What’s Going On Here?

I’ve been freaking out for about a week now. My circumstances haven’t changed in a profound way so my emotions can’t be explained by a new onslaught of stressful circumstances. I’m just not doing as well as I had been living in my old stressful circumstances. Remarkably one of my stressor points is planning a vacation. For crying out loud! Hello Carrie: vacation equals good circumstance.

My freaking out has been somewhat contained by my faith in Jesus and the habit of comparing myself to those who have it far worse. (Don’t even get me started on the atrocities of ISIS.)  But I’m still a jittery mess! So I asked myself, “What’s going on here? Why does everything feel overwhelming?”

Assorted answers popped into my mind: I need to eat better; a bad diet is a bad mood enhancer. The wear and tear of long-term stressors is finally breaking me down. The world news is beyond depressing. I’m not sincere when I give God the day.  I’m not working enough on what God has called me to do. Yah-dee-dah-dee-dah.   Blah-dee-blah-dee-blah!

Finally I paused and asked “Jesus, what’s going on here? Why does even a vacation stress me out?” My answer came in the form of a question, “Why do you think there’s a perfect way to plan a vacation and you have to find and execute that perfect plan”? I think my heart rate slowed to a manageable pace the minute I heard that question.

And it led me to ask that question about each circumstance that I’m freaking out about. The answers again came in the form of questions: “Why do you think there’s a perfect way to respond to your family and you have to find and execute that perfect way or else?” “Or else, what?” “Why do you think you’ve got to make your doctor and insurance company get their act together? How is that a judgment on you? Is even your physical pain a judgment on you?” Now I’m on a roll! “Why do you have to look a certain way? Why do you have to spend your hours in self-defined, perfect efficiency?”

I don’t know about you, but I’m hearing two recurring words here. JUDGEMENT and PERFECT. The thought of judgment wasn’t on my list of what has me freaking out. And I was oblivious to how I was chasing a godless idea of perfection.

John and Stasi Eldredge of Ransomed Heart Ministries, recently recorded a podcast series on suffering (www.ransomedheart.com). In it they discussed how suffering matures us into being more like Jesus and draws us closer to Him. The suffering that I’m struggling with (even the ironic suffering over vacation planning) is revealing to me my sin problem with wrongly judging what makes us valuable. I need to mature in the grace of Jesus and that’ll take becoming aware of when I slip into playing the part of Judge Carrie. I need to mature into a woman who values what God values.

When you notice that your emotions are getting a little chaotic try pausing and asking “Jesus, what’s going on here?” Now, before you start feeling all smug, and pat yourself on the back for not being as neurotic as me, let me suggest that asking “Jesus, what’s going on here?” isn’t just a question for when your emotions are wacky. Perhaps the way you talk to people or the way you treat yourself or others is wacky. Perhaps how you fill your calendar is wacky.  Perhaps how you spend your money is wacky.  Perhaps how you isolate yourself is wacky.  Perhaps how you arrange your schedule to never be alone is wacky.  Catch yourself and ask “Jesus, what’s going on here?”

The answer may not be as obvious as you expect. It may help with your heart rate. It will help move you into greater intimacy with God.

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A Valentine State of Mind for Presidents’ Day

I’ve been a bit confused by all of the Presidents’ Day ads because I hadn’t remembered Presidents’ Day being so close to Valentine’s Day. But I’ve finally caught up with where we are on the calendar! I was reading a devotional this morning that directed me to 1 Timothy 2:1-2, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

Presidents’ Day, of course, is generally considered a day to celebrate Washington and Lincoln. It is also sometimes understood as a day to celebrate all of our presidents. And although remembering these two great men and their legacy to us as citizens of the United States is wise and profitable (no, I’m not referring to retail sales), I think it’s a great opportunity to remind us to pray for our current president.

I am struck by the consequences of praying for our president that are presented to us in 1 Timothy 2:2. It’s not all about the president (or kings and assorted leaders) and how he leads. It’s so “we may lead a peaceful and quiet life”. I think in the past I’ve translated that to be that we should pray that our president leads in a godly way so we get to have peace and assorted blessings. But note the entire promise: that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

Our national debates over the last couple of decades have been cantankerous, to put it mildly. We’re all consumed about the behavior and policies of our politicians and how they sometimes differ from our personal views. Often, in our passion we are not at all peaceful or dignified. And I’m comfortable in saying we’re not too godly either.

I’ve been considering what “quiet life” means. Certainly that doesn’t mean passive. The Bible urges us to love justice and passivity won’t do the trick there. The quiet life doesn’t mean passionless either. One thing you can confidently say about Jesus is he lived a life of passion. Perhaps the quiet life isn’t only about the external. Perhaps the quiet life internally includes how we let our thoughts go when we think about our kings/leaders. Godly thoughts produce a quiet life motivated by love and concern versus hate and disdain.

I’m kind of tickled that Valentine’s Day and President’s Day are falling on the same weekend. Jesus keeps calling us back to love. He doesn’t call us to agree or to give up our God given rights, but he always calls us to love. Praying for our president and our leaders should be done in love. And then we get the reward of personally living a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.