Sunday, August 28, 2011

Survived!

Lots of wind and rain, but we didn't lose power.  Still gusting and cloudy, but we survived the hurricane!  (Of course, I'm still sore from the earthquake...)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquake!

I was looking for the lyrics to the old-school Donut Repair Club song of the same name, but I couldn't find them.

This place certainly was "rockin and a'rollin'!" Evacuating for real from the seventh story is quite a work out, especially with the thundering herds of the 12th floor at your back.

It definitely reminded me in a very real way how not in control of our own lives we are!  Praise God for His faithfulness, because I know I don't have to be afraid!  If the whole world comes crashing down around me, if the mountains fall into the sea, even if I die... Nothing can take me from His hand!

Now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to go examine my office windows for cracks.  Just in case. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

They Come Not Single Spies...

When sorrows come, they come not single spies
But in battalions.

~Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 4, Sc.5

 

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.  John 16:33, NIV

 

(All scripture references are HCSB, unless otherwise noted.)

 

I've noticed that when things go wrong, especially the things I really like to worry about, they come in bunches.  Trouble never seems to come in an easy-to-manage package.  I'm learning (slowly) that there is a reason for that.  And THAT is what I am going to talk about today:  why we have to give our worries to God, no matter HOW difficult our trouble is.

 

I think an essential question to ask, as I continue talking about worry, is to define what it is.  The <a href="http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/worry">dictionary</a> defines worry as "a cause of uneasiness or anxiety; trouble."  To worry is " to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts; fret."

 

Random trivia for the day: It also gives an alternate definition as "the action of the hounds in tearing to pieces the carcass of a fox." You're welcome.

 

The first thing I did when I decided to write about this was to jot down a list of words that I think of when I think of worry: anxiety; fear; doubt; not trusting; relying only on yourself.  In my previous post on this topic, Dr. whats-his-face (sorry, remote posting, will edit this later!) said (of having the anxiety button on your brain on permanent 'on' position) "fear becomes the lens through which we see the world."

 

When we give our (doubt/worry/anxiety/fear/trouble) to the Lord, He is going to care for us.  When we obey His word, and walk with Him, we experience the opposite of (doubt/worry/anxiety/fear/trouble).  What are the opposites of these?  My list has hope, love, peace, and faith/trust.

 

I keep seeing a few things over and over, both in myself and in the looking I've been doing.  Fear keeps popping up.  When we give ourselves over to anxiety, instead of relying on the Lord, we give fear a foothold.  Ouch.  Now, I know God's word has something (or two) to say about that.

 

We know that fear is a tool of the enemy, because it is the opposite of love:

          The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8

          There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment.  So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. 1 John 4:18

 

David, in Psalm 24:4, rejoiced that even though he walked through the valley of the shadow of death, he would not fear evil - because God was with him!  And in Proverbs 1:33, Solomon wrote that anyone who listens to wisdom "will live securely and be free from the fear of danger."  He goes on to explain in 2:6, "For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding."   

 

By salvation through Christ, and God's grace, Paul tells us that we did not "receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father!""  (Romans 8:15)

 

Now we come to the real meat of what I wanted to talk about.  In James and Romans, James and Paul tell us why God commands us not to doubt. 

         

James 1:2-8

 

<blockquote>Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith develops endurance.  But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

 

Now, if any of your lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.  But let him ask in faith without doubting.  For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.

 

The brother of humble circumstances should boast in his exaltation, but the one who is rich should boast in his humiliation because he will pass away like a flower of the field. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and dries up the grass; its flower falls off, and its beautiful appearance is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will wither away while pursuing his activities.

 

A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. No one undergoing a trial should say, "I am being tempted by God." For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn't tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires.  Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.

