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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.

Cultivate Peace

Cultivate Peace Through Trials

We’re in Week 3 of our Cultivate Peace series, and we’re so glad you’re here! Peace isn’t always easy to come by, but taking the time to pursue it—to intentionally cultivate it in your life—is such a beautiful leg on the journey toward growing more spiritually wise.

We hope that by coming here, you’re creating a moment in your life to be with Jesus and see peace through His eyes. Life is busy, chaotic and full, but we pray that this might be a sacred space, and that when you leave, you would indeed feel more at peace. If you’ve missed any of our previous Cultivate Peace posts, click here to find them. We always love to hear from you – share your thoughts in the comments below, or on Instagram and Facebook.


— Cultivate Peace Through Trials —

As a child I struggled with trust. Those closest to me failed to exhibit behavior conducive to that of trusting relationship; they failed to make me feel safe and fully loved. I am NOT blaming them, but I am explaining why a lack of trust in those closest to me carried over into my relationship with God. Trusting God was hard for me, and still is if I’m being REAL.

I spent my eager, young Christian days building my scriptural arsenal for the trials that were promised to come my way. I read, memorized, wrote, plastered verses on 3×5 cards on the bathroom mirror, sent them to friends in cards to encourage them, and waited for my day of heartache to arrive. With my verses, I would slay that trial just like David did to Goliath. No weapon formed against me will prosper! Take that devil! Bam!

That day arrived, friends. I got that dreaded phone call that took me from the mountain to the pit in 2.5 seconds. Although mini-trials were as normal as the sun that rises, the Big Kahuna came with a wind-knocking-blow to the chest. I couldn’t breathe as my pastor friend revealed news about his son. News that I knew was also about my son. They caught him using heroine.

Now, before you get your judging juices flowing, this is still so hard to share even 8 years in. I’m still tearfully shaking as I type, because I care too much what others think. In my honest vulnerability here are some things I learned the day my son skipped right over beer and pot and went straight for the big guns named heroine & oxycontin:

You can do many things right and things still go terribly wrong.

When they do go wrong, we are still supposed to have peace as Jesus’ followers, right?

Well, that depends on where your trust lies. Is it in you or is it in God?

“I’ve told you all this that trusting Me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace.
In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties.
But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”
John 16:33 MSG

As Jacob wrestled with God for 24 hours, I wrested with Him for 2 years because darn it, this was not my plan for my son. I was going to do ALL I COULD to save him! Key phrase: All I could.

Friends, I started to chart the way to save my son with all the things a mom could do, and quite honestly there was NO PEACE. There was anything but peace. It took 48 months of exhausting my resources, sitting in doctors offices being told I am depressed and need medication, in order for me to finally hold up the white flag of surrender.

And that’s the day it came. I completely relinquished control and released my son to the God that created Him. I said in my heart and head, “I have to trust You with him. He is yours and You have to do what only You can do in him.”

As my son drove away, at 18-years-old, in his 1969 VW bus, destination unknown, I waved goodbye with a peace that only God could give. I shouldn’t of had peace at that moment with so much uncertainty, so much unsecured, but I did.

The key to peace is the surrender with full trust.

It does not have to take 2 years, my friends. It’s really up to us how long it takes. Unfortunately for us, this was a trial of seismic humiliation and we walked it pretty much alone, because “real” wasn’t the mantra at our former church. The beauty of being at Sandals, where the emphasis is on being real, is the ability to share your stuff. If we would have been in community where this was dealt with and prayed over, my wrestling may have been shortened.

Here’s my encouragement to you: Do not hide when satan sucker punches you or your family. Get with people you trust to help carry the load of pain. Speak truths that will help bring peace.

Peace is a promise that is delivered, maybe not right when we order it, but it does come. To all my suffering readers, cling to Him. He is your peace and He is the peace giver.

With love,

Diane


LET’S DIG DEEPER:

  1. When suffering hits, who is your first go-to? God, yourself, or someone else? Does your source have the ability to give you peace?
  2. Peace doesn’t mean you don’t care, it just means you have given your trial and your suffering to the One who can do something about it. Do you believe God can do something about your trial? Look up these verses to help your answer. Ephesians 3:20; Romans 8:18, 28, 31; 2 Corinthians 1:3-5; Psalm 118:6; Psalm 30:5b
  3. Is there an area of your life that you need to surrender to God? Will you relinquish control and trust Him?
  4. Maybe writing on 3×5 cards are old fashioned, but get verses memorized and hidden in your heart. What are some creative ways you will begin or continue to get God’s promises etched upon your heart?

If you or or a member of your family needs help, we at Sandals Church are here for you. You’re invited to join us on the weekends where our pastors and ministers can provide a safe place for you to be real. You can also connect with us here to be contacted by a member of our Soul Care team for prayer and support.


