Acknowledge What You Are

(Learn to Discern,  Principle #12)

“God has a plan for your life!”

How many times have you heard this proclaimed? At church, on retreat, by some street evangelist – it’s a phrase we get used to hearing. But it’s a phrase that’s easily misunderstood.

Sometimes, we think that God having a plan for our lives means that we don’t need to make one. (“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans!” is another Christian classic.)

Sometimes, we think that if we make plans for our lives, God will automatically have something else in mind – as though He wills the opposite of what we want, simply to be contrarian.

But the truth is that God is not a contrarian. God is a God of love. A God who offers us a multiplicity of goods in the created world. There are simply so many good things for us to choose from when it comes to living our lives. We don’t have to be afraid of choosing something good, and we don’t have to be afraid of choosing something that might not be the very best thing in all the universes of possibilities.

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7 Simple Ways to Have More Peace

In our world of constant political tweets and nagging notifications, peace can feel elusive. The low-grade static of social comparison and personal dissatisfaction hums irritatingly throughout our days. It can scratch at our souls, leaving us uncomfortable without knowing exactly why.

It’s difficult to stop hurrying and embrace silence and its many benefits – one of which is greater peace: not just in our schedules, but in our souls.

Here are seven practical tips to help you have more peace.

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Are You a Conscious Consumer?

As a child, I was given a series of videos that followed the life of a boy as he struggles to grow up and embrace a Christian life. In one of the episodes, he sets up an elaborate plan to sneak out to a movie his parents have forbidden him to see. Despite escaping to see the film, he finds himself unhappy at having watched it. His father’s explanation of why they forbade him in the first place has always stayed with me: “It’s garbage in, garbage out: you’ll never get it out of your mind.”

On a physical level, we know that to be true. We know that eating McDonald’s every day for a week means excess weight, bad skin, and lethargy; and eating it every day for a year means risk of serious heart disease.

But what about on a spiritual level? Are we conscious about what we consume in our hearts and minds and souls? Do we consider ourselves immune from the effects of what we imbibe?

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Fear Is a False Friend

(Learn to Discern, Principle #11)

An American friend of mine once found herself engaged in a conversation about family pastimes in Italian. “My mother gardens,” said one girl; “my sister paints,” offered another. “My father makes fruit preserves!” my friend joined in, enthusiastically. “Peach, strawberry, all different kinds,” she continued, slightly oblivious to the growing silence around the table. “The whole family helps, every summer!”

Finally, one of the older women at the table quietly asked her to clarify. “Fruit preserves!” My friend said again, in Italian. Noticing the shocked look on everyone’s faces, she stepped into the kitchen to get a jar of jam. Holding it up, she repeated triumphantly, “fruit preserves! See?”

The Italians then very kindly explained that “preservativi” in Italian does not mean “preserves.” It means “condoms.”

Talk about a learning experience.

Speaking the language through trial and error led my friend to discover “false friends”: words that sound similar in two languages but in fact mean very different things.

“False friends” are dangerous when learning languages, but they show up when we are learning to discern, too. They masquerade as something helpful, so we use them eagerly. Unknown to us, though, they are leading us away from our true purpose.

Fear is a false friend.

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Are These Three Words Holding You Back?

Do you ever have moments where you realize you’ve been thinking backwards? And all that backward thought is, well, holding you back?

The other day I wasn’t feeling particularly well: I had recently gotten over the flu but was still struggling with bouts of tiredness and nausea. After cancelling plans with an understanding friend, I spent the afternoon resting

Later, I felt well enough to clean the kitchen but found myself scrubbing the counter in a barrage of negativity. As I scoured a particularly sticky spot, I began berating myself for just resting instead of doing something. “See, I feel okay now. I should have just gone out – I would have been fine. Resting was a waste of time.”

But then, all of a sudden, it dawned on me: what if I didn’t feel better in spite of resting? What if I felt better because of resting?

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