Peace for the Day

Devotions for our daily angst.


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Guilt – The Great Angst

There is therefore now no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 RSV

I feel guilty over feeling guilty. It’s true. It leads to kicking myself in the butt with words. I call myself names. Not nice ones. I hang my head and sigh. Again.

Anxiety increases. Faith decreases. Fear rises. Joy falls.

My sister reminded me one day when I was feeling guilty over writing – writing, not writing, playing Wooden Blocks instead of writing, focusing on the wrong story, too many stories too little time, writing God’s story, not writing God’s story, not getting published, OMG what if I do get published, and what oh what if I get it all wrong – that condemnation doesn’t come from the Lord.

So why do I feel so guilty? I ask her.

You’re the daughter of an alcoholic. You feel responsible, that it’s all your fault.

I do.

Guilt piled on top of guilt until there’s one gigantic mound of, well, crap.

That’s exactly what it is. Crap. The enemy is more than happy to keep me contained with an invisible fence of guilt. He doesn’t even have to do any work. Being at the ready to convict myself, I do it all for him.

But what if I took God at His word and believed what He said?

If He doesn’t condemn me, who am I to condemn myself?

It’s been a lifelong fight that continues to be an ongoing battle. One that needs to be stopped before it even starts.

I take my stand.

Yo! You, girl in the mirror. Listen up. Stop it. God says you’re not guilty. Lies be quiet. Negative thoughts back off. You have the mind of Christ so take those thoughts captive. You are more than a conqueror. Now act like it. If God hasn’t given you a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind, get up off the ground and stop wallowing. Move.  

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Yo! You! Girl in the mirror. Listen up!

Slowly, but surely the vise grip of anxiety loosens and I can breathe again.

 


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Love Lessons

I’m skewered by texts. The family issues first mentioned in my blog titled Focus continue. I do what I always do, what I’ve always done – I grieve and talk to the Lord.

Me: I’m wounded, Lord. This situation really hurts. (Is there anything in the Bible about being wounded I ask myself. When I see the first verse that pops up, I smack myself in the forehead. Duh.)

Jesus: Take heart. I was wounded so you can be free. The Romans lashed my body so all could be healed. When they crushed the crown of thorns down on my head, it was for your peace of mind. I long for everyone to be whole. (Isaiah 53:5)

Me: Yes, but it’s someone I love. Someone close to me. Someone I trusted.

Jesus: I know. I get it. It was my close friend, remember? Someone I trusted, who ate my bread, who walked with me, who laughed and talked with me, who lifted up his heel against me. It’s hard, isn’t it? (Psalm 41:9)

Me: But, Lord, what’s being said isn’t true.

Jesus: Think about my trial when I was brought before Pilate. Many people talked about me. They lied. Finally, two men were found who declared, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’” They twisted my words. (Matthew 26.61)

Me: So what am I supposed to do? Should I defend myself? No one will listen anyway.

Jesus: Remember when I stood before Pilate? When the leaders brought accusations against me in front of him, I chose to remain silent. He even asked me, “Don’t you hear what they’re saying?” Pilate was surprised when I said nothing. (Matthew 27.14)

Me: I don’t know how you stood there, silent. I wanted you to tell them off just like I want to be catty and snarky right back, to tell my side of things.

Jesus: Grace. My grace is sufficient. My lovingkindness and mercy are more than enough, always available, whatever the situation I’m here right beside you. All of you. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Me: What do I do? What can I do?

Jesus: The most difficult thing of all and yet, the simplest. Love. Work at love. Lift patience and kindness. Practice contentment. Put others first. Forgive. Rejoice in truth. Be assured, my love for all of you will not fail.

Me: There’s not anything I may go through that you haven’t already experienced, is there?

Jesus: No, there isn’t. Hope, faith, and love. These three things remain, but the greatest of these is love.

Beloved, if God so loved us [in this incredible way], we also ought to love one another.

1 John 4:11 AMP


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Just Breathe

Be still and know (recognize, understand) that I am God. (Psalms 46:10 AMP)

 If you read this blog regularly, you know that decision making is not one of my strong suits. Whether it’s due to an alcoholic father, the need to be good enough, fear of failing, or all them wrapped together in one anxiety-ridden ball, the ability to make decisions haunts me.

 Really. I’m sixty. I should be over this.

It all started with an opening on the Maryland Writers’ Association (MWA) board.

Buckle up. Here goes nothing. This is the real me – unwrapped and uncensored.

Twenty hours a month to be president of MWA but how much time would I spend thinking about it and what do You think I should do can’t You text me it would be so much easier that way and no I don’t know why I want to do it other than the opportunity is there and what about my writing there’s not enough time for the writing especially with the chunk of time pulled out in the middle of the week to work and I’m not complaining Lord no I am not thank you for this job it’s perfect but it is a lot of time and I may not have much time left one of my classmates died in January that’s it for her over kaput done and what if that happens to me You gave me an idea for the next novel but I don’t know how to execute it and maybe I should just give it up and what if the idea isn’t from You anyway but it’s so cool so it has to be from You but please help me figure out the best way to tell the story it’s so interesting but maybe I should just write funny maybe that’s what I should be doing or not writing at all because I can’t really write and I’ll never succeed but wait I already have succeeded and been published and been told by people who should know that I can write so just be quiet self then there’s the cat and the operation and his age and the money what to do did You notice the heat pump sounds funny what if we have to repair that Lord I just don’t know what to do and I need You and I can never get myself quiet not anymore it’s too hard oh my head it’s going to explode.

