ST. LUKE'S WEEKLY COMMUNICATION
Monday, June 1
“Cast all your anxiety on Him
because he cares for you.”
-1 Peter 5:7
Anxiety is imagination gone wild. There is acute anxiety and chronic anxiety. Right now, when I experience anxiety it is more on the acute end, while I have also experienced chronic anxiety in both work settings as well as in grief. Acute is here for the moment, chronic parks itself for the long haul.
Both need our attention. The Message version of the Scripture translates 1 Peter 5:7 this way “Live carefree before God; He is most careful with you.” Anxiety is normal, it is when our imaginations get a hold of it and run with it that it becomes either acute or chronic. Interestingly anxiety happens when either good things happen (eustress) or when bad things happen (distress). The key is not in trying to remove either—for both will happen—it is looking at our response that counts. And our response to anxiety has a lot to do with how we perceive things will play out. The calmer, the better the result.
Note in the passage above, Peter is encouraging us to live “carefree” lives before God, he does not say “careless”! Carefree living is not letting fear own the day. For example, as we are experiencing the pandemic at this time it is easy to let our imaginations run wild to the point of envisioning never being able to either experience or enjoy the things we used to. While the truth is that we may never go back to exactly the way things used to be, we want to calmly remember that the same God who was with us before the pandemic hit, is the same God who is with us now, and will be with us into whatever new reality arrives! Our perceptions of our lives may change but the Creator protection for us does not— “he is most careful with you.” And will always be!
The best thing to do with our anxiety is allow others to carry it with us, to talk about it with trusted family members, friends, or seek out those who have given their lives to understanding what can be helpful in coping with it. In other words, slowing down our imagination about what might happen can, and most often will, help us deal more effectively with what is going on around us.
During this pandemic, constantly hearing frightening statistics, being isolated and physically separated can encourage our imaginations to wander and roam. Phone calls and other virtual contacts are critical for us to initiate and to receive today. Be in touch with those you know and love. Then hopefully, as we continue to “open up once again” and do so safely, we will be given back the security we need by being with those we love more dearly, and experience more freedom of movement. We become less anxious in an anxious time.
Your family here at St. Luke’s—pastors, staff and fellow members—all stand ready to walk with any for whom imagination is running wild. “Live carefree before God, He is most careful with you” and so are all the rest of us!!
Monday, May 18
A Time for Compassion and Kindness
“... Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness,
humility, gentleness and patience.” -Colossians 3:12
May I ask your forbearance one more time, allowing me to share a personal story that left a forever imprint on my life.
There was a decade in life when I had the luxury of taking a number of weeks each summer to extensively experience our great country on a motor cycle. A number of happenings along the way stand out, however, one remains a signature event that informs my life to this very moment.
Having just entered into the unique beauty of Zion National Park, I experienced the heart sickening clang/clunk of a chain malfunction - bringing enthusiasm for the day’s anticipated events to an immediate standstill. Quickly, I discovered my deficiency in preparedness for such an event. Truly, I was involuntarily humbled, reminded of my vulnerability and lack of self-sufficiency... in need of kindness, compassion and generosity. “Neediness,” that humbling and unavoidable antidote to false pride!
Acknowledging my newly discovered humbleness to God, I prayed He might intervene in some way. Whether coincidental or in direct answer to prayer (I choose to believe the later) a yellow bus, with the words Calvary Baptist Church on its side pulled over. Contrary to the expectation of seeing church folk exit, three retro-hippies disembarked and approached spewing expletives of every variety while reflecting upon my dubious situation. Taken aback but grateful for them at the same time - my well disguised “church” helpers proceeded to use their creative mechanical skills, making it possible for me too slowly return to Springdale. The little town at the Park entrance.
