Martha and Mary

While Jesus and his disciples were traveling, they arrived at a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening while he taught. Martha was anxious about everything that she had to do to prepare for these unexpected guests. She said “Lord, do you think that it is fair that my sister has left me to do all the work? Tell her to give me a hand.” Jesus answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and anxious about many things, but only one thing matters. Mary has made the right choice, and I won’t take it away from her.”

LK 10:38-42

The cure for anxiety

Because of this I’m telling you – don’t worry about anything about your life or regarding your body. Don’t worry about what you will have to eat or drink or wear. Life is about much more than food or clothing. Think about the ravens – they don’t sow or reap or store up their food, and yet God provides for them. Don’t you know you are more valuable than them? Can anyone add even a minute to his life by worrying? If worry can’t change the little things, then why worry about the big things?

Why worry about what you’re going to wear? Think about the wildflowers – they don’t earn money for clothing or make thread, yet they are more beautifully clothed than King Solomon ever was! If that is how God adorns grass, which is temporary and insubstantial, won’t he do much more for you – you who don’t believe?

So don’t be anxious about what you are going to eat or drink or wear – those are the kinds of things that people who don’t believe in God focus on. Your Father in heaven knows of your needs.

Instead of striving for those things, strive for the kingdom of God, and then everything you need will be provided for you. Don’t be anxious, because your heavenly Father gets great pleasure in giving you the kingdom. Therefore, don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own to deal with.

MT 6:25-34, LK 12:22-32

On carrying cash only.

One of the most common things I hear when I tell people that I carry cash instead of credit cards is that they are afraid. They don’t say the words that they are afraid, but the next sentence does. They say “It is dangerous to carry around large amounts of money all the time.”

I think to myself – why would you need to carry around large amounts of money all the time? Do you have a sudden need to spend large amounts of money? That alone should be something to look into. That indicates deeper problems – ones that can be addressed by taking on the discipline of carrying cash.

For everyday occurrences, simply carrying at least a 20 on you will do. Even before I started carrying only cash, I would have a 20 under my ID as an emergency backup, and a 20, a 10, a 5, and some ones. That meant I had whatever change I needed for whatever circumstance. It also meant that I had enough to pay for my meal when the credit card machine reader was broken.

I have experienced enough times with myself and with observing others that not every place takes credit cards, and not every credit card reader works all the time. It is safer to have some cash on you.

I know a guy who was ‘running on fumes’. He just barely managed to get to a gas station before his car ran out of gas. Ideally, he would have filled up long before the gauge hit E, but that is another story. He gets to the gas station and pulled out his credit card. The card reader did not work. He knew that he did not have enough gas to start the car and drive to the next gas station. He did not have any cash on him. He was stuck. Fortunately someone nearby, (someone older), had cash and lent it to him.

You don’t need to carry large amounts of money on you at all times. You know when you’re going to go to grocery store or the hardware store. You have an idea how much you’re going to spend. Bring that amount. Otherwise keep it at home or at the bank.

I think that all of this anxiety about carrying large amounts of cash is a disease that has been spread to us to make us afraid and controlled.

Think of the stories you’ve heard in the news of people who have been robbed. Then start going backwards. How many people do you personally know who have been robbed? If you know anyone who was robbed, how often where they robbed?

Have they been robbed every week?
Have they been robbed once a year?

How big is this problem, really? More importantly – how small is it?

Then think about the numbers of times you’ve heard about thousands of people experiencing credit card fraud. Their wallet doesn’t even have to be stolen. They won’t even know they have had their information taken from them until it is too late. It is less traumatic at the beginning, sure, but way more expensive at the end. Lots of time has gone by, and lots of money has been spent. Lots of money that isn’t even there to be spent – it is all on credit.

I believe that all the stories we hear of people being robbed are exactly that – stories. I believe that we have been told these stories to keep us afraid, and in line. I believe that the world is exactly as safe as we choose it to be. But also – it is exactly as dangerous as we will let it be.

I would rather have cash on me than credit cards with huge limits. Not only is it dangerous to have the ability to mindlessly spend up to $15000, it is also dangerous that someone could steal my purse and could swipe my card and max it out all the way up to the limit of my credit. These days, if someone steals my wallet, the only thing they’ll steal is the amount of cash that is inside it. That is at most 50. On grocery days it is 100. I’d much rather have $100 stolen than $5000.

But what about unforeseen accidents and problems? My car might break down? What then? What did we do before credit cards? Think. We have created our own monster.

I can live in fear that I’m going to be robbed, or I can live in fear that I’m suddenly going to have to spend lots of money because my car is going to break down.

I chose to not live in fear.

Anxiety/pain – mental/physical connection

It turns out that a lot of the physical problems I have are caused by anxiety. Well, this isn’t according to regular health manuals. This is from people like Louise Hay and John Sarno. Arthritis in the neck, asthma, back pain – all are caused by anxiety, they say. This sounds a lot like blaming the victim.

