Tag: Anxiety (page 1 of 2)

Meeting New People in Church

You have a choice. The Sunday morning routine begins. You find yourself in the same seat of your section. Next thing you know, a person who you have not met sits next to you. The internal questions begin to race through your mind. Should I say hello? Will I scare them off? What if I say something weird? How will they respond?

The choice comes down to greeting or letting them move on quietly. What choice do you usually make?

This situation can conjure up a host of emotions like fear and anxiety. Your response can result from having an extroverted or introverted personality.

Consider the role reversal. Whenever any of us walks into a new space, we hope someone will take the risk of meeting us. It alleviates a little of our anxiety and can help us get to know other people. This situation full of unknowns becomes more known.

Acknowledging the presence of a new person speaks volumes to what you believe about the Gospel. We welcome people warmly because Jesus has done the same for us. When you take the time to meet a person, you communicate their value as one created in the Image of God.

The next time you encounter a new person, rather than letting fear and anxiety keep you from meeting them, consider these steps:

1. Introduce Yourself and Find Out Their Name.

The first step can take the most courage. Take the time to not only find out their name, but remember it. You may want to use it two-three times in the conversation to help you remember it. You taking this first step helps a person feel noticed.

2. Ask Questions and Listen.

Once the introduction ends, carrying the conversation can become difficult. Start by asking, “Where are you from?” Most times that question will open the door to get to know a person. Then you can move to the question, “How did you find out about the church?” You might find similarity in your story. Most importantly, listen to what they say. You validate people by giving them the space to share their story.

3. Watch for Cues.

Most conversations happen before or after a worship gathering. If the gathering begins, be cognizant of a person wanting to get to service on time. At the end of service, a person may have to pick up their kids or go to another event.

A couple of cues to end a conversation: checking their phone, nervous tapping, looking around, and mentioning they need to go. Cues for staying in conversation includes eye contact, positive flow of conversation, and a relaxed posture.

4. Avoid the Pass Off.

You know the feeling of getting your phone call transferred. Sometimes in our exuberance to help someone connect at church, we immediately want to introduce them to other people. Remember how participating in a new setting can become overwhelming. You are a living human being talking to another living human being.

If a person has a specific question and they want the answer, then that would be an appropriate time to connect with a church leader. Recognize the next steps the person wants to take. Often, they want to start by getting to know a few people before taking a next step.

5. Invite follow up.

When you end the conversation, offer to exchange emails. Making a connection can make the difference between coming back to a church the following week – or not. People feel welcomed when you follow up with them. It speaks volumes to them feeling important if a person takes the time to make themselves available.

Also, invite them to events at the church. Think of the groups, classes, or gatherings that could be a good fit for them.

The time you take on Sunday to meet new people communicates far more than you can ever realize. Jesus not just saw people, but He welcomed them. He calls us to do the same.

How have you helped people feel welcomed at church?

Photo by Nina Strehl.

Remedying Short Attention Spans

Short attention spans come easier and easier. The headlines of last month can get lost in the urgency of today’s news. We move from story to story at an alarming rate, sometimes without taking any time to reflect on the larger issues. Opinions get debated without little nuance or thoughtfulness. It can seem more information brings anxiety rather than peace.

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Remedying short attention spans begins with recognizing Christ’s grace. It requires us to redirect our focus to a greater reality rather than succumbing to distractions. In a world where everything seems urgent, the Gospel constantly reminds us of the resurrection of meaning. We can live life as those created in God’s image and restored by His forgiveness.

A new way of looking at engaging Scripture includes the habit of having a longer attention span. We need this simple practice and reminder of seeing God’s grace. Consider what Eugene Peterson says in Run with the Horses:

We live on the gossip of the moment and the rumors of the hour. It is not as if we never hear the truth at all, but we don’t realize its overwhelming significance. It is an extra, an aside. We have no sense of continuity. We respond to whims, sometimes good, sometimes bad. Then Scripture is placed before us. Words are assembled and arranged, and powerful patterns of truth become visible…Amnesia is replaced by recognition. Distraction gathered into attention.

Engaging Scripture has to do with cultivating an attentive heart to seeing God’s presence in the world around us. Not falling into the trap of worry, today’s headlines, and ventilated opinions, but coming to the place where we discover the Gospel in real life; seeing God’s grace in the everyday.

So today, read the Bible seeing the continuous work of God’s grace in the world around you. Take time to reflect on His faithfulness of yesterday. Slow down at a verse that stops you rather than reading for a quick self-help fix. Keep the Scripture as a reminder by writing it down or saving it on an app.

How can you recognize God’s continuous work rather than living with a short attention span?

Photo credit by Seth Doyle.

