Managing Stress & Anxiety

I wish I could title this post, “Getting Rid of Stress & Anxiety,” but I don’t think that’s very realistic.  With the exception of perhaps childhood, each new phase in life presents its own unique set of challenges.  Perhaps you find yourself in one of the following situations:

  • New marriage, new baby, new home, new work.  While these are also exciting and wonderful, they also call for stamina and courage and wisdom.
  • Long-term care of an aging parent.  In addition to the physical exhaustion is the emotional turmoil of seeing your loved one suffer.
  • School/ work load.  I know some Bear Valley students right now who are being stretched in more ways than they ever expected.  Perhaps you’re in the midst of a project or job requirement that’s been going on for so long you can’t remember your last decent night of sleep.
  • Poor health.  After months or years of battling whatever is attacking your body, you wonder if you’ll ever simply feel good.
  • Financial worries.  Finding a job, paying your bills, wondering about retirement, health care…whether you’ve accumulated a mound of debt or you just long for financial security, money can be a very real and daily stressor.
  • Rocky relationships.  Perhaps your marriage is just barely hanging on.  Or you’re worried about your grown-up children or a spiritually wayward relative.  Sometimes the people we love most can be a source of great anxiety.

Sometimes stress is temporary and we know it.  We can see the light at the end of the tunnel and we’re just trying to get through it.  Sometimes stress is ever-present and overwhelming, and we find ourselves trying to survive one day at a time.  Whichever we find ourselves facing, there are a few simple, proactive ways to manage stress and anxiety.

1.  PRAY

Prayer is probably the first reaction when something causes stress, and I don’t think God resents that.  We find many passages reminding us to turn to God in our distress.  We’re told to cast ALL of our cares on Him (1 Pet. 5:7).  Prayer brings peace in the midst of anxiety (Phil. 4:6,7).  When stress is long-term, our prayers can fade or turn sporadic.  A renewed desire for God’s listening ear can go far in calming anxieties.

2.  MEDITATE

I’m not encouraging “getting your Zen on, man,” but rather committing to quality time in Bible study.  I like the quote I ran across the other day– “Meditation is not an emptying of one’s mind, like some religions teach, but a filling of our minds with the truths of God’s Word” (Jen Thorn).  The Scriptures are powerful (Heb. 4:12) and strength-giving (Eph. 6:10-17).  Neglecting this crucial practice only exacerbates stress and anxiety.

3.  BOOST YOUR HEALTH

It’s common knowledge that long-term stress takes a toll on our health.  Is there an area of your physical well-being that’s taking a harder hit?  See if you could make some small changes for overall well-being:

  • Exercise.  It strengthens the heart, clears mind clutter, and boosts stamina and self-esteem.  Take a walk in the morning and try yoga at night.  No one ever regrets making time to get the blood flowing.
  • Water.  The benefits are endless.  How easy it is to replace empty calorie drinks with water.  Add lemon for even more vibrancy.
  • Sleep.  Who hasn’t been robbed of some zzz’s?  Sleep is essential for mental clarity and emotional stability.  Young moms, get over your guilt and take a nap in the middle of the day when the opportunity presents itself.
  • Cleaner eating.  Bad food equals yucky mood.  Studies are now linking a healthy gut to an overall sense of well-being.  The last thing we need when anxiety is churning in our gut is to add processed foods or sugar to the mix.  Seriously, while it may not be fun to talk about, better eating choices are important when it comes to dealing with stress and anxiety.

4.  UNPLUG

We are attached to our devices, aren’t we?  They’re everywhere and in every room.  Unplugging for a while each day will allow us to focus on those around us, re-appreciate moments of quietness, and even remove some additional anxiety (unpleasant posts on social media, disturbing news, etc.).  It’s good to give our eyes a break from any kind of screen.  Unplug and listen for natural sounds instead like the wind blowing, leaves rustling, birds chirping.