 

Don't be deceived, my dearly loved brothers.  Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.  By His own choice, He gave us a new birth by the message of truth so that we would be the firstfruits of His creatures.</blockquote>

 

Romans 5:3-5

 

<blockquote>And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.  This hope will not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.</blockquote>

 

These are two of my favorite passages in the Bible.  When we go through the trials of life, and obey God's commandment to stop worrying, we are completely blessed!  My husband and I were having a conversation about these verses, and the word endurance (υπομονην in Greek) appears in both passages.  The way I read it, when we have troubles (you know, the things that we worry about), instead of worrying, we should rejoice!  When we rejoice in the trouble, we develop endurance (υπομονην), which creates character, which gives us hope.

 

That passage in James is pretty much chock-full of important things to remember, and while it is important to read the whole thing (context is important), I don't want to stray too far from my point.  But when our faith is tested, and we rejoice (instead of giving ourselves over to fear), then our faith learns to endure.  This brings us hope (which God will not disappoint).  We also know (from the verses in my previous posts) that forbearing to worry brings us peace and strengthens our faith.

 

God's plan for our lives is perfect.  When we sin, and walk a path of (doubt/worry/anxiety/fear/trouble), we stray from that path.  But our Father is a loving Father, and when we repent, and ask for His forgiveness, He blesses us with the most beautiful gifts.

 

So the next time worry starts to creep in, remember: God is faithful, and you don't have to worry about a thing!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why Now?

Why Now?

I changed my mind.  I'm going to (sort of) take a small break from my discussion about worry to explain why I am doing this.

I just sort of jumped into this "blogging again" thing without explaining where I was coming from, or what I hoped to accomplish.  I spent a lot of time re-reading old posts, trying to edit them somewhat (for privacy and sanity reasons), and as I did so, a sort of pattern emerged. 

My tendency was to write when I was very stressed/anxious/worried (a LOT) or when I was giddy and excited (not as often).  The "excited" moments are sometimes so overboard, I wonder if I was trying to compensate for the less positive times in my life.  Looking back, I feel a sense of trying to cram as much joy into one moment as I could, before "reality" set back in.  (Hence the name of my blog.)

Deep down, I think was really writing for myself.  Sure, I had friends who read my blog back then, quite a few, sometimes.  And there were certainly times when I appreciated the comments, and the feeling like my blog was a "conversation."  But really, I think I wrote for myself.  Its a record of my journey to becoming an adult.  And its a reminder of God's grace and mercy, and the way He has guided my footsteps even when I was being unfaithful.

I am going to be honest: Part of me just wants to delete everything I have ever posted, because looking back on my journey is hard.  Sometimes, I really don't want to remember where I've come from, the times my heart was in rebellion against God.  I certainly don't want anyone to know how silly, or dark, or frustrated I was.  I still want to seem "normal."

BUT.

I still struggle.  It is by God's grace and mercy that I am a new creation - but sinful habits are so hard to walk away from.

So, here we go.  A new path.  A new way of thinking.  A new way of blogging.  Its time to put childish things behind me.

I'm not going to give up on talking about my journey.  Maybe, someday, (I hope) the things I've learned will help someone else.  If even one person is encouraged by my journey, and the change God has wrought in my life, every single moment of my past will have been worth it.

So.

The old posts (mostly) stay.  There is still some pruning to be done - but life is a journey.  A crazy, messy, silly journey.  So, in the immortal words of Mario, here we go!


--
Have you ever wondered if you are just imagining me?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fight or Flight?

I am going to go a little farther afield than I did in my last post, because I think it is good to understand what happens when we disobey God's commands not to worry. I am linking to an article that sums up pretty clearly the physiological responses of our bodies to stress.

Essentially, what it comes down to is this: When we get stressed, our body's immediate is to go into "flight or fight" mode. Our brains start pumping out several different chemicals, including adrenaline, that cause our heart rate to increase, blood flow to increase, and shut down or inhibit certain essential body functions until the "emergency" passes. These essential functions include digestion and reproduction!! When we embrace our worry, and let stress rule our lives, our bodies stop working the way they were meant to. Sometimes (at least in my experience), this actually increases the amount of anxiety you experience.

I'd like to quote a description of what "fight or flight" does to our bodies. I am going to add a disclaimer, too, that I do not agree with the entire philosophy behind the article, but the physiological facts are correct, and are a pretty succinct description of what happens. Just keep that in mind if you click over.

