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)

Hope In Jesus

isaiah-42

As the world falls apart, sabers rattle and heads roll, an ancient prophecy about Jesus gives me hope. Written 700 hundred years before Jesus came to this earth, the prophet Isaiah said the messiah would bring justice and help the oppressed. God called him to “demonstrate my righteousness.”  Jesus is a “light to guide the nations.”(v6) So, I look to Jesus as my example of righteousness and a pattern by which to model my life.  Jesus himself quoted from this passage when he spoke in the synagogue in his hometown.(Lk4) The Prince of Peace then demonstrated to us how to live as he encountered the people of Israel.

Isaiah 42:1-9(NLT)

42 “Look at my servant, whom I strengthen.
    He is my chosen one, who pleases me.
I have put my Spirit upon him.
    He will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout
    or raise his voice in public.
He will not crush the weakest reed
    or put out a flickering candle.
    He will bring justice to all who have been wronged.
He will not falter or lose heart
    until justice prevails throughout the earth.
    Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction.[a]

God, the Lord, created the heavens and stretched them out.
    He created the earth and everything in it.
He gives breath to everyone,
    life to everyone who walks the earth.
And it is he who says,
“I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness.
    I will take you by the hand and guard you,
and I will give you to my people, Israel,
    as a symbol of my covenant with them.
And you will be a light to guide the nations.
    You will open the eyes of the blind.
You will free the captives from prison,
    releasing those who sit in dark dungeons.

“I am the Lord; that is my name!
    I will not give my glory to anyone else,
    nor share my praise with carved idols.
Everything I prophesied has come true,
    and now I will prophesy again.
I will tell you the future before it happens.”

A Letter to Congress

I wrote a letter to my representatives a few days ago. I don’t do so often. It honestly feels a little futile. Does anyone really listen? I considered just sending a one line letter, “Please support the Humanitarian Assistance Facilitation Act (H.R 3526).” I know Mitch McConnell receives way too many letters to read himself. I pictured some staff person quickly scanning hundreds of letters and making small tick marks on some chart of issues, “For” or “Against.” Maybe, if there is some vote coming up, Mitch will ask his staff, “What are people saying about this one?” One line might be sufficient and would probably be a relief to some staff person who did not want to wade through paragraphs of detail and passion.

The Kurdish Peace Feast

“Can we just have 10 seconds of silence, please?” a Kurdish man asked.

It was our Kurdish Peace Feast. Three of his relatives had been killed by the ISIS group last week. He wanted us to honor their memory.

The feelings were raw in the room. Some were emotional and passionate.

“The US spent six million dollars for a tank that ISIS took from the Iraqi army and is now using against my people.”

Just days ago, this man had returned from a village caught between ISIS forces and the Yazidi people trapped on Mount Sinjar.