Day 6: “Peace. Not Perfection.”

Artwork by: Bartosz Kosowski

Ten tiny fingers and toes, skin like velvet, total contentment with eyes closed all swaddled up in a cozy blanket: PERFECTION. Unblemished body, shiny leather, sleek and ergonomic with all the bells and whistles: FLAWLESS. Tall, dark and handsome with straight shiny white teeth, adoring eyes, and a sense of humour: IDEAL.

Some of you grew up aspiring to be the paragon of the school, the cream of the crop, the epitome of excellence and achievement. Your hard fought wins taught you that putting in effort gets you results and attention. You thrive on other’s approval, keeping order, juggling all the balls so they remain elevated at just the right height.

Perfectionism: the antagonist in this chapter on peace. Your desire to experience breakthrough during this fast is robbed when your aim is 100%. Every. Single. Day. The house must be clean. The kids must behave. The cooked meals should meet everyone’s standards. A raise at work. A good body. It goes on and on, as exhausting as walking up ten flights of stairs.

The problem with ideals beyond reach is the subtle message they send: “You’re not good enough.” Your life, your bank account, your job, your spouse, your kids, your size… measured against utopia, you have failed. When you feel you’re not enough or your life isn’t enough, you will find yourself striving, controlling, battling on every front. You’ve lost your composure and the lull of relaxation feels like guilt.

Give yourself permission today to let go. Give up your ideal and allow your present reality to suffice. You are not a problem. Comparison is a trap. The hamster wheel of achievement is hard to get off; you may feel the more you achieve the more others expect you to perform. Relax even if you know more could be done on your project, at work, in your home.

Pay attention today to the things that bring you angst and set them aside. Spend ten minutes meditating on gratefulness. Giving thanks for your current circumstances and looking for the good in yourself and others will resolve the tension in your life. God loves you just the way you are and he wants you to spend time with him, leaning into him for wisdom AND a to do list. Prioritise Jesus and HIS ways. After all, only God is immaculate, without blemish or stain. Glean from him and allow a cease-fire between your expectations and your reality today.

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)

Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.

Proverbs 17:1 (NIV)
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Day 5: “Peace. Not Problems.”

Photo: izismile.com

We all have the ability to take our minds off what’s bothering us. Unfortunately, the headaches of life are often addressed with unhealthy medication God never prescribed… alcohol, overeating, pornography, drugs, overspending. Anything to escape the reality of the obstacles you face. Retreating into Netflix, shutting others out, worrying incessantly… whether extreme or subtle, your concerns are not meant to be numbed away.

Problems can become crushing if you let them. Their roots can take hold and produce prolific weeds in your life, making the real issues hard to see. They become buried underneath the growth of unwanted tangled vines as they seek to attach themselves to your heart and soul. Strangled by their embrace, your desire to fend off these pests becomes so overwhelming you don’t know where to turn.

You may be praying and fasting around a specific dilemma you’re facing. Over these 21 days, you are rehearsing putting those issues at the foot of the cross, allowing yourself to release your grip on finding a solution and fixing what’s wrong. When you allow Jesus to lead the way, your answers will surely come. But they won’t come by avoidance; and they won’t appear through high blood pressure and angst. The solution isn’t found in self-medicating or avoidance.

Peace isn’t the absence of problems. It’s found in the person of Jesus who meets you in your struggle.

As you allow God to prune and garden your life over this time of prayer and fasting, he may expose some roots you weren’t aware of. Your vulnerability before him may feel uncomfortable or even unwanted. Remember: He comes lovingly and gently to dig down below your pain and pluck out your predicaments. What’s left behind is a tender heart, viable and strong, unmasked and unafraid of the future.

Your Heavenly Father wants to minister to you right in the midst of your quandary. Imagine yourself replacing that which you have forgone in your fast with a greater portion of your God. Be filled with more of Jesus – his presence, his peace, his promises, his problem-solving.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

Day 3: “A Beautiful Exchange”

photo: starfishjourney.tumblr.com

Reciprocity is the law by which most of you live. Give and receive. Sow and reap. Work and be paid. Pray, fast… and, ahem… what’s there to gain? It’s the question on your lips; or at a minimum, in the back of your minds. What’s in it for ME?

Our expectations guide us through life. Treat others well and you’ll be treated well. Karma. We see a good person achieve something great and we say “they deserved that!” A bad one gets his due and we celebrate justice. This is why unmet expectations can throw us for a loop. They can derail us, cause us to lose faith, resent others, become bitter.

You may have entered into this time of prayer and fasting with a list of expectations, maybe even a bit of an ultimatum with God because you’re so desperate to see something shift in your life. Your hope lies in a formula with an acceptable rate of return on your investment over these three weeks.

Can I encourage you to put aside your predictions today and solely seek peace through the PERSON of Jesus? Rest at his feet and to allow yourself to receive his love and mercy as the ultimate gift, not because of anything you’ve deposited into your spiritual bank account but because of who HE is.

We are going to explore, over the coming days, areas of blockage to our peace.

But, it won’t be possible if you don’t first understand that peace isn’t a status quo to be obtained. It’s not a place you’ll suddenly arrive if you do and say mostly all the “right” things. Peace is not obtained if everyone around you cooperates a little more. It’s not even found in answered prayer or miracles.

