Month: November 2013

This is the Perfect Time to Panic!

This should go without saying, but panic never served anyone well. I cannot think of a single time when panic saved the day. If I am on the operating table, my surgeon accidentally nicks an artery, and things go south, I’d rather not have my surgeon panic. If I’m in an airplane, and a flock of Canadian geese fly into one of the engines, and the plane looks to be going south instead of the geese,, I’d rather my pilot not panic.

No, panic is not our friend. Ever.

Buzz Lightyear: “Sheriff, this is no time to panic.”

Woody: “This is a perfect time to panic!”

Nope, never. There is never a time when it is a perfect time to panic. Circumstances may suggest panic would be a reasonable response, but panic never ever solved anything. Panic never brought a desirable resolution to any situation.

I’ve seen people panic. It isn’t pretty. I have panicked before, and it is simply a terrible feeling. So I have tried really hard to get a handle on that situation. It has taken a good bit of effort, a lot of prayer, and quite a bit of growth in my faith, but I can say that I no longer easily panic. It’s not about me though, it’s about God and His work in my life.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Most of the time we panic when life veers out of our control. As long as we have a handle on our situations, then we have no need for panic. It’s not until the carpet gets pulled out from under us, and we lose control, that panic set in. Yet here’s some truth for you. I must warn you, this next bit may not calm you at all.

Life is always out of our control.

Oh, it may appear that we’ve got all our balls in the air, but that’s just parlor tricks. The reality is, we’ve never had it all under control. Think about the person who looks to you like they’ve got it all together. It’s all just smoke and mirrors, even for them.

So how do we manage to not be anxious about anything? In every situation?

Impossible.

Not really. Having control over our anxiety, having the ability to not panic in those perfect times to panic, have everything to do with our contentment. We are called to be content in every situation.

Every.

Situation.

Are we called to love every situation we find ourselves in? Not at all, but we are called to be content. Let’s go back to Philippians, chapter four.

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (vs. 11-12)

If you suddenly found yourself in dire need, could you still be content? Apparently, you can. If you couldn’t, if you didn’t have the ability to do so within you, why then, would Paul say that you do? This wasn’t a secret only available to Paul. If it was, it would be cruel for him to have shared it with us.

So how do we get that peace that passes understanding in our times of panic? Our instructions are clear. We must first calm ourselves. Take a deep breath. Take ten. Then pray and ask the Lord for His intervention. Go to the very one who actually does have everything under control. God actually does have all the balls in the air. No tricks. Then, and only then, will we feel that peace that calms the panic. We can literally be standing in a storm of circumstances and not be available to panic.

Panic loves to cause us to fail; to make bad decisions based on misinformation. Panic rarely seeks wise counsel. There’s just not time. Most of the time, panic results in more repair work that must be done after the dust settles.

Our panic affects more people than just us. It has huge ripple effects that spread to those closest to us, and it’s a poor witness to the faith we claim to have. Panic says that God is not in control of our circumstances. That what just happened caught Him off guard, and that He has no idea how to get us out of this one. But he does. God is at work on the problem before we even knew there was a problem. Romans 8:28 says it. He is working all things to our good. Even the situations that curl our toenails.

So how cool would it be if the perfect situation to panic to came along, and we just… didn’t? I’ve got to tell you, it’s great. It’s more than great. It transcends all understanding. 

Preparing for Our Own Empty Nest Day

There are lessons we can learn from the animal kingdom. Like you don’t really have to be able to outrun a grizzly bear. You just need to be able to outrun your friends. It really is survival of the fittest out there.

Elephants are my favorite members of the animal kingdom. It’s not because they are cute. They aren’t. It’s because of the way they treat each other. We could learn a lot from an elephant.

Little animals have much to teach us as well. Take birds for example. When young birds are finally ready to leave the nest, momma just pushes them out. There’s no discussion around the issue. There are no special considerations given to the late hatchers, on Empty Nest Day, everyone goes.

When young mothers first look into the eyes of their new born babies, I would guess very few of them think of pushing that baby out of the nest one day. No, looking into perfect little face, most mothers want to hold onto that tiny one forever. The last thing moms want to consider is pushing that precious darling out into the cold, cruel world.

But smart moms know this one thing. One day that little baby is going to be ready to fly from the nest, and smart moms begin preparing for that day long before it ever comes.

Babies are supposed to be dependent on their parents, completely. Without constant attention, those little bundles of joy would not be long for this world. As parents, we meet each and every need to the best of our abilities. And when we do that, something happens. That little baby grows up.

Raising children who are confident and ready to leave the nest on Empty Nest Day is one of a parent’s primary goals. The alternative is having a forty-year-old adult living in your basement because we never taught them how to fly.

