If God gave you shoes, why don’t you wear them?

To say the last two weeks haven’t exactly gone according to plan would be an understatement of massive proportions. I didn’t plan to need four new tires on my car the day after I left my job. I didn’t plan to get sick. I didn’t plan to have my car battery die the morning we were leaving for Colorado. And I didn’t plan to still be sick after a week of trying to hack up my lungs.

Funny how the little bumps in the road can be really discouraging, isn’t it? In other circumstances, they might just be inconveniences, but when they start piling up, they tend to drag you down.

745989_48427234Today’s verse is Ephesians 6:15.

For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.

I love the passage in Ephesians that talks about the Armor of God. Always have. But even I tend to focus on the other parts of the Armor of God that are mentioned in the passage. The helmet. The shield. The sword. The breastplate.  But–the shoes?

Come on. Who focuses on the shoes? Who even thinks about shoes? I mean, I’ve been told that you can tell a lot about someone by what shoes they wear, but this isn’t talking about fashion. This is armor for battle. And out of all the pieces of armor that someone would wear, why are shoes important?

Shoes protect your feet. Without your feet, you can’t walk. Yeah, you need to protect your head and your chest and your arms, but that’s from the big attacks. You don’t see major attacks aimed at your feet. No. Your feet run into small things. Pebbles. Sticks. Sharp rocks. Sand burrs and goat head stickers. They’re not enough to bring you down, but they are annoying. Especially when they come one after another.

That’s why you wear shoes. See, my default is barefoot. I hate shoes. But I can tell you stories about stepping on things that hurt. Shoes matter. So apply that concept to shoes in God’s Armor.

The struggles we face in our life aren’t physical. Maybe they feel like it, but there’s something bigger at the heart of every difficulty we face. No, that doesn’t mean to see Satan in every paper cut, but it does mean there are little irritations and annoyances that will come at you for no reason other than to distract you. Satan doesn’t just throw fiery darts. He litters your path with pebbles and rocks, and if you aren’t outfitted for them, they’re going to slow you down.

So what do the shoes of God’s Armor look like? Peace. That’s what the verse says. Peace that comes from the Good News. That’s the Bible. There is no greater peace in the world than peace with God, and God Himself made it possible for us to find it through Jesus’ sacrifice.

When we read the Bible and apply it to our lives, when we understand who God is and what He’s done for us, and when we allow Him to transform our minds and our perspectives and our thoughts, we see the world differently. We see our troubles differently.

When we run into those frustrations and little annoyances of life, don’t get angry. Don’t despair. Remember you’re wearing God’s peace. He knows what He’s doing with your life. He knows where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.

Maybe you’ll step on a pebble every now and then. Maybe you’ll stub your toe. God gave you the shoes you need, and it’s your job to just keep walking.

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Beautiful iris at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Accepting the gift of God’s peace

Have you ever had something go horribly wrong and cause all sorts of ridiculous problems? Don’t you hate that? The day can even start out brilliantly, and everything can be going perfectly, and then BOOM! It all blows up.

Well, that happened to me yesterday. The day even started out well. Everything was going fine. And on my lunch break, life blew up.

How do you react in that situation? What do you do?

Beautiful iris at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Beautiful iris at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is John 14:27.

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

What would we do without God’s peace? I’m telling you, I think I probably would have gone crazy (crazier) years ago without Him. I don’t know how people make it through a day without Him, knowing that He’s got things under control.

But even though I know He has it all handled, sometimes I forget. Sometimes I let myself worry, and once I start worrying, there’s no going back to peace until I smack myself in the head with a board.

Like in this instance yesterday. I flipped out. I didn’t exactly panic, but I sure wasn’t as calm as I could have been. But fortunately, I gathered my wits and banged my head against a wall a few times until my sanity returned. And then I calmly went about fixing the problem.

What’s the lesson? Well, my day got thrown off almost entirely because of this thing that blew up, but I did have time to fix it because it happened over my lunch. The problem got fixed, and everything worked out.

I could choose to focus on the fact that my lunch got interrupted, because it did. And it was inconvenient. I had other things I wanted to do over lunch than fix this problem.

Or I could choose to focus on the fact that this problem happened over my lunch, when I had time to invest in fixing it immediately.

See the difference? That’s God’s peace. He gives it to us in so many ways, and half the time I think we choose to ignore it. But that’s the way a gift works. It’s only effective if you accept it.

So what’s going wrong for you today? Maybe it’s the morning and you haven’t had your plans screwed up yet. Just wait. The day is young. Decide now to face the challenges of the day with a cheerful spirit, trusting that God has it worked out and thankful that He’ll help you through it.

Or maybe it’s later in the day and you’ve already experienced the trouble. Take the time to look at what happened rationally and look for the positive. Look for God’s hand in the situation, and I bet you’ll find it. Something good came out of it.

