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connected in community

Cultivate Peace

Cultivate Peace in Community

Welcome to the fourth and final week of our Cultivate Peace series. We hope that you’ve been encouraged by these opportunities to dig into God’s word about the pursuit of peace. If you missed any of this series, you can find all the posts here. While each writer offered a different perspective, one truth remained the same:

REAL peace is found in Jesus.

As we finish out this series, Christmas is just around the corner. Maybe this is a season of reflection and rest for you. Maybe it feels a bit more like chaos and commotion. Maybe this Christmas doesn’t look at all how you thought it would. Regardless of where you sit today or in the days ahead, know this…you are wholly and completely loved by a God who is not swayed by circumstance. Yesterday, today, and forever more He is your Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. We pray that as you draw near to Him, as you cultivate His word and His presence into your heart and life, you would not only grow to be more like Him, but you would know His peace.

We wish you love, peace, and kindness this Christmas,

The Cultivate Team


—Cultivate Peace in Community—

Most people avoid conflict. Can you blame them? Friendships are on the line, feelings are at stake, and the price to pay for relational difficulties can be a high one, indeed. Most people enjoy the peace that comes with harmony and a lack of competition. Most people want that beautiful, beige existence that comes with neutrality.

I am not most people.

From a young age, I was deemed feisty. Sassy. Competitive. As soon as I could talk, I began to challenge everyone in all aspects of life. It didn’t matter whether or not I understood the topic, I’d argue my way around it. My whole life has been navigated via minor disputes, and I love it. I took a Meyers-Briggs personality test and discovered the very thrill I receive from a healthy debate is rare. Only 3% of the population has my debater-personality type, but most people don’t appreciate my pleasure in quarreling.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:18 NIV

Uh, excuse me? I just came clean with the fact that I take pleasure in disagreements. I want to point out the holes in other’s philosophies, and highlight the errors in their speech. I accumulate and hoard facts and knowledge just to use it against people. How on earth can someone like me attempt to live at peace with everyone?

When I was first mulling over this verse, I was coming to terms with what seems to be an end of a friendship. It seemed like I was such a fraud, a failure. I clearly wasn’t at peace with everyone. But you know what? This verse actually brought encouragement, because it doesn’t all depend on me. I don’t have to “fix” a situation or another person. God can work on their heart. I need only worry about who/what I am in charge of—myself.

There is no caveat in Romans 12:18. It doesn’t matter if our personality type is a debater or if that girl was so unabashedly rude, we are to behave peacefully (and lovingly). God doesn’t just know us, He created us. He understands that there will be strife among us, and not all of it will be enjoyable. And yet, He still expects us, if it is possible, as far as it depends on us, to live at peace with everyone.

Living at peace might mean:

Trying to understand the perspective of others, even if we disagree.

Accepting when we’re wrong.

Accepting that, sometimes, people may have the wrong opinion of us.

Turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) and refraining from delivering biting words that will cut deep.

Forgiving our offender, even if we don’t think they deserve it, just like God forgave us. That is grace.

We will make mistakes. Our friends, husbands, sisters, colleagues, Starbucks baristas (yes, even these sacred keepers of the caffeine) will make mistakes. We cannot live in a constant state of grievance due to the mistakes of others.

We show peace even if it is not being shown to us.

Living at peace means accepting people where they are on their journey and meeting them there, not getting annoyed that they haven’t caught up. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God, and yet, He loves every one of us. God loves you.

Romans 12:18 also tells us to live at peace with everyone as far as it depends on you.

What can we do to cultivate peace with our community?

Can we reach out?

Can we sincerely apologize for our own actions and words?

Have we prayed about it? Have we done everything we can?

There will be times when we will work through all those questions and yet, it isn’t better. At that point, we must release our grip and ask God to take over. We show grace. We are kind. Sometimes being at peace, means distancing yourself.

