is ahead of us to prepare (Luke 22:10-12, Mark 16:4,7, John 14:1-3). “Glory” is a key focus of Jesus . The word is used 33 times in John’s gospel.
May – Jesus, you have my attention.
June – Obedience = Life. – Even if where God’s leading or what He is doing or asking me to do doesn’t make sense. He. Is. Faithful. He shows up and acts.
July – He loves me! God longs to prove himself faithful to us. (Luke 1:4; 2 Chronicles 16:9, and almost every page of the gospels describing Jesus’ life). He’s doing things to set us up for belief. (John 2:22)
August – His kingdom is one of power while focusing that power on love, freedom, and healing. “If you only knew the gift God has for you…” John 4:10
September – Jesus constantly faced opposition, hatred, and being trapped. Luke 11:54. When I experience these things, I am in ‘good company’. “My best hope is well kept in you…” – Every Moment Holy Prayer pg 200
October – He is enough. Studied the “I Am” statements in John. He longs for us to experience LIFE! “Zoe” used 36 times in John’s gospel. “Lord give us relief from our unbelief.” – Lysa TerKeurst “He fills my life with good things.” Psalm 103:5
November – “He wraps you in goodness, beauty eternal.” Psalm 103:5 “The Lord still rules from Heaven.” Psalm 116:46 – He rules while we wait for things outside our control. He loves “to the very end”! John 13:1b “You are entirely faithful.” ￼Psalm 89:9
December – Jesus was adopted (by Jospeh). Jesus cared about the Kingdom. “Kingdom” is used 52 times in Matthew’s gospel alone. He longs for us to ask him for things and be persistent in prayer.
So there you have it… a quick summary of the things Jesus showed me about himself this year. So here’s my question: What is one thing you know about God/Jesus that you didn’t know when 2021 started or that he reminded you of this year?
At the start of 2021 I marked off 4 days in my calendar, approximately 3 months apart as days to step away, regroup, and reevaluate all aspects of my life. A day to simply rest or play or “go deep” or whatever my soul needs on that day.
The first one was to kick off the year, actually on New Year’s Day, dreaming and listening to what the year ahead may hold. The first days of April took me to a nearby lake where, as I sat down on a picnic table by the water, the words below found their way to paper.
My quarterly retreats will likely look very different but I’m pretty sure this prayer will be a consistent part in any day I desire to set apart. Maybe it’s useful for you as well…
A Prayer for Days Away
Jesus, I commit this day to You. To the shaping of my life, my soul, my body, my plans.
A day to look back and remember to recall Your faithfulness to notice Your presence in each step to bear witness to friends and celebrations.
A day to be present and rest to be still and silent to be loud and move my body to simply be.
A day to look forward and dream to make plans with Your Spirit’s help to pray over what the next few months may hold to trust for every step ahead.
In these moments may I feel the warm summer sun on my face, crunchy fall leaves under my feet, or the comfort of a blanket wrapped around me on a cold snowy day. Whatever marks this season.
May the laughter be loud or the tears fall hard. Whatever marks this season.
May I fast and pray or delight in rich foods or enjoy a simple picnic. Whatever marks this season.
May this be a day of plans to follow and lots of words written or consumed or a day to wander aimlessly where You would lead. Whatever marks this season.
I release any expectations in this moment except this one: to meet You here.
Like Mary at her Rabbi’s feet I choose the one thing needful. (Luke 10:38-42) Like Jacob wrestling until dawn I will not let go unless You bless me. (Genesis 32:22:32) Like Hannah who begged year after year I pray with perseverance expecting days of joy. (1 Samuel 1-2) Like Peter, James, and John, lead me up the mountain to find “only Jesus”. (Mark 9:2-8) Like David I pray, “My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming.’” (Psalm 27:8)
“And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? Psalm 39:7a
“Where do we go from here?” This concept is not foreign to any of us living through 2020.
As plans change by the hour and uncertainty feels like the only certainty, our hearts are left wondering “what now?”
Yet, when all our hopes and expectations are dashed, Jesus steps in as Hope himself.
Where do we go? Well, if nothing else we’ve figured out where not to go. Verse 6 lays out some of that: “We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it.”
Our hope is not in productivity or money. Nor is it in political leaders or a health care system. If our ultimate hope is in our plans or our people, even then we will often be left disillusioned, distracted, and disappointed.
And so, Lord, where do we go?
Where CAN we put our hope?
Our only hope is You. (Psalm 39:7b, 71:5)
“And so we have this hope as a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus, [our anchor of hope] has already gone in there for us.” Hebrews 6:18b-20a
“And this is the secret: Christ lives in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27
Something I’ve learned over the last few years and even in this month of trying to focus on joy is the importance of intentionality in choosing joy.
