And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?* If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Luke 12:25-26
This may be one of the most recognizable scriptures of all time. Even if you haven't read the Bible, you've heard that it says not to worry.
That's all well and good, and of course Jesus is right, but it isn't that easy, is it? It doesn't tell us how NOT to worry. In fact, we can get to the point where we begin to feel guilty about worrying and worry about THAT. More to the point, anxiety can be part of a mental health issue. We may have worried ruts into our brains that make it incredibly difficult not to worry. So, a few words on the how:
1) There are many issue that affect our ability to avoid worry, but guilt about it isn't going to help. So stop the guilt. Let it go.
2) Write it down, ask yourself why, and make it worse. Usually, the worst thing is still manageable in some way.
3) Limit Caffeine. The scripture says not to put God to the test, and we can't pray for peace at the same time we're giving ourselves the jitters. It really does make a difference.
4) When you are worried and anxious, focus on relaxing your body. It can trick your brain into thinking everything is ok, which helps change your thinking. Gentle stretching, muscle relaxation, and deep breathing can really help.
5) Laugh and smile. Again, you are giving yourself body cues to know it is safe to think happier thoughts. The smile works even if you fake it, and the laughter you can borrow from sitcoms, comedians, or funny books.
You can worry less, it is part of what Jesus wants for you. But he doesn't expect you to white-knuckle your way out of it. It can be learned. It can be practiced. Jesus can help you.
But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing. James 1:22-25
I laughed out loud when I saw the above quote. And immediately thought, "yes, that's me"! But then, I was a bit more shaken by the idea. Yes, that's me. It is me when I know the scripture, and let it languish in my mind instead of living in my life. It is me when I know the powerful words, but have lost my connection with the Master who gave them to me.
The scripture is Holy. The Word of God is full of power, full of answers, full of joy and peace and help for all manner of trouble. It is full of commands for how we treat one another and how we behave ourselves. And knowing the Word is really important. It is where we must start. When the kids began to take Karate, they were taught the name for their uniform, taught how to count to 10 in Japanese, the words for the moves. And that is all well and good.
But counting to 10 in Japanese is pretty useless in a fight. The scripture is meant to be alive in us, acted upon and lived out. The word is to be done. Rick Warren had a good idea about how. When you have read your Bible for the day, don't leave the time of devotion until you have written out an action item. What should that day's word make you DO?
...but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough. Ralph Waldo Emerson
One of the complaints I hear most, and frankly one of the complaints I have the most, is exhaustion. People are weary, tired in body, mind, and spirit. There are many reasons, trouble sleeping, technology, increased financial worry, loneliness and disconnection, less exercise, and chronic illness. For all of these issues, there is plenty of wisdom out there in books, magazines, and on the internet about how to have more energy. And many of them can help and will help your overall health.
However, there is a weariness of spirit, that no amount of sleep or spa weekends can help. It happens when we lean on our own understanding. It happens when we trust our own strength. It happens when we face into the future alone and have deluded ourselves into thinking it is in our hands. That is too great a burden to bear.
Emerson is spot on about the energy the horizon gives you. When you see where you are going and that there is an end in sight, you are somehow much more enthused and energized. However, that is impossible for life in general. We might see the end of a project or a season, but we can't have everything in view.
When we wait for the Lord, the strength comes because it no longer has to come from us. It isn't the strength of our wings that makes us fly, but the lift of the Holy Spirit underneath them. We can stop flapping about and simply soar. How might you turn your eyes on the King today and let God be your strength?
We spent so long in snow and ice, so long waiting for the spring buds, for the dawning of the warmth. Today, whatever the whether may be, praise Him.
BY GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS
Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
It came to my attention recently that not everyone knows this important and powerful song. It doesn't have a lot of words, but they are vital: There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain."
Galatians 5:1 tells us, "For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."
Christ set us free so that we could BE FREE! What a concept! Jesus has the power to break the chains of anything that would bind us. So, what chains? Anger, addiction, prejudice, violence, fear, hopelessness are a good start. But you can't let him break chains you don't know you don't have.
Once you know your own chains, you also must know this important truth spoken by Fannie Lou Hamer, "Nobody's free until everybody's free." We are bound by the chains of our brothers and sisters. And Jesus has the power over these chains, too. It is just as important to see the chains of others as our own, and to commit ourselves to work with Christ to break EVERY chain. Then, our freedom will be complete, at least as much as we can attain this side of heaven.
Come worship with us tomorrow at 11 am to know more fully the power of Christ.
But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! Colossians 3:9-10
When I was a teenager, I couldn't pass by a reflective surface without looking in it. Even for girls who don't particularly like what they see, this is often a habit as we try to figure out who we are and what we love about ourselves. Since then, my love of the shiny has waned, and I tend to avoid them. I typically don't have the time to fix whatever I might find wrong when I look.
What concerns me more now that I'm in my forties is what I reflect. Do I reflect the world around me with its sinful divisions and hateful opinions? Do I reflect the anxiety of those around me whose striving and avoidance never ends? Do I reflect the priorities of the camera that sees beauty and youth as the ultimate good? Or do I reflect the glory of God? What might that reflection look like?
In this scripture from Colossians, we see that we are renewed in knowledge according to the image of the creator of our new self, and that in that renewal "here is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!" We can't reflect the glory of God if we put walls up between ourselves and others. In properly mirroring God, divisions cease.
