I need to clear my head!
As we engage in this month of Elul, preparing ourselves, I found this past Shabbat encouragement very helpful.
What’s in your head? Do you ever find the time to block out distractions and listen to your thoughts? For most of us our thoughts are so many and often racing that we can feel very anxious when we listen to all that’s buzzing up there. Quieting our minds is an amazing challenge, one that often we can’t do unless it’s first thing in the morning or last thing at night before we fall asleep. And even if those times may seem quiet externally they are sometimes the busiest moments in our heads since we have time to think about all there is to do and all we haven’t done – getting the kids off to school on time, unpaid bills, phone messages, texts, Facebook, news, work, even friends and fun which still keep us from ourselves.
My single friends look at the couples and feel lonely. My married friends wish they had more alone time. My retired friends want jobs to stay engaged. My working friends want more vacations. My parent friends are running ragged with child needs. My couples without children wish they had kids.
Being cognizant of these perceptions of others is not just a reminder to be grateful for our lives. Nor to stop coveting our neighbors’. Often our mental analysis of others and ourselves only serves to make our perceived lives seem unsatisfying and seemingly chaotic. More importantly by becoming aware that we create unnecessary drama and dissatisfaction through our thoughts rather than by actual facts, we become mindful of the need to become comfortable with our inner self. As we become more at peace with our lives, and our self, we become more able to hear Him.
Each of us have giant to-do lists. And each day we make progress, or not, on them, as they continually grow anyway. Our to-dos actually never end. The challenge is to deliberately break from the cycle and put at the top of that list to turn off the outside demands and seek inner quiet. A very effective way to make this happen is to read from Scripture. My favorite is the good old “Bible dip”, just see what passage you open up to and be wowed how relevant it is to your day at that moment. Or you can be more deliberate and read the parsha passages for the week. Prayer is incredibly helpful, randomly through the day or systematically as do more observant Jews who pray Shacharit, Mincha, and Maariv – morning, afternoon, and evening prayers. These appointments with HaShem prioritize Him through planned breaks from the secular.
So how does one find the time to do this? That challenge alone can create a whole new level of stress and racing thoughts. Think small. Don’t even try it when you’re in demand (driving, responding to a child, on a project with no break). But the process can be as simple as closing your eyes and breathing deeply while thanking HaShem for this very moment of life. Just doing that disconnects you from the secular distractions and perceptions we attach to them. Play some beautiful Messianic music in the background, while driving or while making a meal. Involve in Scripture reading and prayer those in your life who may be part of the perceptual dramas as ways to center the relationship. Once there is more peace together, there can be progress toward a more quiet self. For families with children, as you probably already know, there is no better bedtime stories to read than those about Moses and Messiah. No matter what the day has brought, ending it in that space calms both the parent and the child as we disconnect from all that pulls us from Him and focus on His glory.
When left to our own inner world of thoughts we can often feel discouraged, overwhelmed, hopeless, anxious. Not that we are negative by nature but we may misinterpret and sometimes overly dramatize or distort life’s happenings through our individual filters. When we still those thoughts by disengaging from such negative or stressful perceptions we are able to fill our spirit first with quiet, then with calm, as HaShem ministers to us through the Ruach. We feel the presence of our Messiah taking onto himself our burdens. It actually is palpable.
I urge you to give it a try. For starters, wake in the morning with a prayer of thankfulness, even if just for a few moments. Try to find little opportunities, while car pooling the kids or vacuuming, or commuting to or from work, while doing yard work, when mourning a lost relationship, to clear your head and make room for Him. Especially before bed try a Scripture reading or nighttime prayer to drift you off to His place through the night. I think you can sense Him there with you right now as you’ve taken the time to disengage from whatever you were doing and to focus on Him just by reading this Shabbat encouragement. That’s all it takes. . .
Thank you, Dianele, for your timely Shabbat message. As it turns out, I have been thinking about these very things. Since I tend to be a very task-oriented person (just call me Martha), I quite often have anxious, racing thoughts about all of the responsibilities that I have at work, at home, with my parents, etc. Not that I suffer from anxiety as a medical or psychological condition (I feel great empathy for those who do), but when I think about all of the challenges that loom before me, it feels so overwhelming, like swimming against the tide (I almost drowned when I was four, so the prospect is more to me than a just common expression). That’s exactly when the discourager sneaks in and taunts me with, “Why don’t you just give up now? You’ll never get it all done, and even if you do, you’ll either fall short or fail miserably. Let’s face it, no matter what you do, you’ll never be enough!” I don’t give up, as there are a lot of people depending on me, but I confess that the temptation to do so is most definitely there…
As much as I manage to accomplish (which is quite a bit), the list grows interminably, and I often find myself at odds with My Creator, complaining that I need more hours in my day (as if He had no idea what He was doing when He gave us twenty-four!). Even though I’m definitely becoming more intentional about saying a ‘holy no’ to good things in order to make more time for God things (thanks to Amber Rose for finally getting through to me after God knows how many years!), and am consciously trying to practice more gratitude, I can still feel my thoughts heading toward the negative (you’ll never lose all that weight, you’ll never be smart enough to get that promotion, you’ll never make enough money to be able to retire someday, you’ll never have enough time to practice music or writing to become really good at it, etc.). At times like these, I identify with the man who cried, “I do believe – help Thou mine unbelief!’ and I repent and thank my Abba for His infinite patience, compassion and loving-kindness.
I do find solace in reading scripture, praying and reading a devotional in the morning. I try to remember to practice deep breathing, do abdominal contractions and repeat positive affirmations while listening to Messianic praise music during my commute. I think about God while looking at nature as I walk around the beautiful grounds that surround our Christian Book Distributors workplace. I find encouragement in the faces and greetings of my employers, co-workers and the customers (thankfully, most of them are pleasant) with whom I interface on a daily basis over the telephone and in our lobby when I cover for our receptionist, which is fairly often. I try to remember to thank God for my job and to offer it up to Him as a sacrifice of praise, even (or perhaps especially) during those difficult days when I wish that I had a different job or didn’t have to work so many overtime hours…
Today’s reading in my chronological bible was about the exiles who had returned from Babylon rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. It mentions that they were afraid, but that they still did it, while fixing their minds and hearts on celebrating the coming holy days of Sukkot. It encourages me to ‘do it afraid’ and to press on despite my anxieties and feelings of inadequacy, remembering that these feelings do not come from HaShem, and that I can cast them – all of them – upon Him, and He will plant His dreams and desires in my heart and make my paths straight as I continue to seek His face. I also found a ‘random’ cd with no case on the free table at work. Turns out that it was a Paul Wilbur cd with both some well-known and lesser-known songs. One song that I hadn’t heard before was all about Moses standing on the mountain seeking G-d’s face.
No matter what our individual challenges, may your Shabbat message encourage us all to press on and continue seeking His face!
Shabbat Shalom & Hugz in HaShem –