It’s your choice what to focus on, but I can guarantee that you’ll have a happier life if you can find the positive aspects to focus on instead of the negative ones. Don’t live in denial, of course. You can recognize that life stinks without focusing your thoughts on it.

The old schoolhouse at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Fix your thoughts

My brain never stops running. It’s always going, like the Energizer Bunny, a constant blur of thought jumping from one subject to the next without slowing down. And most of the time that’s the way I like it. I can be extremely productive when my brain is in high gear but only when I’m focused on something productive. If I get hung up on something non-productive, I can’t accomplish anything. So much of our lives revolves around our focus. We do what we focus on. We are what we think. That’s why it’s so important to have a healthy thought life because what you think is eventually what you will do.

This month I’m studying the Fruit of the Spirit as outlined in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” And in yesterday’s post about peace, I realized that there are two kinds of peace. Well–there may be more than two kinds, but two kinds stood out to me. Emotional peace and intellectual peace. Peace of heart and peace of mind. Both are gifts that God gives us when we accept Christ, but both are qualities that are easy to ignore, especially if you’re a control freak like me.

The old schoolhouse at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The old schoolhouse at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Isaiah 26:3.

You will keep in perfect peace
    all who trust in you,
    all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

First thing this morning, I set out to discover if the same word for peace in Isaiah was used in Galatians, and after I spent a few minutes on that, I remembered that Isaiah is an Old Testament book that was written in Hebrew. Galatians was written in Greek. And since I know neither Hebrew nor Greek trying to figure out whether or not the word is the same is probably a bad idea (instead, I just got another cup of coffee). So I may be totally off with this, but I don’t think so.

Peace of mind, peace in our thoughts, is something that everyone has always searched for, even in the Old Testament. No, the Holy Spirit didn’t come to live inside us until the New Testament, after Jesus died for our sins, but intellectual peace was something that God gave to His followers from the very beginning. At least, it was an option they could choose. They could choose to take Him at His word and live the way He instructed.

It’s the same today. For grins, I looked up this verse in the Amplified Version just to get the particulars of the word meaning:

You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.

Check that out. The inclination and character of your mind matter. What is the inclination of your mind? What is the character of your mind? Those are tough questions that make me cringe because the inclination of my mind is to think about myself. The character of my mind is to think about myself. But my mind won’t be in “perfect and constant peace” until both the inclination and character of my mind is focused on God.

Wow. I don’t know about you, but I never thought of it that way.

Peace of mind eludes us so many times because our thoughts are fixed on things they shouldn’t be. We worry because we think about things that don’t matter. We’re upset or frightened or disturbed because we’re focusing on ourselves or on our circumstances, and we’re not supposed to focus on those things. We’re supposed to focus on God and commit ourselves to Him and lean on him and hope confidently in Him.

Peace is a gift. God has given peace to every one of His followers, and it’s our choice to use it. Part of that peace is peace of mind, tranquility of our thoughts. God has given us the power to choose what we think about, and if we fix our thoughts on Him and what He’s doing and who He is, peace will follow. Why? Because God is awesome. God made the universe. God made the atom. God invented time. God created the concept of spring, summer, autumn, winter. God made everything we see. He’s all-powerful. He’s all-knowing. He’s everywhere. And He’s available to us to help us. He not only cares about what goes on in our everyday lives, but He wants to help us get through it and reach out to others who don’t know Him yet. And if you think about it that way, what on earth in our lives is so big that we have to worry about it?

God has given us peace. We just have to use it. And the first step to using it is thinking about it. So fix your thoughts on who God is today. Remind yourself exactly who your heavenly Father is, and then look at your circumstances. And I bet your perspective might change a little.

Lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

God gives His people strength

Tired yet? It’s only Tuesday, and my feet are already dragging.  Judgement House, the outreach drama my church puts on every October, is an amazing ministry. There is no other ministry I love being a part of more; however, I can tell you there’s no other ministry that exhausts me more.

We finished on Sunday, and now I’m trying to remember how to live a normal life again, without spending every waking moment ensuring that tour groups have a guide to lead them every ten minutes.

Like so many other people who volunteer for Judgement House, I work a full-time job. And it’s not just a job; it’s a very stressful job. I love it, and I’m thankful for it. But it’s fast paced, high tension, and 100 percent necessary to be able to think on my toes. All of the above are difficult when I’m physically, mentally, and emotionally worn out.

So where do I get the strength to make it through the week? How can I get the strength I need to do not only what is necessary but also what God expects of me? How do I accomplish that, and how do I stop worrying about it?

Lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 29:11.

The Lord gives his people strength.
    The Lord blesses them with peace.

