Crunch Time

Man, I can be a jerk to live with when I am stressed out.  I realized yesterday that my outlook had been skewed by my schedule and (more importantly) my priorities and that had made me more than a bit difficult to get along with.  Don’t get me wrong; I have my reasons for feeling like a mummy (“pressed for time”…thank you, I’ll be here all week!):

  1. We transition to two worship services in 2 1/2 weeks at church, and we still need about 8 volunteers to make it a success.  That seems like a small number, but it’s still a stress.
  2. I have a ridiculous weekend ahead.  I am hosting Dr. Dave Anderson this weekend for Graceline, and he is preaching at church this Sunday.  That’s cool!  But I have a funeral to officiate and a family to grieve with on Saturday too, which of course is occupying a lot of my mind.
  3. I have a huge pile of grading on my desk, and 75 research papers coming in on Wednesday. Ahhhhhhhhh!
  4. I am working on my Easter sermon, my second ever in first-person.  That takes WORK.  The last one went well and I want this one to also.
  5. Last but CERTAINLY not least, both Laura and I are not able to run right now.  She had surgery to remove more tissue after her melanoma diagnosis, which put her out of action for 4 weeks.  Then I hurt my foot and need to take about 10 days off too—no running or kenpo. 

The end result: Stress.  The outcome: John is a jerk who gets snappish and surly. 

As I looked at the reason I get that way, it really boils down to simply being too focused on tasks and not focused on God and people.  I look at the “task” of two worship services and realize that we are doing that to help people, not to have something to do.  I look at this weekend and thank God that I get to be with that family and get to know Dr. Anderson better.  I realize that God has entrusted me with helping 75 students understand the New Testament better, and this is their chance to show me that!  My Easter sermon shouldn’t be a chance to be impressive but to help real people see the impact of the resurrection of Jesus on their lives.  And certainly, I realized that being unable to work out has given Laura and me some time to sleep in, to goof off, and to rebuild some margins in life.  Blessings, all.

And the schedule?  Well, God isn’t hanging me out to dry, either!

Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10)

Yesterday I completely revamped my prayer list too.  I took every task off of my list and instead changed to praying for people.  Monday, for instance, I am now praying for Laura, for my heart, for vision to lead our church, and for those who don’t know Christ in my life.  Tuesday is Elizabeth, the men that I am mentoring as well as my mentors, and my staff at church.  And so on.

And the change in focus has brought with it much more peace and much more willingness to be kind, to be present and to let small annoyances stay small.

How do you react to stress?  Is it schedule, or assignments, or money that makes you anxious?  Do you run to God or from Him when stress hits?  And when you can’t run to your normal stress relief, how do you cope?

The Eye of the Hurricane

Melanoma.  What a scary word.  A couple of weeks ago Laura went to the doctor to have a weird mole on her knee looked at.  The doctor didn’t like it and so he removed it and sent it for a biopsy.  Then last Monday the office called back and said it was melanoma.  Google melanoma and the first hit is this; the first two sentences are frankly terrifying.  Even though the doctor said it was “stage 0/in situ” and therefore easily treatable, it’s still no bueno. 

Today she goes in to the doctor to have some more tissue removed from around where the mole was, just to make sure it’s all gone.  We’ve had a couple of weeks to think, talk, pray, and consider what this means for Laura and for us.  And this morning, as I was walking in from my run, God reminded me of where my attitude needs to be:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, NASB)

Rather than being anxious for my wife, I need to pray and give God the place He deserves.  I need to trust in His grace and in His goodness and tell Him my desires.  My Calvinist friends may say that God already knows; that may be true, but Paul still tells me that my anxiety is not solved by God’s omniscience but by letting Him know my needs with thanksgiving.  Then His peace will guard my mind and my heart.  Thanks, Lord, for the reminder today.

If you get a moment, please pray for Laura and for the surgery.  Pray that it’s all gone and that her recovery is swift.  Pray for the next four weeks as she is on restricted activity and can’t run or bike or take ballet.  And pray that I don’t drive her nuts during that time. 🙂

And please, look at that link again and if you have any moles pay attention to the ABCD symptom tool.  Go get it checked!

What strategies do you use to fight anxiety?  What is most helpful to you as you face an uncertain future?  Where do you struggle the most, and how do you deal with it?

