Keep it Light

DISSIPATION
noun
1.the act of dissipating.
2.the state of being dissipated; dispersion; disintegration.
3.a wasting by misuse: the dissipation of a fortune.
4.mental distraction; amusement; diversion.
5.dissolute way of living, especially excessive drinking of liquor;intemperance.
6.Physics, Mechanics. a process in which energy is used or lost without accomplishing useful work, as friction causing loss of mechanical energy.
If you knew a major storm was coming, what would be your words of warning and advice to your family and close friends?  Probably, you would give them some practical suggestions; store some food and water, gas up your car, maybe consider evacuating to safety.  Jesus, in Luke Chapter 21,  informs the disciples that devastating destruction is coming, He issues a storm warning.

“Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap;”  Luke 21:34

Jesus warning to all His disciples is to prepare, to be on guard and alert, to live expectantly.  But His concern is not for the practical, the material, but for the heart…always the heart…

  • Not weighted down with dissipation – keep your heart from wasting itself on things that do not matter.  God created a wonderful world and He wants us to enjoy it but when fun becomes our priority we are left empty.
  • and drunkenness – avoid over-indulgence in anything and everything that replaces God in our affections.  Jesus is referring directly to becoming drunk on alcohol but we can become addicted to anything: shopping, TV, food, etc.
  • and the worries of life – when a heart is full of worry it is full of pain, unable to function well.  Life has many problems and challenges but God does not want us to worry ; He want us to trust Him in and for everything  (Matthew 6:25-34).

I love how Jesus groups these three “problem children” together – dissipation, drunkenness, and worry.  All result in wasted time, energy and effort.  Like a gerbil in a wheel, spinning at top speed, going nowhere. The only way to keep going is to go faster but it is a waste.  The combination of dissipation, drunkenness, and worry are like heavy rocks that we carry with us everywhere.  These burdens consume our energy and thoughts and become the focus of our lives.  We are so busy carrying the “rocks” we don’t pay attention to anything or anyone else.  Our hearts are dragged down, damaged and crushed by the weight…

Jesus’ storm warning causes me to look into my heart.  How much time do I waste in a day?  Time is NOT a renewable resource!  Is my energy focused on indulging myself or does it flow outward to others.  How do I “spend” my time and energy?  Am I more focused on people or on myself and things?  Does what I am doing bring me closer to God of pull me away from Him?  Worry, is the worst of the three in some ways.  It is so easy to convince ourselves that with all that is going on in the world, we should be worried.  There are so many terrible things that can happen, we feel like worry makes sense, right?  WRONG!  My worry always indicates my lack of trust in God’s plan, purpose and care in my life.  Worry is a gigantic weight around my neck that hurts my back, makes my heart work too hard, and paralyzes me, causing me to be useless and ineffective.   Worst of all, worry is a sign of unbelief…

Oh Lord, help me keep you first in my heart.  There is no substitute for you, anything but you is a shadow.  Help me to properly balance work, rest and the enjoyment of the life you have graciously given me.  Help me trust you and keep my mind at peace.  Keep me light-hearted…

 

Blogging 101 – Dear Dream Reader

Today’s assignment – create a post that addresses your “Dream Reader”, the person who hope to reach through your blog and do something different.

Dear Dream Reader,

Be encouraged, be inspired…

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:37 – 39

With a prayer for you…

Let Me Use Your Words

My eyes open and I know something is very wrong. I am gripped with anxiety. I had a restless night, had trouble falling asleep, tried the couch for a while, drifted off, awoke, went back to bed, fell asleep again and woke at the first glimmer of daylight.

Tired and anxious with a “low-grade” headache, and an unsettled stomach, I took several deep breaths trying calm down.

Walking is a stress reliever for me so I go out and walk. That remedy, usually a sure thing, fails me. My husband asks me what’s wrong but that adds to my distress since the only answer I have sounds lame and whiny, “I don’t know!”

I have been learning the importance of regularly pouring my heart out to God; pouring it all out, the good the bad and the ugly. I take my laptop and start writing, a total free-write. I just type out everything that’s swirling around in my anxiety-ridden brain. I close my eyes some of the time and cry a lot of that time. I talk aloud as I type. I know I have to continue until I feel peace. I run out of words but my mind is still racing. Now what?

I pick up my Bible and turn to Psalm 142. I begin to type the psalm, saying the words aloud as I type. Time passes; I pray and type the psalm at least 3 times before I feel the burden lift.