I love the Bible. Seriously, any question you have, it has an answer. Like this. Where do you get strength? Ask God.

God strengthens His people.

Think about that. If you follow Christ, you are one of God’s people. And God will give his people strength when they need it.

I will admit: I almost didn’t use this verse today. Why? Well, it’s obvious. Isn’t it? Of course, we get our strength from God. Of course, God gives us peace. Where else would we get it from? Granted, we can look for it elsewhere, but we won’t find it. And if you’ve been following Christ for any amount of time, you’ll know that nothing else satisfies like He does.

Honestly, this verse didn’t grab me until I read the whole Psalm. Yes, God gives his people strength. But what does that mean? How can we wrap our minds around the kind of strength that God is offering to us? That’s what the rest of the Psalm is about. This is a wonderful verse, but it’s impossible to grasp the immensity of this promise until you read the rest of it.

Psalm 29

Honor the Lord, you heavenly beings;
honor the Lord for his glory and strength.
Honor the Lord for the glory of his name.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.

The voice of the Lord echoes above the sea.
The God of glory thunders.
The Lord thunders over the mighty sea.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord splits the mighty cedars;
the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon’s mountains skip like a calf;
he makes Mount Hermon leap like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord strikes
with bolts of lightning.
The voice of the Lord makes the barren wilderness quake;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord twists mighty oaks
and strips the forests bare.
In his Temple everyone shouts, “Glory!”

The Lord rules over the floodwaters.
The Lord reigns as king forever.
The Lord gives his people strength.
The Lord blesses them with peace.

Do you see? Do you get it? God’s voice alone can split the sky, tear massive trees apart, and cause mighty mountains to tremble. Literally. That’s just His voice.  Imagine what the rest of Him can do. And He offers that strength to us.

So if you’re tired today, whether you volunteered at NewSpring’s Judgement House or not, know that it’s all right to be tired. We’re all human. We all run out of steam. But we don’t have to stay exhausted. God is standing by waiting for us to ask for His help.

God has offered His strength to us. And I, for one, intend to take Him up on it. Because coffee, though wonderful, can only accomplish so much. To get through a day when I’m tired to my soul, I need strength that doesn’t come from me. And thanks to Jesus, all I have to do to get it is ask for it.

Single tree at sunrise - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Peace is a gift; Trust is a choice.

What does it mean to be at peace? To experience peace, oftentimes we think we need to be alone out in the middle of nowhere. Peace is usually associated with calm, like the eye of a storm or the vast openness of the countryside. Actually, its first definition in the dictionary refers to a the harmony between people groups during the absence of war. But is peace really stillness? Can you only be peaceful when everything is calm?

I have learned that peace isn’t necessarily something you can find when everything is quiet. It’s actually more the other way around. Real peace doesn’t come in those moments when nothing is wrong; real peace comes at the times when everything is going crazy and you have to trust that God is going to work it out. That is real peace.

Single tree at sunrise - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Single tree at sunrise - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is John 14:27.

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

When Jesus was explaining to the Disciples that He had to leave, this is one of the statements that He made. He was leaving, but He wasn’t leaving them with nothing.

What is the difference between the peace we get from the world and the peace we get from God? Is there a difference? Jesus said there was.

The world’s peace is wrapped up in securities and possessions and position. Wealth and status and control–if you have all these things you can have peace because there’s nothing that can hit you that you can’t survive. Right? Peace is knowing you’ve got everything under control. It’s knowing you have money in the bank. It’s knowing you have health insurance. It’s knowing you have a family vision plan. It’s making enough to pay your mortgage. It’s a job you may not like but that pays the bills. It’s not having to worry about anything (except we still worry, don’t we?).

So if that’s peace, what happens when you lose your job? What happens when you don’t have money in the bank and your health insurance goes away? What happens when you can’t pay your mortgage? What happens to your peace?

That’s not the kind of peace Jesus is talking about.

Peace from the world is temporary because anything the world offers is temporary. Finding peace in material things is a really bad idea because those things can be destroyed or taken away. We just had more bad storms blow through Kansas last night, and many folks had a good deal of property damage.

The peace Jesus is talking about in this verse is something that only comes from the Holy Spirit. I wish I knew Greek so I could get the exact word, but the context of the verse from the Message is basically saying that even though Jesus was leaving, He wasn’t leaving us incomplete. God provided everything we needed through the Holy Spirit, so we have no cause to be afraid or distraught.

Peace from God defies explanation.

This verse is pretty much saying that Jesus gave us His peace, the peace He has. Talk about mind blowing! To have the kind of peace that Jesus experienced? So when I think about peace, I don’t think about the eye of a storm where everything is calm; I think about Jesus walking in the midst of a storm and calming it.