The Big Picture

Chennai Marathon 2010photo © 2010 Simply CVR | more info (via: Wylio)

Sometimes I have to remember that the big picture is more important than today.  That can be hard when the demands of today are right in my face and I want to be successful at every task and every challenge, but that’s just not how life works.

I am struggling through a lesson in “keeping the big picture in mind” in my marathon training.  I (finally!!!) went for a run in my Vibrams on Thursday after owning them for a couple of months.  It was SO fun, and it was only two miles right?  Wrong.  I stressed a joint in my right foot pretty hard, and made that foot awfully sore.  I went to the chiropractor and got it adjusted, and he told me a couple of things:

  1. I need to ice it twice a day.
  2. I can’t run my planned long run on Saturday; I had 20 miles on my goal sheet for this week and he said it ain’t happening.
  3. I need to take a couple of days off and rest it so that it won’t bother me long term and impact my ability to complete my first marathon in June.

“Remember,” Dr. Kevin told me, “your goal is the marathon in June, not 20 miles on Saturday.  Rest now to succeed then.”  I know he is right, so even though I would LIKE to take a run today, I can tell that my foot needs one more day of rest before getting out for a run.  So I will listen, even if (a big) part of me wants to get out for a run today.

I see Jesus practice something similar in Luke 4:1-13.  The temptations that He faced were real; the temptation to doubt the provision of God, the protection of God, and the plan of God were far more significant for Him than for us.  But Jesus wouldn’t take the bait.  He never let today, with its struggles and challenges and needs, get in the way of the bigger, more significant goal of glorifying the Father by fulfilling His plan in Jesus’ life.  He was focused on the larger, more significant goal rather than the minor, in-His-face goal.

I see this in myself too often spiritually too.  I put the urgent in front of the important.  I put time for sermon prep in my schedule but too often get too busy to spend time in significant prayer or non-prep Bible reading.  I prioritize mentorship but often not being mentored or just hanging with my wife and kids doing family stuff.  I too often put the intermediate goals (a good sermon, a smooth transition at church, a belt in kenpo) ahead of the big goals (glorifying God in my family life and ministry and self-defense).  And as I take a day off to rest, my foot reminds me that in those areas too I need to keep the bigger goals in mind and plan today with the end in mind.

How about you?  Where have you let the goals of today and the tyranny of the urgent get in the way of the bigger picture?  Are you focused on the big picture and setting goals appropriately, or are the minor battles and ideas of today so important that you have lost sight of the reason you are living to begin with?  And (maybe most importantly for me) can you mentally and emotionally allow what might look like a setback to be a reminder and a re-commitment to the more important objectives you’re chasing?

March Links

For March, here the thought-provoking, interesting, biblical, or just plain goofy links for the month.  Just FYI, these are gathered from my perusing of the internet, from blogs I read, from what friends on Facebook find and post that I think are interesting, and from what gets sent to me by others who look for the good, the bad, and the ugly (but SFW) on teh intarwebz.

So if you have some time, enjoy sifting through some of the best stuff I have seen over the past month or so.

Interesting Biblical Stuff

You want to learn the “big picture” of a tough book like Romans?  This is the best I have seen. For a reader without a PhD, Kara’s synopsis is as good as it gets and by the end of 4 short blog posts you have everything you need to understand the big picture of Romans.

Anyone who can compare pastors to hobbits while making a good point is amazing in my book.

The whole Rob Bell brouhaha…what to say?  Well, I appreciate Lisa Robinson’s thoughts on keeping the main thing the main thing.

Church may be hard, it may be a mess at times, but it is still worth it!

USA Today of all places is questioning the oft-quoted divorce statistic that says the divorce rate is the same in the church as outside of it.

I love everything about this article about wanting to change the world…but not if it means teaching Sunday School.


AoM has a decent guide to taking care of a pregnant wife, though I would suggest different books.

If you’re not already, please pray for Japan’s recovery.  Watch this video and see what the tsunami did to the people.

I like Primer.  Their 50 tips for grooming, style, and living better is really helpful!

Dude, PVC and imagination can go a long way…

Funny, Cool, or Ridiculous

Coolest. Bedroom. EVAR.

It’s baseball season, so learn how to score a game. It makes the game more fun and you gotta pay attention!

If you need to learn how to write a paper, there is no greater source than Strongbad.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, a stirring rendition of Danny Boy:

 This little guy might end up with an attitude problem, but no one will be able to tell him because HE WILL BODY SLAM THEM!!!