Is worry normal or is it a sin?

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Yes, anxiety is normal and yes, practicing anxiety is a sin.

And there is good news.

I’m being trained to look behind a statement in scripture to reason about the condition of the author.  For example, yesterday morning I paused at verse 4 while reading Psalm 86:

  • Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

Since it was a rainy, gloomy Saturday morning I immediately asked God to gladden both my and my husband’s hearts.  But afterwards I realized that the only reason the Psalmist would have penned such a request was because he was struggling with the blahs or worse and knew he could count on God to help him!  Why ask for something of which you have no need????

Here’s another verse from Matthew 6:25

  • I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.

Why would Jesus dedicate these minutes to expound on worry if He didn’t SEE or KNOW that worry was present in the hearts and minds of those listening to Him?

How about the command NOT to fear?  I read in the on-line Christian Post (5 Nov 2014 blog post entitled Faith over Fear) that Jesus’ primary teaching was: to love others. (125 times taught in the Gospels) According to the writer of the post, Jesus presented and organized His teachings by theme.  And the primary theme (21 times) for His instruction was about FEAR.  Do not fear; don’t be afraid; be courageous; be firm in your faith.  This means that Jesus exhorts us to LOVE by NOT FEARING.  Hmmm, could it be that fear drives out love?  Is that the reason that the apostle John pens in 1 John 4:18?:

  • There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear,

And why would Jesus repeat such a message if it weren’t a glaring problem?

So YES – worry and anxiety are normal, but they are neither GOOD, nor HEALTHY, nor appropriate for Christians.  In fact, worrying is a sin since God commands us NOT to worry.

So how does it help to know that worry is both a sin AND a normal reflex?

Because God doesn’t leave us to battle it on our own. There is supernatural power to fight sin.  And we are called to enter into warfare every day of the Christian life. Through daily practice similar to our workouts at the gym, we will strengthen our reflex to rely on His promises and character, growing more like Jesus.  But let’s be realistic; we will not eliminate anxiety 100 %. Therefore, we can expect to have to engage this enemy of the faith daily, WITH the resources God provides. Even my hero of the faith, George Müller, admitted that the decade of his 90s were the hardest.  I imagine his struggles had to do with declining health and increased physical limitations.  There are always new fears to confront.  But God promises fresh mercies each day (‘our daily spiritual bread’)

It’s not for rhetorical reasons that Paul exhorts young pastor Timothy in his first letter, chapter 6, verse 12:

  • Fight the good fight of faith 

This same Paul is the one who explains how to dress daily for the warfare.  Besides defensive armor, he reminds us that there is ONE offensive weapon – God’s word.

The only way to drive the worry dragons away is by saying or singing or shouting or meditating on God’s many promises to BE our strength, to BE our peace and then to bank our life on those promises given to us by a Loving Father whose character is trustworthy.

Here’s one more look at a desperate psalmist and how he deals with danger or suffering

  • If your law had not been my meditation I would have perished in my affliction. Psalm 119:92

The fact that he mentions his affliction is significant.  Like us, he had a choice of mediating on how bad his circumstances were and how he couldn’t see a way out OR he could chew on the truth of God and what He has said.  This Old Testament man of faith makes it clear had he chosen the former course of limiting his view to the present, he would have died.

Aren’t we blessed to have the Bible which does not sugar-coat life’s sufferings?  Instead, it tells us that pain is real and there is help that is equally real and available.

I’ll leave you with an ‘oldie-but-goodie’ sermon link of the man who is teaching me to read my Bible and mine it for MORE than the explicit words:

You can either read or listen to the sermon here

More peace? Less anxiety?


Would you like to FEEL at peace more and more each day?

Who wouldn’t!  Personal circumstances and problems as well as complex world situations seem to conspire to keep even the most placid in a state of agitation. Add to the warp and woof of 21st century life the seeming random as well as intentional violence! Just a glance at one’s iPhone in the morning is enough to draw up the covers and stay in bed!

stay in bed cat

Hear the promise of the Lord, however!

