Casting Call

“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

-Peter (1 Peter 5:7, ESV)

I have had an on and off again relationship with fishing. I learned how to fish when I was a child, but didn’t really do much fishing until my teens and early twenties. On good days I could send that little bob and lure flying across the water some 60 feet. And on the not so good days, about 3. Those days the bob and lure made a big plunk into the water right in front of me. It was all about the timing and releasing the line on the reel and stopping the line release and extending my arm and swinging the pole. I was definitely not a a pro. To me, it felt the same way whether I cast the line three feet or sixty. I didn’t have a perfect technique to it, so every time the results were different.

The same is true for casting of my anxieties. I’ve read 1 Peter so many times, yet most of the time it feels like those little splunkers in the water. I want to cast it all away. Like sixty feet, like tossing a ball to Jesus. Like “Hey, Jesus, here catch” or “Here’s all my stuff that I’m holding onto and it is bringing so much anxiety, PLEASE, take it here, like NOW.”

But, most of the time I TRY to cast those anxieties and worries, and then mid cast I start thinking about it all, trying to find my own solution, replaying the situations back in my head like a movie reel, and SPLUNK, It doesn’t make it to Jesus, but lands right back a few feet from me, where I will reel it back in to carry myself, once again.

Have you felt this way too? You want to do this, cast your cares, follow Peter’s advice, but you keep falling short. You cast your cares, but somehow they keep creeping back into your thoughts, and grab for attention.

Me too, but one thing I have learned is to keep on casting. The other step is to stop my thoughts mid cast. To concentrate and think about what I am allowing into my thoughts. Not allowing myself to get entangled in them and allow them to be set on auto play over and over again.

I think that is why I like the verse above from the ESV (English Standard Version) version of the Bible. It says casting, like this is an ongoing process, not just a once and done. That is the way it has been for me. It is a constant battle with my anxieties and worries. I keep casting. I do not give up with one bad cast, like from my fishing days- I keep on working on the technique. I don’t have to worry about Jesus not catching (taking on) my anxieties or worries, it just depends on my letting go, extending my arms and releasing them all. He’s got this. -God Bless – Nancy

Weary

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I don’t know about you, but I am weary. And I suspect many of you are also. We all get weary at times, trying to keep it all going. And keep it together. To keep ourselves together. We carry these burdens for ourselves and even for others. We must maintain our work selves, our church selves, our family selves and society selves- All these roles we find ourselves in. Trying to keep all the roles connected, balanced and producing good results. And if that isn’t enough, there’s this burden we carry around with us as a constant reminder of the problems in the world. We are of course not responsible for the world or its events, yet we find ourselves burdened and troubled by the global crisis’ . Too much bad news, horrible news, incomprehensible news. Earthquakes, bombings, hurricanes, uprisings, Covid. We are all just a little weary right now. And the constant contact through our mobile devices in our pockets, keeps all these problems and global crisis’s on our minds and always within reach, inescapable, it seems.

We might tell everyone around us that we are”fine” when the reality is, we are not “fine”, but far from it. We are weary. We need rest. We need help in dealing with all of this. We need each other and we need Jesus’ peace and comfort.

I admit I am not an expert in dealing with it all, but there are a few steps we all can take to help each other. First, talk with each other openly. If you are not doing well, let someone know. Talk to a friend. Tell them what is going on and what is wearing you down. If you are having serious, suicidal thoughts, tell someone or call a professional hotline. Help is close and people who are trained to listen are waiting for you to reach out to them. You are not a bother. Your friends and family do love and care about you, they need you here. The pain you feel is temporary, it will get better and there are people who can help with your pain.Let them help you.

Second, if you are just tired and weary from too much of the world taking your joy, step away from social media, or block or snooze individuals or pages that are upsetting you and causing you undue stress. Do not keep your phone where you sleep and don’t let it be the first or last thing you check in the day. Instead read, listen to music or take a gratitude inventory.

Third, a gratitude inventory is something I have recently begun. Before your day begins or as it ends, meditate on what you have to be thankful for. At the end of the day, recount the positive events of your day and offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God. Just breathing and living another day is reason enough to be thankful. If it is the beginning of the day, offer thanks for the opportunity for a new day, a new beginning. Even the little things matter. So be grateful for a bed and a pillow, for a meal to wake up to. For your family and friends. God has provided it all. We forget sometimes that not everyone is enjoying these at the moment. Some are homeless, others have lost a loved one or a friend. Some do not have the hope of Jesus. They are trying to do life all on their own,in their own strength.

