Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sheltering the Stressed

God tells us to burden him with whatever burdens us.  ~Author Unknown

Chocolate is my go-to when I'm stressed.  How that one ball of Lindt white chocolate truffle can give me the energy to finish my assignment on time!  Popping the ball -- whole -- into my mouth and tasting the smooth liquid chocolate makes letters start dancing across the computer screen, consonants skipping, vowels bouncing and punctuation sedately moving into their correct places.  Ah, white chocolate.

Chicken Soup for the Chocolate Lover's Soul
 But as delicious as it is, sometimes white chocolate just doesn't cut it.  It's then that I wish I lived near a Cracker Barrel.  Have you ever tasted one of their Valo-milk candy bars?  Those white clouds of marshmallow covered in chocolate can make me forget what I'm feeling stressed about.  They are a grown up version of the Mallo cups my dad and I used to get when we went to auctions.  They sold them unwrapped, by the box.  Even then chocolate de-stressed me, although as a child it took much less chocolate to alleviate my  stresses -- like cleaning my room or folding my brother's diapers, learning multiplication tables or enduring spats with my friends.

Today, chocolate covered cherries, Valo-milk candy bars or dark chocolate Mounds can put a smile on my face even if supper burns, the neighbor's cat gets in my van or I arrive home from the grocery store and forgot the laundry soap I needed.  Yes, I am a diabetic and yes, in spite of it there are days that a handful of M & Ms can do what a handful of nerve pills can't.

But some days, I just can't handle the extra sugar grams or there isn't any chocolate in the house.  It's then I turn to prayer.  Doesn't there seem to be something wrong with that confession? 

We do that, though, don't we?  It has nothing to do with believing God answers prayer.  It's just that we don't want to bother God with our daily stresses.  I have one friend who has it right.  Once or twice a week she will call with a "please pray" plea.  It can be as small as, "today is my son's birthday party and I'm feeling stressed," or as large as "we're have to make a decision about our ministry." 

Sometimes I feel like I leave God in the "prayer closet."  I have my prayer time, walk out, then shut the door until the next day.  But moving forward, I want God to stay with me throughout my day.  I want to be able to say, "Help me make this decision," or "Remember Emily; she should be taking her test right now."  The joy of reaching out to touch Jesus' garment, looking inward and feeling His presence as I pray, bowing my head in respect as I present my request, and  turning my eyes upward as my prayers reach the Throne of Grace are all impossible if I shut the door of the closet in God's face.

I have found that when I carry God's presence with me throughout the day it's easier to share my little frustrations with Him.  The hurts of inconsiderate friends, the chronic pain, the deadlines and the requests of my friends -- I can "cast all these cares on Him, for He cares for me."  What a beautiful promise.  All I have to do is give the cares to God.  He does the rest. 

I think I'm going to have to find something else to blame my chocolate habit on.  God's going to be taking care of the stress.

* * * * *

Stress-free Gift

Book: Ollies 1.99
Godiva Chocolates 80% off after Valentines Day
Is one of your friends having a stressful day?  First offer your friend's frustrations to Jesus.  Then gift them chocolate.  It can serve as a visible reminder of prayerful sheltering for your friend.

Ghirardeli Single Vanilla Bean White Chocolate
They'll be hiding in church mailboxes tomorrow.
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sheltering with Happiness

Love looks through a telescope; envy, through a microscope. 
                                                                            ~Josh Billings

Do you ever feel like we have an easier part sheltering others when someone is mourning than when when they are rejoicing?  It must not be a new occurrence or Paul wouldn't have written it to the Romans.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).  A more simplistic version says, Be happy with those who are happy, be sad with those who are sad.  A good friend knows how to shelter even in the happy times.

Kayla is that kind of friend to Emily.  When we moved to Muncie ten years ago, it was an answer to the prayers of Katie.  Emily is a couple years younger than Katie, and a couple years older than her sister Kayla; through the years they have  melted into a tight threesome.  With Emily finishing high school, it leaves Kayla -- solo...

It's going to be as hard for Kayla to face a few more years in school as it was for Emily when Katie graduated.  Yet not one time did Kayla act in any way but overjoyed for Emily yesterday as she took her last test and gave her final speech. 

