Nobody asked me, but….Stress is a killer. Stress is an enemy. Stress is a destroyer. Stress is a thief. Yes, stress is an entity. Everyone I know is influenced by stress, to one degree or another. Stress is a leading indirect cause of sickness and disease. Stress will contribute to weight gain, alcohol consumption, and increased tobacco use. As much as we love to eat, drink and be happy, these life decisions are not always profitable.
Recently a horrific incident occurred in Connecticut. I am sure that you have seen much about it in the news. I cannot imagine being a part of that fishbowl. Oh, the diversity of thoughts that ran through our minds after hearing the news. How could such a thing have happened? What if it had happened to my family? Who was this nutcase? Where were the police? Why at Christmas? What kind of pain and suffering attends this nightmare?
When I was a child, I had the typical childhood dreams. I wanted to be a baseball player, and at the very least, a sports broadcaster or announcer. I wanted to marry a soccer mom, have a van, 2.5 kids, a dog, no cats, a capecod style home, and live in the suburbs. I am almost 100 now, and I still am waiting for my childhood dreams to manifest. I did have a cat along the way, more than one dog, none of my kids played soccer, and I didn’t know that .5 children is not feasible. Oh well, my dream is now shattered, I guess. Maybe it is time for a new dream.
I think my new dream would consist of a world without stress, and a world without hostess twinkies or “happy holidays”. Innately my personality is one of a giver, a servant. I truly believe that I was born that way. It took many years to realize it, but most of my decisions on a daily basis were closely related to those traits, giving and servanthood. I had a goal to become a millionaire at a young age, a fantasy that is typical among adolescent males. My problem with that fantasy was that whenever I did accumulate money, I found myself giving it away, not loaning it, but giving it as compassion would spring up inside me. It took me years to discover that I was truly “built that way”. I have always struggled with the balance of taking working hours, away from the family, and building a fortune. But, I then found that I gave it away, and started over again, still taking working hours away from the family, and never building the fortune.
I have been blessed with many gifts, talents and skills that can translate into money making opportunities, however, I use these gifts, talents and skills to help those that can’t afford to pay for them. Hence, I am a self-described missionary. I get much more joy from giving to others, than I get from the check at the end of the job. You don’t have to go to Africa to be a missionary, and you don’t have to be a student of the Bible, and take the oath of poverty to be a missionary either. Lawyers who do “pro bono” work are missionaries, doctors who treat for free are missionaries. The list goes on. As much as I wanted to make all that money, and ultimately be consumed by it, I could not. It bothered me that, with all the abilities, I was more interested in others than I was in my own self gain. As a man, I understand that we are to work, to plan, to prepare for our financial future. I love to work, absolutely love to work. I kept trading my financial future for the peace and joy of helping somebody else today. Even to this day, I still sometimes wonder if I made the correct choices. I guess we all wonder that at times.
I recall the words of a very wise man, who I quote often. “If you have done good things to the least of them, you have done it unto me.” I can say with certainty that my stress level is very low now, and has been for many years. I have tried to step out of the “rat race”, that seems to captivate everyone. I want my life to have meaning, I want it to count for something. I want people to someday tell my children that “your dad changed my life”. I will never forget the quote that I heard from one of my closest friends in North Carolina. He said, “brother, you ain’t never gonna see no u-haul behind the hearse carrying your stuff.”
I encourage people these days to have a BS. That stands for “belief system”. It doesn’t have to be like mine, but another good quote is “ people perish without a vision.” Don’t be influenced by every wind of doctrine, every sound that comes from the TV, every word that is pushed on you at your computer screen. Develop your own BS, not someone else’s. I also encourage people to find out their best gifts, talents and skills. God has given each of us very specific gifts and talents for our personalities. It is very exciting to discover them. Unfortunately, we usually spend our time trying to amass the fortune and we miss the blessing. I remember a vacation back in the day, when I was 13. My father wanted to go camping across the country one summer. (I now hate camping, because of that trip.) He had all these destinations that he wanted to visit, that in a normal time/space continuum, would have taken about 12 years. We did it all in 4 weeks. 4 weeks, New Jersey to California and back. We drove past the Grand Canyon so fast, that I am not sure if we really were there or not. The car only stopped for photos of trees and “welcome to ____”, bathrooms and souvenir shops. We had a smokey the bear magnetic cigarette putter-outer on the dash, for EACH national park. Do you know how many national parks there are?????
What is my point, other than to inject some humor? Well, we were amassing the photos, the decals, the smokeys, and missed every single blessing, save for 2. We did manage to wake up at 4 in the morning one nightmarish July day with the temps at 106, in Lake Mead, with our camper and all of our possessions covered in red ants. You know the kind, they bite! Nuf said. Secondly, we were in Glacier National Park, (where else), and I was breaking a branch in half, lost my balance and landed flat handed on an iron skillet that we were using to make pancakes. I burned all the skin off my hands, and soaked them in solarcaine for the next 3 weeks. This was before hospitals were invented. I still think that God healed me supernaturally, since I have no repercussions from that incident. And you were wondering why I hated camping. Ohhh, I hate camping.
