How to Reduce Stress

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I have this sneaking suspicion that the title caught your attention. Am I right?

If I’m right and the title caught your attention, then you must be feeling stressed right now. Overwhelmed. Anxious. And here’s what I’m NOT going to do. I’m not going to throw out some well placed verses from the Bible that tell you to stop being that way. Cause I’m tired of that, too.

I am going to sit with a cup of coffee and just write down some of the thoughts that have been going through my mind today. When I spent some time in prayer, I kind of poured out my heart to God this morning. I feel on the edge of burnout, which in my job can have such negative repercussions  Hello. Have you met burned out social workers? They’re not so social and usually aren’t that nice.

I am very worried about becoming a “letter of the law” follower and not so much a “spirit of the law” follower. I believe each has two different outcomes. So, for a while this morning, I just sat in quiet. Well, as quiet as one can be with a demanding baby kitty in the room.

My mind started wandering to the old Sunday School lessons I learned about the Genesis account of the beginning of the Earth. In that account, God created a lovely, perfect world and placed a couple of people there. These people were given the task of going forth and multiplying. That’s it. In a perfect garden, enjoying each other and the creation around them.

Of course, that isn’t the end of the story, and it seems that we humans have done a pretty good job of screwing up perfection. I can’t live in the Garden of Eden; I have to live in the world I’ve been given. And that world includes seeing and hearing very ugly things. That world is filled with packed calendars and very high expectations.

I’m pretty sure it’s vital to have Garden time regularly. I shouldn’t wait until I am at the brink of burn out before I take some time to recoup. What if I figured out a way to just be alone with my thoughts and focus on my God a few minutes throughout the day. What would that do?

What would your Garden time look like? For me, I desperately need uninterrupted time to let my brain just be. No planned readings, nobody interrupting my thoughts. Just being free to wander to and fro. During that time, I am usually crafting, or doing dishes, or laundry, or just sitting. Sometimes I am actually in my garden pulling weeds, digging holes or planting flowers.

Fill up time. Garden time. Sabbath.

Lovely.

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What If?

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It occurred to me  as I’ve been trying desperately to wake up this rainy morning, that perhaps if I paid more attention during the day, God wouldn’t have to wake me up to give me the answers to the questions I’ve been asking.

Yesterday I was wrestling a bit with some dilemmas related to my job. I often wrestle with work related things. Last night, though, I woke up and I had a plan. Amazing. It makes sense, it’s exactly what needs to happen, and I know this is the direction I need to take.

Trouble is. I’m tired today.

What if:

  • I turned the volume of my life down during the day?
  • I dedicated a portion of my day to quiet?
  • Instead of the radio, I tuned in to God?
Lord, You have my attention.

Breaking the Fast

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Tonight I have entered in to what I feel is the hardest part of the fast – breaking it. It is very important at the end of an extended fast to make sure to gradually get your body comfortable with digestion again. It is so important to start with very small amounts of food – like a couple of spoonfuls of yogurt, or a few bites of easy on you veggies, and to spend a lot of time chewing your food like you’ve never chewed before. Overloading your body could not only cause you a whole lot of discomfort, but it could be life threatening, so PLEASE don’t take this part lightly.

The taste of the food is SO much more complex and intriguing right after a fast, and it makes me want more! Breaking a fast requires ever so much more discipline – both spiritual and physical than the actual fast. This is when you really get to put what you’ve learned into practice!

Tonight, I ate about 3 small bites of yogurt and then about 3 hours later I followed up with about 1/2 cup of asparagus. The half cup was probably over doing it a bit. Be prepared to have some more disgusting digestive stuff going on. You may experience some cramping and diarrhea stuff. You will probably get really gassy. These kinds of symptoms are really managed better when you choose very small amounts of foods over the course of the next few days and drink lots and lots of water.

I’m glad I did this fast. I learned a great deal, and much of what was started, I believe the Lord will finish. I’m looking forward to that journey!

Have you done an extended fast? Do you have any advise about breaking it? What have you learned?

 

 

Some More About Fasting

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I did a search of fasting in Scripture today, and ran across this portion in Isaiah. The more I read God’s word, the more I am impressed with His desire that we take care of people. Feed their bodies and their souls; clothe them in their nakedness; help them find rest when they’re weary.

