Feeling the Burn…..Out

“Feel the burn”  Have you heard that expression before? It’s usually used in connection with a work out to indicate your muscles are working and stretching and getting into shape. It’s not a nice feeling, but usually if you’re in an exercise class or in a team sport, that’s what the instructor might say to keep you motivated. Well, let’s consider what feeling the burn looks and feels like in other parts of our lives. Do we recognize the burn and burn out in our emotional lives? Maybe you have heard of burnout in first responders. After seeing so much trauma, these brave men and women can experience burnout, where they are no longer able to have the same level of compassion and empathy for those hurting and they distance themselves (emotionally) from traumatic situations.But if you are not a first responder, would you recognize your own burn out emotionally, spiritually, and physically?

Recently, my husband and I took a much needed trip for the two of us. It was to be a time of relaxation in the warm sun, after an unusually cold winter season. It was also to be a time of relaxation for me after a stressed out time with leaving a job and starting a Seminary program. I was feeling stressed out and knew I needed a break, a chance to reset my my direction, and seek God’s direction. What I hadn’t realized was just how much I was stressed, until a perfect stranger told me, “You NEED to take care of yourself.” She emphasized the word “need” and placed her hand on my shoulder as I left our meeting. Her words really sunk down deep. I thought I was taking care of myself. I was trying to eat better, trying to exercise, trying to walk more, trying to drink more water, trying to pray more…..Notice the word trying.  I thought this is what I needed to feel better. And they are all good things to do for ourselves. But this stranger, the one I had trusted with raking bamboo sticks over my tensed shoulders, recognized just how tense and burned out I had become. As she rolled the warm bamboo over my shoulders, I felt pop, pop, pop. My muscles were so tense, she was actually having trouble. But it was her words that stuck with me. I knew I had been stressed, but failed to recognize how stressed out I was. I did not recognize my own emotional burn out. But it showed up in my physical body as a result of the stress I was trying to deal with on my own.

And that’s where the real answer and the real problem lies. Even though I know I need to trust God, I still try to fix my own problems.. and everyone else’s. I try to be all things to all people. Today I was reminded of God’s offer of rest. It’s from Exodus 33:14, “The Lord replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest'” (NIV). In this passage God and Moses are having a conversation. Moses had come down from the mountain with the first of the Ten Commandment tablets, only to find the Israelites dancing around an idol they had made. Moses, in his anger when he saw this crazy scene, threw down the stone tablets, breaking them to bits in the process.Moses had lost his patience with the Israelites. You could say he was a bit stressed when he took the idol, smashed it,  ground it up into a powder, mixed it with water and made the people drink this concoction. (Ex.32:20) But, God wasn’t done with these crazy rebellious people. He still wanted them to go to the Promise Land and He wanted Moses to lead them. Moses was asking God to go with him. To show him what to do and to reassure him that God was with them as they traveled. God’s answer was “Yes!, “I will go with you AND give you rest”. Awwwh, this is the rest I need! The rest that God gives, the rest that lets God lead and for me to follow. The rest that is secure in knowing God is with us, right there in the middle of everything. This is my challenge to get rid of my own burn out and stress, allow God to lead and accept His rest. May it be yours as well. -God Bless Nancy

Can We Talk…..

Lately I’ve been thinking about social media and how its shaped our lives. Wait… don’t scroll by and assume I’m bashing technology and media. I’m not. But, I’m really wondering if we can still talk. I mean, has the art of conversation disappeared? And I’m not talking about sitting around and just talking, but being social, you know, the social of social media.  The sharing of our lives with others. The pictures, the updates, the good stuff. And might I add the “real” of our lives, not the perfectly staged pictures of our lives. And I’m not talking about younger generations here, but people closer to my own. It seems to me they can be the worst offenders. Social media can be a great way to keep up with others and share your life with them. We do not all live in the same town or same state or same country anymore, so keeping in touch through media is a great way to stay connected.

But, I’ve been noticing over the last few years how awful some social media sites have gotten. We have reduced it all to political ads and one liners. We’ve all shared those cute cat or dog videos, or nice encouraging phrases or Bible verses, but really it seems its gotten to a whole new level recently. It seems like we all try to find that perfectly succinct phrase that is like a check-mate. It’s not encouraging; its just like boom! That’s it! The answer to it all, the drop the mic,  the “I’ve topped you all in my comments here!” And I’ll be honest, when I read those, I think, “Wow, are they mad at me? or wow that sounds like they are talking about me.”  Some suggest if you read posts like that and feel guilty, maybe you’re harboring unforgivness or something. But really, can we as imperfect people really have the perfect anecdote to life? Why are we trying to outdo each other all the time? Do we really think we are better than others?

