David Mullens • August 29, 2020
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley". So true.
It is believed that Robert Burns composed the poem, "To a Mouse," while still holding on to his plow after plowing through a mouse's nest. He knew the mouse needed the nest to survive the winter. The mouse had planned well but to no avail.
The mouse had no way to foresee Robert, with his plow in hand, destroying his home. The line I quote above is from the original Scottish language poem, which is somewhat hard to understand. When translated the line becomes, "The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry."
In the Air
We cannot predict or foresee many of life's events. We can plan but strategy goes out the window when you get punched in the face (according to Mike Tyson). The fact that plans go awry is why I often say, "Sometimes we build the airplane while flying it!." Sometimes you have to at least get up in the air and assess the situation as it unfolds.
To be honest, I love it when a plan comes together. I cherish a finely crafted plan. I don't want to 'wing it' but I also realize no plan takes into account everything that can go 'awry'. So, you move forward and adapt.
The ability to adapt is not given enough credit. We love a plan coming together, but that works much better on TV and in movies than real life. At least, that's been my experience. John Steinbeck agrees:
“Once a journey is designed, equipped, and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. Tour masters, schedules, reservations, brass-bound and inevitable, dash themselves to wreckage on the personality of the trip. Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the glass bum relax and go along with it. Only then do the frustrations fall away. In this a journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”
"We don't take a trip; a trip takes us." Yes, indeed...and our plans don't control circumstances.
What does all of this have to do with St. Paul? Just this. During this pandemic, the ability to adapt has been vital. We have no idea what's coming around the corner and what tomorrow may bring. While there was some indication of what we were facing in March, April, May, and June, each month brings with it a realization that we are not in control of the pandemic.
So, plans must be made knowing that they may (and perhaps will) be adapted. I want to thank all of you for being patient and encouraging as plans are made, and, many times, changed. It's hard living in uncertainty but that is where we are.
Has everything gone smoothly? No. We've had technical issues from time to time. We plan, but then the pandemic punches us in the face. Ian and our musicians have been great, planning, adapting, dealing with problems, learning, then adapting the plan.
Aaron and I continue to discuss and attempt to find ways to help all of us at St. Paul to grow spiritually and keep us moving forward in mission. We don't want to view this pandemic only as a problem. We want to look deeper and find opportunities.
I'm encouraging you to use this time do draw deeper in relationship with Jesus. Instead of focusing on all we are missing, we can focus on what this "slow down" offers. I know some of us have had big life changes and we are doing things we didn't use to do, not doing things that we used to love to do, and being called upon to do things we never thought we'd have to do (such as teaching our kids/grand-kids).
In the midst of everything, there may be some time you can set aside in order to pause and connect with the peace that only Jesus brings. We get so focused on what's in front of us, that we forget about the one who is with us. When we keep Jesus at the center of our life, we find his peace is like an anchor for our soul. No matter what tries to punch us in the face, we can duck, jive, and navigate, never losing the sense of peace that Jesus gives.
In order to help you, we've created a new website http://stpaul.life. We are still testing it, tweaking it, adapting it, but you are invited to sign up, explore the courses, connect with others, and be reminded that you are not alone. This is OUR (St. Paul's) website. There are no ads. I pray it will be a place where we can encourage each other, a shelter in the midst of the social media storm.
May you recognize God's blessings! May you discover his peace. May this time be a time of deeper connection with Jesus and others.
David Mullens • July 01, 2020
July is Here!
Most of us think about the 4th when July tools around and for good reason. We celebrate our freedom on July 4th deserves celebration. Because of men and women who were willing to give the greatest sacrifice, we are free to live out our rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Such freedom demands celebration.
Free to Choose
We live out our freedoms differently. Freedom to pursue happiness may mean sitting on a white-sanded beach with crystal clear water, serving as a public servant, or pursuing a passion such as art or music. It may mean making a difference such as fighting for the oppressed, being a voice for those without one, or making sure freedom remains secure by joining the military. I, as you know, have used my freedom helping others deepen their relationship with Jesus, letting them know they matter to God and are invited into a life-transforming relationship with God.
