What Are You Thankful For?

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song “( Psalm 95:2, NIV).

Here in the United States we are preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving next week. But, you probably wouldn’t know it if you were to walk into any store here. Or in my neighborhood. Oh, there are the usual food items stacked up high on the shelves: pumpkin pie filling, cranberry sauce, gravy, bags of bread crumbs for the stuffing, appetizers, turkey themed decorations. But, if you were to look next to these displays you would also notice the Christmas foods and decorations, given equal shelf space.

In my neighborhood I’ve noticed people have put up their Christmas trees. This juxtaposition of two holidays, each vying for attention, has created a bit of a controversy. Some people embrace the early decorating for Christmas, while others, like myself, believe we should celebrate each holiday as it comes and to not rush things.

Is it possible that we have chosen to rush past Thanksgiving, because we aren’t thankful? Or because it is only a single day, not an entire season. I have heard arguments for both viewpoints. But it has paused me to think about it.

And I have to admit, I have not been in a very thankful mindset lately. I have complained about everything costing so much, thanks to inflation. The budget gets stressed and pushed and tested. And although I try to look past it, I finally realized that it has taken a toll on my joy and my thankfulness. I’ve tried to ignore for awhile, just rolling with it all, all the while thinking I was handling it all. Managing the budget and my soul.

That is until I was reading my morning devotional, while enjoying my morning cup of coffee, and it was like boom! Time for an attitude check. I realized that I was missing something in all my “managing” of myself. My joy. My peace. And most importantly; my thankfulness. I had replaced all of these with worry, anxiety, and complaining. Nothing extreme, nothing I would speak out loud to many people, but something I knew in my soul. The thoughts I was thinking to myself. The complaining that there wasn’t much extra spending cash available. But, I still want stuff. But why are there so many other necessities to buy? Why does it cost so much? Why aren’t the politicians understanding this is a big deal to most people. We are not rich, but I know it has been a stressor for us. I can only imagine how single parents and the elderly are dealing with all this inflation.

Maybe that is it. The reason for the early invasion of Christmas over Thanksgiving. People are wanting hope. Wanting peace. The peace that the birth of Jesus brought. And how are we supposed to be thankful anyway. What is there to be thankful for? Houses are not affordable. Food prices are high. Gasoline is expensive. Covid is still around.

But, Jesus’ birth is the reason we should have a grateful, thankful heart. He is our peace. He is our hope. He is our salvation. We are not helpless. We are not hopeless.

I have realized that this is what I have forgotten. Well, not forgotten per se, but just set aside, while I turned from my focus on Jesus, to my focus on myself, my stresses, anxieties and worries. It can be so subtle. Like when driving a car, and you see something on the side of the road. It catches your attention, so you turn towards it, only to quickly be brought back to the task at hand- driving- when the car ahead suddenly stops. You immediately are brought back to focusing ahead, rather than to the side of the road.

It is not until you are forced to turn back, that you realize, you head drifted your focus to the side of the road. Hopefully you stop in time to prevent a collision with the car ahead. So, my devotional was like the stopping of the car ahead of me. Whoops!Time to focus back on God, instead of allowing it to drift towards complaint, worry, stress, anxiety. I traded joy and thankfulness for a brief side view of my problems.

The problems will still be there. Inflation. Holiday stress. Traffic. Difficult people. They are still vying for my attention from the side of the road.Waving at me to look at them. But, just like safe driving; I must keep my eyes fixed on the author and perfecter of my faith; Jesus. The journey ahead is what I need to focus on- even though some might think this means to race past Thanksgiving, it doesn’t.

I am not giving permission to race ahead of Thanksgiving to celebrate Christmas already. I want to take my time. Be still. Keep each holiday to itself. And quiet the complaining thoughts in my head. Remind myself what I have to be thankful for this year. Change my perspective.

When I change my perspective, shifting my eyes back on Jesus, my attitude catches up and I realize I have a lot to be thankful for this year. My budget is squeezed, but I can still travel to the store and buy food. My family is coming to celebrate. I have lost loved ones, but also celebrate the newest family member, my granddaughter. These problems will pass by, and will probably be replaced with problems. But, I can always choose to keep focused on Jesus to get through it all. Jesus is the best reason of all to be thankful this year. He is with me. He knows my problems, nothing comes as a surprise to Him, so I can rest and trust He has got this.