5.  UNCLUTTER

Speaking of devices…we can remove some from our sleeping space for a more peaceful and relaxing environment.  Clearing counter tops of paper stacks and junk also helps clear our minds.  Taking the time and trouble to make the bed and straighten up makes it easier to drift off to sleep later.  Messy rooms add to a feeling of anxiety.

6.  UNWIND

Yes, we could probably use that half hour to cross an item off the to-do list, but sometimes the wiser choice would be to intentionally unwind.  Don’t think of a soak in the tub as a luxury but as a way of promoting peace and health.  Discover the calming benefits of chamomile tea.  You might have to develop a taste for it, but consider it an all-natural anti-anxiety medicine.  Light a candle, rub your feet with lotion, and take deep breaths.  Even a few minutes of slowing down makes a big difference in a trying day.

7.  LAUGH

Laughing relieves stress, lifts the mood, and burns calories!  Have you laughed today?

8.  LOVE

Looking for tangible ways to show our love for others will ultimately lead to our own happiness.  Giving feels good.  It allows us to step outside of our cares and focus on bringing joy to others.  In the midst of your crazy schedule, do something even crazier like adding in a visit to a shut-in or making a homemade, unexpected surprise for someone.

Hopefully these ideas for managing stress haven’t added even more stress.  You might be thinking, Who has time for any of THAT?!  Some of the tips can be combined, like sipping tea while studying the Bible.  Or praying while going for a walk.  It’s probably unrealistic to try to hit all 8 tips every single day, but we can be more intentional in handling our anxieties.  It will be good for us and for those around us.  God has given us many ways to combat stress.  We could even add singing, looking for beauty, and counting our blessings.  What tips do you have?

“In the multitude of my anxieties within me, your comforts delight my soul” (Psalm 94:19).

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4 P’s for Serious Bible Study

Denny Petrillo is the president of the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver.  One of the classes he teaches is “Biblical Exegesis.”  Exegesis in Bible study means to take out of the text what the text is intending to say.  An exegetical approach keeps us from bringing our own baggage or preconceived notions to the text.  What could be more important as we strive to gain wisdom (Col. 1:9,10) and seek God’s will for us (John 7:16-18)?

Dr. Petrillo looks for Four P’s when studying.  The following information about the Four P’s is from the notes I took in his class:

Prevalence 

If a word or phrase appears frequently in a book, it must be an important concept.  These “key words” help us understand the author’s focus.  They keep us on task and allow us to keep verses in context.  When we see a word that has a number of occurrences, we should ask, “Why does the author keep using this word?  What does it mean?”  From Genesis to Revelation, every book has key words.  The rule of thumb is if a word occurs at least one time per chapter, it’s probably a key word.  Color-coding the key words helps them jump out at you and remind you that they are important words in the book.  Here are some examples we were given in class:

  • “Faith” appears 63 times in Romans.  The serious Bible student will put together all of the faith passages to find out the meaning of the word and how it’s used in the book.
  • “Coming” appears 52 times in Matthew.  By paying attention to his word, the Bible student will learn that people have different reasons for coming to Jesus–some for healing, some to test, some to be a disciple, and some for teaching.
  • “Knowledge” appears 14 times in 2 Peter.  Since there are only three chapters in 2 Peter, it becomes apparent that “knowledge” is a major theme in the letter.

Purpose Statement

Sometimes an author will come right out and state why he is writing.

  • For example, John writes, “…these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ…” (John 20:30,31).    So the Bible student now knows the purpose of the book of John and will keep that in mind when studying.  Key words are often found in purpose statements.  In John 20:30, 31, there are at least five key words:  signs (15x), believe (99x), life (55x), disciple (79x), and Jesus (254x).
  • Another example of a purpose statement is 1 Tim. 3:15,16, “…I write so that you may know how to conduct yourself in the house of God…”

Denny Petrillo likes to put the purpose statement on a 3×5 card and keep it where he can frequently look at it.  He said, “This reminds me of one crucial point–he said this is why he is writing.  Therefore, whatever I say should clearly and easily fit into that statement!”

