Shark Week – A Spiritual Lesson??

I was stuck to my television and could not stop watching shark week this year. I couldn’t get enough information about these terrifying yet amazing creatures of the ocean. My obsession with sharks during this annual event was particularly odd since my fear of sharks keeps me from swimming in the ocean. Granted this week-long binge only confirmed that sharks are everywhere, but it also had another unexpected effect on me, a deeper spiritual lesson. Yes, I got a spiritual lesson out of shark week.

The Spiritual Lesson I Learned from Shark Week

Fear

For me, and many people, my fears have a rational and logical basis. Let’s look at my fear of sharks as an example:

  • I am afraid of sharks
  • Shark can eat me or bite an arm or leg off me
  • There are sharks in the ocean
  • I am afraid to swim in the ocean because I don’t want to be bitten or eaten by a shark

This fear is logical because there are in fact sharks in the ocean and they can kill or bite you. There is nothing wrong with having a healthy fear of something that is deadly, but when does they healthy fear become unhealthy?

Worry

I’ve talked about worry in a previous blog post, so I will just summarize it here. Worry is a sin. Like it or not, it is. God tells us not to worry so many times in the Bible. He has also given multiple examples of why I shouldn’t worry in Bible stories and my own life. However, I continue to struggle with worry.

Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Worry is when you allow yourself to dwell on a rational fear (or maybe even an irrational one). Particularly one you can’t do anything about. If nothing else, you are wasting the good of today by fearing what might or might not happen tomorrow. It is a waste of time, it is unhealthy, and it is not fun.

Shark Week

So, you are probably wondering about that spiritual lesson and shark week about now, aren’t you? Well, here it is:

While watching and learning all the amazing facts about the different sharks, I noticed something. When they were filming these massive creatures underwater, there were always fish, stingrays, and seals swimming around in the water with them. In one program, they talked about how stingrays were a favorite delicacy of a certain shark, and there were stingrays going about their daily business with these sharks swimming around them. The same with seals and the other favorite food sources of sharks.

The seals even looked like they were having fun! Swimming, diving, and even frolicking with the top of the oceanic food chain right there in their midst. My natural reaction was to want them to hide and run away so they don’t get eaten, but that is not what they did. They enjoyed their life and didn’t worry about the sharks.

That is when it hit me. What good would it do for the seals or fish to worry about the sharks every day? They are always going to be there, and there is always the potential they will get eaten. But, they can’t survive if they stay hidden all the time so what is the point? They just enjoy life and go about their daily routine. Worrying about the sharks was not going to change anything except take away their joy for that day. If one day they get eaten then that is just how life is. The great circle of life thing.

Matthew 6:27 says, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

If the seals and stingrays and other fish worried all the time about getting eaten by a shark that would not help anything and would not keep it from happening. It would only diminish the days that they had to live. I’m not saying to throw all caution to the wind because there are things that you can and should do to reduce the risk of some viable fears. Just like the seals stick close to shore so they can escape if a hungry shark comes along looking for a meal. Being smart is different from worrying.

My fear and worry can keep me from doing things I want to do or, at the very least, they keep me from enjoying the days that I am worrying about something I have no control over. Besides 9.75 times out of 10 the thing I worried about never happened or was not that big of a deal. I just wasted a lot of time, energy, and probably sleep worrying about it. I need to be more like the seals.

Now, am I going to go surfing or swimming out in the middle of the ocean? Probably not, but I have gone snorkeling and swimming with some ocean life despite my fears and am glad I did. Maybe one day I will make it onto a surfboard – you never know! But in the meantime, I am not going to worry about it.

Do you have a fear of sharks? Do you go in the ocean anyway?

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Physical Therapy – My Journey

I was recently diagnosed with RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) and, at this point, I have chosen to not take the medications because, honestly, the side effects scare me. I may change my mind later but for now, I am choosing to try other options. One of my first management methods to try is physical therapy.

[NOTE: I am not a medical professional of any sort. This is just my experience and my RA journey. Educate yourself and talk to your doctor before deciding your path of treatment.]

Physical Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

I did not realize you could get physical therapy for RA, but you can. My primary goal with PT was to learn how to exercise and workout without causing more damage to my joints. It is important that you find a physical therapist that is familiar with RA because this can make all the difference.