What are you thankful for?

God bless you- Nancy

No Rest For The Weary

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest– Jesus

I’ll be honest, I used to think that ” I’m taking a mental health day” was just an empty phrase made up by millennials to get out of their responsibilities. I recall the somewhat recent event from the Olympics when gymnast Simone Biles stepped out of competition for “A mental health issue”. I admit that I was a bit critical of the decision, having grown up in the just suck it up generation. Push through. Tough it out. You’ll get through this. All phrases from said generation. “I’m a bit of a boomer/gen x’er, depending on what dates you use to classify it.)

That is, until recently when I began a new temporary job. I found myself needing a “Mental health day” And I can completely sympathize now with Simone Biles and others. Smart people recognize their limitations, both physically and mentally. It’s not a weakness, but rather a humbleness. We cannot do everything, or be everything to others without it showing up in our physical bodies or in our mental state.

We are not just spiritual or just physical, but as I and others believe more of a tripart being: spirit, soul (mind, will and emotions) and physical. All three work together and when one part suffers, the others will follow. For example if we are feeling stressed or anxious, often we will feel physical symptoms such as tightness in our neck, headaches and even stomach issues. Those who have panic attacks often describe them as feeling like a heart attack. The symptoms we experience are all trying to tell us there is something wrong. Something we must deal with. It is amazing to ponder how God has created our bodies to work in unison. We only need to listen to our bodies. And also understand what they are saying. We can cover up our symptoms through medicines, but what we really need is to give ourselves a break and time to stop and work through what is the root cause of our physical and emotional issues.

This takes time and prayer. We can’t rush through the process. We must learn to slow down at times and give our problems to God. Jesus promises to give us rest, but are we taking Him up on the offer?

This world is constantly moving at a faster and faster pace. We are being expected to perform our duties as if we were automated robots. No wonder there are so many robotic uses in the work place- robots do not need mental health days. Artificial intelligence can function without emotion- although I wonder if it will become so perfect in its imitation of the human brain, that someday it will experience mental fatigue and need a break. Probably not, but even self- driving cars make errors and cause accidents- because they cannot account for human beings on the road.

It is interesting to me that as I am understanding the need for my own mental health, I have been reading a book by author Bonnie Gray- “Finding Spiritual Whitespace”. I admit at first I didn’t get the title of the book. What is white space? I thought. But, let me recommend this book if you have been going through any type of anxiety or panic attacks. I am nearing the end of the book, and I am realizing that I need to allow Jesus to help carry my burdens. It easy to say that. Or write about it as I am doing here in this blog, but in reality, I’m still trying to carry it by myself.

Unlike all the garden flags and bumper stickers that keep telling me”God’s Got This” (a left over from Covid lock down days here in the US), what I keep saying silently, to myself is “I got this!” . When in realty; I don’t got this. Yes, sorry for the bad English grammar. When I began to feel physically sick, I needed to heed the warnings; take a break, and prepare my heart to listen. Quiet my soul, shut the world out and just wait to hear from God.

As I have counseled others in the past in similar situations, some jobs are just not worth it. If it means selling your soul and letting your physical body and your spirit keep taking the punches wielded at you. Life is hard to be sure. It is not an easy place to live out our lives in the fallen world we are calling a temporary home. There are days of difficulty. There will be pain, heartache and stress that we cannot control. But if we are smart we will not try to deal with it on our own. We will give it to Jesus and not be afraid to rest- even if that means taking a mental health day. If you still do not like that phrase, then call it a spiritual health day. Your mind, spirit and body will thank you and you will be more effective for the Kingdom. – God Bless- Nancy

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

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.

 

Was it you?

Some days we can let our circumstances get the best of us. And our emotions. We get tired and we get cranky. On the outside we are adults, but on the inside we can act like an unruly two year old. We want our way, and when we don’t get it, we get upset.

