Tag Archives: fear

Wound Up

A black lizard with a bright blue tail was sitting on my open journal when I returned to the deck with my refilled cup of coffee. Later, Google told me it is actually a skink and has a venomous bite. Wow. All I know is that’s not usually the kind of thing I usually see on/in my journal.

In the same week, I got frightened by three different armadillos in two different states. What’s up with the scary armadillos?

Oh, and I heard a beaver/nutria/groundhog thing under the same deck rustling, screaming and then running out from the deck in the bright light of day. Every single time I’ve ever heard an animal scream it does me in.

The two times my children have seen me the most frightened and out of control involve animals behaving strangely. Once, we were aggressively surrounded by nutria while on a picnic (picture a mom and two children on a table screaming). The second time was when someone’s formerly pet squirrel crawled up my leg but I didn’t know it was a pet. My kids still talk about these times of Mom losing it.

I’ve been decompressing from a season of too much…too many things my husband and I’ve been trying to do, battling some sickness and allergies, dealing with tough ongoing family situations, sending a kid back to college and all of it in a compressed time period.

Finally, I arrived at a time of many of those things being over and a time of settling back in to routine, relaxation, rest and regrouping.

Then suddenly, skinks, armadillos and beaver things screaming.

What does it mean?

I think it is just God’s humorous way of telling me I’m not quite relaxed yet. I need to settle down more, unwind more, cease doing things for a while. From Jesus Always by Sarah Young, God says look for Me. Sometimes I show Myself in grand, glorious ways. At other times I show Myself in simple, humble ways that only make sense to you. (page 252)

Is there a skink on your journal? Is a groundhog screaming at you? Is an armadillo scaring  you or a squirrel running up your leg?

Might be time to unwind. Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor and wildlife enthusiast.        

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Night Verses Light

Our daughter has always had fun with words. She twists them, turns them and creates new ones that make more sense. When she was about three she told us she smelled a “Stunk”.  Skunk is a great word but, my goodness, stunk is better. No wonder she grew up to be a very good speech pathologist.

When she was young, she would tell me things her “Sleep Brain” was telling her. Not dreams really but crazy, untruths. She somehow knew, even as a girl, that her awake brain and her sleep brain had two different points of view.

Because of her use of language, I’m able, even now, to examine a thought or perception that happens in the night as just my “sleep brain” talking. Every once in a while, in that state between wake and sleep my brain will be insightful, useful or come up with the answer to a problem from earlier in the day. “Oh, my headphones are in my hoodie pocket!” “Her name is Mary Ann!” I always marvel at my brain to work on something long after I forgot to think about it anymore.

But most of the time my sleep brain is not logical. She magnifies and distorts reality. She makes me worry and dream about pointless problems. Because I gave my heart, soul and career to the church for thirty years, my sleep brain still does a stunning amount of church work even though I let that go almost two years ago. I’ve spent many a night trying to organize sermon notes, make it to the sanctuary on time and find my clergy robe.

Basically, there is a huge difference between night thinking and light thinking. I try to keep my thoughts exposed to the light of day. I journal every day so I can be real with myself. I write down night thoughts and dreams. Sometimes I’ve even recorded my “Night Thinking” and listed right beside it my “Light Thinking.”

The Bible is redundantly about light. Ephesians 5, selected verses from The Message translation, You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer, you are out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get with it! The good, the right, the true–these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours….Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busy work, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham that they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on…the darkness…see how attractive everything looks in the light of Christ.

Night verses Light. Which one do you choose?

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace and a breast cancer survivor who loves God’s Light.   

      

Breaking News: I Care

Have you ever had one of those seasons with so many conflicting emotions swirling around inside you that you feel you might just explode or implode? I feel that way lately.

It is Holy Week. This is the first Holy Week in many years that I have not worked in a church. I am newly aware of how distracting being on a church staff can be especially during the peak seasons of faith. It is hard to focus on Holy Week when you are working in a church because you are busy doing church so that everyone else can experience the wide range of emotions from the Palm Sunday Parade, the Last Supper, the Cross and finally the Resurrection. Yesterday was the first Palm Sunday in decades that I was really able to pray and meditate about Palm Sunday.

