To all who have come across this blog and left comments, I want to thank you. This blog has been officially retired because life is moving on; however, because of the popularity of certain posts and topics I am leaving the blog out there in “cyberspace” so that others may have the opportunity to read and contribute. I will continue to approve comments. Blessings to all.
I realized recently that I spend a great deal of time walking circles around my house, trying to figure out the next thing I need to do, trying to plan ahead to save time, trying to remember something that I’m sure I’ve forgotten. Basically, trying to figure out the future. And this is not a peaceful place to be.
The author of Jesus Calling tells us that trying to figure out the future is grasping at things that belong to God. The “secret things” — and this, like all forms of worry, is an act of rebellion. Doubting God’s promise that He will care for us. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)
In short, we should repent about worrying about the future. Jesus tells us very clearly, “Do not be anxious about your life…” (Luke 12:22) What do we think is going to happen? Do we really believe that at some point God will show us the future? If He did, what would be our need for Him? God is not in the business of showing us the future, but He is in the business of guiding us step by step and opening up the way before us as we go. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” (Psalm 32:8)
God is fully aware of all aspects of our situation. We don’t need to “carry tomorrow’s burdens today” — we need to discipline ourselves to live within the boundaries of today. Receive the peace of knowing that God walks with us in the present moment, helping us to carry the burdens of the present moment. “I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.” (Psalm 73:23) Do you doubt that God has you on the right path? Receive the peace of knowing that when Jesus gave the command “You follow me!” (John 21:22) that He also promised to be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105).
The riches of God’s peace are the abundant joy and life that we receive by restoring our focus on Jesus and simply trusting. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3) Be bold enough to refuse to worry. Instead, bring the riches of the Peace of Jesus into your life: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Rejoice in the riches of peace.
How do we “practice” peace?
In a previous post, I described the practice of thankfulness as being a discipline in one’s life. And as with any discipline, you only become more familiar with what you are practicing the more that you practice. As with thankfulness, I believe that practicing peace will not only bring Jesus into our daily lives, but it will also bring us closer to the mind of God.
The first element of practicing peace is believing that Jesus is who He says He is. There was much told to us about Jesus long before He was born — 700 years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah prophesied that “a virgin will conceive and bear a son, and he will be called Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14) and “…his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) The exact meaning of Immanuel — God With Us — was then shared by the angel who appeared to Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, in a dream to comfort and encourage him as well as remind him that Isaiah’s prophecy would be fulfilled (Matthew 1:20-23).
When we practice peace, we must understand that peace is not something that can be attained by delving more and more into ourselves, but by delving more and more into the person of Jesus. In the man of Jesus we not only have God With Us, but also the Prince of Peace and the source of all peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27) We can dwell in this Peace, we can clothe ourselves in this Peace, we can abide and rest in this Peace.
The second element of practicing peace is understanding that our thoughts are precious to God. We have to believe that He has an interest in how we choose to go about our day in terms of where our thoughts lead. Not only must we “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) but we must also trust that the Holy Spirit that lives within us will help us to think the thoughts of God. Practicing peace means choosing to spend our time focusing on God’s presence — a choice that we may need to make thousands of times each day — instead of choosing to focus on our problems and limitations.
Practicing peace means abandoning yourself to His will, tackling fear, and relinquishing control. Facing problems as they come instead of anticipating them. Exercising trust and being thankful in all circumstances. Focusing on what He is already doing in your life instead of striving to imagine what you wish He would do. Laying our weaknesses before Him with the assurance that He knows us intimately and that he accepts us completely.
I know, it sounds difficult if not impossible. But we take courage in God’s abundant promises: If you are in Christ you are a new creation — the old has passed away and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). Not only is nothing impossible with God (Luke 1:37), but He is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20-21). And, thankfully, His grace is sufficient for us and, mercifully, His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Friends, enjoy the practice of peace.
