The Birds of the Air

Photo courtesy of Mark’s Outdoor Shots, © 2019 Mark Kephart Sr. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” –Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 6:34 (The Message)

 It was literally the birds of the air that caught my attention one morning during my quiet time.

The morning temperatures were still warm enough to sit out on the back deck and absorb the peacefulness of the woods behind my house. I’d not slept well the night before, my mind whirring with worries.

I know—Christians aren’t supposed to worry, right? But life slams Christians, too. What makes it different for us is how we respond to it.

And I wasn’t responding very well. Not as well as I thought I would. It’s easy to spout Scripture when things are going relatively smoothly. But when the storms come, the winds tear at your faith, and the waves crash over your resolve to stand firm, it’s all you can do to hang on.

Scripture tells us to cast all our cares on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7) and He’ll sustain us (Psalm 55:22). It’s one thing to read those words; it’s another story entirely to do them.

Now, I’m good at casting. The problem is I keep reeling the burden back in. And casting it out again. And reeling it back in.

That night I cast my burden on the Lord by presenting Him with the whole list of what was worrying me. I claimed Philippians 4:19—that God will supply all that I needed. And, in keeping with Luke 11:9, I asked. I sought. I knocked.

Now if only I could leave the response to Him.

But no. I awoke the next morning with the burden still heavy on my mind, heart, and spirit.

The little gray bird flitting from limb to limb caught my eye first. Then the robin, worm still in its beak.

“Look at the birds of the air,” I heard God say. “They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”  (Matthew 6:26)

I looked up the Scripture—Matthew 6:25–34. Three times Jesus said, “Do not worry.”

And I remembered Philippians 4:6—“Don’t be anxious or worried about anything.”

I did the second part of that verse—“pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” But peace still eluded me. Because I kept reeling those worries back in again and again.

“Worry is like a rocking chair,” motivational speaker Glenn Turner noted. “It gives you something to do but it gets you nowhere.”

I’m not good at sitting and waiting for God to work. I have to be doing something—anything but be still.

“I have come, that they might have life,” Jesus said, “life in all its fullness” (John 10:10). Abundant life.

And worry compromises that abundant life by siphoning your hope, your joy, and your energy, and replacing them with anxiety, insomnia, tension, and irritability. In other words, you’re no fun to live with.

So, how do we deal with worry?

First, recognize where it comes from: the enemy of our souls, a lack of trust in God, and a weak faith. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Second, respond to it by praying: cast your burdens on the Lord and leave them there!

Prioritize that worry list. Determine what’s most important and, with prayer, deal with that.

And finally, live in the present.

“Worry is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength—carrying two days at once,” said Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom. “It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worry does not empty tomorrow of its troubles. It empties today of its strength.”

Look at your calendar. See that square marked today? Focus on that. Live in one square at a time.

Do you dwell on the what if’s?

Do you focus on the worst-case scenario?

Do you lie awake at night because your worries are whirring through your mind and you just can’t put them to bed?

Maybe, like me, you need more practice with your casting—and learning not to reel them back in.

When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.  When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.  –Psalm 94:18–19 ESV

Read and reflect on Matthew 6:25–34.

 © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Photo courtesy of Mark’s Outdoor Shots, © 2019, by Mark Kephart Sr. All rights reserved. Used with permission.  Click here to see more outdoor shots.

Pierogis and Peace

 

pierogi-dumplings-polish-food-homemade-isolated-whte-background-51873963

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. – Romans 12:18 NIV

A Florida woman found herself behind bars over the holidays when she went after her brother with a knife for eating a plateful of pierogis.

According to the newspaper article, the siblings were at their mother’s home when the two got into an argument about the brother scarfing down the whole plateful. At some point, the 36-year-old woman grabbed a knife and threatened to retrieve the eaten goodies.

The article didn’t say whether the pierogis were homemade or how big the plate was. A serving platter? A dinner plate? Nor did it say whether they were the last of the dish or whether there had been a history of bad blood between the two.

The confrontation ended when the woman plunged the dagger into the hood of her brother’s truck.

Just when you think you’ve heard everything (shaking my head).

Not that I always got along with my siblings. My sister once threatened to drown me in the soapy water when we were doing dishes. Another time my brother grabbed me by the front of my shirt in anger. Imagine his surprise when I, five years younger and much smaller, grabbed his shirt right back. We three kids would get into it so badly at times, our mother fled across the street to her mother’s, saying, “Go ahead. Kill each other.”

Of course she didn’t mean it. We were typical siblings—we had our share of arguments. But we had good times together, too. After all, we were kids, not middle-aged adults who should know better than to fight over a plate of pierogis.

Sometimes it’s just a small thing that appears to incite the blowup.

But the eruption has been building over time, like volcanic gases building up far beneath the earth’s surface. We hold onto our hurts and slights and grievances and stew over them. We keep a record of wrongs, and when we’ve come to our breaking point, like a volcano that can’t contain the buildup of gases any longer, we explode.

(c) 2010 Walter Lim. Some rights reserved. Flicker.com
(c) 2010 Walter Lim. Some rights reserved. Flicker.com

A woman once justified her temper to me by likening it to a volcano. “Once I explode, that’s it,” she said.

“But look at the damage it does,” I replied.

How much better to avoid the eruption in the first place.

People are going to say and do things that irritate us. That hurt us deeply. Intentionally or unintentionally. I’ve known folks who are born faultfinders, folks who harbor a contentious spirit, folks who are just spoiling for a fight—with anyone. Perhaps they want revenge—to pay someone back for a hurt inflicted or a wrong suffered. The problem with revenge is where does it end?

It’s not our job to label folks, to judge them, or even to understand why they act the way they do. According to God’s Word, it is our job to get along with them and to love them.

Not easy, I know, but we can accomplish this by doing three things:

Focus on the good in that person. It is there. If you can’t see it, ask God to show you.

Forget the unkind word, the thoughtless or malicious deed, the harsh attitude, the contentious spirit. By forget, I mean don’t keep thinking about it. Ask God to help you truly not remember what that person said or did that hurt you. He’s done it for me.

And pray—for that person, for the situation, for your own actions and reactions, your heart attitude, and for peace to prevail.

How much, after all, is really worth fighting over?

Help me, Lord, to focus on the good, forget the bad, and forgive as You have forgiven me. Amen.

Read and meditate on Ephesians 4:20–32

(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.