Prayers

When a writer says, “This is what I pray about concerning you…,” he will logically include important points.  If the writer’s praying about it, it’s what the book is probably about.  Examples are found in Ephesians 1:15-19 and 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5.  Some questions to ask when finding a prayer:

  • What are the two or three main points of his prayer?
  • What seem to be the predominant words in this prayer?

Petition Verbs

When we want to emphasize an important point, we will use bold type, italics, ALL CAPS, or underlining.  In the Greek, they used petition verbs.  Petition verbs are “I urge,” “I beg,” “I beseech,” etc.  When we come across a petition verb, the writer is letting us know that what he’s about to say is VERY important.

  • Rom. 12:1- “I beseech you therefore…that you present your bodies a living sacrifice…”  The petition verb clues us in to the importance of this statement and lets us know it’s a key thought in the letter.
  • 1 Cor. 1:10- “Now I plead with you, brethren…that you all speak the same thing…”
  • Phil. 4:2- “I implore Euodia and I implore Synteche to be of the same mind in the Lord.”  Two petition verbs in one verse means what he is about to say is especially significant!  The letter to the Philippians is about being of the same mind.  What mindset does Paul want them to have?  “Others about self” according to 2:3.  “Mind” appears 11 times in the book.  The serious Bible student will consider this while reading through the entire letter.

A list of petition verbs in New Testament letters can be found here.

Looking for these four P’s is one easy way to make sure we are striving to be serious students of the Word.  “Be diligent to present yourself to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of God” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Prayer for Today:  Thank you, Lord, for those who show us how to keep learning and growing in Your Word!

 

 

Serious Bible Study is Not Just for Men

The title of this post is one of the assignments I’ve been given for Polishing the Pulpit, and what a great study it has been!  I knew I would love it and need it.

Have you ever been to a ladies’ day or ladies’ retreat where the topic was fluffy?  Where it seemed like the decorating theme must’ve taken precedence over the study theme?  It’s all cotton candy and no meat (but it’s pretty!).  Well, there’s nothing wrong with that.  Ladies’ days and retreats are extras.  They’re sweet times of fellowship meant to encourage and uplift.  However, I think we sell ourselves (and our teen girls) short.  I think we need to thirst for deeper waters so that we can be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, that we may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him… and increasing in the knowledge of God.”  That was Paul’s prayer for the saints (Col. 1:9,10).

Knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual understanding.  We won’t gain any of those unless we become serious about Bible study.  Do you consider yourself a serious student of God’s Word?  If not, why not?  What could be more important?  What could possibly take precedence in our lives over “increasing in the knowledge of God”?  Believe you me, these   are questions I’m asking myself, too.

Let’s encourage each other and let’s challenge each other to study for ourselves instead of just relying on the study that others have done.  Serious Bible study is for all of us.

Prayer for Today:  Your Word, Lord, is living and powerful.  Help me be more convicted to spend quality time every day discovering its truths.

 

 

Teens in the Word

Some have asked what Teens in the Word is all about and I’m happy to discuss one of the highlights of our week.  There’s nothing out of the ordinary about it.  Very simply, we just wanted to provide an opportunity for our teens to learn how to study the Bible for themselves.  No matter what they hear in life or what they’re exposed to, if they know how to study, they’ll be able to discern between Truth and deception (2 Tim. 3:15).  They’ll know where to turn when their faith is shaky (Rom. 10:17).  And they’ll continue to grow spiritually as they are guided and molded by the powerful Word (Heb. 4:12).   Here’s the setup:

  • Teens in the Word meets in our home every Tuesday night.
  • The teens spend the first half hour or so enjoying a hot cooked meal and fellowshipping.
  • Then they spend an hour and a half getting into God’s Word.

