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My post today is the fourth and final one in my series on being a peacemaker. In part one and two I wrote about five things that peacemakers must do. And in part three I wrote about two more: they must be willing to state their opinions as opinions and they must be willing to ask permission before sharing those opinions. And just as my first three posts were inspired by the Scripture (in italics) I read that night so many years ago, today’s post was as well.

 

“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

Try to be sympathetic and compassionate of John’s situation. John’s mind and heart are a complicated mess of darkness and emotion, remember that when you are tempted to be affected by him. I know that it is easy to be affected and offended by John but stand above that. Be unmoved by his words. When he makes emotional statements, do not respond to them! Stick to the issue and to reality, do not get lost in his emotion.

 

“If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrong-doing is sin and there is sin that does not lead to death.”

Pray for John. Pray unceasingly for him. Pray for his heart. Pray that you will have wisdom to know how to love him. Pray that his eyes and ears will be opened. Pray that he will allow you into his life. Pray, pray, pray.

 

“My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

Keep loving him! That is all you can do right now. Hopefully, prayerfully, John’s eyes and ears will someday be opened and if and when that day comes you will be there to help guide him. But until then, keep loving him. Who knows, your love may be the very thing that brings him to that day.

 

Do you struggle to be compassionate towards people who are hard to get along with?

How often do you pray for the people in your life?

Are you diligent about loving those around you?

 

I hope and pray that the words I have shared with you over the past week have in some way been a blessing to you and to the relationships in your life. I have included a summary (below) of the ten things we have covered. As always, thank you for reading!

His and Yours,

~Echo~

 

In summary:

Peacemakers must…

…be slow to speak.

…speak to their listener.

…be sincere.

…be willing to let disagreements go for the sake of a relationship.

show people God’s love rather than just telling them about it.

…be willing to state their opinions as opinions.

…be willing to ask permission before sharing their opinions.

…be compassionate.

…pray without ceasing.

…be diligent about loving those around them.

 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” -Matthew 5:9

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Welcome to part three of my series on being a peacemaker. In part one of this series I blogged about two things peacemakers must do. And in part two I blogged about three more: they must be sincere, they must be willing to let disagreements go for the sake of a relationship and they must show people God’s love rather than just telling them about it. Today I want to share with you two more thoughts inspired by verses (in italics) I read that night several years ago.

 

“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and destroy. But you-who are you to judge your neighbor?”

There was a time in my life when I presented my opinions as law. Instead of a statement being my perspective, or my opinion, it was law. For various reasons, I cannot do that anymore. That may be good, that may be bad (I haven’t decided yet) but I just can’t find it within myself to express my beliefs as law. I encourage you to consider this. For example: Instead of stating: “The beach is the best place to go on vacation.”, consider: “I believe the beach is the best place to go on vacation.” I have found that less doors are closed when a subject is approached this way. Also, this guarantees that you are right! It is true that you believe the beach is the best place to go on vacation.  (I don’t actually know that you believe this, I’m just using it as an example.) Therefore, no one can argue whether your statement is true or not. And as an added bonus, you come across as more approachable if they want to discuss their opposing belief with you. Let God be the judge of John. If he asks for your opinion, your advice, your help, then by all means, be eager. But otherwise, in this particular case, let God deal with him.

 

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

Another thing I have changed in the last couple of years is offering my opinion when I have not been asked for it or gotten permission to share it. I try to always start a conversation with: “Can I talk to you about something?” or “Can I give you advice about something?” That way you know whether the input is welcome or not and can respond accordingly. Take the time to solidify your thoughts and beliefs so that when someone does ask, you can answer. But answer gently and respectfully…even when you don’t feel like it.

 

Do you usually present your opinions as law?

How often do you ask for permission before sharing your opinion with someone?

 

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for the fourth and final part of my series on being a peacemaker, coming soon.

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Yesterday I blogged about two things peacemakers must do: they must be slow to speak and when they do speak, they must speak to their listener. Today I want to share with you three more things peacemakers must do. These thoughts were also inspired by verses (in italics) I read that night several years ago.

