Is there a time that you can remember that you were pressured beyond your ability to cope? There have been many for me.

As a child, my mother told me again and again that I was constantly burning the candle at both ends. For years, I had no idea what she meant. When I finally understood her, I was sure that I was getting ready to “burn out” at any moment because she had been giving me that dreaded warning for a decade.

It’s been many years since her stern predictions and I’m still burning.

I’ve found that God is my source and strength, especially in times of stress. We are preparing for Camp Agape which is May 23 to 26. There are many details for getting ready and for being responsible for 100 people and their safety.

Yet, again and again, I find the Lord going before me and preparing my way. I’ve learned to rest in Him and trust that He will make a way. And He always does even though my eyesight gets foggy and dim through the smoke my candle burning generates.

 

Read more: http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/simplelife/2014/05/pressure-time.html#ixzz31vkjlINu Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/simplelife/2014/05/pressure-time.html#PxUwgqSoxPWQxIIE.99

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Last week we started learning new music at The Special Gathering Vero and Melbourne choirs.   I am the director of three of the six choirs at Special Gathering, a ministry within the intellectual disability community.  Our choirs sing in local churches and during our chapel services.  Our purpose in traveling to other congregations is to educate the church to the spiritual needs of people who are mentally challenged.

Trying to keep the choirs more interested in newer music, I often let them choose the new songs.  Because our members memorize the music, it takes a bit longer to teach them the words and melody.  Therefore I begin about three or four months before they will preform the songs.  This new music contains the songs we’ll be singing in the summer and fall.

During the time we were going over the new selections, Anna kept wandering away in her mind.  Lucy and Nancy were nodding off.  Only Sheila was awake and perky during the half hour that we were rehearsing the new numbers.  After we had sung the new pieces once, maybe twice, we jumped into the older music that we knew.  Immediately, Anna was centered. Lucy and Nancy woke up with smiles.  Their grins returned and they were laughing and happy to sing our older melodic friends.

When I went back to college as an adult, I was taught something that I had not previously learned at school.  One professor lectured, “We all learn better in bits and pieces.  A few minutes here and there; and we will absorb new information better than sitting down and cramming in one long stretch.”  As a child, I didn’t make excellent grades.  Therefore, I wasn’t considered a good student; but during those years, I did learn how to learn.  In reality I wasn’t memorizing facts; but I was learning the essence of learning.

Each afternoon, I came home from school and did my written work while watching TV.  When I was studying for tests, however, I did that while washing dishes or taking a shower.  I was absorbing bits and pieces.  In addition, because I was a more tactical learner, I would better able to associate and assimilate the facts I needed while doing another task.  Sitting in a quiet room armed with only bare facts accomplished nothing except to pile unneeded stress on me.

If you are wanting to learn, it is important to take it easy.  Take the time needed.  The Bible tells us that we learn about God’s ways “line upon line, precept upon precept.”  Turns out that all of us who learn, learn best the way God prescribed.  It is interesting that Isaiah gave us this valuable information more than 2,400 years ago.

Every stress-relieving prescription in books or articles begin and end with “throw away, organize and simplify. ” Therefore, it isn’t hard to see the pattern that the experts recommend for eliminating stress.

Following the advice of these men and women who have studied these things, I’ve looked around to find where I can simplify my life.  Here and there, piece by piece, I’ve whittled at the excesses.

Over the years, I learned that I am effected by the things which surround me.  Walking through the grocery store brings about extreme sensory overload for me.  It is as though I have a complete brain drain as I enter the doors of Wal-Mart.  Without a list, I never leave the store with all the things I need, no matter how much money I spend.

Yet, like the experts advise, I find that simple things restore my sanity.  A walk around the block relishing the brisk fall breezes.  Sitting on the beach watching the waves with my feet covered with wet sand.  Propped against two pillows reading my Bible each night before I go to sleep.  Waking before dawn to share moments with the King of the Universe in intimate conversation.

Tonight I had supper with friends. Afterwards, we talked for hours.  I explained a disturbing dream I had this week.  My friend took the dream and helped me to understand a complex issue that has troubled me for several months.  The answer was simple.

Here and there, I find that the more I learn, the more I don’t understand.  The more I desire to be holy, the more I realize how far I must travel toward that goal.