A couple of weeks ago I witnessed my four-year-old go through the painful experience of a “friend” mistreating him. It makes me cry just thinking about it. He wanted to play, but the other boy refused because he wanted to play with someone else. He even told my son to “go away.” My sweet, innocent little guy was so confused. What I said to him rings true for me—sometimes a “friend” might hurt your heart, no matter how nice you are being. It’s up to you to step away, to find a new activity or play with someone else.

As an adult, that can look like being the bigger person. Being the bigger person is never noticeable to the one who isn’t being the bigger person, but that’s not why we do it. We do it because it’s what’s right. Hurting someone that hurt us never fixes the situation. 

Personally, I’m still working on this. Every day I struggle with who I am being at odds with what God wants. I need to extend more grace, and look at everyone the way God does. Pray for me, and I’ll pray for all of you, because God wants peace. God instructs us to be the peacemakers, whether or not we enjoy friendly conflict. 😉

Kindly,

Dunya


LET’S DIG DEEPER:

  1. How do you deal with conflict? Do you take time to address it, or ignore and avoid it all together? How does that effect your life and relationships?
  2. Re-read Romans 12:18 and take a minute to pray. Ask God if there are any relationships in your life where you need to pursue peace. As far as it depends on you (NOT what would they need to do), what would it look like for you be at peace with that individual or group?
  3. Can you take the first step toward cultivating peace? If that is not possible, will you entrust this situation to God and allow Him to take over?
  4. Peace in community is not cut and dry. Continue to reflect on the truth of God’s word and allow Him to show you the next steps. Pray over your heart, and the hearts of those with whom you have conflict. Share your thoughts with people you trust to give you wise counsel and godly encouragement. If you don’t have trusted community in your life to support you, we are here for you.

Being connected in community is so important to our spiritual growth. If you’re ready to join a group, you can find one here.


Dunya Ahrns is part millennial, full Russian, and only half-listening. She loves literature, writing, unsweetened tea, and thinks Frasier was one of the best television shows ever created. Dunya has enjoyed Cultivate since 2013 and has led a women’s small group for a few years. She currently serves on the Creative/Communications Team at Sandals Church where she happily gets to point out the (grammatical) mistakes of others in the name of Jesus. Dunya has played tennis since the age of two, and her ideal day is spent at a museum to feed her pompous side, followed by Baker’s to feed the hungry one.

Wise & Kind 31-day Proverbs Reading Challenge

Cultivating Community

Welcome to the third week of our Wise and Kind 31-day Proverbs blog series. Over the past weeks, we’ve asked women at Sandals to share how this book of wisdom has instructed them in cultivating wisdom & kindness, as well as cultivating emotional health. This week we’re looking at the difference that cultivating community can make in our lives.

What are you learning through your daily reading in Proverbs? How are you cultivating the word of God into your heart and life, and how is it changing you? Share with us in the comments section below, or interact with our posts on Instagram and Facebook. We want to hear from you!


I’m a Cultivate and groups junkie! You may laugh, but it’s true. I’ve grown up going to church and attending bible studies, but I missed one crucial aspect—community!

I’m not talking friendship. I’ve had lots of friends—and great ones. I’m talking about doing life hand-in-hand with one another and life hand-in-hand with Christ. This idea of community was a concept completely new to me and so were the women around me when I first attended Cultivate Book Club.

I learned quickly that with intentional vulnerability comes deep connection.
Transparency is both a scary thing and a freeing thing.

My mask was down and so were theirs.

I felt safe.

I felt loved.

I was treated with kindness.

After my first day at book club, I left feeling filled, alive, renewed, and free. I felt like I had discovered a gift and experienced friendship in a new way.

The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.
Proverbs 27:9 NLT

Each time I’m with the girls in my group, each text we share back and forth, brings joy to my heart and a smile to my face.

They lean into my mess and help me see clearly. They speak truth into the lies I’ve believed for far too long. They encourage me to press on.

They see blessings that I miss. They pray for my family. They’ve comforted me in my grief. They make me laugh.