That’s all there is to it!  Now for the fun facts:

-Michael Hite, one of the individuals who first came up with the idea, has devoted his time to teaching the teens every week.  He has done an outstanding job of showing them how to find and mark key words, how to understand context, how to ask questions of the text, and much more.  The few adults present are learning as much as the teens!  He has chosen Colossians 1: 9-12 as our theme, emphasizing “gaining knowledge to walk worthy.”  He even designed a great logo with this idea and had it placed on hoodies for each of the teens.  Michael provided a Question Box the very first week.  The questions submitted have given us a glimpse into the hearts of these young people.  They think deep and they care about souls.

-Lynn Hite and I were just going to take turns providing the meal each week.  Little did we know that parents would start volunteering to bring the meal (enough to feed 30).  Even members who don’t have teens have offered to help!  We’ve been so encouraged by all the ladies who have looked for ways to be involved.

-Honestly, we thought Teens in the Word would start out strong and then dwindle down to “the faithful few.”  How wrong we were!  The numbers continue to grow and we love seeing enthusiasm build.  Even though they have homework and extracurricular activities, these teens are still willing to devote an extra night each week to Bible study.  Some come straight from coaching, arriving too late for the meal but still wanting to participate in the study.  Their dedication has been humbling and inspiring.

-And finally, one of the most exciting developments….While originally intended for Bear Valley members, Teens in the Word has grown to include new friends from the community.  We are thrilled with the young men (and a mom) who have shown up each week to study God’s Word, even though they at first didn’t know any of the other teens.  These new relationships have greatly enriched our Tuesday nights together.

Occasionally we have to cancel a study because of scheduling conflicts or travel.  Tonight is one of those occasions.  I imagine I’m not the only one who will be missing the fellowship and study with such dear and genuine teens.  They want to be challenged spiritually.  They want to grow in the knowledge of Christ.  I thank God for them and for the way He is using them to bless us.

Prayer for Today:  Thank you, Lord, for all young people who love Your Word.

the very first Teens in the Word

Perhaps the Most Important Thing We Must Teach Our Children

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the knowledge that Neal and I are responsible for the three precious souls with which God has blessed us.  Their physical care, their emotional well-being, and their spiritual training are daily being molded by our guidance and example.  Even after 20 years of parenting, I still shake my head with the sheer import of that truth.  But really, I think there is one significant thing that our children must know, must believe, must do in order to be set for life and for eternal life.  They must always turn to the Word of God.  No matter where my children end up or what circumstances they find themselves facing, I pray their knee-jerk reaction will be to open the Bible.  Here are a few reasons why I think dependence on the Bible is the most important thing to instill in our children:

  • The Bible, and only the Bible, gives them the plan of salvation.  It ultimately doesn’t matter what any professor, religious leader, parent or grandparent says…God is the only One who does the saving and so He is the only One who gets to tell us how that happens.  And He has done that for us in His Word (Mark 16:16).  The Bible teaches our children how to have a relationship with God, how to pray, how to be a genuine Christian (Matt. 7:21).
  • The Bible provides answers for their questions.  Where did we come from?  Why are we here?  What is our purpose?  Lots of people have lots of interesting ideas about these areas, but our Creator knows us better than we know ourselves (Psalm 33:13-15).  Any who seek answers to life’s questions will be satisfied if they turn to the Bible  (2 Peter 1:3).
  • The Bible helps them weather the storms.  My children may one day face job loss, health problems, disappointments, powerful temptations, painful experiences, or marital strife.  They will probably receive advice from well-meaning friends and loved ones or professionals, but only the Bible will enable them to survive.  It will comfort them when distraught (Psalm 119:107), arm them for spiritual battle (Eph. 6:10ff), and help them remain faithful till death (Heb. 10:23).
  • The Bible determines what is right and what is wrong.  Doesn’t that seem like an especially huge deal right now with social media, news anchors, outspoken celebrities and politicians all telling us what to believe and what to accept?  Many people are embracing their feelings as their guide instead of what’s right and logical.  If our children hear such convincing messages often enough from multiple avenues, they might question how so many could be so wrong.  The Bible will warn our children about that (Matt. 7:13,14).  If our children know to turn a deaf ear to the world and listen only to God, they will be able to discern the difference between Satan’s lies and God’s Truth (John 8:31,32).

