Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Five Steps to Peace in These Troubling Times

He will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord! Isaiah 26:3

Right now, we're going through some pretty crazy times. But, honestly, we have troubles and stressors every day of our lives. If you find yourself overwhelmed by what's going on, try these suggestions to relieve your worries.

1. Turn Off The News

When something disrupts our normal lives, we want to soak up as much information as we can. This can lead to an obsession with the media, including broadcast news and social media.

I remember clearly being glued to the television and internet on 9/11. I was at work but there was no "work" being done because we couldn't believe what was happening. As the events unfolded, the broadcasters knew no more than us and yet we couldn't turn away from the meaningless yammering.

Nona Jones, the head of faith-based partnerships at Facebook, posted some wise advice the other day.  A former newscaster, she knows that the media feeds the natural tendency for humans to focus on worst case scenarios, which fuels anxiety and fear. You can read her post here. The crux of her post is this: "If we aren't careful, the news cycle will replace prayer with emotional exhaustion. Which is why we must guard our hearts with a diligence. ... But, please, DO NOT allow your heart to be troubled by an industry that is designed to trouble it for ratings." 

It's natural to want to learn as much as possible in a crisis, but when you find yourself unable to do anything else or when you're learning nothing new, it's time to end your screen time.

2. Change What You Can, Accept What You Can't

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
We always want to be in control. When there's a problem, we want to fix it. It's just what we do.

But, logically, there are some things we just can't fix. We either don't have the knowledge or the power to change some things. That's hard to accept.

But trying to change something we can't only leads to frustration and anxiety.

So, honestly assess what you can change and put your energy toward making positive change. And then accept what can't be changed. Worrying about it, talking about it, and obsessing about it isn't going to change it, but it sure can steal your peace.

3. Get Moving

When we are anxious, our bodies physically react, causing loss of concentration and fatigue, among other things. To combat those reactions, even just five minutes of aerobic exercise will begin to release endorphins, the "feel good" hormone. 

So, get on your feet and do something physical. Take a walk, dance with your kids, try some yoga. Just get moving!

4. Read Your Bible

I have heard that the Bible tells us to "fear not" 365 times. A whole year's worth of "don't be afraid"! That's a lot of "stop worrying". 

Why do you think that God talks so much about fear? Because He knows that it's our nature to worry and be anxious. And He wants us to know that He's got this. We just need to lean on Him.

I find comfort in reading passages like Matthew 6:25-34:

25 “So my counsel is: Don’t worry about things—food, drink, and clothes. For you already have life and a body—and they are far more important than what to eat and wear. 26 Look at the birds! They don’t worry about what to eat—they don’t need to sow or reap or store up food—for your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. 27 Will all your worries add a single moment to your life?
28 “And why worry about your clothes? Look at the field lilies! They don’t worry about theirs. 29 Yet King Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as beautifully as they. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you, O men of little faith?
31-32 “So don’t worry at all about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, 33 and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to.
34 “So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.

5. Pray

You knew I'd go there, didn't you? That truly is the answer to most of life's questions or situations. 
I read some where that fear and anxiety are a "cause to pause". I wish I could cite where I read it because, as I recall, it was a good article. Unfortunately, my internet search did not turn up that article. So, you'll have to rely on my faulty memory and paraphrasing. 
We get scared as a reminder to stop and turn to God for help. So, when you find yourself worrying, stop dead in your tracks and have a conversation with God. Tell Him about your worries and ask for guidance. Ask for peace. Then - and this is an important step - stop talking and start listening. Let God do His thing that He does so well.
One beautiful thing about this is that, unlike your co-workers or friends, He won't get frustrated when you stop to pray every time you feel anxious. I promise. You could say the same prayer fifty times and His response will be the same each time "Don't worry, my child. I've got this."
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Thursday, March 12, 2020

My Place of Safety

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

Psalm 91

A Mother's Worst Nightmare

When my daughter was diagnosed with uterine cancer, I didn't handle it well. I have always been overprotective of my only living daughter, having lost two other daughters when they were infants, and this was one thing I couldn't protect her from. I felt helpless. Powerless. 