We are free to love others, share, give, and make a difference. We are also free to make questionable or even bad decisions. We can choose to live for others, or only care about ourselves and what we want.
We are free to live life how we choose but with freedom comes responsibility. We are free to choose our actions but with freedoms comes consequences which we don't control.
Sometimes in the freedom of our pursuits, we end up in a prison of our own making. How many addictions have started with the freedom to try something? What starts out as a free choice can end with an inability to stop. We are free no more.
In Deuteronomy 29, Moses gathers the people to review their covenant with God. A covenant is like an agreement and/or contract between a greater entity, in this case, God, and a lesser entity, in this case, the people.
In chapter 30 verse 15 Moses says:
15 “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. 16 For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.
17 “But if your heart turns away and you refuse to listen, and if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, 18 then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live a long, good life in the land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy.
Moses sets before the people two pathways. One path leads to life. The other path leads to death. They must choose which path they will follow. The path to life is simple, yet difficult: Love God. Keep his commandments. Walk in his ways. The path to destruction is simple and easy: Don't listen. Serve and worship other gods.
Freedom brings choice and responsibility. We have the freedom to pursue happiness, but that pursuit can end in destruction. There are individuals who have pursued wealth, power, celebrity, recognition, power, greed, selfishness, believing that those things bring the happiness they desire, yet the end of their road was one of loneliness, depression, anxiety, isolation, and destruction.
God sets before us a choice between life and death. We are free to choose. Choose wisely. Make a difference. Change the world. You are free to do so!
David Mullens • May 01, 2020
There’s so much being written and said about COVID-19, I thought I’d be different. While you may be disappointed to learn I’m not writing about our current situation, how long we will be in it, or what we might do once restrictions are loosened, I thought it might be best to write about something that has absolutely nothing to do with our current circumstances.
So, in order to steer away from current events, I thought I’d instead focus on patience. Yes, patience because patience has nothing to do with what’s currently happening.
When my kids were younger, my wife offered a definition of patience that they all understood. She said, “Patience is waiting without whining.” That’s a great definition! Not just for kids, but for adults as well. It’s a great definition for me!
What makes patience so hard? I’ll give you some time to think about that one.
Well?? I’m waiting….
Well?? Still waiting….
Still waiting...and...I don’t like to wait! Maybe that’s what makes patience so hard. The waiting. We don’t like to wait. Patience, on the other hand, would mean that we could wait and wait without whining about how long everything is taking.
We like to wait. So we come up with ways to make airplanes fly faster, cook in less time, and get deliveries quicker. We want it and we want it now!
I’ve even heard people say, “Give me patience and give it to me now!” But we know patience doesn’t work like that. As the saying goes, “Good things come to those who wait” and that’s true of many things, including patience.
When Paul wrote to the Galatians, he included patience in the list of “Fruit” of the Spirit of God (Gal. 5:22-23). What if patience doesn’t come because we work at it? What if patience, true patience, is a gift? What if we could see the gift of waiting?
I know that sounds crazy especially as we are asked to stay at home just a little bit longer. Especially as we are asked to continue social distancing when we want to get back to the way things were. Especially as we go stir crazy waiting, yes, I wrote “waiting”, for all of this to pass.
Patience would be very helpful right now. What if the only place to really get patience is from God? God, after all, must be the most patient being ever. God must be patient because he is patient with me. God is patient with you as well.
God does not give up on us. Instead, he waits. And waits. God waits for us to recognize that we are not alone. He waits for us to realize how much he loves us and what he has done for us. He waits for us to say yes to his invitation of life and love.
We will get through this, like we have gotten through other difficult situations. While you are waiting, why not spend some time with God? He’s been waiting for you...perhaps for a very long time.