Truly, there are many other reasons why it is so important for our children to feel dependent on the Bible.  Job success, physical health, and becoming an upstanding citizen are all good and important.  But the single most important thing I desire for my children is that they go to Heaven.  How can we teach them to rely on the Bible?  They must see us always turning to God’s Word in every situation.  They must hear us answer their questions with, “Let’s see what the Bible says about that.”  They must experience for themselves the genuine faith that comes from daily Bible study (Rom. 10:17).  And after it’s all said and done, and they face Christ on their own, they will be judged by His Word.

He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

Prayer for Today:  Lord, I beg You, help me instill complete trust in Your Word in the hearts of my children.

*This post can also be found at:  http://proverbs14verse1.blogspot.com/2014/04/special-news-and-wise-woman-linkup.html

Bibles Everywhere!

Let’s counter the overwhelming influence of worldliness by making our Bibles have more of a presence in our communities.  We’re all very aware of the moral decline in our nation, and the reason we’re so aware of it is because we see it everywhere we turn.  It’s on the news, radio, TV shows, talk shows, magazines, billboards, and internet.  What’s trending?  Worldliness.  All of these media outlets and various other avenues touting materialism, secularism, and godlessness can be discouraging.  Satan must be pleased.  He wants us to despair, to ask, “Where are the Christians?”  He wants us to throw our hands up and quit.  I think we can do something about that.  We can remind everyone that there are still many who want to serve God.  And we can do that by the very simple act of making our Bibles more visible.

Bibles are recognizable.  Everyone knows what they look like.  Outside of the church building, we don’t see them very often.  If we do, it’s notable.  The few times I’ve seen someone with their Bible on a plane or in an office, I think, “Hey, they’re holding a Bible!”  And it always makes me smile.  So what if we ALL carry our Bibles with us, in a very visible way, everywhere we go?  The next time we meet friends for lunch, we can call and ask each one to bring their Bible, and then just set them on the table.  The Bibles won’t go unnoticed.  If we’re shopping, the Bible can rest in the seat of the cart.  If we’re carpooling, we can display it in the dash.  If we’re at the gym, we can put in on the treadmill.  If we’re in the bleachers, we can set it right next to us.  Whether we’re working, playing, traveling, networking, or relaxing, we can look for ways to allow our Bibles to have a presence.  (This means it’ll have to be a traditional Bible, as the ones on our phones or other devices won’t be easily recognized by others.)  Even though such a simple act doesn’t involve extra time or money on our part, I think this kind of Bible-saturation can make an impact.

What’s the worst that can happen?  Someone might ridicule us.  Someone might be offended.  Someone might even ask us to put the Bible away.

What’s the potential for good?  At the very least, our Bibles will be noticed.  People around us will automatically know we are believers.  Other godly folks will be encouraged.  The nonstop message of immorality will be partially countered by the presence of Bible believers.  Others might start carrying their Bibles, too.  Who knows?  It might even become commonplace in your community to see Bibles out in public.  And one day, someone might even be interested in studying that Bible with you.

“You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

Prayer for Today:  May I never be ashamed of Your Word, O Lord.

Photo credit: westerntradition

God’s Will or Mine?

When it’s decision-making time, Christians want to please God.  We want our choices to reflect our submission to Christ and His will.  With some decisions, the choice is crystal clear.  If it’s sinful, we’ll prayerfully choose to avoid it.  If it’s loving, benevolent, evangelistic, we’ll hopefully choose to embrace it.  But what about those times when the choice isn’t so clear?  We can pray about it…and then what?  Wait for clarification?  Do you find yourself then looking around for clues or hints, and saying, “Oh, that must be a sign!”  How do we know if something that happens is really an open door, an answer to prayer, or if it’s simply perceived justification of what we ourselves want?  In other words, how do we know if it’s God’s will or our own personal will?  I believe that sometimes there will be more than one right choice if, when we decide one way or another, we serve God to the best of our ability wherever that choice leads us.  But sometimes a choice can be costly.  Looking back, we might see more clearly how our own decisions led to poor outcomes.  Only God is all-knowing, but thankfully He has given us some guidelines for making the best choices in life.