Fourth, don’t dwell on the negative. Look for the good during your day. Focus on what has gone right, instead of what is going wrong. Focus on positive Bible verses like the one above. Write down these verses and place them on sticky notes everywhere to be reminded of them. Or subscribe to a daily word app that will send you a text or email.

Fifth, to know these verses, you must pick up your Bible and read it. Or get an app for your phone with a daily verse. Remember the Bible is not just a book written by a bunch of dudes in the past. It is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It has power to change minds, challenge you and give you peace and comfort. Don’t believe me? Just try it for a week. It doesn’t mean that suddenly all your problems will disappear, but it will change your perspective. It will change you. Bad circumstances, like those of the world right now, are not going to go away immediately, we cannot change these, but we can change our attitudes and perspectives. And surprisingly, by doing so we change our brains. Our thoughts affect our physical brain chemistry as well as our physical shape. Someone has said that we are what we eat, but scientifically speaking, we are what we think about.

The last step is to take time to pray. God does hear us. It might be we have been neglecting our prayer lives, because we feel like there is a wall between us and God. Or we think He is mad or unhappy with us, but here’s the thing, He knows who you are. He made you. He’s okay with your doubts. He’s okay with you for not being perfect. He loves you. He knows you have messed up, so that’s not a surprise to Him. Just talk to Him, like a friend. He promises rest for the weary and help with your burdens, you don’t have to do this alone.

The Fullness of God

For God was pleased to have all the his fullness dwell in him and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood shed on the cross.-

Paul to the Colossians 1:19-20

So, I have been feeling a bit stuck lately, despite understanding this process of life moving forward. See, even if we understand it and try to find our stride and run our race, we can get overwhelmed at times. We think there is something we should be doing and are falling short. Or it is something we should be doing better. Maybe its reading our Bibles more, or praying more, maybe being a better person, or saving our money better. There is always that “more” we could and should be doing and goals we should be meeting. We put guilt and blame on ourselves when we do not measure up to other people’s standards. So, we might feel overwhelmed and instead of pushing ourselves, we kind of allow ourselves to get into a slump. This is especially true when our goals are unrealistic, or we are trying to meet these goals because someone else is putting pressure upon us. It might be our friends, or our jobs or our family. But we find ourselves so overwhelmed by these “coulds” and “shoulds” and goals to be like others or be the best, that we choose rather to fall into a pit of self- loathing and condemnation. We feel bad for our feeling bad also, compounding our circumstances and well, we feel stuck. Notice I said we “feel” stuck, while the truth is we might say we are stuck, but what we actually should say is that we are feeling stuck. We do not desire to run our race for we believe it is impossible to complete it well. We give up. Our hope is gone. We cannot see ourselves as good, or as accomplished already, realizing all the distance we have already covered in this race. We only look at our shortcomings. We don’t see how far we have come.

It is difficult to get out of a slump like that. To find encouragement and make peace with ourselves about our shortcomings. We need a different perspective. A change of view to help us see who we are and how we are already good, and loved, and full of hope for the future. This race of life is not about how we measure up and whether or not we meet our goals. We are already loved and treasured by God. He has given us the qualities and characteristics he has by His design and purpose. And He doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He knows we will fall short. But, when we fall down in despair, feeling like there is no hope, no point in the race to be the best, he reaches down, grabs our hand, and picks us back up. We are weary of trying to be all we should be, tired of measuring up to the world, and He gets that. He knows we need Him, but He doesn’t wait for us to pick ourselves up, He offers a hand.

At least, this has been my experience. Like this morning as I picked up my Bible to read. I found this passage in Colossians. Well- I didn’t just discover it- I was reading through the letters of Paul and this was the verse that stood out to me. “The fullness of God” these words just stood out. I have studied the Bible, read the passage, wrote papers on the deity of Jesus, but in that moment, it was as if God was reaching out His hand to pick me up, the fallen runner on the ground. As I read the beginning commentary in my Bible about the letter, the commentator wrote that the letter was of concern to Paul and he wrote it because several people of the church in Colossae believed that they had secret knowledge beyond the Gospel and that somehow Jesus dying on the cross was not enough. His letter was sent them to explain that salvation was complete in Jesus’ death and resurrection and that Jesus was fully God, divine and died and rose again.