 

“But the wisdom that comes from Heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”

I think it is wonderful that you are pursuing peace. Don’t give up! I know it feels hopeless but do not allow that! Be merciful of John! Be impartial to his ridiculousness but sincere in your love for him (when I say love, I mean “doing what is best for and wanting what is best for” the other person). 

 

“See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

I know it is near impossible to ignore John’s choices but I believe you currently have no other choice if you want any chance of mending things. Do you agree with him? No. Do you approve of his choices? No. Can he hear anything you say about it? I don’t think so. Let God deal with him. Maybe someday God will use you for that and I hope that if or when He intends to, you will know it without a doubt. But for now, let it go and leave it to God to deal with John.

 

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

Let John see God’s goodness and wisdom in you by your actions, not your words. For whatever reason, John cannot (or again, will not) hear your words. For now at least, let your actions be a testimony to God’s beauty and goodness. Be humble and be forgiving of John. Show him God’s love rather than telling him about God’s love.

 

How do the peacemakers in your life show you God’s love rather than just telling you about God’s love?

Do you have a relationship with someone who’s choices you do not agree with? Have you been able to set that aside for the sake of the relationship?

 

Thanks for reading part two of my series on being a peacemaker. Stay tuned for part three, coming soon…

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“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” -Matthew 5:9

 

A few years ago, after a dear friend emailed me asking for advice, I prayed for wisdom, let my Bible fall open in my lap, and began reading. These are some of the verses (in italics) that I read that night. The words written after them are my own, inspired by those that I read. I hoped and prayed then that these words would be a blessing to my friend. I hope and pray now they will be a blessing to you.

 

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

I encourage you to talk with a neutral party before communicating any negative emotions. Find someone that you respect and admire and run your thoughts and feelings by them before sending any Emails, making any phone calls or pursuing any confrontations. Find a good “sounding board” to incorporate into your life. Also, be quick to ask questions, slow to make accusations. I have found that this is ALWAYS more effective, especially initially. Some people can handle bold statements, most can’t. Most people can handle sincere questions, few can’t. Speaking out of emotion almost always gets me in trouble. Learn to communicate emotion without communicating through emotion. This is a very hard concept for most people (myself included) and takes much practice and guidance.


“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”

Consider your words very, very carefully. Remember that everyone’s perspective is different. Speak for the benefit of your listener. If you came to me and said, “Your choices are ruining your marriage.” I would be eager to hear why you think so. If you go to John and make that exact statement, he will likely be hurt and respond defensively. Same statement, same mouth, same motives: different results. John cannot (or will not) see God or God’s love (or your “religion”) through statements like these. Remember to speak to your listener.

 

Who are the peacemakers in your life?

In what ways have they been a good example of being quick to listen and slow to speak?

Are you known to be a peacemaker?

 

Would love to hear your answers in the comment section below. Stay tuned for a continuation of “Ten Things Peacemakers Must Do”, coming soon!

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It was several weeks ago that Meadow and I watched the movie “Secret Garden”, a movie (and book) that I enjoyed as a young girl. The movie is striking to me, for many reasons, but the one that has stayed with me these last few weeks is the absolutely breathtaking and almost unbelievable beauty of the secret garden, after which the movie is titled. As I experienced this movie, sitting on my couch, in the den of our house, in the middle of the big city that is Nashville, I got lost. Lost in the lush greenery covering almost every inch of the garden’s grounds and spilling over the garden’s stone walls. Lost in the stunning contrast of color between the gray of the stones and the green of the vines.  Lost in the kaleidoscope fashioned by the reds and pinks and purples and yellows and blues of each flower, thousands of them, growing so abundantly as to leave a person barely enough room to wander through them or, as I did, get lost in them. A thrill for the senses, even through a tv screen.

The movie ends with a shot of Mary’s hand, holding a flower as she says, “The spell was broken. My uncle learned to laugh and I learned to cry. The secret garden is always open now. Open…and awake…and alive. If you look the right way you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

Which got me thinking…

…about where I find my own garden – those little experiences, each day, when, even if only for a moment, I get lost in the beauty of this world.

