Category: Practices (page 2 of 24)

5 Strategies for Anxiety

I’ve always seen myself as a strong person.

I’m up for a challenge. I don’t get scared. I’m not timid. I travel the world, will talk to anyone, and am always up for an adventure. Given that, I was really caught off-guard a few years ago when seemingly out of nowhere, I experienced a physical feeling of absolute terror. I felt like I was hyper-ventilating…out of control…racing thoughts…A panic attack?

“This is not ME!” I wanted to shout.

As I mentor young women, the most common confession I hear from them is that they are dealing with some degree of anxiety. It is hardly surprising given the speed of our lives, the conflict in our nation, and the 24/7 bombardment of noise. Add in the gray drear of February in MN and you have a perfect depression cocktail!

I know there’s no quick fix, and I’m not a trained therapist, but I thought I’d share what I tell myself and others when anxiety or depression creep around like a stealthy jaguar waiting to pounce.

  1. Get help. You are not alone. There is no shame in what you’re feeling. Set up an appointment with your doctor and a Christian counselor. Do your part (including getting medication if that’s what your doctor recommends) and trust God to do His.
  2. Slow down – say “no”, observe Sabbath, get sleep. What are the guard rails you have in place to protect yourself?
  3. Turn off the things that amp your anxiety – news, tv. books. Pay attention to what’s going on when you are most anxious.
  4. Lean in to relationships, experiences, and practices that bring life and peace. Make a list now. Praise music, exercise, an encouraging friend, getting outside? Our friend Mark Batterson reminds me:
  5. Affirm the truth. Satan is a lying liar and can distort anything. What are the lies you hear in your head when you’re most anxious? “You’re worthless”, “You can’t do this”, “You’re all alone – this is all on you” ? List them and then go to God’s Word and write down statements of truth (1 Peter 2:6; Psalm 32:7; Psalm 3:3;  Psalm 51:12; Philippians 4:7; Psalm 71:20;  Psalm 41:11; James 1:2-5; Psalm 37:23-24; 1 John 4:4; Hebrews 4:16; 1 Kings 8:28;  Psalm 91:4; James 4:7-8)

Lastly, a couple of resources for anxiety reducing practices:

Abide is a guided prayer app that I use. You can choose the topic, choose background music (or a rushing stream like I have), and the person praying (there are definitely some I like better than others). Some of the prayers are more like Lectio Divina, and some are Examen prayers.

Breath prayer – Breathe in a name for God. Breathe out the desire of your heart. Example: Prince of Peace…Calm my anxious heart.

Those are my thoughts. What would you add? What has been helpful to you?

 

The One Practice You May Need Most This Week

How many of you are multi-tasking right now? Admit it…

You’re waiting in line at Starbucks, listening to the guy next to you talk about his favorite Super Bowl commercial, and scrolling through this post.

Or you have CNN on the TV, while you are eating a piece of toast, feeding your toddler, and clicking back and forth between this and Twitter. Right?

Me too.

I want to do and see and hear ALL OF THE THINGS. Now.

I have a busy mind and a serious case of FOMO.

Like gawkers at an accident, I’m also perversely attracted to what outrageous thing has been said or done in our unsettled (ahem…?) political climate.

The problem with this is that it makes for a lot of noise in my little brain. A lot of different voices vying for attention.

Silence may be the most important discipline you and I need this week.

No, I don’t mean not speaking up for those without a voice. I don’t mean abdicating our responsibility to speak truth.

I mean silence as in turning off the radio. Turning off the TV news. Turning away from Twitter.

I mean making space for God. Leaning in to hear His whispers instead of the shouts of the world.

The other day I was walking around Lake of the Isles at an arctic 5 degrees. I had been listening to a podcast on my phone, but all of a sudden it stopped – frozen – and I was left with a lot of white space.

The world around me was snowy and silent. The clatter in my ears was stilled.

With this space, I found myself noticing the beauty of creation and thanking God.