David Mullens • March 18, 2020
1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
4 He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection. (Psalm 91:1-4)
I've had some interesting times in church. There was one time when a squirrel, somehow, got into the church and the ushers were chasing him around downstairs while I was preaching upstairs. I've caught and removed three bats, dealt with leaky roofs (we had about 30 buckets in the sanctuary catching the rain), and had other crazy and sometimes difficult events.
The past few weeks have been unlike anything I have ever experienced. The phrase "unprecedented times" now seems like a cliché. Yet, it isn't. It's where we find ourselves.
On Monday, the Bishop of Indiana, Bishop Trimble, requested all Indiana United Methodist Churches to suspend worship services for four weeks in order to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
In my wildest dreams, I never thought there would be a month without Sunday worship. I've heard that in 1918, during the Spanish Flu, churches suspended their worship services. That was a bit more than a hundred years ago. This is new territory for us.
Nevertheless, the church isn't a building, but a people. We are still St. Paul United Methodist Church. We are still the church!
While we won't be able to gather in our building, it doesn't mean that we won't be gathering. Instead, we will utilize the power of technology to connect, learn, and worship. For those who don’t have the technology, we are trying to find other ways to connect.
Sunday Morning Worship: We will be live on Facebook Live and hopefully Youtube. and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxs05Cg-xpy_2nzqLXetDvQ
During the week: We will be streaming at various times on Facebook and Youtube. Our Associate Pastor, Aaron Taylor, will be leading a Bible Study on Thursday evenings at 7pm. We will have our Lenten Focus groups on Facebook and Youtube as well (Wednesdays at 6:30 pm). Most facebook streaming will be at http://facebook.com/groups/StPaulLive. We will update the website when we know the service time (We will be streaming once on Sunday). I also hope to get streaming on our website as well.
Giving: If you want to continue supporting St. Paul financially, and I hope you do, you can give by going to our website at http://stpaulbloomington.org and clicking on the “Online giving - Vanco” link. Or, you can send checks through the mail to the church office.
For Those Without Internet: We still plan on connecting with those who do not have email or internet access. If you are interested in caring by calling, or caring by card writing, please let me know! We are creating a list of individuals who may need someone to deliver their groceries.
High-Risk Category: If you are in a high-risk category and need someone to get groceries or help in some other way so you don’t have to go into public and risk exposure, please call the church office at 812-332-4191 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Church Office: We are restricting access to the church office to do our part in stopping the spread of the virus. Please call first if you need building access for some reason. The office phone number is 812-332-4191.
I pray that within all the changes and disruptions we would see opportunities to love, share, and connect. May we continue to be who we are; the Church of Jesus sharing his amazing love!
It is a joy to be your pastor. We will get through this. We will gather again. We still worship.
David Mullens • February 25, 2020
My mom would quip how she didn't know if she was coming or going from time to time. Her acknowledgment usually came during busy times when I wanted to start a new activity or had something I needed her to do.
My mom and dad were 43 when I came into the picture. They had already raised my two sisters and, I'm sure, at 55, would rather be winding down rather than trying to keep up with a 12-year-old. What I believe she was attempting to communicate was how busy she was with competing goals and priorities. At 12-years-old I didn't know how life gets busy and sometimes we just want to stop.
The earth spins at about 1000 miles per hour (at the equator). We may not know it, but we are constantly spinning, spinning, spinning. I've heard people say, "Stop the world, I want to get off" not because of the earth's constant spin, but because life can spin out of control.
The earth's constant motion isn't what gets to us, it's all the motion in our lives. Regardless of our desire to "stop the world", it won't happen. The earth will keep spinning (which is a very good thing) and so do our lives. Even those times when we believe our life will slow down, it doesn't. Sometimes our lives spin even faster.
Lent As An Opportunity
We are already busy, so what does it mean to add something like Lent into the mix?
Instead of viewing Lent as "one more thing", what if we see Lent as an opportunity to "stop the world"? Well, not exactly "stop the world" but at least slow it down somewhat. The world will keep spinning, but our lives don't need to. Lent can be an opportunity when we choose to slow down our spinning lives.
