Stressed and Blessed

It is Tuesday morning as I sit down to write this week’s blog. I am here alone, with coffee in hand and my computer in front of me. I feel stressed. I often feel stressed. If you know me personally, you may find that confession difficult to believe because I try not to wear all of my feelings on my sleeve. I don’t require special attention from everyone when I’m stressed so I therefore try to keep things under wraps as far as public consumption goes. In fact, the only reason I mention my feeling of stress to you today is in the hope that I can address the subject for your benefit.

I would begin with a plea to you not to say to me, “Stress? You think you have stress? Listen to what I have to deal with!” Since when did life’s struggles become a competition? Why is there always this need to one-up the person we are talking to? Have I missed out on the awards ceremony where they hand out trophies to the most stressed or most busy or the most burdened? (By the way, on a side note; there is a beautiful Lombardi Trophy currently residing in Philadelphia now.) Everyone has stressful things to deal with, which makes our conversation today, relatable to all.

Every job and every season of life carries with it its own unique stresses. In my lifetime I have served in our Armed Forces, worked many secular jobs, and have served as a pastor. I have been a child, a teenager, a young adult, a newlywed, a husband, and a parent. Our current season of life finds us with two adult children and a teenager. I can tell you that there have been, and continue to be, stresses unique to each job, situation, and child all along the way. The question is, how do we handle the stresses that accompany these things in life?

There’s a little saying among church folk that goes, “I’m too blessed to be stressed!” Allow me take a sip from my coffee while I roll my eyes. Sometimes I find these little clichés to be absolute fluffy nonsense. The implication is that if one is truly full of faith then stress will never be experienced. I challenge you to read the Psalms and tell me that King David was never stressed. Or read when the Apostle Paul exclaimed in 2 Corinthians 1:8 – “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.” and tell me he experienced no stress.

I mentioned in my first blog post that engaging someone over coffee has the potential to make people slow down so that meaningful conversation can take place. I would also suggest that getting away for a quiet cup of coffee can facilitate the same thing personally. It helps one pause from the frantic speed of the stressed-out mind. It helps slow the engine down before one’s emotions become a runaway train. Now, coffee may not operate that way for you. Perhaps an evening walk around your neighborhood is more to your liking. Whatever helps you smoothly apply the brakes, once the careening mind is under control, you can begin dealing with the stress properly.

A favorite Psalm of mine, Psalm 46:10, reminds me, “Be still and know that I am God”. There are many times I can’t change a situation and that places stress upon me. There are other times when I know I must confront a situation and I don’t know how it’s going to turn out which, again, causes me great stress. In those times, I must slow myself down and place my hope in God. That’s not to suggest that I become inactive. There are situations where my hope in God is that He will aid me in confronting the situations I have been burdened to deal with. Yet, there are other times when the outcome is out of my control, and I must remember who is God and who is not. This is how I am blessed to handle my stress.

As the Lord would ordain it, while I was in the midst of writing this blog, I received a text from my son with a great word of encouragement. In part it read, “God isn’t done with us yet. Stand strong, breathe, keep your faith. He hasn’t forgotten us.” My son is away this week and had no idea how I was feeling on this Tuesday morning. That’s not the first time I have received a text or a phone call from someone “out of the blue” when I find myself slowing down enough to cry out to God for help. And so, we press on.

My encouragement to you this Friday (when this blog will actually post), is to find a moment of oasis, perhaps with a good cup of coffee, and pause enough to pull your thoughts together. Don’t run from your stress, but gather yourself and prepare to face it. More so, I would encourage you to put your trust in God. The Lord allows things into your life that you cannot handle by yourself. As you contemplate that Biblical truth, consider that the child of God can confidently declare, “I can do (in the sense of endure) all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

It seems that I have reached the bottom of my coffee cup. It’s time for me to go and pray. May you experience some tangible victories in your life in the coming week. Until next Friday, I bid you all adieu.

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The Aroma of Contemplation

Ah, coffee. I really enjoy a good cup of coffee. For my wife and I, coffee isn’t just a caffeine boost to get through the day (although there are plenty of times coffee does function in that capacity for us), but it also is something to savor and help us pause during the day to enjoy a moment before it passes too quickly or to help us slow down and contemplate a situation we are in need of addressing.

I wouldn’t really consider my wife and I connoisseurs of coffee. We are not wealthy enough to travel the world sampling its finest coffee beans. I think it is safe to say that we are coffee enthusiasts. Our favorite day of the week is Friday, because we both have designated that as our mutual day off so that we can spend time together. Part of our Friday ritual is to take the time in the afternoon to freshly grind beans of some new blend (or favorite old blend) and brew up some coffee in the French press. We have appropriately dubbed these days as French Press Fridays.

So, you may ask, is this what this blog is going to be all about; coffee? Not really. The thrust of this blog will actually be on the contemplation part. The coffee half of the blog title is about setting the atmosphere. The Internet world is often full of hostility and people shouting out their opinions with virtual bullhorns as though they were the oracles of God Himself and leaving no room for any type of thought process to take place. The implied demand is, “Believe this, now! Don’t think. There’s no time!”

That same intolerant attitude has spilled into our media outlets and through many celebrity mouth pieces and even into our own personal interactions with people. The loudest is declared the winner therefore, the idea is to shout down your opponent and if you find yourself unable to do so, then you must somehow silence them. Of course, this imbecilic way of relating to our fellow members of the human race accomplishes nothing. Enter the atmosphere of contemplation over coffee.

I have found that there is just something about enjoying a hot fresh cup of coffee with someone that can bring calmness to a situation and stimulate thoughtful conversation. Steven R. Covey pointed out one of the greatest obstacles to meaningful conversation when he observed, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” The Book of Proverbs in chapter 18 verse 13 reads, “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.” Real conversation involves taking the time to listen to one another.

It has been my experience that conversation over coffee helps slow things down enough as to provide an environment where we are more apt to listen with the intent of understanding. It is my opinion that our culture could use vast amounts of coffee-conversations given what the social media platform has done to civil treatment of our fellow human beings and exasperating our tendency to listen only with the intent to reply.

My hope is that this blog can serve as that moment of quiet contemplation with a friend over a cup of coffee. Perhaps it can be something you read in the still of the morning before the hustle and bustle of the day begins. Or perhaps, if you are able to steal away in the afternoon for a brief respite, a cup of coffee and this blog can be your peaceful virtual café before the demands of the day call you back.

What I post in this blog will sometimes be whimsical, sometimes thought provoking, but always in the attitude of polite consideration for you, my readers. Please always remember to take it as such, even when the subject may be difficult for your world view. I would also ask that you remember that in any responses you may make to a particular post. I am always up for good conversation and debate as long as the goal is to understand one another. However, if outbursts of intolerant wrath cause me to spill my coffee… well, such unproductive things are not welcome in this mature and civilized virtual coffee shop.

And with that introduction, I welcome you to Contemplation Over Coffee!