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Do You Know?

10 Mar

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my [firm, impenetrable] Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my [firm, impenetrable] Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Do you know that although “Americans are safer and more secure today than at any point in history,. . . America now ranks as the most anxious nation on the planet, with more than 18 percent of the adults suffering from a full-blown anxiety disorder in any given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.”

Also, “The average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950s.” These quotes are from a book I just finished called Nerve: Poise under pressure, serenity under stress, and the brave new science of fear and cool.  I’m interested in the topic of teenage anxiety, as I teach 7th grade English Language Arts in a middle school in Costa Rica, and my students are continually stressed out.

The book has a number of suggestions for dealing with fear, anxiety, and stress, which I am taking the liberty of giving a Biblical point of view:

Breathe:  Physiologically when we take deep breaths we are telling our body that everything is all right.  Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord! Praise ye the Lord!  Psalm 150:6

Put your feelings into words: Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! Thou hast set me at large when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.  Psalm 4:1

Train, practice, and prepare:  to know the love of Christ, which surpasseth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:19  As Christians, we prepare for extraordinary crises in our lives through reading and meditating on the Word of God and fellowshipping with Him during ordinary times in our lives.

Redirect your focus:  “The culprit in cases of meltdown under pressure isn’t fear but misdirected focus:  we turn our attention inward and grow preoccupied with worries about results, which undercuts our true abilities.”  Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. For I know that this shall turn out to my salvation through your prayer and the support of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,according to my earnest expectation and my hope that in nothing shall I be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always so now also, Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death.  Philippians 1: 18-20

Mindfully disentangle from worries and anxious thoughts:  Taylor Clark, the author of Nerve, suggests two routes through which we can disentangle ourselves:  1) mindfully watch your worries, or 2) postpone worries.  The Bible suggests that we Humble [ourselves] therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; casting all your anxiety upon him, because he careth for you.  1 Peter 5:6-7

Expose yourself to your fears:  But when anything is exposed and reproved by the light, it is made visible and clear; and where everything is visible and clear there is light. Ephesians 5:13

Learn to accept uncertainty and lack of control:  According to Oswald Chambers, “Our greatest fear is not that we will be damned, but that somehow Jesus Christ will be defeated.”  That is the fear we need to deal with, and the only way to deal with that is to acknowledge our weakness and learn of His omnipotence through worship and communion with Him.  O Lord God of hosts, who is a mighty one like unto You, O Lord? And Your faithfulness is round about You [an essential part of You at all times].  Psalm 89:8  Oswald Chambers goes on to edify:  “If our hopes seem to be experiencing disappointment right now, it simply means that they are being purified.”

Continue to persevere.

Presumptions…Good Ones

16 Sep

IMG_8030Last week I was reading a book about Cognitive Coaching, of all things, and came across a direction to presume. When I hear the word presumption used, it’s usually in a negative sense.  Since word dissonance nibbles away at my brain, I decided to investigate.  Checking in my beloved Noah Webster 1828 dictionary, I found some of the major definitions of the word:

  • To venture without positive permission; as, we may presume too far;
  • To form confident and arrogant opinions; or
  • To take or supposed to be true or entitled to belief without examination or positive proof, or on the strength of probability.  We presume that a man is honest, who has not been known to cheat or deceive; but in this we are sometimes mistaken.

Back to cognitive coaching.  I read that when we are coaching, whether coaching a student or fellow teacher we are to make three positive presumptions:

  • Nobility of purpose
  • Positive intentionality
  • Prior and ongoing thought

Isn’t that rich?  Rather than walking into a coaching situation presuming the worst, presume the best.  Of course, I immediately thought of the Biblical principal about thinking the best of someone.  But sometimes I need a new way to look at an old truth to make it live in my life.  Think about those positive presumptions as you read this verse from 1 Thessalonians.

Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out. I Thessalonians 5:13b – 15

Emotional Intelligence & The Word

23 Mar

I was at a teacher’s conference in Quito this past weekend–it included teachers from International schools all over Latin America.  My friend, Lore, taught a class about teaching emotional intelligence to our students.  These were the 5 abilities:

  1. Consciousness of our emotions (self-awareness & self-evaluation)
  2. Self-control
  3. Channel emotions positively (self-administration)
  4. Empathy
  5. Social relations (communities)

During her teaching she mentioned how an internal positive dialogue can change your brain.  She said, “You can’t imagine how powerful the word is!”  I asked her about it at lunch and she told me how she couldn’t mention it in the setting of the class, but her whole attitude had changed from negative to positive through praying the Word of God.  “You can’t imagine how I have changed through learning to pray Scripture!  It’s so powerful!  I changed so much, I just wanted to be with Him!”