Many Christians today have heard the talk about “choosing to be Mary in a Martha world” or something similar. I don’t know about you, but that talk isn’t easy for me to listen to. You see, I’m a Martha. A born and bred Martha, from a Martha-mother and a Martha-grandmother before that. I’m not saying I enjoy being a Martha — personally, I’m tired of the struggle to have every dirty dish clean, every toy picked up, and every piece of clean laundry folded before I go to bed. I know that it’s all about choices, and I want to choose a mind of peace.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42) Jesus was trying to explain to Martha that when our minds turn away from God we grasp for other things. We create unnecessary burdens and unrest. By choosing “what is better” Mary had chosen a mind of peace — she had chosen Jesus.
Choosing a mind of peace means accepting myself and my circumstances just as they are, remembering the God is sovereign over EVERYTHING. All of the things that seem undone and messy, all of the loose ends and things that can’t seem to wait until tomorrow. These are unnecessary burdens and move my focus away from Jesus, who promised us rest for our souls. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
Living a Martha life is exhausting, but we shouldn’t be ashamed of this exhaustion. We can look at it as a platform for moving towards God — one moment at a time, one step at a time, one choice after another. Much of our weariness is a result of our constant battle against the distractions of the world. “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6)
We are guaranteed to always have problems in this life, but they do not have to be our focus. God knows our weaknesses and chooses to meet us there. But we must choose to meet Him there as well. Remember that Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strength of the wind, he became afraid and began to sink. He cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand, caught him, and asked “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14: 29-32)
Well, my plan to have this post up early this week got blown out of the water. My plate has been full with preparations for my daughter’s 3rd birthday party this weekend! I will, however, offer these thoughts from Jesus Calling January 28-February 3…and hope that they bless you nonetheless.
- When the Presence of Jesus is the focal point of your consciousness, all the pieces of your life fall into place. The fact that Jesus is with you makes every moment of your life meaningful. Matthew 28:20; Psalm 139:1-4
- You have the ability to choose the focal point of your mind – this is a sign of being made in God’s image.
- Let the goal of the day be to bring every thought captive to Christ. Psalm 8:5, Genesis 1:26-27, 2 Cor 10:5, Isaiah 26:3
- Whatever occupies your mind the most becomes your god.
- God reads our thoughts, continually searching for evidence of trust in Him. Psalm 112:7, 1 Cor 13:11
- Keep your mind on the present journey. Walk by faith not by sight. Psalm 18:29, Psalm 91:11-12, 2 Cor 5:7
- Jesus is renewing your mind – a renewed mind is presence-focused. Train your mind to seek Christ in every moment, every situation. Romans 12:2, Psalm 105:4
- Fix your eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. Focus on the Living One who sees you always. Romans 8:31, 2 Cor 4:18, Genesis 16:13-14
So begins a prayer chanted by His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the 1994 John Main Seminar in London. This yearly seminar is sponsored by the World Community for Christian Meditation, and was the first time that the Dalai Lama had been invited to comment publicly on the Gospels of Jesus Christ. It was truly a momentous occasion, captured in detail in the book The Good Heart, A Buddhist Perspective on the Teachings of Jesus. I share this prayer – not only because it is poignant and lovely – but because it vividly describes the view that I believe a Christian should have of his fellow man and the world. In Buddhist terms, it beautifully reflects Christ’s example of humility as described in Philippians 2:1-8:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
“When His Holiness resumed his place on a straight chair in the center of the raised platform, the lights were dimmed in the auditorium. He tucked and folded various ends and corners of his robes, shifted and settled his body into a quiet position, took out his beads, closed his eyes, and began to pray. It must have struck many members of the audience who have Catholic mothers and grandmothers how the Dalai Lama’s small preparations and especially his completely familiar, comfortable, easy, and tender way with the beads seemed to cut across the divisions of culture and language. The chant itself did not sound at all like a Hail Mary, but the reverence with which it was sung and listened to was unmistakable.
Regarding all sentient beings
as excelling even the wish-granting gem
for accomplishing the highest aim,
may I always hold them most dear.
When in the company of others
I shall always consider myself the lowest of all,
And from the depth of my heart
Hold them dear and supreme.