This right here is reason alone to get excited, that salvation is complete, nothing else needed- no secret works, or knowledge, but divinely orchestrated and completed. But…. after I read the passage I also picked another book I had been reading (Paul Copan’s Is God A Moral Monster?) Copan explains what happened on the cross as Christ gave up His life. See, I had been taught that when Jesus was taking on the sins of the world, God the father could not watch, that’s why Jesus cried out “My God why have you forsaken me?” But, according to Copan, God was there. In the lightening, thunder, earthquake and the tearing of the temple curtain. As Copan explains, look back at God’s meeting with Moses on the mountain. There was thunder, lightning and an earthquake. Whaaaat? Like I looked it up(Exodus 19). Yup, right there! How could I miss it? God didn’t just send Jesus, the son and leave, preferring not to watch His son suffering, He the father was right there. In that darkest hour.

For me that was so encouraging this morning. We forget sometimes how awesome Jesus really is. he is the fullness of God, not less than. I am encouraged this morning at the greater perspective I now have about the cross. it has lifted me up, just as a hand up from God, to this fallen runner. -God bless Nancy

De clutter

So, here in the United States, we have this tradition of allowing a small furry animal predict when Spring will arrive. Earlier this week that furry little animal decided for all of us here that we would in fact have six more weeks of winter. Which doesn’t really mean too much to me, except that I can put off my Spring cleaning. To be honest though, I am not really into that sort of thing. I admire people who do a thorough cleaning of their homes in the Spring, but I just try to avoid it altogether. Unless, there’s an upcoming get together, well then….. I will throw myself into high gear and deep clean my house……… Don’t want anyone to think we live like slobs or anything. But, most of the time I am quite happy to just de clutter everything…… It’s like my therapy or something…I really enjoy clearing off all the junk mail from my kitchen island and counters. I like to organize my drawers and clear out closets. I might have dirty windows and floors, but I will have clean counters and drawers. I just dislike clutter on counters and disorganized drawers and closets.

Whenever the counters get full of stuff, I find my thoughts get cluttered and jumbled as well. Anyone out there feel me? I like to have everything organized and in its place and then I can think clearly. But, sometimes, no matter how much I clean the surfaces and re- organize my closets or drawers, there is still a cluttered mind.

So, what happened? You maybe thinking,” I thought she just said, cleaning up your surroundings, makes you think clearly?” Well, yes it does help. But, sometimes….ok…… a lot of the time, its my thoughts and not my counters that need the de cluttering. There is so much going on these days for all of us.. the pandemic…the economy…our children….our parents…..our work….our education…our spouses. We can all get cluttered in our thought lives.

You may have heard of the importance of clearing your mind of thoughts.. To empty your mind and relax. But, actually…. an empty mind is a space for negative thoughts to enter and take up residency. You simply cannot empty your thoughts and think of nothing. You actually need to think about what you are thinking about. Replacing the clutter with real thoughts. Good thoughts… Healthy thoughts.

I have found that when my thoughts are cluttered, they are generally thoughts about worry and anxiety. I am thinking about things which have not really happened or if they were related to some event, I was probably just second guessing myself. I did not need empty space in my mind, just positive truth. A fact checker if you will. If I am worried that I should or should not have done or said something for fear I offended another person, I am not thinking clearly. I will not know if I did any harm unless I speak to the other person. So why worry about it and clutter my thoughts? Or if I am worried about what the future holds. I do not know the future and anything I might imagine- like defaulting to the negative- will probably not actually happen. So why am I worrying about what I cannot control?

So, the solution is to replace these thoughts with truth thoughts. By now you are wondering where do I find truth thoughts? Well, the best place is to find them in God’s word. Yes, the Bible. See, there is a bunch of truth thoughts in the Bible that are just as good today as they were when they were written down by a group of people who were worried and stressed just like we are. Human nature has not changed. If you are looking for a place to start try the psalms. David often struggled with his thoughts and fears. Some were justified fears, people were chasing him, he felt really bad for some of the actions he had taken, he felt abandoned by God, he had issues with his father in law, and his kids,had an affair, tried to cover it up, got a woman pregnant who was not his wife, lost a baby, and he mixed some politics in there, yep, he definitely had some issues going on.

One of the Psalms that I sometimes think about to de clutter my mind is Psalm 23. It’s usually saved for funerals but I find comfort in it now. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” Reminds me that God is in control. He is guiding me and providing my needs, I do not have to be anxious. This reminder might be small, but it can stop my anxious thoughts, and get rid of the clutter or worry in my mind.