How can we better reflect God's goodness? What are the cracks in our mirrors? Pray for God to heal them. And join us for the journey on Sunday at 11 am.
Today, I'm just going to share one scripture and then a great song lyric video about the God of wonders. Tomorrow is Earth day, and it isn't just for the hippies anymore. It is especially for those Christians who believe that the world is God's creation and who have the respect to care for that which we've been given. Reflect on the scripture as you spend time with images of God's creation. Come worship with us tomorrow on Earth day at 11 am.
"Heaven and the heaven of heavens belong to the Lord your God, the earth with all that is in it." Deuteronomy 10:14
“Can you swim?" said Victor. One of the cavern's rotting pillars crashed down behind them. From the pit itself came a terrible wailing.
"Not very well," said Ginger.
"Me neither," he said. The commotion behind them was getting worse.
"Still," he said, taking her hand. "We could look on this as a great opportunity to improve really quickly.”
― Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures
My children have swim lessons today, and I was put in mind of this wonderful Terry Pratchett scene. Clearly, the characters are in danger. Clearly, they are swimming for their lives without knowing exactly how. But the attitude they choose to take is to see the challenge as an opportunity. And, although Pratchett is decidedly not a Christian writer, seeing challenge as opportunity is a Biblical concept.
The Message Paraphrase of James 1:2-4 says, "Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way."
What challenges are happening in your life that you might embrace instead of escape? How will you use it to 'improve really quickly'?
Come and improve with us at Brightwood Christian Church! We gather for worship at 11 am on Sundays. We hope to see you soon.
The Following is a modified version of my reflections on Maundy Thursday this year:
I wasn’t ready for Maundy Thursday to come, in a million ways. I’m often particularly faithful during Lent, ready to be open to God, conscious of the coming of Good Friday, of the looming cross. Not this year, I must admit. Probably because Easter has come to us so early, maybe because of our late season snow, or because there was a bit more to do this year and we were dealing with family illness that broke the already chaotic rhythm of our days.
I’m sure the disciples weren’t ready for it either. By the last supper, Jesus has told them what is coming. But what does that mean? A year, two years, ten? Jesus’ entire ministry fits into either one year or three depending on how you map the days in the gospels. Either way, it isn’t long. Not long when you’ve left your life and home, not long when you thought your future would be intertwined with Christ’s. And yet, already, their last night together has come.
I’ve had other moments like that, long years of friendship with someone sick as long as I’ve known them, but suddenly, suddenly they’ve passed away. I always knew it would come. But how could it have possibly come already, a horrible surprise that I’ve known forever.
Of course, because they weren’t expecting it yet….already, the disciples heard words that night about Christ’s body and blood that went over their heads, heard accusations of denial that were completely unbelievable. Jesus, again being illusive with meaning and purpose. Jesus, mentioning again a day that would someday, but never come.
What I know about moments like that is that I don’t know they exist until they’ve passed and I look back on times that seemed ordinary and can glimpse the wonder and holiness that was there without my notice.
As I reflect on the moments of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, I am conscious that much of what occurred feel as if they were placed there for us, marking spots of extraordinary grace, powerful wisdom, unimaginable love that we could never have seen if we’d been by Jesus’ side. They only exist as such precious moments in our memory and reflections.
Consider the footwashing: giving us such vibrant images of our servant savior, what love looks like, what intimacy means. In the ancient Church, foot-washing became the ritual by which the Lenten journey of return of those who had betrayed the Lord, or lost their way as disciples, was completed in a closing act of reconciliation, after which those making this return journey could celebrate the Passover of the Lord together with all the faithful.
The bread and cup are touchpoints of holiness, too. Author Jan Richardson writes, “In its own way, … sharing a table calls us to a radical intimacy. To some of us it may seem less risky than footwashing, may cause less overt squirming, but it demands no less of us.” After all, here is a meal that requires us to expand the table of our hearts to all who believe.
As we draw ourselves to the table each week, may we be present to it, but in the way we might to a ritual that reminds us of the last time we did something special with someone, with a lingering bittersweet fondness for our beloved.
Please join us this Sunday at 11 am for worship with communion. All who believe in Jesus are invited to his table.
“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
This is a picture of Julian butterflies from the western Amazon drinking a turtle’s tears. The water isn’t what they're after. It is the salt. It isn’t easy to find the minerals that butterflies need to reproduce. They find all of their calories in nectar which is fine if all you’re doing is flapping your wings, but to make more butterflies, you need salt. And so, you find yourself a nice wet turtle eye.
This is how God’s provision works. God provides. Sometimes it comes from unexpected places and in surprising ways. Sometimes it isn’t even ideal and bountiful, simply enough. More often than not, God provides for his creation through the rest of his creation. Look around in your life for where God may have put turtle tears for you, and look out for times when God expects you to be the turtle.
If you don't already have a church home, consider this my invitation to join Brightwood Christian Church on the journey to becoming the beloved community of God. We worship on Sundays at 11.
Rev. Jana Quisenberry is the minister at Brightwood Christian Church. She's an ordained pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). A graduate of Transylvania University in Lexington, KY and Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, IN, She now resides in Mt. Lebanon with her husband, two children, and dog, Sookie. Pastor Jana loves the church, science fiction, and coffee.