And I realized…

…I find my garden when I sit in the back yard, on a beautiful day, while my children are napping, and feel the warmth of the sun on my skin, the freshness of the air in my lungs, and the quiet of an afternoon spent outdoors. I find it each time I see the bouquet of flowers sitting on my kitchen counter, the one my husband brought me, just because. I find it when I read one chapter of a really good book before I go to sleep at night. I find it when I look through my wedding scrapbook (the one I worked really hard on and am very proud of, the only scrapbook I have ever finished! 🙂 ) and remember the moments of that amazing day, almost seven years ago. I find it when I overhear the hilarious and often heartwarming conversations between my children, and between my children and their friends. I find it in the morning, when I sit at my dining room table, eating breakfast, reading my Bible, writing in my prayer journal, and feeling God’s spirit fill the room around me. I find it in a favorite song, a well-made movie, a thoughtful note written to me by my husband or a close friend. I find it while I am running on the trails at River Park, breathing heavy but steady and thanking God for the strong and healthy body that He has blessed me with. I find it in a kiss from my son, a smile from my daughter, and the peaceful faces of my sleeping children when I go in to check on them late in the night.  I find it in the arms of my devoted and always forgiving husband and in the acceptance and loyalty of my precious friends and family. I find it in the sunset, in the sunrise, in the blooms of spring and the leaves of fall, in the sounds of a thunderstorm and in the colors of the rainbow that is soon to follow.

And I ask…where is your garden? Because…

…beauty is everywhere. We just have to find it…experience it…appreciate it…and maybe even get lost in it.

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The following is a list of ten, kind of random things that I have been thinking about and trying to do, especially since the new year. They have all been a blessing to me. I challenge you to try each of them. I hope they are a blessing to you, however big or small!

1) Start your day thirty minutes to an hour before your children wake up with some sort of quiet time with God. This is a new one for me and it has been such a blessing. Thankfully my children don’t get up until after eight so doing this is not a particularly challenging schedule, but starting my day with a quiet breakfast while I read my Bible and write in my prayer journal affects me the rest of the day. My patience is improved, my peace, my attitude. Incredible!

2) Commit to some kind of exercise program! I know not everyone is crazy like me and enjoys exercising but I am more and more convinced that being active in some form, at least a couple days a week is invaluable, no matter who you are. (If you have no idea how to go about this or where to start or why this really matters, ask me!) And eat better! Not because you have to, not because you’ll die if you don’t…because you will feel better! (I have a lot of thoughts about this one too but I’ll probably write them in another post, another time…)

3) Make lists. I am a listmaker so I like this one but I have seen it bless non-listmakers too. I suggest finding a notebook rather than random slips of paper that get lost and thrown away. Keep this notebook with you always. Write in it ideas, goals, to-do lists, contact information, etc.; all the random things that you think of and are told through out the day that you will never remember. (The one exception I suggest is your grocery list. Keep this one on the fridge and write on it every time you run out of something and need to replace it. That way you don’t have to try and remember what all you need on grocery day. The list has already been written, just grab it and run!)

4) Turn off the TV; for your sake, for your childrens sake, for peacefulness sake, for creativity sake, for motivation sake, for relationship sake. This entertainment box robs us of our time, our connection to one another, our peace and quiet, our motivation to get off the couch. So just turn it off. And hide the remote! 🙂 It will be hard at first and weird and you will be very tempted to turn it back on…but turn it off anyway and see what happens!

5) SIMPLIFY AND DECLUTTER! We are a culture that believes more is better; more stuff, more activity, more money, more more more. Well I say, be counter-cultural! There are not enough hours in the day to do everything so be committed to only doing that which is important to you, that which will be a blessing to you or someone else. If there are too many important things in your life to fit in, then you may need to reconsider what really is important! And declutter! If you don’t love it or use it…get rid of it!!! The less stuff we have the less there is to clean, to manage, to find, to maintain, etc…and the more time there is to love our families, our friends, our God and ourselves!