The Mind

What were your first thoughts this morning? The to-do list of tasks emerged. You might have thought about the people you will see and the future conversations. Yesterday’s success and failures jogged in your self-conscious. Somewhere in there, we wonder about lunch. We have more thoughts than we can ever realize.

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When we begin to examine our thoughts deeper, we uncover reoccurring messages. These messages range from the following:
Lies we believe about ourselves.
Anxiety concerning what we have to do or what people think.
Fear of failing.
The bombardment of criticisms we have heard from the past.
Hurts surface and re-surface.

What we think affects what actions we take and what we say. Grasping our thoughts means uncovering the positive and negative narratives. It takes time to sort through our thoughts to recognize the truth, reality, and feelings. Ultimately, what we think matters, but it might not paint a complete picture.

Paul in Romans 12:2 calls us to “renew our minds.” The previous eleven chapters detail what Christ has done for us in His death and resurrection: the Gospel. Through Him, we have experienced reconciliation, and we no longer have to walk in guilt and shame. Renewing our mind becomes the nuts and bolts of experiencing the Gospel in our everyday lives.

Dr. James B. Richards in How to Stop the Pain explains the correlation of the Gospel and a renewed mind from Romans 12:2:

The Gospel reveals faith-righteousness from beginning to end. We must start renewing our minds to it by accepting the fact that we are righteous in Jesus. We are completely accepted by God. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves more loved or accepted. Because we are righteous in Jesus, we are loved and accepted. Through these feelings of love, safety, and peace, God can walk us through a life of transformation without us feeling afraid or condemned (pg. 88)

Renewing our minds does not mean the removal of negative thoughts, rather it’s the process of seeing these thoughts through the Gospel, as a person loved and accepted in Jesus Christ. The pressure of transformation moves from our ability to the grace Christ offers us. The Gospel allows us to exchange our fears, anxieties, lies, hurts and the past for the reality of Christ in us.

What thoughts in your mind need to experience the Gospel in renewing your mind? In what ways, can seeing Christ give you a new mindset?

Photo by Jacob Sapp.

The King of my Heart

“What did you think of the song on Sunday?” Jason, the worship director, asked the question about a new song. A group of us sat in a debrief meeting for the church service this past Sunday. The question hit me like a high school pop quiz when I forgot to do the homework. I heard the song during the week played in Jason’s office and even a portion during practice. It never occurred to me to take notice of the song.

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Sunday was exhilarating. Browncroft, the church I serve, embodied the Gospel. A group of passionate volunteers assisted people in getting connected to a community. These Browncrofters affirmed and encouraged others to take the next steps in their spiritual growth. Not in a forceful way, but an empathetic and encouraging way that said, “I took this step too, and Christ worked in my life.”

I spent that day frantically sweating the small stuff. My mind ran through the to-do list a thousand times. Each moment brought a worry that I had forgotten something. Rather than pausing to see the Gospel displayed by God’s people or listening to the new song, I rushed in my anxiety.

Honestly, I identify with Martha more than Mary. Sitting still to listen to Jesus seems foreign and unnatural. In a Martha tone a voice, I can hear my thoughts, “Jesus don’t You see the work needing to get done.”

Somehow the lie of earning God’s love and grace reoccurs in me. If I’m not producing, then I’ll disappoint God. The Gospel says otherwise, but old habits die hard.

Jason asked about the song called King of My Heart by John Mark and Sarah McMillan After the meeting, I looked up the song and listened to it. The following lyrics stopped me:

Let the King of my heart be
The wind inside my sails
The anchor in the waves;
Oh He is my song
Let the King of my heart be
The fire inside my veins
And the echo of my days;
Oh He is my song

You are good, good, Oh
You are good, good, Oh

I wonder how often God calls us to simply be with Him. We worry ourselves with unnecessary concerns. Our hurry from task to task can cause us to neglect seeing the beauty of Christ presence all around us. As I look back at Sunday, in my busyness I overlooked the chance to recognize Him by listening to a song.

Christ, who anchors our souls through the waves, invites us to know Him. What if at one moment today, you stopped to recognize His presence with you? What would you see?

Often, we remained tunnel vision by what we do and accomplish. Grace stops us to take notice of what we could never make happen on our own. Christ has reconciled us through His death and resurrection. Sometimes He calls us to sit like Mary because we need to pause to meet with Him.

Last night, I listened to the King of My Heart. At some point in the day, take the time to listen to this song and ask God to give you the vision to see Him. Perhaps, Christ has called you to do less so that you might rest in Him.

Photo credit by Thibaud Vaerman.

Reads of the Week | 12/19/2015

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Start your weekend with these five articles in the Reads of the Week.