The recent events of the world have stretched me and tried my patience to the point of my becoming that unruly two year old.  I feel bad for feeling bad, which makes the situation worse, it seems. I have been the queen of self- criticism before, and on a particular, hot, tiresome August day, I acted both as a temperamental toddler and a self-critic. I was exhausted both physically and mentally. I had been fighting the constant battle of my thoughts. If you read my last blog, you know that I addressed fear versus caution in the midst of this pandemic. Most of the time, I can keep my perspective and my focus on Christ and the things that matter, rather than on the fears that continually get fueled by what I see and read. It is easy to give into fear, especially when you’re worn out and tired.

So, there I was, exhausted, worn out, stressed and alone in a gas station bathroom. I had had enough of it all. The worries of the pandemic, the fears of moving into new chapters of my life, the pressure of resuming my seminary classes after a summer break, the disappointments and disagreements between family members, and the late hour. I felt my eyes well up with tears, but I didn’t want to let myself cry. I’d have to walk back through the store portion of the station, and didn’t want to face anyone, even a stranger with my red eyes and running mascara. I quietly told God I wanted to give up. I’ve had enough. I  knew that much of what had been happening in my personal life was a spiritual attack from the pits of hell, but I was just tired of fighting it.

In those moments of frustration and desperation, it seems like the most logical thing to say or think is to cry “Uncle”. Our faith is being stretched so much. We just want to throw in the towel and tell the Devil he’s won. We’ll stop trying to make a difference in the world. Just look out for number one, forget others, Isn’t that what the world tells us to do? Why go against the current? Why speak up for the truth? Why follow God? Why keep going to school to answer God’s call to be a pastor? How many war wounds and battle scars are enough God? I just wanna give up God, it’s not worth it anymore, can you help me God? If not, I’m giving up!

But, you were there. And you made a difference. I never saw you, might not ever meet you. But I know you had been there and must have listened to God’s voice, that still, quiet voice, to leave me a note in the bathroom that evening. It was such a clear message from God, that in my two- year tantrum mindset,  I tried not to see it. I was just so fed up with everything. I know God it was really a note from you. An answer from you, not just from a person. You are pretty intentional, and you intended for me to see that little piece of folded paper.

There it was, a handwritten note, slightly damp from the water of the sink from others who had seen it, while they washed up. It was written in colored pencil or ink, and some of the writing from the back side of the paper had faded. But there was no doubt about the message; “Jesus loves you so very much” Simple. To the point. And not even a memorized Bible verse. Just the reminder I needed that late evening at a gas station bathroom. I recited in my mind the words over and over again as I walked back out into the parking lot. Jesus loves me. So. very. much. Not just the simple Jesus loves me this I know, of the familiar kids song, but different, personal, and just what I needed to hear from God.

So thank you, who ever you are, you made a difference in my world and hopefully in the world in general. Thank you for not giving up in telling the world that yes, in fact, Jesus does love them so very much. Maybe you were a child, who forget their handwritten picture on the sink earlier that day as you washed your hands, or maybe you were a teen or adult, who knew to hear God’s voice and share the love you know with the world who does not know of God’s love.

We all have a part to play in Christ’s kingdom if we are Christians. Don’t give up and throw in the towel. Your action might be small, like a little piece of paper on a sink. But you make the difference in the world.

The world is desperate for answers, for peace, and for love. God has all that, and He is offering it freely. We all need to encourage each other about God’s love for us. Of His truth. Of His peace He offers. Of His hope that does not disappoint. Of His answers to prayer, that sometimes come in the form of little notes left on sinks.

Maybe you are looking for answers, be sure not to overlook those little quiet voices, reminding you to look to God for those answers. Be quiet enough to listen so that you don’t miss them. They might come in the form of a little, folded, love note from God. God hears you.

Something Good

We all want it. We are all looking for it. No, its not toilet paper,but we want something good in this world that currently seems spiraling out of control. This new normal that we find ourselves in is stressful and scary at times. What we took for granted, like full grocery stores shelves, seems like something from ages ago. Did we really have stocked shelves? Did we really have jobs we drove to? Did we really get together with our friends and families any time we wanted to? Did we really dine out and go to school?

