Make Your Choice: Fire or Blackberries?

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

In some odd way, our lives seem to be always getting interrupted by God. And it can happen a lot. We need to see the invisible. When we can, it can be quite amazing. Our night sky here in Alaska is wonderful. I see stars that others can’t, and the northern lights here are wonderful.

But probably the most phenomenal night skies were in Mexico while camping on the beach. As I lay there I looked and the Milky Way was on full display. It really was as good as it could be. It seemed there were 10x more stars than ever before.

Laying on the beach I gazed up, and a weird sort of fear gripped me.

It was almost a panic; I started to tremble and shake. I got up and ran to our tent. I just couldn’t handle the incredible universe with no buffer. I was completely undone and reduced to a quivering speck of dust. I tried to tell my wife Lynn what had just happened to me, but I couldn’t. I was too scrambled. I couldn’t speak.

Reflecting on this, I realize now what I had experienced was “awe.” It was something much more common a few generations ago. There is a kind of existential crisis which we side-step in these more modern times. We rarely contemplate the night sky. We seldom, if ever, have seen fire in a bush.MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

It seems we have traded our awareness of an authentically Almighty God, and in turn, we get to pick all blackberries we can haul. We reason it out and feel we have made a better bargain. But when we extricate this from our souls, don’t be surprised if we suddenly find that we have become spiritual paupers.

Maybe we should learn to see those things that are invisible.

Each of us has the opportunity now to see the spiritual world that swirls around us. Why wait for heaven? Ask our Father to reveal His glory now in this present moment. Learn to see that which can’t be seen, but by faith.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies announce what his hands have made.”

Psalms 19:1, NCV

Social Anxiety Understood

“In any social situation, I felt fear. I would be anxious before I even left the house, and it would escalate as I got closer to a college class, a party, or whatever. I would feel sick in my stomach-it almost felt like I had the flu. My heart would pound, my palms would get sweaty, and I would get this feeling of being removed from myself and from everybody else.”

“When I would walk into a room full of people, I’d turn red and it would feel like everybody’s eyes were on me. I was embarrassed to standoff in a corner by myself, but I couldn’t think of anything to say to anybody. It was humiliating. I felt so clumsy, I couldn’t wait to get out.”

Social phobia, also called social anxiety disorder, is diagnosed when people become overwhelmingly anxious and excessively self-conscious in everyday social situations. People with social phobia have an intense, persistent, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and of doing things that will embarrass them. They can worry for days or weeks before a dreaded situation.

This fear may become so severe that it interferes with work, school, and other ordinary activities, and can make it hard to make and keep friends.

While many people with social phobia realize that their fears about being with people are excessive or unreasonable, they are unable to overcome them. Even if they manage to confront their fears and be around others, they are usually very anxious beforehand, are intensely uncomfortable throughout the encounter, and worry about how they were judged for hours afterward.

Social phobia can be limited to one situation (such as talking to people, eating or drinking, or writing on a blackboard in front of others) or maybe so broad (such as in generalized social phobia) that the person experiences anxiety around almost anyone other than the family.

Physical symptoms that often accompany social phobia include blushing, profuse sweating, trembling, nausea, and difficulty talking.

When these symptoms occur, people with social phobia feel as though all eyes are focused on them. 

Social phobia affects about 15 million American adults. 

Women and men are equally likely to develop the disorder, which usually begins in childhood or early adolescence. There is some evidence that genetic factors are involved. Social phobia is often accompanied by other anxiety disorders or depression, and substance abuse may develop if people try to self-medicate their anxiety.

The use of anti-anxiety drugs may be used and they can help you get through “bad patches” when anxiety becomes too much. It’s possible that these meds can help. Let your doctor guide you.

Understand that social anxiety can be successfully treated with certain kinds of psychotherapy or medications. You probably should find someone who understands what you’re dealing with. They need to be good listeners and have an encouraging voice.

Bringing in a pastor or elder must be considered.

Prayer and counsel are a must. Holding on to God’s promises is necessary and as you deal with this it can be God’s way of strengthening your walk. The Word is packed full of His promises. The Lord knows-He wants you to take up and understand what He wants to give you in this.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

The Snare of the Fowler, A Satanic Trap

“Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler, and from the perilous pestilence.”

He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.”

Psalm 91:3-4, NKJV

“There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.”

C.S. Lewis

I believe that there is a great opposition to living free. Satan contests every square inch. His ‘modus operandi’ parallels the predator. He likes to hunt human beings. We see his power and influence all around us.