Back to the stress. The purpose of these blogs is to make us better people so that the ones that we love will enjoy us more. I am getting notifications almost daily now of someone reading one of the blogs. That really encourages me. Please feel free to comment. I get emails and phone calls. I used to do a lot of seminar work around the country and in other countries, but have slowed that down considerably, resorting now to teaching and writing through social media.
It seems that almost everyone that I know is greatly affected by stress in one way or another. Stress is real, it is not a figment of your imagination I want you to see that stress is like an octopus with tentacles. Stress is a demon. It will rule your life if you let it. Hatred and bitterness are cousins of stress, but that is for another blog. It breaks my heart, the heart of the missionary, to see how stress is destroying families, fortunes, dreams, health, relationships. Think of stress as an elusive spider or serpent. In Kenya, the first time, we saw spiders the size of footballs, with real fangs, all gruesome looking and creating chills on your spine. Imagine opening your front door and letting a gang of these monsters into your home. Unthinkable, to be sure. I offer to you that by letting stress dominate your life, you are doing the same thing. Stress knocks on your door, and you gladly welcome it into your home. This is the time of year, when we have music playing, gifts being wrapped, decorations being hung, cookies baking in the oven, the aroma permeating every nook and cranny. “Miracle on 34th street” is playing on the TV, Bing Crosby is singing (I can’t get this music out of my head, please stop) “White Christmas”, and we are opening the front door and welcoming the spider of stress into our homes.
This time of year can be the best or the worst of times. For those who don’t have the money to buy their kids gifts, it can be very depressing. Some are fortunate enough to have all that they ever wanted, while others are stressing over where the milk and bread will come from to feed the children. If you have never been to third world countries, you have no idea of how the other half lives. We are very blessed in this country, even if you are on the low end of the spectrum. Don’t lose sight of what you have, of who you are, of what you have been given, or have earned.
I have made it a practice for many years now to purchase gift cards from the grocery store, Publix, Winn-Dixie, etc., and hand them out to those that I felt could really use $50 from the grocery store, not just at Christmas, but all through the year. Consider it my “tithe” if you will, although I don’t believe in the concept of tithing. It is quite a thrill to be on the receiving end of one of those gift cards. It is a bigger thrill to be on the giving end. I am not trying to preach here, but one way that you can reduce stress in your life, is to put your life on hold for a moment, and reach out to someone else. Don’t do it for any reason other than to be a blessing. Do it without signing your name, or even introducing yourself. Be an “angel of the Lord”, and do these things anonymously. It is human nature to want credit for something, so I warn you that it might be difficult to be the benefactor when the beneficiary doesn’t know who you are. That holds the greatest reward and joy.
As I write this, there are men and women contemplating suicide because stress has become master over them. When stress rules your being, you are helpless to defend yourself. We tend to sink further and further into the abyss of despair. More alcohol will cure this, where are my cigarettes when I need them? Shut the hell up in there, can’t you see that I am busy! Please stop the dog from barking, when is dinner going to be ready, don’t answer the phone, it will be a creditor, stay away from the front of the house, I don’t want them to know that we are home, I just got laid off today, honey we are 4 months behind on the house payment, the police called and little Billy is in jail, dad, I just wrecked the car, by the way, the IRS called and you have to make an appointment, my crown just fell out, what?, are you sure that he is cheating on me. The scenario’s are endless, yet they are very real.
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
I began developing my BS, in my late teens, and part of it relates to the above quote. There came a time when the partying had to stop, and responsibility had to commence. I didn’t like that time, because I knew in my heart that I was transitioning into adulthood. I had to put some things behind me. Anything that was stress related had to be put behind me. It is interesting, because some of the stress induced situations were attractive to me. I really didn’t want to let them go, but I had to in order to build a quality present and future. Maybe there are decisions in your life that you know have to be made to change your situation. It is time to make those quality decisions and give up the stress, and the things that cause them. Your life may change drastically, but embrace the change. You only live once, walk in someone else’s shoes for a month, or a year. You don’t know what you might be missing. If you think that money will conquer stress, you are only kidding yourself. Quite the contrary, money and material junk will only multiply your stress. What a quandary we find ourselves in. We want all the stuff that we dream about, deal with all the stress it takes to acquire the stuff, sacrifice the wife and kids to get the stuff, then when we have the stuff, we stress about losing it, having it stolen, taken, robbed in a divorce, or a lawsuit, or a fire. We can’t win, can we? Or can we! Search out those concepts that will bring peace, joy, blessing to your life. Leave behind anything that kills your joy, or brings anger, resentment, insecurity, bitterness, gossip, unforgiveness. Life is too short to miss out.
I tell people all the time, that there is a life out there, that cannot be seen with our natural eyes, or heard with our natural ears. It is the supernatural realm. It does exist, and it exists for you. Discover it. Learn it. Enjoy it. God prepared it for you, my friend.