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Entries in worry (5)

Tuesday
Apr092013

anxietation

There are plenty of things in my life that make me feel afraid or worried or anxious. Anxiety has been a growing issue over the past few years. Something I always dealt with by ignoring it, or hiding from it, or flat out running from it. The thing about worry and anxietythey may not run as fast as you, but they are tireless in their pursuit.

Lately I've taken a new approach to anxiety. I face it head on. And I pray. I pray without adding my anxiety to the formula God has laid out for me.

I have always prayed when things started getting tough, and that's a normal response, isn't it? I also prayed when things were going right, but when they went wrong it's like I would reach a whole new level of prayer. I'd start sweating it. And that isn't how God intended us to pray. 

Christ gave us the formula for prayer in what we now call "the Lord's Prayer," which goes exactly like  this

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.’

Matthew 6:9-13

No panic there, right? No feverish begging that things will be alright. No anxious wringing of hands, "Please God, PLEASE!" Just a pretty calm and orderly request of God, tempered by obedience on our part.

This prayer is the model we should use for our own prayer. We don't have to memorize it and use it word for word, but instead use it as a formula and a guide for how we approach God. We acknowledge Him first, as well as His kingdom and His dominance. We acknowledge his will for all of creation, heaven and Earth. We ask that our needs be fulfilled each day. We ask that our debts (and our sins) be forgiven, and we promise to forgive anyone who is in our debt (or has sinned against us). And we ask for guidance, away from evil, delivered from the evil in this world (and into God's kingdom). Pretty basic, isn't it?

Where's the worry? Where's the anxiety? Where's the fear?

There's no room for it in the formula. You'd have to insert it between the lines. But really, why would you? It doesn't make sense. It's a contradiction. It'll mess stuff up.

Think about other formulas in your life. Think of a recipe. If you're trying to make a casserole just like grandma used to make, you use the recipe your grandma gave you. You could add to the recipe, if you want, but the result you get isn't grandma's casseroleit's your own. Fine, if that's your goal. But if the goal is to stay true to the recipe, to the formula, to get the results intended by the recipe's creator, then adding your own ingredients is just going to spoil the mix.

This analogy falls apart, of course, because in life we sometimes want and even need to change the recipe. But God's recipe is perfect. It meets all of our needs perfectly. It offers us the full protection of God perfectly. It tells us exactly how to live according to His will, perfectly. Adding an extra ingredient, like worry or anxiety, is just going to make us stray from the recipe, and get results that are unpredictable and maybe even undesirable.

God doesn't want us to worry. He doesn't want us to feel anxiety. Of course, it's easier to say these things than to live them, and God's aware of that, too. 

As I write this, I'm experiencing my own anxiety and worry. I'm anxious because something is outside of my control. I can't fix it. I can't resolve the problem, not right away, and the consequences of it could have a big impact on me and my family for quite a while. It's uncomfortable and undesirable, but it is what it is.

Except I know the truth. God is right here with me, watching as I watch, listening as I listen, feeling as I feel. He knows. And because He knows, I can let go of the anxiety and worry. I don't have to let that rule my life, because that position is already filled.

So instead I tell God He is holy.

I ask that His perfect will be done in my life.

I ask that He meet my needs (even those I may not be aware of).

I ask that He forgive me for when I fail, and I promise to forgive others when they fail.

I ask that He lead me away from evil, and protect me from it, and deliver me into his Kingdom. 

Worry has no place in my life. Anxiety isn't something I'm meant to feel. It's the thing I choose over God, moment by moment, and I have to die to that choice. I have to live for Christ.

The best cure for worry and anxiety is to face them head on. Pray to God for strength and guidance, for a clear view of the road to take, and then take action. Make the call you're dreading. Go through the door and into the meeting that scares you. Start the conversation that you don't think you're ready for. Endings have to have beginnings, and until you've faced the challenges in your life you are standing still, and you'll have nothing but anticipation as your companion. God walks with us when we are actually walking. 

Fear is stationary. It stands in place. It lives in the places we used to be, or in the places we haven't yet been. We only feel fear when we're standing in place. Action moves us forward, away from the past, away from what was and what used to be, and toward the new future, with new opportunities and choices that can change our lives faster than we could ever anticipate.

God designed us to move. He will take care of the path, but it's up to use to take it.

So anxiety, worry, fear? Those have no place in my prayers or in my life. I come to God with them, I hand them over, I surrender, and I take action. I walk. God will be my guide, my strength, the light at my feet. But my feet have to keep moving, or I'll end up standing in darkness.

