Waking up Anxious

Let the Peace of God Rule in Your Hearts

How can I be a peacemaker when I wake up so anxious each morning? Do you ever do this?  I can go right to sleep at night, my head hits the pillow and I am out, but about 4:30 something wakes me up.  Based on the fruit of those early morning hours, I feel pretty sure it’s not the spirit of God waking me up. My to-do list bludgeons me, telling me I’m lazy and should get up.  There’s a passage in Proverbs (I think) about the sluggard flopping over in his bed like a door on hinges.  Why do my thoughts in the early hours use scripture to beat me up?  Unanswered emails.  Unkept commitments. Writing I need to do.  Bills I need to pay.  Imaginary conversations with people I worry are disappointed with me.  On and on it goes.  Anxiety builds.  

“What time is it,” I ask as I turn to look at the clock.  “How long have I been sleeping?” I calculate only five and a half hours. “I need to silence these voices.  Think nothing,” I tell myself.  Then like a mantra I repeat in my mind “Think Nothing, Think Nothing, Think Nothing, Think Nothing…”  For me, it brings temporary relief.  Maybe my simple mind can’t think of two things at once so the other voices are crowded out and I drift back to sleep.  It seldom lasts.  Some fun and unexplainable dreams occur in these early morning hours, but the anxious thoughts also return.  “I should get up.”  The alarm begins to play that soft wake-up music and I am ready to escape the bed. It’s interesting how I use sleep to escape at night, falling exhausted into my soft pillow, but it only lasts so long and then I must escape the sleep. The beat goes on and on.

God’s wisdom is filled with peace

James 3:17

I was blessed this morning to read Rick Love’s book, Peace Catalysts.  He shares four Biblically based disciplines he uses to restore peace in his heart. He calls them his “four cornerstones of peacemaking.” 

  1. If we rest in God’s Love, we will live in peace. Jude 1:21 “Keep yourself in God’s love.” Rick reminds us that “resting in God’s love is the opposite of performing for God’s approval.”  The hamster wheel of working for God’s smile (and people’s approval) never stops spinning. Faster and faster the wheel whirls until we are exhausted. Rest comes when we reorient our gaze to the One who is love.  He loves you.  Rest. Be at peace.
  2. If we walk by faith, we live in peace.  Phil 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” When we feel anxious, we are commanded to stop it. God knows its not good for us and tells us to present these anxieties to him and he will transform our thinking and give us his peace. (Rick says it better.  You should read the book.) 
  3. If we walk in wisdom, we live in peace. Proverbs 3:7 says “All of her (Wisdom’s) paths are peace.” “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:17-18 God’s wisdom is filled with peace.  If we are not experiencing peace, we may have drifted off God’s path and may need to reorient ourselves because God’s path leads to peace.
  4. If we rid ourselves of unnecessary clutter and confusion, we live in peace.1 Cor 14:33 “God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” I am feeling this one right now. It seems so many things are competing for my attention.  Rick says, “When our lives get chaotic or out of control anxiety gets the upper hand.” That may be why I wake up anxious so many mornings. 

Rick then goes into eight practices of developing interpersonal peace, but it all starts with that internal peace that comes from walking with God and discerning his leading. “Martha, Martha you are anxious about many things, but only one thing is really needed.”  Mary chose what is better.  It’s a choice that I want to make too. 

I’m going to add Rick’s list of four disciplines to my “cheat sheet” beside my bed.  On a shelf I see first thing in the morning, I have printed out Matthew 6:33 where Jesus says to “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”  Meditating on this verse helps me release my anxiety about finances and health.  Jesus encourages us to consider the birds and the flowers, so I take a walk in my yard, slow my pace, breathe deeply and look. It helps to me prioritize my to-do list and the knot in my stomach releases its grip.  

Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in our Families, Organizations and Communities is foundational to the ethos of our organization.  It was written at a time when the organization was young and Rick was articulating the Biblical principles of peacemaking.  These are stressful times in which we live, when anxieties can run high. If you haven’t read the book, you really should.

Based on pages 49-53 of Rick Love’s book “Peace Catalyst: Resolving Conflict in our Families, Organizations and Communities. IVP (2104)

5 Reasons Christians Should Attend an Iftar During Ramadan

Peace Catalyst likes to get people together and Ramadan is a great time to do that. Our Muslim friends are already gathering many evenings throughout Ramadan to break their fasts together.  Sometimes they invite us into their space to share this meal with them. But sometimes, too, my Christian friends push back and resist accepting the invitation.

