Today

I have to confess that sometimes I get caught up in fantasizing about what might happen in the imminent future. Right now, I’m find myself thinking about the day when I say my final goodbyes to my cat Lucy and it’s heart-wrenching even to think about.

But that’s not a healthy place to go. I need to be here now, while Lucy is still alive so that I can truly appreciate every moment I have left with her.

I can imagine all sorts of different scenarios for the future, but it does no good for me now. And news flash to me, most of those scenarios never come close to becoming reality.

I think the saying goes that worry doesn’t add anything to tomorrow but robs today of its strength. You don’t gain any new wisdom or insight about anxious obsessing over what might happen tomorrow. You simply forget how to live in the present.

So once again, I’m writing myself a note reminding me to be present to the present and leave the future to the God who’s already there. I have no more power to change the future that’s coming than to add inches to my height (which might be a useful skill if it actually existed).

Thank you, God, for this moment and everything in it. Help me to appreciate it and live in it and give thanks for it and just be. Amen.

 

No More Panicked Worriers

“Hey Soul? No matter what?
God’s leaning over, taking your hand, & handing you just 3 words for today: DO. NOT. WORRY.
‘Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now —
Don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen…
God will help you deal with WHATEVER hard things come up when the time comes.’
Matthew 6:34, MSG.
God’s so got you & This Thing covered —
This Thing is so not going to take you down.
Just for today, just end this week real strong:
Be a prayer warrior–not a panicked worrier (Ann Voskamp).”

I confess that I am too much of a panicked worrier and not a prayer warrior. I think a whole lot of us are.

I read recently that worry says that everything that you want and that is important to you has to happen right now or it won’t happen at all.

God’s timetables are rarely in sync with ours, but as I’m still learning, his timing is always much, much better than mine.

Worry is a lie with just enough of the truth thrown in to make it more convincing.

God is 100% truthful in everything and His promises are always guaranteed.

Worry shows you an outcome without God in it.

God shows you an outcome without worry in it.

Even in the face of all this, why is worry such an automatic response? What makes it almost like the default setting that I revert back to when my world gets shaken even the tiniest little bit?

I think it’s because I’m still a work in progress. You and I are in the process of becoming who God has already declared us to be in Christ, and God is the one doing the molding and shaping.

So don’t fret if worry creeps in. Just repent and refocus and remember that God is faithful even in the midst of our most anxious moments. God’s promises will always outlast whatever it is we’re worried about.

The end.

 

 

In The Shadow of the Almighty

“Put all ‘supposing’ on one side and dwell in the shadow of the Almighty. Deliberately tell God that you will not fret about that thing. All our fret and worry is caused by calculating without God” (Oswald Chambers, Run Today’s Race).

That’s it. I should just end this post here. Oswald Chambers has been one of my favorite devotional writers for years because he was able to articulate truths like few others.

Worry is practical atheism. I confess that I’m just as much guilty of that as anybody. Sometimes I feel like anxiety and worry are default settings that I revert to when my circumstances get stressful.

The antidote to anxiety is worship. Worship isn’t telling God something He doesn’t already know, but reminding yourself of His infinite power and goodness. Worship is declaring the worth of God in everything you do– not just in singing– as a way to reboot your mind to see that God is still working out all things– including your stressful situations– for His glory and your good.

Worry is calculating without God. All those scenarios that cause such dread are missing one key ingredient– God. It’s easy to do when God doesn’t seem as present as your problems.

That’s when you trust the heart of God. You trust that faith really is believing when common sense tells you not to. You believe that God’s promises are just as guaranteed in this moment as they were through all the generations of the Bible, and that they are for you.

I’ll just end this with a quote from one of my favorite writers that sums it all up perfectly.

“Worry is belief gone wrong. Because you don’t believe that God will get it right. But peace – peace is belief that exhales. Because you believe that God’s provision is everywhere – like air” (Ann Voskamp).

 

 

Be Still My Soul

“Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last” (Catharina von Schlegel, translated by Jane Northwick).

Matthew Page spoke at The Church at Avenue South from Philippians 4:8 about overcoming anxiety by focusing your mind on Jesus. Whatever things are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and  commendable, dwell on these things.

That came at the perfect time for me. I, like so many others, need to be reminded from time to time that God’s got this. It’s not ultimately up to me to make my life work and figure every single detail out.