Friday
Mar292013

hopeitude

I was reading Following Your Bliss, Right off the Cliff on the New York Times website. Long and the short of it, "Following your dreams is risky and sometimes you fail." 

Duh. But yeah, it's true and it's something to think about during the planning process for your business (or your side business, or your community program, or wherever your dreams fit in the scheme of things). Sometimes the dream isn't enough.

There's some science in this article, about the part of the brain that controls worry and the pain that comes from it. And to overcome that physiological reactionso that we can take action and attempt to make our dreams come true, despite the risk of pain and failurewe feel hope.

I love this line from the article:

As paradoxical as it sounds, [Michael Derring] said, “If you stop worrying about the outcomes, you will achieve a better outcome.”

Stop worrying about the outcomes? Yikes! Most of the time, it seems like "worrying about the outcomes" is all we do! But there's a sweet sort of logic here.

The article is more or less saying, "Don't let your emotions become invested in the business." Don't put your self-worth on the line for a shoe store or an auto shop or a novel. If you fail, you'll believe you are the failure. But that's not how failure works. A person isn't a failure. Only actions can be failures. A person is a decision-making, action-taking, hope-and-faith-having machine. We make decisions, we take action, we have hope and faith that it will work out. And if it doesn't ...

If you approach a business or any other endeavor with the attitude that, should it fail, it isn't the end of the world, you can pick up and recover, you're chances of success actually increase. You're willing to take more risks, for starters, and risk is the price of momentum. You may take actions you wouldn't have taken before, in a more cautious mindset, and those actions lead to results, and those results may end up bringing you increased benefits. Or they may blow up and fade out. It happens.

From a financial standpoint, this is why you want to be smart about the way you invest in a business. Make the decision early on to stay away from debt. Take on investors, but don't take on loans. Investors know that they're taking a risk, and that it may not make a return. Lenders don't care either way if you succeed or fail, they expect repayment with interest and they'll try to destroy you if you don't follow through. Investors empower, lenders enslave. 

Trust me on this one ... I'm enslaved to a lot of lenders at the moment.

From a spiritual standpoint, this is why you want to ensure that your business is built to glorify God. God likes it when we do things that are empowering, that build something that brings good into the world. Staying focused on God's Ultimate Rule—Love your neighbor as you love yourself—means you're doing everything right. You won't have to worry about mistakes coming back to bite you in the ... assets. The business may fail, due to a lack of demand or bad timing or myriad other reasons, but it won't take you with it. 

So what happens after failure? Learning. This is the point where you pray and ask for wisdom. "Show me, Lord, where it went wrong. Show me how I can pick up and start again. Show me how to change my plan and build something that glorifies you." God never denies the request for wisdom. He just requires you to commit some brain power and effort to it.

This article ... I'm on the fence about it. I get a real "don't pursue your dreams because they're risky" vibe from it. But there are points made that are more encouraging. Hope—that's a good message. So read it as a cautionary tale. Have hope, but also have a plan. Have a goal, but don't worry about the outcome. Invest, but don't enslave yourself to the dream. You belong to a greater power than dreams.

Tuesday
Mar262013

beliefitude

I have a tendency to get overwhelmed. I've always been a "big picture" guy, preferring to look at the general flow and the potential outcome, rather than dither in the details. The more steps something has, the more reluctant I am to be involved.

The problem is that a large chunk of life involves details and steps. If you want to buy a home, there's a stack of paperwork that may make no sense whatsoever, but it has to be filed. (Why isn't buying a home like buying anything else? "Here's my money. Gimme a house." There's a whole 'nother blog post in that one, I think.)

If you want to learn to play the piano, you have to learn the layout of the keyboard, learn to read music, learn to make chords, learn to keep time. 

If you want to learn to be a better writer you have to learn the rules of grammar (and when to make exceptions), you have to learn how to edit, you have to learn how to rewrite and how to start the whole process all over again.

Anything worth having in life is usually going to involve going through steps. And going through steps requires patience.

I am not a patient man. And thus, I am often overwhelmed.

My biggest issue, as far as I've determined, is that I like to do the work fast, so I like to do everything that's required ALL AT ONCE. I don't just want to write the book, I want to edit as I go, lay it out as I go, create the cover, and publish it, all within a week's time (even that is stretching the limits of my patience sometimes). The result? A book. Sometimes a very good book. But often a book with errors and issues that could have been avoided. 

