When I was young and growing up, I used to think smoking was sinful. I don’t know if it was my church environment or social environment, but somehow I thought that it was a sin to smoke. When I was 17, found Jesus, and started reading Scripture, I realized my perspective was pretty delusional. So, when I turned 18, I bought a pipe and tobacco and started smoking. I have thoroughly enjoyed smoking ever since (even though at times I’ve gone years without doing so at all). Smoking has taught me a few things.
One of the most powerful lessons smoking has helped me learn is sometimes I need to take a brief break. When I am alone, I can be a high anxiety person. It’s very easy for me to worry about finances, relationships, work I need to do, God’s will, my past sins, my past, my future, my present, my safety, others’ safety, the world, helplessness, weakness, fruitlessness, inadequacy, how the paper I’m writing is going, whether I’m going to get enough sleep, etc. My brain gets cluttered a lot too. There are too many things going on in my head sometimes for me to handle. I won’t bore you with another list, but I sometimes have so many different topics going through my head at once I think I’m going crazy.* For a long time the only way I knew how to handle my anxiety and overactive mind was to just keep going and wait until it went away. Smoking taught me a much better solution.
When I started smoking on a semi-regular basis (a couple of packs a week was probably my max), when I was feeling high anxiety or was thinking about so much I couldn’t productively think about anything, I would go outside for a smoke. After doing so, I would be calm, collected, and focused. I don’t think it was the nicotine that did this. Smoking provided an alternative activity from whatever I was doing, it helped me escape from my life and mind temporarily so that I could come back to my life and mind in a better condition to do so. During my cigarette, I would simply pray and bring my troubles before God, ask him to deal with them, then recenter on Him, His kingdom, what is really important, and what matters in light of the truth that God is king. When I would re-enter the reality of my circumstances, I was much more ready to deal with those circumstances like a new creation should.
Smoking has helped me converse with people. Many conversations with people I’ve never met have sprung up over cigarettes. It’s more comfortable to talk to people you don’t know when you’re both smoking because you both have an alternate activity and if the conversation is awkward, it only has to last a couple of minutes because there is an easy out. I’ve shared about who God is and my relationship with Jesus with more people who do not yet know him while smoking than in any other circumstance. Smoking can create a space for conversation that is inviting and unintimidating.
Smoking helps me learn the art of being with someone without talking to them. Sometimes, when people are tired of life, broken in spirit, and hopeless in heart, there just isn’t much to say. There aren’t any right questions to ask. They know the truth, they just don’t feel it right now, and they need someone to be with them and be available for them, but they don’t need anyone to talk to them. Smoking provides an alternative activity which facilitates a comfortable environment to sit with someone in silence for their solace.
Things I should probably say regarding some of the things in this series…
If you’re a follower of Jesus and you’re addicted to smoking (or anything), then you’re living in chains when Jesus wants you to be free. If you’re smoking a lot and it is damaging to your health, you aren’t setting yourself up well for being at your best to serve God in the future – the same goes if you’re eating ice cream all the time or living in lethargic inactivity. If you’re having a few drinks, that’s one thing, if you’re getting drunk or going out for attention from the opposite sex, you’re misrepresenting God. The point is there are points at which these activities, like most other activities, become a detriment rather than a complement to one’s relationship with Jesus and I only .
*I’m sure I’m not alone in this.
This will be short and sweet. I hope. I was thinking about the relationship between our level of anxiety and the quantity of our prayers. I would assume that most of you are like me and the more anxious you are, the more time you spend talking to God because you’re constantly asking for Him to do something. These anxiety ridden conversations (although they are a poor excuse for the word) with God are sometimes… often… my primary way of interacting with Him! It seems silly. It is silly.
Scripture does tell us to cast our anxieties on him because he cares. Some might say God wants to use anxiety to bring us before him frequently. There might be some truth to that, but God doesn’t want us to be anxious. Scripture also tells us that after we present our requests to God, we should feel an inexplicable peace. Anxiety and peace are incongruent. And, that “care-casting?” Well, that involves getting rid of them as well.
God is also constantly telling us not to fear because of His presence with us. Anxieties are merely fears that we will not get what we want. Sometimes we want something to happen, sometimes for it not to, sometimes it’s about other people, sometimes it’s about getting something, sometimes it’s about money, sometimes kids, school, work, unemployment, expectations, relational issues, blibbity blah blah blah. We are afraid of not getting what we want. Anxiety is an inherently self focused thing, even when it’s about someone else because we are wanting A, B, or C for them. We are anxious because of our desires for them, not because of the situation they are in.
So… anxiety is merely a symptom of self-centralization. Giving our cares to God and thankfully presenting our requests before Him are acts of giving up what we want. If we give up what we want and instead choose to trust in His goodness and let what He wants become what we want, then there is no longer any room for anxiety. We’re free from the fear of the petty. And in our freedom, we can truly converse. I think that when we are at peace is the time when our conversations with God become much more like conversations. When anxiety free, we acquire the ability to stay in the moment, connect in the moment, just be in the moment. And when you are in the moment with Love Himself, you wonder why you ever felt anxious at all.
We’ll go double time on postings, although this one is far from interesting or insightful…
The individual candidates stances on the issues were interesting and important. I don’t care as much about those though. What’s really interesting is how frustrated the candidates get with one another. It’s really interesting how they interact with one another. It seems like they generally have a sense of enmity with one another, certainly coming stronger from McCain than Obama. Some things that especially stuck out to me.
1. People don’t like being misunderstood, misinterpreted, misquoted, or misportrayed. Both candidates deliberately misrepresented the other for the purpose of making themselves look better. Sometimes they seemed to try to get a rise out of the other candidate. Both candidates hated it and either impatiently held in their words or interrupted the other person to correct them and maintain their image. What is interesting about this is that the candidates counter arguments were emotionally charged in a way that seemed personal. Their main concern was not how to maintain an election winning image, but to rectify their personal image for reasons related to their own socially affected emotional health.
2. I’m also a little sick of this idea that politicians have to pretend their record is perfect. Some politicians will say that they will make mistakes and are unable to lead perfectly, but I don’t know if I know any that will actually admit the mistakes they made in the past. Barack should just come out and say he was wrong about the effectiveness of the surge, rather than blaming his being wrong on the surge being beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. John whined about Barack’s early record in voting, Barack could have simply admitted his early flaws, note that he corrected them, and voila! he wins respect and maintains integrity. The American people want someone who can and does admit when they err. At least, I do.
3. Let’s be nice. There doesn’t have to be such a strong divisiveness. You can disagree strongly, have these “fundamental differences,” and still show a respect for the position of the other and a love for who they are. Both men are intelligent. Both are capable. Both want the best for the country. Both have done good things and both have made mistakes. One of my favorite things about Barack is that he shows a lot more respect for John than John shows for him. I wonder how much more might be accomplished in government if a spirit of cooperation was more prevailing than a spirit of opposition.
May God be with and bless this country, along with the rest of the world. May we have generous hearts in a failing economy. May we look to God as our Sovereign Provider instead of the American economy. YHWH, bring peace to our hearts. Protect us. Guide us. Tenderly hold us. Rip away the things that we hold on to that will fail us. Provide for us. Spirit, move in the hearts of men. Make them aware of their sin. Make them aware of Your presence. Make them aware of Your hope, Your love. Move believers to action. Empower the church to truly be the body of Christ together in the world. Jesus, forgive us for our sins. Forgive us for our dependencies on things that will fail us. Forgive us for depending on money. Teach us to store our treasures in heaven. Teach us to love you in all things, through all things. We love You because You first loved us. In Your name, Amen.