I’m also learning that there can be intentionality in choosing to stop things that aren’t bringing joy to my life.
I’m discovering this 31 Day Blog Challenge actually fits in that category.
I was so excited when the month started to center in on this topic and blog about my journey. While the focus of joy has continued strong and so has my desire to blog, the pressure of writing specifically about that topic and doing it every day has not proved to be joyful.
So, I’m abandoning ship. It happened unintentionally a few days ago when I simply forgot but it caused me to pause. So today I consciously decided to not force myself to keep going in this daily rhythm.
I am keeping the goal of writing more and I also have my ears and heart tuned in for concepts of joy. (For example, it’s been crazy to see that there hasn’t been a day since the start of October where the word joy or rejoice didn’t show up in my daily Bible reading. It’s literally been there every single day.)
So yes. Joy and blogging remain goals but I’m choosing to actually LIVE in joy by putting aside an arbitrary expectation that wasn’t helping me live the very thing I was writing about.
This leads to my questions for you today…
1. What are the things that brought you joy this week?
2. What’s something you may need to stop because it is not adding value, meaning, or joy to your life?
When I wake up with a worship song or Scripture already in my mind as my first waking thought, I pay attention. A few days ago, these lyrics were on repeat as I transitioned into my day:
“You write a beautiful story. You write a beautiful story. From glory to glory. I believe. You write a beautiful story. You write a beautiful story. Beginning to ending and in between.” ~ Beautiful Story by Andrew Holt, Mia Fieldes, Robert Marvin
To be honest, I wanted to joyfully believe these words but in the moment it felt more a mantra I needed to repeat over and over to convince myself of. All the same, I was thankful my day was starting with this reminder.
As I pondered this concept more, I considered God’s Word and realized: it’s true. Looking back I can see it clearly that our God does write an insanely beautiful story. The day to day moments often don’t seem so sweet but when you see both the beginning and the end, and the redemption that happens along the way, it becomes clear.
The hard part that we’re living right now is not the end of the story, but it still can be beautiful. Or perhaps how we TELL the story is what really shapes this view.
We can walk through a challenging season of life (like the one we’re all currently living) and have it be all about how hard it was, how tired we were, all the ways people didn’t treat us well or we hurt them, all the ways we messed up, etc.
The narrative I tell can be about how day after day God showed up, how faithful and constant He was when everything was changing, how He provided strength when we had none.
It’s not that the first reality isn’t true, but it doesn’t really capture the beauty of the real story God is writing.
My tendency is to stay focused on the first half. I don’t think I’m the only human who does this. But to do that without also shifting my heart and my words to God’s role and action leaves the story incomplete. If that’s how a movie or book was written we’d label it “boring”. It’s not what people would want to take in.
But Jesus, He writes beautiful stories, stories filled with redemption, with restoration, with faithfulness.
May that be the story I tell this day, this week, with my life.
Which leads me to another recent favorite song called “The Story I’ll Tell” by Alton Eugene, Benji Cowart, Naomi Raine which include these lyrics:
“And I’ll testify of the battles you’ve won How you were my portion when there wasn’t enough I’ll sing a song of the seas that we crossed The waters you parted The waves that I walked
Oh, oh, oh, My God did not fail Oh, oh, oh, it’s the story I’ll tell Oh, oh, oh, I know it is well Oh, oh, oh, is the story I’ll tell”
That is the story I want to be telling through my life, the song I want to come out of my mouth. Just like I described above, this song, especially in it’s verses, doesn’t ignore the hard and painful aspects of life. It names them all, but it doesn’t stop there. It continues declaring truth that we can trust the pain is not the only part of the story. Rather, because of the faithfulness of God, we know that on the other side we’ll have a water parting, wave-walking, victorious story of provision. It may not happen in this life, but we will some day look back on this moment, yes even a moment in 2020, and see God’s hand on it and in it.
The song ends:
“All that is left is highest praises So sing hallelujah to the Rock of Ages”
My prayer is that I’d see and pay attention to God’s hand day by day. May we not have to wait until we look back on this time to be able to tell the beautiful story God’s writing. I want God to get the praise, even today.
This was the call I heard as I laid awake at 3:45 am one Friday morning at some point in the early days of the pandemic. No, I don’t know Greek, but I stumbled upon this word that is often translated as “come” or “come now” as I was poking around in Matthew 11. I found myself processing what it looked liked to live these words in the middle of pandemic, in the middle of some of the hardest most stressful days of my job, in the middle of exhaustion and loneliness:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
There it was right at the very beginning.
