Life on Purpose: Drop the Expectations

Written by: Emily Pelley

I have spent an inordinate amount of time in my life grappling with expectations; expectations I have for myself, and expectations that people have of me- of my behaviour and my achievements. As the church, we so easily slip into this “expectations” model, setting impossibly high standards that keep people in prisons of inadequacy and defeat. Even though we know that Jesus died to put the law in its place- that our salvation is by the grace of God requiring only our acceptance- we hold tightly to our set of rules, demands, restrictions and expectations. And this robs us of the joy and peace that Jesus has made available to us.

As followers of Christ, we know that it is not by our own goodness that we are saved. In fact, if it were, none of us would make it, because all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23). So when we put Jesus at the centre of our lives- our imperfections, our issues, our mistakes all get swept under His perfection and love towards us. It is a beautiful picture- this Amazing Grace.

According to Isaiah 61, followers of Christ are meant to be a reflection of Him to the people in our community, in our city, in our country. It goes on to say that those who have the Spirit of the Lord in them will be called oaks of righteousness that God may be glorified (verse 3). This shifts the focus away from us to the God we serve. All we do, all the Spirit of God equips us to do, comes back to the glory of God.

Living life on purpose requires us to re-examine the expectations we have heaped on ourselves and on those around us. Why? Because if our purpose is Jesus, than our lives do not have room for anything that does not point back to Him.

It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, what you do, where you’re from, because the one thing that sets the church apart on the planet is the grace of God extended to anyone- ANYONE- who would believe. We have Good News to declare to the poor- that Jesus has paid the price- we get to walk in all the strength and power that is His because He is our Father (Rom 8:15). Wow.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me  to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the broken-hearted and to proclaim that captives will be released, and prisoners will be freed. Isaiah 61:1

Life on Purpose: Where dreams begin

Written by: Emily Pelley

One of the things I truly love about God is that His dreams and plans for us are way bigger than we could ever come up with (Jer 29:11). I think sometimes we pray that God would just help us out so we could just barely manage to achieve that personal goal, or get that job, or heal that broken relationship. I think what we forget a lot of the time is that God is not at all worried or stressed about His ability to come through. We make the mistake of seeing an all-powerful God through the lens of our own human frailty.

God desires our lives to be lived with Him. That every day we would know Him more and understand His character. When we are in this relationship with Jesus, He puts dreams in our hearts for what this life could look like when we are surrendered to His plan. He wants our lives to be beacons of hope that point back to Him. So, what do we need to understand about the dreams God has put in our hearts? The vision that God has given us for our lives and the lives of our family members?

While we trust in the dreams and vision He gives us, the answer is not in seeing a final picture, but in the daily experience that contributes to the intricate tapestry of our lives.
If God has put on your heart the people in your community who are in need, you need to ask yourself- what do you have to contribute today? What love can you show? How can you make a difference? I find a lot of people become overwhelmed with these questions, often sighing with discouraged resignation, but how can I fix things? How can I make anything change?

Let me encourage you. God is not asking you to fix everyone’s problems, to heal broken hearts, to restore what was lost. No, that’s His job.

What He is asking you to do is to be faithful and take a step out. Love someone. Show kindness. Write that song that has been on your heart. Have that conversation you know needs to happen. In the book of Zechariah, it says:

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…”
Zechariah 4:10

This verse is really calling out our pride which so often points us away from what needs to be done today with an attitude of, “oh someone else can handle that”, or, “God has something bigger for me to do”. Let’s examine our hearts. What are we not doing today because we feel God has something bigger and better for you to do?

Who knows…maybe someday you will lead the biggest rescue mission in the country, or be a world-famous author, or the prime minister of Canada! But today…what does today look like? It looks like living life on purpose- not dismissing anything as too small or ineffectual. God rejoices to see the work being done. So if it is in your path to do, could this not be an important piece of the larger picture- the dream- that God has for you?

