An encouraging word for those who are anxious - plus a new video
Updated: Oct 20, 2022
The World is on fire and getting hotter -
The war in Ukraine has escalated to the place where nuclear rhetoric is getting loud, leaving the world pondering the unthinkable. Gas is up 64% in the past two years. Inflation, trade deficit, carbon emissions, mass shootings, violent crime, suicides, food insecurity, drought, mass migrations due to political corruption/violence - it seems that if something is a social or economic ill, it's on the rise. Democracies around the world are under threat as authoritarianism finds its footing, and that's not just an "over there" problem. Here in the United States, a majority of Americans express uncertainty over the future of democracy.
I could continue, but you get the point. Throw in personal problems with work, aging parents, the challenges of raising children, health issues, family crises, and you have a perfect cocktail for the anxiety crises that's gripping our country, and much of the world.
The first bit of good news: There's nothing new under the sun. Empires rise and fall. Economies flourish, falter, collapse, rebuild. Seasons change. Political fortunes change. Everything changes. So on the one hand, there's no need to panic. We're in the stream of history, and have the privilege of living here now. The miracle of our being here, and called to be in the midsts of it all as agents of hope, in itself, should be cause for daily gratitude!
On the other hand, paying attention to the encroaching shadows of oppression and destruction, coupled with awareness of our own personal challenges and shortcomings create an environment that can be overwhelming and we become anxious. With the caveat that I understand there are physiological reasons for anxiety that sometimes require medication. Having said that, here are some thoughts about where spirit meets body, as Jesus spoke specifically to the matter of anxiety (which makes sense because the Roman empire was no picnic for most people, including Christ followers).
Jesus, on the night of his arrest prior to his execution, said this to his followers: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27). In the same speech Jesus speaks of his impending betrayal, arrest, and execution, and assures his friends that they'll have access to a unique kind of peace. Jesus' peace isn't contingent on which empire has power, or the rate of inflation, or whether our lives match up to the instagram image of life we've curated for ourselves as our own standing of comparison. None of that matters because our peace is rooted in eternal realities. These never change, and to the extent we believe them, to the extent that our belief filters from our minds into the depths of our souls and experiences, we will experience peace! It's bombproof, as this poet writes:
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
Internalizing these truths requires faith and attention!
In the midst of the fire, there's a deeper reality, wherein in we meditate on four foundational and eternal truths, as explained both here. (A deeper articulation of these four truths can be found in the book Forest Faith: Finding Hope and Wholeness by Learning to Pray among the Trees.
On my youtube channel, I'm presently in the midst of my Habits for Wholeness series. The most recent video, posted at the end of this, will take you to the stream with you for a session of meditation on what I call a Saturation Prayer. I'm finding that a daily practice of meditating on these four truths is contributing to a greater capacity for peace in very practical ways. I'm less frustrated with traffic. I'm better able to fully listen and engage in conversations, more present with people. I'm seeing more of every day that gives me cause of gratitude, things that were always there but I wasn't seeing due to worry, frustration and fear. I've a long way to go! But four or five months into making this a regular part of my daily morning routine, I'm happy to share the good news that meditating on these truths is making a tangible difference!
My encouragement: Join me in a daily meditation on these four truths:
Christ above me. I'm receiving (gifts every day - James 1:17)
Christ beneath me. I am rooted (and grounded in an unshakeable love - Ephesians 3:17)
Christ around me. I'm surrounded (by signs of divine life - Isaiah 6:3)
Christ within me. I am called (to display the life of Christ, who lives in me - Colossians 1:27)
I encourage you to play the video each day for a few weeks, and engage, with your phone off (it's only five minutes long). I'll be interested in what you find, and will happily respond to questions you have as you seek to embrace this habit. Reach out to the email on this website, or leave a comment. I believe that the fruit of your practice will be: visible peace, in the midst of a world on fire!
As I write, the sun's rising and shining in my window as it has for millions of years. The trees are creating sugars, their cells multiplying, their roots deepening and intertwining, their "exhales" oxygenation the forest, as they have for millions of years. As my friend from 900 years ago says: "The blowing wind, the moist air, the exquisite greening of trees and grasses - in their beginning, in the their ending, they give God praise." This was Hildegard's way of saying the deeper and eternal reality of Christ is still here, right in the midst of the insanity.
Do we forget that? All the time! That's why this saturation meditation matters so much!
I welcome your thoughts.