The WHAT of Lent
Historically, Lent has been a time of intentional prayer and self-denial. Over forty days we are reminded of Jesus' forty days in the wilderness (see Luke 4). During that time, Jesus fasted, prayed, and combated the devil. The focus on self-denial and prayer helps us connect with Jesus' time in the wilderness as he prepared for God's mission.
Our forty days of Lent (which doesn't include Sundays) started on Feb. 26th with Ash Wednesday and lasts until the Saturday before Easter. What you choose to do during these forty days can have a profound effect on your life and soul. Lent can empower us and prepare us for God's purpose.
The HOW of Lent
Knowing the history and purpose of Lent can be helpful, but the power of Lent comes via intentional practices. Practices that draw us closer to Jesus, help us to love others, and have the potential to transform our lives empower us to follow Jesus. During the days of Lent, we find newness of life.
The power of Lent comes from our choice to enter into practices that create space for God. The faster our life spins, the easier it is to neglect God. Time for prayer, scripture, and other spiritual practices becomes limited and, at times, completely bypassed, forfeited for other pressing activities. When we decide to find time to draw near to God, we discover how he draws near to us.
The WHY of Lent
Why should we embrace our Lenten opportunity? Because we need Lent. We need to be reminded that life doesn't consist of our lives spinning out of control. We need time to sit with Jesus in the desert of our soul. We need practices of self-denial and prayer. We need to be reminded that through Jesus' self-denial and death, we have life abundantly. Lent also prepares us for the celebration of Resurrection.
Invitation to a Holy Lent
The word "holy" means to be set apart. In order to have a Holy Lent, we set it apart. If we want to experience the power of Lent, it must look different than our ordinary days.
How can we set Lent apart? Here are some ideas:
"Giving up" something for Lent is a popular Lenten practice. Whether a favorite treat, time watching TV, or some other item or activity, when we say "no" to ourselves we enter into self-denial.
Fasting a meal or a day (or longer) connects us to Jesus' fasting in the wilderness.
Setting a fixed time for prayer and reading Scripture can be a time of renewal.
Adding a spiritual practice such as prayer, scripture, spending time in nature, serving somewhere, attending Sunday Worship services, or attending Lenten Reflections, helps connect us to self-denial and renewal.
Yes, our lives may be busy, perhaps overflowing. In order to add Lenten practices, we may have to say "no" in order to say "yes." What can you say no to? Can you say no to a favorite TV program? A destructive activity? A favorite vice? A favorite food? Eating three (or two) meals a day? The reality is, if we are going to say "yes" to a Lenten practice, we may have to say "no" to an ordinary activity. If we are going to "stop the world" we must say "no" so we can say "yes." Doing so sets Lent apart, helping us experience a holy Lent.
As you reflect on what God desires for you during this season, I offer two prayers. The first is Charles de Foucauld's prayer of abandonment. The second a prayer for you to offer Jesus during Lent.
Here is Charles de Foucauld's prayer of abandonment:
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures -
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you Lord,
to surrender myself into your hands,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my father.
Jesus, please help me to walk with you in self-denial. You denied yourself by going to the cross and dying so that I might live. Help me to say no to myself, so others can live. May this season of Lent be a Holy season set apart for you and your purposes. Guide me during these forty days. May I be transformed through you.
David Mullens • February 01, 2020
Valentine's Day: A day when we are encouraged to share our love and affection with that special someone(s). I have heard people make the argument that Valentine's Day is simply a creation of the greeting card and candy companies. While those two groups didn't start Valentine's Day, they certainly have found ways to profit from it! The annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics estimates 20.7 billion (yes, with a b) will be spent on cards, candies, and other gifts.
What's interesting is that spending is up, but those celebrating the holiday is down to 51%. So, one out of two people will be celebrating. That makes sense. There are some who look forward to Valentine's Day as an exciting celebration where they can show their deepest feelings. They also look forward to having love and appreciation showered on them and basking in the glow of love.