As a Christian, being accused of thinking I’m better than others comes with the territory. That is, a whole lot of people think that’s how we (Christians) think of ourselves. But… the reality is that’s not not what the Bible teaches. Philippians is a great book of the Bible to read if you want to understand how we should think of ourselves. Here’s just a part:

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also the interests of others” (Philippians 2:1-4, New International Version).

So, there you have the real answer, from the Apostle Paul… be humble, think of others better than yourselves, don’t be vain, conceited or selfish. But, wait a minute, why WAS Paul writing this to a bunch of people in Philippi? I mean there wasn’t social media back then? Well, as advanced as we become, the problem of human nature is still the same, whether its the first century or the 21st.

So my challenge in this new year is to not drop out of social media, but make it better, by sharing life with each other, not to impress others, but to share what God is doing in our lives, to reach out when we need encouragement or prayer, to ask for help, and to offer real hope, the real anecdote, found in Christ, not one liners or cute memes. Let’s not ghost each other or even leave social media. Let’s keep those connections to each other, and let’s talk. -God Bless- Nancy

The Right One

Decisions. Are you good at making them? I confess that I am not. Decisions can be as simple as choosing a side with your entree, or as time consuming as selecting a mattress, college degree, spouse,home, or job. I mention time consuming because these are the things and people we should choose only after careful consideration, because they are big investments and longer lasting ones than a side of potatoes or fries. But… there are no perfect people or perfect jobs, or even perfect mattresses. If you look for everything to be perfect you’ll probably wind up disappointed. Some times there are not perfect decisions. We might think we’ve found the perfect job, only to realize it wasn’t the right one for us. That happened to me recently. I thought it made sense to take on a new job right after I graduated and I also thought why not pursue my grad school at the same time. It made sense in my mind, but it wasn’t right for me and I soon resigned from my position. I’m still in the process of deciding to keep on course with my graduate degree or stop, but I trust God has a plan and it will work out for my good, which ever decision I make. I might make a mistake, but there is good to be found even in the mistakes.

We are all finite creatures who can and will make mistakes. But we can trust God, who, unlike us, is infinite. He is omniscient.  He can use our own failings to grow us and for our good. Romans 8 :28 is a favorite Scripture and for good reason. I believe God can work out all things for our good. He can take our bad decisions and find something good to glean from them. We shouldn’t be afraid to make decisions, but step out in faith and trust in God, and not in ourselves. In the big picture of our lives, God is using all the elements of our lives, the good, the bad, and even the downright ugly, to create in us an image of His Son and fit us for Heaven. Sometimes, I think we are much harder on ourselves than God is when it comes to making decisions and failing. God understands we fall short, but He offers grace to us. He can and will work out all things for our good.

So while I contemplate my next step, I have learned the best thing to do is to pray continually when I have a decision to make and  to stay focused on God and His Word. I’ll keep you posted. God Bless-Nancy

 

 

Being (a) Present

For many years my Husband and I would pack up our snacks, our stuff, our presents, our kids and load our mini van up to the brim for the trip home at Christmas. It was hectic, tiring and stressful at times. I remember once when we were stuck in a blizzard driving across the country. We were stuck for two days outside Buffalo, New York until the roads were cleared and reopened. Another time we couldn’t find any room at the inn, and were forced to drive some 20 plus hours straight through instead of stopping for the night. Despite all of this we tried to make it home for Christmas to visit mine and my Husband’s parents and grandparents. Looking back now, I am thankful and grateful for those crazy times- all of it- including the car sick kids, multiple bathroom stops,  numerous diaper changes accomplished on the seats of our minivan and even all the spilled fast food drinks, fries, chips and ripped up paper pieces that our daughter liked to decorate the van with.

The best thing with all of these trips is that we were together and we could visit our parents for Christmas. Sadly, as the years have passed, we’ve lost some of our loved ones and we can no longer visit them at Christmas. So, as I reflect back, I am thankful for the struggle and stress of the past, driving so often to visit family. When young families are in the thick of raising kids, its hard to see a time past that, but it arrives and soon we find ourselves without our loved ones to visit and our kids all grown up. Life is never static, it is a constant change and we have to learn how to move through the changes. It isn’t easy, and to do it well we need God’s help.

