Bright yellow flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Fight worry and anxiety by making a choice

 

Why is it so hard to let go of things you can’t control? Where does the desire to control everything come from anyway? Is it pride?

I couldn’t tell you. What I know for sure is that me trying to control everything is a bad idea for a lot of different reasons. To really be able to control everything, I’d need to know everything. I’d need to be everywhere at once. I’d need to be able to do several things at once. And I obviously can’t do either of those things, and that’s just the start.

I know I can’t do any of that. So why—why?—do I still keep trying to take over things? And why do I insist on worrying about stuff anyway? Why do I let my stomach knot up and my shoulders go tight? I don’t believe that worrying about things actually changes anything. So why do I do it?

Today’s verse is Philippians 4:6.

Bright yellow flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Bright yellow flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Worry is one of the greatest deceivers in our lives. It masquerades as something useful, when it’s actually useless. It wears a mask to disguise itself as “something you can do” when more often than not worrying prevents you from actually doing anything at all.

Worry is the great time waster, the greatest distraction you’ll face in your everyday life. At least, that’s what I’ve discovered. I can be having a perfectly fine day until something crops up that I feel the need to worry about. Then good luck getting me focused again. If I’m worrying about something, I’ll run myself into the ground pacing. I’ll turn my own hair gray stressing, if I don’t pull it out by its roots.

So what do you do when you feel the need to worry? Is there some magic word you can say that makes the desire disappear? Is there something you can do that relieves you of the burning need to fuss and fret and pick yourself or others apart?

If there is, I haven’t found it.

The truth about worry is that it’s a choice. You make the choice to worry or not to worry. You choose to spend your time that way or not. Nobody comes up to you and forces you to worry about something, but our enemy is really good at whispering all the things that we should worry about in our ears.

Our enemy knows what we’re afraid of. He knows how to scare us. He knows how to unsettle us and distract us, and worry is one of the best tools to accomplish all of that. The best course of action when he starts whispering his lies is to recognize them for what they are. Lies. All lies. All of them.

And once you recognize them, take steps to neutralize them. Have someone you can talk to who will encourage you and remind you that our enemy is a liar. Have evidence for yourself to prove that you’re not a failure, that you aren’t generally disliked, that you’ve actually managed to accomplish something with your life.

You have the choice. You can either sit still and let worry turn you inside out. Or you can take steps to remind yourself that worrying doesn’t accomplish anything.

Will that make the worry go away? I wish I could tell you it did, but in my experience even recognizing that worrying is foolish doesn’t make it disappear. What it does accomplish, though, is that it keeps you from making spontaneous, foolish decisions while you’re emotionally distraught.

God says don’t worry. So don’t. When you feel yourself starting down that path, stop. Identify what it is that you’re worried about and give it to God. Tell Him you’re giving it to Him, and you’re not going to worry about it anymore. And ask Him—seriously—to help you remember that. So when you try to take it back, He’ll thump you on the nose.

He’ll do it. Figuratively, of course. But He will.

He’s got everything under control, and He CAN be everywhere and do everything and know everything all at once. So there’s no one better to control everything than God. And even if it doesn’t feel okay right now, trust me, He’s working it out. And eventually it will be okay.

***alwayspeachy***

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Rose outside Manna House, Bromley, London, England

Practice makes permanent

When I was in college, my speech instructor insisted that we all had to practice our speeches repeatedly if we were going to present them with any excellence. She had a little axiom she wanted us to remember: “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect permanence.”

I’d never thought about it until that point, but she was right. Whatever you practice is generally what you’ll perform. How you practice a speech or a part in a play creates habits and expectations in you, and how you practice becomes how you perform. So if you practice without the right words or without the right actions to go with your words, you’ll have a hard time breaking those habits when you get on stage.

I don’t know if anyone else struggles with this, but practice is difficult for me. That’s why I eventually dropped music because I didn’t have the discipline to practice. I wanted to sit down at the piano or pick up my viola and be perfect straight out, but music doesn’t work like that. It’s a skill you have to develop over years and years and years of practice.

Practice doesn’t just work with music, though. It works with everything. Even living.

 

Rose outside Manna House, Bromley, London, England

Rose outside Manna House, Bromley, London, England

Today’s verse is Philippians 4:9.

Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

When Jesus lived on Earth, He lived the kind of life we should seek to imitate. I don’t get the people who claim to be Christians but refuse to live the way Christ did or doubt the things He said. That makes no sense to me.

Paul had patterned His life after Christ so he could be an example to everyone around him, but he didn’t become an example overnight. Paul had a miraculous conversion, yes, but just because his opinion changed, his lifestyle didn’t change at the same rate. Habits are hard to break. Paul had to practice the kind of life God says is right before he could be someone to look up to.

Just because you’ve accepted Christ doesn’t mean that the rest of your life will transform immediately. If anything, the only thing that will change in your life immediately is your perspective on it. You have to take steps to change the elements and the influences in your life that lead you to actions God says are wrong. You have to practice living the way God says, and that choice isn’t always easy.

Practice is hard. Practice feels like doing the same thing over and over again with the same results. And sometimes it feels like putting on a show in front of an empty theatre, with no one to appreciate how hard you’re working.

But perfect practice makes perfect permanence. If you practice following Christ in the good times, you won’t blink when the bad times come. Doing what God says to do will be habit to you.  And slowly your life will change. As God becomes the central focus of your life, everything will change.

So don’t be discouraged if your life is the same today as it was yesterday. And don’t get frustrated having to do the same thing over and over again in your faith.  If Paul had to keep putting what he learned into practice, so do we.

We know how to live. God revealed all we need to know in the Bible. Jesus gave us an example of how to love others. And the Holy Spirit whispers in our hearts. Take what you know, take what you’re learning, and actually use it.

 

Photo of SEA-TAC airport's security line (not mine), Seattle, WA

How God used TSA to remind me not to worry

I’ve been traveling for the past week, first to Seattle for an executive writing conference and then to Chicago for a regional meeting for my company. It’s been a crazy week of high stress, even though I’ve been doing my level best not to be stressed out. But travel is stressful, especially for a control freak, because there’s so much about airplane travel that you can’t control. The biggest stress factor is getting through security.

Getting through security in Wichita, Kansas, isn’t difficult. Maybe it takes 10 minutes. Maybe 15 on a bad day. But people in Wichita think 15 people is a line, sort of like we think we have traffic. If you’ve never tried to get through security in a major international airport, you won’t understand. But if you’ve travelled at all, you can identify with the photo I put up for today’s blog. I didn’t take it, and it actually doesn’t even demonstrate how busy the Seattle airport was on the day I was there. But you get the idea.

I came around the corner and saw the line in front of me and thought: “There’s no way on Earth I’m going to get through this in less than two hours.” And that’s how much time I had before my flight started boarding. Immediately, I knew I was going to miss my flight. It was going to be a nightmare. And I told myself that I should have been more demanding of the shuttle driver that he stop dawdling and get us to the airport when he’d told me he would, instead of stopping to pick up random passengers and then not dropping me off at my gate until the very last. But no, I had to be nice and sit in my seat and just take it. And what did I get for it? I was going to be late.

I was so irritated at myself. And then, I heard this little nagging voice at the back of my head. It said, “Stop being silly and pray about it.” Ever had one of those moments? When you know you should pray about something but you hesitate because you feel like a moron that you hadn’t thought of it sooner? Yeah. That was me. Moron. So I prayed (quite ashamed of myself) that God would help me somehow–miraculously–make it to my flight on time. I even texted my mom.

Then, something miraculous happened.

Just after I asked Mom to pray, I got to the little kiosk where the security dude was checking IDs. He checked mine and then inexplicably waved me to a different line than anyone else. At first, I thought something was wrong. I thought I was in trouble or I had done something I shouldn’t have. And then I saw the signs that read TSA Pre-Check. It’s a new initiative that they’re starting up apparently, and in this expedited line I didn’t have to take off my shoes, my belt, my jacket, or my hat. I didn’t have to pull out my laptop, my tablet, my phone, or any other electronics. And I didn’t have to pull out my little bag of cosmetics. I just got to throw everything on the belt and walk through the scanner, and I was done.

I texted my mom at 3:14 p.m. and asked her to pray and guess what? In a mere 12 minutes, I was through. Completely through security with no problems, no hangups, no delays, and no trouble. By all rights, I should have been in that security line for the next hour and a half easy. But somehow my boarding pass had been marked as approved for TSA Pre-Check, something the airline did without my knowledge (and only on that flight and none of the others).