Is this some kind of magical charm or guaranteed prayer formula – ABSOLUTELY NOT!!   I was not just “saying words”, I was saying God’s Word; this was a deeply personal and prayerful conversation between God and I.  Just as David was pleading for God to hear him, to help him, to release him, I was pleading with God to hear me, for peace, for calm, for deliverance.   I had run out of my own words so I used David’s.

I don’t know how long I sat there with my laptop but I sat there long enough, I prayed long enough, I talked with God long enough that the peace I had sought now replaced the anxiety that had me crippled and powerless. I deleted the conversation, it is private, between me and My King and now, it is settled.

Some hours later I realized why I was so anxious and I was able to deal with the very small issue that had paralyzed me. I believe God wanted me to see how gloriously dependent on Him I am and how His Word is the answer; He was testing me to see if I was going to put into practice what He had been teaching me. I passed the test.

Next time you find yourself anxious or struggling with a problem or person I encourage you to pour out your heart to God and open your Bible. The Psalms in particular are a treasure trove expressing every human emotion. Read a psalm, using the author’s words to talk to God. Write the psalm, take your time and think about the words, tell God how you feel. He is waiting to hear from you, to bring you peace.

I cry aloud with my voice to the Lord; I make supplication with my voice to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare my trouble before Him. Psalm 142:1,2

Writing 101 – Personality on a Page

Today’s challenge: We all have anxieties, worries and fears. What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears. Today’s twist: Write in a style distinct from your own.

In my humble and amateur opinion, I want to be very forthright and let you know, dear reader, that I am neither a proud person nor do I possess any degrees or accreditations from any institutions of higher learning in any subject whatsoever much less a degree or license in the practice of psychology, psychiatry or other type of recognized mental health profession; I consider myself to be a person who possesses several anxieties.

In addition to the aforementioned anxieties, I will openly and publically state in this forum that there are also a variety of issues and situations, past, present and future that cause me to worry and even to descend into a state of fear so paralyzing that words, movement and any activity that is in any way indicative of responsiveness may be completely and totally suspended for an indeterminate period of time (at least in my conscious perception).

By far, there is one common and well known creature that I encounter regularly in my daily perambulations through my neighborhood and most notably in the numerous and well-shaded nearby public parks that strikes the most intense levels of anxiety, worry and fear deep into my psyche causing me to flee and, while fleeing, to flail my arms in a way that is both supremely infantile and embarrassing regardless of who may be in the vicinity to observe my intense distress.

Dear reader, some of you have been faithful and diligent followers of my posts during this Writing 101 challenge as I have endeavored to improve my writing competency by composing a well-thought out response to the daily writing prompt; many of which have caused me to plumb the depths of my soul, exposing my true self boldly for your reading pleasure and hopefully, your use as you also seek improvement as a craftsman (or craftswoman) who strives to effectively express yourself through the medium of language and words.

This particular piece of self-revelation has been designed for you dear and faithful reader, you have persevered so long to arrive at the dramatic conclusion of this post and the final revelation of one of my deepest fears, the one that causes me to retreat from the free and fresh air into the safety of my car and home, the worry that prevents my enjoyment of a simple meal in a public place while enjoying the cool shade provided by the boughs of a graceful willow, the anxiety disrupting my precious and much-needed rest and respite from my taxing days, oh dear reader, the conclusion to my tale of woe is at hand and I confess to your tender eyes and ears my fear of…

SQUIRRELS!

dMG63n

Writing 101 – Storm Clouds

Todays’ challenge: Write a post inspired by a real conversation. The Twist: Include foreshadowing.

“Good Morning, Garden Gifts, how can we help you today? Oh, hello Lainie, how are you? What? You’re at the hospital? What was it this time? Don’t tell me, let me guess, he took his bike down that trail again!” said Meg.  Meg was in her usual spot on a Monday morning. Meg’s tiny, cluttered office was her home away from home. Post-It notes were everywhere, lots of photos, a calendar covered with more notes and a several “to-do” lists covered every inch of one wall. Meg tried to come in early on Monday’s hoping to take advantage of the solitude before her shop opened and the “real” workday began. Her Monday goal was to get ahead on things but she was happy if she could just catch up a little; running your own business was more than a full time job. And now, this phone call…

“Huh? Say that again, I am really having a hard time hearing you. You must be in a bad spot, the reception is terrible, all static-y. I’ll wait till you get to a better spot.“ She started to dig through a pile of folders, the perpetual Leaning Tower of Paper on the corner of her desk. “He did what?” With an abrupt motion, she stood, gripping the phone.   “I thought he was finished with all that! Well, what does the doctor say? Ok, ok, calm down, I can barely understand you. You’re right it IS serious. Yes I know you are upset, I’m upset too. It must have been terrifying.”