Vigilant, the moment a delusion appears,
Which endangers myself and others,
I shall confront and avert it
When I see beings of wicked nature
Overwhelmed by violent negative actions and suffering
I shall hold such rare ones dear,
As if I have found a precious treasure.
When others, out of envy, treat me with abuse,
Insult me or the like,
I shall accept defeat,
And offer the victory to others.
When someone I have benefited
And in whom I have great hopes
Gives me terrible harm,
I shall regard him as my holy spiritual friend.
In short, both directly and indirectly, do I offer
Every benefit and happiness to all sentient beings, my mothers;
May I secretly take upon myself
All their harmful actions and suffering.
May they not be defined by the concepts
Of the eight profane concerns,
And aware that all things are illusory,
may they, ungrasping, be freed from bondage.
So much of the Christian life is learning to let go. We are always hanging on to things, people, circumstances, habits — even if we know that these things hinder us from having true peace. In many ways we are dependent on (or even addicted to) these things because they make us feel a certain way, even if that feeling is negative. Reinforcement isn’t always positive.
I think the key to all of this is learning that letting go means living in the present and not the past. We hang on to feelings that do not serve us in the present moment, which is where God desires for us to exist. In the present moment, God can begin to wean us from these dependencies and effectively bring us into His living, vibrant, and eternal presence. “The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27)
Starting in the present moment means accepting things exactly as they are, here and now. Not how they were in the past or may be in the future — not how you wish they would have been or would like for them to be. I’m not saying this is easy. Accepting the here and now can cause a great deal of anxiety and can lead us to focus on problems instead of hope. As the author of Jesus Calling says, give up the illusion that you deserve a problem-free life! Jesus promised “in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Jesus is not asking us to create different circumstances in our lives. He asks us to have the right response to the circumstances He has given us. When we glorify God in the midst of adverse circumstances, the world is in disbelief. We are given countless ways to gain the world’s peace — the self-help sections of bookstores are overflowing — but have you ever noticed that the self-help books continue to be written while the message of God stays the same? “Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:39) The source of our peace is knowing that His peace never changes, regardless of our circumstances.
How can we live in the here and now? The author of Jesus Calling encourages us to make a practice of “whispering” the name of Jesus. I love this idea because it accomplishes, in a very simple way, a return of our focus back to a single point: Jesus, the One who never changes. Whispering His name in the midst of chaos and anxiety can calm the storm with the same power that Jesus used to calm the furious squall: “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” (Mark 4:39) Whispering the name of Jesus generates peace and enables us to develop “a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (I Peter 3:4)
Practice whispering the name of Jesus today. Let the sound of His name on your lips remind you of His promise and perfection.
Ah, Buddhism. Where to begin? I’ll just say it.
I am a Christian and I love Buddhism. But don’t turn the channel just yet! I promise I am going somewhere with this.
Those close to me know that I began to study Buddhism in my mid-20’s during a time when Christianity just didn’t make sense to me anymore. I had been raised in a Christian family, went to Sunday School, knew all the big Bible stories (remember the little felt board with Jonah and the Whale?), and had been a good church-going girl, fundamentalist even. But imagine the good church-going girl who leaves her tiny Missouri town, heads to the liberal arts university, starts taking classes in feminist theory and world religions, and BAM. I thought my world was suddenly too big for the God I had grown up with.
Enter the Buddha.
My journey into Buddhism would last for over 10 years, and eventually led me all the way to Mongolia to work alongside monks and other fellow travelers on the restoration of a beautiful Tibetan Buddhist monastery that had been laid to waste during the occupation of Mongolia by China and Russia in the early 1920’s. It was an amazing experience. Working on clearing rocks and rubble to uncover statues and relics during the day and sleeping in a traditional ger (“yurt”) at night. Rising in the morning to the sounds of the cows munching grass outside the door (Mongolia is a land without fences) and walking quietly in the dark to sit in meditation and chant morning prayers.
