Monday, January 16, 2017

Ambition

Ambition...isn't that an interesting word? When I think of people who are ambitious, I envision people who are always on the go. They have people to see and places to go. They have mountains to climb and summits to reach. So, imagine my surprise when I read 1 Thessalonians 4:11 this morning:

"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life..."

I've read this passage many times. I know that because it is highlighted in my Bible and has notes next to it. Yet, this morning, the word ambition caught my attention. The idea of ambition and quiet being part of the same thought seems counterintuitive to me. But, should I really be so caught off guard by this?

Jesus, who I see as the most ambitious man to ever live, made time in quiet His priority. It was His discipline to spend time in quiet with His Father. Sure, we can say, "Hello! He was the perfect Son of God! Of course He prioritized prayer!" And, yes, that is true. But He was also fully human and recognized the need to be refueled by time in quiet with God.

This past Friday, I read the The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper. In their story, I was struck by how important quiet is to them. Joanna, specifically, writes of how God reveals His plans for her in quiet as she journals her thoughts. She is intentional about finding places of quiet and solitude to refresh and listen. It is in those moments that she hears most clearly the voice of God and His plans for her.

I now need to find a way to make this my priority. This verse came from a devotion that I'm reading, Savor, by Shauna Niequist. In today's reading, she offered this advice when considering which requests deserve a yes: "Will saying yes to this require me to live in a frantic way?" I find that to be very wise. Because, although I have become much better at prioritizing and, even when it's difficult, saying "no," I often times still say yes to too much, removing any possibility for a quiet life.

I find myself with a new definition of ambitious and a new understanding of what it means to lead a full, or should I say fulfilled, life. My soul longs for quiet and to hear from God. My life's desire is to walk the path He has for me. I am thankful for these eye-opening moments which have revealed to me the need to lead a much quieter life.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My Word: Shalom

I've seen multiple people over the past year post about their annual theme words. Last year, I chose the word "bold." I certainly made some bold decisions and shared more of myself than I knew was possible. Through trial and error, I grew. God is creating something in me that I did not even know existed...someone who loves to teach His Word.

This year, I gave this much thought. I spent time in prayer asking God what He wants of me for 2017. The word that has been consistently on my heart is "shalom." One of the books I read last year, Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin by Cornelius Plantinga Jr., defines shalom as "universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight...the way things ought to be." God created this world to be peaceful, for us to be in perfect relationship with him. So, what destroyed it? Well, if you've ever even heard of the Bible, I'm sure you know about Adam, Eve, the serpent and the eating of the forbidden fruit. In that one act of disobedience, sin entered this world and destroyed the shalom, the world as God intended.

So, let's talk about sin for a minute... (Don't close the browser, I promise this isn't going to be filled with finger-pointing...except at myself) When I lead worship on a Sunday morning more focused on myself and the music than I am on God, that is sin. When I yell at my children or disrespect my husband with sharp words, that is sin. When I glare at the person who is trying to cut me off in the middle school drop off line (happened this morning, by the way), that is sin.

We often think of the big ones...murder, adultery, stealing...but sin is anything that hinders our relationship with God and destroys our shalom, whether that be inner or external peace. In the examples above, I am not peacefully worshiping when I am focused on self. When I am harsh with my husband or children, our relationships are, at the very least, momentarily damaged. The man in the drop off line, well, who knows if he even cares. But regardless of his knowledge of who I am, as a Christian, I am to shine the light of Christ not shoot daggers from my eyes.

Four days into the new year, I am realizing that this is going to be a larger task than I had originally anticipated. Even still, what I have been praying is that God will reveal sin in my life in order to restore as much shalom as possible. What I have also come to realize is that will only go so far. Turns out, I am surrounded by others who also have sin natures. And, I cannot control the actions of others. What??? Earth shattering news, I know. My only option is to choose how to respond to them. Clearly, I did not choose well this morning.

In order for this to become my reality, I must live by the words of John the Baptist, "He must become greater, I must become less" (John 3:30). Although John was speaking of himself in relation to Jesus, I must desire for God's will to become greater and mine to align with His.

So, how about you? Do you do a theme word?