Blossoming lilacs at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

You can’t always trust how you feel

What does peace feel like to you? To me, it’s sitting on my back porch step with a cup of coffee listening to the wind in the leaves, smelling cut alfalfa or newly blossoming lilacs (and sneezing a lot). Peace looks different to different people. Some find the country too harsh or too boring and experience peace in a more urban landscape, but everyone would probably agree that peace is rightness. Just general rightness in life, where you’re happy and content and not afraid.

That kind of rightness is possible even if your life has been turned on its head, but only through Christ. Peace is truly only possible through the Holy Spirit’s power, but if you’re a follower of Christ, you have access to that power. According to Galatians 5:22-23, “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Peace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and to get it, all we have to do is choose to use it.

Yesterday I blogged about intellectual peace–having peace of mind, choosing not to worry about life. But what about the other kind of peace? What about emotional peace? Peace of heart. That one’s a little trickier because emotions are always tricky. God created us to be emotional being. Our emotions are part of who we are.

Blossoming lilacs at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Blossoming lilacs at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Romans 5:1-2.

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

Feeling at peace runs deeper than our circumstances or our physical location on Earth. It’s deeper than our relationships with each other. Emotional peace stems from being right with God. That’s the basis of everything because if you’re right with God, everything else will fall into place.

If you have chosen to believe that Jesus died to pay for the things you’ve done wrong, you are made right with God. Jesus’ sacrifice is what justifies us. Not our works. Not our lives. Not our church attendance. Not our parents’ lives. Only believing in Jesus’ sacrifice for yourself will allow you to have a relationship with God. What’s more, if you believe this, nothing you can ever do will take it away from you because you didn’t do anything to earn it in the first place. It’s a gift from God, and God doesn’t take gifts back.

So, that being said, why do I worry about my future? Why do I fret about things I can’t control? Why do I feel so wretched?

This may be getting a little deeper theologically than I normally do, but human  beings were made with three parts–a body, a soul, and a spirit. But our soul is divided into another three parts, intellect, emotion and will. And it’s our intellect, emotion and will that makes us who we are. It’s also how we were made in God’s image because God also has intellect, emotion and will.

But like the rest of our world, those three facets of who we are broke when Adam sinned. So our emotions are important to our lives, but we can’t always trust them. There are some days when you just won’t feel like a follower of Christ. You just won’t feel like God is close. You just won’t feel like doing the right thing. But on those days, you have to discount what you feel and do what you know.

Feelings are difficult. They’re treacherous. They can lead you down a path, whispering that peace is just around the bend, and when you get there, you find out that they were lying and it’s just deeper trouble waiting for you.

I’m not an expert on this, but I have struggled with my emotions because I’m human and female. I can only share what has helped me. And that is knowing who God is.

I love my emotions. I wouldn’t want to go through life without them, and they help me connect to God on many levels where just plain knowledge falls short. God created us with emotions for a reason, and our emotions can be used to bring Him glory. But my emotions don’t always work the way they’re supposed to, kind of like the rest of me. So I can’t always trust them, kind of like the rest of me. (Are you catching the theme here?) And I have to compare what I’m feeling at the moment to what I know is true in the Bible, and if what I’m feeling is true then I shouldn’t stop myself from feeling it. But if what I’m feeling is a lie, I shouldn’t waste time on it.

Emotions are just like every other part of life. If they don’t match up with what is in the Bible, they’re going to make trouble for you.

The first step to peace of heart is to know who God is, through prayer and Bible study and daily worship. The next step is to trust Him. And that’s not something anyone else can do for you. That’s between you and God. But the longer you know Him, the easier it is to trust Him; and the more you trust Him, the more peace you’ll have.

So if you don’t feel at peace today? First, check your heart. Make sure you’re where you need to be. Make sure you’re listening. Make sure you’re obeying. Because sometimes a lack of peace is an indication that something is going on in your life that shouldn’t be going on. But if you’re in the right place and you’ve cleared the air with God and you still feel conflicted, talk to Him about it. Tell Him. Yes, He already knows, but He wants to hear from you anyway.