They’ve been in situations that I haven’t, but might walk through someday. They offer wisdom. They give me grace. They hold me accountable.

I treasure their hearts, their friendship, and their counsel. With each new season of Cultivate, I come to realize that the depth of friendship and community goes beyond just what we can see.

Community gives us opportunity to be Christ’s image-bearers
and share His great love with others in our lives.

We are able to be His hands and feet for one another. We are able to be reflections of His love, His grace, and His kindness. We can help bring healing, encouragement, and hope to those around us by imitating our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As wives, moms, sisters, students, daughters, employees, we are busy. None of us need to add one more thing to our already filled schedule, but I ask you to consider joining us in our journey of being real and cultivating community.

Cultivate has changed my life and brought me into a deeper relationship with Jesus. Cultivate has created relationships that I will be forever grateful for…a new community of friends and family!

In His Love~
Megan


LET’S DIG DEEPER…

  1. Think of a time when you have experienced sweet counsel (e.g. truth, advice, encouragement) from a friend. What did that look like and how did that make a difference in your life?
  2. Friendships are important to all of us, but especially to Jesus. He could have done His work alone, but He surrounded himself with disciples. Read John 13:34-35 and 15:12-17. What command does Jesus give over and over? How does Jesus’ view of friendship and love impact the way you see community?
  3. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one friend sharpens another.” A lot of people can influence our lives, but who are the people in your life that truly refine and strengthen you as a follower of Jesus? How can you be intentional about cultivating community with these people?

The next season of Cultivate begins in the fall, but you don’t have to wait to find community at Sandals Church. We have a group for you! Find a community group that fits your schedule and needs, or even start your own today. You can learn more here. 

As you continue your study of Proverbs, consider these other verses on cultivating community. Choose the one that most speaks to you, and be intentional about applying it to your life and allowing it to change who you are.

Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more. Proverbs 9:9 NLT

Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble. Proverbs 13:20 NLT

Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisors bring success. Proverbs 15:22 NLT

A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. Proverbs 17:17 NLT


 

Megan Suarez is a Sandals Ministry Partner and Small Groups Coordinator for Cultivate. She has a passion for connecting and encouraging women. She is the proud wifey of Jesse, and mommy to 3 crazy, baseball-loving boys ages 7, 9, and 11. Megan loves camping with her family, watching her boys play baseball, going to Angels games, and anything and everything to do with the beach!


Have you heard about Cultivate Unity? We’re talking the women (and girls ages 10+) of Sandals Church gathering together at the campus you attend every weekend. One church, one event, multiple locations. What do you need to do? Come and bring a friend, or come and meet some new friends. It’s just that simple. What a beautiful way to cultivate community right in your own backyard. We promise you won’t want to miss this night. Join us on August 25th. We can’t wait to see you!

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What Being “Connected in Community” Means to me

Hey friends, I’m Shanalea, Pastor Adam Atchison’s wife. We lead Sandals Church East Valley, near Redlands. This idea of being real with ourselves, God and others was such a fresh and freeing vision that drew us to Sandals 9 years ago. There is no way we would be who we are today without this church and our community. REAL community.

I grew up in a place where you put on your Sunday best with a smile and pretended to be fine no matter what was happening in your life. So this idea of being connected in community has been such a learning process. Really, it’s been a struggle for me.

Just because something is hard doesn’t mean I get a free pass.

Since I am a storyteller and, well, I think things are more clearly seen when there is a story to point toward, I want to share a little about my journey with community.

I think when most people see me they think, “Wow, she knows a lot of people and must have tons of friends.” Which is partly true. I do know quite a few people, but I also have tons of acquaintances.

There is a common phrase, “Being alone in a crowded room.” This phrase is what I’ve felt most of my life. I would attend everything where I knew everyone, but never felt truly connected. I longed to have a BFF, for someone to know me, but I couldn’t figure out how to make that happen. I began to think that I needed to change myself, mold myself to be whatever “that person” (fill in whoever I thought was the person to know) needed.