Maybe you’re dreading visiting families. with all the traveling by air or car and needed a reminder from me that its worth the struggle. Or, maybe you’ve been too busy to think about Christmas. So, let me talk to you too. See, you can be with others this Christmas, but not present. You might not have to drive far to be with your family and friends this Christmas, but you’re not really enjoying being with them and spending time with them. We all try to buy the right gifts to give. Some can afford big extravagant gifts, while others cannot. Some might spend hours hand making gifts. Others might spend hours shopping and choosing the perfect gift, and standing in long lines at the store. But let me tell you the secret of it all. People would rather spend time with you than have a present you stressed over.

The best gift you can give is yourself. The fully present self. The put- down- the- cell- phone -and -talk- with others self. I think it’s easier to give presents than give ourselves, but giving ourselves is the best gift. Need an example? Well, its Christmas, and what is Christmas about? Answer: Jesus. “For God so love the world that He GAVE His one and only SON that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3: 16, NIV) God gave us his son; a person. This is the WHY we celebrate Christmas and give gifts in the first place, because of the gift given to us. So why not take His lead by giving yourself this Christmas to others. Spend time with those you love; talk with them; play with them, put down the cell phones and close the laptops, turn off the Tv’s. And BE PRESENT. God Bless- Nancy

Giving Good Gifts

So, how’s that Christmas shopping going? How many times have you heard that question this year? It seems like it is a common question this time of year as we approach Christmas, a time to celebrate Christ’s birth by exchanging gifts with our families and friends. But maybe the real question should be; how are you at picking out gifts? I find that the people who procrastinate at their Christmas shopping are the same ones who struggle to figure out what a good gift might be. They fear giving the wrong gift, so they put off their shopping.

Thankfully, God knows how to give the best gifts. of course the first and best is His Son Jesus, but also there’s the spiritual gifts that He gives to believers. There are many self tests out there to help you discover your spiritual gift. 1 Corinthians 12 gives a good list of these gifts as does Ephesians 4. These good gifts are for the benefit of the church, to grow it and build it up. But, there are other gifts that God gives. Our natural abilities and talents that helps us to do our vocations and hobbies.

Recently I was reading an article that suggested parents should not recognize or celebrate their children’s natural gifts and talents. Instead it was suggested that parents should encourage their children to work hard and excel at everything. All it takes is a little self determination and everything is possible. Well, I  believe that God creates each person individually, I mean look at your fingerprint- there isn’t another one like it. Our natural talents are meant for us and is a part of who God made us to be and should be celebrated. We as human beings are unique and specially created by God. We are not cookie cutter.

Sometimes, I think we can forget this. We try to be or do something we are not. We are trying to use a gift that doesn’t fit, because, well, we don’t have that gift. It is a fake it till you make it philosophy, but it’s not long and we can become frustrated trying to do something we were never meant to do in the first place. We should always operate in what we have been gifted in. It is the right gift. The right fit. The good gift from the ultimate gift giver.

I was reminded of this today. I am responsible to use the gifts I have been given, not try to use someone else’s gift. It is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. It just doesn’t fit and it’s a struggle to figure out how to make it fit. In the end, it’s a choice to select to do what I am gifted to do and not try to do everything.God Bless -Nancy

 

Prepare For The Best

Shout out to all the Boy Scouts out there! I remember when my two sons were in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and there was this motto to always be prepared. I can also think of the old adage to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. I’ve been thinking about this topic for awhile and finally found a point to consider with you all. Being prepared. We all like to be prepared and don’t like being blind sided by unforeseen events, but they happen.

Recently, in the United States we celebrated Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving is an opportunity to celebrate with family and friends and remember all we have to be thankful for. It also commemorates the first thanksgiving feast on the shores of Massachusetts. The Pilgrims from England had left in search of religious freedom. The first winter they were in the New World was tough, many died of sickness and starvation. If not for the Native Americans, they probably would have been wiped out entirely. I am proud to have recently learned that one of my distant relatives came from England to the New World on board the Mayflower. So, one of my family was present at that first Thanksgiving, thanking God for His provision and protection, to make it through that first year. I am sure the meal was not as elaborate as our current traditional Thanksgiving foods, but one thing I’m sure about, it took time to prepare. Eating Thanksgiving dinner is easy, but behind the scenes, it takes time and effort to prepare for such a big celebration. Turkeys come frozen at the grocery store and must be thawed several days before the big day. Pies are made, potatoes peeled and rolls baked and kept warm in cute little baskets lined with pretty cloths. A meal such as Thanksgiving is not something that can be created at the last minute, like  a grilled cheese sandwich.