I have a pretty strong suspicion that if I suddenly develop an anxiety-free life, I’ll still have asthma and arthritis in my neck and scoliosis. Of course, Louise Hay and her ilk would say my disbelief is what makes it so. It is the opposite of Jesus saying “Your faith has healed you.”

Let’s turn it all around. What if I have anxiety because I have these physical problems? What if being in pain and having a hard time breathing is a cause of anxiety? That seems to make more sense. What if my daily life being affected by my physical limitations is what causes anxiety?

I notice that none of these alternative healers have any suggestions as to how to reduce anxiety so my physical problems go away. This certainly sounds like an easy out for them. Point out how your reader has caused her own problems, and then don’t offer any solution. If they offer solutions that don’t work, then everybody will realize that they don’t know what they are talking about.

I had my own techniques to reduce anxiety when I was in college, but I had to quit. Pot is great for anxiety, but it isn’t something you can do for long. Being illegal is part of the problem. Smoking cigarettes is also relaxing, but it causes other problems that create anxiety, like cancer. Nothing like trying to alleviate anxiety with something that causes more anxiety.

Now I try to write, do yoga, and draw every day. Ideally, I’d make some jewelry too. These things help, but cramming them into my morning only seems to cause more anxiety. Sure, I could get up earlier, but then I’m shorting myself on sleep. Sleep is a critical building block of mental health.

So I think I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing and ignore these people who tell me my physical problems are all in my head but don’t tell me how to work on my mental problems. I certainly believe there is a connection. But perhaps you can fix mental problems by going at them physically. Perhaps my chiropractor adjusting my back and neck is healing me in ways I’ve never expected. Perhaps yoga and water aerobics burn off more than calories.

Glasses for mental health

What if anxious and nervous is your normal? What if it isn’t something wrong at all, but just your way of being?

Think of it as the same as needing glasses, or a hearing aid, or an orthotic shoe. There is nothing “shameful” or “wrong” about these conditions. We can’t control the fact that we are different from “normal”. We can’t control the fact that we need a little bit of help to fit in with everybody else.

Why do we think we have any real control over our emotions?

Some of our emotions are trained into us. We are taught to behave and react in certain ways, some of which aren’t that useful. We get that from our parents. What if some of our neural pathways are different genetically as well? Forget nature versus nurture. They both have an effect.

What if we aren’t to blame for feeling afraid or angry or hesitant? What if that is just the way we are? What if we stop trying to define these feelings as “bad” and we just accept them for what they are?

There is a big push in society for everybody to be the same – but we aren’t. We all look different – but we can have surgery to all look the same. We can wear clothes to make ourselves look smaller or taller or skinner or have curves in different places. There are girdles and pads aplenty to make you fit in and make you look more like everyone else.

There are things to make you fit in mentally as well. There are pills if you are depressed or manic, or eat too much, or don’t eat enough, or have anxiety, or ADD. There are pills to counter every state of humanity.

But why fit in? Because it makes them feel better, or you? Wouldn’t it be healthier for them to see you being you? When you are honest about who you really are, then you are giving everyone else permission to be themselves.

I say we all just take off our masks and say that we are the way we are, and that is OK.

“Be anxious for nothing.”

Be anxious for nothing. Fear not.

Jesus tells us to not worry, not be anxious. So what does it mean to not be anxious? Be perfect? We can’t be perfect. That isn’t possible for humans. And trying to not be anxious makes me anxious. I get all wound up about how wound up I feel, and then I wind myself up even more.

There has to be another way through this or into this.

Both my parents were anxious. My Mom lit up a new cigarette every twenty minutes. When she had to quit because she got lung cancer the anxiety was still there. In fact it was worse.

Her coping method had caused her problem. When we took it away she was of course worried and anxious about her cancer, but she didn’t know what to do. She’d reached for a cigarette every time she felt the least twinge of a bad feeling. She still had all the anxiety that she had before she had cancer, with the added anxiety of cancer on top of that. It overwhelmed her.

I stepped in. I gave her massages every time she wanted to smoke. I gave her some creative visualization techniques to try. We worked on breathing. In the end she still felt that she needed some outside means to calm down, so she got put on Valium. It wasn’t called Valium – it was Elavil. Same thing, new name. It was a benzodiazepine. I find it interesting that she didn’t want to take her pain pills because she was afraid she would become dependent on them, but she happily took those mood drugs.

My Dad was the same way. He smoked himself to death too. He was on various drugs from his shrink as well. He was constantly nervous. He too didn’t know how to deal with his feelings.

Perhaps anxiety is “normal” for my family. Perhaps it is the same as needing glasses. Perhaps it is hereditary in the same way that being short is.

