DO NOT FREAK ME OUT registry

scream

I would like to make a statement.

Two of them, in fact.

#1.  Not changing, because of fear, is bad.
#2.  Changing, because of fear, is equally as bad.

Or, if you’d like to reduce them down even further:  Fear is bad.

I’m somewhat of an anxiety sponge, and I’ll own that.

I can take other people’s fears and allow them to amplify my own.

Because of that, I wish Facebook had a “low anxiety” setting that I could employ, because lately I’ve been hearing a whole lot of fear about The Church:

“Open letters” to the dying Church.

How-to articles to lessen the hemorrhaging of local congregations.

There are some constructive pieces, to be sure, but so much fear!

Fear about statistics.

Fear about schism.  Fear about the future.

I wonder sometimes — do folks know how contagious this stuff is?

People can read this stuff, and despair. (And then for some unexplained reason, click “share”.)

I’d like to join a DO NOT FREAK ME OUT registry.

I’d even take a test to be allowed to sign up:

__ Yes, I know about the general decline of Christianity in the United States.

__ Yes, I know that our churches have to work extra hard to be vital.

__ Yes, I know that our denomination is perilously at odds with itself on the issue of Homosexuality.

There, I’ve checked off all three.  I care very much, and am committed to doing my faithful share.

(Can I get back to Buzzfeed quizzes and pictures of funny cats?)

The truth is, any system that is in a high level of stress will not be fully functional.

So instead retraumatizing ourselves with the considerable challenges we face, let’s take a few deep breaths, praise God who reigns forever, and continue the joyful work of being, and making, Disciples.

Have a great week,

Mitch

412229c8042064d66d0476057d1b9873

Whisper

therapist

The words and images in today’s devotion come from a popular app called “Whisper”.   Whisper is a social networking site where people can anonymously post whatever they want.

There’s plenty of flirting, goofing around, rough language, and immaturity (so be forewarned), but the site seems to actually serve a purpose, too:

This is where people post their real struggles, pains, fears, and confessions.   Things they might not even tell their closest friends.

People write their whisper, and the program automatically chooses a picture background based on the words.  (Sometimes the picture fits better than others)

Here are some of the posts I found that come from within a half-hour radius of my church, but be forewarned — it may hurt your heart to read them.

losingmyfaithnotskinnysinglemomhome

 

 

 

 

steroids needhelp hungry jobeliminated gambling heroin feelempty brokenhearted domesticabuse drunk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

depressed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wow.  These are things we don’t generally mention during Joys and Concerns, right?

Just knowing that these people live and work within range of my own church makes me ache to reach out to them.  And then it occurs to me:  Who’s to say these people, or people like them, aren’t already a part of my congregation?

The truth is, everybody has pain, and secrets, and plenty of material for “whispers”.

We don’t give voice to our whispers because we’re ashamed of them, or because people wouldn’t understand, or because we don’t want to appear weak, or because we aren’t ready to change.

Maybe we don’t speak our whispers out loud because we’d feel too vulnerable.

So what can we do with our secrets, our fears, and our shames?

Well, that’s why we have covenant groups, and accountability groups, and support groups in the church.  They are places of high trust designed for sharing the deeper stuff.

And there are counselors and therapists and pastors who are willing to listen and help.

And of course, there’s prayer.

Whether they were intended as such or not, I consider posts on Whisper to be prayers.  Surely God hears them.

God hears your prayers, too.

As for Whisper, I think it may provide a place for ministry in the 21st century.  People can actually reply to a person’s whisper, so I’ve responded to a few, offering some encouragement and comfort.

And there are people out there who offer Good News in their whispers.

For every dozen desperate secrets tossed out into cyber space, you’ll find something like this in with the mix:

godislove

 

May you find a place, online or off, where you can whisper.

Have a great week,

Mitch

 

 

 

 

A is for Anxiety

So here’s what happened to me yesterday…

I was at my locker getting some books and came across my World History textbook.

Oh no!  I realized I hadn’t been to a single class, and final exams were tomorrow!

And then I woke up.

———————–

Even though I haven’t been in school for years, I’m apparently feeling some kinship with all the students headed back to school this week.

This week everyone is dressed for success and jumping into a new routine. It’s exciting! But let’s also remember:

School may be fun, challenging, or downright boring, but at some point in the semester…

School = Anxiety.

There’s the anxiety to fit in and the anxiety to make good grades.

There’s the anxiety of adolescence, and the anxiety of questioning authority.

Running through it all is the great big anxious question:  “Who am I becoming???”

It’s no wonder so many of us have recurring bad dreams that take place back in school.  It’s the time in our lives when we asked that question the most fervently .

It’s a question I’m still asking. You too?

I read an excellent article in The Atlantic that talks about how much anxiety Americans carry around, especially students. Here’s the link.

Anxiety seems to be the watch word for many of us.

Hmm.  Remember Jesus’ thoughts on worry?

Essentially, he said, “Stop and smell the flowers.  Tomorrow will take care of itself.  Worry never accomplished anything.”

Wow.  That’s a different message than the world gives. If only we could truly live like that.

What if life could have the freedom, grace, and joy that Jesus describes in Matthew 6?

Easier said than done, I know.  But less anxiety would make school (and life) less painful at times.

Here’s some quick advice (from a non-parent) for reducing anxiety with the student in your life:

1.  Remind students they don’t have to do everything.  Even though our culture promotes participation in a million projects/clubs/teams, the whole idea of sabbath is for resting and recharging on a regular basis. Stop and smell some lilies.

2.  If you’re going to pay for A’s, find a way to reward character, too.  In the long run, emotional intelligence may be more important than book smarts!

3.  Focus on your own body, mind, and spirit, and encourage your student to do so as well.  God cares more about our healthy souls than our report cards. If you model a healthy life, your student will be more likely to adopt one as well.

4.  Covenant to go to church together.  Then go out to lunch afterwards.  If that’s all the family time you have in a week, it will at least be quality time.

5.  Dream together. Plan family trips. Visit colleges. Take up fun hobbies.  Look to a future with hope! (Jeremiah 29:11)

 As I think about the challenges of today’s youth, I realize they are the challenges of today’s culture, placed in a pressure cooker.

Releasing some of that pressure makes for a healthier student.  And the truth is, we’re all students, aren’t we?

So as we begin another season of learning, here’s my wish for us:

I wish us less anxious days…

And far sweeter dreams.

Have a great week,

Mitch