Several who are experiencing injustice around the world came to mind and I prayed for them.

A new idea emerged.

The Holy Spirit prompted me to reexamine how I’m viewing a relationship.

God spoke into the silence.

Some of you reading this may be genuine candle-lighting, silence-seeking contemplatives. Bless you. That would not be me.

But my frozen phone made me think about the importance of choosing this as a discipline more often. So yesterday my Sabbath included no radio, no news, no Twitter.

Less static, more stillness.

What if, this week, we set aside time to turn off the noise, and like Samuel, said, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”?

3 Questions I’m Asking About Spiritual Disciplines

When Katy was about 5 years old she did something I thought deserved a “time out” so I told her to sit on the stairs. A few minutes later, I walked by and heard her mumbling something.

“What are you saying Katy?”

Scowling and with the most disgusted, put-upon tone she could muster she said, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, later on however it produces a harvest of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it!”*

So if “discipline” is unpleasant,  “spiritual disciplines” will be something I hate…a necessary burden to make me more like Jesus, right?  But then I read Matthew 11:28-30:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

And then there’s Matthew 15:8-9 where Jesus says:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’”

A spiritual practice is not an end in itself – not something we do to get spiritual brownie points, but rather, training we choose, like training for a marathon, that bit by bit, stretches our spiritual muscles, draws us closer to God, and transforms us into people who are more like Him.

In Adele Calhoun’s Spiritual Disciplines Handbook,** she writes, “The simple truth is that wanting to keep company with Jesus has a staying power that ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ seldom have.”

So, three questions I’m asking myself:

  1. Where is my desire and longing? Where am I least like Jesus, but long to be?
  2. How do I want or need to be with God? (For example, I am an extrovert, so the discipline of silence and solitude has been stretching, but so fruitful)
  3. What spiritual practices might the Holy Spirit be inviting me to step into? As I do, they may be hard, but do they foster love and intimacy with the Lord, or resentment? Is this something I am doing with Jesus, or something that is ill-fitting and legalistic?

The post on fasting seems to have hit a nerve!  Some of you identified with my struggle, and some of you thanked me for being authentic, but you guys are way too shy about sharing your wisdom, insights and encouragement that could benefit everyone!  So many of you respond directly to me instead of posting in the comments. I thought you’d like to see some valuable thoughts that folks sent me or posted on FB:

I trained like you would for a marathon. I started out fasting from sugar . . . the next time I added bread . . . meat . . . vegetables . . . fruits . . . juice . . . until I could just drink water. One day a week. These days I am working on fasting from all electronic devices one day a week!

My husband and I have been regularly fasting over many years. It is challenging yes, but the benefits so outweigh the discomfort, that we actually enjoy it, especially the 21 day fast Daniel fast we do at the beginning of the year. The awareness of God, how He strengthens and enables us to go through is amazing.  Starting can be difficult but when it becomes a part of your life, it’s much easier. Drawing closer to God in this way is worth it.
Fasting? You have come to the right person!
When I became Orthodox I knew right away this was not something I was going to like. We fast on Wednesdays and Fridays — Wednesdays because it was the day Christ was betrayed and Friday because that was the day Christ was crucified. It is all done to remember our Lord . These are not strict fasts– only no meat or dairy but that is bad enough for a little fat person who loves her ice cream, yogurt, cheese and COOKIES. However I’ve discovered that Oreos are legal!
 
Seriously, I have grown to look forward to the discipline especially of the 40 day fasts of Nativity and Lent. Still only no meat or dairy for those. The process has drawn me closer to my Lord and His sacrifice. Easy? No but so worthwhile and beneficial to my spiritual growth. Forgive me for sounding”preachy” but the whole experience has has been an eye- opener for me and among other things has taught me that I am never too old to learn new helps in my spiritual life.
 