It continues as I get in the car to drive to work. All the radio news stations – left, right, and middle – are on commercial. (It’s a conspiracy.) The Joel Osteen channel is taking callers. I prefer to hear him preach. In desperation, I flip to the Christian station and I hear these words by Jonny Diaz being sung.

 JUST BREATHE

Just breathe. Come and rest at My feet. And be, just be. Chaos calls, but all you really need is to just breathe.

 I laugh out loud. The tension, that wrapped-tight-around-the-gut tension, melts away. God has got a sense of humor. And He didn’t even need to text me. ©

 

 


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Fret Not, The Anxiety Cure, God’s 3-Step Plan to Peace of Mind

Do not fret or have anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God’s peace which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 6, 7 NIV)

Worry

Anxiety knocked.

I opened the door.

“Welcome,” I said. “I sensed you might stop by today. Have a seat. I’ll put on the tea kettle.”

Even before she sat down, Anxiety jumped right in. “What are you going to do about money?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know.” I wrung my hands. “I could work. I want to work.” My thoughts started spinning. “Not really full time and not at a retail store. But I’ll do – whatever.”

“It’ll run out – eventually – and then what?” Anxiety goaded. “It’ll be too late then.”

I agreed wholeheartedly as the whirlwind accelerated.

We sipped our tea.

“Your husband,” Anxiety whispered knowing she treaded on thin ice here, “he doesn’t really get it. He’s oblivious.”

“Or,” I quickly countered, “He knows God will care for us.”

Anxiety smiled that smug “as if” smile of hers. “You should look for a job now. Push ahead. Don’t wait.”

The whirlwind spiraled.

“Yes,” I said. “I will. I am. I have.”

She finished her tea and drew back for the sucker punch. “You probably won’t even find one, you know.”  Anxiety pummeled me. “It’s your age. Your experience. You cost too much. Why hire you when they can get someone much cheaper?”

“I’ll accept cheaper.”

Ignoring me, she continued. “Plus your skill set is too broad. You worked all those years and for what?”

As I added my own accusations, the tornado force winds spun me off the ground. “It’s a shabby, gray, just-get-by existence for you. You should know better. Hasn’t God always taken care of you? Oh you of so very little faith.”

And so it was I spent a day bemoaning my existence and worrying about the future, my husband, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews and their children, retirement, and the country. Also, my dog, at eight, might have only five or so more years to live, love, and enjoy.

Eventually, it occurred to me that I hadn’t glanced at my Bible in over a week let alone hung-out with my best friend, Prince of Peace. Hmm. With those thoughts, the tornado dispersed and I dropped to the floor

Anyone who lives with anxiety, that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach, knows how easily it sneaks up and how difficult it is to quiet. Some of us have lived with it so long, we think it’s normal.

Telling me to stop worrying, like my husband tries to do, is meaningless. If I could stop being anxious by obeying an order, I would. I don’t want to live in this fretful state. I just don’t always remember how to make the spinning stop once it’s started.

In the Amplified Bible, the phrase “fear not” appears fifty-six times, “fret not” and “do not be anxious” four times each. God instructed Joshua, Moses’ right-hand man and conqueror of the Promised Land, to fear not and to be strong and courageous three times in the first nine verses of the book of Joshua.

God knows us, knows how we’re anxious and fretful, so he developed a plan. It’s found in Philippians 4.

Step 1 – Eyes up. Communicate. Do not fret or have anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests).  Prayer is simply talking to God. Whether I talk, write, or think the prayers, God tells me to bring all of my anxieties, worries, and concerns – everything, no limitations, no conditions –  to Him for He cares for me affectionately and watchfully (I Peter 5:7).

Step 2 – Eyes out. Develop gratefulness. Do not fret or have anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving.  Thankfulness forces me to look up, around, and outside of myself. It changes the focus from me, myself, and I to the world around me and to the God who made it.

Step 3 – Eyes fixed. Stand firm. Do not fret or have anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. It’s not a one-time prayer, at least not for me. We’re in a battle and we need to stay the course, to keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking (Matthew 7:7). Before worry starts to assail me, I need to determine in my heart that God has my back and stay focused on Him when the attacks come.

God’s promise in Philippians 4:7 says as we bring our cares to Him, thank Him, and continue in Him, His peace which passes all understanding will garrison and mount guard over our hearts and minds. Isaiah 53:5 says it this way. The chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him.

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, has already paid the price so that we can have peace, His peace. He said in the world we’ll have trials and tribulations but be of good cheer, He’s overcome it.

Father, – Oh, how I need my heart and mind guarded these days. When anxiety knocks, remind me of this teaching. Help me to immediately turn to you, to trust You will care for me. I give You the specific cares on my heart today and am determined to leave them there. Let your praise be ever on my lips and bubbling over in my heart. You are so good, Lord. Keep my eyes focused on you. Eyes up, eyes out, eyes fixed. Amen. It shall be so.