Diane Huntsman is the Cultivate Ministry Partner for Sandals East Valley campus. She’s a wife of 31 years, mom to 4 adult children and Grammy to her 3 gifts. She is in love with Jesus and determined to use all her mistakes, messes and years of living to help women in all seasons to make this life count for eternity. Diane has served in different women’s ministries for 25 years and desires to leave a legacy of loving Jesus to the max. She enjoys all things outdoors, hates running and burpies but loves to make her body do all the things her mind says it shouldn’t do. You can find her on her porch some days, and wishing she was there on all the rest.

Cultivate Peace in Your Mind
Cultivate Peace

Cultivate Peace in Your Mind

Welcome to Week 2 of our Cultivate Peace blog series! The heart behind this weekly series is to create a place where you can break from the busyness of the season and meet our Prince of Peace, our Wonderful Counselor, our Mighty God. He is with us and He is for us, and friends, that should bring great comfort and joy. We hope that by making room to reflect and respond to the truth of God’s word, you will be encouraged and equipped with practical ways to cultivate peace in your life.

If you missed last week’s post, take a minute to read how Melody Workman, our Cultivate Lead, cultivates peace through prayer. Whether you’re reading on your own or gathering to connect in community, we’re so glad you’re here and we want to hear from you! We invite you to share what you’re learning in the comments below or on Instagram and Facebook.


— Cultivate Peace in Your Mind —

I’m a collector of midnight thoughts. Do you know the kind? They keep you staring up at the ceiling as they race through your mind, sending your stomach into knots and stealing any chance of rest. These thoughts are the breeding ground for anxiety and the birthplace of fear.

Oh, the restless nights spent fixed on doubts. The hours lost questioning what I’ve said and done or even worse, worrying about what others think of my words and actions. I’ve wrestled with the past, wondering if a different argument or opinion might have changed everything. I’ve feared the future, doubting I had enough strength, knowledge, or talent to handle what lay ahead.

The thing about this late night battle—besides the fact that it’ll make a girl crazy—is that it’s all about what might have been and what could be, instead of what is. It’s about the past [the things we can’t change] or the future [the things we can’t control], instead of the present [what we choose now].

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You,
all whose thoughts are fixed on You.
Isaiah 26:3 NLT

Perfect peace. It can feel a bit out of reach, can’t it? In the middle of all the thoughts and emotions that hit us like a tidal wave, peace can feel distant and unattainable. And it is, if we try to find it within ourselves.

This world tempts us with its versions of “peace.” Maybe it’s a pastime or habit that temporarily numbs our cares. It might be a distraction that pushes our worries aside for a time and convinces us we’re okay. These brands of peace, with their instant gratification, might be easier to choose, but they’re fleeting at best.

Real peace is found in the presence of our Savior.

Jesus offers a peace beyond understanding. It’s perfect, not because of how it makes us feel, but because of who He is. The peace He promises is perfected in us because it comes through practice—by learning to take hold of our thoughts, turn them toward God and rather than doubt, worry, or wonder, we CHOOSE to trust Him. We choose the truth that His goodness, grace, and power are big enough to tackle anything we face.

I know this isn’t always easy, but the peace that Jesus offers is the only peace that lasts.

The most amazing thing: if we cultivate this practice of pursuing peace in our life, God doesn’t say He might give us peace, or He’ll give us some, then take it away. Isaiah 26:3 tells us that if we’ll keep trusting Him with our deepest thoughts—if we’ll be real with God—He will keep us at peace. How beautiful is that?

Sweet sisters, feelings are a thing. We have to be real with ourselves and acknowledge them, but feelings should not and do not get to rule our world. I want to be a woman who serves Jesus, not my emotions.

This is my prayer for us … that we would be a community of women who are not only real with each other, but hold one another accountable in the practice of peace. That we would gather up our doubts from the past, lay hold of our fears for the future, toss in our burdens and insecurities, and even if we have to drag them, even if it takes ten of us to carry them, even if we get it wrong and have to try over again, we bring those faith stealing feelings into the presence of our King and WE TRUST HIM and HIM ALONE.

What might that look like? Imagine us, a body of believers, cultivating real peace and exceptional kindness, instead of being tossed around by our wayward thoughts and fickle feelings. I think it could be incredible, and I think we can do it. Are you in?

With grace and peace,

Tiffany


LET’S DIG DEEPER:

  1. Is your thought life a battle? How does that effect your life and relationships?
  2. Are you tempted to numb your cares with temporary “peace?” What would it look like for you to pursue God instead?
  3. What are you anxious or worried about today? Take hold of that thought and turn it toward God. Are you willing to be real with Him? If not, why and what needs to change so that you can trust Him more?
  4. Write out Isaiah 26:3 and keep it in a place where you can see it. This week, commit to reading and re-reading it so that this promise of peace is sealed on your heart.

Tiffany Parry is the Cultivate Assistant at Sandals Church and helps support the administrative needs of the Cultivate team, as well as oversee social media and the blog. She’s a wife to Jason and mom to her one and only son, Dylan (14). While ministry and family keep her days full, Tiffany loves words, both reading and writing them, particularly those about authentic faith in the middle of the messiness of life. A day spent in pajamas, with a good movie, dark chocolate, and her family close by is one of her very favorite things.