Where Can You Turn When You Lack Purpose in Life? by Jeff Martin

We can suffer from restlessness and wondering our purpose. Martin does a phenomonally helps us to radically simplify our lives through God’s perspective.

The Light of the World by Bryan Marvel

Our homes and streets are filled with lights during Christmas. Marvel calls us to stop and remember the meaning behind the lights.

Advent Anxiety by Chuck DeGroat

“Anxiety is the enemy of Advent.” DeGroat provides us with a timely article for the week leading up to Christmas.

‘O Holy Night’: A Call to Fall to Your Knees by Emma Green

The Atlantic has featured the 12 Days of Christmas Songs. Green gives an insightful background to O Holy Night with a reference to Sufjan Stevens version.

How Beautiful Things are Built from Destruction by Melissa Camara Wilkins

Wilkins helps a have a fuller picture of beauty in the midst of ashes. We can see the reality of the disaster, but we can look to the next chapter.

What were your reads of the week? Share the links in the comment section below.

Photo credit by Aleksi Tappura.

An Advent Prayer for Peace

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This Advent season feels further and further from Silent Night.
All seems far from calm.
All seems far from bright.
The darkness of tragedy engulfs us.
Our pain reminds us of the brokenness of the world.
Peace can be hard to come by.
Debates upon debates consume conversations.
You have seen and heard our infighting and arguments.
We worry about the future and anxiety fills our thoughts.

The Prophet Isaiah refers to You as the Prince of Peace.
The Gospel writers recount You calming the storms.
Paul describes you in Ephesians as One who preaches peace to those near and far away.
Lord, in this season of Advent, we ask for Your peace.

We ask You for the forgiveness of our sins.
We confess being strife-makers and not peacemakers.
At times, fear has motivated us more than the Good News of the Gospel.
Sometimes our words have lacked kindness and compassion.
Give us the grace to see others, even our enemies, as You do.

Let us experience Your peace this season.
Teach us how to reconcile with each other as You have reconciled us with Yourself.
May the Incarnation remind us that You are with us, and You know our pain and weaknesses.
During this Advent season, make us peacemakers embodying Your humility, generosity, and meekness.

You are our peace.
In You, we have experienced grace and mercy.
Darkness cannot overshadow Your light.
Like the shepherds, we still need the message of “Fear Not” and the Good News of the Savior.

Photo credit by Dakota Roos.

Blindness

We don’t always see clearly. Our vision can get obstructed. Distractions sidetrack us. Preoccupation with a situation or person can get us stuck.

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The Gospel of Mark details one of Jesus’ most peculiar miracles (Mark 8:22-26). Jesus and the disciples encounter a man born blind on the outskirts of Bethsaida. We can become accustomed to Jesus’ instant healings. On His first attempt, He asks the man, “Do you see anything?” The man responds, “I see men walking as trees.” Jesus rubs his eyes again, and the man experiences clear sight.

This peculiar miracle begs the question for us, what’s Mark teaching us about following Jesus?

Before this passage, Jesus feeds the 4,000 (Mark 8:1-13). Immediately after the feeding, the disciples forget the leftover bread (Mark 8:14-21). It would seem like Jesus built enough equity with the disciples, that if they did not have bread he could provide. They still worried. Jesus asks them the same question that He asked the blind man (Mark 8:17-19), “Don’t you see?”

Mark reveals to us how we do not always see clearly. You and I can easily wonder how the disciples missed it. Jesus stood right in front of them, and they still worried about bread. David Garland in the NIV Application Commentary: Mark helps us apply this passage:

If we ask, “How could the disciples be so dense?” we need immediately ask the same question of ourselves. The disciples saw dimly in a glass coated with dust of traditional ways of view things and warped by the curvature of their own dreams and ambitions. The glass we look through is no different. We are no less in need of healing before we can see what God is doing, and it may not take on the first try (pg. 316)

We don’t always see things clearly. Often, I find it difficult to understand how God is working around me. Just like the disciples and the blind man, we have enough vision to get the picture of Jesus but we still have our blind spots:
Anxiety drives us to focus on the minutia.
Worry freezes us in the what ifs.
Hurts from others can keep us stuck.
Doubt keeps us from remembering Jesus’ work in the past.
Ambition can distract us.

This passage calls us to recognize our blindness. We don’t always identify how Christ is working in us. The disciples and blind man help us see our need Christ to clear our vision. Today, it might start with you asking Him to remove the obstructions in your life.

What blinds you from seeing Jesus’ work in your lives? What might He invite you to see?

Photo credit by Mario Calvo.

A Prayer for Healthy Ambition

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We fear the label ordinary.
It seems that every voice tells us to pursue greatness.
Discover the dream and journey towards success.
Along the way, we find that our definitions of dreams and success differ from Yours.