As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, giving them advice on living out their Christian walk, may we find the same advice helpful;”We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2Cor.10:5, NIV). Or also in his letter to the church in Rome;”Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2, NLT).

We can control our thoughts by basing them on the truth of the Bible. By replacing our negative thoughts with the truth thoughts, we can de clutter our minds. It’s about time for some Spring cleaning of our brains, don’t you think? God Bless -Nancy

Together

I’ll be honest, I’ve been putting this off for awhile. I don’t like to be controversial and I fear rejection most of all, but it is something that has been weighing on my heart and mind. See, if you’re like most people, you are probably feeling a bit anxious with the world in the state it finds itself: a global pandemic and social and political unrest. Here in the United States, we just finished celebrating Thanksgiving. It’s a time to celebrate with thankful hearts what God has provided. It has its roots in the early pilgrims who risked it all to leave England and sail to America to establish a community of religious freedom for themselves and their children. The first year was difficult as they were not fully prepared for the conditions in New England. Many of the new immigrants died of sickness and disease. Without the aid of the local people, they would have all died. So, according to history, they gathered together and celebrated to thank God for His provision. We in the United States remember that early celebration by having our own version. Some people gather for a large meal with family or sometimes with friends; a friendsgiving.

But, as we have been repeated told by media, this year is different. Well, sort of…. It’s true many avoided family and friends this year for Thanksgiving, but what is actually different this year is the silent crisis that is growing, that a few are talking about, but should be.

There is a real pandemic that is creating problems that are more widespread than the Covid virus. See, we are not made for this pandemic I’m talking about. With Covid, are bodies can fight it off, if we have a healthy immune system, but with this accompanying silent pandemic, few are immune, because we are wired for each other. We will all be touched by it in someway.

What am I talking about? The accompanying mental health crisis and addiction crisis that has far reaching effects than the Covid could ever have. We simply are wired by God for each other; for relationships. Genesis 2:18 makes it pretty clear, when God saw Adam alone, He said it wasn’t good. Being alone isn’t good. So God created a partner for Adam, Eve.

If you don’t believe the Bible, but prefer science than here are some science facts: The Heath Resources and Service Administration reported in 2019, (before the pandemic) that 20% of Americans felt socially isolated and lonely, creating the health equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes per day. (Christian Counseling Today, vol. 24, no.3) Let that soak in: the health affects of being lonely and socially isolated touch you physically as if you smoked. Depression and anxiety are skyrocketing because of the social isolation imposed upon people. Drug and alcohol addictions are on the rise as well, creating more problems for society.

There are connections between our mental health and our physical health, as noted above and are called pre-disease pathways (The Loneliness Epidemic, 2020.Mayfield, CCT, vol. 24, no. 3). According to Mayfield, loneliness and isolation can “Predict both morbidity and mortality.”(Mayfield, 2020). Heart disease alone claims 647,000 and cancer 606,500, or one in four people. Many of these diseases are scientifically linked to loneliness as much as other factors, such as nutrition. Our bodies are simply not made to be alone. We are meant to be together, doing life with one another.

Please don’t get me wrong, Covid is very real. It is dangerous for some, but not all people. By now, we probably have all known someone who has gotten Covid. We may have known someone who died from it, or someone who has survived. The real question we should be asking ourselves, is whether we know someone who is struggling emotionally through all of this? Can we recognize mental health issues as accurately as we do physical systems? Can we recognize this in our children? Many professional educators and counselors are very concerned with the effects of social isolation upon the younger generations. Kids need each other for proper development and growth. Are we making them afraid of other people? Are we prepared for the long term results of social isolation?

We are creating a ticking time bomb by isolating our children and ourselves from others, particularly the multi generational connections. The elderly are very vulnerable to virus, because they are weaker sometimes due to other complications. However, they are also very isolated and lonely. Depression is high for this age group as well and this takes a toll on their physical health.

I know not everyone will agree with me that we should be spending time together with our families and friends despite a pandemic. I also want to make sure you understand that I believe we should exercise care, such as wearing a mask, especially if we are not sure if we are a carrier of the virus. But we really should not refrain from visiting our families or keep children from attending school. I learned several years ago the most important things in life were not things; they are people. We all want to believe we are somehow doing the best thing by staying away from our older relatives, but really, can we be certain? I know I am not God. I do not know when any of my family members might die. None of us do. We might believe we somehow will “keep them from dying” if we refuse to visit them in person, but… do we know that for certain? Are we God?

