Sunday, August 29, 2010

What rules your day? Worry or Praise?

When I was growing up I had a couple of recurring nightmares.  In the first, I was deep in a forest.  There was a clearing filled with a lot of my family (cousins, aunts, uncles).  It was a funeral.  There was an immense grave dug at the front of the clearing.  I remember the walk ... that dreadfully long walk as we approached the clearing and then the freshly dug grave.  There was weeping and low murmurs of voices ...

Night after night that dream would come to me.  I never knew why, I didn't know where it had come from.

In the second dream I was trying to walk up a steep inclined street.  I knew that I would be able to make it, if only it weren't so icy.  Every time i would get to a certain point, I'd slip and slide back to the base of the hill, never making any ground.

I suppose that you could expend a great deal of effort to interpret those nightmares, but honestly, they were childhood fears - things that I couldn't imagine ever being able to overcome.  As I grew up and began to understand more about the world and how to deal with things, I quit having those night after night.

Isn't it interesting that I remember two very frightening nightmares some 35-40 years later, but I can't remember the dreams that I had last night.  Fear tends to have a great deal of impact on us, doesn't it?

Negative emotions also stick close to us in our memories.  We can remember arguments and fights, exact reasons we're no longer friends with someone (even as far back as elementary school!), the negative remarks made about us on an evaluation, harsh words spoken by employers/employees, co-workers.

These things eat at us!  When we are feeling blue for any reason, these are the things that come crashing into our memories to help us continue to feel badly about ourselves.  They add fuel to the fire that burns inside our hearts.

I learned as a child that twenty positive comments could easily be stricken from my memory by one single negative comment.  The same goes for anything negative that occurs to us!

I can still see the deep green of that forest scene in my mind's eye and I still see the cars along that steep incline of the street I couldn't climb.  I can hear the taunts of elementary school girls and see the negative comments on evaluations.  It is nearly impossible to wipe these things from my memory.

The thing is - being a Christian doesn't erase these things from my personality.  I have never been able to rid myself of negative emotions and feelings, wicked words flung at me from the outside and painful taunts and jeers will always make their way into my mind.

If you read the Psalms, you'll discover that David never got away from this.  It's not possible, it's one of the things we deal with while living our lives.  Job, Moses, Paul, John, even Jesus Himself dealt with the very lowest the world has to offer in their own lives.

The difference is focus.  As long as the focus is on myself, I will find myself mired in the quicksand of self-pity, worry and anger.

When David wrote the Psalms, they were songs of praise to a God that would deliver him ... from himself and from his enemies. 

Praise.  That's one of the greatest things that lifts us out of the sludge that we allow ourselves to dip into. 

David's words fill me as I read:
"But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.  My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure." (Psalm 71:14-15)

Worship.  Praise.  Removing the central focus from myself and placing it firmly where it belongs.  My life was created to worship God ... not my fears, not my anger, not my worry ... to worship God.

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