Those flying lessons need to start early. That’s often harder for moms to comprehend than it is for dads. By nature, moms are nurturers. We cling. We hover. We smother

I read somewhere once that if we are doing anything for our children that they can do for themselves, we are doing them a disservice. Ouch. As moms, we often have a servant’s heart when it comes to our families, even if we don’t have it anywhere else. That can really get in the way of teaching our kids to fly.

If you have never watched a momma bird on Empty Nest Day, she can seem a bit cruel. Those baby birds are leaving that day. No negotiations. No moving back into the nest later with baby birds of their own. It’s done. Out, out, out.

But the momma bird is doing what she has to do to ensure that her babies survive. If she let them continue to stay in the nest, and she kept bringing them food, they would soon outgrow her abilities to supply their needs, and they would all die. The babies would die from lack of nutrition and exercise, and the momma bird would die of exhaustion.

So how do we moms learn from that momma bird how to prepare for our own Empty Nest Day? Well, we start the day those little bundles of joy come into our lives. The Lord gives us those children for a limited time. It’s kind of like they are on loan to us. Like everything else we have, those children belong to Him. Oh, they will always be our children, but they will not always be our babies.

There are so many bad things in the world that keep parents from readying their kids to live in it. We are afraid for them. But, what if instead of that viewpoint, we raise kids who say, “Look out cruel world, here I come! I hope you are ready for me!”

What if we raise kids who eagerly look forward to Empty Nest Day? I’m not talking about the rebellious, “I can’t wait to get out from under your thumb” kid, but kids that we have properly groomed to find their intended place and purpose in the world, and are anticipating that day.

The day is drawing closer for our first bird to fly away. He’s not quite ready yet, but he is stretching his wings and checking out the scenery. We are pushing him closer to the edge of the nest, and letting him get a new perspective on the world around him. From this vantage point he is beginning to find his place in society. He is beginning to picture his own life outside of our nest.

If you’ve ever watched baby birds leaving their nest, their first few attempts at freedom from the nest are a bit awkward, but they all get it eventually. And when they do, not a one of them ever looks back because they are ready to be on their own.

It works because the momma bird knows from the beginning that she has only a certain amount of time to get those kids ready to fly, and she doesn’t waste a minute. We can learn a lot from that momma bird.

We All Need to Matter to Someone

I had the opportunity to pilfer through a large warehouse full of furniture recently. It was hot, stuffy, dim, dirty, and massive. It was great! I had a mental list of things I was looking for, and honestly, I could have spent hours in there, except the people who worked there wanted me to leave so they could go home. Sigh.

Basically, this warehouse is where used hospital office furniture goes to… wait. It waits to see if anyone will reclaim it, or if it will be auctioned off. It’s like an elephant graveyard of chairs, desks, file cabinets, and tables. Some of the stuff was in pretty good shape, but some of it had seen hard days. Some people don’t take care of their office furniture. This place exists because some people get to have new office furniture. That’s not me. I get to plow through the leftovers and play flea market flip! Fine by me.

As much as I loved plowing through all the grime to find my treasures, the warehouse is a sad sort of place. I mentioned it’s hot and grimy, but there’s more. It’s sort of a hopeless kind of place. Everything in there has been rejected by someone. Everything in there has been deemed no longer needed. Not worthy.

It made me think about people and how the world can be like that warehouse. The world is full of people without hope. It’s full of people who have been rejected or deemed no longer needed. Not worthy. It’s full of people who wait to see if they can somehow be redeemed and made worthy once again.

Some of that furniture was beyond redemption. Lots of it really needed to be taken to the junkyard or landfill. If I am not careful, I can allow myself to look at people in that same way. Sometimes in my judginess I wonder if some people really should get a do over… a second chance. A hundredth chance. I want to give up on them. Off with their heads! I want to sit in condemnation of them, listing all the things they are doing wrong and all the things they should be doing right. How holier than thou of me.

I was reminded this week that people are not what they do. Even the Apostle Paul got frustrated when he did the things he didn’t want to do, and couldn’t seem to do the things he wanted to do. How often do we stop and really look at a person the way God looks at them? He sees them through eyes of complete love. He adores them. He may not love what they’ve done, but the person? Oh, He loves that person. The one He created with tender loving care and intention.

Most of the time, I tell myself that I don’t have time for these people. The forgotten ones. I’m in a hurry, and really they need to get their own mess together. I’m too busy keeping my mess together to fool around with them. But when I do… when I stop and really look at them… I mean really look at them, suddenly their value calls out to me. Their worth pushes itself to the front, and for a moment I realize what a clod I’ve been. I realize that they long to be noticed, and to be valued. When I look into their eyes for more than just a passing instant, I see them. And I value them. And it changes everything for them in that moment. It changes something in me, too. For a moment they remember what it means to matter to someone. And I am reminded that I am called to care.

We all need to matter to someone.