Disciplined Contentment

Home ownership is  a dream of mine. For the last three years, after spending nine renting, I’m really looking forward to increased privacy, the ability to make changes and do maintenance without consulting a landlord, and better parking, just to name a few.

Sarah Clews Discipline (1)This desire has frequently led to me feeling discontent with my current living situation. However, I realized that if I don’t practice gratitude and contentment now, I won’t  be thankful or content when my dream is realized. I need to  it part of my routine. Choosing contentment must become a discipline.

I want to be like Paul and have Phillipians 4:11-13 pouring out of my life,“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Taking commitment seriously means  practicing stewardship. Instead of dwelling on bunching carpet, peeling paint, and disintegrating caulk, I’ve been routinely keeping these things in the best condition I can, and thanking God that our apartment is warm, and can be kept clean with a little routine elbow grease (and bleach!). When I feel frustrated that the yard maintenance guys blow bark dust into the window tracks and under the doors every Monday, I’ve been replacing my whining with cleaning the window tracks, and remembering to be grateful that I have windows.

I keep this quote from C.S. Lewis close at hand, “Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature.” How much I would rather be heavenly than hellish, but my decisions don’t always proclaim that.

So, I’m making a choice. A choice that my routine is going to include being grateful. I have to practice being filled with gratitude every day. On Sunday, the sermon (taught by Brian Condello) referenced the story of the healed lepers in Luke 17:11-19. They cry out to Jesus for mercy and healing, and He does just that. But only one returns to thank Him.

“One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

Discipline Sarah ClewsBrian Condello concluded the sermon with, “Gratitude allows us to see what Jesus is preparing for us.”

I need a routine of giving thanks, of finding something to grateful for. It’s only when I’m coming from a place of gratitude, of knowing I’m abundantly loved and cared for by my Creator, that I have anything to share with others.

 


sarah-c-squareSarah Clews is a wife, mother of two little girls, and prolific reader. She received her BS from Corban University in English and still loves writing. She helps her husband run their martial arts school, and in her free time, enjoys sewing, experimenting with makeup, and reading blogs.

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5 Reasons Why I Read Scripture Daily

The most transformative discipline affecting my spiritual health has been, without a doubt, spending time in God’s word. I say discipline, because spending daily time in the Bible is not always easy. Roadblocks try to separate me from reaching for God’s truth: time, commitments, even reading other text written from fellow believers. Why do I practice this spiritual discipline?

image1 (3)Here are 5 reasons why I spend time in the Bible daily:

  1. We are in a battle folks, a battle against good and evil. A battle that is waging a war for our souls. Ephesians 6:14-18 shares, Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” We wouldn’t go into battle without first gathering all of our equipment, and going into battle against the devil should be no different. God’s word equips us with truth that will not lead us astray, even when lies and deceit are swirling around us.
  2. Our hearts and flesh fail. Take heart though, friend. God is our strength. Many verses point us to this truth. Psalm 73:26 says, My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Filling up on verses that point us to God’s strength are needed in times of trial. We can’t do this on our own, but God can. 
  3. The Bible is chalk full of sage advice on topics such as wisdom. Proverbs 3:13 shares, Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding.” Scripture will always point us back to God, no matter the topic. When we need the best advice, we can go to God’s word for the clearest answers. James 1:5 states, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
  4. Scripture equips us for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 declares, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Spending time in God’s word prepares us to serve and love His people.
  5. God’s word is counter cultural, and teaches us to seek peace. We are living in world that constantly bombards and persuades us to reciprocate wrongdoing with more hatred or evil. An eye for an eye. Scripture, however, shows us that as Christ followers, we are to be different. We are to seek peace. 1 Peter 3:10 asserts, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.” The peace of God inwardly transcends our hearts, and outwardly alters the way we live our lives.

image2 (1)I spend daily time in the Bible because life has a natural ebb and flow of mountains of rejoicing and valleys of mourning. Life has variables, but Scripture is constant. I want to submerge myself in truth, letting it marinate my heart. Soaking in God’s word eventually overflows into all aspects of my life. This spiritual act of discipline enables me to know and love God, and ultimately, love His people more.