Kayla had a card ready for Emily -- music card playing "I'm so Excited."  And she wrote the sweetest note on it.  We celebrated last night at Applebees and not one time did Kayla act anything but totally excited for Emily.  Katie and Kayla both have been special friends -- always there when Emily needs cheered, and happy when she is happy... From my perspective, that's the way to shelter. 

Well, that -- and the way Melanie celebrated with Emily -- Krispy Kreme doughnuts and four of Emily's favorite littles were involved!

I love celebrating the happy times with my friends.  My mother taught me that principle by giving me an example to follow.  Those who cannot rejoice are plagued with jealousy.  There's no way to sugar coat the sin.  And it is a sin when we resent the joy that comes to others.  Nowhere have I read that God wants us to envy those who rejoice. 

In fact, In James 3:16 it is clear what God thinks of envy.  For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.  The Bible is full of examples of jealousy:  Satan, Cain, Miriam, King Ahab, King Herod and so many more.  Here are some steps I've used when I've been tempted to envy others.

1.  Stop comparing yourself to others.

2.  Verbalize (confess) your feelings -- to God. 

3.  Write a list of the good qualities of the one you envy.

4.  Praise God for blessing others.

5.  Make a gratitude list of the ways God has blessed you.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Open My Eyes

Faith is daring the soul to go beyond what the eyes can see.
William Newton Clark   

For some reason this story just makes me want to giggle.  Ben-Hadad, king of Anon was angry -- very angry.  Stalking around the palace his eyes sparked with his anger.  "Every day I plan raids and every day my plans are foiled.  Who is the traitor in our midst?"

His officers tried to calm the king.  "It's not one of us, King.  It's a snitch in the Israelite camp, the Prophet Elisha.  He tells their king the things that are whispered in your bedroom."

Seriously, wouldn't that be fun?  Well, not for Ben-Hadad, but for Elisha who was the snitch?  Every morning God would tell him what battle plan Ben-Hadad had for the day.  Elisha would go directly to the Israelite king to share the plans.  The Aram king knew who the Prophet Elisha, was.  King Ben-Hadad's army commander, Haman, had leprosy and it was Elisha who was used of God to heal him. 

"Go find where he is," the king said.  When the men came back with the information, the king sent horses, chariots and soldiers to capture the Prophet.  They waited until nighttime, then surrounded the city of Dothan. 

When Elisha's servant looked out the window the next morning, he was beside himself.  There seemed to be soldiers everywhere.  "Oh no, what are we going to do?  I'm going out to fight."

Elisha threw his head back and laughed.  At the servant's surprised face he said, "There's more with us than be with them."  And then Elisha prayed, "Lord, open my servant's eyes to see your protection."  When the Lord opened the servant's eyes, he looked around in amazement to see horses and chariots of fire filling the hills.

There's more with us than be with them,
We're on the winning side.
Though mountains surround,
And chariots abound,
We're trusting alone in Thee.
H. Robb French

After that, the Arameans had quite a day.  To sum it up, they were blinded, taken to another city, experienced sight returned,  ate a feast in the enemy camp and were returned to their own army camp.  Here's the best part -- they left Israel's territory alone. 

Emily trying out Grandpa Kuhn's glasses.
Sometimes I just wish God would open my eyes -- especially when an issue looks like a huge mountain.  I try to work it out in my own way.  I fret, search my mind for the best solution, even try to manipulate the situation just in case God doesn't come through in time.  Where's my faith?  I know God can answer my prayers. I've had miracles in my life.  Big. Huge. Miracles.  But the next time I still whine pray, "Lord, what am I going to do?"  I want God to open my eyes so I can see His plan.  I want to see the chariots of fire on the mountain.  Instead I grope in the darkness of my unbelief.

Instead, I should be trusting -- and resting assured it's God's best plan. Trusting that whatever comes to my life God will use for His glory.  I think from now on I'll just pray that God will open the eyes of my heart. I don't have to make sure He has everything under control.  I just need to praise His plan -- before I know it.  To open my heart's eyes to see my Lord high and lifted up, shining in the light of His glory.  This will silence my fears -- and leave room for faith.   

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord.
Open the eyes of my heart.
I want to see you.
I want to see you.

To see you high and lifted up,
Shining in the light of Your glory.
Pour out your power and love,
As we sing holy, holy, holy.

Holy, holy, holy,
Holy holy, holy,
You are holy, holy, holy,
I want to see you.
Peter Baloche
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