OKC April 19, 25th Anniversary

Personal Growth

Healing after tragedy takes time. 25 years ago on April 19, a deplorable plan and act was executed in Oklahoma City. We continue to gain strength. I was honored to be a part of creating the following video in an effort to continue to bring healing to the city I call home.

My thanks to the men who served then and share now of that experience. They represent a host of heroes and families who still walk through.

I would also share thanks with videographer, Jesse Wallace, who took an idea and made it come to life.

Moving Out of Confinement

Personal Growth

Since mid-March, my family has experienced school and work from home with our city’s safer at home policies. When I was out for a walk in my neighborhood, there was a lone commercial jet flying overhead. While I was walking, my mind wandered to trips I’ve been on, near and far. I reminisced about those adventures, the beauty experienced and the fun and challenge of exploring distant places. Watching that jet zoom across the blue sky wondering where they were going, longing to be back out in the big wide world again with them, I was reminded of a truth.

Phasing out of home confinement coming soon?

Word is spreading that our sheltering at home is lifting soon or at least eased. Soon, we will move to another “new normal” of daily life and work. It is likely we are out and about again with some continued restrictions. I am grateful for that. In our collective home confinements I have grown ever fond of what we had:

Large gatherings like sports and concerts

Strolling with Jennifer in a packed mall or shops

Cruising a car show

Hitting the open road or skies to anywhere

Enjoying a park or amusement park with the family

Exploring a new place

Definitely church life!

But I actually long for more…

I watched the jet easily cruise at altitude across the blue sky pondering the destination of those aboard. Wishing I were traveling too, I also had the dull pang remembering that no place or experience in the end actually seems to fill the longing that tugs at my heart. Any experience, while definitely appreciated – especially now – still falls short of something.

Have you felt that way before?

Not too long ago my family and I traveled to a place I would say is stunningly beautiful. The refreshment exploring this paradise with my family was incredible. But, even that trip fell short as I shared here. Have you felt that before, that even in the best location or experience there is still a longing for more. Somehow it is good and appreciated, but not all right yet with a longing for things truly being as they should be.

  • As the engines begin to fire back up in our normal lives,
  • As the hustle and bustle takes back over for many and our schedules press for every moment,
  • As opportunity to do things that we enjoy like vacations and trips,
  • And as that sense of longing for more beyond all that grows…

This life’s quarantine is lifting some day

Are you ready for the ultimate release from this home/life’s restrictions? This life’s confinement is coming to a close someday. An early leader in the Christian faith, Paul, said it this way. Our lives in this body are much like living in a tent or shelter. He shared that we “groan” in this life with its burdens looking for more. He shared that when those who know Jesus personally leave this old broken body and world, our current home confinement, we are with the Lord where He is.

Jesus described this new place as Paradise. It is a New Heaven and New Earth. In the Old Testament, we see a shadow of what is to come as “The Promised Land,” a place of peace, rest and abundance. It is moving into, for those who know Jesus, the place He promised He was preparing, a new dwelling made just for them. It is a place that has no sin, death, sickness, and a place where all tears are wiped away.

If you want to experience that place, where we are really released from confinement, don’t wait to make Jesus Lord of your life today. Here’s the hard truth, Jesus is Lord whether you confess that or not. The issue is about you and your belief, will you accept Him as Lord of all, including your life? Don’t wait to simply follow Him – all the way out of this life to the next!

2 Peter 3:13

But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

COVID-19: Managing Anxiety and Stress

Personal Growth

We are all living in extraordinary times. The COVID-19 virus pandemic has thrust the globe into an experience that is unparalleled. We are all experiencing financial, social, emotional, and for some, physical impacts. From the global economy to households living lives in new ways, it seems every area of our lives are being pressured and changed.

The primary question then becomes, “When will this all be over?” Who knows? A secondary one is, “What will be the ultimate impacts on lives and livelihoods?” It is in the midst of this storm, that it becomes critical in how we manage anxiety and stress.

I have had numerous conversations about staying healthy in mind, body and spirit in these days of social distancing and apprehension. Here are the common threads that seem to be key components.