I’m being honest and vulnerable here; I would give anything for just one more day to spend with my Mom. I enjoyed talking to her and appreciated her wisdom and advice from a life well lived. I cannot imagine not seeing her, to spend time with her when she was in the nursing home and hospital. Even at the end, I visited her at the hospital and read to her, although I wasn’t sure if she could hear me or not. We cannot get back those moments, once they are gone, they are gone. But I do know that I will see her again, when we get together once again and celebrate with thanksgiving and praise to God for His provision; Jesus, so that we can be together with Him and one another, who have called upon Him for salvation.

Life is too short and too precious to give up seeing my family and friends. We must be careful to be sure, but we really do need each other, to be together. It is what we are made for.- God Bless- Nancy

Doing Battle

We all know that the past several months have not been easy and more than likely you thought we would all be out of this much sooner. Back to normal. Back to regular. But in some parts of the world, we are still feeling the effects the global pandemic has brought us. At times we do not know what to call the feelings we are all experiencing. Is it stress? Yes. Anxiety? Yes. Fear? Yes. Frustration? Yes. We can identify many of those feelings and I have brought up in previous posts, how to limit the effects of those overwhelming feelings. Move away from dependence on social media and news, have a quiet time with God, read the Bible, get away and pause to hear from God. But, perhaps we have been overlooking the one feeling, the emotion that might seem unlikely; grief. See, grief can come in many ways, not just from the death of a loved one.

I was reminded of grief this week upon hearing of the sudden passing of a pastor’s father. My Mom passed away five years ago, so I have been well acquainted with grief that hits like a train. Like a tornado. It’s inescapable. It’s overwhelming. It hurts. And it changes everything in our world. It is something that simply cannot be undone. It’s final. Permanent.

Grief can be felt with any kind of loss. A job. A home. A business. A relationship. A reputation. A schedule. A normal life. We often experience this sense of loss and sadness that we can’t shake. We feel guilty for feeling sad over what seems such temporary losses. We know we can find another job, another home, another boyfriend or girlfriend, start another business, create another routine, start over. But we still grieve that which has been lost and what has been changed.

So, how do we deal with it? Well, much in the same way we deal with anxiety, fear, stress. We need to go to God. We need to pray. And we need to realize that the emotions we are feeling do not need to consume us and consume all our thoughts. We must choose our thinking. We must get back to capturing every thought and weighing whether or not the thought is truth or a lie. When we recall the losses in our life, we can remember the good, let go of any guilt, and remind ourselves that God is still in control.

We do not do this battle alone. God is with us and will answer our prayers, even when we are not quite sure what to pray. Sometimes the best answers to prayer I have experienced are after I simply cried out “Help! God I need you” Just a simple request when I’ve realized I am in over my head.

We also need to do battle for our thoughts alongside others. We can encourage each other. Open up to each other and share our personal struggles. The body of Christ should never shy away from a friend who wants to share their struggles. We are all broken vessels, needing God’s help. If we really think we have it all together, we are mistaken. And if anyone looks to Christians to have it all together, they will sadly see us fail miserably. Christians do not have it all together, we just know who to go to when we are overcome by sadness and grief. We do not need to stay in our sad, discouraged places. This is only temporary. Life will get back to normal, even if normal means change.

Getting it set

A moment of panic was beginning to set in as I frantically began to enter my email and passwords over and over again. The results were the same. The login was just spinning about like a tornado, albeit a slow tornado. It can be mesmerizing at times to watch those little circles spin. But, it didn’t help to watch for long. The situation was not going to change. All of my digital content had disappeared, ie. no digital books in my online library. I was panicked because this was the first day of classes and without books I could be in trouble. The link from my school showed just the basic Bible versions that had been set up originally, but all the other books were gone. No content. Even when I called the service number the results were the same. They had no name or listing. It was as if I didn’t exist. How is this possible?

I frantically searched for answers as to why this could have happened. Had my school switched vendors? Had I missed an important e-mail about it? Had I done something to delete my library? I was put on hold while being transferred to a nice tech support person. To be honest, I had almost hung up on the call because it was taking too long. But then, like a voice from Heaven, a voice said hello. I explained my problem and then the tech guy asked me something quite simple. What time do you have on your computer? Wait, what? Yes, he repeated, what time zone is your computer in? Hmmm, this sounds crazy but ok. I told him the time on the screen and he said, oh you have the wrong time. You need to change the time on your settings and turn off the auto zone option. I explained that I had recently done an update, well, windows had, but he said yes that was it. When I checked, the hour was correct but the minutes were off by ten minutes. He told me the correct time and I changed it. I went to login and as if by magic, all my books appeared once again. Whew! Crazy stuff. Ten minutes.