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you: because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

The last 2 days I have whiffed peace.  God has been working in me for years as I grow to understand and love the FACT that He is sovereign and in control of everything that happens to you and me.  Just that knowledge has eased my anxiety about:

  • traffic delays
  • alarm clock malfunctions
  • minor and major wounds from other people
  • accidents or chronic physical conditions (constipation that dogs me!)
  • the pain of my own chosen sin (‘there I go again, blurting out something hurtful’/ ‘there I go again, overeating’/ ‘there I go again, choosing to indulge in self-pity’ / ‘there I go again, lying to look good’ / ‘there I go again, divulging a confidence’ / ‘there I go again, saying something negative about a friend or family member AND enjoying it!’ )

Coupled with a deeper appreciation for what it means for God to ordain/plan/send/prescribe/allow every event has been a growing understanding of God’s will for the lives of His children.

And you know that I’m talking about our growth in holiness, also translated as ‘sanctification’.   1 Thess 4:3a – For it is God’s will that you should be holy:

A very precious friend has played a significant role in my spiritual maturing.  Last October, she mailed me William Gurnall’s 800-page book called The Christian in Complete Armour. Eleven months later I am on page 422 of collected sermons.  It’s so rich that when I dip into it on weekends, I chew slowly, sucking out this English pastor’s exposition of Ephesians 6.  His 17th-century perspective is refreshingly deep.

Across recent pages Gurnall has been talking about the benefits of holiness.  Today, I read this quote:

“….perfect rest depends on perfect holiness….”

Okay – we will NEVER attain to perfect holiness until we SEE Jesus face to face.  But don’t you think it follows from the above premise that:

As we grow in holiness, we grow in rest and peace

What I wrote in my journal this morning was that ‘I should seek holiness and be GRATEFUL for all the circumstances God has planned for me THIS DAY……

  • if it is true that God works all things for the GOOD of those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes  (Romans 8:28)
  • if it is true that NO ‘GOOD’ thing does He withhold from those who are righteous  (Ps 84:11)
  • if it is true that God’s design to do us ‘good’ means to grow and shape us to think, act, react and feel more and more like His beloved Son’

If I take God at His Word, then it follows logically that I should see every event as bearing an opportunity for growth in my holiness or sanctification.  Yes, events can be evil and there is suffering and pain, but each circumstance is packed with holiness-making practical exercises.

And if the more I grow in holiness, the more PEACE I will feel, then why should I fear?  And if God allows/sends/ordains/plans good out of this next event then I SHOULD be able to relax, to rest if I truly trust Him.

Go back to that Isaiah quote and see for yourself.  The taking God at His word lies at the end of that promise…’because he trusts in You.’

Why is this a big deal for me?  Why do I care so much about growing my ability to rest and be at peace and be free from anxiety?  Because I live with fear – a lot of fear!

Some people fear the whole getting old and dying process.

Others fear not having enough money to take them through those final years on earth.

Existentially, I fear something happening to my kids and grandkids.  On a day-to-day basis, I fear not having enough time to get my work done (so I can READ and RELAX).  And in my profession, I fear that I won’t be able to be creative enough to sustain the interest of my students.

So, YES, I AM interested in TRUE and LASTING inner peace that doesn’t depend on circumstances.

And what the Holy Spirit is teaching me through His Word and writers like William Gurnall is that it is in my own personal best interests to see holiness.  I’ll close with a quote of his, taken from page 422:

“There is only perfect rest, because (of) perfect holiness.  Whence those frights and fears which make them a….terror about? (These) make men discontented in every condition.  They neither can relish the sweetness of their enjoyments, nor bear the bitter taste of their afflictions.”

What I am left with is this question:

Maria – why should you fear tomorrow if God promises to use every thing that happens in order to work MORE holiness in you, replacing what is unholy and selfish and destructive?

Just think!  If we could allow this thought to permeate our conscious, waking thoughts, maybe it would begin to seep down into the realm of the unconscious.

What do we have to lose?

What do you do when your belt gets tight?

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If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9

Tight Belt

My husband has extolled belt wearing for years. Being cinched in provides instantaneous body awareness.


My spiritual Belt of Truth provides the same corrective feedback.

Each morning as I don battle dress, I linger over that Belt of Truth, Jesus’ filtering grip designed to allow only true beliefs in my inner being.

But it’s not uncomfortable. No, Jesus proffers His ‘inner-self support’ as relief from the chains we would otherwise wear.

