Why rush the race?

Daily Post: Scamper

scamper

What I truly love about going on vacation, in some ways I also hate; the trip itself.  Going is always exciting and rewarding, coming back is often a drudge.  It is menial, dull work, to drive 8.5 hours one way, in one day, arriving back at the domicile, completely exhausted from the trip.  This feeling is perhaps the origin of the phrase, “I need a vacation, from my vacation!”  Sitting here back at my desk this morning, it’s hard not to scamper back into the familiar routine of writing, making to-do lists, and planning out my week.  But really, what’s the rush?

Already my mind is racing toward the things on my calendar which will be matters of priority this week.  The A/C guy is coming tomorrow to figure out my cooling issues.  Tuesday is Senior Men’s Golf Assoc., so golf again, (yeah!) That’s as far as I got before I realized I was doing it again.  Rushing the race.  It’s what we do; we skuttle and scurry, we dart and we dash from one sticky-note-task to the next.  All the while scooting and sprinting to make another sticky note list, even before the one we have is completed.  This is why vacations were created in the first place (my opinion).

I need my calendar and my sticky-notes to-do lists to help keep me focused.  But being focused to accomplish some things that are important, is not the same thing as being run into the ground obsessively controlled by a need to “get it done.”  I’m retired for one thing.  This means the schedule, with the exception of a few “have-to’s” is pretty flexible. I don’t really have to “hightail it” anywhere for anything.  So, I’m learning how to not rush the race.

Some might say: “What race?”

The race we humans call “Life.”  Let’s say the average life-span is 80 years.  This means a person only has 41,932,800 minutes to live in total.  The moment of that first breath, is the beginning of the end.  Like a giant clock ticking off the seconds of a stopwatch working its way down to zero.  In this example, I have already used, 33,022,080 minutes of my allotted time.  This knowledge could have serious implications for how I choose to use what time I have left.  Perhaps it should too.

Perhaps instead of scampering around to make a bigger pile of money, I should rush into doing random acts of kindness, or running to bring joy to those around me.  Maybe instead of darting and dashing around reacting to things which have no eternal value at all, I could instead write a series of sticky-notes that direct my attention to my future heavenly domicile.  How about this one…  I saw this on a t-shirt on Friday, and thought, “I want to do that!”  A person is given a glass with water at the midway point and asked, “Are you a glass half-empty or half-full person.” The person picked up the glass, drank the water, and replied, “I’m a problem solver.”

It’s not about the time I’ve wasted, misused, or actually used effectively in my past.  It’s not about how little time I have left either.  It’s about right here and right now, day by day, making the best and most effective use of the 1,440 minutes of every hour I live.  What high and lofty goal should be the focus of today?  From God’s own word it is simple and clear.

Psalm 46:10
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

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People Panicking Perpetuates Pandemonium

Panicked

pandemonium

A panic attack is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) as:

… an abrupt and discrete experience of intense fear or acute discomfort, accompanied by symptoms such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, trembling, and worries about going crazy, losing control or dying.

Did you know that 8-10 percent of the population has panic attacks, or that in 5% it becomes a disorder, occurring without any obvious stimulus, making the attacks even more terrifying?  In these cases it isn’t just a rush of anxiety, like most of us might experience from time to time.  No, these patients describe it as the most frightening event they have ever experienced.  Research has discovered leads to what causes a person’s first panic attack, as well as some clues about how to avoid an attack in the first place.  The simplified version is that panic attacks often result…

…when our normal “fight or flight” response to imminent threats—including increased heart rate and rapid breathing—is triggered by “false alarms,” situations in which real danger is absent.

The good news for those who suffer this chronic disorder is, first, all panic attacks are triggered by known events, even though the person may not be aware of those events. Knowing this can often reduce the anxiety stemming from a sense of unpredictability.  Second, though it is affirming to learn the attack is caused as a misfire of the fight-or-flight response when there actually is no danger.

In a culture spawning “fake” news, political corruption, excesses and entitlements, it’s little wonder that we all don’t run into the ocean, screaming in a wild panic.  I’m sure that we could learn quite a bit from a shepherd boy, if we only would.  Just because things look dangerous, or complicated, or “glass-half-empty,” (or completely empty), doesn’t mean God sees it this way.  If only we could see the world, ourselves, and our situations through God’s eyes, I believe it would make a huge difference in our lives.  Maybe we wouldn’t become panicked quite so much.