Christians Should Embrace Welcoming Refugees

Evangelical Leaders' Petition to President Trump

Some friends at World Relief and prominent church leaders like Tim Keller, Bill Hybels, and Max Lucado (along with over 3000 other Christian leaders) have signed a petition to be presented to President Trump and Vice-President Pence. I like the tone of this petition.  Rather than being full of inflammatory speech, it quotes the words of scripture which show that welcoming refugees is what God expects of people.

The churches have spent millions, possibly billions, of dollars trying to take the “Good News” to the nations.  Now when God brings the nations to our doorstep, we try to stop them from coming.

Cities Concerned about Declining Populations

The Blessings of Foreign Born Friends

The “Rust Belt.” The phrase brings to mind abandoned buildings, crumbling infrastructures, demoralized and unemployed people. Those that remain complain about the declining quality of life, police protection and the schools their children attend. What is a city to do when industry and people abandon their properties?

The Wall Street Journal on May 19, 2016 shared census statistics of the declining populations in US cities. Mayors and city councils are concerned with these trends. My city of Louisville would have declined in population over the last ten years if not for foreign born people moving to our city. Cities

Looking Like Jesus:

Actions and Proof Texts

I recently took my Syrian imam friend to a Christian college to speak. He was a guest lecturer in “Cross Cultural Communications” classes, a “Theology of Missions” class and a “Church Planting” class. It was really interesting to hear how the imam approached these topics from an Islamic perspective.

Maslow, Trump and Muslims

Why are evangelicals supporting Trump?

Remember Maslow and his “hierarchy of needs”? The basic premise is that we will sacrifice everything else we hold dear if we do not have our basic foundational needs met. If a person is dying of thirst or cannot breathe, he will do anything, including risking his personal safety, to get air or water. As you move up his chart, Maslow claims that people are more concerned about their safety than their self-esteem or belonging to a group. His theory is that people will abandon their higher values if they feel like their safety is at risk or their group identity is being threatened.

Peace Catalyst Helps Host Reception

Kentucky State Representatives Welcome Internationals

Mehmet works with the American Turkish Friendship Association of Kentucky. We have done many projects together; Peace Feasts, Iftar Dinners, arranging firefighter appreciation dinners and serving together in a local shelter. More than just doing projects together, we are friends. We drink a lot of tea together and discuss how we can make the world a better place.

Have you ever wished you could travel to another country and learn about some foreign culture? Or maybe you have watched a travel show or flipped through a magazine and had questions you wished you could ask. Did you know that over 100 languages are represented in our local schools? Chances are, whatever culture sparked your questions is represented in our state. Sadly, many in the state don’t utilize this great learning and cultural resource. Some of us would like to change that.

The Secret of Immigrant Genius

Why are Immigrants DIsproportionally More Creative?

Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein were all immigrants or refugees.  They either chose, or were forced, to cross cultures. Eric Weiner notes this phenomenon in a Wall Street Journal article, “The Secret of Immigrant Genius.”  So many immigrants excel that it has attracted the attention of social psychologists to ask “Why?”

South Sudan

Hope Deferred

I remember looking down on the village in South Sudan as we made our second approach to the dirt landing strip. The first fly-by was to chase the cows off the ru21205107313_9bf6b3512a_mnway. As we pulled up I saw anti-aircraft guns and several soldiers guarding the strip. At that time it was not yet South Sudan but functioned as an quasi-independent country. Fighting between the north and south had mostly stopped, but official recognition by the UN would only come later.

Islamophobia Hurts America

Religious Freedom and Islamophobia Conference in Philadelphia October 6-8, 2015

Douglas Johnston is known as the “Father of Faith Based Diplomacy. Opening the conference on Religious Freedom and Islamophobia, Johnston said, “The greatest asset we have to fight militant Islam is the American Muslim community. Unfortunately, we have alienated many in this community.” Johnston also said, “As the Muslim community is marginalized, it plays into the hands of extremists.”

Many in evangelical circles are concerned with the impact of overgeneralized anti-Islamic rhetoric and how that impacts common goals that we all share for religious freedom and security. The polarization between the Muslim communities and the Christian communities is doing great harm to our nation and to our Christian witness.

Muslims are Asking Questions in Louisville

Do you have answers?

I have been “evangelized” both by well-meaning Muslims doing da’wah and Christians who made assumptions about my relationship with Jesus. One Muslim wanted to “share his testimony” with me. I could not wait for that conversation to end. It did not feel so good to have my faith insulted as “inferior.” The phrase “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” came to mind and made me question the way many “evangelize” others.