Disclaimers also come with these fasts– do not make anyone else uncomfortable by fasting ( as if invited out or there is no other food available)  Thinking of someone else always comes first.
 *Hebrews 12:11 which we had memorized as a family.
** Highly recommend this book! In it there is a chapter on fasting.
Some posts on this blog contain Amazon affiliate links – I receive a tiny commission on any purchases you make from links, but I’m not paid to recommend any particular item. I’d never include a link to anything I didn’t own or feel great about endorsing.

One Thing I Don’t Want to do to Be Like Jesus

Confession: I reeeeally don’t like discomfort. (shocking, I know)

I don’t like inconvenience, or pain, or sacrifice, or waiting.

Thus, I HATE fasting.

This means that I had a little problem Monday, because part of my devotional reading was from Mark 2 on fasting.

Just the fact that Jesus brought the idea of fasting to my attention again was soooo irritating, and then actually considering it, and rationalizing with all the reasons I shouldn’t do it was…well, really uncomfortable for me.

Like all spiritual disciplines, fasting is just a means to an end – to help us become more like Jesus who is love. When we I think of “love” I like all the GOOD FEELS, and the affirmation that comes from doing kind things – you know…what I get out of it. But practicing sacrifice by fasting in order to get better at loving sacrificially? Uh, no thanks.

Fasting in order to better identify with what Jesus went through to draw me into closer relationship with Him? Gosh, isn’t there another way?

Fasting in order to get rid of extraneous (??) stuff so we can just focus on Jesus all day? Puleeze! The last thing I’m thinking about when I’m hungry is Jesus.

FISH TACOS for Pete’s sake! This is more my speed…

But I’m such a rule-follower that Monday I though OK (heavy sigh), I’ll fast til dinner.

About 11 a.m. I grabbed a handful of Craisins from the fridge trying not to think about what a Losey McLoserson I am, while rationalized that I was doing other sacrificial things so I didn’t really need to fast, and after all, I can do it any time I have to. I just don’t have to right now.

Can you give a sister some help here?

What has your experience been with fasting (or other spiritual practices you don’t like)?

Me and Mr. Trump

Kellyanne Conway (Trump advisor) : “Judge Donald Trump by “what’s in his heart [not] what’s come out of his mouth.”

Jesus: “…out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”*

Some people are so easy for me to judge. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. I compare myself with them and feel comfortably self-righteous.

“Bam! I’m better than THAT!”

“Pow! I’d never say THAT!”

Their speech, like gangrene, is so ugly and offensive it’s easy to recognize that they must have heart disease.

But then I read more of my Bible and I’m reminded:

The heart is deceitful above all things …” Jeremiah 17:9 as in “MY heart is deceitful above all things…” There is hidden heart decay that I don’t want to face. And then…

“…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23

That means I have heart a disease, and so do you. Even though my words may mask the condition of my heart more than others, there is pride and lack of love, and selfishness pumping through the chambers.

This weekend, John preached on the power of our words, and included an oral check-up. Some of these questions**may help you assess the condition of your heart, but then what? How do we do cardiac care?

Proverbs 4:23-24 says,

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Romans 12:2

We may hear this a lot, but do we really pay attention to it? It can be really uncomfortable, but what if we ask:

Will this…

movie…

relationship…

activity…

book…

Twitter/FB/Instagram feed…

contribute to my spiritual heart health or heart decay?

As a result will my heart be beating more in sync with the heart of Jesus and because of that will my words be more like His words? Or will I be more prone to crass language, gossip, criticism, cynicism…?

 

*Luke 6:45

**

  1. Would people say you talk too much or hold too much inside?
  2. Which is harder for you, receiving criticism, or offering it?
  3. Are you more about asking questions or giving answers?
  4. When is the last time you misrepresented/exaggerated/deceived/lied to someone?
  5. Sometimes we confuse swearing with bad language (gossip/anger/pettiness etc.) Which is more of a temptation for you?
  6. Words + faith…Is your faith a state secret? Do people see what they hear?
  7. When was the last time you resolved a conflict & strengthened a relationship?
  8. What would one who knows you say is truer: Grace over Truth or Truth over grace?
  9. In a typical conversation do you walk away feeling like the other person learned more about you, or you learned more about them?
  10. Who are the last 2 people you affirmed/blessed in a way they remember?

