Of Mice and Women

 I HATE MICE. Mice scurrying across the floor absolutely WIGS ME THE WIG OUT. I was a young Navy wife when I first got married, and we moved across country to California for our first duty assignment. We bought a brand new town house that was built on a strawberry field. So you know who immediately moved in? Strawberry field mice. NINE of them. It was horrible!

It was fine when my young Navy pilot was home to deal with it, but that only lasted for the first week, and then I was on my own…with the mice. I can’t stand looking at them, dead or alive, so I invented an INGENIOUS way of trapping them. Like, I should patent this.

I bought a handful of mousetraps and a package of paper lunch bags at the Navy Exchange. I set the traps with peanut butter and then slipped them into the back of an open lunch bag that I laid on the floor. The mouse would walk into the bag, and SNAP! I just had to pick up the bag and throw the whole thing away. INGENIOUS, right?

I bragged about this to my mother-in-law, who was a veteran Navy wife and not afraid of anything. She was appalled. “Betsy, you can just open up the trap over a trash can, dump out the mouse, and re-use the trap!” You see, Mom was a master at re-using things. She washed foil and zip lock bags all the time. She bought a box of zip lock bags once in the ‘60’s and used them for the rest of her life.

“Mom, I can’t stand looking at them! I know we’re only at Ensign pay, but I think we can afford to throw away a mouse trap that only costs $.54 at the Exchange!”

Psalm 94 (New International Version)

When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
    your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
19 When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy.

Everybody has that one thing which provokes an almost irrational fear …sharks, airplanes, elevators, roller coasters, snakes, rush hour in Atlanta….and we also have rational fears. If you’ve been stalked, or abused, or threatened, it is rational to be afraid of that person. When we have to venture out into a big unknown, it is rational to experience anxiety. When your kid takes the car out for a solo drive for the first time, it is normal to worry.

But letting fear control your life is not rational. Jesus reminds us in the book of John that he came so that we might have “life abundant.” Abundance and fear cannot live in the same place.

Clearly there is a clinical aspect to anxiety that can be remedied with good therapy. But for the non-clinical situations that we face every day, it is good for us to take a deep breath and remember that anytime our foot slips, God’s unfailing love is there to support us. God’s consolation and presence can help us take our eyes off obsessing over our fears. God does not give us fear. He gives us love, power and SELF-CONTROL.

So whatever your “mouse” is, find a way around it. Remember scripture. Pray for calm. Take control. Center yourself in the knowledge that God is always with you: you shall not fear. His rod and his staff will comfort you. You’re never alone with God.

God is Always With You. Photo by Bev Mineo

Worry Warriors

Did you know that over 40 million people a year struggle with some type of anxiety disorder? From Generalized Anxiety Disorder to PTSD, there are many types of anxiety disorders, and it is the most common mental illness. And for the most part, it is highly treatable.

While most of us probably don’t fit in to an Anxiety Disorder category, it can be said of all of us that we worry. And some of us worry too much. Worrying is both a symptom and a catalyst for anxiety, and can absolutely overwhelm you to the point of paralysis. When we worry, our joy is stolen, our peace is non-existent, and our well-being suffers, along with those around us.

The root cause of much of our anxious worrying is fear. When we are afraid of something, we turn that fear into negative thoughts and run through multiple scenarios of what could go wrong. And there are so many things that we fear!

Rejection

Failure

Abandonment

Exposure

Being manipulated

Losing someone or something precious

Losing control

Accidents

Not getting things finished

Being hurt in a realationship

And on, and on, and on.


Did you know that God does not give us fear? Nope. Fear is not from God. We manage that all on our own.

2 Timothy 17 (Modern English Version)

For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and self-control.

I think a clue for how to battle worry is found in what God DOES give us. Instead of fear, he gives us power. His power is available to us to help us in our problem-solving. Instead of fear, he gives us love, the strongest emotion a human can give or receive. There is strength for the battle in love. And perhaps most importantly, he gives us self-control, so that when worrying begins to overtake us, we can clang shut that nonsense and focus on things that are going right and the many places we have been blessed.

Power, love, and self-control. Next time you find yourself starting to worry, remember that you have these weapons in your battle bag. You are a worry warrior.

Fear Not, for God is With You. Photo by Michelle Robertson

Missing Angel

Our church secretary walked into the office holding a large wooden angel. She had been helping pre-school parents park for our Christmas program when a women drove by and stopped to pull the angel out of her trunk. “I drive by your church every day and I noticed your nativity scene didn’t have an angel. I had this in my garage and I don’t need it, so I thought I would bring it here.”

First, who keeps random angels in their garage? And second, who doesn’t need an angel? But we are grateful for the much needed addition to our little corner nativity scene. I personally think she will fit right into the place.

The angel at the original nativity scene also came as a surprise to everyone.

Luke 2:8-20 New International Version (NIV)

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

You betcha they were terrified. Wouldn’t you be? Having an otherworldly being suddenly descend from the skies and blinding you with all of its blazing luminescence would be a frightening thing indeed. I can’t figure out how they just didn’t run for the hills.

And then, she spoke:

 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Good news! Great joy! A savior is born! The long awaited Messiah has come! And he is the LORD. Her announcement introduced tremendous change, but it came with the assurance that this change would be good.

But did you catch the very first thing she said? “DO NOT BE AFRAID.”

As a matter of fact, angels offer the instruction “fear not” 58 times in the Old and New Testaments. It seems that every time they appeared, that was the first part of their message.

It was a message for then, and is a message for now. I believe there is a lot of fear and anxiety in our nation and in the world today. We fear many things: the effects of climate change on our planet, immigrants overrunning borders, guns, disease, gangs, our children’s futures, terrorism, vaccinations…one look around you and you will find something that has people terrified. And there are forces in the world that seem to exist only to perpetuate those fears.

Life involves a certain amount of fear because life involves a certain amount of change. And change is always a scary thing. A new job, a lost job, a pregnancy, a divorce, a biopsy, a diagnosis…change invokes fear. These things usually turn out to be alright in the end, but in the beginning, it is good to remember what the angels told us: do not be afraid.

The angels came to remind us that God is here. Whatever you are facing, whatever change is coming, whatever tragedy has befallen you, whatever disappointment you are experiencing, DO NOT BE AFRAID, for God is with you.

The shepherds learned that. They were the first to set aside their fears so that they could experience the incarnate God as he lay cooing in the manger. They heeded the command of the angel and thus experienced the presence of God in the flesh.

Where is God calling you to set aside your fears so that you can see his glory? Where are the angel’s words trying to take root in your heart so that you can move boldly into the change that God is preparing for you? How will you respond to his imminent presence?

In spite of all the anxiety and fear around us, let us worship this child as the Savior he was born to be. Let us resist those who would promote fear as a means of control, and realize that we are surrounded by a heavenly host that proclaims the power of God over all other powers on earth. Let us not resist change, but embrace it with the confidence of the children of God.

And most of all, let us be not afraid.

An angel holding an Angel.