June 2011

A remedy for panic attacks!

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3 NIV

Those who have suffered from panic attacks know how debilitating they are. The very suggestion of their onset can send shock waves of fear through a person’s system. Beads of sweat begin to form on the brow, moisture in the mouth begins to dry up and thoughts begin to careen out of control nudging your closer and closer to the precipice of terrified paralysis.

I share this from personal experience because I have had to battle panic attacks in my life. My bouts have primarily been triggered and associated with public speaking. Since I am a pastor, whose job it is to speak publicly with great frequency, this of course exacerbated my problem.

The panic attacks first surfaced during a period in my life when I was going through the stress of making some midlife career adjustments. I would get up to speak on a Sunday morning or at a wedding and find myself battling all the symptoms of panic. It so unsettled me that I would lose my train of thought and feel like the words I was forming were cleaving to my tongue. The accompanying self consciousness invariably triggered a hot flash and profuse sweating and then an overwhelming fear of fainting would put it’s strangle hold on me. Mustering every once of strength and concentration, while inwardly rebuking the attack I would cry out to God for His deliverance. Each time He spared me from what I feared coming upon me and helped me to recover my composure. Seldom were people aware of the inner struggle I was experiencing. But what a terrifying ride!

As I sought God for deliverance from these

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Moving on from disappointment

“I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” Genesis 23:4

One of the biggest hindrances to moving on from past losses, disappointments or failures is their painful image embedded in our subconscious. These recurring remembrances can produce a paralyzing cycle of grief and regret. This cycle, with its accompanying fear and negativity, blocks those who experience it from forging a renewed, hopeful and purposeful future.

In this verse we find Abraham negotiating to purchase a beautifully situated piece of real estate in the hill country near Hebron, which he intends to dedicate as a cemetery for his wife Sarah. It appears this is an important topic because an entire chapter in the Bible is taken up with this singular business dealing.

Ironically this piece of property, named Macpelah, would become the only actual deeded foothold the patriarchs would have in Canaan, the land of promise, until its conquest by Joshua over 500 years later. It became the resting place of not only Sarah, but Abraham himself as well as Isaac and Rebekah and Jacob and Leah. (Genesis 25:9 & 49:31)

Abraham’s conversation reveals something about himself which is very instructional. He tells the Hittites that the reason he wants a burial place is so “I can bury my dead out of my sight.” That is a very intriguing statement and one from which we can learn a valuable lesson.

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Fingernails and 6 reasons to believe in God

“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14

I have found that one of the most frequent reminders to praise God for being fearfully and wonderfully made, is the fingernail. Albeit it is small and definitely not as important as other features and functions of the human body, it is nonetheless an amazing aspect of God’s creation.

This truth has been hammered (Ouch!) home to me this summer as I have been fumbling my way through adding a stairway and new rails to my second floor deck. A well equipped tool belt does not a carpenter make. And having already suffered too many bruises and slivers to enumerate I can readily acknowledge this is not my calling. But in spite of all that, I have repeatedly been praising God for is one of the most versatile tools ever created; and it is not found in any tool belt. It is literally at the tip of everyone’s fingers. It is the fingernail.

It has caused me on more than one occasion to pause and think about the wonder of God’s creation. If as the Bible says “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” then fingernails must declare His loving attention to detail. (Psalm 19:1)

Here are six reasons why fingernails reinforce my belief in a Creator God.

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What if you were caught in the act?

Almost weekly someone is caught in the act of saying or doing something grossly offensive that becomes a topic of public discourse. Typically it polarizes opinion, provokes water cooler conversation, produces great talk radio and provides late night comedians great material with which to send us all to bed. This past week basketball star LaBron James and Congressman Anthony Weiner happen to be two of the poor souls dragged before the brutal court of public opinion. There is a vast difference between the nature of their alleged transgressions but I do not want to waste valuable print here going into the details, you can Google them to find that out.

More importantly I am compelled to focus not upon their transgressors but the way in which our culture reacts to people like them. To be honest I find the rush to judgment and vitriol that so frequently accompanies such public discourse unsettling and here is why. From a New Testament perspective, there is a stark contrast in the way Jesus treated people caught in some transgression.

One of the most riveting and convicting stories in the gospels is the encounter Jesus had with the accusers of the woman caught in the very act of adultery. (John 8:1-11) The religious leaders of the day humiliated the woman by dragging her into a large public gathering in the temple courts and making her stand before the entire group and Jesus. They were already in the process of stoning her with their words; now they were demanding that she be physically stoned. Truth be told, that is not unlike the treatment our culture gives to those today who are caught in the act of some unacceptable behavior.

But Jesus’ response was radically different. And here is my key point for consideration.

All those who are followers of Jesus should respond to transgressors the same way Jesus did.

At first Jesus did not say a word. In fact He bent down and started writing on the ground with His finger. Doodling or prophesying words of knowledge? We do not know what he wrote and therefore that is not important. The point is Jesus spent time waiting on His Father for the right words and right timing to respond.

Silence, in the face of a rush to judgment, is always the better part of wisdom. Holding your tongue and your peace when everyone else is jumping on the band wagon is doing it Jesus’ way.

Under the pressure of persistent questioning Jesus finally stood up and spoke. There is a time when God would have us stand up and speak up as well. But what Jesus said caught everyone off guard. He said to all the accusers “Let the person among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (vs. 8) And again He bent down and resumed writing on the ground.

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Ode to Charlotte

When first we heard the coming of a princess
With great anticipation we did wait
To behold her beauty and her comeliness
Earnestly hoping she would not be late

Held in suspense her name we longed to hear
While no masterful inquiry revealed
What pleasant sound was sure to us endear
When at her birth no more to be concealed

Her arrival on the thirteenth day of June
With texts and calls sent shortly after five
So one by one each relayed the joyful tune
Charlotte Avery Stuart has arrived.

Proud father and mother for the first time be
Peter and Kiedra surely are aglow
While holding little Charlotte they now do see
The one they want family and friends to know

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