Before realizing I had been gifted at my new birth with a Jesus Belt, I unconsciously dressed in ordinary and bewitching chains. You know what I’m talking about – that default worldly thinking we assume is normal. The chain links go by various names such as:

  • Choose your own identity and meaning
  • Seek others’ approval
  • Pursue your bucket list
  • Amuse yourself now
  • Work off your guilt your own way

But Jesus has promised a much lighter load, crafted to fit comfortably, one that He Himself promises to bear, provided we stay attached to Him.

Despite starting the day with the correct belt comfortingly reminding me of Jesus’ presence, by noon I was squirming, aware that something was pinching. Sitting at my computer, finishing schoolwork from the previous week, I fretted over personal tasks and NOT ENOUGH TIME!

That false god called “Enough Time for Maria” was competing with the Almighty for supremacy. I caught myself grumbling while resenting time constraints. Snap!  Ouch – my  Jesus Belt tightened.

What made my belt prick? I had allowed ‘unbelief’ into my core to dilute my happy trust, contentment and peace.

Quick Holy Spirit conviction brought my confession of this sin of unbelief and repentance. I had to flush two of Satan’s favorite lies:

  • God is not sovereign over your life (for me – the day’s hours and their passage)
  • God is not good

Once I confessed and trusted God’s promise of sure forgiveness, my Jesus Belt felt comfortable again. Thank you, Father, for giving me such a life-saving Belt of Truth.

What holds you together?


‘For in him we live and move and have our being…’  Acts 17:28a

TMI?  Too much information – all alarming and overwhelming. With smart phones, laptops, talk radio and even traditional print media, I feel assaulted by sincere-sounding, but conflicting opinions.

Fortunately, my ‘Belt of Truth  awaits me each morning.  Buckling into God’s word not only clears my head so I can see clearly, but also makes me feel secure and safe. You know, I need to prioritize thinking about that belt as much as I think about my food for each school day!

Belt - cartoonThis morning, Sunday, while walking I began to stress about the coming school week.  Will I get all my plans done? What about Jack whose mom wrote yesterday to say how frustrated he felt with one of my homework assignments?

Then I remembered my belt. What do belts do?  They don’t allow for much else to come between our tummies and the snug encircling leather, do they! In that sense they protect us.  From what?

Jesus explained to Thomas, “….I am the way, the truth and the life….”   John 14:6

Tightening my Truth Belt, I’m actually putting Jesus around me.  He promises to block hammering false beliefs.  There’s no room for them if my belt is to stay both firm yet comfortable.

As I trudged up the gravel road, I thought about that quote from Acts about living ‘in him‘.  Paul was actually echoing a line from Epimenides, but applying the truth to God, when he mentioned the poet to the Athenian ‘philosophes‘.

So I will more gladly buckle my safety belt.  Not a car restraint, but a ‘living and moving and being belt’ – One that allows ONLY Jesus both to filter the TMI and to hold me together.

Not wearing that letter “A” any more!

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Scarlet Letter

James 4: 4 You adulterers!  Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? 


What a relief!  To come clean and admit that you have betrayed the one who loves you best.  With the ‘worst’ out in the open, there is nothing more to hide.  And in that public knowledge lives freedom.

But do we wear our branding of ‘unfaithful to God’ or do we cover it up, disguise it by good works, competence, religious behavior, helpfulness or talent?

Last week I was wrestling with the wrong kind of fear, the dread of others thinking poorly of me or less of me. But as I let God’s Word guide me in distinguishing fear of man from that ‘AWE-full’ thrilling though cautious respect of God, I found safety again and open spaces.

This week William Gurnall, my current 17th century author of choice, has given me a renewed appreciation for my God-given clothing.

His most famous book is a compilation of sermons he delivered teaching his flock about the reality of warfare in this life and the spiritual tools we are to use to be both safe AND useful as redeemed children of the Father.

500 Old Cabin Cove taken from Blue Ridge Pkwy

So each morning, as I tread up and down the gravel road in our cove, I pray for God’s help to pull together all the scattered thoughts of the previous day and submit them to God.  I mentally and almost physically tighten that first piece of spiritual clothing Paul describes in his exhortation to the Christians at Ephesus:  the belt of truth.