On top of that I grew up moving around a lot so being in a place long enough to establish true friendships was difficult. Add a really hurtful experience with friends in high school, and by college, I was one messed up chick when it came to community.

All of these experiences left me feeling that there was something wrong with me.

I gave up on thinking that I could experience real community. This doesn’t mean I stopped having friends or going to parties. It means that I rarely allowed someone close enough to see the raw/vulnerable part of me.

It has taken years to even begin the process of healing in this area. I am still healing and still learning what it means, but I can tell you this…

Community Matters.

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-25 NLT

This last year God has redeemed the broken part of me that thought REAL community was not available or even a possibility. He placed our family with another family IN community. The truth that has been spoken into me from these people will never be forgotten.

They have seen the raw, vulnerable part of me and STAYED.

I know!

My past experiences told me that people didn’t stay; that when it got hard they moved on (or I moved). Last summer was probably one of the lowest points in my life so far. I was undone and had no way of moving forward. There was nothing left in me to even fight for what I knew was true.

I was broken and defeated.

My community invited me in and spoke truth to my soul when I could only hear the lies of the enemy.

Community sat down and listened without trying to fix.

Community allowed me to ugly cry and not judge.

Community helped me laugh again when I felt like I would never feel joy.

Community chose to stay when I didn’t think I deserved it.

Community loved me when I didn’t think I was lovable.

I am in tears as I write this because it has been so powerful for me to experience this kind of community.

GOD is SO GOOD though and continued to bless me. I am a teacher and at the beginning of the year I decided that I wanted to start a Cultivate book club group with some of the ladies I work with. Having the sessions online has allowed us to participate in Cultivate and dig deep.

I began this group knowing that we would grow in our spiritual walks and become friends. I just didn’t expect it to be so quick and so deep.

There were hard moments where real life was shared and spoken. We cried together, we laughed together, we worked together. When my washing machine was broken for a month, they took on my laundry! YOU GUYS! This was huge for me. I literally shared my dirty laundry with a group of ladies. They have cheered me on when I thought I was in too deep.

The love, support, and friendship of this group changed my entire school year. I was able to love the “hard to love” people and receive prayer when needed. I have never had this type of experience at work. COMMUNITY MATTERS!

Here’s the main idea ….community doesn’t matter because I say so or even because Cultivate says so.

Community matters because God says so.

God doesn’t expect us to do this life without having people around to be with us, love us, and speak truth into us. Think about all the Bible stories you know…

Moses had Aaron. Noah had his family. Ruth had Naomi.

David had Jonathan. Martha had Mary. Paul had Timothy.

Jesus had His disciples.

Each of these guys and gals didn’t walk through life on their own. God gave them a person. He will give you a person too.

Maybe you are like I was and have given up on people or groups because you’ve had some bad experiences. I get it and really understand why you might feel that way. What I want you to know is that it is worth it to keep trying.

Pursue God first and foremost, but then pursue a community that is going to point you toward Him when you are in too deep to see Him for yourself.  

Kindly,

Shanalea


LET’S DIG DEEPER…

  1. What has kept you from connecting in community? Are there fears that you need to surrender to God?
  2. Sometimes we can simply go through the motions when we’re in a group. Is there something in your life that you need to be real with your community group about?
  3. Who is in your circle of people that might benefit from being in community? What would it take for you to invite them in? 
  4. Reflect on Hebrews 10:23-25. What is the purpose of community? How can you encourage others with what you’ve learned?

To learn more about joining a Sandals Church community group or to start your own, click here.


 

Shanalea is the wife of Adam Atchison, Campus Pastor at East Valley. She is mom to four boys, Avery (15), Aiden (11), Asher (9), and Axel (7). Besides being wife and mom, she is a 5th grade teacher at a school in Riverside. Shanalea loves Dr. Pepper, dancing, sitting on a beach, getting together with friends and family and enjoying great food and good conversation.