When our fight or flight response is activated, sequences of nerve cell firing occur and chemicals like adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol are released into our bloodstream. These patterns of nerve cell firing and chemical release cause our body to undergo a series of very dramatic changes. Our respiratory rate increases. Blood is shunted away from our digestive tract and directed into our muscles and limbs, which require extra energy and fuel for running and fighting. Our pupils dilate. Our awareness intensifies. Our sight sharpens. Our impulses quicken. Our perception of pain diminishes. Our immune system mobilizes with increased activation. We become prepared—physically and psychologically—for fight or flight. We scan and search our environment, "looking for the enemy."

When our fight or flight system is activated, we tend to perceive everything in our environment as a possible threat to our survival. By its very nature, the fight or flight system bypasses our rational mind—where our more well thought out beliefs exist—and moves us into "attack" mode. This state of alert causes us to perceive almost everything in our world as a possible threat to our survival. As such, we tend to see everyone and everything as a possible enemy. Like airport security during a terrorist threat, we are on the look out for every possible danger. We may overreact to the slightest comment. Our fear is exaggerated. Our thinking is distorted. We see everything through the filter of possible danger. We narrow our focus to those things that can harm us. Fear becomes the lens through which we see the world.

Neil F. Neimark, M.D.


I should emphasize something here. There is no shame in taking medication to deal with anxiety, panic attacks, or depression. If your doctor thinks you have a chemical imbalance that increases your anxiety levels, it is your responsibility to consider (prayerfully) any medical recommendatations your doctor suggests. It is important to understand what God wants for us, and expects of us, and unless you feel convicted to do so differently, it is perfectly reasonable and healthy to seek medical assistance. Medication won't fix everything though, even with medication I still struggle with changing my unhealthy and sinful thought patterns. Medicine isn't a "cure-all," and a chemical imbalance is no excuse for continuing to worry!

So we know that God tells us not to worry, and we know that when we do, our bodies go into "flight or fight" mode. But does God have a spiritual reason for His command not to be anxious? (Somewhat of a retorical question, of course He does!) That, I think, will be the subject of my next post. (Oooh, anticipation!)

Hakuna Matata

All right, I know its portrayed as a lazy way of life in a certain Disney film, but did you know that this is the way you are supposed to live?  It's true!  Look up Matthew 6:25ff. (come on, you've got Google at your finger tips, and I am mobile blogging!) Jesus gives us a whole list of things we shouldn't worry about, and follows it up with a reminder that our Heavenly Father will provide for us.

But if you are anything like me, not worrying is hard.  It's probably the sin I struggle with the most.  We are reminded in Phillipians 4:6 not to "worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." (HCSB).  And if you can do this, do you know what God promises?  Peace!  Verse 7 goes on to say "And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

What an amazing, wonderful promise!  The one thing a worrier like me never seems to have is peace.  It seems like my first response to problems is to dwell on all the things that could go wrong.  It becomes a habit, and the thinking patterns my husband refers to as "the dark place" becomes a well-worn path.  The better worn the path, the easier it is to walk down.  And do you know, Paul must have known that!  In the very next verse he commands:

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable - if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise - dwell on these things.

So there you go.  Anytime your mind starts to wander down unhealthy paths, keep this in mind.  And remember: Hakuna Matata!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Lucky?

Everyone says I'm lucky to have this view.  I guess I'm as lucky as the prisoner who can just glimpse the sky through his prison bars.

Do you think that glimpse makes him long even more for freedom?  I do.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

As I Expected

I am not a good Blogger.  It's funny, people ask me what I am up to now, and I feel so boring!  I work, I go home, I play with the cats.  Do the dinner thing.  Maybe read a book, maybe call my dad, maybe watch reality programming on Fox. Then bed!

It reminds me of a song, that my husband subjec... introduced me to.  Everyday is exactly the same...

And you know what?  I am okay with that.  It's the season we are in, and I know someday I'm going to look back on it fondly.