Find your calm…

December 16, 2020

In a recent Church Council meeting our Pastor used the following quote –

 “Fear sees a threat, anxiety images it” (Max Lucado from his book Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World)

Lucado is a Christian author and speaker who used that phrase back in 2017 as part of a Bible study presentation about Paul’s letter to the Philippians Chapter 4 verses 6-7, in which Paul said “be anxious about nothing.” You can read all about Max Lucado and see the books that he has written at maxlucado.com.

He went on to say, “The presence of anxiety is unavoidable, but the prison of anxiety is optional. It’s the life of perpetual anxiety that Paul wants to address. Don’t let anything in life leave you perpetually in angst.”

How prophetic were Paul’s words (and those of Lucado) when viewed from the context or our current pandemic environment. We can’t see the threat that the COVID-19 virus presents, we only see the results in the nightly news show; so our anxiety takes over and we imagine the threat as it might apply to us personally.

I have often written here about what I called “the dungeon of despair”, which Lucado calls the “prison of anxiety”. This is a mental prison, not a physical one; but it is a bad place to allow yourself to become trapped, nonetheless.

Lucado talks of the key to being calm in the face of a chaotic world is found in one’s faith. If anxiety imagines a threat where none can be seen, faith provides the calm place to go in the midst of that anxiety. Anxiety tries to cause us to see nowhere to turn in the face of the threat, but the Bible tells us –

“Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)

And

“He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

Sometimes we need a simple way to envision God’s love and care for us. Maybe you can find that by visualizing this passage from Isaiah 49:16 – “I have written your name on the palms of my hand.”

Just imagine God walking around with your name tattooed in the palm of his hand. Find comfort and calm in the thought that God is holding you in the palm of his hands and then say to yourself – If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

Don’t let fear take over and lead to anxiety; rather, find your calm in the midst of the current chaos by using your imagination to strengthen your faith. Visualize your name written in the palm of God’s hand. Imagine that!

Be at peace.


Getting other things out of the darkness…

October 3, 2018

Yesterday I wrote about not allowing hatred, fear and prejudices to lurk in the dark shadows of your mind and influence your daily life. There are other things that lurk infacing the wall 2 the dark places in the minds of many; things which can be debilitating and cause them pain. Fear’s cohorts – anxiety and depression – can live there, too. Self-doubt at the dusky edges of the darkness can lead to self-loathing in the depths of the pit. The sense of powerlessness and hopelessness that may accompany these things can lead to thoughts that suicide as “the only way out”.

Jason KandorWe saw on the news last night the story of a man, Jason Kandor, in Kansas City who withdrew from the race to be mayor there because he suffers from PTSD and depression from his time in the military serving in a war zone. The memories of that time had been living in the dark places in his mind for over 11 years and had pulled him into bouts of depression. For years he suppressed it, because that just what we do.

Some of the women who have come forward in the #MeToo! Movement have described the experience of suppressing the events of their sexual abuse in terms that sound a lot like PTSD – reactions of fear, anxiety, depression and more resulted not just from the actual event, but from the holding in of it, rather than reporting it.

Compounding the problem form many, especially the men, is a macho, sports-oriented culture in which phrases like “shake it off”, “man up”, or “play through the pain” are used as solutions to both physical and mental injuries. It wasn’t until recently that football player1athletes began to realize the permanent, life-changing damage that concussions can cause. Before that, it was “shake it off and get back in the game.” We still don’t appreciate as a society the debilitating impact that depression can have on people. We are still saying to them, “suck it up and get back in the game.” We try to force them to push their depression back into the shadows of their minds. For most that really doesn’t work.

It would be easy to throw in some reference to Jesus and God here; and some readers would probable say “Oh good, he finally got the religious angle in”; but that is not appropriate here. This is not about religion and whether or not the person suffering help-methrough depression believes in God or not. They may have doubts about that because of their depression, but just telling them to pray about it is not the answer. If you want to tell them to pray; tell them to pray for the courage to get these things out into the light and to seek the help they need to deal with them. Tell them to make the same decision that Jason Kandor did and admit to themselves and others that they need that help and will seek it. This is not something that they can shake off or that they need to suck it up about, nor is it something, for which they can play through the pain.

So, what is our role when someone we know finally gets these dark things out into the open and seeks help? Many might turn their backs to them, trying to avoid being associated with someone who has “problems”. This is a time for unconditional support and friendship, helping-2not for criticism. This is not the time for a “Get back in the game” pep talk, nor for a “Oh, you poor thing” pity party. Those who are truly Christians will open their arms and ask, “How can I help you?” They need more than a pillow to cry on; they need a pillar to lean on. Be there for them. Be there to listen. Be there to understand. Be there to comfort. Be there to encourage. Be there to accompany them on their journey out of the darkness. You will never do anything more important in your life.

Have a great day in the light of the Son. If there are those around you who are dwelling in the darkness of PTSD or depression, be there for them. If you are wearing one of those little WWJD bracelets you will know what the answer is to that question when you extend your hand to help. Be there.


Now more than ever…

November 22, 2016

“Cast all your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”  (1 Peter 5:17) – from a post on the Jack’s Winning Words blog some time ago.