My friend, Laurel, has spent the last few years dealing with breast cancer and her husband's terminal illness. When I told her about Maria's diagnosis, she told me that Psalm 91 has given her comfort. She reads it every day and uses it as a prayer. She urged me to give it a try.

When Emotions Take Over

If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make hte Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. Psalm 91:9-0
Intellectually, I knew that I should turn my worries over to God. I knew that He was in control. But, emotionally, I was a mess. 

I had been able to turn it all over to God in the past, such as when my youngest daughter passed away. I knew I would go crazy if I tried to handle it all myself and so I willingly "let go and let God".

This time was different. Maybe because I'm older and have seen too many people suffer from the effects of cancer and, sometimes worse, the lasting effects of the chemotherapy and radiation. Maria was too young to have her long-term health jeopardized by the harsh treatments needed to conquer cancer.

Still, I figured if this chapter brought comfort to Laurel, with all she was going through, it wouldn't hurt for me to try reading it.

He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God and I trust him. Psalm 91:2

An Exercise in Reading

At first, it was purely an impassive exercise. I was just reading the words and praying without feeling. 

But, after some time, I realized that the words were starting to have meaning behind them. I really did trust God and believed that he was protecting me and, more importantly, Maria.

I began to worry less about the outcome. I knew that my precious daughter was protected by the Almighty and, no matter what the future held, it was going to be OK.

Channeling John Wesley

My transformation reminded me of John Wesley's journey through a loss of faith. Although my feelings weren't as extreme as his, I smiled when I realized that I was following in Wesley's footsteps in "fake it 'til you make it" style. 
He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. Psalm 91:4

Don't Worry About Anything

And maybe that's all we can do sometimes. Let's face it. We'd all like to always have it together and fully trust in the Lord when we feel ambushed by life, but sometimes that's just not reality. 

Not that we necessarily blame God for our misfortune, but there are times when our knee-jerk reaction is to become anxious and worried instead of leaning on Him for strength and guidance.

But Don't Beat Yourself Up If You Do

It's human nature to worry. I don't know why God made us that way, but we have to consciously make a choice to turn to God instead of our worry stones in times of stress. So, don't add to your anxiety and stress by finding fault. 

Instead, do what you know God wants you to do, even if you don't feel it in your heart. 

Last Thoughts

I am praying for you and your struggle. I know you can let go of the worry and give it all to our loving Father. Just take it one step at a time. 💖

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Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God and I trust him.

He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings.

If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home.

Psalm 91:14-16

Friday, March 6, 2020

Living Water

Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.

I have a love/hate relationship with the way Jesus described the New Covenant. The symbolism is so poetic. The words paint pictures in my mind. But, I am a pretty literal person. I never liked poetry because it's hard for me to understand the underlying meaning. My writing is straightforward, without flourishes, and I guess that's how I see life. So, while I love the beautiful images that His words bring to mind, I am like the clueless woman at the well when it comes to understanding the underlying meaning. 

Woman At The Well

In John 4, Jesus tells a woman who is getting water from a well that he is the source of water that will end thirst. The woman is all "sign me up! I'm tired of trudging to this well everyday." 

That would definitely be my immediate reaction as well. And Jesus would, no doubt, shake his head in frustration at my denseness.

Understanding The Meaning

What do you do to ensure that you're hearing what Jesus is really saying? I rely on lots of prayer and guidance from people who are experts on theology. I participate in Bible studies at church and individual studies online.

As I learn more about the history and culture of Biblical times, I understand more about those puzzling stories.

What is your strategy? I'd love to hear how you get to the true meaning of those metaphors.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

John 3:5

No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.

Where does the term "born again Christian" come from? In John 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that a person must be born again to see Heaven. Naturally, Jesus didn't mean literally being born again. He meant that they must be spiritually awoken and renewed.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Daylight Saving Time Images

Spring Forward This Sunday

In this day and age of clocks and phones that automatically set to the correct time, we still need to remind church-goers to set their clocks during time changes. Here are some images that you can use to prod them.

Spring Forward. Daylight Saving Time begins this Sunday.

Don't forget that Daylight Saving Time starts Saturday night. Set your clocks one hour ahead.

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