The key to David’s life was his ability to not see things as they are, but to view them as God sees them.  Enter Goliath, a huge 9 ft. tall giant of a man, hardened by war, trained in battle.  He wears armor plated garments, has both spear and sword, and a shield to ward off enemy attacks.  He bellows at the top of his lungs, the wild ravings of the blood-thirsty heathen that he is.  And every time he does so, to a man in the camp of Israel, they are trembling in a crazed panic.

Along comes David bringing food to his brothers in the army of God.  Upon hearing Goliath’s threats and railings, David’s response is not flight, it is fight.  It’s not an imagined danger, it is very real.  It is tangible.  It is death with a face on it.  Yet, David’s instant response to the Israelite men trembling in panic was:

1 Samuel 17:26
Then David spoke to the men who were standing by him, saying, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?”

I can almost hear it in David’s voice.  The overwhelming confidence that God will not stand for His people to be challenged in this way without retribution.  God will not allow for the heathen to cast dispersions and heresies about Him without punishment.  David is clearly not panicked.  (1 Samuel 17)  How did God use David’s confidence to demonstrate His own sovereign control, authority, and covenant presence?  Watch.  After using his trusty slingshot to nail the giant with a stone from the river…

1 Samuel 17:51
Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it.  When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.

Now it’s the Philistine army’s response to be panicked, and well they should.

So, here’s the thing.  The thing, event or circumstance that frightens you most right now, whether cancer, relationship struggles, financial difficulties, or emotional strains to difficult even to talk about; hear me… God is still in control.  The authority of His word still stands.  His covenant presence with you is designed to annihilate the panic that so easily sets in to destroy us.  Here are God’s simple words to avoid becoming panicked:

Psalm 46:10
Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be honored by every nation.  I will be honored throughout the world.

 

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The silence in my head

via Sound

soundofsilence

Simon & Garfunkel’s song was pounding in my headache as I awakened today. “Hello darkness, my old friend… I’ve come to talk with you again…”  Recorded in 1964 by Columbia Studios in New York City, I was only 10 years old when I heard this song on my sister’s radio.  Half a century later, clear as crystal these lyrics sang back to me from my subconscious sleep, over and over and over.  Now I need a nap, to get some rest.

Actually, I’ve had a great deal of experience with silence.  For years as a pastor, whole periods of my daily existence were completely void of sound.  While I would read, study, and write sermons and Bible studies, even the clock made no noice, it was digital. Occasionally I would hear a squirrel run across the roof, or the sound of thunder during a rainstorm, the wind howling through the leaky windows.  Mainly though, the silence was deafening.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t have called someone on the phone.  Yet there it sat, inches away, making no sound.  I could have listened to music, turned on a playlist, the radio, something.  The sound of silence had truly become comfortable for me.  During those hours of quiet contemplation and communion with God, He instilled in my mind during these times of silence, thoughts I would write then later speak.  Even now, as I write these words, the click-click-clicking of the keyboard is as loud as the framer’s hammer driving 3 inch nails into the house being built down the street.  It’s silent in my office, and I hear the cars rushing by on the street as their drivers stream toward work and school while I sit silently listening.

Last line of “The sound of silence” goes like this:

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said “The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence

The cryptic language of the song is a fascinating study in the power of lyrics and music. A neon light, thousands of people talking without speaking, hearing without listening, writing songs that no one hears, because they are never shared… these are very powerful images, but what does it all mean?  Simon said in an interview with NPR, “It wasn’t something that I was experiencing at some deep, profound level – nobody’s listening to me, nobody’s listening to anyone – it was a post-adolescent angst, but it had some level of truth to it and it resonated with millions of people. Largely because it had a simple and singable melody.”  So there you go, just a song that resonated with millions of people, because of the music and lyrics.

David the King of Israel wrote music and lyrics thousands of years ago, which people still sing.  We don’t really know what the music sounded like, so much as we know the lyrics today.  Although Amy Grant helped us all with “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path,” [Psalm 119:105] and other music artists along the way have captured the Psalms in their music,  I wonder if there was music accompaniment at all to some of the things David wrote.  For example, “Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.” [NASB] many people my age recognize as “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” [KJV] Psalm 98:4

During my hours of study there would be times of joy and shouting, and times of weeping and silence.  In all those hours I remember fondly God’s voice “whispering in the sounds of silence.”

Be still, and know that I am God!   Psalm 46:10a