There's an argument that can be made here, from a marketing and strategy standpoint, regarding "build to ship, ship to profit." I agree with that argument, actually. But let's put the marketing hat aside or second and put on our life hat.

Life requires taking things in smaller chunks. Baby steps. Remember What About Bob? Dr. Leo's "Baby Steps" were just the thing to get Bob out of his apartment, with Gill in tow, and down to Lake WWinnipesaukee. He was even sailing! He was a sailor! And it started with baby steps to the elevator.

It's taken me a long time to get past just knowing that this is common sense and actually accepting it as common sense. One step, and you've started. Action is taken. Progress is made. You are closer than you were just a step before.

I had an epiphany yesterday as I was on a walk (trying to lose the gut I regrew thanks to my past commitment to chicken wings and chocolate). The truth is I don't have what it takes to do all that is expected of me.

That's OK. I can admit it. I can accept it. I'm not a failure, just because I can't accomplish everything that's on my plate. But here's where things veer from the typical, accepted course ... that doesn't mean I won't accomplish it all.

My epiphany really came down to this: True, I don't have what it takes. But God does. True, I will be overwhelmed, but God won't. True, there's just too much, and I just don't have the attention span, commitment, dedication, brain power, money, time, resources, connections, know-how, expertise ... But God does. 

That's what faith is really about, see? It's not about wishing and hoping and believing with all your might that "some giant spirit in the sky will fulfill my wish." It's about believing that God will give you everything you need to fulfill His WILL. It's about knowing, without doubt, that God really wants the best for you, and the best may not always be what YOU want.

I get overwhelmed by the details. But God always delivers on what I really need. If something slips through the cracks, even if there are uncomfortable consequences, I can rest easier knowing that something I'm not aware of is in the works. Something bigger, better, and more wonderful than I had anticipated. I can rest, knowing that even if things seem to be going wrong around me, there's someone who sees a picture even bigger than what I see. 

The struggle for me, right now, is that I'm thinking, "My non-Christian friends aren't going to get this." In my study of God's Word, what I'm finding is that it takes belief to understand what you're reading. It's like having the pass key for an encrypted file.

You have to actually want it. You have to actually believe, even if just a tiny bit, before the "data" starts to flow. This is what causes atheists to scoff, and I totally understand why. It caused ME to scoff, and I WAS a believer. "You have to believe to believe?"

Notice I didn't say "keep an open mind." It's not about that. It's about true belief, or the willingness to admit that you know so very little of what's really there to be known, and there is truth in what you're hearing. I'm a complete ingoramus, but as I study and learn and grow in God's Word, praying for wisdom and increased faith and to be filled with the Holy Spirit, I'm starting see more than I expected. 

Remember those pictures that were made up of thousands of smaller images, and if you stared long enough you could see the shape of something else? That's what it is. The details are masking it, hiding it from everyone, right in plain site. If you just glance at that picture without knowing something is there, you'll never see it. You have to stare. You have to know. You have to believe that the picture isn't just some big joke, some random collection of images. You have to look at it with the expectation that eventually you'll see past all the details and get the real picture.

Until then, it's going to seem overwhelming. After all, not all of the smaller images in those pictures is actually used to create the hidden image. Some have to be ignored. Some seem important, but end up being distractions. It can really start to feel overwhelming, it's true. But relax your eyes, be diligent, be calm, and suddenly the real picture comes into focus, and you can't believe you never saw it before.

Tuesday
Mar122013

choosification 

It's not always easy to keep your mouth shut. Or to keep yourself in check, say, when you're in heavy traffic or waiting behind "the Coupon Lady" at the grocery store. And when a bunch of that kind of stuff stacks up ... well, it ain't easy bein' easy.

What IS easy is complaining about it, even if you're just complaining to yourself. I do this a lot. I'm behind the only slow driver in three lanes of traffic, with cars zipping by on either side, too fast for me to scootch over and pass. The whole time I'm grumbling, "Great. Perfect. Typical!" And a few more choice, non-family-friendly terms.

I start getting that clenched feeling in my chest, the tightening in my neck and shoulders, the sizzle of my blood pressure going up. That tension only serves to make me more agressive, less reasonable, more of a buttocks chapeau. 

It's easy in those moments to react the wrong way, and it's even easier to look back at it and think, "It wasn't my fault ... Circumstances dictated ... it all just happened so fast ... I didn't have a choice!"

That's what's easy. What's hard is admitting to yourself (admit it!), "I could have handled that better. I made a bad choice." It's all about the choices.