As I walked, I thought about all the people waving branches and walking alongside Jesus. I tried to imagine what he was thinking. I tried to think about all the conflicting political issues of that day; all the agendas. I couldn’t help but reflect that not much has changed. Religious leaders entangled in politics. Power plays. Injustices.  Politics colored by religious agendas. Human rights in question. Chemical attacks. Tomahawk Missiles flying. Warships poised. Much discussion over what to do and who is right. A massacre in places of worship. And, that is just this week. Lord, have mercy. Seriously.

Holy Week contains every emotion. After the seeming Joy of Palm Sunday, came that little incident where Jesus lost his temper in the temple courts, overturning the tables of the money changers. No matter how much we’d like to believe Jesus was above anger, this shows he wasn’t. Matthew 21:12-13 Next thing we know he is cursing that fig tree causing it to wither and die. Matthew 21:19-22.  This all happens in this same week when everyone betrays him. He cries out to God, sweats blood mixed with tearful angst. The week gets worse for him from there.

In an interview on Beautiful Writers Podcast, I heard one of my favorite women talk about writing, faith and the wide range of emotions of our time. Anne Lamott confessed she gets hopeless regularly. She said when left to her own devices she dreams of  her next book being be called “Doomed” about how things are bad and only going to get worse. But then she says this, “Thank God, I am not left to my own devices. Thank God we are called to stay in community and in solitude so we can to stay grounded on that fact that Holy moments are happening in our midst.” When asked how she does this, she said, “I just take an action. I give money to organizations I believe are making a difference. I put feet to prayers and show up somewhere. I look up. I go outside. I flirt with older people and little kids. I just do the next expansive and loving thing.”

Her words reverberated through my soul. Thank God, we are not left to our own devices in Holy Week or any other week or we would surely get stuck in a “doomed” part…the anger, the fear, the betrayal, the angst, the death and miss the rest of the week. Thank God we can take the next expansive and loving action.

On Saturday, we had a job fair in our community for those seeking employment. Because I wanted to take a step toward the light, I offered my time for the afternoon. I was assigned resume reviews and mock interviews. I sat with people of all types from teenagers to professionals and we talked about how to polish resumes, sell themselves and shine during an interview. I met people of all cultures, religions and walks of life. I used every bit of my work, life and people experience to meet people where they were and to encourage them a little.

Toward the end,  a young woman came in wearing a hoodie that said, “Breaking News, I Don’t Care.” I don’t know everything about job seeking but I do know this is probably not the upfront message job seekers need to lead with. I wasn’t able to give her feedback on her hoodie because she wasn’t seeking any.

In my swirl of emotions this Holy Week, in this current America we live in, in my understanding of faith and humanity, here is what I know: we have to care. We have to wade through all our emotions from apathy to anger to be able to move beyond our own devices. We have to take that next loving step. We have to help each other. We have to hang out with God through a whole bunch of rough and horrible things in order to get to Easter.  Our faces, our clothes and our actions have to say, I care. Otherwise, we are doomed.

I pre-ordered Anne Lamott’s new book “Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy” before she ever even wrote it. It arrived at my house just as this Holy Week began. Thank God I’m not left to my own devices.

Pumpkin Joy

For the second year in a row, our church has sponsored a Pumpkin Patch to raise money for our church’s teenagers to go on summer mission trips.  Having a Pumpkin Patch is quite an endeavor, requiring a massive amount of volunteers to staff it daily for all of October. It takes a village.

We have a teenager who loves the summer mission trips, so we’ve been trying to do our part this fall by working multiple shifts at the Pumpkin Patch.  What I’ve re-discovered about myself is that I just love pumpkins.  How can a piece of produce actually produce joy?  I’m not sure.  It is one of those mysteries of life, I guess.  I love the color of pumpkins-the orange ones, the white ones, the multi-colored ones all delight me.  I love the size and shape of pumpkins.  I love the stems, the bigger, the better.  I love huge massive pumpkins and those little bitty tiny ones with the cool curved stems.

Every time I work at the Pumpkin Patch, I buy more pumpkins.  They are on my back porch, my front porch and now, on the mantel, nine of those adorable-sized curved stem pumpkins.  Every time I see my pumpkins, I feel a little surge of joy.

I think I feel such pumpkin joy because a pumpkin is just a sure sign of fall; of nature’s bounty and of God’s wildly varied, colorful, imaginative creation.  Pumpkins are just one of the countless ways God shows off.

In many ways our world is a scary place right now with Ebola, Isis and a few other threats.  People around me, including me, have experienced tough things and are a little bruised and battered.  Somehow, in the mystery of how God works, a little pumpkin joy makes up for that.  God is good, all the time.