Meg began to pace back and forth, head down, receiver pressed to her ear. She nodded occasionally, even though she was all alone and no one could see her. At intervals, she would interject a short, “H-m-m” into the soliloquy pouring from the phone.

“Look, you have to try to calm yourself. Breathe slowly. Count with me. Breathe in one, two, three four, five, now hold it, hold it. Now let it out, real slow…one, two, three, four, five. Ok, again.” Meg was also breathing, inhaling and exhaling, the same slow deep breaths to calm herself.

“That’s better now. I know you are upset but try not to worry. We’ll get through this. He’s exactly where he needs to be right now.  You know God’s got this right?” Meg plunked down in her chair again and began searching her desk. Finally, her hand grasped a worn, leather-clad volume. She began flipping its pages. Like her wall, there were Post-It notes stuck to some pages, handwriting filled the margins on others, a few small sheets of notepaper fluttered onto the floor as she went back and forth, searching for the page she needed.

“Remember that verse, Lamentations 3:37, ‘Can anything happen without the Lord’s permission?’ Yes, I know this is difficult to hear right now, Lainie, but God is allowing this to happen. He has a purpose in all things!” Meg’s head was bent over her worn Bible, concentrating; at the same time, her lips were moving in silent prayer.

“You’re right, yes, God forgives our sins, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, He will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’   But sometimes sin has consequences and those consequences can be painful. God’s not taking revenge on you or him. I know you don’t want to go through this again, none of us do, including him. Oh, ok, I can hold on, you go ahead.” Meg held the phone away from her ear and waited, covering her eyes with her hand. She could hear the faint sound of a conversation through the phone.

“Oh, sure I understand. Let me share just one more verse with you, this has been my favorite for years, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.’ Notice how it does not say the path will be level or easy, just straight! It means He will show you the way if you just trust Him. That’s Proverbs 3:5, 6 by the way,” Meg paused, listening.

“Ok, I have to get going too. I am going to pray right now. Maybe this will be the last time he has to go to rehab. Some people have to go through the program a few times before it sticks with them and they quit for good. My brother has always been pretty hard-headed, you know that better than anyone, Sis, you’ve been down this road before. Thank God he’s alive.  It sounds like you found him just in time. God has given him another chance; our job is to pray he takes it!  Call me if anything changes and I will call you tomorrow. You take care of yourself, I’ll be praying for both of you!”

What’s Your Excuse??

Do You Want to Get Well-- What kind of question is that??  That is the last question to ask me when I am sick!   Migraine headaches used to be a chronic complaint for me.   I HATED those headaches.  They made me nauseous, made me feel like I was losing days out of my life.  When I was in the grip of a migraine I wanted to be asked if I would like a cup of tea; what chores needed to be taken care of; would I like anything to eat  Don’t ask me if I wanted to get well – of course I did, who wouldn’t!

At the pool of Bethesda, Jesus asked a man at this question.  According to the account in John 5, this pool was known as a place where miraculous healing occurred. When the water was stirred/moved, anyone going into the water would be healed; pretty simple, pretty amazing!  The man Jesus spoke to had been visiting the pool, hoping for healing but he was never fast enough.  He had been waiting for 38 years!!!  His answer to Jesus question?  “I have no man to put me in the water…someone goes before me!”  He does not give a direct answer to Jesus’ question, instead, he makes an excuse.

When I had one of those hated migraines I would try almost anything to relieve that pain.  Whenever I am sick I will do whatever it takes to get better, I  will swallow the yucky tasting medicine, eat the bland food, stay in bed – oh wait, that last one is not so bad!  I do not enjoy being sick and I’ll bet you don’t either!

Jesus tells the man to pick up his pallet (mat) and walk, the man is instantly healed.  But Jesus KNEW this man’s problem was much deeper than just needing a helping hand.  In addition to his obvious disability, this particular man was also spiritually sick.  Some time later, read what Jesus says to him in John 5, verse 14,  Afterward Jesus *found him in the temple and said to him,“Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.”  Note that in this case (but certainly not EVERY case), this man’s illness was caused by sin in his life.  The man at the pool was spiritually sick.  Knowing this, Jesus question, ‘do you want to get well’, takes on a deeper meaning.  If I am willing “do whatever it takes” to get well when I am physically sick, what is my excuse for my spiritual sickness?  Why do I tolerate my own spiritual sickness and stay in pain?  When I allow myself to dwell on thoughts of past sins, failure, feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness, powerlessness, anxiety, physical imperfections, self-pity, etc., etc, you get the idea; I am choosing to stay spiritually sick!     

