The Challenge of Small Things

My devotional reading this morning reminded me that we can grow through the challenge of the smallest circumstances in our lives.

It is small things that, just because of their smallness, distress and overset us. I mean the weight of daily care, which in their small details of personal expenditure, and in the careful routine of a household, and in the rearing of children, and in the society of friends, and in the outside duty, and in private affairs, singly and separately is sufficiently burdensome; but altogether, and on one set of shoulders, is sometimes felt to be more than the strength can bear. Those anxious lives, tempted to be fretful, and hasty, and self-important, and fussed with their incessant activities, may, if rightly interpreted, and manfully grasped, settle down into round and sunny centres of regular, and peaceful and fruitful activities. Where there is prayer, there is peace; and God, who makes every duty possible, knows, helps, and cares. Anthony W. Thorold

Anthony Thorold (1825-1895) was an Anglican Bishop of Winchester. For more of his quotes see:

More on Fruit of the Spirit

When Things are Unclear– Trust God

Two Quotes on the Sacrificial Life

Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

Shades of Light by Sharon Garlough Brown–Book Review

If you enjoyed Garlough’s Sensible Shoes series, you’ll love this book also.  It centers around Wren Crawford, a young woman suffering from anxiety, depression and panic attacks.  She lives in Kingsbury, about ten years after the events of Sensible Shoes.  You will once again meet Hannah, Mara, and Charissa and get some updates on their lives.  You will also learn the back story of their spiritual director, Katherine, who turns out to be Wren’s Aunt Kit.

If you or a loved one has suffered from mental illness, you will be able to emphasize with Wren and her family.  This is another story about surrendering to God — surrendering when life spirals out of control, or when we feel helpless to change the suffering and anguish experienced by someone else’s pain. How do we come alongside, yet still establish boundaries?  It’s also about unanswered questions and how to go forward in our lives when difficult circumstances lack closure.

Wren’s story is interwoven with excerpts from the letters, art and life of the artist, Vincent Van Gogh, as well as the biblical concept of Jesus as “the man of sorrows.”  It introduces the spiritual practice of visio divina –inviting God to speak to our heart as we contemplate an image.

I was disappointed that this book did not include any specific spiritual exercises or a study guide at the end.  There is a list of recommended resources with organizations that can help with mental illness as well as books on suicide, grief, the art of Vincent van Gogh and spiritual formation.

VERDICT:  5 STARS.  This book spoke to me on so may levels.  I highly recommend it.

If you haven’t read the other books by Sharon Garlough Brown see these reviews:

Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown — Book Review

Two Steps Forward by Sharon Garlough Brown — Book Review

A Book about Surrender

An Extra Mile by Sharon Garlough Brown–Book Review

 

 

 

Good Words

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”  Proverbs 12:25

This verse appeared in my devotion reading recently and I thought, “how appropriate.”  These days we are feeling all kinds of anxiety.  We’re worried about becoming ill, we’re worried about our jobs and the economy, we’re worried about friends and family we cannot visit, and more.  We’re also feeling isolated, alone, frustrated, and yes, even angry.  It’s easy to take those bad feelings out on others and lash out.  I actually read that divorce lawyers are expecting an uptick in cases filed — this often happens when people are confined in close quarters for longer than usual!

The verse above tells us that in trying times, it’s important to make our words “good.”  Good words can be affirming, encouraging, edifying or helpful.  Good words are courteous — please and thank you.  They lift others up — good job!  you look so nice!  have a blessed day!  They empathize — I’m sorry.  Can I pray for you?  How can I help?  They forgive — it’s okay.  Good words are loving.  They are patient, kind, truthful, hopeful and enduring.  Think back on your own life.  Aren’t the people who spoke those sorts of good words to you, the ones you appreciate and remember the most?

Because of original sin, we’re quicker to criticize, complain and tear down.  Social media makes it easy for us to respond in an instant, in anger, and without facing the consequences of seeing one another in person.  Then those thoughtless words spread around, creating more and more separation and sin.  We become stubborn;  we take sides;  we grumble and allow our discontent to grow.  Don’t give in to the temptation.    Here’s a test I read once to use before speaking:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it helpful?
  • Is it inspiring?
  • Is it necessary?
  • Is it kind?

In case you didn’t notice, this an anagram — the first letter of each word spells THINK.  So THINK before you speak.  Use your good words.  It’s the wise thing to do.

“The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him.”  Ecclesiastes 10:12

For more on kindness see these posts:

A Quote on Kindness

The Kindness Crown

The War For Kindness by Jamil Zaki — Book Review

Do Not Worry?