1.  STORE UP WISDOM

Solomon, who had everything, recognized the value of wisdom.  He said when you’re in a tough situation, wisdom is better than physical strength and weapons of war.  Wisdom is what delivers us from what comes against us (Ecclesiastes 9:13-18).  Michael Hite, Vice President and instructor at the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver, said that wisdom is “the ability to see earthly things through heavenly eyes.”  How do we gain that spiritual sight?  By studying God’s Word.  Instead of waiting until we’re unsure about something, we should be studying diligently and consistently all along.  Storing up God’s Word means we’re prepared and better equipped to choose wisely.  Notice what we can learn about this very idea in James 1:19-25.  This passage teaches that our attitude toward the Word determines whether or not we’ll produce the righteousness of God.  Do we accept what God has to say, or are we quick to argue?  Do we receive it?  Do we do it?  Do we continue in it?  If so, we will be blessed in what we do.

*Some other verses for personal study on wisdom and the Word include Job 12:12,13; Proverbs 1-4; 24:3-6; Col. 2:2,3; Heb. 4:12; James 1:2-8; 3:13-18.

2.  DISTRUST YOUR FEELINGS

How many poor decisions have been made because of our emotional state at the time?  I once read a quote that advised against making a big decision on a bad day.  Some emotions, like frustration, anger, and hurt, can skew our thinking.  “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered” (Proverbs 28:26).  What seems like a good idea in the heat of the moment may seem foolish when all is resolved, and then we’ve only added more trouble.  We must learn patience in discouragement.  We must cultivate the kind of maturity that can recognize the difference between feelings and facts.  And we must practice will-power and self-discipline when tempted to act rashly.  “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without wall” (Proverbs 25:28).  Making decisions without self-control equals vulnerability.  Feelings can be powerful, but that doesn’t make them right.  When experiencing the whirlwind of our emotions, we must stop, pray, study, and then decide how to act, if at all.

*Additional verses for study on the unreliability of feelings include Prov. 14:12-17; Jer. 17:9,10; Col. 3:15-17; 2 Pet. 1:5-9.

3.  CULTIVATE CONTENTMENT

Discontentment can be a deterrent to godly choices.  If we are the type to become easily bored or soon dissatisfied, we will find ourselves wanting to make another change, move on, switch out.  This can be especially dangerous in areas of marriage, jobs, ministry, and acts of service.  Discontentment causes us to focus on the flaws instead of the potential.  One preacher’s philosophy was “I’ll stay with a work only as long as I’m useful.”  Unfortunately, he based his level of usefulness on the amount of effort it took in local work.  If problems came along, or things got tough, he moved on.  Consequently, this preacher chose to move every couple of years, and sometimes in less time than that.     No relationship, work, congregation, leadership, or location is perfect.  Contentment will allow us to make choices and then stick with them as long as we possibly can.  “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.  Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).  Contentment reflects a heart that focuses on God’s blessings and trusts Him with the rest.

*Some more verses about contentment and how to cultivate it are Psa. 37; 118:24; Ecc. 3:1-13; Isa. 26:3; 58:10,11; 2 Cor. 12:8-10; 1 Tim. 6:6-11; Heb. 13:5.

Based on these three suggestions, we can ask ourselves some questions when trying to determine whether a decision is God’s will or really our will.  Have I been studying in order to make a wise decision?  Am I emotional right now?  Do I need to wait until I calm down?  Am I anxious to choose something else because discontentment has caused me to want to move on?  If we prayerfully and honestly answer these questions, we’ll have better clarity in determining the right course.