I am anxious. I have been for years. I used to smoke pot and clove cigarettes to calm down. I finally decided I needed to grow up and quit doing these dangerous and expensive things, so now I drink a glass of wine with supper instead.

I have other stress-busting techniques. I walk. I work out. I do yoga and write and walk and draw. I used to do most of those every morning before work. Then I’d not do all of them because I was running short on time and I’d freak out and think I was slacking. Somehow I got to the point where I’d realize that just trying to cram all those activities in every morning was causing more problems and more anxiety.

Funny how the things we do to relax can end up causing us more problems.

So I prayed.

And I got back that perhaps my anxiety isn’t something to be anxious about. Perhaps it is who I am. Perhaps I need to face it and embrace it. See it as a gift and not a problem. Perhaps God needs me to feel this way, and is using this feeling as a pathway, an opening.

Perhaps I need to see my “anxiety” as not a problem, but just a feeling. Or perhaps see it as the same as my need to wear glasses, or that I’m shorter than the average person. It isn’t a defect. It is my normal.

God doesn’t want us to compare ourselves to anybody else, either good or bad. God loves us exactly the way we are. God made us this way.

Be anxious for nothing. Fear not.

“I’ve commanded you to be strong and brave. Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged. I am the LORD your God, and I will be there to help you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

On “preppers” and making sure you have a future.

I know someone who is a prepper. Perhaps you have not heard of this term. A prepper is someone who takes the Girl Scout motto of always being prepared to the extreme. Preppers often have a six month supply of dehydrated or canned food. They often grow their own food. They stockpile weapons. They take self sufficiency seriously.

Often the goal is to get “off the grid.” They will have generators or solar panels. They might have a well. If the electricity goes out, they have enough fuel to survive for months. And trust me, they do think the electricity will go out. There is a gnawing sense of impending doom that they express.

Some people aren’t preppers but they too are returning to the older ways and learning to grow and can their own food. They are learning how to sew their own clothes. They are getting books on homesteading but on just a little bit of land. Not everybody wants to move out to the country, so they bring the country mentality to the suburbs. They want to be self-sufficient, which is the opposite of dependent. They want to take care of themselves.

Much of this trend is inspired by mistrust of the government. They fear that the government is either too involved in their personal lives or can’t be trusted. People can joke about the “zombie apocalypse” all they want, but these people are prepared for that.

Yet this particular lady I know is really interesting. She does all these things, and yet there is something more that she is doing that has brought up a conundrum in my mind. She is willing to spend money and time making her home more accessible for when she and her husband get older and more infirm. She wants the house to have no stairs and have wider doorways to accommodate a wheelchair. But she isn’t willing to spend the same money and time to get healthy. She wants to make her house accessible, but doesn’t think about the idea of getting her body in shape so she doesn’t need a wheelchair. Somehow, that is seen as too difficult. She uses the excuse of her already bad health as a reason to not get healthy. She says she is too young to feel this old.

I went through every argument she had about her health and came up with solutions for her. There is always a way to exercise. But somehow, “exercise” has become a dirty word in Western culture. She came up with an excuse for why she couldn’t every time. If you spend as much time figuring out how you can, rather than how you can’t, you’ll get there.

She also uses the excuse of her hours at work to explain why she can’t go to the gym. You have to decide what is more important, your loyalty to your job, or to your life. Sure, you have to work. And sure, you may have made a career at this place. But you have to take care of yourself. The workplace won’t care if you wear yourself out and die early and miserable.

Your body is your home. It is important to maintain it. You can’t trade your body in for a newer model when it wears out. Sure, there are replacement parts these days, but they involve surgery and physical therapy. Remember in the movie “Zombieland”? The first rule is “cardio cardio cardio”. If you really think that “they” are coming, then you’d better get in shape.

We don’t need to worry about being invaded by another country or being bombed by terrorists. We don’t need to worry about Korea. We need to worry about Krystals hamburgers. Have you noticed the fact that there are calorie counts on fast-food menus? Sure, you can make better choices while you are there. But the best choice is to prepare fresh food at home. Sure, that takes time. But if you are truly a prepper, then it seems logical that you’d divorce yourself from fast-food too. Part of the prepper mentality is doing things for yourself and not trusting what others have done.

We are killing ourselves with our mouths. Our “eat like a kid again” mentality is killing us. Eat the chili cheese dog, the hot wings and the funnel cake. When you get heartburn, just take an antacid. Or get your heart valves replaced or have a liver transplant. Or get on diabetes medicine. There is something very dangerous about this way of thinking. It is backwards. Do whatever you want and take a pill, or have a surgery. It is safer and healthier to eat well and exercise first, but so few of us do that.

If you are really concerned about the future, then the best thing you can do is take care of your health. Make sure you have a future.

