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Lilies of the Field & Birds of the Air

23 May

red flowerI’ve just started a book by Soren Kierkegaard.  Don’t know much about his theology, but the first chapter of his Christian Discourses touched my core.  He speaks of the anxiety of poverty:

The deeper he then sinks in anxiety, the farther he removes himself from God and from the Christian position; he is most deeply sunken when he will not know anything higher, but on the contrary wills that this anxiety shall be, not merely the heaviest (which in truth it is not, for the heaviest is the pain of repentance), no, but that it shall be the highest.

I’ve written before that growing up in my family it was considered an unspoken virtue to worry–after all, how else can you show that you truly care??  Until now, I’ve not heard of anyone else speak of lifting up anxiety to a high place.

Kierkegaard uses the parable of the lilies of the field and the birds of the air to speak his truths, and even more than that he refers to the birds and lilies as our teachers in learning to trust God and His provision.

The book begins with this prayer:

Father in heaven, when spring is come, everything in nature returns in new freshness and beauty, the lilies and the birds have lost nothing of their charm–oh, that we might also return to the instruction of these teachers!  Ah, but if in the time that has elapsed we have lost our health, would that we might regain it by learning again from the lilies of the field and the birds of the air!

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Deception

15 Nov
Every good thing is a gift from God.

Every good thing is a gift from God.

Greetings!  I’ve taken a hiatus from spending quality time with my husband/spending any time with others/blogging/writing while I’ve dealt with the learning curve of my new job–curriculum coordinator for elementary school and early childhood at CDS in Costa Rica.  I don’t ever think I’ll be able to say, “Hey!  I’ve got this job down,” but I can say that it is not consuming every waking hour any more.

A few weeks ago I was preparing a teaching for the Women’s Bible Study based on one of Beth Moore’s teachings from her book Breaking Free. It’s a marvelous study and if you haven’t done it, I highly recommend it.  This particular study included some mathematics:

My environment + My experiences = My “truth”

My “truth” + 0 = Incomplete

My “truth” + Satan’s lies = Captivity

God’s truth > My “truth”

At the same time I was reading Brendon Manning’s book, Abba’s Child, about God’s “boundless compassion, infinite patience, unbearable forgiveness, and love that keeps no score of wrongs.”  As I read his book and thought about Beth Moore’s teaching about self-deception, I ran across this quote:

“And so we unwittingly project onto God our own attitudes and feelings toward ourselves.  As Blaise Pascal wrote, ‘God made man in his own image and man returned the compliment.’ Thus, if we feel hateful toward ourselves, we assume that God feels hateful toward us.”

It had never dawned on me before that the same way we can project our feelings upon others, we can project them upon God, but once it finally did, it became obvious that this very fact holds many of us back from a rich love-relationship with God.  So I’m going to add a little math of my own:

God’s truth + My acceptance = Peace

Abba, Father, help us to learn to receive your amazing, enduring love each and every day.

Do You Know?

10 Mar

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my [firm, impenetrable] Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my [firm, impenetrable] Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Do you know that although “Americans are safer and more secure today than at any point in history,. . . America now ranks as the most anxious nation on the planet, with more than 18 percent of the adults suffering from a full-blown anxiety disorder in any given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.”

Also, “The average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950s.” These quotes are from a book I just finished called Nerve: Poise under pressure, serenity under stress, and the brave new science of fear and cool.  I’m interested in the topic of teenage anxiety, as I teach 7th grade English Language Arts in a middle school in Costa Rica, and my students are continually stressed out.

The book has a number of suggestions for dealing with fear, anxiety, and stress, which I am taking the liberty of giving a Biblical point of view:

Breathe:  Physiologically when we take deep breaths we are telling our body that everything is all right.  Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord! Praise ye the Lord!  Psalm 150:6

Put your feelings into words: Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! Thou hast set me at large when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.  Psalm 4:1

Train, practice, and prepare:  to know the love of Christ, which surpasseth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:19  As Christians, we prepare for extraordinary crises in our lives through reading and meditating on the Word of God and fellowshipping with Him during ordinary times in our lives.

Redirect your focus:  “The culprit in cases of meltdown under pressure isn’t fear but misdirected focus:  we turn our attention inward and grow preoccupied with worries about results, which undercuts our true abilities.”  Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. For I know that this shall turn out to my salvation through your prayer and the support of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,according to my earnest expectation and my hope that in nothing shall I be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always so now also, Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death.  Philippians 1: 18-20

Mindfully disentangle from worries and anxious thoughts:  Taylor Clark, the author of Nerve, suggests two routes through which we can disentangle ourselves:  1) mindfully watch your worries, or 2) postpone worries.  The Bible suggests that we Humble [ourselves] therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; casting all your anxiety upon him, because he careth for you.  1 Peter 5:6-7

Expose yourself to your fears:  But when anything is exposed and reproved by the light, it is made visible and clear; and where everything is visible and clear there is light. Ephesians 5:13

Learn to accept uncertainty and lack of control:  According to Oswald Chambers, “Our greatest fear is not that we will be damned, but that somehow Jesus Christ will be defeated.”  That is the fear we need to deal with, and the only way to deal with that is to acknowledge our weakness and learn of His omnipotence through worship and communion with Him.  O Lord God of hosts, who is a mighty one like unto You, O Lord? And Your faithfulness is round about You [an essential part of You at all times].  Psalm 89:8  Oswald Chambers goes on to edify:  “If our hopes seem to be experiencing disappointment right now, it simply means that they are being purified.”