The deeper I delved into Buddhism the more I felt both comforted and incredibly lonely. The teachings spoke to my deepest being but it always seemed like I was opening up a beautiful treasure box that was disappointingly empty inside. Any Buddhist would tell you that maybe this feeling of emptiness was actually a glimpse of the non-attachment that is the goal of true enlightenment. I don’t know. It just felt empty.
One afternoon a work colleague took me to lunch and asked me very simply, “Why Buddhism?” I recall stumbling and stuttering over an answer. Shortly after that, a Christian girlfriend invited me to a Bible study at her house. My Bibles had been packed away in boxes for so long I didn’t even know where they were, but I found them and I went. Mostly to see what it would feel like, if it would be familiar again to me, or if it would feel empty too.
That was 12 years ago. I believe now that Jesus knew I would choose to spend time apart from Him, and He knew that I would return. My soul belongs to Him but He would not prevent me from seeking and knocking on other doors. Through His servant Paul He tells us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2: 12b-13) God promises: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD…” (Jeremiah 29:13-14a) I am confident that we should never be afraid of the search.
This post represents the first of what may likely be many posts on “to Buddhism and back again.” I hope to share a humble Christian perspective on the teachings of the Buddha. I hope this will engage and not alienate. I hope to grow in the awe of a sovereign God who is ultimately restoring all things in creation to Himself, including the Buddha.
We all have a deep desire to be fully understood by the people we love. This is our life search — understanding from our parents, our spouse, our children. We pursue this understanding relentlessly, forgetting that we are already fully understood by Jesus. The Lord ensured Samuel that “The LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7). When we are in the middle of sadness, we are sure our hearts are empty and no one can understand our despair. Is it possible to rest in knowing that Jesus looks on your heart, sees you, and offers you the peace of being fully understood? As the author of Jesus Calling says, “Do not be ashamed of your emptiness.” You are a vessel waiting to be filled.
We are offered “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7) Jesus is this Peace, offered to us moment by moment. We spend so much of our time rehearsing our troubles and multiplying our suffering. Our human nature propels us to try to figure out what will happen next, how we can prepare, how we can avoid trouble. Our first parents desired this knowledge and it led to the fall of humanity. It was then that the Enemy promised the first and greatest lie: “…your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5) The peace that God offered to our first parents — the peace of simply being in His presence and being fully understood — was the peace that we rejected then and continue to reject today.
God promises that “you will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) Seeking His peace moment by moment is probably one of the most difficult things we can do. But we can do it, knowing that we are fully saturated in His grace and fully understood.
Thankfulness. Help. Trust.
Have you ever considered thankfulness as an act of discipline in your life? We tend to think of thankfulness as an emotion that arises when things are going well, when something great has happened, when we feel a prayer has been answered, and we break out in spontaneous praises of thankfulness to God. But what about the times of struggle? Disappointment? Loneliness? Depression? Self-pity? Are we praising God during these times as well? God asks us to develop a discipline of thankfulness in our lives — thankfulness as an act of will. We do all kinds of things in our lives as an act of will — we go to work each day, we exercise, we pay the bills, we buy the groceries, and…we give thanks?
God wants us to give thanks in all circumstances, for this is His will in Christ Jesus (I Thessalonians 5:18). He ensures us that He is our refuge and strength, an ever-present Help in trouble (Psalm 46:1), giving us reason to then rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12). In other words, at the very moment that you don’t feel you have any reason to be thankful, get down on your knees and praise the One who says that “nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)
As with any discipline, you only become more familiar with what you are practicing the more that you practice. Any athlete, dancer, artist, or yoga practitioner can tell you this. But as Christians, we have a promise that goes along with the discipline of thankfulness — we are promised the presence of God! As we draw near to God in the discipline of thankfulness, He draws near to us because He literally inhabits our praises (“Yet you are holy, dwelling in the praises of Israel” [Psalm 22:3]).
Thankfulness is an investment in our relationship with God. This is the investment that Jesus was referring to when he told us to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:20-21) We respond to His presence with praise and thankfulness, the relationship is strengthened, trust is gained, and we deepen our familiarity with our Creator.