Tag Archives: Worry

“I’ve Got This”

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
Matthew 6:30-34 (MSG)

This past week was our first trip down to the lake this year. I have said before that our family’s place on the lake always has been what many call a thin place. It’s a place where things of the Spirit are perceived with greater clarity.

So it was that I began to realize during our time at the lake just how anxious I have become about certain things in life. A bout of insomnia and some time of reflection unearthed a host of things I have been increasingly worried about. I’ve been harboring anxiety; My mind dwelling on things I ultimately can’t control. Being at heart a pessimist, my natural personality tends to take these little anxieties, hide them in the dark corners of my mind, and quietly grow them like bacteria.

On our drive home, I brought these things out into the open in conversation with Wendy. Along life’s journey I’ve discovered that fears and anxieties tend to lose their power when brought out and exposed to the light of conversation. It was helpful to talk it out, and to have Wendy challenge each anxiety with her lock-tight logic.

Yesterday after our local gathering of Jesus followers, I had a few friends praying over me. After a while in fairly routine prayer mode one of my friends, who is a prophet, said out of the blue, “You’re carrying too much. Stop worrying about…”  they then proceeded to name, specifically, the things I’ve been anxious about. There was more that was said, but suffice it to say that I got the message.

This morning I’m reminded that we as humans sometimes need repeated reminders. In today’s chapter Jesus continues His classic “Sermon on the Mount.” One of the simplest reasons I continue to daily journey through God’s Message is that often I’m given exactly the spiritual reminder I need. So it is today. It’s like Jesus personally following up on Wendy’s reasoned logic and the words spoken through my friend yesterday.

“Tom, when has worrying done anything for you? Chill out. Keep going. Stay focused on me. I’ll take care of you.

“I’ve got this.”

Be Strong and Courageous

“I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9 (NRSV)

Wendy and I drove home from the lake yesterday. It was Sunday morning and we obviously were not going to make it to worship, so we pulled up the audio of last week’s message from our local group of Jesus’ followers. Tim Heerma did a great job with the message and, at one point, he spoke about fears and how they keep us from doing what we’re supposed to be doing. “If you are focused on your fears,” he said (I’m paraphrasing) “you will bury your talent.” Wendy and I both gave an impromptu, “Wow” at that moment. Tim’s point landed with impact on us.

After listening to the entire message, Wendy and I spent a good bit of time talking. Out of our conversation came the recognition that fear and anxiety are two of evil’s most commonly used (and effective) weapons against any who would endeavor to do what God has purposed. Jesus repeatedly said to his followers “do not be afraid.”

Our discussion then meandered down a conversational path in which Wendy shared some of her current anxieties. “I keep asking God for some assurance,” she said regarding one of the things we’ve felt God purpose for us, “but it’s not coming.” The result, I observed, were questions, doubts, fears, and anxiety about long-term consequences.

We then spent some time having a conversation with God and reminiscing all of the amazing ways we’ve been led right to where we find ourselves on life’s road. We looked back and recounted some of the unbelievable experiences of God’s prompting, guidance and provision that dot the path behind us. We recommitted ourselves to trusting God for whatever was necessary to play out the roles and purposes to which we’ve been called.

Ironically, we begin this morning at the start of the story of Joshua. Joshua and the people of Israel find themselves standing at a crossroads before the River Jordan. God is calling them to cross the river and take possession of the land. Like a coach in the locker room before the big game, God gives the newly appointed leader, Joshua, a much-needed pep-talk. What Joshua has been purposed to do is a huge task that will require generous doses of active faith. The enemy’s defensive strategy comes from a well-worn and effective playbook: fear and anxiety.

Four times God says to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous.” Strength will be required to overcome the onslaught of fear which will be unleashed against him. Courage will be necessary to relinquish the doubts and anxieties that will most assuredly flank the fear.

This morning, I am thinking about Wendy and me standing at our own version of the Jordan River and the purposes to which we, like Joshua, are called. I am recalling all of the fears and anxieties we discussed yesterday. As I read God’s pep-talk to Joshua, I am hearing God whisper: “This is for you, too. It is as much for you as it was for Josh. Be strong and courageous.”

