Stress and Peace the Rhythm of Life

Are Stress and Peace the Rhythm of Life?

Peace is often hard to find in a world full of stress. We anticipate something to happen one way, but it turns out another.  Stress increases.

We live in the tension between stress and peace.

Our daily lives are high with stress and low on peace.

The tension between them is not new.

Mary and Joseph lived in that tension when God chose them as parents for the holy child.

The angel appeared to Mary with a shocking pronouncement.

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:30-33 NIV

When Joseph learned of this, he considered divorcing her until the angel spoke to him in a dream.

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Angelic visitations disrupted their normal lives. Yet they were faithful to believe God’s word.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Luke 1:38 NIV

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. Matthew 1:24 NIV

In the Nativity story, peace is present in the midst of stress.

christmas peace

  • Mary and Joseph trusted God faithfully.

In the midst of their questions, they looked to God and trusted him. Joseph remarkably accepted Jesus as his son. The tension resolved to peace as they acted in faith to God’s word.

  • Fear gave way to praise.

Mary praised God when she visited Elizabeth.

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.” Luke 1:46-49 NIV

On the night of Jesus’ birth, unsuspecting shepherds received the heavenly birth announcement.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

The angels proclaimed praise and spoke of peace.

Glory to God and peace on earth

The shepherds obeyed the angels and sought the baby in the manger. Their response of fear turned to praise.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

  • Each person in the Nativity story knew and believed the word of God.

The Magi sought the babe called the king of the Jews because they knew the prophecies.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:1-2, 11 NIV

Although they didn’t know the outcome, every person in the nativity story faithfully listened and obeyed in the face of uncertainty and stress. Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and the Magi had an awareness of God’s word and prophecy for the Messiah.

Stress and peace are the rhythms of life.

God broke into the pain and chaos of life with the birth of Jesus, Prince of Peace.

When our hearts look to the Lord we find peace. When we act with trust, praise, and faith, our peace grows in the midst of stress.

May your peace increase over the stresses in your life.


broken mess

A Broken Mess?

We live in a broken mess.

On the news we hear about fires raging out of control, eathquakes rattling communities, and unresolved wars. People made homeless due to natural disasaters or joblessness. Families crumble under financial or relational stress. Hardly a week goes by that I don’t hear about someone receiving a devasting health diagnosis.

Discouargement and loss of hope abound.

The world is a broken mess on a large scale. Individuals are broken mess on a smaller scale.

The result is the same no matter how large or small the scale—pain, disillusionment, and hurt.

In the middle of our mess, God brings hope.

In the middle of the mess, God brings hope.

At just the right time in history, God intervened with a redemption plan for all eternity through the birth of a baby who would be the Messiah. His plan brought a different kind of hope, one that looks beyond the struggle.

In Isaiah 61:1 a prophecy is given by the prophet Isaiah about Jesus Christ coming into the broken world.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.

Jesus left the the majesty and splendor of heaven to enter our sinful world, for us—to breathe our air and walk on our soil. To redeem our hurting lives from pain and bring us hope.

God became like one of us in the broken mess.

John 1.14 Word became flesh

Jesus stated his purpose in Luke 4:18-19 as he read the scroll of Isaiah.

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

From the prophecy to his purpose, Jesus came to bring hope to the broken mess of the world.

What does the prophecy and purpose mean for you and me?

When I am poor in spirit or lacking provisions, I can turn to the Savior for hope.

I can rest in the Messiah’s love when I am brokenhearted. God’s word offers comfort.

When I need recovery from spiritual blindness, the Lord opens my eyes to see his truth.

Jesus offers freedom and forgivenes from the chains of past mistakes and hurts.

The love of God reaches us, right where we are, bringing  hope for our broken mess.
Whatever you’re facing, may your look to Lord to find hope.

 


Gratitude Perspective

How is Your Gratitude Perspective?

I love the reminders to be thankful during this season, but am saddened that it lasts only a few weeks in November. A gratitude perspective is hard to maintain throughout the year with the pressures of daily living. We get caught up in striving to accomplish our “to-do” lists in preparation for the holiday season.

Over the last few years, I’ve challenged myself to grow in the gratitude perspective. To be honest, it has been hard. The struggle is real. I can easily fall into complaining or discouragement. It takes discipline to learn change your perspective, especially when the world is so negative.

Here are some observations I’ve learned from the gratitude perspective.

  • Gratitude leads us to value the blessings in life.

Many daily gifts from God are overlooked from the pressures from life to perform strive for more. Eye contact with the blessings is important— keeping my eyes open to notice the blessings in daily life. I love it when a small child waves or smiles at me. When someone lets me in front of them in the grocery line when I only have a few items and they have a cart full, my heart is warmed. Look around—what is right with the world? Be the person who smiles and spreads kindness.

Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Psalm 103:1-2 KJV

  • Gratitude is a pathway to praise.

gratitude perspective

Offering thanks to God is different than praising Him. We thank God for what He has provided—food, shelter, love, family, answered prayer—which leads us to praise God for who He is. A good exercise is writing down the top ten blessings in your life. Sure, it sounds elementary, but if we remember the simple reasons for thanksgiving, it will go a long way to pave the way for an upgraded gratitude perspective throughout the year. Praying regular prayers of thanksgiving lightens our hearts. And then when a tough season occurs, we can reread the list to set our mind on the blessings in life in spite of the circumstances.

Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. 1 Chronicles 29:13 NIV

  • When gratitude replaces grumbling, contentment can grow in your heart.

gratitude perspective

Complaining indicates discontentment, creating a yearning for something other than we have. Sometimes life is hard when situations or relationships don’t go as we hoped. The car breaks down when there’s little in the bank account. Someone disappoints you.

When I look at the problem, I will become discouraged. When I look to the word of God and pray, I gain peace. The challenge is to look to the Lord and his promises, not the problem. God is faithful to keep all his promises; remembering this truth will help increase the gratitude perspective. A thankful heart leads to a better outlook in life.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

The following song encourages me to have a gratitude perspective even when life is hard. Laura Story wrote it during the time when her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I pray that you are encouraged, too.

 


Thankful Surprise

A Thankful Surprise

The winds of autumn blow through the trees, swirling yellow and red leaves to the ground. Brown crunchy leaves line the streets. Temperature fall; days are shorter. Autumn is here. Each season has its own unique feel and beauty. I don’t like to rush through fall with its beauty and preparations for Thanksgiving. I savor the beauty of the many colors of fall.

However, retail stores display Christmas merchandise months before the holiday shopping season. The Thanksgiving holiday seems pushed aside for the Black Friday pre-sales. Seeing early Christmas decorations in the autumn colors creates a type of cognitive dissonance for me.

Recently while shopping, I saw a display of clearance items. To my surprise, they things from last holiday season with drastically reduced prices. The bargain discovery of decorative dessert plates with the word “joy” on them could not be resisted. I imagined possible uses in the upcoming holiday season and picked up a small stack to put in my cart.

The store clerk wrapped each plate individually, so as not to break any of them.

At home I unwrapped each joy plate to be sure none had broken.

When I removed the protective paper from the last one, I found a surprise and an unexpected blessing.

thankful plate surprise

I unknowingly picked up a “thankful” plate.

The reminder to have a heart of thankfulness brought joy.

Colossians 1:12 describes the life worthy of the Lord as “giving joyful thanks to the Father.”

Simple reminders of thankfulness can surprise us and bring joy to our hearts.

Joyful thanks for surprise blessings

Be on the lookout for unexpected blessings every day.

  • Create a gratitude journal.
  • Recall how the Lord has answered prayer and strengthened you.
  • Thank the Lord for the surprise blessings of each season.

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

Whatever your situation, if you are in a season of joy, struggle, or uncertainty, I pray that you can look to the Lord with a thankful heart. He is at work as we unwrap each moment as we transition from one season to another.


Improve Your Perspective: Release Disillusionment and Embrace Faith

Improve Your Perspective: Release Disillusionment and Embrace Faith

 

A new perspective is hard to come by when life seems unfair. Disillusionment clouds our thinking; all we can see is the injustice around us.

We grumble that we didn’t get the promotion or contract.

We live as upright citizens yet get an unexpected income tax statement saying we owe more.

The person across from us appears to be prospering while we are barely holding on.

Unmet expectations clash with the reality of day to day life. Disillusionment sets in.

Life seems unfair.disappointment perspective

We can’t control the situations, but we can control our perspective.

Psalm 73 provides an example of someone who looked at life’s injustices while others prospered, yet got a new perspective of hope.

Asaph, the author of Psalm 73, was the worship leader in the time of King David. He spent his life serving the Lord as a skilled musician at the tabernacle.

The psalm begins with stating a truth about God’s character.

Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. Psalm 73:1

Asaph began by recalling the reality of God’s goodness. When times get tough, it is easy for us to forget that God is good.

In the next verses, he complains of the unfairness of life, looking at those around him with envy. He sees the prosperity of the wicked. He compares his life to the lives of others and comes up short. As a result, his heart turned bitter, distorting his perspective of the goodness of God.

I can almost here him ask, “God, I serve you, so when will I prosper? Why the wicked and not me?”  His expectations of God’s goodness had not been met.

Asaph’s honesty prepared the way for a change of perspective.

Near the middle of the Psalm, Asaph took action that restored his hope, drawing him back to God.

He went to the sanctuary to seek counsel from the Lord. (v.17) He released his disillusionment to God and embraced faith.

Perspective: recall God's faithfulness & character when disillusioned

The Psalmist lifted his eyes to God in heaven instead of looking at the people and situations that caused distress and envy.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. Psalm 73:25

Asaph recalled the truth of God’s sovereignty and provision, making a statement of faith as he refocused his perspective on God. He exchanged his disillusionment for faith in God’s plan.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

He used the phrase “but God” to reframe his perspective. When I’ve struggled and felt weak, I’ve come back to that phrase, remembering that God works in ways that I do not see. I can’t, but God can. I can rest in His sovereignty.

People and seasons of life change, but God remains the same.

God is the strength of my heart. Perspective.

Asaph concluded with the promise of God’s protection.

But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. Psalm 73:28

Psalm 73 teaches us how to regain a perspective of hope when life seems unfair.

We can learn from Asaph how to change our perspective by placing our focus back on God’s character. In seeking God as our refuge, we gain his insights and perspective. He restores our hope.