Belt of truth

Which truth? – the truth about who Jesus is and who I am since He bought and freed me.  What others might consider an accessory today is what literally holds us together.  Without that boundary line separating truth from confusion, we come apart.  So tighten your belt, friends!

Next I ready my feet, not with my own planned-out, agenda-bound shoes.  I don God’s sandals that are directed at bringing to those I encounter this day the counter-intuitive message of ‘How to find peace with God’.

Shoes of peace

Everyone is seeking it, though many don’t know that ‘being right’ with the God of the Universe is their biggest need.  But I have to remind myself before I leave the Cove for school that I’m not off to fulfill my plans, but God’s.  After all, I do work for Him.

Since I can’t face the world just with my belt and my shoes on, what is my basic uniform for the day? Certainly not that Scarlet letter of Shame: the Father has replaced that temporary tattoo with a permanent Blood-Stained R for Jesus’ righteousness.

Letter R

What the Romans wore as effective protection for the heart and other organs, God calls our breastplate.  It’s both armor AND an advertisement to the spiritual world of whose we are.  So front and center stamped permanently on me is Jesus’ earned and validated righteousness.

To round off  my equipment, I gather my helmet to protect and SAVE my mind from misleading thoughts and grip my shield to block the doubts and fears and what-ifs that are aimed straight at my heart and head and eyes that day.

By now my morning sweat and lactic acid producing walk accompanied by this mental spiritual dressing has brought me back up to our cabin.  I thankfully pour some coffee, fix a quick breakfast and sit down to sharpen my sword for the day. You know the only offensive weapon our Father gives us is the ensemble of truths and promises written down in the Bible.  I am so thankful for the time to fill up my mind with powerful fuel for the day.  Funny how all those insights that held me firm yesterday have drained away.   But why is that so strange?  After all, we take in physical food several times a day and expect it to tide us over only a few hours. Why should spiritual nourishment be any different?

So I eat with gusto and head out for the day.  Another page in the life of a thankful ambassador reporting for duty to her rebel outpost in that dark place called the World.

Question:  How have you personalized one or more of the pieces of spiritual armor?







Prayers, Fears and Promises


“Bzzzzz,” vibrated my phone in the middle of Senior Theses presentations last night. A student was defending her claim about the on-going effects of the French Revolution, when I glanced over to see the name of the Middle School principal who interviewed me 6 weeks ago in Asheville, NC.  However, since I was one of 2 judges, I couldn’t satisfy my curiosity at that moment.

By the time I WAS free; the civilized deadline for calling future bosses had come and gone.  But patience has its rewards and the news was good this morning.  I got the job!  So thank you for your prayers. I will be teaching French to Middle-Schoolers in the fall.

Now don’t you feel encouraged? – You, the Church?  I know that when I have prayed persistently and over a long period of time, my faith is strengthened upon learning how God has met the need of a brother or sister.  Answered prayer makes me want to pray all the more!  My unbelief is diminished and light expands to push back the dark corners of doubt.

On a side note, God DOES  have a sense of humor.  In our private prayers about this job, Mike and I had specifically asked God to provide me with a French job with a salary range of between X and Y.  And the offer was X!  (not a penny over).  I think Mike was a bit disappointed at first.  Who doesn’t hope for more?  But I can picture God smiling, having arranged the sure way to keep our hope in HIM, the owner and provider of ALL our resources, and not in cash flow.

Despite this great news, I confess that I still struggle with fears and what ifs.

I know – you’re surprised!

You’d think that with this answered prayer, coming on the heels of  last week’s offer on our current house (thank you, Father!), I’d not fear or worry about anything!

It’s true – I have to daily engage in the uphill hand- to- hand combat for faith.  My French 4 girls and I have been translating a list of 10 Truths/Reminders about God.  A young American pastor, Matt Reagan, compiled them in college when he realized that each morning he woke up having forgotten about God.

Demonic alchemy happens in the night and faith evaporates when that alarm goes off.  We have to RE-MEMBER / RE-CONSTRUCT our faith-foundation all over again.   It’s like putting on one’s defensive knight’s armor, piece by piece to engage the day.