This good we experienced will be here again as history has shone us. In the meantime can we find the good that still there? Yes, I believe we can, but we have to look for it. I know many of you reading this probably have been negatively impacted by the pandemic in serious ways. Most people have only been inconvenienced. I have a bit of understanding in what some of you are going through as a parent new to staying home with your children and homeschooling them. I stayed at home for all of the years my children were in school and even home schooled for a year. What I’ve learned and can share with you is this;1) Enjoy these moments as your kids won’t always be home with you, 2)When you feel like pulling out your hair, take a break and seek out a quiet place for five minutes.3) It’s okay to let your kids entertain themselves with the t.v or tablet. 4)Homeschooling made me realize just how much schooling can get done in only two to four hours a day- there’s a lot of wasted time at school.5) I learned as my son learned from my homeschooling.6) If you’re married and both of you are working from home, enjoy this time together and allow time in your work schedule to sit down and eat together or cook a meal together. We are all so busy, that we often do not have time to spend together.7) Pray. Do not neglect to pray for others who are having an even more stressful time.8) Get outside and enjoy the fresh air.8) Find out who might need extra help in your neighborhood and offer it.9) If your college age kid is home, remember they are still doing their coursework- do not load them down with projects and chores and treat them like adults- they are. 10) Call and check on older relatives and friends. 11) Encourage your children to video chat with their friends if they cannot get together in person. 12) Video chat with your friends. And as I mentioned before; Look for the good.

It is easy to get overwhelmed and watching too much of the news feeds will tend to make us even more nervous. But try to find something good about your day. I have been so encouraged by my neighborhood in how they have helped each other out. I have seen so many families out for walks and scavenger hunts, laughing and enjoying time together. I have met couples when out walking- from the safe distance of six feet- that I did not know were my neighbors. Normal life used to include watching commuters drive past my house in the morning and returning to their garages where they parked their cars and closed down their garage doors, before I could even see who was inside. It has all brought us closer together as a community. And although we have been told to stay apart, we have actually grown closer together as a neighborhood, community and hopefully as a country as well. Adversity has a tendency to do that when we can look for something good and reach out to help others.

I would be negligent if I didn’t mention that for many of your this isn’t a good time. You are struggling financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Please reach out to others who are willing to help. Many churches are offering online services, words of encouragement and prayer daily. They are also able to help if you need food and financial help or if you just want someone to pray with. If you are in a threatening relationship and the stress of the situation is driving you or your significant other over the edge, law enforcement is still available as are caring organizations who will offer safety. Please reach out. If you feel you are going to go over the edge yourself and harm your children, walk into another room or outside until you can calm down and seek out help. Many faith based organizations have trained counselors who can speak with you either over the phone or online to offer help and advice.

For those of you who want to help, pray and ask God where He needs you and keep up with social media posts that are often posting opportunities to help in specific ways. Sometimes we can be the good others are looking for. Jesus told us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves and this seems like opportunity to demonstrate just that. -God Bless Nancy

Prayer

“Rejoice always, pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17, NIV)

A short, simple verse but one packed with so much more. Do you struggle to rejoice always? Me too. Some days I’m only able to tolerate life, far from rejoicing about it. Life is a struggle at times. Situations stress us out. People stress us out. A new school year stresses us out. As a parent I have felt the fear and sadness from dropping my children off at school. Would this be a good year for them? Would they make new friends? Did I pack a lunch they will like? Did I remember to sign all the papers I was supposed to for the registration? Am I going to miss them while they’re at school? What am I going to do while they’re at school? My routine is all messed up now.

Well, you might think this is something I dealt with when my children were in elementary school and that it’s long past me now. But, no, this is actually my thoughts this morning. Except for the lunch part. I’m sure they packed their own today. My daughter is the teacher now, but I still get excited for her first day of school with her new kindergarten class. And I still stress over whether my college age son has everything he needs as he starts his junior year. And yes, I miss them a lot. And my schedule has to change as I figure out what to do now that they have returned back to college and to their apartments after a summer with them here. Being a parent means you will always worry and stress about your children, no matter the age. It comes with the job.

So, this morning I want to remind all the parents out there to remember prayer. Pray for your students and their friends, their teachers, their schools. And pray for yourself as well. Parents need prayer too. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for prayer for yourself. My Husband knows how the new year of school can be stressful for me and he knows to pray for me. If someone does ask you for prayer, please do it. Don’t neglect the request or put it off for a “to do” later, just stop and pray at that moment. In fact, we should always be in a prayer moment. That is what it means to pray continually. All through the day.  -God Bless- Nancy