We weary ourselves for the label extraordinary.
You see the extra hours we log for perfection.
You know the anxiety of all our presentations.
You hear us tell ourselves about the things other than You to make us matter.

Jesus, infuse in our hearts healthy ambition.
Teach how to live with excellence in worship.
May our ambition start with what You have done in us before what happens outside of us.
Release us from masquerading strength, so that we might find grace in our weaknesses.

Also, we confess that we have not always prioritized ambition rightly.
Let us start by making an ambition to become more like You in word and deed.
Provide us with the ambition to give grace to those closest to us.
Renew our hearts and minds with Your definition of greatness.
Replace the lies of unhealthy ambition with the truth of the Gospel.

Our ultimate worth and security comes from knowing You, not from personal accomplishments.
Thank You for the patience You have offered to us and the grace You have bestowed on us.

Amen

Photo credit by Xeromatic

Clean Eating

The best conversations happen in the kitchen. I went to open the refrigerator door for a late snack. My wife turned to me and nonchalantly asked, “Would you like to participate in a four-week clean eating detox with me?” As soon as she asked the question, I landed in the quandary of to eat or not to eat.

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We agreed to clean eat together for four weeks. My sister in law Kim provided us with a meal plan and protein powder for shakes. Today marks the halfway point of this challenge. That’s two weeks without sugar, gluten or dairy.

Something happens to us when we change our diets. Often, it’s less about what we have removed and more about how we have replaced what we removed. What we eat and how often we eat says something about our spiritual lives.

When Paul talks about food in I Corinthians, he gives them liberty to eat whatever they want with a caveat. You can eat as long as it’s beneficial to you and to others around you (1 Corinthians 10:23-33). Just like Jesus said in the Gospels (Matthew 15:11), food points to our hearts. Why we eat informs what we eat.

We eat for comfort. Sometimes we eat to belong. We eat to calm our anxieties. We eat out of our emotions. All throughout scripture, humans were meant to enjoy and find nourishment in food. It was never meant to control us.

Eating, like many other ordinary routines and tasks, points us to the state of our hearts. I’m challenged to delineate a need from a want. I have had to daily deal with the question, what really fulfills my contentment? Monitoring each morsel has taught me what it really means to savor and to redefine my appetite.

When we follow Jesus, He invites us to seasons go without so that we can replace that space. Silence moves us from our own noise to hear Him. Sabbaths relieve us from over managing our lives. Clean eating and practices like these call us beyond the surface behavior to ask us questions of the heart; What do we long for? What brings contentment? What offers us joy?

Lacking Resources

A scene you cannot easily escape. The clear night sky breaks for a singular object. Our eyes immediately find the moon up above. For a few brief moments, the overwhelming darkness has been replaced by the magnificent light. It’s a scene like this that causes us to pause.

Full Moon

I find myself most days trying to quell the anxiety over minuscule issues. My thoughts range from the “not getting enough done” to the “how in the world will this happen?” Chasing anxiety and worry looks far more like a hamster on a wheel than an Indy car race. Rather than making progress, we exert energy in a fixed place.

Seeing the moon speaks to us. We did not organize the process of getting to a full moon. None of us tilted the earth and measured the rotation for our view. Without our planning, control or effort—we behold this glorious sight.

The apostle Paul prays that his readers would have power in Ephesians 3:14-21. Verse 20 sums up his prayer, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” In the prior verses, he asks that God would strengthen the readers to grow through the Holy Spirit and to know the limitless love of God. The realization of this passage is that we were never asked to live life from our resources. Each day, we need more than ourselves.

This is grace. The moment we realize God’s presence. He invites us to experience his power and love. Ephesians 3:14-21 practically meets us in the here and now. Those times when we think we go at life alone. Grace tells us that God is closer than we could ever imagine.

When we look at the moon, we get a glimpse of the God who can do more than we ask or imagine. For many of us we find ourselves preoccupied with our lack of resources. So we compensate only to realize that we battle these same thoughts of anxiety over and over again. Paul’s prayer leads us to see that God will resource us with strength from the Holy Spirit. Rather than attempting to do it on our own, He has invited us to know Him.

Paul David Tripp in New Morning Mercies says this:

When we remember God’s grace, you tell yourself that you’re not alone, that you’re not left to the small batch of your own resources, and that you have been graced with al that you need right here, right now to be what God has called you to be and to do what God has chosen for you to do.

Grace has met you today through the power of the Holy Spirit in you. We do not have to live believing the lies of worry and anxiety. The One who created the moon has provided us power beyond ourselves.

Photo used with permission by Chris Mason Design.

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