For others, Valentine's Day strikes the deepest fear they have! What happens if I "mess this up" they wonder. Even though they care deeply about their "Valentine", they struggle to show their feelings. Candy, flowers, cards, simply can't communicate the depth of their love.
It seems that guys have more trouble regarding Valentine's Day. Sometimes there's unexpressed pressure to go all out and do something amazing. Some guys try to make Valentine's Day special, but there's the potential that all their plans may fall apart.
Men are not known for their ability to share the depth of their emotions. You may have heard about the wife who complained about her husband never telling her that he loved her. Her husband looked up from his paper and said, "I told you I loved you on our wedding day and I'll let you know if that ever changes." Men don't always show their love, even though it's there.
In the spirit of trying to help all of you out, here are some ways you can show your love on Valentine's Day: flowers, chocolates, cards, a nice dinner out, doing the dishes, shoveling the driveway, putting on pants, getting a shower, cooking a nice dinner, giving gifts, writing a song, reciting a poem, practicing good hygiene, well, you get the idea. Some of those ideas are better than others (I never said I was a romantic).
Whether you are able to share your feelings of love or not, the Good News is that God decided that cards, flowers, greeting cards, words of appreciation, nor anything else was good enough to show how much he loves us.
When God decided to reveal his love to us, there was only one way that could do his love justice. Paul writes, "God demonstrated his love..." God's love wasn't just talked about, it was demonstrated. Paul continues, "God demonstrated his love in THIS...while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
In that demonstration, God showed us what love looks like. Because of Jesus' sacrifice, we can know what love is. Not the Valentine's, romantic kind of love, but deep, abiding, sacrificial love.
Valentine's Day is February 14th, but this year Ash Wednesday is February 26th. Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent. Lent is a special time in the church calendar of 40 days (not including Sundays) where we reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made. In reflecting on Jesus' sacrifice, we encounter God's way of sharing the depth of his love.
I invite you to spend intentional time in prayer, scripture, and other spiritual practices during Lent. Such practices create space for God to work in our lives and we are reminded that God loves us so much, he gave his only son, so that we might have eternal, everlasting, and abundant life!
There are many resources you can use during this season. St. Paul gives out a free devotional you can pick up at the church. If you are looking for a different devotional, I suggest Lenten devotionals by authors such as C. S. Lewis, Henri Nouwen, Walter Brueggeman, and Richard Rohr. Three years ago, a friend and I wrote a Lenten devotional called "Soil of our Soul: A 40-day Lenten Journey". If you are interested, it is still on Amazon's site.
I pray you have a great Valentine's Day. As you celebrate, may your thoughts turn to the One who loves you more than anyone ever could!
David Mullens • December 31, 2019
Do you have 2020 vision?
I ask the question knowing looking directly at the new year, 2020. Do you have 2020 vision? Did you know there will never be another 2020 ever again! This is it! 2019 is in the rear view mirror and 2020 is on the horizon. Do you have hope? Dreams? Ideas? Plans? 2020 is a blank slate!
For the first 22 or so years of my life, I had 20/20 vision. I didn't have to worry about glass, contacts, or blurry vision. I didn't have to spend time cleaning dirty glasses or contacts. I didn't have to search around because I had dropped my contacts, or fear because I stepped on my glasses. It was quite a wonderful life!
One day, as I drove across the bridge connecting Indiana to Kentucky to go to seminary, I feared the days of my wonderful life were over. As I looked at the huge green signs indicating exits, I wasn't able to make out the words until I was so close it was too late for me to take the exit. I kept driving because I couldn't see the sign telling me I needed to turn off.
After missing a couple of exits, I figured I should go to the eye doctor. Sure enough, I needed glasses. Four years of staring at screens all day, I believed, had stolen my perfect vision.