Previously I have had physical therapy as rehabilitation for my knee after surgery. This was a treatment that eventually led to healing and a completion point. With RA, my therapist set other types of goals for my treatment which included progress markers to report to my insurance company. Instead of a completion point, there were several goals I needed to reach to have a full workout routine that I could continue doing on my own at home.

Physical Therapy Goals for My RA

My goals for physical therapy included range of motion and flexibility as well as strengthening the muscles around all my joints and core. These goals required strength training, cardio training, and stretches. My therapist made sure I got a full body workout each visit. However, each of my exercises was designed and performed in a way that did not put stress on my joints. My physical therapist also worked around my RA flares and days when some of my joints were too painful to exercise, but let’s talk about what I could do first.

My Physical Therapy Plan

When I started, I was always stiff with constant pain in my wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. Mornings were difficult for me when I first got up and started walking, and my RA fatigue required me to take a nap just to make it to dinner. The thought of an actual workout was overwhelming to me. But, I did it anyway because I was tired of feeling unhealthy and not very mobile. At first, it was exhausting, and I had to lay down and sleep as soon as I got home.

Cardio was tricky for me because I have a chronically bad back from a car accident years ago and my knee keeps me from running or doing other cardio type exercise both low and high impact. Add my RA to these issues and cardio was definitely a challenge for me. Thankfully the physical therapy place has a recumbent step machine, and it was perfect! I achieved a cardio workout with zero impact on any joints and no pain to my back.

The strength training and flexibility exercises were the hardest for me. In the years (yes, years) leading up to my eventual diagnosis, my workout routine was almost non-existent except for walking. That left me with weak muscles and my flexibility was (and still is) just a joke. But I did it and, I eventually, I started noticing a change. I am not as stiff in the mornings, and my pain has been noticeably reduced. Some of my joints don’t hurt at all some days. However, the best part for me is the energy. After a few weeks of going to PT, I realized that I wasn’t needing a nap every day and had energy left over!

RA Flare Days and Physical Therapy

After 7 weeks of physical therapy, I do still have “flare” days and days when my joints just hurt, but not as often. When bad days happen on a PT day, my therapist will adjust the plan. We skip exercises that use the hurting joints and focus more on other exercises. Some days my PT time was spent with my therapist stretching my joints and using some therapeutic massage techniques to help with the pain and stiffness. Then, the next time it was usually back to my usual workout.

This week I will complete my eight weeks that were allowed by my insurance. It was nice to have the accountability of going to physical therapy and having someone push me to do all my exercises. However, I am now equipped with exercises and stretches that I can do at home so that I can keep progressing. I have my own accountability group around me of family and friends that will, hopefully, keep me doing my workouts regularly. For now, these exercises along with other options I have chosen are helping my RA symptoms. If and when they no longer help, I will consider other options, and eventually, I will probably need to start on the medication, but I am just not ready for that yet.

What helps your RA symptoms the most? Share with me in the comments below.

How Does God Feel About My Worry and Anxiety?

A Biblical Perspective on Worry and Anxiety

Philippians 4: 6-7

6) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7) And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I worry. I worry a lot. About everything, even things I make up to worry about. As hard as it is to say, worry is a sin. The verse above does not say – try to not be anxious or try to not worry about everything – no, it says “DO NOT be anxious about ANYTHING…”

If you are like me, you don’t like to hear that. You want your worry to be OK, or, for it to be understandable based on your past or something terrible that happened to you. That is what I wanted. I had reasons to worry or be anxious from  traumatic events in my past, but the truth is, whatever the reason for my worry, it is a sin.

The good news is that Christ died for my sins – all of them, including my worry and anxiety – and he washed them all away with his blood. That wasn’t done just for my sins in the past, but for the past, present and future. However, that doesn’t mean I should just keep on worrying and being wound up with anxiety. No, that means I should do whatever I can to get worry out of my life.

Why? It’s because the things in the Bible that God tells us not to do are for our own good. Any sin will lead to some sort of destruction or turmoil in our lives. Like worry. God says don’t worry because He wants us to realize that He’s got this and we don’t need to worry. Worrying doesn’t help anything and all it does is make us, well, worry.

The verse above is a popular verse for people to read and memorize, but do you know the 4 words that come just before it in verse 5? “The Lord is near.” For some reason that little phrase doesn’t make it when this verse is quoted or memorized because it is part of the verse prior. However, it is really an integral part of these verses. God is not shaming us for being worried, He is comforting us and telling us He is right here with us and He will take care of it and, if something bad does happen, He will get us through it.

