Cultivating Shalom

I’m reminded daily that recovery is a choice.  Connection is a choice.  Sobriety is a choice.  I’m faced with the decision, I’m challenged by it and I see others around me facing the same decisions as well.  We win some battles, and lose some battles but the decision whether to keep fighting another day is wholly up to us.  I’m humbled by the stories I hear, and can relate to the stories of being buried under grief, guilt and shame.  It’s stifling, and feels completely overwhelming to the point of not feeling capable of taking a step outside of our homes let alone get dressed for the day.  Wherever you’re at, trust me I can relate.

This weekend the message at Willow was *Cultivating Peace*, and it was another powerful message.  It’s one that I’ll come back to and share with others because it makes me proud to be a part of this church.  For any of you who struggle with making it to church, I’ll direct you to this message.  It walked through some ways to cultivate peace in a culture that is in pieces.   Steve Carter laid out a number of different components to what builds peace in us, and also laid out a simple drawing that I really appreciated.  God sent His son to die for all of us, He poured out His grace for each of us that we can have a blank slate but He wants more than just that connection.  He wants a connection with us that extends out to others, and to His creation.

However, for so many of us we end up with things that prevent us from reaching others, or interacting with the world around us.  It can be food, social media, codependency, alcohol, pornography, work, drugs, anger, *keeping up with the Joneses* or anything else that we elevate to a higher position than it should be.  Any *thing* we prioritize over other connections prevent us from having a deep and fulfilling peace, or Shalom.  In fact for me, the things I sought instead of a relationship with Him, with others and with the world around me led to the complete opposite of peace.  My past choices led me to a point of destruction.  Fortunately I was made strong in Him who blessed me and those around me with untold strength.

The process of recovery which isn’t convenient, is hard and is a choice has helped me see many of the ways I chose disconnection over meaningful God-inspired and God-blessed connections.  I chose self-destruction over an invitation to flourish.  I have a much healthier view of the choices I have, and the ways I can take steps that build me up versus tear me down.  It doesn’t make me perfect, and it doesn’t make my life *perfect* but I’ll take progress over an impossible vision of perfection any day.

If you haven’t seen the message, the link is below because it’s worthy of the time you put into listening or watching it.  It’s also important personally because Steve stood up and said the he believed that everyone was an addict of some kind.  While I don’t necessarily subscribe to that same blanket diagnosis, I was proud that as a church we speak openly about addiction, recovery and forgiveness.  I’m proud that as a church we’re capable of addressing that in our lives there are things that need fixing.  We’re not perfect but we’re made perfect in Him.  We’re a church that doesn’t shun *addicts*, but welcomes them and speaks openly about our corporate brokenness.

https://willowcreek.tv/sermons/south-barrington/2017/07/cultivate-peace/#top

Hebrews 12 continues to be top of mind for me and I’ve been meditating on it since the message yesterday.  For me and for each of us, we need to live our lives and acknowledge that there are those things that can get in our way.  Those things that seem simple enough, and in some cases harmless but can still block us from having life, and having it to the full.  I know I’ve referenced this passage before but this week I came across the ERV, or the Easy to Read Version which I find really accessible.

Hebrews 12: 1-3 (ERV)  “We have all these great people around us as examples. Their lives tell us what faith means. So we, too, should run the race that is before us and never quit. We should remove from our lives anything that would slow us down and the sin that so often makes us fall. We must never stop looking to Jesus. He is the leader of our faith, and he is the one who makes our faith complete. He suffered death on a cross. But he accepted the shame of the cross as if it were nothing because of the joy he could see waiting for him.”

We all have those things that we put before living a life that is closer to God, closer to our community and closer to the creation all around us.  I pray that we can begin to identify those things that slow us, or that completely block us from relationships that makes good on a promise of peace in every area of our lives.  Thank you for being a part of my recovery, and in the lives of your brothers within our group as well as outside.  Thank you for sharing your story with us, you remind me and others what faith is.

Grace and peace

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