Now for all of you techy people, you’re probably finding this amusing, but for those of us who are not so technology gifted, maybe I just saved you from calling for support. It’s all about the timing. It seems like it is always about timing. I have been in the right place at the right time and have seen how God has protected me from accidents. Only at the time, it didn’t seem like the right time. I had been held up or delayed, kept from driving on for whatever reason. I would get back on track down the road, only to see  the remnants of an accident that had occurred before I reached that section of road.

We never fully understand why the timing in our lives is what it is. The corona virus has changed the timing for many of us. We have been forced to slow our speed, change our plans and now are slowly moving back up to our regular rhythms of life. Timing has changed. We have realized through all of this, that it is not our timing that matters, only God’s. I have realized that I cannot control my world as much as I thought I could. If I try to control everything, I might suddenly realize it is my timing that is off. I can presume my timing is correct, but just like my laptop, when its off, it has huge consequences. I can try to log on, try to do new things, force my way, but when I try to do it my way, by my strength, in my name, ironically, like using my e-mail log in, it just isn’t going to work. It’s all about setting myself to God’s timing. Trusting Him.

Last time, I mentioned my plan to keep media from crowding out God. Now today, let me suggest that in addition to quieting ourselves from the crazy anxiety producing news feeds and social media, we all, that is me too, set our minds on God.

Just like needing the correct time on my laptop, we need the correct mindset. Just like the word implies, a mind set, is what you have your mind set on. What are you thinking about? What are you basing your thoughts and actions upon? Yourself? Your desires? Your timing? A favorite verse of mine is Colossians 3:2 “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (New International Version).

     It’s something I need to remind myself of often. Too often I set my mind on me or on stuff that doesn’t matter much, the earthly things. And then I worry, or get frustrated. Or get angry when stuff doesn’t go my way. The way I want it to go. In the timing I want it to happen. Then I realize, my mind is not on God and His timing. When I stop and turnaround and refocus on God, my mind begins to be set on the things above. The things that matter to God. A great place to start is to read Gods’ word.

     Doing this is much like going into the settings on our computers and changing our thoughts, our mindsets, and our timing, so that it is in sync with God’s. In the time you have freed up from being tethered to socials, that is if you followed me in my last blog, by limiting your social media addictions, you now have time to read God’s promises, thoughts, and words to us. And if you don’t have a Bible or like to use technology as a benefit rather than an intrusion on our lives, there are many Bibles available as apps. Some Bible apps even offer daily verses or reading plans and reminders. Time to get set.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking it to the source

So, my dad owns an older home in the country and has as his water source a spring. The spring is located a few hundred feet away from his home and provides water for not only his house but also my brothers and a neighbor. Now, before you think to yourself, wow! spring water that I don’t have to buy from a little bottle or have delivered by the jug!, Must be sweet. Well, it isn’t all that free sometimes for my dad. There is this long pipe that runs down the side of the road he lives on, under his driveway and into the house. Quite often, this pipe springs a leak somewhere along its length.The only way he can tell when this has happened is for his water pressure to drop and puddles start forming along the road and driveway. The only way to fix the pipe is to first locate the source of the break. This is not as easy as it might sound, for water from the spring runs down a hill alongside the road. The break could be nearer to the spring or further down the piping. It is a matter of trial and error (digging up dirt along the sections of pipe) to find the break. Once he finds the location, the source, he can fix it, and restore his water supply to his home.

Lately, I have been feeling, like many of you, like there is a break in my flow of peace. It is not difficult to find the location of the break, just take a look around the current world situation and it is easy to identify the cause, the source. We feel like chaos and anxiety are winning in the battle for our minds and souls. We are stressed and uneasy, we are feeling insecure and unsure of even making the basic decisions. I sympathize with parents of school aged children who must make decisions about the school year. School administrations are right in there with attempting to decide what to do in the best interests of their students and teachers. We feel confused. We read up on the virus and on the recovery rates, we search for answers and we search for peace in the chaos.