All that being said, there are levels of worry and anxiety that need more than words to help. These conditions and disorders may require counseling and or medications and that is OK. The point is not to be ashamed that you worry or have anxiety, the point is that you don’t have to go through it alone. “The Lord is near.” There are also a lot of people out there suffering through worry and anxiety, like me, that would love to help support you as well and get through it together.

My main defense against worry is prayer. Every time I start to worry, I start to pray abut whatever I’m worrying about at that moment. Yes, some days (many days) it seems like I have to pray constantly, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t such a bad thing.

How do you combat your worry and anxiety?

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Devotion: Would You Want Others To Follow Your Example?

Philippians 3:17
Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.

I have read this verse multiple times in my life, but for whatever reason God wanted me to really see it this time because it just jumped out at me recently when it appeared in a devotion. It actually almost made me sick to my stomach when the meaning sank in and a thought came to my mind:

“Would I ever tell someone to follow my example as a follower of Christ?”

Well, the answer quickly followed and was a resounding “No way!” I don’t want that kind of responsibility and, probably more accurately, I don’t want that kind of accountability. Yet, here is Paul telling the church at Philippi to do just that. So, does Paul just think he is “all that and a bag of chips” to the point that he thinks all Christians should be as good as he is at being Christ like?

Actually what Paul was saying was quite the opposite as we can read in 1 Timothy 1:15-16:

15) Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16) But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.

Paul’s point was not to follow him because he was a great a being like Christ, his point was for them to follow his example of being a sinner and yet shown mercy by Jesus despite all his sin. In other words, you don’t have to be perfect and sinless instead, you can be just like Paul, full of sin but given mercy and salvation through Christ.

This verse is a challenge to me and I hope to you as well. Ask yourself, “What example am I setting for others?”

Am I setting an unrealistic example by pretending to be perfect on the outside and not being vulnerable enough to let people see all the times I fall?

I think God wants us to set an example that shows the reality of being a follower of Christ. Trying to following Jesus’ perfect example and always falling short but accepting the grace, patience, forgiveness and, ultimately, salvation despite all my sin and shortfalls.

Here is an even more challenging question: “Would I ever be willing to tell others to follow my example?”

That is scary for me and it is what caused me to feel sick to my stomach. It is scary to think of someone watching how I react to this life because I don’t always handle things the way God would like me to and I don’t want others to see that example. However, that is life as a sinner in a sinful world and new believers or, those that haven’t made the step of accepting God’s salvation yet, need to know that it is ok to mess up. We all do it and God is always right there ready to forgive and love us anyway.

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Only Child Walking

My son, my only child, left today for his last day of school…. ever.

This is the last day of his senior year. The last day of our morning routine that has been in place for the last 13 years. The last day I can really see him as a child. When he gets home today he will essentially be at the point of his life where his is ready to be on his own. Not that he is going to pack his car and run out the door this afternoon, no, I know how to disable his car. Just kidding – sort of….

No, he is not leaving the house today, but this day does mark the end of a very big part of both of our lives; his childhood. Don’t get me wrong, he is completely ready, equipped and able to take care of himself and that is exactly what I wanted. However, I suddenly don’t want that quite as much as I did earlier in the process of raising him.

I am currently caught in the cross hairs of the tug of war that comes with letting go of my child:

  • I am so proud of his accomplishments and his graduation, but I don’t want it to be over.
  • I am excited about his being able to go off to college and start living on his own, but I don’t want him to go.
  • I am excited to see where his life leads him, but I want to go with him.
  • I want him to be independent and love creating his own life, but I don’t at the same time.
  • I don’t want him to need me on a daily basis anymore, but I do.

In a few days my son will walk across the stage and receive his high school diploma. And the giant door to his childhood will effectively slam shut. Granted, another much more exciting door will be opening for him, but all I see is the one that is closing. I also know that he may be back for a while after college, but that won’t be quite the same.

People always told me to enjoy every moment because it will be gone so quickly. How is it that 18 years can be gone in the blink of an eye? I loved every second of his childhood and I can only hope that I gave him all the tools and experiences he will need to make the right choices and to be able to chase his dreams wherever they may lead.

In the end, that is what I really want. I want him to go out and experience life, make his own decisions and chase his dreams. All the while knowing that he always has a soft place to land when life is hard and when some dreams don’t work out.

How have you dealt with the transition from child to adult with your children? I would love some tips!