With Recreation/Entertainment being the lifeskill topic for October, I just can’t muster a way to talk about leisure time recreation and entertainment with recent horrific events. Last Sunday evening, country singer Jason Aldean was performing at an outdoor Las Vegas three-day country music festival when automatic gunfire broke out, killing more than 50 and wounding more than 500.
The tragic irony of it all is it was a concert this time, attended by young and old alike, even small children with their parents. All were having a great, fun time until that horrific moment. So, at this moment, I can’t help but remember an old verse, Ecclesiastes 3, there is a time given to everything, whether good or ghastly. There is “. . . a season for every activity under the heavens. . . a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. . . a time to be silent and a time to speak. . .”
A Time to Weep & Pray
This week has been a time to weep and mourn, a time to be silent. And in our weeping, mourning and silence, we may also find ourselves filled with anxiety threatening to overwhelm us. That was when I came across timely wisdom from Max Lucado’s USA Today article, Vegas shooting: The land of the stars & stripes has become a country of stress & strife. “What you’re feeling has a name: chronic anxiety. It’s a feeling of dread, an edginess, a cold wind that won’t stop howling. And even when the storms abate, there is a sense that the next one is coming. Always . . . coming. Sunny days are just an interlude. You can’t relax. All peace is temporary, short term. Anxiety is a thief, taking our sleep, our energy, our well-being and our peace.” Lucado asks, “How much more can we take?”
With all these events happening back-to-back in our nation, you may be also experiencing tragedies and challenges in your own personal lives. Like us all, when anxiety and fear threatens to overwhelm you, Lucado suggests taking these first steps to experiencing “Unshakeable Hope.”
- Pray immediately. Don’t stew over the problems that are besetting you or your neighbor. Ask God for help as soon as you identify a need.
- Pray specifically. When we boil our concerns down to a specific request, they become right-sized. Vague threats loom larger than concrete challenges.
- Pray for and with others. When we consider the problems of others and enlist their help with ours, our concerns become more manageable.
- Pray with thanksgiving. Anxiety and gratitude cannot occupy the same space. When we catalog what we are thankful for, our list of challenges grows less powerful.
Like Lucado said, “Anxiety comes with life, my friend, but it doesn’t have to dominate your life. The path to peace is paved with prayer. Let’s invite God to reframe the way we face our fears and win the war on worry. With his help, we can find calm in a chaotic world.”
Discovering How to See the Good
Some may say that prayer is never enough. Some of us may also be driven to react with any number of emotions, such as anger, rage, bitterness, outrage. This behavior seems to only fuel more of the same in others. We can’t see anything but the loss and evil done. With horrific events like Las Vegas killings and other recent tragedies, it is understandable. So, how do we get past the evil we see? With encouraging immediate, specific, caring, and grateful prayers, Lucado offers a path to peace. The outcome is clarity of thought, hope, and behavior. I believe for every evil there is good for us to see. Yet, are we willing to trust and transform our lens of that reality and pain to see and seek the good? If we are, we can even be the good that overcomes the evil done to ourselves and others.
Yes, it begins with weeping, mourning, even silence for a while. Then somewhere along this prayer path we discover a way to forgive and be forgiven. We begin to find freedom from fear and gain clarity of direction. Good is deposited from within and ripples outward to others. In this chaotic world, we just may also discover our hearts and focus transformed.
That is what happened for me when I discovered practical parallels between Lucado’s prayer path and a Shawn Achor video, The happy secret to better work. Shawn Achor, psychologist, is the CEO of Good Think Inc., where he researches and teaches about positive psychology at Harvard University. Achor has worked with over a third of the Fortune 100 companies and lectured in more than 50 countries, the Pentagon, schoolchildren in South Africa, and farmers in Zimbabwe.
He has also spent years studying “the science of happiness.” You are probably wondering, “In the midst of such tragedies around us, how can any happy thoughts and positive thinking help at all!?” I agree . . . simply thinking positive thoughts won’t get us very far unless we put it in context to Lucado’s guiding words for “Unshakeable Hope” and Achor’s “Science of Happiness.”
Although the title of Achor’s video may seem unrelated, even shallow, to what is going on here, stay with me for part two coming your way next week. The connection will hopefully shine through.