I know one lady who says she doesn’t have time to exercise because she had to take care of her child. If she doesn’t take care of herself, she won’t be alive to take care of her child. Right now, she already can’t do it well because she can’t even run with her child when she plays.

There is no substitute for eating right and getting enough sleep and exercise. There are no shortcuts to health.

My father had a doctor who knew he smoked. When my Dad complained about coughing, he was prescribed cough medicine. The doctor treated the symptom rather than addressing the cause. So my Dad died from a heart attack at 60. He smoked two packs a day and was obese. About a week before he died he said that I would be glad to know he was now eating eggs only once a day. I don’t ever remember him eating a vegetable.

The weird part is that we have gotten so used to people being obese that we see it as normal. We think only the people who are bigger than us are obese. And we think that the people who are smaller than us are too skinny. Just like in the story of Goldilocks, we think we are just right. But we aren’t. We are deceiving ourselves.

I am 5’ 4”. When I weighed 192, I was obese according to the charts. At 145, I’m just on the edge of “normal”. Between those weights, I’m “overweight”. That you read about who takes up two airplane seats, that person is “super obese” or “morbidly obese”. More than likely, you are obese and don’t even know it. Or perhaps you do know it, and have just gotten resigned to it.

Part of our problem is that we treat our stress with food. We get anxious about the future, or unhappy about the past, and we eat. We were taught this as children. When a child wails, parents often soothe them with food. It stops them from making noise. So, unconsciously they are teaching a child to self-soothe with food. If you have an emotional problem, eat. Our culture doesn’t like to deal with emotions at all. So we stuff them down, literally.

There is a way out. Get a book from your library about deep breathing exercises. Get a book about how to deal with anxiety. Often the only change you can make is to yourself. You often can’t change your job or your spouse or your neighborhood. But you can change how you deal with them and how you react to them. Check under my “resources” category and read the list of books I’ve called “Survival books”. Consider taking up a hobby like painting, beading, singing, or playing a musical instrument.

As for me, I do water aerobics and yoga. I walk 20 minutes a day at lunch. I changed how I work so I get in a mile and a half while I’m at the front desk. Every little bit counts. Sure, I miss the reading time. But I like to think of every hour spent exercising buys me two more hours of life. And my knees feel better, and my clothes fit better, and people are noticing that I’m in better shape. It isn’t easy to keep exercising. It was tempting to get to my goal weight and then back off. But exercising isn’t a luxury. It is essential. If we stop moving, we rust.

There was a lady who saw me recently and realized I’d lost weight, and in the same amount of time it had taken me to lose weight, she had gained it. She said “you suck” about my weight loss. This is a crazy way to think. This isn’t a game of musical chairs. The fact that I’ve lost weight doesn’t mean she can’t. She was feeling jealousy, as if I’d taken something from her. That entire way of thinking keeps her in “victim” mode. That way of thinking leads to death, even before you are dead.

It is better to do something than do nothing because you think it isn’t enough.

Are you freaking out right now, just reading this? Stop. Breathe. Repeat. Breathe deeply in through your nose, in on a count of 10, then out on a count of 10. Keep doing this. Every time you feel stress, remember to do this. It is a simple way to get control of yourself. Then go for a walk in the sunshine. Walk slowly, and look at things. This isn’t a race. None of this is a race. The future will get here, when it gets here. Make sure you are there to appreciate it.

Don’t be afraid.

How many times are we told to not be afraid in the Bible?
What is the opposite of fear? Love.

I’m going to say something radical. Brace yourself.
Love everything you are afraid of. Love everything that frightens you, that worries you, that concerns you.

Love your chronic health condition(s). Love your friend’s brain cancer diagnosis. Love your fat. Love your back pain. Love your hoarder husband. Love your crazy next door neighbor.

The more we fight against things, the harder they get. The more we struggle, the more difficult things are.

You can’t have a baby if you are tense. Relax into the pain. Ride it out. Know it will pass.

And like with any other transformation, something amazing will be born out of this pain.

We hate change. We like to be in control. We fear the unknown.
Our hate, our need to control, our fear doesn’t change the reality.
It only makes it harder to accept it.

The only thing we have control over is our reaction.

Learn deep breathing. Eat healthy foods. Get exercise daily. Try yoga. Journal. Paint. Sing out loud. Find your creative outlet. Do this every day. Learn to trust the process.

And remember to love. To love is to welcome the change, to embrace it.
“Perfect love casts out fear,” Jesus tells us.

How do we know we are not a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly?
How do we know we are not a tadpole about to become a frog?

We are about to trade a life of crawling for one of soaring.
We are about to trade a life of water for air and land.

Don’t fight it. Let it happen. Know that God is in control of all things and God is in everything.

You are loved, and you are blessed. Remember the swallow. Remember the lily of the valley.

Don’t be afraid. Love.