So, What’s the Secret?

For years, every time I heard a siren, I wondered if someone I loved had just died. “Wondered” doesn’t really cover it, either. Often, regardless of what was right in front of me—a laughing child, perhaps, or a beautiful view, or a friend who needed my attention—I dove unwittingly into an imaginary tragedy, my consciousness hijacked and sent on a wild mental goose chase. What if my husband was injured or dead? How would I ever be happy without him? Could our children cope with such a loss?

A new spot on my face distracted me for long moments as I pictured battling the same cancer that nearly took my father’s life. What if I had to face radiation, or chemo, or a surgery that left me disfigured? And as for things that go bump in the night, I couldn’t climb into bed alone without wondering if an intruder might creep into my room.

What if? What if? Those questions dropped into my mind and planted themselves there, growing into long, sad stories. They pulled me into a false world filled with heartache and trouble. Fear of the unknown and the unreal robbed me of joy in the present moment. I began to pray that God would make me fearless—and now, for the most part, I am.

What happened?

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Don’t Worry. Be Healthy.

“Now I don’t have to worry.”

I heard that quote in an ad for a prescription discount card. Really? We’ve got far better reasons than that to stop worrying. The best reason of all? God says “fret not” over and over in his Word. Need even more convincing? Here’s the short version of a great article by Don Joseph Goewey.[i]

Five hundred years ago, Michel de Montaigne said: “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.” Now there’s a study that proves it. In this study, subjects were asked to write down their worries over an extended period of time and then identify which of their imagined misfortunes did not actually happen. Lo and behold, it turns out that 85 percent of what subjects worried about never happened. As for the 15 percent that did happen, 79 percent of subjects discovered either they could handle the difficulty better than expected, or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning.

Most of what we worry over is little more than a fearful mind punishing us with exaggerations and misperceptions. And worry is no joke. The stress hormones worry dumps into our brains have been linked to serious physical, mental, and relational problems. Get rid of worry, and we have a better shot at living longer, happier, and more successful lives. We can rewire our brains to stop worrying. Here are three tools to get you started.

1. Decide not to believe the misfortune that your worried thoughts see in your future. Make the decision to stop worrying, and don’t waste another moment on it. Think of all the energy we can gain by deciding not to worry. Think of all the anxiety we’ll spare ourselves, all the needless stress we’ll avoid.

2. Rewire your brain to quiet the worry circuit. A tool as simple as The Clear Button can get you started. Here’s how it works.

Imagine a button at the center of your palm.

Press it and count to three, thinking of each number as a color.

        Breathe in, count 1, think red.

        Breathe in, count 2, think blue.

        Breathe in, count 3, think green.

•        On the exhale, completely let go of thinking anything for a moment.

Here’s the neurological reason why the Clear Button works. The part of the brain that causes stress reactions literally has the intelligence of a toddler. And every parent knows you don’t stop a tantrum by appealing to a child’s logic. You distract the child. This tool distracts the terrible two-year-old in your brain before worry can take over. This takes practice, but the more you bust stressful thinking during the day, the more your brain will strengthen synapses that end worry.

3. Another simple approach to dissolving worry is called “Finish Each Day and Be Done with It.” Let go of the day’s problems so you don’t take them home. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders, losses, and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; let today go so you can begin tomorrow well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. Each new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays.”

I believe the Lord covers our mistakes. He wants to give us peace, and happiness, and a good night’s sleep. Perhaps tonight he will use Emerson’s words, and those of Don Joseph Goewey, to do just that.


[i] Don Joseph Goewey / https://proattitude.com

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Thumper Was Right

Rabbit

In the movie “Bambi,” Thumper shyly but wisely said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.” Pretty good advice for a rabbit! Sure, there are times when we need to speak hard words, to stand for what is right and oppose sin or cruelty. Sadly, though, I’ve spoken harsh, negative or unkind words with no constructive reason to do so. Have you?

The apostle Paul had plenty to say about the subject. Check out these excerpts from First and Second Timothy.

Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money…

 In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything…

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father…

 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.”

Then Romans 12:18 (KJV) issues this rather challenging command, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” Notice it says “with all men,” not just with other believers.

When I was a teenager, we used to sing “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love.” We will rarely draw people to the Lord, or encourage those who already know him, by being sharp tongued, critical or gossipy. And so, in the coming weeks, I hope to remember Paul’s words, revisited in the voice of Thumper, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”

What’s your favorite verse about speaking softly, kindly or carefully? Please share it with the rest of us via the comments box, and have a great week!

Photo by Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0. accessed at Wikipedia under fair use. 

 

Syllabi

I can still see my seventeen-year-old self standing in a college bookstore, a stack of syllabi in hand. I expect the prep-for-class process has changed, but back then it worked like this:

  1. Register for classes. (In a gym full of card tables!)
  2. Pick up a syllabus for each class.
  3. Read through each one to see what will be required throughout the semester.
  4. Buy all the books needed for every class. (In person. At an actual bookstore.)

Hauling all those textbooks back to the dorm was no easy task. Talk about a beast of burden! The real burden, though, and the real beast, was in my own brain. I would inevitably look at a whole semester’s worth of assignments and wonder—with a good bit of worry—how I would ever be able to do all that work. Some part of me disregarded the long timeline, the months stretching out before me to offer the gift of ample time, as if it was all due TODAY.

Of course, I did have enough time, and did finish the assignments, and graduate and find employment and…But it took me a long time to learn this lesson:

When life looms large and its demands seem overwhelming, JUST DO TODAY!

Those early weeks of college were tainted by my insistence on mentally tackling way too much before the real time to do so. Life presents plenty of challenge, and when we try to take it all on at once, or even wonder how we will handle tomorrow while we are embroiled in today, we wreck any possibility of peace. Why do we do that? I think it has something to do with that old enemy of ours who seeks to steal, kill and destroy. It may also have something to do with our demented idea that we can control and handle all things on our own. Taking things one day at a time is much easier to do when we remember Who holds our future.

Jesus taught this lesson long ago. The sooner we learn it, the better!

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14: 27).

Darth Vader

Renee is two. She and I were enjoying a few quiet moments, rocking and reading Curious George in my guest room, when her eyes fell on an old photo of Steve dressed as Darth Vader. Her reaction surprised me.

  • “Nana, why is he so loud?”
  • Covering her eyes, “I have to do like this.”
  • “I’m going to pretend to fast forward him.”

So loud? Renee uses the word “loud” in place of “scary.” She was fascinated by the photo, yet knew it was troubling her and that she needed to turn away. While she was comforted by my explanation that it was simply Pop dressed up in a costume, I still moved the photo out of sight before going back to Curious George. Later, as I replayed Renee’s reaction in my mind, I began to think more about her very healthy response to fear.

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Just the Facts

I’m a big fan of moleskin notebooks. I’ve used them as journals for years. Last week, I came to the last page of my current edition and decided to flip through it for a few moments before shelving it and unwrapping a fresh volume. Those scribbled pages reminded me of old challenges, answered prayers, new discoveries, and fun times of weeks gone by. I also found five Bible passages copied into the front cover. ‘Can’t remember when I did that, but I’ll be copying them into my new journal. I hope you’ll find them encouraging as well. While I’m sharing them without commentary—just the facts as God has given them to us—I’d love to hear how they strike you.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15a).

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:18).

“Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12).

“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side. Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people” (Psalm 3:3-8).

“But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield” (Psalm 5:11-12).

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