But He replied, It has been written, Man shall not live and be upheld and sustained by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4

If you live in Me [abide vitally united to Me] and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. John 15:7

Conflicts Without, Fears Within

25 Feb

In 2nd Corinthians 7:5,  the conflicts without and the fears within refer to the difficulty of spreading the gospel in Macedonia.  In the following verse Paul is comforted by God who used Titus’s arrival and the news Titus brought of how beautifully the Corinthians had responded to Paul’s first letter to comfort him.

That made me think of the many ways that God uses to encourage us, because we are often in situations with conflict without and fears within.  I would dare to say fairly often.  The word for comfort, parakaleo, is written in the present active participle–it’s something that is continually being done by God.  It means to call to one’s side, to call to, to summon, to strengthen, and to comfort.  God is doing all that right now!  Allow God to parakaleo you today.

For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within.  But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever. 2 Cor. 7:5-7

Anxiety in the Workplace: Gossip

16 Feb

Ouch.  Gossip.  The last of the five coping mechanisms we adopt in a stressful system according to systems theory, whether it be an anxious workplace, church, or family.  Here is the list:

“We gossip when we talk about someone, rather than directly to someone.  Two people move closer to each other at the expense of the gossiped about party, who is focused on in a critical or worried way.  You can measure the amount of anxiety by the amount of gossip going on.” ~ Harriet Lerner, Phd.

There are times, of course, when it is healthy to involve a third party, but we’re talking here about unhealthy conversation.  We need to find a way to deal with people in a straightforward manner and not go behind their backs.  “Have you heard what ______ did now??” is neither healthy nor productive.  The Bible tells us that our tongues can bring life or death into a situation.  I think it’s particularly difficult to correct when you’re the type of person who processes life through talking–as I am.  I’m learning, too slowly it seems at times, to talk things through with God instead of my co-workers.

Mean people spread mean gossip; their words smart and burn. Proverbs 16:27

The gossip of bad people gets them in trouble; the conversation of good people keeps them out of it. Proverbs 12:13

Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy; do you really want junk like that in your belly? Proverbs 18:8

Anxiety in the Workplace: Distancing

13 Feb


We’re moving along in our study of five common coping mechanisms when we experience anxious systems, whether those systems are in the workplace, in the church, or in the family.  We’ve already taken a look at the first three, and today we’ll take a look at distancing.

There are times when distancing yourself from a situation can actually be healthy, so it is important to ask God to help us search our hearts for a motive.  There have been numerous times in my teaching career when I’ve said to myself, “I don’t care anymore, I’m just going to shut the door to my classroom and work.”  I can be rather self-rightous about it, convincing myself that I’m just not going to involve myself in pettiness.  However, God gently knocks on my heart until I realize I need to be part of the solution and not simply go into retirement.  Then I set aside time each week to wander around the campus and edify–it works much better than climbing into my fort and closing the doors.

Let each one of us make it a practice to please (make happy) his neighbor for his good and for his true welfare, to edify him [to strengthen him and build him up spiritually].  Romans 15:2

P.S.  We can emotionally distance ourselves too.

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Anxiety in the Workplace: Blaming

10 Feb

Some of us keep records of blame

We’ve been looking at five coping mechanisms we use when a system, like a workplace, church, or famiy, is anxious according to systems psychology:

Today we’ll take a look at blaming.  Oh, it is lamentably easy to lay blame.  According to Harriet Lerner, Phd., “Blame is an automatic response to anxiety.  You overfocus on what the other person is doing to you (or not doing for you) and underfocus on your own creative options to change your part in the problem.  You lose your capacity to see two sides of a problem, or better yet, six or seven sides.”

When I teach about marriage, I call this the Magnifying Glass Principle.  There are times in our marriages when I hold a magnifying glass to the faults of my husband.  We use that Magnifying Glass Principle in the workplace too.  When we catch ourselves playing the blame game, we need to ask God for clear heads with which to see the issue.  Then, we need to ask God for tact with which to edify.  The word edify comes from the Latin word aedes, a house, and facio, to make.  To edify is to build a house, not to tear one down.

