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/

 

 

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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

Let’s Get Personal

I believe that once we become a Christian, and start trying to follow God’s will, He will gradually change us into the person He created us to be (in Lutheran speak, that’s sanctification).  That doesn’t mean our whole personality will do an about face.  It doesn’t mean we’ll be transformed into saints.  It does mean we’ll be more like Jesus, and more gifted, more joyful, more full of life, more peaceful with ourselves and others.

In my own case, the biggest thing God frees me from (I say frees because it still has to happen daily) is fear.  If I were asked to choose one word to describe myself, especially years ago, it would be shy, maybe even timid.  Social situations were not pleasant, but stressful.  I was afraid people wouldn’t like me, that they would discover what a fraud I was, or that I would make a stupid mistake.  Of course, that kept me from trying all kinds of things or taking risks of any kind … who knew what might happen?  It’s not a great way to live.

Becoming a serious Christian helped me to move outside of my comfort zone.  I’m still a quiet introvert (nothing wrong with that, it’s how God made me!) but I have taught Sunday School (children and adults), led workshops and retreats, given talks to groups, organized committees and more. I can use the gifts God gave me in my own way.  I’m not tooting my own horn, just telling you what God can do, because I would NEVER, EVER have done those things without Him.

Am I still afraid?  All the time.  My husband says if there isn’t something to worry about, I’ll invent it.  However, I don’t have to let my anxiety control me. I can step out in faith and take a risk.  A friend of mine once said, “there’s no better place to try something new than at church.  If you fail, they’ll still love you.”  That’s what’s so freeing about being a Christian — you know that no matter what happens, you can never lose the love and Christ.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.”  1 Timothy 1:7

What has God freed you from?  We want to hear from you.

 

 

Just Pray

“Pray and let God worry.”

Martin Luther

I admit it, I’m a worrier.  I fret about things and imagine the worst case scenario.  It’s become a joke with my children:  they call my side of the family “the happy Kaufmans” because we all have a hard time relaxing and having fun (and though my daughters make fun of us, they admit that deep down, they are happy Kaufmans, too). We’re constantly expecting something to go wrong.  This negative mindset(which boils down to a lack of trust in God) seems built into us, and I suspect it’s just part of our sinful nature.  We’re all inclined to sin in particular ways:  it may be genetic (I suspect it is in my case) or it may be learned.  It really doesn’t matter how it got there, the point is it persists and if it isn’t dealt with, it can drive a wedge between us and God.

There’s a remedy for my sin, and it will work for yours, too.  You can probably guess what it is: PRAYER.

Philippians 4:6-7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

If we focus on Jesus instead of our problem (whatever that may be) our minds will be renewed.  We will have peace instead of turmoil;  trust instead of anxiety;  gratitude instead of anger.  Wouldn’t life be so much better if we all would just pray?