 


sarah-dohman-squareSarah Dohman is a nurse, kayak enthusiast, coffee addict, microbrew lover, globe trotter, adorer of friends and family. She has a weakness for donuts, runs in 5k races, and cannot get enough tea and books. She loves writing more than talking (and she talks a lot), can be seen at Target frequently, and is loving life in her thirties. She believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog or on Twitter.

When We Hear of Another Mass Shooting…

Vegas. In the middle of the dry and the desolate, man has crafted a place where lights and golden-gilding cover luxurious arch ways ushering people into glossy portrayals of Dante’s nine circles.

In timeless, windowless, oxygen-infused casinos where multisensory stimulation waits around every corner, it is easy to forget both sun and moon, and just keep going, eyes wide, watching the continuous show. Until the sins everybody thought would stay there creep too close. On the night of October 1st, 2017 evil preformed its deadly dance and shot across the sky stealing the breath of over 50 people.

500+ injured.

Thousands traumatized.

Another mass shooting.

I want to ask “When will it stop?”But I find that to be an unanswerable question. For I have learned this truth—I live in a fallen world.

image2I was a senior in high school the year the Columbine Tragedy shocked the nation and infected people with a new brand of fear. It was like nothing I had seen before. I remember sitting by the television, still, shaken, and unsure. What? How? Why? I went to school the next day, finding myself cowering from the group that wore trench coats, and looking at my classmates with suspicion. It hadn’t required courage to walk into class the day before; this day it did. Still numb, I listened to my favorite teacher as she lamented the tragedy with tears and placed her hands protectively over her pregnant belly. She had to be asking herself, would she be willing to die for us?

Ten years later, I stepped up in front of my first class as a student-teacher, and I had to ask myself the same question. By this time, running students through lockdown drills was common practice, so I instructed them on how to hide in case of a gunman. I remember assessing how many students my body could shield. I am not naturally morbid, but as a teacher I needed to know how I would protect the students entrusted to me? Whether this is asked of our teachers or not, many consider this part of their job.

Before Columbine, it seemed that gang members were the gun carriers to be afraid of, terrorists seemed far away in other countries, and schools, churches, and movie theaters felt safe. And now, we risk developing a callous on society’s collective heart as we accept the mass shootings as an unavoidable reality. We clutch our chests, breathe out a helpless, “Again?!” Then we move on, because we just can’t handle the depth of the carnage of innocents gunned down.

The secluded white male young adult has become the face to fear, and he is everywhere. But again, in this label, I think we have it wrong. The problem isn’t a group, racism, or a religion. Nor is it gun control, mental health, or bad parents. There is chaos created by these things, but they are just symptoms of the deeper problem: evil. A problem too big for humans to address. This is why we feel so helpless to make it stop.

I hope for legislation that might actually be productive, but I won’t be writing laws anytime soon. I will vote, but I will also do my best to make the most of my time. I am determined stand against evil in whatever way it presents before me.

If Christians are to be lights in a dark world, we must stop fighting against each other, and every little piece of culture that threatens our comfort. We need to be who we are through Christ—righteous, more than conquerors, and carriers of the good news that offers a choice of who we will serve.

A good God or an evil world? On which side will we stand?

image1 (1)There is a war going on: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.-Ephesians 6:12

When we forget that this unseen battle is being waged for souls, the works of those submitted to wickedness stuns us. When we are forced to remember that evil is real, let it remind us to fight harder, love deeper, and pray continually. I have no answer for “When will it stop?” I trust that victory will come, but I do not know when. In the mean time, I pray for those mourning, I refuse to harden my heart, and from the depth of my being I cry out “Have mercy Lord Jesus.”


chara-donahue-head-shotChara Donahue can often be found with her nose in a book and coffee in hand. She enjoys freelance writing, biblical counseling, and speaking to women when her four kids are out playing with dad. She holds a MSEd from Corban University and is passionate about seeing people set free through God’s truths. She is a regular contributor at iBelieve and her words have appeared at Christianity Today’s Women Leaders,(in)courage, Patheos, and The Huffington Post. She longs to be a voice that says, “Hey we are in this together, and there is room for us all.” You can find more from Chara at One Anchored Voice, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

This post was adapted from and earlier version first published at Venn Magazine