Ann Spangler

Ann Spangler is an award-winning writer and speaker.

Peace in the Darkness

a person with hands raised appears over the sheet music for "Jesus Loves Me"

In addition to working with orphans, Katherine Welch has an international ministry to victims of human trafficking. Her work takes her into parts of the world that most of us can’t imagine. It’s in the midst of the darkness that she struggles to find God’s peace. Listen to her reflections on a recent trip.

“I know what I’m gonna face when I do certain things and go certain places, and it is always uncomfortable. I’ve learned to recognize the lies and understand the darkness that I feel, but that doesn’t mean I have any magic words to make it go away. It takes training to endure and press on and in and go ahead.

“Sometimes it is discouragement and I question my being there. I often suffer from sleeplessness and sometimes I get uncharacteristically anxious about a lot of different things not even related to the work at hand. I just press into the Father, as hard as I can; and understand that these thoughts are unbidden, these anxieties are not truth, these feelings are false. I plead for and receive peace, joy, and strength.”1

Katherine’s ministry takes her onto the front lines of the battle with evil. The enemy would like nothing better than to drive her out or neutralize her by planting seeds of anxiety and doubt. But Katherine has learned to endure, to plead for and receive the peace and perspective she needs.

Her experience reminds me a little of those commercials in which the effectiveness of a particular laundry detergent is proven by its ability to clean the worst kinds of stains. Viewers are treated to a before and after view, noting how the dirtiest clothes come out spotless after being washed. Likewise, Katherine’s experience tells us that God’s peace works no matter where we are or what we are confronting. God can transform a heart that is anxious and doubtful into one that is full of joy and strength.

As you press into the Father today, take a few moments to pray for Katherine, asking God to keep her in his peace. Pray, too, for the countless women and children she is serving throughout the world, asking God to free them from slavery and bring them into relationship with himself.

 

1. Katherine Welch, “The Work of the Week,” A Just Walk (Run, Hike, Etc . . .) (blog), August 19, 2011, accessed August 30, 2011, http://justawalk.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/the-work-of-the-week/.

Take Care of Yourself

a woman asleep in a field of flowering chamomile

What sinister condition can be responsible for the following disorders: high blood pressure, irritability, confusion, headache, memory lapse, fatigue, weight gain, aching muscles, hallucinations, depression, and death? If you guessed sleep deprivation, you would be right. Sleep is a need as basic as food and water. Getting by on less and less is a recipe for sickness, stress, and unhappiness. Why, then, do so few of us put a high enough priority on getting the sleep we need?

I have a friend who frequently nods off during social events. She isn’t bored and doesn’t suffer from narcolepsy. It’s just that she has a habit of packing too many good things into her life. I’m guessing many of us are like that. We cram our schedules to the max.

On average our brains constitute 3 percent of body weight and consume about 25 percent of body energy. Just as we wouldn’t expect cell phones or laptops to work without charging their batteries, we shouldn’t expect our brains to continue to work without the chance to recharge.

The good news is that unless you suffer from a sleep disorder, it may be fairly easy to solve the sleep problem. Try these simple tips to get your sleep:

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  • Exercise, but do it in the morning or afternoon.
  • Avoid watching television or using a computer thirty minutes before bedtime.
  • Take a closer look at your daily schedule. Can anything be eliminated to afford more time for sleep?
  • Drink a glass of warm milk or chamomile tea.
  • Take a relaxing bath before bedtime.

Consider moving sleep up on your priority list. If you continue to neglect this basic need, you can’t expect God to make up the difference by zapping you with peace. More

[Tweet "I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace. Ezekiel 34:15"]

The Need to Be Loved

a white dog peers intently at the viewer

One reason dogs make such great pets is that they have a no-holds-barred approach to love. Whenever I come home, my dog, Kallie, greets me as though I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to her. A more grateful, adoring dog you will not meet. She follows me around the house and insists on sleeping under my bed at night, just to be close to me. If dogs were capable of sinning, I’m sure their most common failing, more common even than shredding slippers or chasing cats, would be the sin of idol worship.

Of course, dogs don’t worship people because we’re so wonderful but because we have purposely bred traits of affection and loyalty into them. While that kind of relationship works well between dogs and humans, it’s a little over the top in our relationships with people. And most of us don’t expect or want that.

But some of us fall into the trap of craving the kind of universal love and acceptance that only exists between a boy and his dog. We can’t stand the thought that someone might not like us, so we do everything in our power to be accepted, wearing masks and telling half-truths when whole truths are required. Not wanting to rock the boat, we do our best to avoid conflict. But such behaviors don’t guarantee smooth sailing. Motivated by fear and not love, they lack the creative energy that is needed for finding real solutions to real problems.

Jesus was never one to smooth things over. Read the Gospels carefully and you will find the one we call the Prince of Peace more often disturbed the peace, speaking the truth when truth was called for. He did this because he had not come to bring a superficial brand of peace; he came to bring true shalom. As people who belong to him, we are called to have integrity, to do what is right regardless of what others may think. We need to aim at real peace, not the counterfeit kind that keeps us from experiencing all that God has for us.

If It Doesn't Work, Stop It!

a yellow butterfly approaches some flowers

Imagine that you have made it your goal to get butterflies to fly in formation. How beautiful it would be if they could fly together like a flock of birds. You begin modestly, attempting to get one butterfly to fly in a straight line. Enticing it with nectar seems to work, so you try it with a few more butterflies. You pick the most successful of these and attempt to get them to fly in a straight line together. But as soon as you release your star pupils, everything devolves into chaos, with butterflies flying in every direction. Still, you’re not willing to give up because you can envision how great it would be if they could only learn what you’re trying to teach them. Every day you perform the same trials with the same frustrating results. After a while, you find yourself disliking the creatures you once cherished because these pesky insects won’t do what you want them to no matter how hard you try.

The point of this far-fetched example is that our efforts to control circumstances and people are often as misguided as the scenario I’ve outlined. We want children to behave perfectly, employees to perform flawlessly, and circumstances to unfold as we think they should. But our oversized efforts at control produce the same frustrating results. Perhaps it’s time to realize that if something is not working, it may be time to stop doing it.

According to Edwin Friedman, who is associated with family systems therapy, the most effective leaders focus on managing themselves in the group rather than focusing on how to manage the group itself. Such leaders strengthen the organization by staying connected to others without allowing themselves to be sucked into the anxious, emotional processes that often swirl around them. By doing this, they are able to lead from the inside rather than by trying to coerce others from the outside.

If you feel chronically frustrated at home or at work, ask yourself whether you may be trying to exert a level of control that is unhealthy and unwise. If the answer is maybe or yes, try redirecting your energy, asking God to show you how to manage yourself in the midst of challenging people.

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