What is 20/20 vision
According to the American Optometric Association, 20/20 vision is the ability to see clearly at 20 feet. They call it vision acuity. In other words, if you have 20/20 vision you can see in 20 feet what you should see in 20 feet. On the other hand, if you have 20/100 vision, you need to be as close as 20 feet to see what a person with normal sight can see at 100 feet.
Having 20/20 vision doesn't mean you have perfect vision because other factors are involved. Nevertheless, with 20/20 vision you are able to see clearly what is in front of you. It was a sad day when I discovered I no longer had 20/20 vision.
As I ponder vision acuity, I am reminded that there are other ways to see. Of course, we see with our eyes but we can also see with our mind, our heart, and our intention.
Before I had glasses, I would miss things...like exits. Since I couldn't see clearly I would miss my turn. I probably needed glasses for a while but didn't want to admit it. I didn't even know how bad my vision was. When I finally got glasses, a new but familiar world opened up to me. I could see again. I could see what I had been missing.
Not 2020 But Now Vision
When our vision is blurry, we miss things. As I reflect on a new year, 2020 no less, I'm reminded of how other things get "blurry." Moments arrive. Moments depart. Each moment flows by like leaves on a river. They come and they float away. In order to notice them, I must be intentional. I must take time to gaze at them, reflect on them, and see them, really see them. Before I know it, those moments, precious and unique, are gone.
Perhaps this year, 2020, can be a reminder to open our eyes. To notice. To be present. To not let these moments pass by unnoticed.
Not only is this the only 2020, but right now is the only now that you have. Each moment is new and unique. You will never read these words for the first time again. You will not experience this moment again.
Perhaps what I'm really after isn't 2020 vision, but the vision of now. What does it look like to have now vision? What is it like to not miss ordinary but amazing moments? What does it mean that this is the only now I will ever have?
Perhaps in 2020 we can be intentionally open our eyes and see, truly see, before the moment passes by.
May your eyes be open! May Jesus be your vision.
David Mullens • December 01, 2019
The Christmas movie, Christmas with the Kranks, was based on a 2001 John Grisham novel called Skipping Christmas. In the film, the Kranks only daughter wasn't going to be home for Christmas, so her parents decided to skip Christmas and use the over $6,000 savings for a vacation.
While I doubt that many of us, or any of us, would ever want to follow the Krank's plan to skip Christmas if we aren't careful we can find that we "miss" Christmas.
December can be a busy month. Full schedules end up bursting their seams! Usually, the events and gatherings in December are good things, causing us to not say no to anything! So, we don't. We attempt to do everything, filling up our calendar.
As wonderful as getting together with family and friends, decorating, and all the other beloved traditions of this season may be, they may also cause us to miss the deepest joy of the season. We miss Christmas when our focus on the busyness of the season squeezes out our opportunity to connect with God's gift of Jesus. We miss Christmas when our schedules are so full of stuff we have to do that we are no longer able to hear the whisper of the Spirit. We miss Christmas when the anxiety of overly full schedules replaces anticipation and awe of what God has done.
So, how can we make sure we don't miss Christmas? Here are some suggestions:
1 - Invite God to be part of your preparation. Whether you are putting up decorations, shopping for that hard to please loved one, or attending a gathering that you may not want to be, ask God to show you his presence.
2 - Set some time aside and read through the Christmas Story. You can find the accounts of Jesus' birth in Luke chapters 1 and 2:1-40 and also Matthew 1:18-25. Reading these through Advent is a great way to be grounded in the meaning of this season. You don't have to read these accounts in one sitting either. Why not spend a few moments in the morning or evening reading a paragraph or so concerning the reason we celebrate?
3 - Find time to reflect: December can be a busy month. Putting up decorations, buying presents, Christmas programs, get-togethers, and other activities and events filling our schedules causing us to look forward to the end of the season. Silence, rest, and prayer create space for God. What would happen, if you intentionally scheduled some times of silence, rest, or prayer to make sure you have left space for God? Of course, scheduling such time may mean you have to say "no" to something else. Making space for God in your life will be well worth it.