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Job’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

art by William Blake
art by William Blake

One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

Last night Wendy and I attended a special healing service at our church. The theme of the service was healing our losses. It was about facing those griefs that have us mired on life’s road, about processing them so we can spiritually move forward. There was a large crowd on hand, and a good portion of the night was spent in quiet worship. There were stations set up around the perimeter of the room for people to receive communion, prayer, holy water, or to symbolically surrender their losses. Wendy and I have both had our share of losses in life, and it was good to meditate, reflect, and have some personal conversations with God about those things.

What struck me most last night, however, was the tremendous compassion I felt for others. I was surprised how many people I knew. I was also surprised at the pieces of their stories I knew. The abused who became an abuser and whose life fell completely apart. The person who lost a spouse. The  person whose marriage ended in terrible pain and whose life is out of control. The person with incurable disease that is wreaking havoc on the home front. On, and on, and on. My heart broke for friends and acquaintances. My own whining and petty complaints were silenced in relation to the pain I saw realized in the lives of others.

Job seemed an appropriate book to start this morning. I was struck by Job’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. We all fear getting “the call” telling us tragedy has struck, but Job gets four of them in rapid fire succession. Assets gone, employees gone, business gone, children gone. We all have our share of pain in this journey, but I imagine that precious few of us know the sheer terror of losing everything we own, and nearly everyone we hold dear in a matter of minutes.

Psalm 112 is a psalm that I’ve internalized as a foundational text for my life journey. It describes the kind of person I desire to be, and I found myself reciting it over and over in my heart last night at the service. It came to me again this morning as I read of Job’s unforeseen calamity:

“He has no fear of bad news,
His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is secure, he will have no fear.
In the end he will look in triumph at his foes.”

I am going to have my share of tragedy in this journey. It’s inevitable. Worrying about it, fearing its arrival, and being anxious about what dark tidings the future may bring do nothing to make this day worthwhile. In fact, I’ve come to realize that the unholy trinity of worry, fear, and anxiety serve only to suck the life out of me and keep me from living this day fully and abundantly.

Today, I’m thinking and praying about those who are suffering tragedies and losses in life that I can scarcely imagine. At the same time, I’m trusting God with today, tomorrow, and each day of my journey so that I can be free to live this day fully. I will have my own share of grief and loss along the way, but I will also have God’s grace and provision in the moment(s) that I need them.

“I’ve Got This”

new house foundation

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” Luke 12:25-26 (NIV)

I am up early after a fitful night’s sleep. As I write this post, summer is making its annual transition into the hectic pace of autumn. All around me, life is in transition. One of our daughters is in the midst of vocational transition, moving across the country this morning, and still uncertain where she is going to live. Our other daughter is packing up her worldly possessions, preparing to move across the ocean, and making a major investment in her education. Wendy’s sister, who has lived with us for the past year, is in the throes of that bumpy transition from youth to adulthood complete with the upheaval of routines, relationships and emotions that accompany it. My parents are in transition with the concerns of life and health as their life journey takes an unexpected twist in the road. This past weekend Wendy and I looked out over the newly poured foundation of the house we are building; A project that wasn’t even on our radar six months ago.

I have, for many years, made this chapter-a-day routine part of my daily life journey. One of the reasons for this habit is the regular experience I have of God meeting me right where I am in the moment, speaking to me in my need from the words in that day’s chapter. This morning is a perfect example

Worry was my bedfellow this past night; Anxiety my companion. Sitting red-eyed in the empty hotel lobby with my first cup of coffee I open my laptop, pull up today’s chapter, and silently enter into an intimate give and take with the Creator. Jesus says:

“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”

Don’t worry,” I hear Him quietly add to my spirit as I finish reading. “I’ve got this.”

Day 8: Something You’re Currently Worried About

Historical government spending in the United S...
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30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 8: Something you’re currently worried about.

I have a feeling that I’m not alone in worrying about the economic state of our nation and the world. Out of control government spending, stifling escalation of government regulation, an ever increasing debt load, and a culture of unbridled entitlement feels like a molotov cocktail ready to explode into chaos.

And yet, with each pang of worry comes whispers of affirmation deep in my spirit. Times of great difficulty are often the only way we are motivated to make necessary changes. We have seen darker times than these and come out of them. We have the ability and opportunity to vote for change and alter our course.

 

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Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 47

As of July 2010, the Doomsday Clock reads 11:54pm.
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“Oh, Sword of God,
   how long will you keep this up?
Return to your scabbard.
   Haven’t you had enough? Can’t you call it quits?”
Jeremiah 47:6 (MSG)

Doomsday is a funny thing. With all of the upheaval in the world, it’s been getting a lot of press again lately.

Oh Doomsday, how we love thee. Let me count the ways:

  • My first brush with doomsday was a guy by the name of Hal Lindsey who wrote all sorts of books about the end of the world happening in the early 1980’s.
  • I also soon learned during my childhood about the “doomsday clock” that shows us how close we are to atomic annihilation. To this day I read about it from time to time. If you want to synchronize your watch, it’s currently six minutes to midnight.
  • In the early 80’s there was another guy who bought up ads in all the major newspapers in the world predicting the end of the world on a certain day at a certain hour. Man, was that a waste of advertising dollars.
  • I was a senior in high school in 1984. The whole George Orwell buzz got a lot of press.
  • I had a Bible prof who went to great lengths to prove that the Soviet Union was the evil empire Gog and Magog from Biblical prophecy who was going to invade Israel. About the time the Berlin Wall came down, I chuckled as I pictured him having to rewrite all of his exhaustive booklets, pamphlets and lecture notes.
  • In 1987 there was a “harmonic convergence” in which planets aligned. Lots of people gathered at “power centers” waiting for a major “energy shift.”
  • Then there was a rash of world events in the late 80’s and early 90’s that had everyone buzzing. The fall of communism, Tianamen Square, the Challenger disaster,  the San Francisco earthquake, and the baseball strike.
  • Of course, can we forget Y2K and the global doomsday that was about to befall us when the world’s computers couldn’t change their date to a new century? A few fortunate people still had atomic bomb shelters from the 1950’s to stockpile with supplies.
  • There’s a lot of buzz about the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012 and the end of the world. I’m not too worried about it. My Norman Rockwell Calendar from Van Wyk State Farm ended on January 31st, 2010. The sun dawned on 2011 just fine.
  • Wendy read me an article from the Wall Street Journal this past week about a million dead sardines washing up on shore in southern California. Some are seeing it as a sign of doomsday, but the only sign I see in it is that a shortage of sardines means the price of my Ceasar Salad dressing is likely to go up.

As I look back over my journey, I’ve learned to take prophetic doomsday predictions with a large grain of salt. Do I believe that world events are moving towards an eventual climax of events prophetically outlined in scripture? Yes, I do. Can worrying about the timing of these events add value or quality to my life? No.

I’m not worried about doomsday. I’m just worried about following God’s path for me, loving my wife and kids well, working hard, giving generously, and living full. As the old Keith Green song said, God can take care of the rest.

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Chapter-a-Day Amos 6

infomercial
Image by Marilyn M via Flickr

Woe to those addicted to feeling good—life without pain! those obsessed with looking good—life without wrinkles! They could not care less about their country going to ruin. Amos 6:6 (MSG)

Flipping through the channel guide on television this morning, here are the titles I saw:

  • Step & Lose weight
  • Get Luscious Hair!
  • Carve Abs in Bed!
  • Look Younger
  • Anti-Aging Secrets
  • Easy Hair Removal!
  • Weight Loss Breakthrough!
  • Millionaire’s Secrets
  • Sexy Swimsuit Body
  • Summer Sexy Abs
  • Microwave Grilling!
  • eBay Riches!
  • Get Sexier in 90 Days!
  • Look Younger in 14 Days!
  • Body Gospel
  • Look Younger Instantly
  • Food Lovers Fat Loss
  • Overcoming Anxiety

Was Amos talking to Israel, or to us?

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