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” Matthew 6: 25-34

These verses have been coming up recently in my study.  First, we had a Sunday School lesson on them;  then they showed up again in a book I am reading about “respectable sins” (more about that in an upcoming post).  Yes, I am learning, worrying is a sin.  We may excuse it by saying, “that’s just how I am — I was born a worrywart!”  That certainly seems true of me.  We may even find it a bit admirable — worriers are often the best planners, and certainly God doesn’t want us to go through life oblivious to our needs and responsibilities.  At the core, however, worry betrays a lack of trust in God.  Jesus tells us in the verses above that we can rest assured that God cares for us, and our lives will work out, when we put His kingdom first.  Trust puts one foot forward at a time, day by day and resists feeling anxious about the future.

I also recently read about anxiety in a book about insomnia (didn’t I tell you God directs my reading?)  One suggestion given was, if you tend to worry and can’t sleep, set aside a “worry time” each day — maybe just 30 minutes.  Ask yourself what things are really bothering you, and then decide what you’ll do about it.  When the worry comes back, tell yourself, “I’ve already thought about that problem, and  I have a plan for dealing with it….. then put it out of your mind.  As a Christian, our “worry time” might be part of our hour of prayer.  Let God know what’s on your mind, and ask Him to help you resolve it.  Then ask for His peace about the situation, knowing He will give it to you.

Maybe, like me, you’re a natural worrier (because we all are, after all, natural sinners).  You can’t entirely avoid those worrisome thoughts;  but you can stop yourself from obsessing.  Turn them over to God.  Pray instead.

He loves you and so do !

Other posts about worry:

Who’s Got Your Back?

Growing Older

Afraid of all the Things by Scarlet Hiltibidal–Book Review

 

How Can I Become Less Anxious?

This is also from my daily devotional reading.

“Go on in all simplicity;  do not be so anxious to win a quiet mind, and it will be all the quieter.  Do not examine so closely into the progress of your soul.  Do not crave so much to be perfect, but let your spiritual life be formed by your duties, and by the actions which are called forth by circumstances.  Do not take overmuch thought for tomorrow.  God, who has led you safely so far will lead you on to the end.  Be altogether at rest in the loving holy confidence you ought to have in His heavenly Providence.”

St. Francis De Sales

For more on anxiety go to this post:

:Afraid of all the Things by Scarlet Hiltibidal–Book Review

 

Afraid of all the Things by Scarlet Hiltibidal–Book Review

Scarlet Hiltibidal and I have a lot in common;  she likes to write;  her favorite yogurt is Chobani almond coco loco;  and she’s afraid of many things.  As a child, she kept a journal of all the things that scared her– everything from firenadoes (yes, there is such a thing), plane crashes, drive-by shootings and not getting enough sleep.  As an adult, she recognizes that sometimes we anxious folks need medical intervention — the brain is part of our body, and a problem with it can’t always be overcome by positive thinking, anymore than thinking good thoughts will cure a stomach ache.  However, as Christians, we do have some important tools to help us work through our worry issues.  In other words through, our faith we gain the fortitude to cope with anxiety.

Afraid of All the Things

  • Sometimes we anxious people try to fake it.  We put on a façade of control.  Here’s what Scarlet says about that:

“If your identity revolves around a job, or a person, or what your body looks like, or anything other than Jesus, you will continue to live burdened;  and you will ultimately compound your fear.”

In other words, we don’t have to pretend;  we can rest in our true worth as children of God.

  • Anxious minds are distracted minds;  they wander everywhere imagining all sorts of tragic scenarios;  most of all they focus on the self.  To combat this, we need to become single-minded, focusing on God and His word.

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, think on these things…” Philippians 4:8

Memorizing scripture and repeating comforting verses in times of stress will calm our fears.

  • We can learn to accept help from other Christians.

“It’s scary out there.  We can’t do it without each other.  And the gifts that come from learning to lean on one another are priceless.”

 

  • Finally, when anxiety strikes, we can remember that fear has already been defeated.

“The work of Jesus on the cross has ALREADY saved us and WILL save us forever.”

Nothing that happens to us can affect our ultimate destiny.  Our sins, our fears, even our death will not last forever.

Verdict:  I’ve read many resources on anxiety, and I didn’t learn anything new from this one.  It was a bit repetitive.  However, Hiltibidal keeps the reader engaged with her personal examples and her Christian perspective is spot on.  I give it 4 stars.  If you would like to order this book, follow the link below:

https://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/afraid-of-all-the-things-3/

 

 

Problem or Blessing?

