Free from Worry

If you’ve followed Enjoying the Surface for any amount of time, you’ve read enough of the posts here to see that there are strong themes on worry, anxiety, fear and the like.  These are struggles familiar to me, as well as those that I find are familiar to my fellow man.  To be human requires struggling with issues of control, or the lack of it, and that is sure to bring upon a healthy dose of worry.  To be human also requires recognizing that our worries can only be met in Jesus as we abide in Him (John 15).

Leave it to Pastor Jon at Restoration Church to pack a 1-2 punch on worry from this Sunday’s sermon, where He urges us to push into Jesus as worries come our way.

Don’t Be A Marlin

I am, more oftentimes than not, a Marlin.

No, this is not my post about my being drafted by Miami (the Angels would pick me first anyway).  And I am not referring to the giggling one in Cabo.

The Marlin I’m referring to is that of Nemo’s dad, played by Al Brooks, in Pixar’s Finding Nemo.  In that wonderful film (which to my surprise is nearly 10 years old!), Marlin is a worry wart, a Debbie-downer, and one who is constantly relying on himself and not able to see anything beyond his own two fins.  My own proclivity to Marlinism goes back many years and as I see more and more the ways that I Marlinize, I’m learning that it doesn’t get me anywhere.

In fact, one’s own Marlinishness can only lead to more fretting and less trusting.  The Apostle Paul told the church at Phillipi similar words when he encouraged them not to “worry about anything, but in every situation with prayer and petition, and thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Why?  Because then, “the peace of God, which is above all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  The benefit of not falling into Marlinism is peace.  God’s peace, and protection in Jesus.

That’s more than anyone could ask for.

Flavor of the Month

Back in the day, Baskin Robbins used to have a flavor of the month.  Remember that?  And it would be something pretty special.  A unique combination that you’d want to be sure to try because you knew you would like it.  Well, fast forward some years later, and a part of me has taken a liking to the idea of problem of the month.  It’s gotta be something pretty special and doesn’t everyone want to know about it because you know that they’ll want to worry about it with you.

 

In recent months, it’s occurred to me that my flavor-of-the-month syndrome doesn’t really help me much.  Because as soon as one perceived problem is solved another one pops up to replace it.

The truth of it is that so much of my worry is learned.  I’ve learned over time that it’s normal to worry, that something in my life must bring me to a place of fear and dread.  And yet in the back of my mind another part of me knows that problem-of-the-month just doesn’t cut it.  It’s the part that wants to believe Jesus words in Matthew 6 when He told His followers:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:25-34).

Live for today.  Remember that Jesus’ Father knows what we need—that is, what we truly need.  And in our seeking first God’s kingdom, it will all work out.  That’s been the journey as of late.  And it’s been fun to see how God has showed up “more” than He has previously.

Try it with me this week.  And as you do, remember that we’re in good company!  The Apostle Peter encouraged those to whom he wrote his first letter to cast their anxieties on God.  King David asked God to search him and know his heart in Psalm 139.  May we follow their examples, be brave and rest in the fact that God is right next to us in our own lives.  And may you remember that as we seek His kingdom, all else falls into place.

Lessons from Fred

In the past month, I’ve met a good dozen people who have burned out recently or felt close to burnout. It wasn’t too long ago that I felt burnout myself—continually feeling under the gun, the candle burning at both ends, regularly feeling overwhelmed with too much to do.

Burnout is a regular visitor to the American workplace, and it can also happen at home. Toting kids to soccer games, meeting family obligations, getting food in the refrigerator—there are simply too many things to do in our lives if we’re to feel on top of it all. Last week, I met Fred. Fred is the antithesis of burnout. He simply waits around for things to happen. If they do, that’s great. If not, that’s fine, too. You see, Fred is a male monarch butterfly that happened across our home as a caterpillar, cocooned three weeks back and emerged from his chrysalis this past Saturday. Watching Fred do NOTHING the past month has been a reminder to me not only of my own anxieties and worries but also of my need to slow down.

While I realize this comparison with Fred is a bit of a stretch, our lives are often frantic because we make them that way—we become cross over things that need not cross us. In watching Fred, I saw that there was an instinct on his part that kept him waiting for something to happen with an air of calm. You could not hurry the little guy out of his cocoon. In fact, if you do, bad things happen.

Perhaps there is a “Fred” in your own life—something or someone that reminds you of the need to slow down, to remember that “each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). Take it from my friend Fred–we don’t need to worry about tomorrow! May each of us slow down to the degree that we are able so that we don’t burnout in the long run.

Everyday Human Concerns

Dear faithful reader,

Happy New Year!

The thought occurred to me yesterday that already this new year, which we just rang in, is already 1% over.  99% of the year is left.  99% of the year remains for you and I to live in it.  And while conventional wisdom would say that we should worry and fret as to the fact that time slips away so quickly, I would recommend a different response.  Rest.

Rest and remember that it is our God who has given us any of the days that we have lived already and any of the days we have yet to live.  He has given us today.  So revel in the fact that the year is 1% over because each day is a gift from the Lord.

A new year can bring worry, regret from the past, and fear of what is to come.  Jesus knew a bit about our tendency to worry.  This is one of the reasons I appreciate Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 where He says:

If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met (Matthew 6:25-33, The Message).

At the start of this new year, would the distinct privilege that we who put our hope in Jesus have to rely on Him for all our needs motivate us to grab 2010 by the horns, to live the life abundant and get all we can out of each day, sucking the marrow out of each God-given experience He brings us!  Savor it in Him!