With sleep clearly not happening that very early morning, I got up and “came” not really sure where God was calling me to. As I searched more about this word, I discovered Jesus used this call quite often throughout His days on earth. In the verses above and in Mark 6 we see this as a call to come away and rest, but that’s not the only “come”.
In Matthew 4 and Mark 1, “duete” is the “follow me” used by Jesus to call His disciples into ministry.
Matthew 25 documents the parable of the sheep and the goats. The goats are told to “depart from” him, sent away to eternal punishment. The sheep though? “duete” … come … inherit the Kingdom.
After the resurrection, the disciples are out on a boat fishing and they hear a voice call out, “Come and have breakfast” and suddenly, maybe because of the repeated use of this word, they know it is the Lord. “duete”
How beautiful to see all the ways Jesus used this word. Jesus didn’t just call his disciples to the hard work before them of ministry. He also called them into rest, into meals, into His Kingdom. Each aspect of those callings just as important as the other.
In this weary, worn season that never seems to end, what could our life look like if each day we woke up and listened for Jesus’ “duete” call. Maybe today that call looks more like caring for yourself, getting away and being restored. Or perhaps he’s asking you to walk into challenging situations. Maybe he just wants to sit down and have breakfast with you. No matter what, the call is clear… “Come. Be near me. Do this with me. See what I have in store for today.”
Jesus isn’t the only one who uses this word in scripture though. Others often use it when pointing to Jesus.
The Samaritan woman invites her whole community to “Come and see a man who told me all that I ever did!” “duete”
Lent. It’s a season known for fasting. As I journey though a devotion book suggesting a new fast for each day, the suggested fasts have ranged from “collecting praise” to an actual physical meal. I had to laugh when I came across the most recent suggestion. “Today, fast from isolation.”
In a current world climate where “social distancing” is the buzzword in efforts to slow down the spread of a pandemic and many are being told to stay home or to isolate in their offices at work, I found it ironic that God, through my devotion, was encouraging me to fast from isolation today.
The reality is that with or without COVID-19, WE NEED EACH OTHER!
We can’t do this life alone and while we my physically need to maintain some distance for a while, I think we all should make it a goal to “fast” from isolation today and for all the days and weeks ahead.
As a coworker reminded me yesterday “Don’t go it alone!”
So what’s that practically look like? How do we fast from the very thing our employers, health departments, and friends are encouraging us to add to our lives? In a phrase, “be creative!”
1. Text, call, or FaceTime a friend. Grieve together, celebrate together, process this crazy life together. It may not happen in the normal classroom/office space or in a crowded arena watching a game, but you can still do life together from a distance.
2. Find ways to support each other. If a friend is sick, drop off some supplies on their doorstep with a little note. If you know a nurse or other professional who is caring for those directly impacted by this disease, simply ask them how they’re doing and maybe get them a gift card to a restaurant near their work or home so they don’t have to worry about cooking after extra long days.
3. Snail mail! If you are one who has to be home for a long time, maybe write some notes. Wash your hands well and then get to writing. (Maybe spray a little Lysol on it before dropping it in the mailbox.) 🙂
4. Offer people patience. This is an overwhelming, anxious time for many sorting through the impact pandemic has on lives. Whether your decisions impact hundreds or the decisions of others greatly impact you and your family, offer compassion and grace towards each other. We’ll get through this but we can’t see each other as the enemy.
5. Worship. Even if your church closes or you need to avoid social gatherings, don’t forget to find moments of worship. This is a way we can fast from isolation by connecting with the God who is always with us. Also, worship connects us relationally with others who join in worshipping the God who is still overall and in all, the God who remains faithful. We may not be in the same room but can join in the same spirit of worship that unites and connects us.
6. Enjoy and don’t take for granted what limited social interaction you may have. If you’re “stuck” at home with your family, break out the games. Make Spring 2020 the season you look back on as one of your favorite family times. If you get to interact with others at work, enjoy that time and use it to build each other up. When you’re in the grocery store, be kind to others who are also just trying to find a couple rolls of toilet paper.
7. Make use of technology. Start up a phone app game with a friend that lives across the country. Video chat with people who can’t have visitors right now. Watch a movie “together” or read a book and then talk about it.
8. Make plans for when this all settles down and you can get together again. Use this time apart to make grand plans for face-to-face connection when it’s possible.
Well, there are a few ideas. What else would you add? How are you going to join me in fasting from isolation even in the midst of pandemic? How are you going to show love and compassion perhaps in ways that are different than you’re used to? How can COVID-19 push us toward expanding our repertoire for how we connect and care for each other? Get creative today!