 

“Whenever I allow myself to dwell on

There was little I could do to prevent those migraines. I found that staying well rested and stress free was somewhat helpful but I could never completely escape them.  I have learned that spiritual sickness is a lot like my migraines or any other physical sickness; it can’t be completely avoided but, by doing some  work, some preventative maintenance,  the intensity and duration of my spiritual sickness can be lessened.  My daily “must-do’s” are:

  • Read the Word of God, The Bible – no substitutes, no shortcuts!  Daily time spent reading the Bible is absolutely necessary to spiritual health! Pick a place to start reading and keep moving to the right; if there is something you do not understand, ask God, keep reading, God will make it clear.  If you have never read the Bible, I suggest starting with the Gospel of John.
  • Pray – talk to God anytime, anywhere, all the time, everywhere.  Especially at the first symptom of spiritual sickness pray this prayer, “God, I can’t, you can, help me!”
  • Worship – sing along and listen to words of praise, dancing optional and highly recommended.  Remember this is to the audience of One!

These next two should be done regularly but especially when you realize you are spiritually sick:

  • Writing – put your thoughts and feelings on paper (or on your computer).  This is between you and God only, no one ever needs to see or read them; write until you feel like it is all out and then tear it up/delete it.  As you write/type, picture Jesus, he watches with love.  Take frequent pauses to listen to God. 
  • Accountability – call, text, email or visit a trusted friend.  Choose a friend who will agree that your spiritual sickness is real, who will not condemn you for being sick, who will pray with and for you and most importantly, will point you back to Jesus and The Word and hold you accountable!

Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to get well?”.  Jesus is asking the same question today, “Do you want to get well?”  If the answer is yes, then, like the man at the pool, we need to pick up our pallets, we need to stop making excuses and get to work.  Then, Jesus will do the healing!!!

Little Lizards

Little LizardsLots of little lizards live here on Florida’s Gulf Coast; my best guess is that they are Southeastern Five-lined Skinks. These little guys are really quick, interesting to watch and very afraid of people – they run when they see you. Anyway, the other day, I opened my door to come in the house and I wasn’t looking. A tiny skink ran into my living room – ARGH!!! NOOOO!!! Generally I am not afraid of little animals/bugs UNLESS they are in my house – then PANIC!!! Skinks are completely harmless and they are fast!! Of course, he ran behind the extremely large wall unit and there was no possible way to get him out of there. Bottom line, I had to go to sleep, knowing this dude was in my house, hoping he would stay behind the wall unit in the living room and not decide to explore. I insisted that the living room light be kept on overnight, don’t ask me why, and made lots of noise when I started moving around the next morning!!!

Fear is an interesting thing.  Fear can range from alarm to panic, from the creeps to terror.  Fear can be the shivers, the willies or the heebie-jeebies.  Fear can cause awe, hesitation or complete temporary paralysis.  Fear can be powerful and rule our lives if we allow it.

What keeps you up at night? What are you afraid of?? What do you dread??  The world is a frightening place. In addition to skinks, there is much to fear, lots to worry about and things to dread. Planes crash, illness happens, evil abounds; so much is out there it is a wonder anyone ever leaves the safety of his or her home – EVER. Some of the things that scare me the most are in my own mind; my thoughts can spiral downward to a point where I am paralyzed with worry and anxiety about money or the lack thereof, fear of the future, the direction of my life. I can choose to be immobilized by my fears or work to master them.  I have learned the only way for me to conquer my fears, my rational mind must fight back.  I need a powerful weapon; I must focus on what is true, what is good. I look to the Lord, I look to the Word, I look to the one who is The Word.  When fear grips me, I recall Psalm 27:1, my “theme” verse for 2014…

“The LORD is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the defense of my life. Whom shall I dread?”

The LORD is my light. I do not need to be afraid of people who are thoughtless, destructive, or deliberately evil. I do not need to worry about the direction of my life.  He will shine in the places of darkness even if the darkness is in my own mind.  He will light my path.  His light will reveal what is true and drive away darkness!

The LORD is my salvation. I don’t have to panic in stressful situations, during a confrontation, when money is tight. He will rescue me and put me in a place of complete safety! He will provide a way and for my needs.  He has a place of ultimate safety prepared for me – Heaven!!

The LORD is the defense of my life. I don’t have to defend myself if someone slanders me, gossips about me, or intends to harm me in any way. He will be my defender and protector! He will fight the battle in my own mind.  He cannot be defeated!

Does fear overwhelm you at times?  How do you fight if?  I welcome your comments!

PS: I haven’t seen my little visitor all day. I am hoping he found his way out but just in case, the light WILL be left on…