Yet, in the middle of these confusing issues, one simple principle remains steady. God loves me and He desires my love more than my adherence to a group of legalities.  God loves me and no matter how much I fail him, he stands ready to forgive, cleanse, release and heal.  God loves me and my failures don’t surprise him.  He knew about them before I was even born.  Yet his love for me is unchanging.

Darting back and to, here and there, I’m confused and disoriented.  But resting in the gracious arms of his love, I’m safe and secure.  In his love, life becomes simple.  In Him, I am made complete.

Friends have been concerned about my well-being since my husband died.  “How will you get along without someone in the house?” is the most common question.  In reality, I think they are asking, “How will you survive the quiet?”

Even though the Bible tells believers to “Be still,” at least eight times, we seem to think that noise is more holy than quietness.  We love to sing and quote, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Yet, our modern-day living screams another message.  Too often, we do not teach the truth of the benefits of a quiet, spirit life.

From the hum of traffic that seeps through our windows to the murmur of our TV’s which continually stimulates our minds, we are almost never bathed by quiet.  While peace is not the same thing as quiet, it is perhaps impossible to be quiet without God’s inner peace reigning in our spirits.

Here are a couple of things that I’ve learned from others in my pursuit of practicing quiet.

  1. Set aside a time each day to listen to the Lord.  Prayer and listening are different dispciplines from quietness.  While God usually speaks to an active mind, waiting for the Lord in a quiet setting prepares us to hear from the Lord.
  2. Start with small bites of times.  Thirty minutes are much too long.  Don’t even attempt it.  Begin with one minute.  That minute will seem like an eternity at first.  But you will find that progressing to 5 minutes will be easier than that initial 60 seconds.  After you develop a set-aside time and you faithfully follow it, you will crave a quiet time.
  3. During the day, eliminate as much background noise as you can.  Turn off the TV, if you aren’t watching a specific program.
  4. Don’t let praise and worship music become a distraction from your quiet times.  Again, praise and worship are different from being still and quiet.
  5. During these times, harness your thoughts.  Be sure that thoughts of the Lord’s goodness and thankfulness are immersing your mind.
I read The Practice of the Presence of God as a young wife and mother.   The teachings found in this thesis captured my spirit.  It was written in the 17th century by the monk, Brother Lawrence, who was a cook and dishwasher in a monastery in Paris.  The disciplines practiced by this monk have been amazing stress relievers for me and thousands of others seeking to know God more completely.

Several times each week, I would take one or all of my children on foot, crossing the busy five-lane A1A Highway to the ocean.  Each time, I would instruct them.  “Stop.  Look both ways.  Listen.   And do not EVER run across a busy highway.”

Once we had gotten through the traffic; and we were safely on the other side, I would explain.  “If you run, you may fall.  If you fall, you will not be able get up; and a car will hit you.  Before you begin to cross the highway, always be certain that there is enough room between the cars that you don’t have to run.”

These were the same instructions my mother and father had given to my sister, brother and me when we had to navigate across the bustling Dorchester Road in Charleston Heights, SC.  My parents owned an ice cream parlor in a small strip mall; and we often had to walk to their work.  Mother’s instructions echoed in our minds so accurately that when we were old enough to walk with my older sister and without our parents, we would tell each other how to cross before we stepped off the curb onto the buzzing street.

Now, many decades later, it was such good advice that I’m still giving myself the same instructions about many areas in my life.  In more detail, here are steps you can take to eliminate many stressful situations.

  1. Stop!  Take a break.  Whether you are pressing too hard to complete a garden project, preparing to host a social event or trying to meet a pending deadline, taking a break will enhance your productivity and increase your ability to concentrate.  Thereby, your stress level will be reduced.
  2. Look far beyond the immediate situation.  Continually look at your life and at your goals.  To cross a bustling highway, you must understand the patterns of traffic.  This takes times of examination.  To understand what God has planned for you.  Daily evaluation and observations is essential.
  3. Listen!  Observing the flow of traffic for a highway and in your life takes all your senses.  Listen to the Lord, your critics and your friends.
  4. Don’t run.  Only people who are insecure about their ability to cross a busy highway attempt to run across the street.  Running dramatically elevates your chance of failure.  You increase your stress level–not lower it–when you are in a hurry.  Be sure that you have the time needed to complete tasks.  Then and only then, proceed.  Tripping and falling in the middle of a project spells disaster and increases the strain on your body and mind.
Years ago when I was learning to hear the voice of the Lord, a respected teacher and older friend told me, “Linda, God has an eternity to accomplish His good work in you.  He doesn’t push us.  If I feel extreme inner pressure, I stop.  Then I seek God to truly hear from Him.  God isn’t in a hurry.”  That day my stress level decreased sustantially.  Each time I remember her wisdom, I’m blessed by lower stress levels and God’s peace.

