5/28/08

Worry Warts and Frogs

My dad was a worrier. His childhood nickname was “Wartie,” because he was such a “worry wart.” (Dell once had a comic book called “Out of Our Way with the Worry Wart.” I wonder whether my Grandma Webb named Dad after that character!) Long before I understood this term, I thought worry warts came from touching frogs! Like Dad, I tend to worry about things that will probably never happen. Worry can be mild or a serious disorder. There is even a Worry Club online to help obsessive worriers. On any level, the persevering, nagging thought that something will go wrong robs us of something our loving God wants us to enjoy—His peace.

Jesus offers His peace, not the world’s (John 14:27). True peace comes when we submit to God’s care and authority. We lean on His everlasting arms and are “safe and secure from all alarm.” Much has been written about the tragic story behind the great hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul, but few know that the familiar first line—“When peace like a river attendeth my way”—is drawn from Isaiah 48:18. “If only you had paid attention to my commands,” Isaiah wrote, speaking for God, “your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” There it is again. Peace comes from submission to God’s authority, commands and laws.

The scripture that God often brings to my mind when I’m tempted to worry is Isaiah 26:3. God guards my heart with His peace when my “mind is stayed” or focused on Him rather than my circumstances or any threat (real or imagined), and when I actively trust and obey. When I do, God’s river of peace floods over me, refreshes my soul, and helps me move forward with confidence.

On a funnier note, worry warts do not come from frogs, but I often remember frogs when worry-thoughts enter my mind. (F-R-O-G stands for ''Fully Rely on God.'')

5/21/08

A Navy Brat

I live in a Navy town, and I love Memorial Day. The traditions of this holiday are varied. Some Americans visit memorials or cemeteries, and most hang flags on the front of their homes. The celebration has become more, of course. Many Americans head for beach picnics, special family gatherings, or sporting events like the Indy 500.

I'm a "Navy Brat." My father and father-in-law were both Navy men, and I think of them both on Memorial Day. I love to hear about Dad Wilson’s annual ship reunions. It’s something I wish my own dad could do, but he passed away several years ago.

My dad— Chief Harry M. Webb, Jr.—loved the military and felt most comfortable, I believe, while aboard ship. He told me very little about his exploits in the service. I believe he sanitized his career for my sister and me, telling us only about the ever-present dolphins who accompanied the ships, the exciting seaports he visited around the world, and simple joys he experienced (like the ice cold milk he loved in the galley).

I can’t remember the names of my Dad’s ships—though I know he accompanied the U.S.S. Forestall—but I have many mental images. I remember him waving from the decks as he deployed; and as he returned after many months, I recognized his unique stride from far away as he walked down the pier toward us. I remember how angry he got about sailors who criticized their Commander in Chief, or took their military duties lightly. Dad bristled in the 60s when many Americans failed to appreciate fighting men and women in all branches of the service. I can just imagine his comments, had he lived to see the debates about our military in Iraq.

I could get intellectual and technical about the great significance of Memorial Day, but frankly, I’m a puddle of mush. I’ll always wonder whether Daddy knew how very proud I was of his military service. He is buried in Florida, but I choose to harbor his Navy pride in San Diego, deep in my heart.

5/14/08

No ''Off Button''

Bailey, my Parsons Jack Russell Terrier, has only one speed. He’s supersonic. Although he is a bit of a runt, his presence is huge in our home. A few times a day, as I type at the computer, he stands next to my chair and “bops” my right hand off the keyboard, eager for play. His favorite game is “shovel time.” I bury the head of a huge farmer’s shovel in a dirt pile on the side of our house, and he digs it up, whining the whole time. Then he grabs the shovel head in his teeth and drags it around the yard, whining and snorting, begging me to bury it again. I’m something of a Bailey myself. From morning to night I’m typically a whirlwind of activity. My mind never stops racing. Unlike “Bales,” I do have an off button (somewhere near my panic button), but I never seem to press it until I’m exhausted.

I know that God wants something better for me, so I’m learning to pull aside for short rests, retreating to His calming presence (Matthew 11:28). Knowing that Jesus did only what the Father asked Him to do has helped me, too. I make a wise choice when I follow Jesus’ example.

His words, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden,” is a choice; and his words, “I will give you rest” is His promise. Rest comes through many channels: quiet time with the Lord and meditation in His Word, spontaneous and planned prayer, walks in His creation, and moments when I simply stop to praise Him and count my many blessings.

It’s strange, but often, when Bailey wants playtime, it coincides with my own need to take a break. I’ve been working for six straight hours now, and Bailey is once again bopping my hand. OK, Bales ... race you to the shovel!

5/7/08

Mother-like TLC

I love my mom, and I’ve grown to love my husband’s mother as my own. They are both valuable parts of my life, and I will grieve deeply when they are gone. Mothers touch us in our hearts as no one else can. Whether our mothers fail us miserably or help us reach our highest goals, we are connected to them by God, and He uses them to shape our lives.

I’ve talked to women whose mothers made hurtful, wrong choices. The effects of those choices linger in their grown children today. Powerful choices are necessary to compensate for the loss and damage they feel, and they pray for an understanding heart and forgiving spirit. On the other hand, I’ve observed women whose mothers built character into their lives, speaking vision and hope into their hearts with purpose and love. Her children can’t help but praise her (Proverbs 31:28). What a legacy!

We do not have to experience hurtful consequences in order to learn about life. While traveling with a revival ministry in my 20s, I stayed in homes each week and wrote down what I observed in the mothers’ lives. There were many behaviors that I knew I wanted to practice someday, and some behaviors that I definitely wanted to avoid. This journaling helped me immensely as I raised my two sons because I chose to take “mothering” seriously.

One of the most surprising truths I’ve ever discovered in the Bible is that my Heavenly Father is also mother-like. We see this mother imagery in Isaiah 66:13 in relation to God comforting Israel. While I want to be careful here—I do not espouse the “Mother God” of New Age or feminist teachings—the truth is, when I consider all the love, training, and protective care in the word “mother,” I realize that God is that to me, and much more. So, as I honor my two mothers this year, I am also going to take time to thank God for his TLC (tender loving care). He has touched my heart and shaped my life.