The Prince of Peace is a person who is with you always. If you look closely at the page of your written words and requests, you’ll find him staring back at you, longing for you to trust him with your heart’s desires. No matter how major your hurdles, your peace guides you directly into your purpose and prosperity. Stop waiting for the stars to align perfectly in order for you to take your next step on the journey with Jesus. He is inviting you to come NOW.

A disciplined spiritual life, an authentic faith walk, isn’t one sans problems or difficulties. It’s not led by a Christian who never stumbles or sins. You can’t add up 2 good deeds plus 1 act of forgiveness minus 2 stuff ups and get 1 perfect life.

Jesus promises you ONE thing: in this life you WILL have trouble but he also promises you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

Matthew 6:30-33

Day 1: “An Invitation”

The New Year has officially begun; and, as expected, the slow pace of lazy days by the beach, time off work, and extra sleep has abruptly ended. School has started for the kids. Work is in full swing for the adults. The calendar begins to fill like the sink with dirty dishes – all messy and stacked high.

You long to get to the bottom of it all. To maintain order. To wrap your head and pen around the “stuff” and place it neatly in boxes where it shall lay, subdued by the force of your strong will. The schedule, the stress, the decisions, the mess. You want to wrangle it all to the ground and tie those coveting hands up so they can’t reach you and devour your 2019.

You are searching for the calm. You dream of waking up to a quiet household. Can’t you just merge slowly with the traffic of the morning? You wish to find your family full of enthusiasm for the day ahead, rather than dread.

You fantasise about the next break, or maybe just a short nap. You are striving, pushing, yearning for this year to be different:

Better health

More money

Diminished problems and heartache…

A New Year holds the promise of what yesterday failed to yield. You are searching for answers, believing you can put together the right formula this time to find the things for which life has withheld thus far.

*If you’ve decided to join me for the next 21 days, committed to prayer and fasting, you WILL find what you’re looking for. Breakthrough awaits you. Spend time each morning taking ten deep breaths, closing your eyes, listening to the Holy Spirit, and reflecting on these words and scripture. Use a journal to write down your thoughts each day. What is it you want God to do in your life this year? How about over the next three weeks? Come along and draw closer to the One who holds the answers you seek.

I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.”

Revelation 21:3-5 (MSG)

Day 20: “Put It Into Practise”

intentionalEat less. Exercise more. That’s how you lose weight. Spend less, save more. Have a nest egg for retirement. Doing things with purpose means accomplishing your goals. Your time of prayer and fasting was calculated. You were intentional in your sacrifice. You spent time praying specifically over these last three weeks.

Considered meditation on the things near to your heart has brought you closer to Jesus.

Let the rest of 2018 be a continuation of the progress you have made. Keep putting into practise what you have begun. Let the nourishment you have received for your spirit propel you forward and become the floor for your next layer of growth. Exercise your spiritual muscles by concentrating on what you’ve learnt.

Don’t fall into neglect, rather launch yourself into everything God has for you.

You’re just getting started!

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practise what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies” (Philippians 4:8-9).

 

Day 19: “Peace”

peace worldAs you approach the final three days of prayer and fasting, you are more at peace. Yet, learning to walk in peace despite your circumstances is a lifelong practise and takes more than a few days to master. Composure comes when you make it a habit to take negative thoughts captive and submit them to God. You can walk in harmony with others when you learn to separate what someone else might say about you that’s contrary to what God says.

Nothing can steal your peace when you completely trust God no matter what curve balls life might throw your way. No scary diagnosis. No unforeseen accident. You’re embracing the blessing of well-being within your spirit which your mighty God offers you each day.

You can find the “Prince of Peace” right alongside you when you seek him continually. He is longing to embrace you and to care for you. He desires nothing more than to guide you into a quiet place of relaxation amidst any storm you’re facing. The practise you have incorporated into your life over the last three weeks is allowing you to experience more of Jesus.

You know that you’re not alone. You have seen and heard him speak. You can see that dedicating time to your relationship with your Heavenly Father brings contentment and rest. You, as a carrier of God’s peace, can actually set the temperature in your home, your family, your workplace. You make and maintain calmness everywhere you go.

“Finally, believers, rejoice! Be made complete [be what you should be], be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace [enjoy the spiritual well-being experienced by believers who walk closely with God]; and the God of love and peace [the source of loving-kindness] will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11 AMP).

Day 18: “Pray for the World”

pray for the world

Our world is groaning with the sufferings of war. Entire nations are collapsing under corrupt leadership; millions of children starve while we gorge ourselves, gluttonous. Oppression – a word to describe the weight under which some women still live. Natural disasters ravish entire communities and many will never recover.

The list goes on.

If you were born in a first world country with paid work, unlimited food at your fingertips and emergency services just a phone call away, you might find it easy to look past the rest of the world’s problems. Yours is shiny and safe.

People facing economic hardship, fewer opportunities and less freedom are equally loved your Heavenly Father. Remember the less fortunate. Ask Jesus to show up in their lives.

As you continue to fast, pray for peace in the world where it’s absent. Lift up the nations both near and far. Pray for their leaders. And thank God for your many blessings.

“God holds the high centre, he sees and sets the world’s mess right. He decides what is right for us earthlings, gives people their just deserts God’s a safe-house for the battered, a sanctuary during bad times. The moment you arrive, you relax; you’re never sorry you knocked” (Psalm 9:7-10 MSG).