Many additional “God moments” of the day lead to one of life changing proportions. Calling the closet cycle shop 45 miles away - with little hope - I inquired about the possibility of an O-link chain being delivered to Springdale. The owner answered, stating to my surprise, yes but “I can’t leave ‘til after closing.” True to his word, he arrived about 7 p.m., serviced my cycle and upon my asking, gave me the charges. Immediately I recognized he had only accounted for the chain, not mileage nor service. Without addressing that fact, I wrote a check for an additional amount, considering his added travel-expense and effort. Handing over the check he looked at it and immediately ripped it into small pieces. He stated firmly, “Mormon’s do not take advantage of people in distress - please write it for what I asked.” Sufficiently chastised and while still rewriting the new check, I asked, “would I be allowed to take you to dinner.” To my surprise, he said yes and for the next 3 hours we shared life stories, eventually leading to his revelation of having a terminal cancer prognosis. An occasional tear was the norm for the remainder of the evening which terminated with us sharing a prayer together and my expressing heart felt gratitude for all he had done for me that day. After embracing and saying goodbye, he stepped back and said, “I want to apologize for taking so much of your time with my life situation, I never intended for that to happen.” With a slight tear evident, I stated, “I have been honored to be in your trust!”
This man, facing his mortality, at way-too-early an age, was the “Good Samaritan and Colossians 3:12 rolled into one - demonstrating kindness and compassion for no apparent gain. I will never lose the life changing proportions of that moment.
At this shared time in history, we have much greater concerns than a Zion Park incident. However, I have only to reach back to that experience and realize opportunities abound in honoring my deceased friend and more importantly, clothe myself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. I pray that God will make that evident in my life and I pray that he will do the same for you... our world may well rest in the balance.
May God give you strength and perseverance,
Monday, May 25
During stressful times we all have our “go to” places. In one of the places that I have studied greatly, Bowen Family Systems Theory, we call these places where we bind our anxiety. In other words, when you really want to make sure that worries and cares and anxieties don’t overwhelm you tie them down or push them back by doing activities that help you to cope. In times of sustained chronic and acute anxiety we need to pull out all of the stops.
Some of my activities include working out in the gym, jogging, playing games, watching movies, and reading. Some of these have been taken away during these past two months. I haven’t been able to go to the gym, playing games is more fun with the grandkids, and sometimes it is hard to concentrate to read. I have found the other activities to be useful from time to time, but I really miss the activities with people. I especially miss seeing people on a regular basis—at the gym, at church, or even for visits.
In the midst of not having these possible outlets, I have found spiritual activities, such as listening to music, reading devotions, or reading Scripture to be particularly important. Although I like to watch You Tube videos that get connected with my watching one or two from my alma mater, St. Olaf College. I listen to Broadway and other musical theater songs and get acquainted with their personalities. I read about famous people, like the Kennedys and Leonard Bernstein and Bud Selig—all of which are on my nightstand right now. But the greatest anxiety stoppers have to do with reading short Scripture passages. Some of my favorite ones are from the apostle Paul, like “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Others are from Jesus in the gospel of Matthew, “if God so takes care of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, won’t he take care of you of little faith?” If I want to go to places that are valuable in the Old Testament, I likely go to the psalms.
The Psalms address almost every situation we might encounter in our lives. When we are down, there are certainly psalms (like Psalm 22) we can find where the writer lamented what was going on in his/her life. When we feel sinful and apart from God, we can find a psalm of confession (like Psalm 51). When we feel particularly positive on our relationship to God, we can find a psalm of trust (like Psalm 23). When we are drawn to the wonders of the world, we can find a psalm of creation (like Psalm 8). In fact, I find the psalms to be very useful as prayer starters. And I am not the only one who thought so. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the martyr of the church called the psalms “the prayer book of the Bible.”
I invite you to follow me in delving into the psalms. During the next two weeks (actually starting today) I will be writing a devotion about a particular psalm. Each one will really be a sample of a type of psalm in the whole book of 150. We will start with psalm one and two so you might want to make it your goal to read all of them during this time. It should be fun!
What activities do you do to calm yourself down so that anxieties don’t get the better of you? I am sure you have some I haven’t even thought of or tried. What is your favorite psalm (other than Psalm 23 I might say)? What Scripture passages strengthen you during this time? What are you missing most during these past two months of “safer at home?” What are you looking forward to most when this time of quarantine ends—especially after we get a vaccine that makes us feel much safer?
Let me close with sharing with you words from one of my “go-to” parts of Scripture for comfort—what we call Second Isaiah (Isaiah 40-66). In chapter 40 the prophet writes:
“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
Turning to the Lord in hope,
Pastor Roger Black