I made my flight with time to spare. And I sat at my gate sipping a coffee and kicking myself, today’s verse circling my brain.

Photo of SEA-TAC airport's security line (not mine), Seattle, WA
Photo of SEA-TAC airport’s security line (not mine), Seattle, WA

Today’s verse Philippians 4:6.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

I’ve posted on this verse before, and I took up a lot of time with the story in the introduction. So I’m not going to belabor a point. I just needed to remember this. I need to remember this every day. Shoot, I need to remember it every hour.

There are so many things in my life that I want to worry about. There are so many things in my life that I want to be in control of. There are so many things in my life that I think I need to fix. The plain and simple truth is that I’m powerless to really do anything at all, and I need to fully rely on God for every step I take, every breath I breathe.

My first reaction at the length of that security line was to worry. Tell me, exactly what good did worrying about the length of that line do? Nothing. It stressed me out. It upset me. It frustrated me. I had no control over it and no way to take control. My only option would be to push through the line and ask people to move out of the way so I could get through, as if my flight was more important than theirs. Yeah, not the best witness ever.

I guess what I’m trying to get at this morning is that God already had it sorted out. I just didn’t know it. And it took TSA to help me remember that when I’m facing a challenge that I can’t control, sometimes you just need to keep moving forward and trust that it will work for the best. I was in the right place. I had done everything I could (while keeping my testimony intact) to get there on time. I just had to let God take care of the rest. And He did.

So, next time you need something, ask God for it. Don’t worry about it. Tell God about it and let Him handle it. It’s easier to say it than to do it, but whenever He works something out, it’s a lot better than when we try to go our own way.

Little purple flower

No request too small

When I was younger, I wasn’t sure what I could pray about. As a child, I really didn’t have any needs. My family was as functional as it could be, not perfect but operative. We had food. We had clothes. I was getting an education and receiving enough attention. So I never really prayed for myself very often, mainly because I thought it was selfish. I would pray for other people, but I always tried to pray for big requests.
 
When I was a child the first Desert Storm was in process, and I remember praying for the soldiers in Iraq and Kuwait. That was a big prayer request, so it seemed normal and right to pray for something to big.
 
And that kind of carried over into my adolescent years because even though there were things I wanted or needed help with, I didn’t know if I should really pray about those things. I mean, God’s a busy guy. Did He really have time to deal with my silly, inconsequential prayer requests like helping me pass a test or helping me find my keys? Those sorts of requests didn’t help anyone but me, so would he even listen if I asked for myself?
Little purple flower

Little purple flower - San Francisco, Peten, Guatemala

 Today’s verse is Philippians 4:6.

 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

See that word everything? Well, it actually means everything. It doesn’t mean just big requests. It doesn’t mean just requests for other people. It doesn’t mean just world-changing types of requests. It means everything that worries you, everything you need, everything you’re scared of. Everything.

Even if it’s a small request to help you remember where you put your keys, God wants to help us.

I used to get caught up in the idea that God was so big and so mighty that He couldn’t possibly care about what went on in our everyday lives. I mean, I knew He loved us. But I figured it was a distant kind of love, the kind of love and appreciation a boss might have for his or her employees. But that’s not it at all.

The love God has for us is personal and intimate and all-encompassing. He wants to be a part of our daily lives, even in the inconsequential things. And He loves us enough to listen to everything we have to say.

And I’m glad. Because I misplace my keys a lot. And being able to ask Him to help me remember what on earth I did with them is a comfort, and every time I ask Him for help, He does. I can run like a maniac around the house looking for my keys, and then when I stop and pray about it, I find my keys straightaway.

There’s no request too small for God. Just like there’s no request too big for Him. But what I’ve learned throughout all these years of following Jesus is that the small requests are often answered sooner. The big requests usually take a little more time because more people are involved or because they will have an impact on history or culture. But, to me, it’s the answers to small requests that make the difference. Because if God cares enough to answer a small prayer over and over again, it shows me how much He loves me. It shows me that I can trust Him.

And once I know that He loves me and that He’s not going to let me down, I’m not afraid of anything anymore.