The peace we get from God is based in our trust that He knows what He’s doing.

We trust that God doesn’t make mistakes and that He is big enough to work everything in our lives (the good and the bad) together to do something amazing. And if we can trust Him, we get peace because we’re not worrying about the things we can’t control. And we’re not anxious about life. And no matter what comes at us, we aren’t afraid because God is bigger than any obstacle in our path.

In the Amplified Bible, it clarifies a statement out of this verse by saying: “Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.”

Peace is a gift, but trust is a choice.

We can allow ourselves to be frightened. We can allow ourselves to anxious. But we don’t have to allow ourselves to be that way. Instead of choosing to feel fear and indecision, we can choose to trust that God is in control. And when we do that, the Holy Spirit will give us His peace. Not the quiet, soothing, calmness of the open country or the beach or the mountains; nothing nearly so romanticized as that. Most of the time, you’ll just get to sit at an oasis in a sandstorm.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking that peace negates grief. Grief is often necessary, and there’s a time and place for it. But peace supersedes it.

God’s peace is something no one can take away from you. And the awesome thing about God’s peace is that it allows you to bring calm into other peoples’ storms too. It doesn’t mean the storm is over. It just means you don’t have to be afraid of it.

Half moon above the apricots

Everything changes

Change is inevitable. It’s part of life. Nothing stays the same. Seasons pass. People age. People die. People are born. Jobs go away. Jobs get harder. Taxes increase. New government official are elected and enact changes in policies. Kids you knew when they were toddlers grow up and get married.

There’s a line in an old country song by Tracy Lawrence called “Time Marches On” that says: “The only thing that stays the same is everything changes.” And that’s very true.

So since change is inevitable, why do we get so attached to the way life is today? Is that just the way we are? Change bothers some people more than others, but I think all change is difficult at some level, even if you like change. I don’t. I hate change, but at the same time I appreciate it. Because it’s necessary. Imagine what life would like if nothing ever changed.

Half moon above the apricots

Half moon above the apricots - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is John 14:27.

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

This is a statement that Christ said to the disciples shortly before His death. He was trying to comfort them, explaining that He wouldn’t always be with them, but that Someone else was coming to walk beside them through life.

From what I know of Scripture, the disciples didn’t like change either. At least, they didn’t like change they couldn’t control. That’s where I am. I’m such a control freak that I accept the change I initiate. When it’s change that I start, I don’t have a problem with it because I can wrap my arms around it and I can comprehend what needs to be done and I can often see the light at the end of the tunnel because I control how fast I’m moving.

But when it’s change someone else affects in my life? Yeah, that doesn’t go over so well.

One of the many things I love about Jesus is that He understands that. He knows that I have a desperate need to control the situations in my life, but He also knows that if I actually had that power, I wouldn’t do a very good job of managing. And He loves me enough to take that responsibility away.

Part of being in control is that you have to know everything. You have to know every possible outcome, and you have to know everything that could possibly go wrong. If I wanted to control my life and manage my circumstances effectively, I would have to know everything, not just about myself but about the people around me. And I am not capable of that. That is beyond my ability. It’s beyond anyone’s ability, and to declare otherwise is like telling God that you know better.

The disciples freaked out about Jesus leaving. I mean, He had been walking with them in their lives for three years. Their closest friend. Their mentor. Their brother. And they believed He was who He said He was for the most part, and at the news that He was leaving them, they despaired.

It’s so easy to get upset when things don’t go your way. It’s so easy to sit and pout and cry when life doesn’t turn out the way we think it will. It’s easy to get frustrated with God because He makes you wait before He’ll give you an answer. And the longer you have to wait, the easier it gets to be discouraged.

And God knows that. He created us. So He knows how we think. That’s where this verse comes in. Because Jesus didn’t leave the disciples without hope. God hasn’t abandoned us. Even when He isn’t speaking or moving in a way we can see, that doesn’t mean He isn’t working. God gave us Himself. If you believe in Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit within you, a direct line to God Himself. We can go to God any time and tell Him what we’re struggling with, and He won’t turn us away in disgust or impatience or disappointment.

But He does want us to trust Him. And it’s hard to trust someone you aren’t talking to.

The New Living Translation says, “Don’t be troubled or afraid.” But in the Amplified Version, that same statement means this:

Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.

God has given us peace. It’s a different kind of peace that the world offers. The world tells us to cling to financial gain and economic stability and political morality, but all of that changes. None of that is solid. God’s peace comes through Christ. God’s peace comes through believing that God knows what He’s doing even if it doesn’t feel like it. Feeling upset or unhappy or scared is a choice.

We can choose to be at peace in the midst of inevitable change because the one thing that matters never changes: God knows what He’s doing, He never makes mistakes, and He always keeps His promises.