As I’ve been thinking about blessings this month, I’ve started to realize that feeling blessed has a lot to do with our perspective.  In other words, how do we think about things?  I’ve also learned a new phrase recently, “first world problem.”  Here’s the definition:  a minor frustration or irritation experienced by privileged people in rich countries.  Friends, think about it, most of our problems, all those things we get angry and worried about are really exactly this.  To much of the world, we’re whining about things that are pretty inconsequential.  Wouldn’t it be better when encountered with a “first world problem” to remind ourselves how really blessed we are?

Here are a few problems I encountered this week while on vacation visiting my daughter in South Carolina:

We arrived at our condo to find that due to a leak upstairs, our washer and dryer were not working!  I had to go to my daughter’s home about 20 minutes away to wash my clothes! (First world problem — how blessed am I to own a vacation home and an automatic washer and dryer in the first place!  How blessed am I to have plenty of clothing for goodness sake!  How blessed am I to have children who will help me out!)

We decided to meet our daughter for lunch at a favorite restaurant only to find out that it had closed!  What a disappointment!  We love their crab soup!  (First world problem– all we had to do was select another restaurant, there are many choices.  Aren’t we blessed to have a choice of foods and be able to afford to eat out at all?)

Here’s a good one:  our apartment in South Carolina does not have Wi-Fi.  We’re so used to this convenience, it’s annoying to be unable to look something up on google or check my email instantly (or write a blog post as soon as inspiration strikes).  Instead we had to make a trip to the library to use the computer. (First world problem!  Aren’t we incredibly blessed to have a library where we can not only use our computer — which we are blessed to own– but borrow books and movies at no cost.)

Well, you get the idea.  I don’t have to worry about having food for my next meal, shelter from the weather, or transportation.  I have resources to share.  I’m not alone in the world, I have family and friends around me.  Most of all, I have the church and the gospel. God has provided me with all that I need and more.  From now on, when I’m tempted to complain about one of those “first world problems” I’m going to count my blessings instead.  What about you?

 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life” (Matt 6:25-27)?

 

Love Lifted Me

“…Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid;  and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord save me!’  Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him …”  Matthew 29-31

I’ve never walked on water, but I’ve certainly had the experience of trusting God, and then almost in the same moment doubting and becoming anxious … only God’s love can lift us up and keep us from sinking during those times of fear.

The original version of this beautiful “love” hymn was written in 1912.  It was the joint effort of James Rowe who penned the words, while his friend, Howard E. Smith, composed the music.  Row worked for many years composing hymns and editing music journals for various publishers.  Sing these words when you are in need of God’s sustaining love.

Remembering the Wrong Things

Sometimes we remember the wrong things. The same destructive thoughts go round and round in our heads, driving out God’s peace and presence.  This is not God’s will for us.

When we can’t forget our own sins, and think we have done what can never be forgiven, we are forgetting God’s promise to remove those transgressions from us.  We need to remember His grace.

When we can’t forget the wrongs we have suffered in the past, we are forgetting God’s command to forgive others as He has forgiven us.  We need to remember His mercy.

When we can’t forget that thing we wanted so badly and never got, we are forgetting God’s provision.  We need to remember to give thanks to God for all that we have.

When we can’t forget our failures, we are forgetting God’s omnipotence and His plan.  We need to remember we can trust Him.

When we can’t forget our worries and fears, we are forgetting God’s love.  We need to remember to pour out all our concerns in prayer.

What do you need to stop remembering?

Life Can be Different

Product Details

While on vacation, I read this book which I had picked up at the local thrift store.  It follows a family through several generations of women suffering from mental illness.  Saffee, the final heroine, suffers from growing up in a household with a mother who behaves in bizarre ways and a father who denies that anything is wrong.  Isolation and  anxiety are the result. Saffee becomes afraid to have friends over, cautious of confiding in others and uneasy about her own future.  However, as a young teenager, Saffee hears God’s voice (not audibly, but internally) telling her “Watch….Listen…Learn.  Your life will be different.”

She holds onto those comforting words as she grows up, meets and marries a young man and moves into her first home.  Through her husband, friends and a growing relationship with God and the church, Saffee learns to honor the good things about her mother and appreciate her father’s steadfast loyalty.  She gradually becomes comfortable in revealing her true self to others.  Her life is different from her mother’s ….because of God.

Having grown up with similar family issues, I could identify and appreciate this fictional story.  All of us have “baggage” but we don’t have to keep holding onto it.  We can choose to trust God and let him change us.

“Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you.”  Psalm 55:22