I’m being quite careful not to be melodramatic or manipulative when I say this, but Satan has a terrible plan for your life. He often uses human ‘lackies’ to carry out his wishes.They will use deception, lies and foolishness to snare people’s souls. They [he] will even resort to brute force. As a result, many believers are being persecuted for their faith.

Some Old Testament thoughts:
14 “David now stayed in the strongholds of the wilderness and in the hill country of Ziph. Saul hunted him day after day, but God didn’t let Saul find him.”
1 Samuel 23:14, NLT
5 “My future is in your hands.  Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.”
Psalm 31:15
7 “We escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap. The trap is broken, and we are free!”
Psalm 124:7

And there is plenty more where this come from. And we haven’t even got to the New Testament yet, where there are substantial references to this kind of attack. The doctrine of Satan is developed further there. Perhaps it is because we encounter the person of Jesus Christ and the act of personal redemption He made for each of us. Through this we discover that we have an enemy that we were never really aware before. And guess what— he hates us!

Some New Testament thoughts:
4 “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News.”
2 Corinthians 4:4
12 “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
Ephesians 6:12

Just as we have in Jesus a personal savior, we find we also have an anagonist and a sworn enemy that is set on going to war on us. We didn’t ask for it, and it would be really swell if he didn’t exist at all. But the evil around us has a source  and we dare not minimize it.

Our fealty to Jesus becomes critical at times like this. Spiritual warfare has an ebb and a flow to it, sometimes the battles can be intense, and at other times less so. But we cannot do nothing at all apart from the blood of Christ. We must defend ourselves, by calling out to God, or else we will become a casualty.

  1. We can pray.
  2. We can read truth (the Bible).
  3. We can praise and worship.
  4. We can put on “the armor of God’ (Ephesians 6:11).
  5. We can “submit to God” (James 4:7).
  6. We can resist Satan and be firm in our faith, (1 Peter 5:9).
  7. We can “plead the blood of Jesus” over our lives, and over our loved ones, (Exodus 12:13)

Probably the capstone is the following verse. This pretty much sums up this ‘act of resistance’ we are all called to do. I wanted to emphasize it because it is critical:

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8

An Attack of Panic

A panic attack affects one out of 75 people, and can be quite disconcerting.  My panic attacks occur roughly once a month and last for about 1/2 hour.  When the acute symptoms first appear my first reaction is to resist giving in to it.  I get the “shakes.” For a long time, I didn’t know what caused them or more importantly what could stop it.

A panic attack is a sudden surge of an overwhelming fear that comes without warning and without any obvious reason. It is far more intense than the feeling of being ‘stressed out’ that most people experience. Symptoms of a panic attack include:

  • racing heartbeat
  • difficulty breathing, feeling as though you ‘can’t get enough air’
  • a terror, that is almost paralyzing, a seeming irrational fear
  • dizziness, lightheadedness or nausea
  • trembling, sweating, shaking
  • choking, chest pains
  • hot flashes, or sudden chills
  • tingling in fingers or toes (‘pins and needles’)
  • fear that you’re going to go crazy, or are about to die

You probably recognize this as the classic ‘flight or fight’ response that human beings experience when we are in a situation of danger. But during a panic attack, these symptoms seem to rise from out of nowhere. They occur in seemingly harmless situations–they can even happen while you are asleep.

In addition to the above symptoms, a panic attack is marked by the following conditions:

  1. it occurs suddenly, without any warning and without any way to stop it.
  2. the level of fear is way out of proportion to the actual situation; often, in fact, it’s completely unrelated.
  3. it passes in a few minutes; the body cannot sustain the ‘fight or flight’ response for longer than that. However, repeated attacks can continue to recur for hours.

A panic attack is not dangerous, but it can be terrifying.

Largely because it feels ‘crazy’ and ‘out of control.’ Panic disorder is frightening because of the symptoms associated with it, and also because it often leads to other complications such as phobias, depression, substance abuse, medical complications, even suicide. Its effects can range from mild social impairment or just pretty a total inability to face the outside world.

Is it a heart attack or a panic attack? 

Most of the symptoms of a panic attack are physical, and many times these symptoms are so severe that people think they’re having a heart attack. In fact, many people suffering from panic attacks make repeated trips to the doctor or the ER in an attempt to get treatment for what they believe is a life-threatening medical problem.

While it’s important to rule out possible medical causes of symptoms such as chest pain, heart palpitations, or difficulty breathing, it’s often panic that is overlooked as a potential cause – not the other way around.

If there is any doubt at all, call 911 immediately. 

“But when I am afraid,
    I will put my trust in you.
I praise God for what he has promised.
    I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
    What can mere mortals do to me?

Psalm 56:3-4

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Further reading and help on panic attacks check out these sites:

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