Recognize you are stressed and anxious

To recognize or realize you are stressed or anxious may seem paradoxical, but denying or refusing that all of this is taxing would be an error. This is big. Just for our family, we have moved a college student home, a daughter is now doing classes online and has lost her job temporarily. As parents our normal routines and schedules have been dramatically changed, as I now also work from home. There is a grieving to it – plans we had have been canceled. Normal routines of life, from our church community life to simply running errands, have been changed.

Yet, all of our own family’s impacts pale in comparison to those who:

  • Are now unemployed.
  • Have had to be quarantined.
  • Live in a stressed environment, with the social, economic and work restrictions compounding a toxic relationship situation.
  • Are grieving the loss of a loved one who has passed away and are unable to have a funeral because of social distancing.
  • Are infected by the Coronavirus.
  • Have had a love one die due to the Coronavirus.

To dismiss or diminish the stress and anxiety would miss the next point:

Deal with the reality of the stress and anxiety

To dismiss the stress and anxiety as nothing would be a mistake. On the other end of the spectrum, to add pressure to your yourself that you “shouldn’t feel that way” or you “should just stop it” would also compound the situation.

A healthy approach is to recognize how you feel. I’ve heard feelings described as the temperature reading on the thermometer, but how we deal with them as the thermostat. Just like adjusting the comfort level in our homes, you can feel the temperature, and you turn the air conditioning thermostat to bring it to a comfort level.

How do you find comfort? Wrong ways:

There are some ways that can compound the stress:

  • Numb or zone out with alcohol and or drugs.
  • Turn to sin to “escape” the reality of the situation.
  • Isolate yourself from healthy relationships.
  • Let common elements of Christian discipleship fall off (personal devotion and prayer, journaling, accountability, mentoring).
  • Distance or absence from church resources – Not participating in online services, or connections in a small groups.
  • Become bitter, sarcastic or cynical, snapping at others and yourself.
  • Get lost in an endless and frightening news cycle, especially from what could be hyper-sensationalized social media or news outlets.

How do you find Comfort? Right ways:

The are some very real ways to reduce the impacts of the stress and anxiety. Like turning the thermostat, these are some of the dials you can turn:

  • Again, identify it. Own it. “I am scared.” “This has me totally stressed.” “I cannot believe I lost my job, and now my savings – I don’t know what we are going to do.” Identify the feelings, identify the reality.
  • Connect online with your church.
  • Do a video “reunion” or video call with family.
  • Call or video connect with friends and co-workers.
  • Stay connected in your neighborhood. Talk with neighbors.
  • Journal your feelings and journey.
  • Give – minster within the COVID-19 guidelines to Senior adults or others in need. Find a call list and check in every other day or so.
  • Within guidelines, work at a food-bank or distribution center.
  • Give support to those in the health industry.
  • Do an online call or conference with a Pastor or Counselor for guidance and to pray as an individual, couple or family.
  • Be ready to give crisis abuse or suicide hotline information to anyone in need.
  • Find something to complete. So much is incomplete and unknown – tackle something that has a sense of accomplishment. A guitar lesson online, cleaning out a junk closet, writing, finishing a home or lawn and garden project.
  • Exercise, eat well – take care with caffeine. Rest.
  • Take walk breaks outside without your phone or other devices.

The Main way to find Comfort:

Turn to God. Take the grim reality of how you feel, and tell God. Tell Him exactly how you feel. Tell Him precisely about the things that are going on: lost job, lost wages, lost sleep, lost loved one – take it all to Him.

A favorite of mine captures taking our raw emotions to a loving God in Psalm 118:5

“Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me free.”

A key verse from God’s Word found in Psalm 94:19 says:

“When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul.”

Later it says in Psalm 94:22

“But the Lord has been my stronghold,
And my God the rock of my refuge.”

  • Connect to God and His Word.
  • Pray your heart to God and share what you are reading with Him.
  • Meditate on God and the truth of His word. Let it marinate in your soul. Stop, rest, think, ponder and reflect on Him. Breathe.
  • Connect with your church.
  • Connect with a Christian small group.
  • Talk and pray with a Pastor or friend. Call or video chat. Simply talk and pray with someone.
  • Read inspiring and encouraging works. There are books, blogs, social media outlets and other resources that point up!

Bottom line, you are not alone. We will move through all of this together. God is teaching us! Trust Him now.