On social media and news feeds we are bombarded with many sides of the same story. Which view is right? Which view is wrong? Is there a right or wrong? Or are we all victims of a greater plot to disrupt our unity as humans so that we see each other as enemies rather than men and women who are created by God in His image? We are seeking truth, but finding more chaos. We are looking for a source for truth, a source for peace. It feels as though our water pipe is broken and we are all parched, thirsty, craving pure spring water that will soothe our weary, tired and parched souls and minds.

Even the most highly respected pastors and ministers of the Gospel are feeling this anxiety and lack of peace. The current situation with the pandemic and violence and confusion happening surrounding the protests for social justice cannot be ignored while Christians pretend it is not there. There is a leak in the pipe. We cannot ignore the problem, but can we seek a better way to deal with it all?

I believe there is. Recently, I have been spending time reading some great books by some great Christian writers that deal with this mind and spiritual battle that is going on in their lives as well. What I have taken away from it is this, we can live in this chaos by re-framing our thinking and focusing on Jesus, our source of peace. See the world and the problems of the world are not going to just disappear.We live in the tension of a world that is groaning and grappling with chaos as it longs for the day when everything will be set right again. Jesus told us that there would be trouble in this world.  But He also told us that He was giving us His peace, the peace that was sure and lasting, not the peace the world gives( John 14:27). If you haven’t read the Book of John before, or if it has been awhile, it is a good place to start to calm your chaos. It will remind you and help you understand just who Jesus is and what He taught. He came to earth as a man, fully human, and He knows what we are feeling. He felt pain, suffering, grief, anger, disappointment. He knows well what we are all going through right now. One thing to remember is He often went off by Himself and prayed to God. Theologians sometimes grapple with this concept, after all Jesus is God, part of the Trinity, so why did He have to pray, was He talking to Himself? True, He is part of the Trinity, father, son and Holy Spirit, but each is different in role, and He, Jesus, was seeking to do the will of the Father, so communication was important.

Which brings me back to my final point, and one which I am personally trying to incorporate in my daily routine. I have been challenged and convicted about how much importance I have given to social and news feeds in my daily life. I check my phone before I go to sleep and first thing in the morning and I’ve realized it is too connected to my day. It feeds into my anxiety and chaos. I am deciding to leave my phone out of my bedroom at night while it charges. It is too addicting to check it every time it dings. It seems to be one source in my life that has been feeding my anxiety. My husband has decided to stay off of face book for a while because he has realized it changes him and how he views others. Often our phones are what keeps fueling the leaking of our peace as a society. We can easily find something to upset us, or something to which we disagree on with on our news feeds and social media. Our phones are always with us, feeding this anxiety, non stop. For you it might be your tablets, or laptops or TV. Or maybe the radio or podcasts you listen to as you commute. The basic question to ask yourself is what am I letting into my thoughts? What am I giving my allegiance to? Is it helping me, or hurting me emotionally, mentally, spiritually? Am I giving it greater significance than God? Is it making me a better person? Or a bitter, angry, anxious, stressed out one? As a Christian am I reflecting God, or the world?

The source of our anxiety might be the pandemic and social unrest, but are we adding gasoline to the fire by what we are fueling our minds with? To get back to my water pipe analogy, what are we doing that breaks our peace? Are we taking a sledge hammer to our flow of peace by what we devote ourselves to? Are we passively letting the media tell us what to think and believe? Are we letting ourselves be anxious? Are we truly searching for the source of peace?

Its easy to find the leak, its worry and stress, and we can make it worse, as I tried to explain, but what are we doing positively to fix the broken flow of peace in our lives?  In a world that seems out of control,this is something we have control over. Just like my husband and I can choose to put some distance between the chaos that is being fed through our need to be in constant contact with media, and replace it with quiet , you can as well. To stop and give God space in our lives and in our thoughts. To meditate on God and His word. To pray and to be quiet enough to hear God speak.

 

Focus

So, I need to ask you a question. Are you, like me, having trouble focusing on life? I mean there are so many distractions out there, that at times I just find it hard to keep the main thing the main thing. Since this post is all about dealing with change and moving forward in life, I think it is important to take a look, no pun intended, at our focus these days. I have been trying to keep pressing on, working from home, attending online classes and adjusting to a different way of doing things,but, honestly, I can’t focus.