Two Truths and a Lie

1. My husband went to prom with a murderer.

2. I bungee jumped at Victoria Falls, Zambia

3. I received flying lessons as a wedding gift.

Two of these statements are true and one is not.* Ever play that game?

I think we play an unhealthy version of it in our heads every day.  Often we just rehearse a lie over and over again as IF it were the truth.

What should we do instead of listening to the tape in our head that says “Not good enough. Not valuable. Uninvited. Unforgivable.”?

Paul gives us some advice in 2 Corinthians.

 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

Here, “Stronghold”  is like a castle with a mote, but I picture it kind of like a hologram that you can walk through – it isn’t real. The Greek word for stronghold, ochuróma can mean: “a prisoner locked by deception”.  Satan is the father of lies and he may make his castle seem impregnable, but it’s not!

In another place I found this definition:  “A stronghold is an influence by the enemy … The strength of the stronghold depends on how long and how much influence a person has allowed over themselves by listening to what the enemy is saying concerning any given situation in which the stronghold has taken root.”

We see the truth of this emphasized in Proverbs:

Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life. Prov. 4:23 CEV

Craig Groeschel says:**

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So what can we do? Replace lies with Truth and then, practice rehearsing the Truth more than the lies. 

As you speak Truth to yourself, you’ll grow in the strength of God and His thoughts about you – yay!

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What if we rehearse the truth instead of the lie? What the mind repeats it retains, right?

Think of a negative phrase you have said aloud or thought to yourself that stems from a sense of shame rather than your identity in Christ as HIs beloved child.

Turn it upside down and say, in first person, present tense, an affirmation of your God-given value. For example:

I am unlovable. . . . I am infinitely loved.
I don’t have enough. . . . I have everything I need.
I am stupid. . . . I have the mind of Christ.
I am worthless. . . . I am precious in God’s eyes, I am honored, and God loves me.

So mine would be:

I am not good enough. I don’t add value…   I am uniquely gifted by God & He has prepared good works in advance for me.

So say the positive truth aloud like it is true several time. Then rest silently in the awareness that this is you – a unique, gifted, equipped child of God, made in His image.

* Write the most common lie Satan uses to trip you up in the comments and I’ll tell you which one is the lie. 🙂

**This is adapted from Life Church. For more on this, watch “Words to Live By” by Craig Groeschel, or read this synopsis.

One Word 2017

I’m pretty type A. I like goals. I like lists. I especially like crossing things off my lists.

But for the past few New Years, instead of focusing on goals or resolutions, I’ve prayerfully chosen One Word that is both aspirational in a way, and also helps me to focus on the work of God in my life.

“Our lives move in the direction of our strongest thoughts.” Craig Groeschel

As I choose One Word each year I look back over where God has brought me, what I think He’s been birthing in me, and what lies ahead (as much as I know).

What of God’s character have I counted on?

What does God want to teach me?

What do I need more of?

What should I remember?

What do I want to learn more about?

As I look back over the trajectory of 2016 there was movement from discouraged and uncertain to stronger in Jesus. I feel grounded, equipped, empowered as I head into 2017 and I want to continue to learn more about the strength that comes only from God and isn’t blown about or vulnerable to the recognition or disapproval of others.

As I wrote yesterday, I preached on Joshua Sunday and was reminded of Joshua 1:9

“Haven’t I commanded you be strong and courageous? Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you may go.”

So I look forward to 2017 embracing my One Word – Strong.

What about you? Have you chosen a word for 2017?

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A Faith that Carries Out

It’s New Year’s Day weekend and everyone in ministry is very tired. Every parent is tired. Every salesperson is tired. Maybe everyone everywhere is a little tired and ready to get back to a predictable routine. We love the sparkle and special of the Christmas season, but we’re ready to cross over into 2017.