Cultivate Peace

Cultivate Peace Through Prayer

Sweet sisters and friends,

Another holiday season is upon us and with it comes all of the “stuff.” So much is good and fun – traditions, adventures, moments, memories, but inevitably, the hustle and bustle come along too. No matter how much shopping we do online or how many plans we make to do it “different” this year, at some point over the next few weeks, we are going to find ourselves frazzled, tired, irritated or overwhelmed.

This season, Cultivate wants to give you a place to breathe—a sacred space to slow down, remember and ponder the beauty of the One who came to us…our Prince of Peace.

Peace.
What does it look like for you to Cultivate Peace this Christmas season?

Each Friday, we hope you will join us here for a simple journey to explore “peace” and the deep, rich meanings it holds throughout the pages of scripture. Whether you join us on your own or grab some friends and cultivate community while you learn, know that each contributor to this series has prayed for you and wants you to become more like Jesus as we celebrate His birth. Merry Christmas, friends!

With love and peace,

Melody


— Cultivate Peace Through Prayer —

One of my favorite things to do as a kid, even with my own kids, was play with Play-Doh. First, that smell. Am I the only one who might have had a sniffing addiction? There was something about a brand new container of Play-Doh—untouched, no colors jumbled, a perfect blob of potential. My mind would race with all of the things it could be. I felt so powerful taking that blob into my hands and shaping it into whatever I wanted.

I was in love with the pliability and moldability of Play-Doh and the control I had over my creation.

Control. I like control. A lot. I don’t like feeling like things are out of my control…even though most often they are. This desire for control has led to a lifetime struggle with anxiety. It is something I struggle with every day.

There have been days when my anxiety has made me physically ill. Other days, it just makes me sad. Most regrettably, on my worst days it makes me angry, and I take that anger out on the ones I love the most.

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray.
Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.
Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.
It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”
Philippians 4:6-7 MSG

Over and over again I have read these verses. I’ve memorized them and written them on Post-it notes to remind myself of what is true. But, it wasn’t until just this week that I saw something in this verse I had never seen before.

“Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers…”

In the same childlike way I shaped and reshaped my Play-Doh, as a child of God, I possess the ability to reform and reshape my thoughts—my anxious thoughts—and transform them into prayers.

How can I shape my worries into prayers?

By telling God what is on my heart.

By thanking God for hearing me.

By praising God for understanding and loving me.

This sounds so trite, and frankly, elementary. But trust me…this is revolutionary! 

Here’s what I do: As my mind begins to travel down the all-familiar anxious path (which for me usually involves “awfulizing” any situation I am thinking about), I take that thought and immediately pray about it. I tell God my fear and my desire. But, I don’t stop there. As I pray, I begin concentrating solely on who He is: His goodness, His love, His presence, His mercy. Just Him. Then, He floods my heart and soul with His most reassuring peace.

Here’s what I’m learning: This process is transforming my prayer life with Jesus. Just think about how often you worry! Imagine turning—shaping—each of those worrisome thoughts into prayers.

Peace is Possible when Prayer is the Priority!

Friends, there is just no way around this. What these verses make abundantly clear is that the peace that surpasses our human understanding comes as a result of our constant and faithful prayers.

Here’s the best part: As we pray, we go deeper with God. We know Him. We experience Him. We trust Him.

The MORE we know Him, the MORE we trust Him—with our hopes, our dreams, our relationships, our health, our emotions—EVERYTHING! We trust God because He is trustworthy, because He is good.

My encouragement to you is to start right where you are. The next time an anxious thought comes into your mind, grab it and turn it into a prayer. Thank God for who He is and begin to walk in freedom.

I am on this journey with you, friend. It is a daily discipline, sometimes even a moment by moment discipline. What I am most grateful for is that Jesus never loses patience with me in the struggle. He is ever merciful, kind and gracious, loving me right where I am and committed to taking me even further in my relationship with Him. THAT is worth everything to me.

Praying for each of you on this pursuit to cultivate peace,

Melody


LET’S DIG DEEPER:

  1. Do you struggle with anxiety? What does that look like for you?
  2. Most of us have issues with control. Is being in control or having control something you struggle with? How?
  3. How would you describe your prayer life? How could you make this more of a priority in your life?
  4. Write out Philippians 4:6-7 and keep them in a place where you can see them. This week, commit to reading and re-reading them so that these truths are sealed on your heart.

Melody Workman is the Cultivate Lead at Sandals Church. She is married to Adam, the Discipleship Pastor at Sandals Church, and together they have 3 children – Elijah (13), Mehretab (11), and Addison (10). Melody is passionate about teaching and leading women into real relationship with Jesus. When she isn’t busy with ministry and family, Melody loves time at the beach, a massage, and good food. After living on the east coast her entire life and hating winter, she has fully embraced becoming a California girl.

 


Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.