The whole point of this life is to walk each day, each moment, with Jesus. Don’t put off an opportunity today to work, to show love, to believe God for your dream. And trust that God will bring together all things for your good (Rom 8:28). Trust Him with your dreams and walk faithfully- purposefully- through each day.

Have you never heard?
 Have you never understood?
 The Lord is the everlasting God,
 the Creator of all the earth.
 He never grows weak or weary.
    No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
 He gives power to the weak
 and strength to the powerless.
 Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
 They will soar high on wings like eagles.
 They will run and not grow weary.
 They will walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:28-31

Inspiring Justice: Living out God’s call to His Church

Written by: Emily Pelley

Proverbs 31:8, 9 has profoundly impacted my heart:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.

This passage has become a “life-verse” for me; one that I am seeking God in every day for His direction. I have grown up in the church, and have seen programs come and go. But what remains constant is the mandate on the church to care for the poor and to stand up for justice in our communities. I believe this is constant because it is in line with the character of our Amazing God to bring restoration and hope to a lost and broken world.

Over the years, God has impressed on my heart a passion for social justice. One issue that has grabbed my attention is human trafficking. The majority of my research in my career thus far has been focused on children in armed conflict and the impact of human trafficking in their lives and their communities. It was a startling realization for me when I learned of the extent to which human trafficking exists here in Canada, not to mention in my home city of Halifax.

Global estimates range from 10-30million victims of human trafficking- which is essentially modern-day slavery. The sex trade, forced labour and domestic service, child soldiering, organ trade- all of these make up this overwhelming number. The RCMP estimates that there are approximately 800-1200 people who are trafficked in Canada every year- a significant number of those victims are themselves Canadians. As our law enforcement and policy makers work to combat this crime, there is a role for us all to play in prevention. Helping to raise awareness about this problem, identifying what makes people vulnerable to being trafficked, and discovering how we as community members can do our part to fight human trafficking.

I read an awesome quote recently by Francis Chan:

“But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.”
I am challenged by this as I am so often tempted to figure things out on my own; waiting for God to come through is not my natural response to a challenge. One of the main lessons I have learned recently is that God has been actively working in my life even in moments that seem ordinary, or opportunities that seem random. Looking back over my work, my volunteering, and even my relationships, I can see God’s hand guiding me through to the place He has me today. This challenges me to trust Him because He is a faithful God!

I am learning that if I want to walk in the fullness that God has promised me- if I want to see social injustices end, see healing in my city, see brokenness transformed into a glorious destiny- then I need to leave my comfortable way of thinking and living. When people disappoint, God never disappoints. If His faithful promises are our armour and protection (Ps91:4) then all we have to do is find our strength and purpose in Him, and our faith will be secure.

Life on Purpose: Being Courageous

Written by: Emily Pelley

I have always been intimidated by the idea of courage. Whenever I heard that someone was courageous, I always pictured a strong, powerful individual who despite all odds persevered through a challenge. Having recently watched the new Wonder Woman movie, that character embodies what I always thought courage looked like. For a long time I never considered myself a courageous person because I was fearful. I saw a challenge and I felt afraid. And while sometimes I was successful, I always thought I missed the “courageous mark” because of my fear.

The mistake I made was thinking that courage is an absence of fear, when in fact that is not true. Courage is the resolve to move forward despite fear.

Joshua 1:9 says,
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Here is we see that we are commanded to be courageous. We are also commanded to not be afraid. Being afraid means we are in a state of fear where it controls us and guides our actions. This is what we are instructed to overcome. However, we are not asked to conquer fear through our own awesomeness. Look at the end of this verse. Be courageous and don’t be afraid because God will be with us wherever we go.

There is so much we can be afraid of. Maybe it’s just me, but I find this to be an easy, default reaction to many parts of life: relationships, motherhood, finances, etc. But a life lived on purpose is not characterized by fearful decisions but powerful ones. In 2 Timothy 1:7 we are reminded that as followers of Jesus, the spirit that we have been given by God is not defined by fear, but by power, love, and self-discipline.