Yesterday I was peeved at traffic, and I was peeved at being tired and hungry, and I was peeved at having to run an errand for my wife when all I wanted was to get home, and I was peeved at having to fight traffic AGAIN, after waiting fifteen minutes for my "fast" food to be made, and I was peeved that I was eating fast food after finally getting myself to hit the trails for some exercise after a long, fat hiatusall so I could get home in time for me to watch a few minutes of TV before I had to turn in for the evening. I managed to keep from taking things out on anyone directly, but the stuff going on in my head? The things I said aloud, in the privacy of my car, where only I ... OK, and God ... could hear me?

Oops. 

Those last two listeners are more important in this scenario than I gave credit at the time. God hears all, sees all, knows all ... he's better than the Great and Powerful OZ when it comes to that. And let's not discount the other listener in the car, who hears and feels and sees all of it too, and makes all the choices based on how he's communicating with himself. He's the one choosing to react to everything the way he does, so the way he chooses to communicate with himself is important. 

I didn't have to react the way I did, because I had a choice. Things happen fast? So does choosing. Actually, choosing happens faster, because you can choose ahead of time. "When I'm in traffic and it's slow and I'm getting angry, I'll take a deep breath, thank God for this quiet time, and chat with Him or listen to music or listen to a book or think about the book I'm writing."

See? I choosed. And I did it faster than I could possibly react to what's happening in front of me at any given moment, because I chose before I even got out of bed that morning. Of course, the thing to keep in mind is that these choices happen EVERY DAY. You have to make the choice, every day, about how you react to the things that you know will trigger you bein' the you that you don't like bein'.

It's all about the choices.

I choose wrong all the time. And that stinks. And then I feel guilty for those choices. I pray for forgiveness, and then I have to choose again. Choose to accept God's grace and forgiveness and grow from the experience, making better choices later, or choose to keep feeling that guilt and shame, so that the only message I ever communicate to myself is, "You aren't good enough. You failed. You always fail." 

It's all about the choices. 

Keeping my mouth shut is a chronic problem, as is keeping my attitude in check. But God honors us when we choose to do just that, despite the temptation to do otherwise. Trusting God, believing and having faith, that's a choice, too. You'll know when you've chosen well, if what you do brings you joy instead of dread, if it glorifies and honors God instead of tearing someone down (including yourself). 

Choose. But choose wisely.*

 

*I totally stole that from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." 

 

Tuesday
Feb262013

choiciness

This morning, despite hitting snooze a couple of times, I actually managed to get myself pulled together and out the door a little earlier than usual. I decided to detour from my route a bit and drop by Starbucks. This always takes me about 12 to 15 minutes out of my way. Sacrifices must be made.

On the drive out of my neighborhood, down a long, heavily populated street, walled with nice homes and manicured lawns and well-groomed trees and medians, I had a chance to see the full moon. It hovered slightly to the right of the line of the street, and it was an enormous, shining disk in a slowly brightening blue sky.

It seems so long since I've left the house in daylight on a work day, so maybe the slow sunrise made things a little more special. Or maybe it's the crisp, cold air, the cloudless sky, the light breeze. Before I climbed into my truck I heard owls in the distance. I heard leaves rustling in the breeze. I felt the chill of the air, and it made me feel pretty good. 

I worry about things, sometimes. All the time. And it's tough to get out of that habit. Because worry, fear, anxiety—these are killers. They're sins. Maybe not the kind you're used to, like lying or sexual immorality or stealing. They aren't the sins you normally hear about in a church sermon. But they represent a choice you make, sometimes on a minute-by-minute basis. And that choice tears you down, makes you useless and pointless. God doesn't want that for you.

This is one of the things I struggle with, pretty regularly. It's what I'm struggling with right this second, actually. There's a fear, trickling down my esophagus. A worry that's starting small but threatens to widen. An anxiety that is slowly sinking its claws into me. "Will I turn off my readers? Will the people I know roll their eyes, turn away, think less of me?" See that? Fear and worry and anxiety that I'd NEVER feel about anything else I'd say or do, but for some reason fear when I'm talking about my faith, about sin, about God.

And that's a choice I make.

So I'm making a different choice. This morning is beautiful, and that's a gift. Every moment is beautiful, and that's also a gift. And right now, I'm choosing to be dead to the sins of fear, worry, and anxiety and alive in Christ. I'm asking God to show me how I can server him better. I'm asking for wisdom, for a light on the path to righteousness and love. I'm asking how I, wretched sinner, can make a better choice.