Hence, my daily pondering of which promises/ truths encourage me the most:   When the dark clouds of fear start rolling in, I push back firmly with the brilliant rays of God’s truths.  Here are just 3 of those dailies:

·         No good thing does God withhold from those whose way is upright (Ps 84:11)

·         The Lord is with me, I will not fear; what can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6)

·         God works all things for my good because I have been called by Him and I love Him (Romans 8:32)  

 Join with me and let’s undertake this challenge together:  think about what daily spiritual vitamins protect you, feed you, strengthen you, empower you and share them.  Let’s not be anemic, starving Christians, for want of the power available in God’s word.

For the word of God is alive and full of power.

PS: The French translate Jesus/the Logos in John 1 as ‘the verb’.  Can’t you just picture active, coursing super-natural power? 

Reflections on waiting

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This waiting thing – we’re in the thick of it!

  • Waiting for the house to sell
  • Waiting to get a teaching job in NC
  • Waiting for Mike’s first paying client
  • Waiting for Wes to return from Afghanistan

Not that waiting isn’t part of others’ lives, too:

  • Our brother and sister-in-law are waiting for her immigration paperwork to come through.
  • Friends are waiting for babies – to be born and to be adopted
  • Many sisters & brothers in Christ are waiting for loved ones to be brought into God’s forever family
  • Other friends are waiting for healing and pain to subside
  • A friend is waiting for her husband finally to receive the career recognition he deserves and longs for
  • Another friend is waiting for debt to be paid off so she can marry

I realized something last night that shifted my view of how God is working.  I’m a lot more relaxed this time around selling a house.  The first time was when we were 27 years old.  Mike had moved out to Monterey, Graham was a baby and we were desperate to sell a house in Arizona.  DES-PER-ATE.  I bugged the real estate agent every day.  God was gracious and brought a buyer in 3 months, despite my total lack of faith.

The last time we sold a house, I had started growing spiritually through the means of Bible Study Fellowship, but was living functionally still as an atheist.  I was 42 this time around.  As I fretted internally, worrying about 30 times a day, “What if…..!!!!”  (at least I didn’t phone our realtor every day!), God brought welcome relief in the form of a verse.  We had studied Genesis the previous year in BSF and all of a sudden I recalled the promise God made to Abraham when the old man, like me, was fearful, tired & discouraged.

Gen 15:1 Fear not Abram, I am your shield and your very great reward!

All of a sudden, my behavior switched.  I consciously chose to sub in that very promise from God each and every time I caught myself falling into worry and fear.  I would literally shake my head and actually stand up to that worry/fear thought:

NO!  then I would say to the Lord…

God, YOU are my shield and my very great reward, therefore, I will not fear.

Instead of playing the worry movie 20 – 30 times in a day, I affirmed God’s Word over and over again.  A month later, God brought the buyer.

Now I’m 55 and we’re selling our 3rd house.  My goal is to offer my waiting to God as worship.  I want to PLEASE my Father by demonstrating that I trust him.  As Graham reminded me yesterday in a phone call, ‘We have a rich and powerful Father, so we can relax’.

The realization that struck me last night came in reflecting about how we came to find the house that we are going to purchase in North Carolina, God-willing.  From Thanksgiving through mid January, we had been ‘studying’ available houses, making a list of features, comparing them in Excel (a side benefit that comes from being married to an analytical husband!) all in preparation for a house-visiting trip last month.  Our goal was to make an offer on a house over that January weekend since Waynesville is 8 hours away by car from Newport News.

We arrived on Saturday at the real estate agent’s office and in addition to the list of houses we had planned to visit; she added one that had ‘just popped up’,  being listed 2 days earlier on the Thursday.  It wasn’t part of our ‘careful study’.

And as you might guess, that is the house we have chosen.

Do you see what I realized last night?  At just the RIGHT time, God brought ‘our house’ to us, not dependent on our analysis and searching.

If I extrapolate, at just the RIGHT time, God will bring:

The buyer for our current house…….The job offer for me……etc

Yes, our efforts are important – But God doesn’t want frenzied, desperate efforts.  Reasonable next steps/actions that come from a deep, relaxed and confident dependence on God are the kind that honor our Father.

Lord, thank you for Christ:  my Anchor, my Blissful Rock, my Big Brother, my Champion and Author and Finisher of the faith implanted in me.  Give me the humility to keep casting these cares back on You, because I KNOW You love us and have our best interests at heart.

God meets our needs very creatively!

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