Continue to persevere.

Anxiety in the Workplace: Gossip

16 Feb


Ouch.  Gossip.  The last of the five coping mechanisms we adopt in a stressful system according to systems theory, whether it be an anxious workplace, church, or family.  Here is the list:

“We gossip when we talk about someone, rather than directly to someone.  Two people move closer to each other at the expense of the gossiped about party, who is focused on in a critical or worried way.  You can measure the amount of anxiety by the amount of gossip going on.” ~ Harriet Lerner, Phd.

There are times, of course, when it is healthy to involve a third party, but we’re talking here about unhealthy conversation.  We need to find a way to deal with people in a straightforward manner and not go behind their backs.  “Have you heard what ______ did now??” is neither healthy nor productive.  The Bible tells us that our tongues can bring life or death into a situation.  I think it’s particularly difficult to correct when you’re the type of person who processes life through talking–as I am.  I’m learning, too slowly it seems at times, to talk things through with God instead of my co-workers.

Mean people spread mean gossip; their words smart and burn. Proverbs 16:27

The gossip of bad people gets them in trouble; the conversation of good people keeps them out of it. Proverbs 12:13

Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy; do you really want junk like that in your belly? Proverbs 18:8

Anxiety in the Workplace: Distancing

13 Feb

Distancing

We’re moving along in our study of five common coping mechanisms when we experience anxious systems, whether those systems are in the workplace, in the church, or in the family.  We’ve already taken a look at the first three, and today we’ll take a look at distancing.

There are times when distancing yourself from a situation can actually be healthy, so it is important to ask God to help us search our hearts for a motive.  There have been numerous times in my teaching career when I’ve said to myself, “I don’t care anymore, I’m just going to shut the door to my classroom and work.”  I can be rather self-rightous about it, convincing myself that I’m just not going to involve myself in pettiness.  However, God gently knocks on my heart until I realize I need to be part of the solution and not simply go into retirement.  Then I set aside time each week to wander around the campus and edify–it works much better than climbing into my fort and closing the doors.

Let each one of us make it a practice to please (make happy) his neighbor for his good and for his true welfare, to edify him [to strengthen him and build him up spiritually].  Romans 15:2

P.S.  We can emotionally distance ourselves too.

Photo credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/12023825@N04/2898021822/

Anxiety in the Workplace: Blaming

10 Feb

Some of us keep records of blame

We’ve been looking at five coping mechanisms we use when a system, like a workplace, church, or famiy, is anxious according to systems psychology:

Today we’ll take a look at blaming.  Oh, it is lamentably easy to lay blame.  According to Harriet Lerner, Phd., “Blame is an automatic response to anxiety.  You overfocus on what the other person is doing to you (or not doing for you) and underfocus on your own creative options to change your part in the problem.  You lose your capacity to see two sides of a problem, or better yet, six or seven sides.”

When I teach about marriage, I call this the Magnifying Glass Principle.  There are times in our marriages when I hold a magnifying glass to the faults of my husband.  We use that Magnifying Glass Principle in the workplace too.  When we catch ourselves playing the blame game, we need to ask God for clear heads with which to see the issue.  Then, we need to ask God for tact with which to edify.  The word edify comes from the Latin word aedes, a house, and facio, to make.  To edify is to build a house, not to tear one down.

I believe God led me to pick  up the book, Fear and Other Univited Guests, from which I’ve garnered these five responses to institutional anxiety, because it had been such a stressful few weeks at work and I was responding to the stress in all the wrong ways.  I’m grateful that I read it before I stormed in my boss’s office and began to hurl blame around the room.  I needed this time to think how to build up, not only my boss, but the institution in which we both work.  Don’t you love it when you see God work?

Therefore encourage (admonish, exhort) one another and edify (strengthen and build up) one another, just as you are doing. 1 Thess. 5:11

Photo credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/22326055@N06/2616103709/

Anxiety in the Workplace: Overfunctioning

7 Feb

Rest

Let’s take another look at systemic anxiety in the workplace, church, or family, and how we manage our anxiety according to systems theory:

As an oldest child, I tend to deal with stress through overfunctioning, yea, even by being controling at times.  I mentioned underfunctioning the other day, but find it to be quite unsatisfactory as a way to deal with stress.  Overfunctioning WORKS for me.  It takes two forms:  trying to get opinion heard even in areas that are not my province (a.k.a. Bossy Control Freak) and (the most common) throwing myself into my work to a ridiculous degree.  There is a part of me that believes that I have vertigo issues because I could not learn the lesson of knowing when to stop.  Not as a punishment, of course, but as a kindness.  Overfunctioners have difficulty resting in God and His provision.  They (we) tend to make things happen rather than waiting on God.

It is vain for you to rise up early, to take rest late, to eat the bread of [anxious] toil–for He gives [blessings] to His beloved in sleep. Psalm 127:2

I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory [my inner self] rejoices; my body too shall rest and confidently dwell in safety, Psalm 16:8 & 9

So it seems that the balance between the two responses we’ve looked at–underfunctioning and overfunctioning–is to work hard, but know when to stop.  And how do we know when to stop?  Ask God and LISTEN to what he says.

Photo credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/linhngan/2746415048/