God has already won. Jesus has already conquered all those things that I fret and worry about. That’s where my mind should rest. That’s where my thoughts should dwell.

Hopefully, you needed this reminder, too.

 

Back to Radnor

Sometimes, you just need to get back to nature. There’s an almost irresistible urge to get away from everything mechanized and electronic and just commune with God’s creation.

For me, that was the urge and Radnor Lake State Park was once again the place to go to  satisfy that craving. It had been far too long since the last time I actually hiked there.

Almost immediately, I felt my blood pressure lowering and my anxiety levels bottoming out. Not that I was overly stressed, but any normal working day carries with it some amount of stress and worry.

I read somewhere that if you have trouble sleeping, the best way to reset your internal clock is to spend a week away from everything electronic and digital. For most of us, that’s not exactly the most practical solution.

I do think that even an hour or two can be beneficial to resetting your mental calm. You can actually hear yourself think. Life slows down for that brief period of time. Everything that seemed so pressing and urgent fades into the background for a little while.

I love it. I don’t know why I don’t go there more often.

The extra added benefit is that I got at least half of my 10,000 steps there. I walked until I was weary. But it was a good kind of weary that usually leads to a good night’s sleep.

Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to live that way all the time. You hear all the time that the best nutrition is to eat foods as close to the way God made them as possible. I wonder if we could learn to live as close to nature as possible if we wouldn’t be healthier– and not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.

Anyway, I recommend Radnor Lake if you’re ever in the area. It’s good for your soul.

 

Just Breathe

Sometimes, those moments of anxiety can be overwhelming. You know the feeling. You’re cruising down the interstate or sitting at your desk at work and suddenly, all those worries come crashing down on you. There may not be any logical reason for any of it, but you still find yourself fearful and anxious.

Just breathe.

Remember that today you will face nothing that Jesus hasn’t already overcome. Nothing will come up against you that He hasn’t already defeated on the cross.

He will work out all things for your good. It may not always look like you imagined it would, but in the end, it works out for not just the good but for the best.

Sometimes, you can say a prayer while you’re breathing in and out to calm yourself. I don’t mean a lengthy theological narrative, but a short one-sentence prayer. Maybe even a one- or two-word prayer along the lines of “Thank you” or “Help me.”

Or you can try this prayer I learned from one of Brennan Manning’s books.

When you breathe in, you can say, “Abba Father,” and when you breathe out you can say, “I belong to you,” until it becomes a kind of mantra. Say the words slowly and deliberately as if savoring and meditating on each one.

Repeat as often as necessary or until the meaning of the words finally begins to sink in and fear and anxiety loses their power over you.

It also helps to find a quiet, calm space to be alone for a bit. You may not be able to find a perfectly silent and still atmosphere, but you can find somewhere where you can hear yourself think.

Remember, God is with you. There’s nothing you will face that He can’t get you through. Absolutely nothing.

The end.

Those Wildflowers and Sparrows

“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” (Matthew 6:30-33).

That’s the key to dealing with worry.

Remember that God provides for wildflowers and sparrows. He will provide for you.

Worry says that God is not enough. Faith says that He is.

Worry says that I have to be in control of figuring a way out of my problems. Faith says God already has.

Worry kills. Faith renews.

If I’m given the choice, the obvious is to choose faith over worry.

Yet I still choose to worry. It seems like it’s hard-wired into my human nature to want to worry and to give into anxiety.

Let’s just call worry what it really is– unbelief.

I need to repent every time I give into worry and pray for God to grant me faith to believe.

I’m not saying I’m 100% there, but I’m closer today than I was yesterday.

So to recap: remember those wildflowers and sparrows and choose faith over worry.

The end.

 

What I Did Today

  
When I typed in the title to today’s post, I almost felt like I was getting ready to write on of those essays that we all used to write as sixth graders about what we did last summer. In my case, it wasn’t last summer, but this Sunday.

I started off in usual fashion by greeting the fine folks who came to worship at The Church at Avenue South. It was PERFECT weather, mid-70s, the kind that for me that conjures up every happy childhood memory.