Then, maybe this sounds clichéd, but read some Scripture. Read a Psalm. Read the Book of Philippians. Read Romans. Just read something in the Bible. And don’t just read it; let it sink in, understanding that the words in the Bible were written for you. From God to you. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel.

And if that still doesn’t work and you still don’t feel at peace, find a mature Christ-follower and talk to them. Pray with them. And be patient and wait and keep watching for God to do something. But above all else, remember that you can’t always trust what you feel. First, trust what you know.

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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.

Lake view from a Guatemalan restaurant, Peten, Guatemala

Peace always costs something

How much would you pay for peace of mind? If you didn’t have to spend your day worrying about what might happen or what has happened, what would that be worth to you? Worry is one of those issues that everyone struggles with in some form or another, and marketing professionals make lots of money using that particular emotion to sell products.

Worry is an effective tool to use, and convincing people that purchasing a particular tool or service will alleviate their anxieties. But purchasing a product rarely takes worries away. At least, that’s what I’ve discovered. The only way to deal with anxiety is to live by the Holy Spirit, because one of the fruit or the results of living by the Holy Spirit is peace.

You can’t buy this kind of peace. You can’t earn it either. This kind of peace is something God produces in our lives when we live by the Holy Spirit, according to 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!”

Lake view from a Guatemalan restaurant, Peten, Guatemala

Lake view from a Guatemalan restaurant, Peten, Guatemala

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 something Jesus told His disciples shortly before He was arrested and crucified, and it’s always been one of my favorite verses when it comes to thinking about the kind of peace that God gives us.

According to what Jesus says here, the world does offer a kind of peace. But the peace the world offers is temporary and often causes more trouble than it solves. The world’s peace is something you buy, something you haggle over the price of, something you control, something you turn on and off. It’s not based in anything but emotion, and it’s not strong enough to stand up under real pressure.

Whenever I think about the concept of failed peace, I think about the Treaty of Versailles. For those of you who aren’t history buffs, the Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties signed at the end of World War I that ended the state of war between the Allied Powers (including the US) and Germany. On the surface, the Treaty of Versailles was a wonderful document. Hey, any document that brings an end to war is great, right?

But here’s the problem: The Treaty of Versailles included some controversial parts, including the fact that Germany had to accept the blame for starting World War I, had to make territorial concessions and pay large sums of money. Maybe some people thought it was fair, but the result of such a heavy punishment on an already-struggling country was that more and more people grew more and more desperate. And the more desperate people became, the more angry they grew. And people who probably wouldn’t have gone to war before started gearing up for round two.

Was it right? No, but desperate people do desperate things. One of the reasons World War II came so soon after World War I was the unfair treatment of Germany in the peace negotiations. Again, that doesn’t excuse it, but in my mind, I understand it to a certain extent. Because if peace isn’t fair, it won’t work.

But that’s like the world’s peace. The peace the world gives us may stick around for a little while, but it costs somebody something they aren’t willing to keep giving.

Peace always costs something.

So how is God’s peace different? Well, like the other fruit of the spirit, God’s peace depends on God. God’s peace is a gift. It cost Him the life of His Son, but He gives it to us free of charge. It’s not something that can be taken away (although we ignore it frequently), and it never runs out no matter how many times you draw on it.

And the beautiful thing about God’s peace? If you have the Holy Spirit, you already have it. God’s peace is in you.

God’s peace is always fair because God is fair. Granted, sometimes it doesn’t feel like He is, but we’re the ones with a limited view of justice. He invented justice. And He will never tire of giving us peace.

So whatever situation you’re facing today, physical, emotional, spiritual, remember that if you have God’s Spirit, you have God’s peace. If you know Christ, you can draw from an inexhaustible supply of peace. You don’t have to worry. Worry is a choice. Like joy, it’s a response to circumstances, and you can choose.

So choose peace. God already paid for it. Everyone who follows Him has access to it. And it’ll do wonders for your attitude, for your perspective, and your hair color.

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.