I know the stuff I should be doing, but I have gotten pretty bored of all the shoulds and wanna do all the cant’s. Like going to eat out, and by out I do not mean outside in our car, while we drive back to our house after picking up through the drive up window. I mean at a real restaurant, sitting down at a table. Or what about going to the beach? Yup, the beaches are open, But……. You can’t actually go to them unless you happen to live at the beach. I secretly suspect that the beach house homeowners wish they could come to my neighborhood, because they are bored with going to the beach all the time. Well, maybe they aren’t. But I’m guessing they are having trouble with focus too.

So, how do we get back our focus? I asked myself this question quite a bit this week and searched for answer. The answer I found was this; it is not the should’s and the oughto’s I need to focus on and get back on track with doing life, but it is the who. No, not the world health organization, but the WHO: God.

With everything that is happening around us, it is easy to lose our focus on God. We start to look at our problems and they get bigger and bigger in our field of vision, crowding out our focus on God. Let me give you an example to think about:

I’ve mentioned before that my sons are photographers/ videographers and I have learned quite a bunch about the technical side of the industry. You see, their professional equipment has specific guides for the focus of a shot. Whatever lines up within the box will be in focus, whatever is outside will be blurry. when you look through the viewfinder the whole scene is before you, but you can choose to only place one object within the yellow box, with the background completely blurred. Or you might focus on the background with the closest object to you blurred. The scene is the same, but the object of focus changes, as you decide to change it.

I realized whenever I am feeling overwhelmed or uneasy, it is when I have changed my view finder to focus on the problems right now, and take my focus off of God. When I stop and catch myself feeling anxious, I stop and get back into my focus of Jesus. Practically, it looks like this, stop, pray, pick up my Bible and read a passage, close it, then meditate on what I just read.

Hebrews 12: 2 tells us what we should be doing during the difficult times; “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”  We have a race to run in this life. A race of faith that isn’t always easy, but let’s keep our focus on Jesus, and not the distractions along the way, which are only temporary. God Bless- Nancy

 

Going Through The Storm

                   Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you—1 Peter 5:7

We once lived next door to an amazing older woman. She had emigrated to the United States in the early 20th century from Hungary. She had come with her Aunt and Uncle but not her parents whom she had a difficult relationship with, as I recall her telling me. She was quite young, around six years of age and spoke no English. She had a hard time at first in school and with the neighbor boy who also did not speak English, but Swedish.

Why I consider her amazing  was for her take on life. Through every difficult situation she would explain all the difficulties facing her as she aged- her husband’s Alzheimer’s, her own declining vision, a fall that caused her a near fatal broken neck,  relationship stresses caused by her family obligations, and of course weather related storms that worried her. At the end of each discussion of her current hardship she would pause and exclaim; “But what are you going to do?” It was not so much of a question she posed to me as a calm answer to all that she was facing and had faced in her long life.

She had been through many storms in her life and she had this great perspective that there wasn’t anything you could do about certain situations, so why get upset. She didn’t avoid talking about her problems as though they weren’t there, she described them, faced them and decided she might as well accept things as they were. She went through.

I remember my Mom giving me similar advice; “This too shall pass” I always thought of it as kinda cryptic, but now that I am older and have been through the storms, I can now say my mom was right. When we are younger, it is hard to take the advice of our parents. We really do think we know everything there is to know about any given situation. But, given the current worldwide crisis due to the corona virus, I am beginning to get a slight glimpse into what the older generations went through and were forced to go through at young ages, giving them every right to know what they are talking about. They were strong and resilient, because they had to be. It wasn’t something they chose to go through. Oh we have had our own share of armed conflicts and large super storms, earthquakes, tornadoes in the late to early 20th and 21st centuries, but nothing on the global scale of the current COVID-19. Our lives have been disrupted and basic supplies are difficult to find. It is now that I recall my grandparents and even my parents stories of what it was like during World War II. Everyone received booklets that rationed items like, meat and sugar. people did not travel and my Mom told me of the air raids that often happened at night. If you were home you were instructed to turn out all your house lights and if in a car you would pull over and turn off the headlights. Apparently it was a regular occurrence.

So,as we are all a little anxious at this moment with our regular predictable lives on hold, let’s remember the words of previous generations. They went through and got through it. We cannot change what is happening, but in those moments when we feel anxious, we can be reminded to turn to God and cast all our anxieties on Him. Sometimes we cannot avoid going through hard times, we just have to. We can’t pretend we don’t have fears or anxieties when we do. It’s okay to describe our difficulties as my elderly neighbor use to do. But once we do, we can go to God and admit we need Him to calm our fears and still our anxieties. I know that’s what I have been doing. -God Bless – Nancy