Johann Sebastian Bach

Bach called music, “Recreation of the mind.”  Modern scientific research tell us that your mother was right–again. Learning to play a musical instrument as a child and continuing to practice into adulthood sharpens your mind and keeps your thinking clear for decades.

Music is one of the best stress relievers that God has given to us.  Shower singing remains a time-honored and valued national pass time.  It is accompanied by rolling up the windows of your car, turning on the A/C and conducting a private sing-along with your favorite CD or the radio.

The beat of the music has long been known to relieve tension.  Mothers from the dawn on time have known that singing to a restless infant or toddler calms and soothes their bodies and minds.

Vocalizing allows your brain to go on a mini-vacation free from the stress of your daily concerns.  In Central Florida, we have two of the best Christian radio stations in the US.  No matter what my mood, desires or worries, I have an easy, readily available answer to stress and worry.

I can immediately take a break from the day and relax. By simply singing a Christ-honoring song, I glorify God, reinforce Christian principles in my heart and destroy harmful stress-building chemicals in my brain and body.

Some of my best memories were singing with my mother as a child.  Doing the dishes with Mother was always a joy because we would sing together.  Her last years, she lost her ability to speak and she could not longer sing; but her smiles grew large and vibrant when she was sitting in the presence of music.  

Many people say, “I can’t sing.”  That is a misnomer.  Not everyone can sing well.    However, unless there is a physical disability, everyone can sing.

Want to relieve the stress of everyday life?  Want to take a break from the concerns of the day?  It costs nothing to sing a song and the benefits are monumental.

When I first began writing to meet a deadline, I found that I could sit at the computer for only a limited number of hours.  Every 15 minutes or so, I would walk around the house or yard.  I might get a glass of iced tea or stroll through the yard.  After a couple of hours, I had to completely stop and take a walk.  Armed with my 30 to 40 sheets of manuscript and a sharp pencil, I would slowly meander through our neighborhood while rereading and re-editing the document I’d just written.

I learned from this experience that taking a walk is different from other exercises.  Walking is a low impact, uncomplicated pathway to greater health.  As simple as it is, taking a walk can be an amazing stress reliever.  Stress is a fact of life.  No matter what your occupation or avocation, you are hit with harmful stress if you don’t watch your step.  Some of the most beneficial steps are taken while you walk.

Walking relieves stress levels because it increases our levels of endorphins.  These are the hormones which medical professionals tell us make us happy.  One reason is that endorphins help you to feel good about yourself.

Of course, you can get the endorphin jolt from ordinary exercise.  So why walk instead?

Walking allows you to slow down enough to enjoy the wonders of your natural surroundings.  It’s almost impossible to walk and not find something that is fascinating and interesting.

Wild flowers inching between the cracks in the sidewalk, a bug scurrying away to feed her young, your neighbor’s willow tree swinging in the wind can become moment of exquisite pleasure.   By alerting your mind to become involved in the adventure, you can experience a delightful, stress-defeating break.

The best walks happen along the shore of a lake, river or ocean.  The rhythmic sounds of moving water adds additional stress relieving benefits.  However, for many people, this isn’t possible.  Nevertheless, if you are one of the fortunate folks who can walk near a body of water, this excursion produces a significant calming affect.

If you have a raincoat and an umbrella, don’t be afraid to walk in the rain.   Take off your shoes and socks.  Roll up your pant legs. Splash in the puddles.  Take pleasure and benefit from the textures and coolness of the water.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus and his disciples walked continually.  In fact, in those days, everyone walked several miles a day.  Times have changed.  Modern transportation can easily take us thousands of miles in one day.  However, some of the greatest stress-relieving benefits can be found through the healthy and simple exercise of walking.