FINDING PEACE & JOY
Good Morning…Let’s pray…
I love the summer time! It’s the time of year when my family and I give ourselves permission to take a bit of a break from the busyness of life. We schedule our summer holiday to Thunder Bay J We enjoy camping on the weekends. In the evenings we putter in the garden or take the kids to the park. We eat more ice cream than any other time of year J And overall it’s a more restful and joyful time for us. However, usually by the middle of August some of that peace and joy begins to turn into anxiety and stress about the upcoming year. There is a looming sense as September approaches that the busyness of our lives is about to start up again. We know it won’t be till Christmas that we get another holiday and after all the ice cream…it’ll be time to get back on track and start focussing on a healthier lifestyle again. (And this year is going to be especially difficult to get back to a healthier lifestyle because we’ve been spending the last 6 weeks with our parents and the grandparents are doing what they do best - spoiling our kids!)
I’m sure many of you can relate. And I think most of us would agree that being healthy is extremely important. Whether we’re healthy or not directly impacts all facets of our life.
When I think of being healthy, I think about exercising, eating right, and taking care of my physical body. I also think about my mental and emotional state…wanting to get more sleep, more rest and be less stressed. There is one more piece to our being, our spiritual health. I must admit, when I consider my overall well-being, I don’t always think about my spiritual health with the same intention as the physical, mental and emotional parts of who I’ve been created to be. Created in the image of a Triune God; Father, Son & Holy Spirit. We are comprised of mind, body and spirit. They are designed to work together as one. We are created as whole beings. The health of our physical bodies, affects our mental, emotional and spiritual health…and vice versa.
When we think about the importance of being healthy, are we including all aspects of who we are? Are we taking care of our whole self; mind, body and spirit? And I wonder – is there a connection between taking care of our whole self and finding peace and joy in our everyday hectic lives? (no matter what time of year it is)
Just as we exercise and eat right to stay physically fit, there are practices we can incorporate into our lives to ensure we are spiritually fit. God provides us with spiritual disciplines or practices that aid us in our journey of obtaining a healthy spirit. Spiritual disciplines are practices and behaviors that enhance our spiritual growth, maturity and overall well-being. Spiritual disciplines transform us from the inside as we continually commit our lives to Christ.
Now just hearing the words spiritual disciplines can cause a bit of apprehension. Words like disciplines, exercises, and behaviours can bring forth a sense of legalism. We are not talking about a set of religious obligations. That would be the opposite of growth, transformation, joy and peace.
Some examples of spiritual practices we can incorporate into our lives include; Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, Study, Simplicity, Solitude, Submission, Service, Confession, Worship, Guidance and Celebration. As you think about this list, chances are you’re already practicing some of them. The key for incorporating these practices into our lives is a longing for God. We are made as whole beings to be in relationship with God, our Creator.
Richard Foster, in his book, Celebration of Discipline writes, “We must not be led to believe that the Disciplines are only for spiritual giants and hence beyond our reach, or only for contemplatives who devote their time to prayer and meditation. Far from it. God intends the Disciplines of the spiritual life to be for ordinary human beings: people who have jobs, who care for children, who wash dishes and mow lawns. In fact, Disciplines are best exercised in the midst of our relationships with our husband or wife, our brothers and sisters, our friends and neighbours.”
Now to be healthy on any level isn’t easy. Perhaps overtime when our healthy lifestyle becomes the norm…because we feel and know the benefits…it seems easier and we can’t imagine going backwards. But when we first start a healthy regime it’s tough. I would much rather hit the snooze button a couple times in the morning than get up and do yoga. I would much rather eat a deep dish pizza smothered in cheese than order the thin crust with more veggies. I often feel that I should push through and get all the things on my to-do list done before I put my feet up or spend time playing with my children. That’s being human. So although we may yearn to be healthy and we agree it’s important and vital to living a full and happy life. The reality is that to be healthy takes time, energy, practice and discipline. It’s not easy. And sometimes it’s out of our control, especially if we are plagued with illness or disease.
To live into and live out these disciplines, no matter where we find ourselves on the spectrum of ‘being healthy’ won’t be easy but over time as we begin to incorporate spiritual disciplines into our life, the initial pain will be replaced with a greater sense of peace and joy.
I must admit, I’ve struggled in the past to live into these disciplines. One time in particular stands out for me. Prayer has been a fundamental part of my walk with God for many years. When I became pregnant with my first daughter I went through a period of about 6 months were I was not able to pray. It had taken Jason and me a long time to get pregnant and when it finally happened I found myself very fearful that I wouldn’t be able to carry the baby to term. During this same time I was in the process of trying to heal a broken relationship with my brother and was very fearful that he may walk away from my family. As well, I had just started a new division in my business and was fearful having a baby was going to put an end to that and I would lose clients…and thus lose income. Basically, for those 6 months I was immobilized by fear and that fear seemed to prevent me from praying…although that’s what I desperately needed to do. Fortunately, I had friends, family and a Spiritual Director who would pray for me. We do not need to be alone as we learn to live into these spiritual practices. They’re meant to be lived out in community.
The spiritual practices that God gives us are a way of receiving and knowing his grace. They put us before God so that he can transform us. Our role is to become active participants with God on our journey towards health in mind, body and spirit. 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
There is a line in Richard Foster’s book that really hits home for me, he states, “We must remember that the path does not produce the change; it only places us where the change can occur.” No matter where we’re at on our journey right now, we’re exactly where we’re meant to be. There’s no need to wait for a better time, we can integrate spiritual practices into our life now. But the big question many of you may be asking yourself right now is HOW? Many of you may be thinking- this all sounds great Cari – but you have no idea how busy I am – there is no way I can do this right now.
Let me assure you, that I do understand and this was my exact response a couple of years ago as I sat down and had this conversation with a dear friend of mine. She said something that stayed with me. She said, Cari, your life is full and you’re on the path God has made for you. You know there’s no more you can give, no more you can do to make things any less stressful, busy or hectic. Your only choice is to trust God to take care of things. And I believe that’s the answer to the HOW. Like any healthy practice – start small and remember that you’re not alone. Spiritual disciplines aid in our practice of complete dependence on Christ. For the Bible tells us (Proverbs 3:5-6), “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.”
So a couple of years ago I began trusting God with my time. I started scheduling a weekly Sabbath. On this day, once a week, I spend some time in devotion and prayer. I leave myself open to be with my family. On this day, I don’t do school work, I don’t write sermons, I’m not running errands or doing housework. I’m allowing myself to just be. As nice as that sounds, this isn’t easy and many times I think about breaking my Sabbath because the responsibilities of life don’t go away. But what I’ve discovered is that everything still gets done. God always provides.
Another discipline that my husband Jason and I started was fasting. For a 24hr period each week we refrain from food. We felt like this would be a good way to make God the centre of our lives, even if just for a day. Instead of food, we ask God to sustain us. Perhaps more than the other disciplines, fasting exposes things that control us. This helps keep balance in our lives between what we want and what we need. For us the benefits speak for themselves, peace and joy in one of the most demanding times of our lives.
I share these with you because these are disciplines that have made a difference for me and my family. They’ve helped us to experience God more. This doesn’t mean that these are the disciplines that will fit for you. Fortunately we are blessed with many spiritual disciplines to choose from. I want to encourage you to try them out for yourself. Engage in one or more of these spiritual disciplines with intention. Just like we would start a diet or exercise program. Give it time. God will guide you through the process. The benefits are priceless. Joy and peace abound, no matter where you find yourself along life’s path right now.
(1 Thessalonians 5:23) “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen.