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Posts tagged ‘peace’

Why Can’t I Quit Worrying?

SOURCE:   Mike Bechtle/Discipleship Journal

I felt defeated.

Worry took up a lot of my time, as job concerns, a mortgage, church demands, family issues—especially teenagers—all took their toll.

I had tried to quit worrying. I read articles, had conversations over coffee (worrying about whether my budget would allow a latté instead of a plain decaf), and determined to handle my concerns differently. Each time, my resolution worked—for a while. Soon, however, the old patterns reappeared, and my thoughts became more concerned with the situation than the solution. Like yo-yo dieting, I would stop worrying only to sink back deeper than before.

I worried even when there was nothing concrete to worry about. It had become a habit.

 Try, Try Again

My failure to conquer worry wasn’t from a lack of knowledge. I’d memorized Phil. 4:6–7 as a child and listened to countless sermons on the passage.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The passage was usually summarized like this:

  1. Worry is a choice (and we’re not supposed to choose it).
  2. We should bring everything to God in prayer.
  3. God will give us peace.

So when the tires on our family car were as thin as balloons, but we couldn’t yet afford to replace them, I decided to try the formula once again as a counter to my twin worries of finances and safety. Based on these admonitions, I chose not to worry about the car. I prayed about my concerns. I asked God for peace.

But peace didn’t come, and soon I began to worry again.

Why didn’t it work? If the instructions were true, I could only see two conclusions: Either I wasn’t doing my part (stop worrying, start praying), or God wasn’t doing His part (provide peace).

My theology told me God doesn’t lie, so I figured He would do His part. That left me. I must not have been trying hard enough. Now I really felt guilty. The worry was my fault, but I felt helpless.

Missing the Obvious

One summer afternoon, I reread Phil. 4:6–7 to see what I had missed. I looked at each word carefully, trying to discover what I was doing wrong. Then, by accident, my eyes wandered on to verses 8 and 9:

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Suddenly, the light came on.

Somehow, I had never seen the connection between these two sets of verses. Yet here was a logical progression of thought that finally made sense: Verses 6 and 7 tell me what not to do; verses 8 and 9 tell me what to do instead.

Worry took a lot of time and mental effort. My mind would be filled with concerns for hours at a time. When I tried to stop worrying, I had time available. Until I filled my mind with something different, new thoughts of worry just crowded in.

Weed Control

I found a helpful analogy right in my own front yard. In some parts of my lawn, the grass is thick and green. In other areas, it’s sparse and dry. There are even a few places where the grass is missing entirely.

When I mow the lawn, I notice that where the grass is healthy, there are no weeds. Where the lawn is sparse, there are a few. Where there is no grass, the weeds flourish.

Every time I notice the weedy spots, I think, “I really need to pull those things.” So I do, but within a few weeks they’re back—and I’m pulling them again. One day it hit me: I don’t have to pull weeds where the grass is thick. Instead of spending all my time pulling weeds, maybe I needed to invest time making the grass as healthy as possible. The more grass I had, the fewer weeds I’d have to pull.

The same applies to worry. Worry is like the weeds. God’s peace is the grass. Instead of just focusing on eliminating my worries, I needed to cultivate God’s peace.

Changing Your Mind

So I had a new challenge: to cultivate a mind characterized by peace. But how could I do that? I was an expert at growing worry, but I had a brown thumb when it came to growing peace.

Romans 12:2 held the key: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This verse didn’t tell me to behave differently; it said to think differently. My pattern was to focus on the negative, reviewing everything that could go wrong in a situation. I had to learn new ways of thinking.

When my son was little, we would occasionally bake a cake or cookies together. One time I said, “The recipe calls for two cups of sugar. Let’s put in two cups of salt instead.”

“No way,” he said. “The cake would taste awful.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. There’s no way the cake will taste good with that much salt in it.”

He knew the ingredients we put in would determine how the cake turned out. That applies to life as well. What we watch on television, listen to on the radio, or talk about are the ingredients for our attitudes. Our attitudes come from our thoughts. Our thoughts come from our inputs.

Just as I care for my lawn by providing water, nutrients, and insect control, I can care for my mind by providing the right thoughts. Reading Phil. 4:8–9 was like reading the ingredient list on a bag of grass seed. It told me exactly which thoughts to plant to grow a peaceful mind, thoughts that were

true: consistent with God and His Word

noble: worthy of respect

right: just and holy

pure: morally clean

lovely: pleasing and gracious

admirable: highly regarded

excellent: top quality

praiseworthy: deserving of high recognition.

But what if this didn’t work either? I was comforted to see that God’s instruction included a promise: God’s peace will stand guard—not only over our hearts, but over our minds. “The peace of God…will guard your hearts and your minds” (v. 7). Instead of listening to Satan’s lies, my job is to plant thoughts focusing on God’s truth. God’s job is to make them grow into peace.

Practicing, Not Perfect

Now came the test. How could I apply these verses to the areas that concerned me the most? I picked several problems that led me to worry, prayed about each, then selected an alternative to focus on.

I didn’t know where the money would come from for unexpected car repairs. I asked God to free me from worrying about it and asked Him to handle the situation. When my thoughts slipped back to worry, I consciously focused on what was true: God promised to supply all our needs and had been faithful to do so in the past.

I stewed about the impact of management decisions where I worked and realized that I often talked with coworkers who were the most negative about the organization. My worries were being fed by these conversations. My prayer was for God to handle the situation in His way and for me to trust Him for the results. When tempted to worry, I made the effort to focus on what was noble and admirable—and spent my time conversing with those who were more realistic about the situation.

I worried about my family members’ safety when they were out alone at night. So I asked God to protect them and focused on what was true and pure. God loved them more than I did and never left them alone. That allowed me to make good choices about things that were not true, such as changing the channel when my TV choices centered too much on violence and fear.

My thinking didn’t clear up immediately. Redoing a lawn takes some time and effort. Once it’s done, maintenance is a whole lot easier. When a weed invades a healthy lawn, it’s obvious. But if a weed appears in a larger patch of weeds, it just blends in with all the rest, and I’m overwhelmed with the task of dealing with them all. In the same way, a thought of worry is more obvious when my mind is filled with peace. As my thoughts became more peaceful, worry became a trigger that reminded me to analyze my thinking. Whenever I recognized anxiety, I filtered my thoughts through the grid of Phil. 4:8–9.

Do I still worry? Yes.

But now I’m sensitized to the fears that pop up in my mind, and I have practical, biblical tools for replacing those thoughts. When we fill our minds with what matters most, our minds are not at the mercy of what matters least. My job is to tend the garden of my mind. God is responsible for the harvest of peace.

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Jesus’ demeanor and behavior were so odd!

SOURCE:  Jan Johnson

Saturated in Serenity

In the last month I’ve walked through three situations that rank as the most stressful of life:  doing our income taxes, moving through a computer changeover, and being scolded publicly for something I didn’t do.

The changeover, as usual, was the one that caused a meltdown.  But after my initial fit, I printed out the August 2011 wisbit Relaxing into Another Reality. I rehearsed over and over how I was being invited to move from the chaotic left side of Rembrandt’s painting to the quiet, serene right side, sitting next to Jesus in the boat. I wanted to relax in the reality of the Kingdom of God and function in harmony with it, in experiential union with God. (As I reflected on the scolding, I realized that the other person was living on the chaotic left side and I didn’t want to join him. Same with the taxes:  just stay on the right side with Jesus.)

Encouraged by this, I wanted to picture Jesus in another gospel situation living in the vitality and power and energy of the Kingdom of God:  his arrest.

After interacting with God in his Gethsemane prayer (what great preparation), Jesus was roughed up and accused but exuded “a peace and calm which is beyond the knowledge of the world possessed Him…  His extreme gentleness of manner is marvelous… full of dignity and measured reason which is more effective than hot wrath. The majesty of heaven shines out in every word and deed in this hour of humiliation.”

Jesus’ demeanor and behavior was so odd!

When threatened with arrest, some people lead car chases and shoot at the police. The Roman soldiers and temple police must have expected such behavior from Jesus because they came equipped with lanterns and torches, apparently imagining they’d have to search in caves and crevices of the walls of the garden (John 18:3).

What did they think? Picture Jesus’ serenity as the chief priests who had taunted him and plotted to kill him now stand before him (Luke 22:52). Free of contempt or scorn, he isn’t sarcastic or cynical, saying, “I knew you’d show up eventually.”  If he had showed signs of agitation or turmoil, we would have excused it because contempt is deemed acceptable if you’re stressed. People say, “Don’t be offended. She’s under a lot of stress right now.” 

Instead, he was “not defenceless but undefending, not vanquished but uncontending, not helpless but majestic in voluntary self-submission for the highest purpose of love.”  That’s who I want to be when I grow up!

And, we can be sure Jesus had a right heart.  How?  By the way he healed the high priest’s slave when Peter sliced off his ear. 

From reading and experience about healing prayer, I know it requires a right heart most of all. Contrast the angry, taunting crowd with the tender kingdom heart of Jesus. That’s why these words on the cross must have flowed easily from his mouth (rather than be forced):  “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34).

Jesus responded with this gut-level serenity and love at this highly stressful moment because he was alive to the kingdom of God. His faith became a powerful life force (knocking over the soldiers at one point (John 18:6). This life in the kingdom of God moment by moment is the life I want, and which I taste now and then.

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Although recently experienced, much of the wording above adapted from chapter 8 of Invitation to the Jesus Life (quotation from Life of Christ syllabus, Seth Wilson and Edersheim).

Invitation to the Jesus Life

Prayer In The Face Of Frustration

SOURCE:  Taken from a post on Gospel.com

I’m going through a disappointing situation right now. Without getting into the details, a personal situation I was excited for has gone from hopeful to unsalvageable over the past week. To say I’m frustrated would be an understatement.

However, like many frustrating circumstances in life, it has provided daily (often hourly) opportunities to test my commitment to Jesus’ famous words in Matthew 22:37-40:

“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

It’s easy to love God when life is full of blessings. Likewise, it’s easy to love your neighbor when everyone is being friendly. But what about when your expectations are dashed and your neighbors are decidedly unfriendly? What I’m re-realizing through this experience is that prayer is incredibly necessary. I’ve been praying for God to take my worry and replace it with His grace and His peace. And, unsurprisingly, whenever I can rise above my own issues enough to lay them before God, He has been faithful in answering that prayer.

Perhaps you’re in a similar situation. Have you taken time to pray about the situation? What would it take for you to exhibit God’s love to the people involved?

When Anxiety Collides With Faith: Rough Waters Result

SOURCE:  From a blog post by Dr.Laura Hendrickson

Rats! Yesterday I had a chest x-ray, ordered by my doctor to follow-up last month’s pneumonia. Pneumonia in a breast cancer survivor can be the first sign of recurrence in the lung, so it’s important to check it out. I hated waiting for that second x-ray!

 My Plan For My Life

 I was counting on a negative result, so I could just forget about it, but there’s an anomaly in my right lung, just beneath the place where my breast cancer was. It’s probably nothing, but it could be serious. This means I need a CT scan, which involves waiting to have it and then waiting to be informed of the results.

 My plan for my life included crossing the possibility of recurrent cancer off my anxiety list. God’s plan for my life is not yet clear, but it surely includes continuing to challenge me on this issue for a while. I don’t like it!

 Amy Carmichael saw the story of Paul’s shipwreck in Acts 27 as a metaphor for the conflict between God’s will and our own hopes.

 I can’t even get through on the phone to schedule it, which means I don’t even know how long I’ll have to wait. For that matter, more tests may be recommended by the results from this one or, even worse, the dreaded “re-test in six months to see if it’s changed.” 

 But striking the place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and was immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves (Acts 27:41 NKJV).

 Here’s what she said about it:

Where the will of God and the will of the flesh are in conflict there will be rough water, and if the flesh does not yield to the Spirit there must follow the painful breaking up of hopes and expectations, even as the timbers of that ship were broken up by the violence of the waves.

 Exactly! I’m experiencing this discomfort because I haven’t let go and trusted God to do the best thing for me. Even though I recently blogged about this, saying that my anxieties are my friends because they drive me to God in prayer, here I am again.

 My Rough Water

 I struggled for a while this morning after I got the call from my doctor. I went to the web to see what the anomaly might mean. I begged God to give me the outcome I wanted. I searched his Word for evidence that I’d get what I hoped for.

 Finally I went to an older Bible to look at a note written during an earlier struggle with uncertainty over my health. Instead I found an old prayer, written many, many years ago.

  Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all to thee to be thine forever. Fill me and seal me with thy Holy Spirit. Use me as thou wilt, send me where thou wilt, work out thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.

I prayed this 34 years ago, as a new Christian. God confronted me with it this morning.

Did I really mean it? Do I still?

 God’s Peace

I acknowledged that I do, and the peace came. I don’t want to live with anxiety over my health, but God wants me to. This should be enough for me, because I know that he always brings good from the painful things he ordains for my life (Romans 8:28).

I’m sure that the anxiety will come back. As I mentioned the other day, that’s a good thing, because it drives me to prayer.

 How about you? Any “rough water” in your life? Have you talked to God about it yet?

Handling Stress Like Jesus

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Jan Johnson

When you’re nervous or intimidated, do you struggle to think clearly?  How about when you’re being questioned or even bullied?  That phrase, “Stress makes you stupid,” describes the way we struggle to answer the easiest of questions when we feel inadequate or challenged.

Because of this, I’ve always been mesmerized by Jesus’ clarity and peace during the “day of questions” of the final week of his earthly life.  Group after adversarial group came to him trying to trick him.  He knew what they were up to, yet he was not intimidated.  He gave answers that showed not only showed his clarity of thinking (as opposed to our muddled thinking when stressed) but also his brilliance in sorting out complex questions (“Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s . . .,”). I picture him that day with his shoulders relaxed, his voice calm, not indulging in dramatic or overstated questions, completely himself under fire.

Nor was Jesus combative.  He didn’t try to silence his questioners or play one-up games with them.  He took every question seriously and then spoke back to the deeper issues behind them (usually the Great Commandment:  love God; love others).  Even when he answered their question with another question (Matt. 21:23-26) it wasn’t out of irritability, but to point them to the answer.

In order for Jesus to respond to these testy intimidations with calmness, clarity, and depth, he must have lived with a deep peace inside him unknown to most of us.  His OKness was not about who liked him or didn’t like him, about who approved of him or didn’t approve of him, about whether bad or good things were about to happen to him. He walked this earth in complete peace – I think of Jesus as “peace on wheels.”  He had the kind of peace I begin to taste when I move through the day saying, “The Lord really is my shepherd;  I do have everything I need;  I can be like that crazy sheep, lying down satisfied in the green pasture. I can face shadows and darkness without fear because God really is me. can even sit across the table from a difficult person and remember that I am an anointed one of God with my cup full of whatever I need at this moment. My body really can be God’s dwelling place every minute of my life.”  As I do this, I taste the inner life of Jesus.

Jesus genuinely loved people, including his questioners.  So he didn’t see them as opponents or adversaries but as people standing in front of him that he had the opportunity to love.  This was how Jesus lived and breathed, loving God and loving others. We, too, can move into such a life, loving God and others even if it’s only for the next ten minutes throughout the day.

IDEAS FOR A HEALTHY LIFE & HEALTHY FAMILY

SOURCE:  Unknown

Consider these suggestions and adapt them to your life situation, temperament, interests, talents, and gifting to help bring more calmness and peace to yourself and your family.  As a result, you will experience healthy change in your life and in the life of your family.

1.  Go to bed early (one hour before your normal bed-time).  Experiment with a new pattern for your sleep to find out how more sleep might be helpful.