4 - Noticing God: When Moses was tending sheep, he noticed a burning bush. What is amazing isn't that Moses saw a burning bush, but that he noticed it and went to it. It was from the bush that God spoke to him. In the middle of an ordinary season of Christmas, I pray you would notice God. May you notice God as you celebrate the birth of Jesus.
David Mullens • September 23, 2019
Psalm 34:4 I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.
He freed me from all my fears.
Eat and Run
I walked into the McDonald’s because the drive-thru was packed. There, waiting in line was a man who had already ordered. He looked at me and said, “Wow. I can’t believe people are so lazy they would rather wait in the long drive-thru line rather than coming inside. There’s no one in here! He was right. The place was empty.
Drive-thru lines get longer and longer it seems. Some places are even putting in two drive-thru lanes to deal with the increased use. Why? Are people really lazy? Or have we become so busy that sitting in the car answering email, or talking on the phone as we pick up our food and eat on the way to our next activity seems the best use of our time?
Some of us are so busy a “sit down meal” means eating in our car as we drive to our next meeting. With so much to do, we fear taking time out to eat will put us behind.
My eyes fall to verse 4 where David writes, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.”
That’s a powerful statement considering Saul was trying to kill David and David was running for his life. Saul had the entire Israel army at his disposal while David only had a few hundred men. David had every reason to be afraid, yet, God delivered him from all his fears.
We don’t have to have someone trying to kill us to be afraid. Fear influences all of our decisions, even when we don’t know it. While fear helps us survive, fight or flight and all that, most of us don’t have to worry much about tigers, lions, and bears (oh my). Our fear is of a different nature.
We are afraid of missing out (FOMO), losing what we have, not getting what we need, upsetting others, being misunderstood, being rejected, just to name a few. Perhaps our biggest fear is making mistakes or failure. We may even decide to play it safe and stick to our ‘comfort zone.’ Comfort zones are nice because we can handle anything there. While our comfort zone is void of fear, it can limit our faithfulness to God.
Fear of losing a job causes workers to “just do what they are told” instead of putting their whole self into their work. Fear of missing out causes us to spend weekend after weekend on ball diamonds, soccer fields, basketball courts, dance recitals, and other activities. While we enjoy the events, fear that if our children aren’t fully involved, they will miss out on future scholarships is what drives us. Some children start playing organized sports at 4 or 5 years old because parents believe if they don’t their future will be limited and they won’t have as good of a life as they could.
Why are we so fearful? Because we have lost our center and we believe we are on our own. David, in this Psalm, praises God because God had delivered David from all his fears. David gives us guidance on how we can be delivered from our fears as well.
3 Steps to Be Delivered from Fear
Notice David’s progression:
1) I Sought the Lord
2) The Lord answered
3) He delivered me from all my fears
This three step process seems simple, but it isn’t easy. We all want #3, but #1 can be a problem. David sought the Lord. He was a seeker. He was seeking God in the midst of his fear as he was running. In other psalms (Psalm 5:3) David writes about seeking God in the morning. Because David sought God, God answered.
How can we expect God to answer, when we don’t fully seek him?
Do we seek the Lord, so that the Lord can answer us? What’s your habit of seeking God?
When David heard God answer, he knew he was delivered. God answered, because David was intentional to seek God. My fear is that we have become a culture who talks about seeking God, but doesn’t.
Instead of intentional, focused, time with God, we pray “on the run” or try to “multi-task” God into our lives. God has become like our lunch…we head to the drive-thru, pick up our food, and eat as we are on the way to somewhere else. Such a meal keeps us going, but doesn’t feed our soul.
When we seek God, God answers. When God answers, we discover we are not alone. When we realize we are not alone, our fear dissipates. The process begins when we spend focused, intentional, time with God.
God may not answer the way we want him to answer. It has taken me years to come to terms with God not answering me the way I wanted.
What I have discovered is that God answers with his presence, which, I find ends up being much better than the answer I was looking for. In Jeremiah, God makes this promise, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with your whole heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) That promise, when realized, drives away all fear.