But, what if you find yourself totally unprepared for something? Well, welcome to the world. Life does not always give us opportunity to be prepared. Parenting for example. Despite the multitude of books out there, no one is ever ready to be a parent. Most days you just wing it. Recently, I began my graduate studies in Christian Apologetics. I thought I knew what to expect, having been a recent graduate last Spring from an undergrad program, but boy was I wrong. It is much more work than anyone told me. It is alot like being a parent. You just gotta do it and hope for the best, while being tired all the time and stressed out.

In one of my courses, I was reading an article on preparing for preaching a sermon, and I thought this was a perfect way to make my point this week. The article was written in the early 2000’s and made the claim that preaching sermons in the traditional sense would never be out of style. The author was balking at a comment made that film production and technology would replace a pastor standing up and preaching. Well, welcome to the new era of reaching the world for Christ with the Gospel! It is amazing to reach others on multiple platforms, across borders and cultures. The author of the article might not have been prepared for the future, but boom, here it is anyway.

You see, we can’t prepare for everything that will happen in our futures. How we deal with the future is what matters. This becomes our own testimony to the world, which is our sermon to a lost and dying world. People are looking at our lives not just our words. 1Peter 3: 15 says we are to set apart Christ in our hearts as Lord and always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope you have (NIV). Being prepared might not mean to have a rehearsed answer, but be able to give a reason. Why do you have hope? Why do you believe in God? Why are you a Christian? The key is in the first part of this verse, set apart Christ as Lord. It’s like saying keep your focus on Christ and you’ll be prepared to give anyone who asks the reason for your hope. Someone might study and prepare a sermon, but not be living it as an example in their daily lives. Being prepared for something such as sharing the Good News of Christ with others, means preparing our own hearts. Life can throw us many curve balls and we might not be prepared to deal with events well, especially the ones that overwhelm us, but we can have our hearts prepared, by focusing on Christ, keeping Him first. There will be plenty of times when we aren’t prepared, but how we deal with the events will reveal if our hearts are prepared or not. Believe me, I’m not saying that I am always prepared or that my heart is prepared, but I am a work in progress. -God Bless- Nancy

The Real Deal

Do you remember when Coca Cola launched a campaign called the real thing? There was even a song that went with the commercial. You could tell if you were drinking the real thing- Coke- over the others who tried to be like Coke. Well, I’ve been thinking about knowing what’s real versus what’s fake this week, when I ran across a gem from Charles Stanley’s devotional that seem to convey what I was looking to say this week. He compares  the training it takes for bank tellers in spotting fake twenty dollar bills with Biblical training for the Christian to spot false teachings. The way bank tellers are trained is by handling the bills to get a feel and to notice how both a fake bill and real bill should look. Familiarizing themselves is the way to know what it should and shouldn’t be to be real. So, sadly, many Christians can fall for false teachings when they aren’t able to distinguish between false and true teachings from the Bible. The answer: simply know the real thing, the real deal, by reading and familiarizing yourself with what the Bible actually says. Bring your Bible or an app on your phone, to church and follow along with your pastor. We are to be active participants and not just sit on the sidelines and let someone lecture on Sunday mornings. Beyond just reading our Bibles to familiarize ourselves, let me encourage you also to study the Bible. I know you might be saying, yeah but that’s for pastors right? No. This might sound crazy but the Bible says we are all in the priesthood of believers, so we are all supposed to be responsible. That doesn’t mean we should all be giving sermons, but we should be responsible to learn the Bible and study it. There are many great Bible commentaries and Bible dictionaries out there and concordances. So, you’re still think it’s too hard? Well, consider how often you “google” something or ask “Alexa”, because you want some more information on a subject. So, why don’t Christians familiarize themselves with the Bible, if there are resources out there? There’s probably many excuses we could give, but they all fall short. Maybe you’re thinking, should I really question what a pastor says? Do I really need to study other books to help me understand the Bible? Can’t I just read it, and figure out what it means on my own, like make it fit what I want it to say? Well, here’s an answer from the Bible itself from Acts. Acts is a book filled with the story of how the early church got its start. Here’s just a portion..

And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth (Acts 17:11, NLT).

Please note; they wanted to see if what the Apostle Paul was teaching was true. So they searched the Scriptures. This is my challenge for you this week. Do you know what’s in the Bible? Can you spot a fake? If you’re not sure do you look for answers?  Follow the real deal. God Bless- Nancy