2.  Declare one night a week to be a “quiet night” (no TV, music, noise of any type).  Talk with each other, play games, read.

3.  Give kids an alternative to watching so much TV or being on the computer.  What about hobbies, family chore time, family fun time, date time with one child?

4.  Read a chapter from the Bible every day until it becomes a habit.  Experts say it takes 21 days of practice to develop a habit.

5.  Turn down a promotion or area of service that would demand even more time from your family than you can afford to give.

6.  Don’t accept any unnecessary business breakfast/dinner appointments.  Make it a working lunch when possible.

7.  As possible, sit together as a family at church….at least on occasion.

8.  Avoid the cultural pressure to give your children “everything now.”

9.  Establish strong family traditions around birthdays, holidays, back to school.  Make time to celebrate significant times in the life of the family.  Also celebrate “fun” times (successful studying for a test, completion of a hard task, “for no special reason” times)

10. Have a purposeful 10-minute dialogue with each family member every day for 21 days.

11. Unclutter your children’s schedule.  Balance them between work, play, friends, family, and rest.

12. Unclutter your own schedule.  Take 4 hours of “unnecessary” events out of your week.  Give one hour to your spouse, one to your children, one to a friend, and one to the Lord.

13. Help your children establish “purpose goals.”  These are goals that help them improve as an individual like goals in music, school, work, relational skills, involvement with older people, handling money, learning to maintain the car, etc.

14. As possible, write each one of your parents and children and tell them why you think the world is better because of them.

15. Give each family member a hug for 21 days in a row.

16. Compile a family tree and teach your children the history of their ancestors.

17. Get involved in a family project that serves or helps someone less fortunate.

18. Praise your spouse and children (genuinely) in their presence to someone else.

19. Help your kids with their homework.  Let them know you are available and interested.  But, don’t do it for them.

20. Make every effort to not let the sun go down on your anger.

21. Make a list of people who have hurt your feelings over the past year…then check your list to see if you have forgiven them.

22. Make a decision to honor your parents, even if they made a career out of dishonoring you.

23. Write out information about finances, wills, and important business information that your spouse can use to keep things under control in the event of your death.

24. May a priority to get out of debt.

25. Be willing to accept legitimate criticism from your spouse or a friend without reacting or defending yourself.

26. Say “no” to at least one thing a day that pulls your time, attention, and health away from what is better – even if it’s only a second piece of pie.

27. Go through your closets and give everything that you haven’t worn in a year (or longer) to a clothing relief organization.

28. Exercise a little every day for 21 days.

29. Establish a budget.

30. Pray for your spouse and children every day.

31. Take your spouse on a “dialogue” date.

32. Go to a Christian marriage enrichment seminar or read a book together on marriage and parenting appropriate to where you are in your family life cycle.

33. Establish a family mealtime at least one evening a week.

34. Develop distractions from problems and stresses such as hobbies and interests, but be sure these things do not contribute to the stress.

35. Develop a low-fat, low-sugar, low-salt diet.

36. Laugh.  Have fun.

37. Learn how and practice Christian meditation in the Presence of God and on His Word.

38. Choose friends wisely.

39. Don’t let things drift or be postponed – deal with them.

40. Admit fears and face them.

41. Work on a realistic self-image.

42. Do what is right – don’t cheat, lie, or be immoral – admit your faults and confess your sins.

43. Take one thing at a time – set priorities and steps to action; then cross them out when they are finished.

44. Be realistic – some things you cannot change.

45. Slow down – move, eat, and talk more slowly, to feel less pressured.

46. Avoid excuses – take responsibility for yourself and your own actions.

47. Talk things over – with a friend, relative, pastor, or counselor.

48. Complete unpleasant tasks first.

49. Set up “recovery times” after particular periods of stress.

50. Postpone making major decisions in times of stress.

51. Give yourself permission to fail.

52. Value life’s little blessings.

53. Accept yourself for who you are.

54. Cherish God’s love and wisdom.

55. Lean to say “no” to unreasonable demands without feeling guilty.

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