Monday, July 26, 2010

Living in overwhelm can mean having too much to do and not enough time to do it. Or it can mean having limited time and energy to get tasks done. Or it could mean living with the fear that you’re not capable of getting a job done. Overwhelm has emotional overtones of stress and anxiety, and it exhibits itself physically, as well. Chronic overwhelm is one of the major causes of anxiety and anxiety disorders. When you’re overwhelmed, your mind overloads with all that’s going on. When you’re overwhelmed, you feel as if you’re carrying a heavy load, a burden. Carrying around this weight takes a toll on your nervous, immune and hormonal systems, and left unattended, likely will produce cycles of anxiety, fatigue and temporary despair. People on this kind of overload are more susceptible to disease and they age faster. What can you do about overload?

My guilt overwhelms me— it is a burden too heavy to bear. Psalm 38:4

An ancient Greek myth holds that Zeus punished the Titans for waging war against him. As the leader of the Titans, Atlas received a harsh punishment. He was forced to hold up an extraordinarily heavy weight. The proverbial version has him holding the weight of the world on his shoulders. When we become overstressed and overwhelmed, we often feel we’re holding the weight of the world on our shoulders. Each year when I go to New York City, I walk past the GE Building and see a huge statue of Atlas, straining under the weight of the world. Then I walk across the street and down the block to enter St. Patrick’s Cathedral. There I see the beautiful Pieta statue, a work of art that depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion. I am reminded that when he died on the cross, Jesus took the weight of this world’s sin and sorrow off our shoulders and put it on His shoulders.

Are you letting him carry your weight?

Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the Godly to slip and fall. Psalm 55:2


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Let’s look at problems as opportunities. They are opportunities to grow our faith and often to grow relationships. They’re a lot like dumbbells. The word dumbbells originated in Tudor England when athletes used hand-held church bells to develop their upper body and arms. The bells ranged in weight from a few ounces to many pounds. Since the church bells would have made a great deal of noise, the athletes would take out the clappers so they could practice quietly; hence the name "dumb,” as in "no sound", and "bell" – dumbbell. I use them nearly every day. I don’t really like them. My arms get tired when I lift them over and over. When I put the dumbbell in my arms and then raise my arms above my head, I’m not really having fun, but the activity of lifting the dumbbells will eventually make me stronger. In the short term, I get tired. In the long term, I’ll grow stronger.

If we look at problems as opportunities to grow and learn, we can rest assured that we will be stronger in the long run. In the middle of a problem, it’s good to ask, “What can I learn from this? How is this making me stronger?” Remember, it’s not the final solution that makes us stronger; it’s the activity of solving the problem that makes us stronger.

Part of the activity of working out our problems is calling on God for guidance. The Bible teaches us that God is with us. When Jesus was born, he was called Immanuel, meaning “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23) He’s a friend that sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24) We can talk to him and lean on him. We can run to him with our inmost thoughts. He is always available. He wants to help us sort out life’s smallest and greatest problems.

It’s in lifting the dumbbells that we develop our muscles. In sorting out the challenges of life, we exercise our faith and develop our spiritual muscles. Lifting weights is a physical workout; problem-solving is a mental and spiritual workout.

Like the English athletes who silenced the bells, let’s silence our complaints and use our problems as opportunities to grow stronger. Let’s exercise our faith.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. I Timothy 4:8

Staying Power

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pancho Gonzalez was the world’s number one professional tennis player for an unequalled eight years in the 1950s and early 1960s. He is still widely considered to be one of the greatest players in the history of the game. A 1999 Sports Illustrated selected him number 15 in the magazine's 20 "favorite athletes" of the 20th century. In 1948 this virtually unknown player won the national tennis championship in a grueling battle. A sports writer commented that Gonzales had a marvelous serve and a skillful volley but said the factor that won the championship was his staying power. “He was never defeated by the discouraging vicissitudes of the game.” In other words, he didn’t let the constant changes or fluctuations get the best of him. When the game didn’t go his way, he didn’t let discouragement creep into his thoughts. The player was able to face his obstacles and run with endurance the race set before him.

More recently, two young men, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, vied in another Wimbledon tennis match, the longest game in the tournament’s history. Isner of Tampa, Florida, came out as winner after 11 hours and 5 minutes. Previously, neither Isner nor Mahut of France had made it past the first round in the tournament at Wimbledon.

It was a grueling three days. It has been estimated that during the course of the tournament each player sprinted 24 miles and sweated nearly 10 pounds of water. Their body temperatures probably vacillated between 95 and 105 degrees. Some say they could have burned 6,000 calories during the marathon event. Isner reportedly consumed 12 energy bars and gallons of water and energy drinks during the match. He attributed practice in Florida’s intense heat and humidity to his ability to endure. Isner told NBC's "Today" show that he'd gotten a mere "six hours" of sleep the night before the final match and had "no skin left on any of my toes.”

Sports psychologists have noted that players must also go through emotional conditioning in order to handle the stress. The men seemed equal in skill and determination. Both needed to be single-minded in their effort to endure a match of this length.

Both men had staying power. They did not become defeated by the vicissitudes of the game. How do we get that staying power? How can we never become defeated by the vicissitudes of the game?

How do we train so that we’ll last through the hard times? What can we learn from these young men about duration? About tasting victory? About never giving up?

We too can be strong when facing trials. We must train our minds, bodies, and spirit to go the distance. Scripture reminds us to throw away anything that entangles us and to run with perseverance to win the race. With God’s help we can win. We can last. We too can have staying power.

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

The Slump

Monday, July 5, 2010

Josh O’Reilly, manager San Antonio Club in the middle of the last century, had a roster of great players but they were in a slump. They experienced loss after loss. O’Reilly knew he had a team of powerful and successful hitters, but they had lost confidence in themselves. He wanted to help them to regain belief in their ability to hit. O’Reilly asked each player to give him his two best bats. They were to stay in the clubhouse until he returned. He put the bats in a wheelbarrow and off he went with them. An hour later he returned and told them he’d gone to Schlater, a popular neighborhood preacher who claimed to be a faith healer. The manager told his players that the preacher had blessed the bats. He said the bats contained a power that could not be overcome. The players were delighted and enthusiastic about the news. The next day they overwhelmed Dallas. They won again and again. They even won their way to the championship that year.

Now what happened to the San Antonio team? What caused their amazing turnaround? Was there power in the bats? No, it was in their minds. They began thinking in terms of expectation, not doubt. They began to expect the best. A new thought pattern changed the men and they lived up to those new expectations.

What do you do when you’re in a slump? Do you complain that good fortune always passes you by? Do you eventually give up and settle for less than your best? Do you begin to expect the worst and then always get it? How do you get re-charged when you get it a slump? Consider going to the real source of power, the power we get through our faith. The New Testament provides powerful scripture to inspire us and encourage us to get out of a slump. Norman Vincent Peale compiled 40 scripture passages that he called 40 Thought Conditioning Verses and suggested we memorize them and let them fill our conscious with positive thoughts. Following these faith concepts will change us from skeptics to expecters and then achievers.

Enjoy these “thought conditioning verses” –

Thought Conditioner No. 1
The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. Luke 18:27
Thought Conditioner No. 2
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27
Thought Conditioner No. 3
Renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
Thought Conditioner No. 4
Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
Thought Conditioner No. 5
What things you desire, when ye pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them. Mark 11:24

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