I believe God led me to pick  up the book, Fear and Other Univited Guests, from which I’ve garnered these five responses to institutional anxiety, because it had been such a stressful few weeks at work and I was responding to the stress in all the wrong ways.  I’m grateful that I read it before I stormed in my boss’s office and began to hurl blame around the room.  I needed this time to think how to build up, not only my boss, but the institution in which we both work.  Don’t you love it when you see God work?

Therefore encourage (admonish, exhort) one another and edify (strengthen and build up) one another, just as you are doing. 1 Thess. 5:11

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Anxiety in the Workplace: Overfunctioning

7 Feb


Let’s take another look at systemic anxiety in the workplace, church, or family, and how we manage our anxiety according to systems theory:

As an oldest child, I tend to deal with stress through overfunctioning, yea, even by being controling at times.  I mentioned underfunctioning the other day, but find it to be quite unsatisfactory as a way to deal with stress.  Overfunctioning WORKS for me.  It takes two forms:  trying to get opinion heard even in areas that are not my province (a.k.a. Bossy Control Freak) and (the most common) throwing myself into my work to a ridiculous degree.  There is a part of me that believes that I have vertigo issues because I could not learn the lesson of knowing when to stop.  Not as a punishment, of course, but as a kindness.  Overfunctioners have difficulty resting in God and His provision.  They (we) tend to make things happen rather than waiting on God.

It is vain for you to rise up early, to take rest late, to eat the bread of [anxious] toil–for He gives [blessings] to His beloved in sleep. Psalm 127:2

I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory [my inner self] rejoices; my body too shall rest and confidently dwell in safety, Psalm 16:8 & 9

So it seems that the balance between the two responses we’ve looked at–underfunctioning and overfunctioning–is to work hard, but know when to stop.  And how do we know when to stop?  Ask God and LISTEN to what he says.

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Anxiety in the Workplace: Underfunctioning

4 Feb

Not only working, but working togetherAccording to systems psychology, systems like workplaces, churches, and families can become anxious.  When the system becomes anxious, people normally manage their anxiety in one of five ways:

  • Underfunctioning
  • Overfunctioning
  • Blaming
  • Distancing
  • Gossip, gossip, gossip

I’m quite sure that we’ve experienced many of these personally, and observed all of them from time to time.  Since the last few weeks have been extremely anxious at my job (we’re all feeling crabby) I want to think about what the bible has to say about these responses.  Let’s talk about underfunctioning for a moment.  Underfunctioning is, of course, doing tooo little.  (I teach my students the Goldilocks Principle–a principle I’ve made up.  It’s the idea of searching for the “just right” in everything.) In education we see underfunctioning in the teacher who has given up.  They teach the same lessons over and over again in the same way.  We see it in the teacher who sends the students on to their next class before the bell rings.  The teacher who spends planning periods Internet surfing–and not for innovative teaching ideas.  We see it in the teacher who watches the clock c-r-a-w-l toward the last bell.  This teacher may not do the boring parts of the job just because they don’t like it.

Now, I’m not preaching AT anybody.  I’ve experienced these behaviors myself in the last week.  I messed around with Pinterest just waiting for the bell to ring one afternoon.  I was discouraged, I was crabby, and so I underfunctioned.

Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise.  Proverbs 6:6

This week at school I noticed what appeared to be a path left in the grass by a hose.  It was about two inches wide and for some reason drew my attention.  I followed it along, and it dead-ended at a tree.  It obviously wasn’t a hose impressions.  I sat down to watch it and discovered it was an ant highway.  I can’t imagine the work entailed, the back-breaking labor, but the ants had created their very own interstate.  God used this to convict me of my underfunctioning response to workplace stress.  I’m grateful for the many ways he teaches me.

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Lerner, L. (2004).  Fear and other univited guests:  Tackling the anxiety, fear, and  shame that keeps us from optimal living and loving.  New York, NY:  Harper Collins

Family Pollution

21 Sep

Continuing on from Monday’s post about the family as an ecologically balanced environment, let’s consider what can pollute that environment.

The world?  But the world only affects us if the self allows it to succeed in its temptations.  Note that the temptations of the world go directly to the self:  “You deserve to be happy!”  “You deserve to have fun!”

The enemy?  The enemy only affects us when the self doesn’t stand firm and we listen to his whispers.

No,  self is the root of our problem.  The two-year-old in us that wants everything to be mine, mine, mine.  It’s all about me.  God is calling us to a higher calling of sacrificing ourselves for others–especially our families.

Whoever finds his [lower] life will lose it [the higher life], and whoever loses his [lower] life on My account will find it [the higher life].  Matthew 10:39