Anxiety is defined as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”

The recent election has caused a great deal of anxiety among people who voted for Hillary winner-loserClinton and against Donald Trump. That anxiety is driven by fears that President-Elect Trump will actually carry out some of the more outrageous promises that he made while campaigning, concerning things like building a wall at our southern border and deporting illegal aliens or taking harsh and discriminatory measures against various ethnic or religious groups. There would have been a similar anxiety had Hillary won from those who saw her as a threat to their right to own weapons or who fear more and bigger government interference in their daily lives. Those on both sides should step back and remember Peter’s advice – “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

There is a great deal of irrationality in both of those views. While a modern President can impact our lives in many ways, our governmental system does not allow for him/her to run roughshod over the will of the people or even that of the minority. Having rebelled against an onerous king, the founding fathers of America put enough checks and balances into the reality2system to insure that tyranny by a ruling leader would not be possible. Also at work here is the shift that President Obama has spoken about that occurs once one actually has to be the President, rather than just campaigning to be the President. We can see that already in Mr. Trump’s rapid backpedaling away from some of his more outrageous stated positions from his campaign. Some have called that being pragmatic, but perhaps the Lord is already at work and you can, “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

If one lives long enough, one gets to see (and live through) the various swings of the political pendulum back and forth between the two major parties and their underlying philosophies on government. The earliest that I recall being actually aware of who was President and what they meant was during President Eisenhower’s terms in office; although I do vaguely recall early TV news reports of Margaret Truman playing a piano eisenhowerconcert for her family while in the White House. I do remember how the press seemed to cover every golf outing that President Eisenhower took and how he was called the “do nothing” president; even though he was the father of our modern Interstate system of highways and a bulwark against the spread of Communism after WW II. Eisenhower also created NASA in response to the launch of the Sputnik satellite by the USSR. He fought behind the scenes against Joe McCarthy and effectively ended McCarthyism. There were many who feared what would happen when Eisenhower was elected; but, also many who had faith enough to, “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

I could go on to give examples of the anxieties caused by the elections of each of the Presidents since Eisenhower; but, here we are today, still anxious yet still hopeful. Things will change for a while as the pendulum prepares to swing back towards the other side. Perhaps it is at its furthest rightward point away from the center, but I suspect that this last election was actually a turning point and the momentum has already shifted back reality-checktowards the middle for the next few elections. Those most likely to be disappointed are not those who voted for the losing candidate, but those who voted for the winner, in hopes that all of their anger, hate and prejudices would be assuaged. For those who standing quivering in fear and anxiety at this turn of events, I can only offer the comfort of faith and ask them to, “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

Now is not the time to abandon your faith; now is the time to find strength and comfort in it. Many may feel the same way they recalling feeling when they faced a bully at school or bully.pngat work. There is a lot of bluster and bravado from the winning side and some disappointment, whimpering and shame on the losing side. Both have already subsided as both now try to envision a future with this status quo. One side is focusing upon what they can actually do for the next four years and the other is deciding what they can actually prevent from happening in that same time period. The gridlock that is our Congressional arm of government has shifted from “prevent Obama from doing anything” to “prevent Trump from doing anything.” The Lord does work in mysterious ways, indeed. “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

In churches across the land the prayers remain the same – “Lord give our leaders the wisdom to lead us wisely and to do the right things” (or words to that effect). We haveman praying no power over what those leaders see as “the right things”, but God does. Now, more than ever, we need to trust in God to put into the hearts and minds of those in power the wisdom and compassion to do the right things. So pray often and pray hard for God to intervene to make the right things happen; and, pray with the conviction that you can, “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

Have a great and anxiety-free week ahead.


Don’t overthink life…

July 28, 2014

I recently watched a couple of videos about a home improvement product that is used in level out uneven floors. It’s a simple thing, really; just mix it up and pour it on the floor. There’s a little bit more to it, but not much and one piece of advice in the videos that was particularly valuable was “don’t over think this.”

man thinkingI got to thinking (not about the product) that we all make that mistake of overthinking lots of very simple things in life, whether they be tasks that we have to accomplish or things like relationships. Things don’t have to be as complicated as we make them sometimes. In fact, I suspect that the simpler something is (or should be) the more we overthink it and make it more complex than it needs to be. That is a by-product of having very creative imaginations and probably too much time on our hands.

Have you ever run into people who are always asking you, “what did you mean by that?” For some reason, these people want to (or need to read something into everything, even if there was no hidden meaning in whatever it was that you said. If you say, “you look good today”, they take it to mean that you didn’t look good yesterday or that you usually don’t look good, but today you do.  They are overthinking everything that you say and probably everything else in theirsurrounded by sharks lives.

The same thing can happen to people who are asked to perform simple tasks for someone else, like watching their house while they are gone or getting in the mail. All of a sudden their imaginations conjures up all sorts of things that could go wrong or reasons for the request that go beyond the obvious. They are overthinking that simple request.

Sometimes relationships get overthought, too. One of the parties in the relationship may start wondering why the other party likes them or what they may want from them. They may conjure up convoluted scenarios of plots or schemes by the other party. After all, there must be a reason or motive for their interest, right? That’s overthinking things.
Most things in life are as simple and straightforward as they appear, without guile or suspicious motives. I tend to be the type that trusts people until they prove me wrong and not the other way around. I feel bad thinking womanfor people who go into every relationship encounter with suspicion or fear. I think the best advice is that that was given for the home improvement product – don’t over think this. Learn to just go with the flow and let people into your life without concern or fear that they are somehow out to do you some undefined harm. Open up to them and they will open up to you.

Got to go now, I think I might have overthought this topic. Have a great, simple and straightforward day. Don’t overthink it.