Does this mean that you will now never be afraid? No. But being courageous means that we will move forward despite the fear that could so easily cripple us. We move forward because we do not go alone. This beautiful saviour, Jesus, has given us the greatest call- to know Him and walk with Him, whatever may come our way. This is the picture of a life on purpose.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow’.”
Mary Anne Radmacher

Life on Purpose: Snapshot

Written by: Emily Pelley

I recently downloaded transcription software on my computer. The purpose of it was to take audio files and transfer them in to text. How it does this is the software will search your computer and try to learn how you talk and what words and subjects you use often. I even had to read one of its prescribed texts so that it could learn my voice and intonation.

Pretty impressive, right? A great idea in theory, I grant you. But sadly it failed; comically failed. When I uploaded an audio file to be transcribed, the text that was produced had NOTHING to do with the audio content! After I had a good laugh, I uninstalled the software and got on with my work.

As I read the garbled text that was produced, I noticed that there were definitely some themes. Looking at this text you could see what I spend a lot of my time talking about and working on: babies, Jesus, refugees, love, gluten free, trafficking, church. While the final product didn’t make sense, I could see that it had drawn from real emails and documents on my computer.

This got me thinking. What would it look like if this transcription software could be used on your life? What words would be drawn to the surface? What attitudes? What dreams?

In the book of Luke, chapter 6, it says this:

45 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

If we are going to live life on purpose, we need to look deeply and honestly at where we have placed our heart because from it will come the rest of our lives.

Life on Purpose: Compassion

Written by: Emily Pelley

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of compassion. What is it that moves us beyond feeling to action? We see so much heartache through our news channels, on social media, and right here in our own neighborhoods. The overwhelming deluge of pain often leaves you feeling stunned. And so we are often left in paralyzed apathy, never thinking we can actually do something to make a difference.

I know I have been guilty of this- of turning my gaze away from what I thought was an indistinguishable haze of pain. That was someone else’s problem, someone else’s mistakes, someone else’s misfortune. Yet in my bible I read that it is to “the least of these” (Matt 25:40) that I am called to show love and compassion. Because the spirit of God in me actually has the power to set people free. Because, after all…that’s what He did for me.

The purpose of God’s presence with us is not for us to be some silent, passive observer. I do not believe that Jesus came to earth to die just so that we could have something to do on a Sunday morning. Jesus came to earth to change EVERYTHING.

Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. Matt 20:34

If we are to live our lives on purpose, we do need to be people of compassion. Let compassion grow in your heart. Allow yourself to be affected by the needs around you, and ask God to show you what you can do to make a difference. Though we have missed the point if we think it is not “big” or “important” enough to bother doing. There is something we all can contribute to our world. Let’s be compassionate people not just in word but in deed.

“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion and anguish.” Henri Nouwen

Life on Purpose- The Weakness of Control

Written by: Emily Pelley

How much of our lives do we spend trying to get things under control? Get a handle on what we need to do, who we need to be, what our lives should look like… As I have grown, and as people and responsibilities have been added to my life, I have been faced with the stark reality that I cannot control everything…I can’t keep it all going on my own.

Trying to control of everything has never ended well for me. It’s like trying to straighten your hair on a really humid, foggy day- frustrating and, ultimately, fruitless.

The point in living a life on purpose, however, is to understand that your life is a part of something much bigger than you and yours. God’s plan for humanity- to save anyone who would believe in His Son- is far bigger than our individual stories and circumstances. He has woven together the story of the universe with intricate detail. His purposes are not confined to the limitations of our understanding and physical vision, yet He goes out of His way to include you in the everyday of His plan. Such an amazing idea- it seems so illogical for such grace to be extended to us.