Even if we may feel a little bit like this:

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Sunday I had the privilege of preaching at our church and I loved diving into the story of Joshua leading the Israelites across the Jordan river in Joshua 1-4.

We all have Jordan moments and we’re all at a crossing of sorts as we go into 2017. There is lots to learn from Joshua in this account, but one thing l thought I’d share with you is from Joshua 4:2

When the whole nation was finally across, God spoke to Joshua: “Select twelve men from the people, a man from each tribe, and tell them, ‘From right here, the middle of the Jordan where the feet of the priests are standing firm, take twelve stones. Carry them across with you and set them down in the place where you camp tonight.’”

After they have prepared,

after the Ark, representing the presence of the Lord has gone ahead

after the waters of the Jordan have been pulled back,

after the Israelites have crossed over,

God sends them back to carry out 12 stones. He has them pile those 12 stones as a memorial – a faith that points back to God’s faithfulness.

Think about what you are carrying out of 2016. 

Think back over each month. What might God want you to go back and remember to take out?

Resilience? Trust? Patience? Strength?

Are there experiences that could be millstones that God wants to make into stepping stones?

Are there things that could be stumbling blocks that God wants to make into building blocks?

Are there things you may have a tendency to trip over that God wants you to triumph over with His help?

Maybe talk to Him about all these stones. And embrace a faith that carries out.

You are Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a woman in 1st century Israel. Strike one.

Elizabeth is old. Strike two.

Elizabeth is infertile. Strike three.

Elizabeth experiences the death of a dream to be a mom, to be valued among her family and friends.

And then when God miraculously blesses her with a child, it’s not one who we might imagine to be the straight A, class president, organize of “Meet me at the Pole” prayer day. He’s a weird loner who eats bugs, doesn’t marry, and is beheaded as a young man.

You and I are Elizabeth.

We have things about us that make us feel “less than”. We’ve experienced the death of a dream. Or two.

Here’s the thing about Elizabeth and dreams and us.

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For years, Elizabeth held her dreams with one open hand, but clung to God with the other. 

The challenge for me each day is to hold my dreams in one open hand, while clinging to God with the other.

Our faith is in the character of our God, not the conditions of our day-to-day life.

Might we pray with one open hand, telling God about our dreams and relinquishing them to Him to refine or change as He will? 

And pray with one clinging hand, reciting all about God that we trust in – His goodness, His presence, His strength, His mercy…?

Interrupting Your Busy

I’m guessing if you are reading this at all it’s on your phone and you’re scrolling through while you’re in line at Target, or waiting for your morning coffee to brew, or idling in the carpool line to pick up your kid from hockey, school, church, a friend’s house…You fill in the blank.

This season, in addition to all the everyday busy, we’ve got holiday busy thrown in and our soul cries out for “all is calm, all is bright” and a sleep filled with “heavenly peace”.  We want Jesus. We want to meet Him and talk to Him and truly step into the wonder of His birth.

This weekend we set up our Christmas tree and as I was decorating it I stumbled on a practice that was so simple and meaningful I thought I’d share it with you. It doesn’t matter if your tree is already decorated. You can still do it.

Here it is. Pray your ornaments. 

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That’s it. Simple. Choose one ornament at a time and pray for the person or place or value it represents.

When I hung an ornament from Bethlehem I prayed for all my peace-seeking friends in the Middle East.

When I hung an ornament from Amsterdam I thanked God for Maggie and the memories we shared there together, and when I hung the homemade angel Katy made I prayed for her.

When I hung an ornament that a friend had made who is very sick, I prayed for healing.

When I hung the ornament I got in memory of my brother, I prayed for comfort and joy for his family.

You get the idea. If your tree is up, maybe just take some time in the quiet glow tonight and go around praying your ornaments. If you have kids, have them each choose one to pray for.

Ok, you’re probably to the front of whatever line you’re in. Look for Jesus and joy wherever you are today!

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