Saturday, July 21, 2012

Calm My Anxious Heart, chapter 2

I've decided to do a series of blog posts on Calm My Anxious Heart. The first one is here. If you own the book, I'd love to have you reading along with me.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 

The second chapter is about being content in our circumstances. What I read in the first chapter helped me with my worries about the trip we just made. Now we have some big changes ahead of us, and I know continuing to mull over this book will comfort me in that.

Linda Dillow starts off chapter 2 by painting a glowing picture of one of the places she lived. I could do that about where we live now. I really do love it. We rent the biggest, most open apartment we've ever lived in before. There's a beautiful place for us to swim just a few minutes away. Our dacha is what one taxi driver called "a piece of heaven." The town is just the perfect size for me: it's not a big city, but it is way more comfortable than a village. We have lovely opportunities for our children at the local music school and a great little children's library.

But then she shared the other side of life there. And we have that, too. Just a few days ago, people came to look at this apartment, because they're considering buying it. The heat in the summer drives me crazy, and I miss the Russian snow in the winter. We've had lots of trouble with someone we tried to help stealing everything that he could possibly sell from our dacha. The water in this town goes off every night, and sometimes we go days at a time without, too. And above all of it, the ministry situation for us here has just been very hard.

So, the question is "mud or stars"? Page 25 says:
How do you categorize your life? Take a moment right now and list the positives and negatives God has allowed in your life. If you prefer, write two paragraphs, but do write down your assignment.
Go ahead and do that. Please share it in the comments if you want to. And then read this:
Two women looked through prison bars
One saw mud, the other saw stars (page 26). 
But then, how do we do it? How do we make that choice between mud and stars? Linda Dillow takes us back to Philippians 4:6-7 and divides it into our part and God's part. We are to pray with thanksgiving and not be anxious. Interestingly, I talked to an unbeliever recently who was "improving her outlook on life" with being thankful and positive thinking. She said it was working. I guess she just doesn't get to the next part.

God's part is in the next verse (Philippians 4:7): He will give us His peace, peace that transcends understanding. Sometimes that first part is very, very hard. Sometimes it helps to physically do something, like Linda getting out of bed, making a list and praying over it. Or, for me, sometimes I just have to stand before God and actually open my hands to Him, as a way of showing that I really do release these worries to Him. But once we have given up our anxiety--or when we keep giving it up--God sends His peace into our hearts.

I love this quote:
My negative thoughts are like impatient toddlers jumping up and down and screaming, 'Look at me, look at me.' Jesus and I take the negative 'toddler thoughts' and send them to time-out so we can focus on the good thoughts. Sometimes they don't obey. They get up out of the chair and once again scream for attention. Then Jesus and I take those thoughts back to the time-out chair, but this time we tie them up! (page 29)
The last bit of this chapter goes on to the next verse in Philippians 4 (verse 8, "Whatsoever is...") and talks about practicing taking these thoughts of ours captive. I've probably already written enough, so I'll stop here for now, though.

Would you like to share your mud and stars lists? And, from the study guide at the back of Calm My Anxious Heart: "Are you in the process of learning to be content in your circumstances? Give a practical example from your life of how you see yourself moving toward contentment."


  1. Thanks for sharing this Phyllis! I read this chapter about a month ago and wrote down some notes from it.

    There are some great things about living here. The ministry my husband is in is moving forward, and it is much needed work. Besides that, having time to spend with each other as a family, walking or biking instead of driving everywhere, fresh and affordable produce at every corner, a place to live where we can pay reduced rent and have space for all of us and not have to live with others. I definitely enjoy having internet - a great connection to new friends and old, and keep up with family and current events.

    The negatives are very real. I miss my family - my son is working in Florida, my mom and dad live in Pennsylvania, and other family scattered in between that I miss! While translation ministry is needed, it is time consuming and at times tedious. Visa issues continue to be a hassle - are we going to be able to stay? Or will we have leave? While it is nice to have a home that is "almost" our own, it needs repairs - electrical and cosmetic. We need to take care of the electrical issues, but we cannot afford to put more money into further repairs. Then there are the huge cultural and climate differences here - cars driving on the sidewalk, pushy people, noise, dust, etc.

    Linda encourages us to dwell on the positive. Psalm 23:7 says "As he thinks in his heart, so is he." If I dwell on the negative, I am sure to be discontent and ungrateful. I need to take my thoughts captive, and be content and grateful. This is something that I continue to pray for and work on.

  2. Jolene, do you have a Kindle?