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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.

Wonder

23 Apr

IMG_7378I pray I never lose my sense of wonder.

The great temptations which thine eyes saw, and the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand, and the stretched out arm, whereby the Lord thy God brought thee out: so shall the Lord thy God do unto all the people of whom thou art afraid.  Deuteronomy 7:19

Although we usually think of wonders as miracles–what is more wonderful than His Creation, which attests every day to His attention to detail and His love of beauty and His creative power?  The Lord has brought us out, out of slavery to sin, and His wonders attest to His power to deal with the fears in our lives.  Rest.  Enjoy the wonders about you.
(The picture is of our grandaughter, Galilee, during her visit to Costa Rica last month.)

The Road to Unafraid

7 Jun

I just finished a book called The Road to Unafraid by Captain Jeff Struecker.  I highly recommend it.  Jeff Struecker was/is an Army Ranger, won Best Ranger of the year, and fought in Panama, Mogadishu, and the Global War on Terror.  In the process he went from being a nominal Christian to a committed Christian and later went through college and seminary to become a Chaplain with the Rangers.  Today, I’d just like to quote a bit from one of the last chapters which is about a mission on  the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

“The fear of letting down those who look to you for leadership and support is one of life’s most penetrating concerns.  It gets right to the core of your being.  If you don’t believe that your life is in God’s hands, and that there is no such thing with him as an “untimely death,” you can just about go crazy.

I struggled with this the left of the ride.  I pulled out of it  only when we arrived unharmed at the target building. . . .

Life on the edge is not anybody’s favorite.  The longer we live, the less we relish the idea of risk.  We think about all the other components of our life, especially our families, and worry that something is going to disrupt the scene in a major way.  We’d much rather keep things on a steady, predictable keel.

The trouble is we lack the power to ensure that on our own.  As the Bible says, “How do you know what will happen tomorrow?  For your life is like the morning fog–it’s here a little while, they it’s gone” (James 4:14).  The only way to keep our heads and stifle our panic in this kind of setting is to trust the One who controls all things.  If we have submitted to his leadership, he promises to keep us in his care and to manage the events of our lives for good.  He is the ultimate cure for the apprehensions that try to drown us.”

Fear of the Dark

14 Apr

Passing the Light

The small light of the flame pushed the darkness back, a palpable darkness, deeper even than those dark nights where the black is thick as a wild beast’s pelt, and presses in on you like a stifling blanket. ~ The Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart

Don’t run away, I’m not getting my theology from Merlin, but this sentence reminded me of a powerful ceremony my son, Doug, took part in after his training with Teen Missions and before he went to Malawi to help build a church.

All the “bootcamp” graduates were gathered under a large tent along with their family members.  The lights were turned off and we sat in the inkiest black, then one candle was lit.  It, indeed, pushed the darkness back.  Then the flame was passed from candle to candle until all of the young missionaries were bathed in the golden candlelight.  It was incredibly moving at the time, and still when I think about it my heart is full.

In him [Jesus] was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  John 1:4,5

Fear of Dependence

8 Apr

How can we NOT depend on the God who made all THIS? (View from point where I fell off the horse.)

We just had the most wonderful week vacationing with our son, Steve, his wife, Hannah, and their girls (and our grandgirls), Shaye and Kayden.  For all of us, the highlight was horseback riding up the largest active volcano in the Andes Mountains, referred to in these parts as Mama Tungurahua.  We saw orchids hanging by the side of the path, a Dragonblood Tree, whose sap looks like blood and is an incredible healing agent, a naturally carbonated spring, and more marvels than I can list.

My horse did not like going downhill, mud, or puddles.  We were headed downhill toward the barn when he kicked back in a little tantrum to let me know he was not enjoying going downhill. I went flying, landed on my shoulder, and three hospitals later we found one with an x-ray machine that determined that my clavicle was broken.  Once I was admitted to a 4th hospital that did surgery, I realized how I was rubbed the wrong way by having to depend on others for EVERYTHING.  Although Mike so sweetly cared for me, my independent spirit kept rebelling, responding internally with an often inappropriate “I can do it by myself.”  I’m so grateful for all the care he gave and is giving me; I could even laugh when he zipped my stomach in the zipper of my jeans, but I am uncomfortable with dependence.

The question is, am I the same way with God?  Am I uncomfortable depending on Him?  Do I want to do it myself?  This week, I’m asking God to show me how much my independent spirit interferes with an intimate relationship where I receive all He has for me.  How is your level of comfort with dependence?

But he who practices truth [who does what is right] comes out into the Light; so that his works may be plainly shown to be what they are–wrought with God [divinely prompted, done with God’s help, in dependence upon Him]. John 3:21

Love, not Fear

26 Mar

Enter into God's love

“And so it was that my fear turned to rage, which I carried around with me like a large and heavy parcel that could not be set down.  It kept me from merriment when jests were told.  It kept me from curiosity when I heard a man describe to my father how blood from one dog had been put into the veins of another.  Because of it I could not feel humility when I heard sermons preached at church, nor patience when the nightmare woke Toby three times in one night.” ~ from A True and Faithful Narrative  by Katherine Sturtevant

I was thinking about this statement about fear–the typical example for a parent is when you can’t find your child, maybe you got separated in the mall, and a gazillion scenarios stream through your mind–pedophiles, kidnappings, your child in traffic. . . you know.  This is a sharp, immediate terror.

That feeling of relief when you are reunited is often followed by anger, isn’t it?  “Why did you wander off?” we roar, “I told you to stay with me!”  Fear can keep us from so many things.  What about the sodden fear we sometimes live with for years–fear that someone we love will never come to Christ or be freed of addictions.  What can we do when fear begins to affect our lives?  We need to learn to step into God’s love which drives our fear away.  Make a conscious effort to step into the awareness of God’s accepting love for you today.  You are Beloved.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

Conflicts Without, Fears Within

25 Feb

In 2nd Corinthians 7:5,  the conflicts without and the fears within refer to the difficulty of spreading the gospel in Macedonia.  In the following verse Paul is comforted by God who used Titus’s arrival and the news Titus brought of how beautifully the Corinthians had responded to Paul’s first letter to comfort him.

That made me think of the many ways that God uses to encourage us, because we are often in situations with conflict without and fears within.  I would dare to say fairly often.  The word for comfort, parakaleo, is written in the present active participle–it’s something that is continually being done by God.  It means to call to one’s side, to call to, to summon, to strengthen, and to comfort.  God is doing all that right now!  Allow God to parakaleo you today.

For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within.  But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever. 2 Cor. 7:5-7