Another thing I am always reminded when I read through Scripture is the insistence on good motives. So many times we get caught up in the traditions of our faith without making them meaningful. In Isaiah 58:3-5, the people asked Him, “We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ 

When you have lived a life in the presence of God, and then become involved in the rote-ness of the faith rather than the relationship with our God, you miss that closeness. These folks in Isaiah are crying out. They’re like, “Hey, we’re uncomfortable here. We’re fasting and wasting away, God. Doesn’t that mean anything to you? We want your presence!”

What I see is that a common thread throughout Scripture is that God isn’t impressed with acts that are self-serving. He wants behavior change. Listen to what he responds in verses 4-7: “What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD?  “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.”

Motives vs. Method is a big deal to God. I could site verse after verse after verse. God is more interested in the heart of the matter than the matter. So, in this time of fasting, I need to spend time checking my motives. Am I still quarreling and gossiping and ignoring the plights of the less fortunate? If so, I might as well go eat a bacon cheeseburger.

Quotes from New Living Translation.

They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love

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Warning: The following contains a not so nice post. I’m ranting, if you will.  Please do not read if you are uncomfortable with cynicism or criticism. 

You were warned.

 I have just about had it with Christians – and I am one. And by that I mean that I believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, he is the Son of God, he died and was victorious over death and by that sacrifice and miracle, I am a Daughter of the KING. I believe that. For most of my life, I have been very busy in ‘ministry’. I’ve been a Sunday School teacher, a VBS director, youth leader, worship leader, worship team member, I wrote curriculum for nearly everything. I loved being involved. For years, though, I’d look around and wonder why we really weren’t making much of a difference in our world.

 And then I stepped out of my bubble – my nice little church bubble where all the people were Christians and were members of my church, and all my friends were Christians, too. I liked that climate controlled bubble, and I’ve got to admit that some days I long for that comfort and that kinship. It can wear on a soul to be on the outside, because being out here nearly brings me to tears every day.

Because out here the masks are off and the smiles are gone.

Years ago,  I announced through an ad in the local paper that I was a Christian mom seeking to provide day care for children in my home. I ran that ad for over a month, and it went unanswered. I was a bit surprised that when I took the word ‘Christian’ out of my ad the next month, I had more calls than I knew what to do with. I didn’t understand that back then, but I have a very good idea now. 

The world is skeptical of Christians. And rightfully so. 

I have seen a lot of ugly stuff in my job as a child welfare worker. I knew I would when I first started, but I’ve been a bit surprised at the type of ugly I have seen. When I first started my job and I needed to find a home for a child, I would hope that a Christian home could be found. I had this idea that a hurting, abused, unloved child could experience the love of Jesus in a Christian home. And here’s the ugly: I haven’t found that to be true.  

What I have found to be true is that these hurting, abused, unloved children become targets and projects. And they get to learn how they just don’t measure up to our Christian expectations. They get to learn what is just not acceptable in the climate controlled bubble – The Can’ts if you will.  Because, you see, many of us Christians get in to a rut, I think. We dress up so that we can fit in that perfect climate controlled bubble. We get our masks on, wear the perfect costumes. But we don’t show love.

 Quite frankly, Christians, it’s time we step up and act like our Savior. We don’t need a degree in Greek or Hermanuetical studies to get that. It is time to put down our building tools, Church. We don’t need bigger, fancier, hipper stuff. We don’t need programs and committees. We really don’t need to have one more Bible study on the shelf to buy or one more meeting at the church to go to. We’ve had all that stuff and we still can’t show the world Jesus. 

Each one of us needs a mirror – the lighted, magnified make up mirrors that show every pore, blemish and wart.

We have not allowed the Holy Spririt to reign in us. We have not allowed the love of God to indwell in us. I think it’s time that we get our noses out of our little rule books and we certainly need to quit slapping people around with our expectations. The world gets what we don’t believe in. We tell them all the time.

Seriously. Have we ever thought of giving water to a thirsty person for the sake of quenching his thirst?

In John’s account of the Gospel, Jesus said that the whole world will know that we are his disciples by the love we show each other. Church, I have come to the conclusion that there might be a whole world full of Christians. I just don’t think there are very many disciples.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, 

 would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 

If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, 

I would be nothing. 

If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; 

but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

 

Love is patient and kind. 

Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. 

It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.

 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. 


But love will last forever! 

Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, 

and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 

But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.


When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. 

But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, 

but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. 

 All that I know now is partial and incomplete, 

but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.


Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

 

—Saint Paul, from the Bible