Anxiety (or, pursuing Peace) · prayer

The Power of Being Thankful

Being thankful is so powerful, I’m surprised at how often I need to be reminded to do it. Recently I was struggling with anxiety because of some unanswered questions. I had been losing so much energy, joy, and mind-space to the fearful possibilities on which I was focusing. Fear is such a thief.

One good thing: I spent a lot more time with God because I knew I needed Him. He somehow kept patiently reminding me of what He’s told me hundreds of times before: Remember to be thankful.

Sometimes journaling helps. In an old journal I have written, in large, frustrated letters: “THANK YOU FOR GUACAMOLE.” It was clearly the only thing I could think of to be thankful for at that moment. Being thankful can be hard work, especially when we are stuck in a negative mindset. It often requires creativity. But I find that once I begin, it comes more easily, and can be fun once I get on a roll. 

Being thankful changes our focus, helping us to realize we are not in charge. It digs us out of the trap of negative thinking. And I think there is also an element that can’t be easily explained in the natural — being thankful somehow changes the spiritual “air” around us, and intimidates the enemy of our souls.

Best of all, being thankful is like a GPS driving us in the most direct route to the Presence of the Father. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name” – Psalm 100:4. And from there, seeing Him more clearly without negative thoughts to blind us, we are more free to worship Him, and to just enjoy being near him. The enemy flees. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” – James 4:7. Being thankful is an excellent way to resist, and it brings freedom.

Anxiety (or, pursuing Peace) · prayer · Uncategorized

Too Many Details

I used to think I was a “detail person.” But over time, I realized that pretty much applies only to my artwork, and even in that details can overwhelm me. That’s why I prefer painting a close-up of an object rather than a landscape. I know a lot of amazing people who do so many things and handle so many details with energy and confidence. I’m just not one of those people. And I’m ok with that, until the schedules, needs, and expectations of my family, others and myself go beyond a certain point. My brain goes haywire and I turn into a rather unpleasant person.

Life can be overwhelming. Besides the necessary things of daily life, and the unplanned surprises (pleasant or unpleasant), we are more or less under the influence of our culture, which pressures us to be busy, to have more, volunteer more, have a clean house, a mown lawn with no dandelions, make more money, be more social, be doing all the time. Some people thrive on lots of activity (you go, you extrovert energizer bunnies! I admire you!). But some of us are drained by it all, overwhelmed by all the details of life. We require more simplicity, peace, and quiet in order to function well.

Even though we haven’t read it yet, my husband and I often talk about the basic principle of this book: Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson. Some of us do just fine with 1/4” margin all around their “page.” Some of us do better with one or two words on the page and a whole lot of white space (yes, give me that!). But no one does well with zero margin, words to the very edge of the page in every direction — everyone needs some space to deal with the unexpected, whether it’s a friend (or stranger) that needs help, or a tree falls on your house during a storm. And everyone needs some time to process life and not to hide behind a busy schedule.

Each detail of life carries a bit of weight. The more anxiety or worry attached to it, the heavier it is. I’m continually learning to “Cast all your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7). Some time ago, during worship at our church, I had a vague mental picture of Jesus smiling at me. It looked like there was something in His hand. I was mostly wondering if I was just making this picture up in my head, but also felt I should ask, “What is that in Your hand?” So I asked, and added, “By the way, I don’t have enough faith today to even hear your answer.” At that exact moment, our worship leader prayed, “Thank You that You hold the details of our lives in the palm of your hand.”

Anxiety (or, pursuing Peace)

Best Case Scenario

nap at noonI have such a well-developed habit of thinking of the worst case scenario. People have asked me, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” (meaning to be helpful). Well, I suggest that you don’t ask an INFP that question. We have stellar imaginations. I can come up with mind boggling disasters that would make you regret asking (if I happened to put it into words, instead of my usual brief, conventional answer followed by silently growing, fear-fertilizing thoughts that can hardly be stopped).

Recently, I decided to go with thinking about the best case scenario. “What’s the best thing that could happen in this situation?” I ask myself, and think and imagine great and exciting possibilities. I have found that my best case scenario is pretty realistic compared with the worst case. And it is at least as likely to happen. This change of focus has been a wonderful tool, and has taken a lot of fear weight off of me. I am looking forward to the day when it will be a habit, rather than a discipline.

Anxiety (or, pursuing Peace) · Uncategorized

The Love of Most Will Grow Cold

During a very difficult time, when someone had hurt me and people I loved, Jesus brought this verse clearly to my mind: “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” Matt 24:12. My first thought was something like, “Surely not me, Lord!” It was actually the first time I had ever considered that verse as applying to myself personally. To me, it had always been a more general verse, for the future, for other people in the end times. But as I pondered it, with Jesus there with me, I began to realize that my heart already had heavy frost around the edges.cold

In the following months of journaling (my therapy, my best way of communicating with God and seeing His work and presence in my life), I came to realize I could do nothing about my cold heart. Outward attempts to be kind made me feel artificial. My prayers for this person were bitter. I discovered in a new way that the only cure for my frigid heart was to draw close to the pure and warm heart of my Father God. In this case, I retreated, took refuge. Spent days and weeks, not trying to love or even pray for the person, but instead running to His arms, and staying there. Not doing anything. That is where my heart began to melt. I looked to Him, He comforted me. I didn’t have to do anything else (I kept asking) for a long, long time. Every time I asked, “Should I call? Text?” I heard, “Wait.” Every time I got bombarded with hateful thoughts, I learned to run to His arms, take refuge there, hide in Him. I learned to stay there longer, and return more often.

As I spent time there, I learned that He cared much more about my situation, and justice, and grace, than I did. I was able to fully hand it all over to Him (with a few hundred set backs). I had to hand over the “record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13) I was keeping, and let Him deal with that. I realized He had things timed, and that much was going on that I couldn’t see. I had to wait. I was learning to enjoy just being in His comforting, sweet presence meanwhile. I realized even more that there was no where I would rather be.

Then an opportunity came to show love, through an act of service, (not my spiritual gift, so it was extra difficult to obey). I had an attitude, but I knew the time was right. And, though it didn’t solve everything or bring on the apology I felt I deserved (I’ve since been able to give that expectation to God to keep, as well), it was a big turning point. It served to thaw that person’s heart and to enable them, and me, to see more clearly.