I still can’t believe that I’m a part of what God is doing in the Berry Hill/Melrose area of Nashville (and that we’re literally next door to Athens Family Restaurant, which has some so-good-it-makes-you-wanna-slap-yo-momma Greek food. Plus, they serve breakfast food all day. Win.

From there, I went to the 28th annual Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. Everything was stellar, from the Greek salad to the Greek dancers to the almost ungodly baklava. The church building itself is beautiful, a fine example of a Byzantine cathedral (as I learned in the 30-minute tour provided by the church).

In addition to the perfection that was my Greek salad, I came home with a Greek Orthodox cross and an “Opa!” pin (for whenever I’m in a My Big Fat Greek Wedding mood. Which is often.

Then it was back to Ave South for a church-wide fellowship. They showed the Titans-Bucs game, which turned out really well for the Titans. For the Bucs? Not so much. At least for one week, the Tennessee Titans I root for have a winning record.

I’m truly blessed to know some of the amazing people I got to hang out with today. Plus, it’s hard to feel too depressed when it’s sunny with a high of 75 outside. Yeah, I think I mentioned already how perfect the weather was.

Worry doesn’t add anything to tomorrow, but it does rob today of it’s blessings. It keeps you from seeing what’s in front of you and from fully engaging in the moments as you’re living them.

Generally I’ve found that 9 out of 10 times, those worst-case scenarios you’re obsessing anxiously over never happen. The world doesn’t end and you don’t kick the bucket. Most of the time, you won’t remember what it was that stressed you out so bad to begin with.

You will remember the moments when you chose not to give into worry but instead chose to trust God in the moment. Those turn out to be the best kinds of moments.

 

Another Night of Worship

  
I always love when Kairos has their Night of Worship.

There’s more emphasis on music, which is something that Kairos does well on just about any given Tuesdays but especially on nights like these.

The theme was My Brave Is. Basically, it’s facing whatever you’re most afraid of and realizing that God in Jesus has already overcome it. It’s knowing that Perfect Love casts out all fear, including that one that’s been gnawing at you for years.

The weather cooperated magnificently. What started out as a stupid hot and humid day turned into a lovely breezy summer night after some rain swept through the area. It made for a fantastic After Hours gathering where plenty of hot dogs and shaved ice got consumed (and corn hole was played by all).

I need nights like this. I need worship. I need to get my mind off of me for a little while and onto Something Much Bigger and Better.

Worship is like the reset button on my WiFi router. It’s like rebooting my laptop every so often. It basically reorients my life around the True Priorities after I’ve allowed it to get seriously off track.

Worship reminds me that I’m not in control and that it is not up to me. This God who is worthy of all the songs ever sung about Him is more than up to taking care of me and my problems and getting me where I need to be.

After all these years, I still love volunteering as a greeter and welcoming the people as they enter the building. I wonder if sometimes faces like mine might be the first friendly, non-threatening faces some people have seen all day. Who knows what difference even something as simple as a smile might make in someone’s life?

So, it was a good night. Even the little bit of rain at the end couldn’t dampen my spirits.

My brave is that God will not fail to make me who He always meant for me to be (even if I still don’t know what that is) and will finish what He started in me so very long ago.

 

 

Just Ask

“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?” (Luke 11:13 MSG).

I wonder how many times I’ve used prayer as a last resort.

How many times have I obsessively worried about something and tried to figure out ways of handling it myself and it never even dawned on me to pray about it?

You’d think for as long as I’ve been a believer that I’d be quicker to prayer than I am.

I’m guessing you feel the same way.

I think it points to a lack of faith. It says that I really don’t believe that God can handle my problem. Oh sure, He can deal with everyone else’s issues but for some reason in my own mind, my circumstances are different.

I look at it this way. If God can raise Jesus from the dead, He can handle pretty much anything I’m ever going to throw at Him. He’s not going to be shocked or surprised at the needs I lay before Him.

I keep up with Ann Voskamp, a fantastic writer who also happens to put some of the best posts out there on social media. She usually ends them with the hashtag #preachingthegospeltomyself. For those who are unskilled in reading hashtag-ese, that means “preaching the gospel to myself.”

A lot of what I write is me reminding myself of what I already know. Scratch that. Nearly all of what I write is me preaching to myself and stirring memories of times before when God was faithful.

All it takes is the tiniest yielding, the most hesitant agreements, and God can show up and do what He does best– amaze.