6) Find something that you love to do and do it! So many of us grow up and become so consumed with what we have to do that we stop doing what we want to do, what we love to do! Find a hobby, make a little time each week, and enjoy! I believe taking a little time to do the things we want to do makes the time we spend doing the things we have to do more peaceful and manageable and even enjoyable. So I encourage you to find the balance between the two.

7) Wash one load of laundry every day and set it on your bed to be folded before you get into your bed. I have tried so many methods of staying on top of the laundry, so far this one is working the best. Avoiding laundry baskets and avoiding doing seven loads at once has kept our laundry clean and put away. I have been skipping the baskets, going straight from washer to dryer to bed to folded to put away! Ideally it’s folded and put away before bedtime but worst case you spend ten minutes right before you crawl into bed and its done! Voila! (You do have to be committed to not just setting it on the floor or dresser for tomorrow if you are particularly tired that night though…)

8 ) Go to bed with a clean kitchen. Waking up to a clean kitchen helps set a more peaceful, more comfortable tone for my day. Knowing that I am starting fresh in the kitchen has helped me feel less overwhelmed with the rest of the house. The two ways this has stayed possible for me are: doing a light cleaning after each meal or snack (this includes putting away all food, throwing away all trash and putting all dishes in the sink) and doing a final, more thorough cleaning right after dinner (including putting away all food, throwing away all trash, loading and starting dishwasher, handwashing any other dishes, wiping down all counters and stove and sink, and sometimes sweeping), while daddy plays with the kids and gives them their baths. Staying committed to this has been a challenge for me but sooo worth the effort! (I am still working on figuring out how to keep the rest of the house clean. Sigh.)

9) Get enough sleep! Seven to eight hours is ideal for me, less and I feel it the next day. Sleep for your health, your mood, your energy level, your attitude, your quality of life!

10) And lastly, though I believe that one through nine matter and are life improving, always remember that people are more important than stuff, than money, than chores, than hobbies. I am confident that when we are all old and life has slowed down, we will not look back and be glad we had all our laundry done each night or that we stayed in amazing shape or that we were never late or behind or forgetful. I believe we will look back and remember the laughter, the love, the forgiveness, the intimacy that we shared with our spouses, our children, our friends and our neighbors. Let us improve who we are and how we love before we improve what we do and how we do it!

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I am continually amused and intrigued by my children and their perspectives. Wednesday night was a good example of this…

It is about 9:00pm and I am laying in Meadow’s bed, snuggled under the covers. I have just finished reading her our second Bible story (out of the “Beginner’s Bible” that we have been reading through every night for the last few months) when she tries, as she does every night, to read the title of tomorrow night’s story. Tonight, however, the title has two words in it that she is unfamiliar with and cannot read. So she asks:

Meadow: “What are those two words?”

(I answer hesitantly, knowing what the next question will be and feeling unprepared to answer it.)

Me: “Um…arrested and crucified.”

Meadow: “What does it mean?”

Me: Arrested? Arrested means they took Jesus to jail.”

Meadow: “And what does the other word mean?”

Me: “Crucified means that they killed Him.”

(With my second answer her expression darkens and she asks with wide eyes…)

Meadow: “You mean they killed Him and took Him to jail?!”

(At this, part of me is holding back a smile at the word order of her question and part of me is feeling emotion about her emotion…)

Me: “Yes. It’s very sad.”

Meadow: “You mean the man in the book!? Jesus, the man in the book, they killed Him!?”

Me: “Yes. It’s a sad story, isn’t it? But then it becomes a happy story!”

(She looks confused and incredulous by this answer and says…)

Meadow: “A sad story can’t become a happy story! How can a sad story become a happy story?”

Me: “Because after Jesus dies, God makes Him alive and brings Him to Heaven.”

(At this point she pauses, staring at a spot on the wall, frowning slightly. She stays quiet for a moment and her expression changes. Her furrowed brow softens and a small smile appears where her frown was and she states quietly…)

Meadow: “Yeah…because God has magical powers!”

(I smile at this unexpected answer and reply…)

Me: “Yeah, I guess He kind of does.”

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