In the book of 2 Corinthians 12:9, it says: Each time [God] said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

I know in my life that it is when I’ve let go of control- when I’ve released the need to know and understand everything that was happening around me – that I’ve seen God step in and do more and better than I ever could. It is when we lose control that we see God at work more than when we were scrambling to handle things on our own. So when the bible says- in our weakness He is made strong- He is calling us to acknowledge that we can’t plan out our lives, nor can we fathom the expanse of His purposes for our lives.

The only thing we can control is where we turn for our source- where we focus our eyes (Psalm 27:13, 14). When we do that- when we choose to trust in God’s power in our lives- we are given the hope of a purposeful God who promises to work everything together for the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28). Perhaps this is what it looks like when our weakness- or our desire for control- is replaced with His strength?

When Church Girls Meet Jesus

Written By: Emily Pelley and June Zinck

As women in our 20’s, we sisters have been reflecting on how our relationship with our mother has impacted us. We grew up in a home where creativity was encouraged- where bright nail polish, blue eye shadow, and red shoes put a smile on your face. The thinking was not to place enormous value on such silly, superficial things, but to acknowledge that God has created us each with our own flare that we need to embrace. Our happy home fostered a space for us to grow in our relationship with Jesus and to adopt the identity that God, not our culture, gives us. We are defined as daughters of the King, not slaves to our culture’s shifting standards. As women, this was a particularly profound gift that both our parents gave to us.

What usually happens as we grow is that our creative, fun-loving flare fades- whether life beats it out of us, or we let it go…often as a result of conforming to the status quo.

Our mother modelled for us what a woman of God looks like both in the church and in our community. Loving people, serving people, praying for people- pretty simple. Settling for a “normal” Christian life that consists of Sunday church attendance and no cussing, was never an option. In fact, she would repeat to us over and over- “God has more for you”. This Christian life is not about religion, but it thrives from a relationship with Jesus Christ.

We remember on our bathroom door growing up that mom hung a quote which said,
“Well-behaved women rarely make history”.
While she was hardly an advocate for “bad” behaviour, she always believed God was big enough for us to be ourselves, no matter how outside the box we appeared.

Now as grown women, we can see that our outlook on life and faith has been significantly shaped by this mantra- “God has more for you”. We had the opportunity of attending the Hillsong Women’s Colour conference together in London in 2010, where God really spoke to each of us about our responsibility to the women around us- to pull them up, to speak the truth of God’s grace and love and power into their lives. We have each pursued this in our different ways, though carrying the sweet memory of how God used that moment together to empower us.

As adults, the three of us continue to speak into each other’s lives, encouraging this scandalous trust in God that no matter how outrageous or far from the norm His call may be, we are empowered daughters of the King who equips us for the task.

What has been extraordinary to see is how God took our mother’s obedience to God’s call on her life to multiply favor in both of us. This favor is not for our gain, but for the gain of God’s people- that we can draw others into this fulfilling relationship with Jesus. Remembering that God doesn’t ask for us to have a plan- He asks for us to be available.

There is an endless frontier of God’s limitless love and grace that is left for us to explore. Be encouraged today…because God has more for you.

Happy Mother’s Day, Doretta Zinck!

Life on Purpose: Mighty

Written by: Emily Pelley

A few years ago, I began exploring creative writing as a way to express my ideas and my passions. This poem was the first one I wrote, and I would like to share it with you now. I hope it will encourage you this week as you resolve to live your life on purpose.

What is your dream? What is it- that passion of your heart,
The part that defines, delights and ignites you?
What miracles do you cry out for?
To see that life restored?
That broken mess, that hurt
That chasm that seems so impossible to overpass on your own

So what keeps us from asking? From pressing? From confessing?
What holds back our heart-broken cries to a God who can satisfy
Any need, desire, passion, or plee?
What stops us?
Fear? Afraid of an answer we can’t accept? Or worse…of silence

Fear of our own weakness can hold back our passion
I hear the competing chorus of voices in my head
Singing the tunes of expectations and responsibilities
And the casualties of past discrepancies that have their hold on me
Reminding me I have tried and failed before

It is here we often stop- dumfounded by the scoffers,
Living ordinary lives that in truth deny the power afforded us
Lives of half-attempts, of passionless efforts
Of doing the expected, and expecting so little from a life
Plagued by apathy

And as we stay in this comfortable place of bland Christianity
Where we’ve settled for something similar, while denying the reality
Of our great God who is mighty
We have missed the message

For we serve a God who has power to save
Who secured our victory when He walked out of the grave
And all He desires for us is to crave… Him

This revelation exposes the core of our fears- we have forgotten Whom we are serving!
We’ve put ourselves as the captains
Of this life, we control, not seeking God for direction
Believing our sin is more powerful than His resurrection

But I am no slave to sin, my past does not define this life within
Not since Christ came
He took the punishment that was in my name
And said- “Hey, this one is mine- I’ll take her place”

SO my challenge to you is to step back and consider
The picture of just Who this Saviour is
As the power and majesty of this God who is ALL MIGHTY
Captures your heart,
Your part of the story will never be the same

Because when your focus is locked on this God who is mighty
And the fear creeps back, as it always does
And the barrage of voices trying to sabotage your choices
Tries overtaking you again…

From your heart that is hidden in the cleft, in the haven
There will come a resounding response that will overshadow the fear
Over take the situation, and overcome all remaining trepidation-

Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle!
Psalm 24:8

Life on Purpose: A Person at Peace

Written by: Emily Pelley

I don’t know about you, but it is a rare moment these days when I feel at peace. Life seems to dissolve into a flurry of appointments and commitments; busy working hard, taking care of your family, and trying to show love to the people around you. I’ve been grappling with the question of what it means to be at peace. I mean, it is one of the attributes we can have as followers of Christ (Gal 5:22). So why is it such an elusive concept? How important is it for living a life on purpose?

In the book Ephesians, the writer talks about what the “armour of God” looks like- that is, the characteristics and strengths that we as followers of Jesus get to walk in every day. The belt of truth, the body armour of God’s righteousness, the shield of faith…but one verse has stuck out to me recently is verse 15:

“For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News, so that you will be fully prepared”.

Ok, so what does this mean exactly?

I heard a pastor preach on peace once, and he made this point that I’ll never forget. He said that wearing the shoes of peace does not mean you are busy making things happen, but instead you are walking forward with the knowledge of what God has already done. Wow. Think about that. This is an intentional decision, one that we make despite how we are feeling. In wearing the “shoes of peace” it means that we stop striving and trying harder to be “at peace”. We need to understand that the God we serve wants to be our peace (Ps 85:8). Living life on purpose requires us to be taken care of, and not burn out before our purpose is fulfilled. If we trust God with our destiny, we need to also trust Him for the sustaining power to arrive there.

Peace is not an attitude- it is a person. Peace exists in the person of Jesus Christ. The solution to our search for peace is found when we open our hearts to a relationship with Him- to talk to Him, to learn about Him, and to spend time in His presence.

The question is- do you believe it? Do you believe that God has already taken care of whatever seems to be robbing you of peace? You see, the peace we all so desperately want in our lives is not going to come by working harder, trying harder- no. Having perfect peace in our lives means placing Jesus at the centre of our world- where all our relationships, decisions, and priorities pivot around the most wonderful, beautiful God of the universe who asks us to know Him. He wants to be your peace today (1 Pet 5:7). Not your last resort or your sounding board…though He will be those things for you too…He wants to know you and be known by you every minute of every day. Let Him fill your life with joy and peace (Rom 15:13).

So this week, I ask you to join me. Let’s remind ourselves every day that God is our peace. Speak out that verse in Psalms 46:10- “Be still and know that I am God”. Let’s walk forward in the knowledge of what God has already done for us. And let’s remind ourselves that perfect peace is only found in knowing and walking with Jesus.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
Isa 26:3