David Mullens • August 27, 2019
You open Facebook (or Instagram, Snapchat, or some other social media website) and see your friend having the time of her life! Perhaps she is on vacation, with family, or eating at a fancy restaurant. Then, it hits you. FOMO. "It would be great to be able to do that," you think.
You remember an event happening later in the week. You'd love to go, but if you go to that event, you'd have to leave a different event early, and get to another event late. Even though your day is full, you try to figure out how to squeeze the new event into your bulging schedule. FOMO begins.
Perhaps you find yourself at one activity and your mind begins wondering about a different one. Or, as your friend (or spouse) talks with you, your phone buzzes and you look down (for just a glance, of course) to make sure you aren't missing anything while your friend (or spouse) continues to talk. There's a momentary lapse as you are distracted by the notification. You hope your friend (or spouse) doesn't notice. FOMO keeps you from being fully attentive.
You and your family sit down to watch a movie together and you start wondering about what else might be happening. So, you take a look at Facebook, just a quick glance, of course, to keep up what is going on elsewhere. Thirty minutes later, you realized you missed the most important part of the movie and precious moments with your family. FOMO has taken hold of you, once again.
If you've ever found yourself wondering about what else was going on and what you might be missing, you've encountered FOMO. If you've ever been distracted, unable to enjoy the moment because your mind was elsewhere, you may have been hijacked by FOMO.
Dictionary.com defines FOMO as, "anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website."
FOMO stands for the "fear of missing out" and is very real. It's always been around but seems to have escalated with social media. FOMO grows more troubling because, with increased options of how to spend our time, we begin wondering about what we miss. We fear that somewhere something is happening and we are not a part.
FOMO causes us to add one more activity to our busy days, squeezing as many moments into our minutes as possible. We add some activities and events to our calendar because we are afraid of missing out.
We don't have to follow the FOMO path though. Instead of FOMO, we can experience JOMO. What's JOMO? I thought JOMO was something I had discovered, but later found that others had experienced the wonders of JOMO as well.
JOMO stands for the "Joy Of Missing Out" and can serve to balance our lives, bringing joy, contentment, and peace.
The JOY of missing out? We want to experience life to the fullest and we believe missing out is the opposite. When I watch a basketball or football game, I don't want to miss anything! I want to see it all! Missing out seems anything but joyful.
But when I pause to think about FOMO, I have to ask myself, "What am I really missing out on?" A fantastic play? A touchdown?
There will be other plays. There will be other touchdowns. In the totality of life, missing a fantastic play, or even a game, or many games, really won't be that big of a deal. When I'm looking back over my life, I doubt I will ever regret missing those things.
The reality is, when I live by FOMO, I am missing out. I'm missing out on the moment I am in and that is where JOMO comes into play.
The JOY of missing out reminds us that joy comes from being present in the current moment. Joy does not come as we stuff our full schedules fuller still. Full schedules create distraction bringing tension and keeping the joy of the moment at bay
Beyond finding joy in the moment, we also find joy when we are mindful about what we choose NOT to do. We don't have to do everything. Rather, we must discern the right things to do. When we practice FOMO, we cultivate fear, disappointment, and regret (Fear is the first part of FOMO after all). When we practice JOMO, we cultivate joy, contentment, and peace.
JOMO is a choice. It's a choice to not allow FOMO to rule our lives. JOMO is being intentional and honest. JOMO encourages us to create space where we can breathe, grow, and find freedom. JOMO helps us create space where we can deeply connect with others because we aren't distracted and exhausted.
What are we really missing if we don't watch the next episode? Go to the party? Take on an extra activity? What are we missing if we stay in, spend time with people we love, and get the rest we need rather than heading out?
JOMO is when we find joy by choosing to miss out and the discovery that we aren't missing a thing.
May you experience the deep joy and peace of Jesus because you are choosing to spend some moments with Jesus!